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  • One last look at the off-season moves of every club.
By Jay Jaffe
February 16, 2017

With spring training camps up and running, the hot stove season is officially at its end, even if there are a few stray free agents who have yet to find homes, such as catcher Matt Wieters, slugger Pedro Alvarez and pitchers Joe Blanton and Doug Fister. That means it's time to review our Winter Report Cards and adjust (if needed) the grades to account for any subsequent moves or second thoughts about our initial reactions.

Our preliminary grades were based upon each writer's judgment as to whether the team in question improved for 2017 and in the long run. If you're scoring at home, it's worth noting that using the traditional grade point scale (A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1, with plusses adding a third and minuses subtracting a third), the NL originally centered at 2.67 (B-) and inched slightly upward to 2.76 in our final roundup; the AL came in at 2.57 and slid down slightly to 2.52. Some of the changes are attributable to teams completing (or not) their unfinished business in the interim, and some is simply due to having a second set of eyes critiquing the moves.

Teams are presented below in alphabetical order; the original report cards for each team are linked with the date of its publication. 

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 17): B-

Key moves since preliminary grade: Traded IF Phil Gosselin to Pirates; signed IF Daniel Descalso; signed C Hank Conger, C Josh Thole, OF Gregor Blanco, RHP Rubby De La Rosa, RHP J.J. Hoover, RHP Kevin Jepsen, LHP Brian Matusz and RHP Tom Wilhelmsen to minor league contracts

New GM Mike Hazen faces a tall task in turning things around after the disastrous Tony La Russa/Dave Stewart era. Though short on marquee moves, he’s taken steps in the right direction, most notably by selling high on second baseman Jean Segura to net pitcher Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte from Seattle. Since we graded the D-Backs, they've cast a wide net to bring in potentially useful relievers and bench pieces. 

 

John Minchillo/AP

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 16): B

Key moves since preliminary grade: Acquired 2B Brandon Phillips from Reds for LHP Andrew McKirahan and RHP Carlos Portuondo; traded CF Mallex Smith and RHP Shae Simmons to Mariners for LHP Luiz Gohara and LHP Thomas Burrows; signed C Kurt Suzuki; lost C Tuffy Gosewhich via waivers

After free agent addition Sean Rodriguez was lost—possibly for the season—to a shoulder injury suffered in a late-January car accident, the Braves traded for Phillips, the longtime Reds star who had turned down a deal to Atlanta in November; they got Cincinnati to pay $13 million of Phillips' $14 million salary, restored his 12-team limited no-trade clause and gave up two minor league pitchers, neither of whom count as top prospects. Elsewhere, the Braves upgraded at backup catcher, though Suzuki has long rated as one of MLB's worst pitch-framers (-74 runs over the past six seasons, according to Baseball Prospectus), and flipped speedy flychaser Smith for a couple of live arms. Left unaddressed, however, is third base, which is still occupied by Adonis Garcia, a reminder that this team is still rebuilding.

 

Nick Wass/AP

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 8): C

Key moves since preliminary grade: None

Retaining AL home run leader Mark Trumbo on a three-year, $37.5 million deal was a coup, but the O's will need to limit him to DH duty with the occasional first base foray, and likewise, they still need to shore up the outfield corners, particularly against lefties.

 

Paul Beaty/AP

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 10): B

Key moves since preliminary grade: None

The addition of southpaw Chris Sale from the White Sox gives the Red Sox a potential third Cy Young contender, and Tyler Thornburg should help shore up the bullpen, but their solution to the loss of David Ortiz—bumping Hanley Ramirez from first base to DH while adding Mitch Moreland—is a half-finished one. 

Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 16): B+

Key moves since preliminary grade: None

After spending big in the free agent market over the past two winters, the Cubs showed significant restraint this time around. The only real quibble is the extent to which the defending champions have taken on health risks (pitchers Brett Anderson, Wade Davis and Koji Uehara and outfielder Jon Jay), and that they didn’t aim higher in replacing centerfielder Dexter Fowler.

Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 26): B+  

Key moves since preliminary grade: None

The trades of pitcher Chris Sale (to Boston) and outfielder Adam Eaton (to Washington) mark a promising start to the White Sox’s rebuilding effort. With pending free agents like third baseman Todd Frazier and outfielder Melky Cabrera—not to mention closer David Robertson, who is signed through 2018—yet to move, it’s a surprise the team hasn’t done more, but at the very least, GM Rick Hahn will be a popular man as the July 31 trading deadline approaches.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 12): Incomplete

Key moves since preliminary grade: Traded Brandon Phillips to Braves for LHP Andrew McKirahan and RHP Carlos Portuondo; traded RHP Dan Straily to Marlins for RHP Austin Brice, CF Isaiah White and RHP Luis Castillo; signed RHP Scott Feldman

The Phillips move was long overdue; the Reds made the best of a difficult situation and brought back a couple of arms by eating $13 million of his $14 million salary. Turning waiver-wire pickup Straily, who gave the team 191⅓ innings of above-average work in 2016, into a trio of prospects headed by 101-mph touching Castillo (the Marlins’ second-best prospect at the time he was dealt and now 94th on ESPN’s list) was a steal. Signing Feldman to a one-year, $2.3 million-plus-incentives deal was another solid move, as he can eat innings in the rotation, help out in the bullpen, and/or serve as a potential deadline trade chip.

Charles Rex Arbograst/AP

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 13): A+

Landing Edwin Encarnacion via a three-year, $60 million deal provides a significant upgrade at DH on Mike Napoli within a roster that’s almost intact from last year’s narrow World Series defeat. Nonetheless, an outfield that lost Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis and is still full of question marks (Michael Brantley’s health? Abe Almonte’s post-suspension form? Lonnie Chisenhall’s production? Tyler Naquin’s ability to handle centerfield?) needed more than veteran Austin Jackson, who got a minor league deal, for insurance.

David Zalubowski/AP

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 25): D+

Key moves since preliminary grade: Traded RHP Eddie Butler to Cubs for RHP James Farris; signed RHP Greg Holland; signed 1B Mark Reynolds to minor league contract

The signing of shortstop/centerfielder Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million deal still doesn’t make much sense given that he’s slated to play first base; Reynolds, signed to a minor league deal, hit .282/.356/.450 with 14 homers last year, but in Colorado that amounted to just a 101 OPS+, and the chances of him matching his 1.5 WAR appear to be low given that he netted just 1.0 from 2010-15. Farris is a middle relief prospect who comes with a boost in the team’s international spending pool, albeit at the cost of a once-well-regarded prospect in Butler. Holland, signed to a one-year, $7 million-plus-incentives deal with a mutual option that can vest into a player option, could work his way back into closing if his velocity returns to its pre-Tommy John surgery level. 

Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 31): D

Key moves since preliminary grade: none

Centerfield still remains a hole staffed by some combination of bird-flipping Tyler Collins, JaCoby Jones and Mikie Mahtook, but instead of plunging into a reluctant rebuild, the Tigers are returning most of a roster that just missed the playoffs. If the rotation rebounds, that may not be a bad thing.

David J. Phillip/AP

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 30): B

Key moves since preliminary grade: None

In outfielder Nori Aoki, DH Carlos Beltran, catcher Brian McCann, outfielder Josh Reddick and righthander Charlie Morton, the Astros patched their roster with name-brand options, and while age may be catching up to many of them, they’ll also have full seasons of infielders Alex Bregman and Yuliesky Gurriel. The big concern remains the rotation, where Lance McCullers Jr. was the only regular to post a an ERA+ of 100 or better, albeit in just 14 starts; more reinforcements are needed.

Charlie Riedel/AP

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 15): B-

Key moves since preliminary grade: None

Aside from trading closer Wade Davis to the Cubs for young outfielder Jorge Soler, the Royals have kept the pending free agents from a nucleus that fueled two pennant winners—centerfielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar, first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas—intact for one more run. Even so, the bullpen looks considerably thinner than before, and Yordano Ventura’s tragic death in a January car accident leaves a hole that’s far bigger than the solid rotation work newcomers Jason Hammel, Nate Karns and/or Travis Wood can provide. 

Alex Gallardo/AP

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 24): B+

Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed OF Dustin Ackley and RHPs Bud Norris and Yusmeiro Petit to minor league contracts

The lineup’s additions—infielders Danny Espinosa and Luis Valbuena and outfielder Cameron Maybin—should help, but so much of the Angels’ 2017 fate depends upon the elbows of Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker and Tyler Skaggs. Of the reinforcements they signed to minor league deals, Norris (5.79 ERA in 196 innings for four teams in 2015 and '16 combined) is cannon fodder while Petit (4.50 ERA, 4.81 FIP in 62 IP in 2016) is best utilized out of the bullpen. 

Gene J. Puskar/AP

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 10): A-

Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed OF Franklin Gutierrez and IF Chase Utley

The Dodgers put the finishing touches on a strong offseason with a pair of late deals. Though he’s no longer an elite centerfielder, Gutierrez punches well above his weight against lefties, hitting .280/.373/.511 with 20 homers in 329 PA against them in 2015 and '16; he shores up a glaring need even in an already-crowded outfield. Utley, brought back for just $2 million plus incentives, can still be useful in a bench role.

David J. Phillip/AP

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 27): C+

Key moves since preliminary grade: None

Acqusitions Edinson Volquez and Dan Straily are solid rotation-fillers, but with the tragic death of Jose Fernandez at the end of last season, there’s just not enough pitching to fuel a contender. The good news is the relaxation of Don Mattingly’s silly facial hair ban, and the eventual exit of nefarious owner Jeffrey Loria, even if it comes because of a preposterously profitable deal.

Benny Sieu/AP

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 20): B+

Key moves since preliminary grade: None

Milwaukee's rebuilding program has yielded a very strong farm system, albeit one whose full impact won’t be felt for awhile. The Brewers made interesting, low-cost bets on pitcher Neftali Feliz and outfielder Eric Thames. The question is how much longer they can wait on trading former NL MVP Ryan Braun—and absorbing a significant chunk of his remaining contract, which has four guaranteed years and $72 million left on it entering this season—before age and injuries catch up to him. 

David Goldman/AP

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 12): D

Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed RHP Matt Belisle; signed LHP Craig Breslow, C Chris Gimenez, IF Ehire Adrianza and OF Drew Stubbs to minor league contracts; traded RHP Pat Light to Pirates for player to be named later.

The Twins still have slugging second baseman Brian Dozier—under club control for two more seasons, to boot—which isn’t a bad thing given that the expected prospect haul they were looking for in a trade just wasn’t there. Minnesota got better at catcher (Jason Castro is an outstanding pitch framer), which could help lift an uninspiring rotation, but few of the players signed since we took an in-depth look at their off-season moves figure to do much to help the club improve on last year's 103-loss season. Any step forward the franchise takes this year will be thanks to healthy, productive seasons from outfielders Byron Buxton and Max Kepler, infielder Jorge Polanco, third baseman Miguel Sano and pitcher Jose Berrios.