Winter Report Cards: Final grades for all 30 teams

1:17 | MLB
Winners and losers from the MLB off-season
Thursday February 16th, 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. 

Arizona Diamondbacks: B

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. 

 

Atlanta Braves: B+

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.

 

Baltimore Orioles: C-

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.

 

Boston Red Sox: B

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. 

Chicago Cubs: B+

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.

Chicago White Sox: B+

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.

Cincinnati Reds: B-

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.

Cleveland Indians: A

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.

Colorado Rockies: D+

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. 

Detroit Tigers: D

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.

Houston Astros: B-

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.

Kansas City Royals: B-

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. 

Los Angeles Angels: B+

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. 

Los Angeles Dodgers: A

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.

Miami Marlins: C+

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.

Milwaukee Brewers: B+

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. 

Minnesota Twins: D

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.

New York Mets: C-

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 2): C-

Key moves since preliminary grade: Re-signed LHP Jerry Blevins and RHP Fernando Salas

Other than retaining Yoenis Cespedes with a four-year, $110 million contract—the winter’s largest contract, which is not something that might have been expected from the Mets given their recent financial issues—it was a very quiet winter in Queens, with no additions to the major league roster. The outfield is still a collection of mismatched parts, the loss of Bartolo Colon from the rotation won’t be painless and while the moves to retain Blevins and Salas bolster the bullpen, they should have done more in light of the looming domestic violence-related suspension of closer Jeurys Familia.  

New York Yankees: C

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 30): C

Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed 1B Chris Carter

After a sudden shift into rebuilding mode last summer, the Yankees largely maintained their disciplined commitment to the program by trading catcher Brian McCann and going short-term with outfielder Matt Holliday, though the record-setting contract of Arodlis Chapman (five years, $86 million, the most ever for a closer) seems out of step in this context, particularly when the rotation’s needs are more glaring. Swooping in to sign Carter, whose 41 homers led the NL (as did his 206 strikeouts), for a mere $3.5 million is a nice, low-cost move to add some power off the bench. 

Oakland Athletics: C+

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 16): C+

Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed RHP Santiago Casilla and IF Adam Rosales; signed OF Alejandro De Aza, and LHP Ross Detwiler to minor league contracts; traded OF Brett Eibner to Dodgers for 3B Jordan Tarsovich; traded LHP Dillon Overton to Mariners for C Jason Goldstein.

In a winter where the A's focus has been on short-term moves that won't compromise the club's long-term outlook, the return of Casilla—who pitched for Oakland from 2004 to '09, initially under the name Jairo Garcia—gives the team four experienced closers, guaranteeing that GM David Forst will get phone calls in July from contenders needing bullpen help. 

Philadelphia Phillies: A-

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 19): A-

Key moves since preliminary grade: Traded RHP Severino Gonzalez to Miami Marlins for player to be named later; signed C Ryan Hanigan and OF Chris Coghlan to minor league contracts

When we last checked in on them, the Phillies had already added starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, reliever Joaquin Benoit and outfielder Michael Saunders, a great start to their off-season. The subsequent additions of veteran journeymen Hanigan (24 OPS+ in 35 games for the Red Sox in 2016) and Coghlan (68 OPS+ in 99 games for the A's and Cubs in '16) won't do much to change Philadelphia's outlook for 2017, but the Phillies' rebuilding program nevertheless continues to pay off, as their lineup of the future is taking shape. They’ve parted with long-time first baseman Ryan Howard, bolstered the outfield corners significantly, patched the rotation and catching situations for the time being and can look to the permanent arrivals of shortstop J.P. Crawford and catcher Jorge Alfaro later this summer. 

Pittsburgh Pirates: C-

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 27): C-

Key moves since preliminary grade: Acquired 2B Phil Gosselin from Diamondbacks for RHP Frank Duncan; acquired RHP Pat Light from Twins for a player to be named later

It’s a testament to the work of GM Neal Huntington and his front office cohorts that the Pirates have raised the level of expectations to the point that a quiet offseason after a playoff-free campaign—their first since 2012—feels like a disappointment. Even so, the minor league system continues to produce quality reinforcements, and the reshuffling of their outfield to put Starling Marte in center and the still-un-traded Andrew McCutchen in right could help the team both in the short term (via improved defense) and the long one (by restoring Cutch’s trade value). 

St. Louis Cardinals: B+

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 1): B+

Key moves since preliminary grade: None

Centerfielder Dexter Fowler and pitcher Brett Cecil are fine additions, but a rotation that’s returning just one starter who had an ERA+ above 89 in significant major league duty (Carlos Martinez) was just dealt a major blow: top prospect Alex Reyes will miss the season due to Tommy John surgery. That places extra pressure on getting better seasons from Mike Leake (87 ERA+), Michael Wacha (81 ERA+), Adam Wainwright (89 ERA+) and Lance Lynn, the latter of whom missed last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

San Diego Padres: B-

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 13): C+

Key moves since preliminary grade: Signed SS Erick Aybar and OF Collin Cowgill; signed 1B Wil Myers to a contract extension

Shortstop has been the bane of general manager A.J. Preller's existence since he took over the Padres in 2014, and while Aybar is coming off a dismal season, signing him to a minor league deal to see if there’s anything left and to provide an alternative to Luis Sardinas isn’t a bad move. More important is the six-year, $83 million extension the club gave to All-Star first baseman Myers, which gives San Diego an affordable centerpiece while it goes through another lean phase.  

San Francisco Giants: C+

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 6): C+

Key moves since preliminary grade: None

They addressed their desperate closer situation by signing Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62 million deal, but additional bullpen fortification would still be welcome, and their in-house solution in leftfield (Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson) appears risky in light of Hunter Pence’s frequent absences from rightfield.

Seattle Mariners: B+

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 2): A-

Key moves since preliminary grade: Traded C Jesus Sucre to Rays for player to be named later.

Remarkably, the majors’ busiest GM, Jerry Dipoto, more or less sat on his hands since our original grade. His only move in that time was to trade away a third-string catcher who got all of 29 major league plate appearances in 2016. Dipoto has bet heavily on speed, defense and a risk-heavy rotation at the expense of proven offensive production, particularly at the corners; it could pay off or go sideways in a hurry.  

Tampa Bay Rays: B-

Preliminary Grade (Jan. 13): B-

Key moves since preliminary grade: Traded 2B Logan Forsythe to Dodgers for RHP Jose De Leon; traded LHP Enny Romero to Nationals for RHP Jeffrey Rosa; traded OF Mikie Mahtook to Tigers for player to be named later; acquired C Jesus Sucre from Mariners for player to be named later; re-signed 1B Logan Morrison; signed RHP Shawn Tolleson; signed OF Rickie Weeks Jr. to a minor league contract

Amid a frenzy of activity over the past month, the big news for the Rays was the trade of Forsythe to the Dodgers for De Leon, a major-league-ready prospect ranked as high as No. 29 (by Baseball America) on the spring lists. Tampa Bay's rotation should be a strength this year, but it’s difficult to see how an offense that has settled for patch jobs—aside from the addition of Wilson Ramos, who is still recovering from surgery to repair a torn right ACL and won’t be ready to start the season—will improve much after ranking second-to-last in the AL in scoring in 2016. 

Texas Rangers: B

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 15): B

Key moves since preliminary grade: None

Even with the return of Mike Napoli, the first base/DH solution (which also includes non-roster invitee James Loney) isn’t much of an upgrade on last year’s Mitch Moreland/Prince Fielder disasterpiece, and Andrew Cashner is far from the promising pitcher he once was. The best news here is that the late-season acquisitions of catcher Jonathan Lucroy, reliever Jeremy Jeffress and outfielder Carlos Gomez (who re-signed via free agency) look more important than ever.

Final Grade: B

Toronto Blue Jays: C

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 7): C-

Key moves since preliminary grade: None

Toronto saved some face by bringing back slugger Jose Bautista on a one-year-plus-options deal, but the production from the rest of the outfield—which lost Michael Saunders to the Phillies in free agency—is in question. Elsewhere in the lineup, 1B/DH options Kendrys Morales and Steven Pearce (and the continued presence of Justin Smoak, for some reason) won’t offset the loss of Edwin Encarnacion, who moved to the Indians.

Washington Nationals: C+

Preliminary Grade (Feb. 14): C+

Key moves since preliminary grade: None

The Nationals' ongoing failure to land their free agent targets has taken a noticeable toll. This winter their inability to re-sign Mark Melancon or come up with an adequate replacement on the free agent market has left them scrambling for a closer atop a rickety-looking bullpen. And when they couldn't sign outfielder Yoenis Cespedes they had to go for a trade of the White Sox' Adam Eaton instead, which cost them pitching propects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. Still, Eaton and newly acquired first baseman Adam Lind should help balance the lineup, and a full season of shortstop Trea Turner is a big improvement as well. 

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