The offseason is over, spring training is in full swing, and despite a few notable names still available on the market, most if not all teams have ended their transactions. So it’s time to look back on just what every squad did this winter and hand out grades for the moves made—or, in some cases, for those they avoided making. First up: the American League East.
Players with an asterisk next to their name were re-signed as free agents.
Boston Red Sox
2017 Record: 93–69, first place in AL East
Key Additions: OF J.D. Martinez, 1B Mitch Moreland*, IF Eduardo Nunez*
Key Departures: RHP Doug Fister, RHP Addison Reed, OF Chris Young
There was no better match this winter between player and team than Martinez and the Red Sox, and even though it took a bafflingly long time for that union to happen, Boston did get its man, and at a relative discount. Martinez is the middle-of-the-order hitter the Red Sox so desperately needed in the post-David Ortiz era, and he alone should help keep them at or near the top of the AL East. Otherwise, Boston stayed out of the offseason, choosing only to bring back Moreland and Nunez as depth pieces. The Red Sox may regret limiting their shopping, as the team could still use help in the back of the rotation and bullpen, but the obvious move in Martinez was the right one.
New York Yankees
2017 Record: 91–71, second place in AL East; won AL wild card
Key Additions: IF Brandon Drury, LHP CC Sabathia*, OF Giancarlo Stanton
Key Departures: 2B Starlin Castro, 3B Todd Frazier, LHP Jaime Garcia, 1B/3B Chase Headley, DH Matt Holliday, RHP Bryan Mitchell, RHP Michael Pineda
Acquiring the defending NL MVP in Stanton makes this offseason a success for the Yankees by itself, especially considering the price was just the overrated Castro and a pair of teenage prospects. But like Boston, New York was content to get a massive slugger and then fill in the margins. Bringing back the venerable Sabathia was smart, and Drury is a savvy addition to help plug the gaps left by Castro, Frazier and Headley at second and third base. Another starter would have made some sense, given the Yankees’ lack of established rotation depth, but there’s no questioning that Brian Cashman once again won the winter.
Tampa Bay Rays
2017 Record: 80–82, third place in AL East
Key Additions: LHP Anthony Banda, 1B C.J. Cron, OF Carlos Gomez, RHP Daniel Hudson, RHP Sergio Romo*, OF Denard Span
Key Departures: RHP Brad Boxberger, RHP Alex Cobb, OF Corey Dickerson, 1B Lucas Duda, 3B Evan Longoria, 1B Logan Morrison, RHP Jake Odorizzi, OF Steven Souza Jr
On paper, you can look at what the Rays did in letting virtually half their roster go and still see some outline of a moderately successful team if everything breaks right. But there’s no way that any fan can feel good about Tampa going cheap this offseason with their mini-firesale, especially once news broke that the franchise was on the verge of signing a lucrative new TV deal set to pay out nearly $100 million a year. It wouldn’t have taken a huge amount of work to push Tampa from a .500 team to a wild-card contender. Instead, ownership punted, acquiring a slew of prospects for Longoria, Odorizzi and Souza that are notable more for how little they’ll cost going forward then how much upside they have, and opening the checkbook only for cheap veterans like Gomez and Romo. Maybe the new-look Rays won’t be that bad, but this winter’s cowardly and insulting moves designed first and foremost to save money are hard to stomach.
Toronto Blue Jays
2017 Record: 76–86, fourth place in AL East
Key Additions: SS Aledmys Diaz, LHP Jaime Garcia, OF Curtis Granderson, OF Randal Grichuk, IF Yangervis Solarte
Key Departures: OF Jose Bautista, IF Ryan Goins, C Miguel Montero, OF Michael Saunders
Betting that last year’s struggles were due mostly to injury and underperformance, the Blue Jays didn’t undertake any kind of radical roster overhaul despite a below-.500 finish and the beefing up of the Yankees and Red Sox. Instead, Toronto patched things up at the edges. Diaz and Solarte should bolster a middle infield featuring two of the most unreliable options in baseball in Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki. Granderson is past his prime, and Grichuk may never reach his, but both should be upgrades over the corpse of Bautista and the gimpy Saunders in the outfield corners. And Garcia, while unremarkable, is a trustworthier arm than last year’s fifth starter, converted reliever Joe Biagini. It’s an unexciting winter that doesn’t offer much upside, but it’s not a disaster, either. Whether that ends up being the correct course of action is harder to see.
2017 Record: 75–87, fifth place in AL East
Key Additions: RHP Andrew Cashner, OF Colby Rasmus, RHP Chris Tillman*
Key Departures: C Welington Castillo, SS J.J. Hardy, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, LHP Wade Miley, OF Seth Smith
If Martinez to Boston was the winter’s most necessary move, than Cashner to Baltimore was its most obvious and predictable: the pitching-needy yet penurious Orioles steering far clear of the market’s top rotation options and instead gambling on 31-year-old righty who only struck out 86 batters in 166 2/3 innings last year. Then again, Cashner was good (a 3.40 ERA and 138 ERA+) despite that miserable strikeout rate, which is more than can be said for the flotsam and jetsam he’s replacing in Hellickson, Jimenez and Miley. Tillman will get another shot after a hideous, injury-wrecked campaign, but that was it in terms of reinforcements for a rotation that needed far more. The O’s remain a franchise stuck in neutral, set to waste the final year of Manny Machado in the Charm City.