I know I haven’t been watching baseball for THAT long compared to most people, but I can’t remember a team ever living up to the hype set in the preseason so quietly as the Phillies did last season. Their roatation was by far the best in the Majors:
Why?: I know that it may seem like a no-brainer to some people that the Phillies got better this offseason. However, once I actually looked at the list of names, they really added no value to their team at all, and you know what? They didn’t have to. This team won 102 games last season and that was WITH a ten game losing streak down the stretch. I distinctly remember tweeting something along the lines of “Whoa, the Phillies have won 97 games and still have 12 games to play?!” (this was amid their ginormous losing streak). So, they could still most likely win the division by just treading water and waiting for Ryan Howard to come back from the DL.
Predicted Record Range: 95-100 wins
I know the more hardcore Orioles fans might not like it, but the highlight of their season, from a national perspective was game 162:
Wilson Betemit, Luis Ayala, Endy Chavez, Armando Galarraga, Jason Hammel, Matt Lindstrom, and Pat Neshek.
Luke Scott, Jeremy Accardo, Jeremy Guthrie, Mark Hendrickson, Felix Pie, Jai Miller, and Ronny Paulino.
Why?: This is almost the opposite of the Blue Jays’ situation in that the best players the Orioles lost were better than the best players they gained, but ue to the sheer number of players gained, did they end up improving on their team. As for the pictures, if you don’t know, I usually put up the picture of the player I perceive to be most notable in both the addition and subtraction categories. For this entry I put up Wilson Betemit and Luke Scott.
Betemit I really have no defense of other than that there really was no player that stood out to me. I could have just as easily put any of four players up as the picture, but I was feeling indecicive and Betemit was at the second on the alphabetically ordered list and he signed for the most years of any of the players. Luke scott on the other hand, I did pick more carefully. I know that for many, the instinct would be to put Jeremy Guthrie as the pictured subtraction, but I took into account the opportunity cost of losing Scott. With Guthrie, he would have been here for another year and the Orioles would have lost him for nothing (well a draft pick, but you know what I mean). With Scott, they probably would have signed him for a few years, and they also would have been getting a better player than they saw last year where as Guthrie has a potential to improve, but would have been less likely to.
Anyway, that’s pretty much all I have to say on the subject.
Predicted Record Range: 62-67 wins I just see the rest of the division getting that much better that there won’t be enough wins for the Orioles to win more games even with their roster improvements.
I think the Blue Jays’ 2011 season is best summed up by the culture lead by the one and only, Joey Bats:
Francisco Cordero, Ben Francisco, Jason Frasor, and Darren Oliver.
Frank Francisco, Shawn Camp, Nelson Figueroa, Chad Gaudin, Brad Mills, Jose Molina, Jon Rauch, Omar Vizquel, and Dewayne Wise.
Why?: First of all, let me say that this team definitely leads the league in “Francisco” related transactions. Maybe it’s just me, but they added both Fancisco Cordero and Ben Francisco. Then I think they made sure not to re-sign Frank Francisco just to add him to the list.
Really the grade from this came in that the average talent level of the players they added was far greater than that of the players lost, but there were just too many players lost to give the Blue Jays a grade that suggested they got better this offseason (for those who don’t know, a “C” means the team added just as much talent as they lost in an offseason. Anything above means they improved in terms of talent, anything below means they got worse in terms of talent. The degree to which they were better or worse than a “C” dictates how much talent they gained or lost. Also, by talent, I mean to suggest how much better they made the team itself for the next season. So although a minor league may be talented beyond belief, if he isn’t expected to play in MLB that next season they didn’t add any talent as far as I am concerned. I do give brownie point in the grades for good moves in terms of the long term, but the grade is based on how well the team set itself up for the immediately subsequent season. So that would be 2012 for this offseason.)
I really don’t feel like getting into the specifics, but I feel as though this is really the same team, talent-wise, as last season, so I gave them a “C”.
Predicted Record Range: 80-85 wins I don’t know why, but I just think this team could get a few games better this season, even though they really added a net-value of nothing.
As much as I feel dislike towards the Red Sox as a person who grew up as a Yankee fan, I know that they are people with feelings too and I know I am causing them enough damage by just showing this picture of game 162. So I won’t add any commentary, but I have to show the picture because it *was* the story of their 2011:
Andrew Bailey, Aaron Cook, Mark Melancon, Clayton Mortensen, Vincente Padilla, Nick Punto, Cody Ross, Kelly Shoppach, and Ryan Sweeney.
Jonathan Papelbon, J.D. Drew, Jed Lowrie, Hideki Okajima, Josh Reddick, Marco Scutaro, Kyle Weiland, and Dan Wheeler.
Why?: When you actually look at the talent changing hands, the Red Sox are probably more of a C+/B- type offseason. However, the Red Sox’s owner, John Henry, also owns the English Premier Legaue Football club, Liverpool. Over the past year, Liverpool has added players totaling a dollar amount that is comparable to the Red Sox’s total payroll (when converted from pounds to dollars). Due to this spending spree with Liverpool, and the spending spree last year with the Red Sox, it is understandable that Henry didn’t want any major additions to the payroll. Given this fact, I bumped the Red Sox’s grade up to a B, because they managed to add some key pieces without spending a lot. Let me tell you, they were REALLY close to being a B+, but I didn’t want to bump them up too much.
As odd as it may seem, I think the Sox may have actually upgraded at the closer position. Since Andrew Bailey has been closing out games for the small-market Oakland Athletics, he really isn’t as exposed to mainstream America as most closers, but I can tell you he is one of the best in the business. Sure, he played for the A’s, which were offensively anemic, and thus gave him more save opportunities, but I remind you that he *did* win the AL ROY a few years ago and has maintained this production since.
I guess you can argue that Cody Ross is a good signing with the Green Monster out in Left Field, but I really can’t think of many RHBs that wouldn’t benefit from having a wall 300 feet away from them while they’re at the plate. Seriously, can you think of more than ten hitters that wouldn’t be helped by that? The only names I’m coming up with are right handed slap hitters like Derek Jeter, but I have a feeling even he would be assisted by the wall.
Other than this, I really have nothing else to report on the subject that could be summed up in less than 500 words. The names on the lists suggest that the Red Sox probably deserve a higher grade, but I do have my reasons behind the grade.
Predicted Record Range: 90-95 wins A bunch of people didn’t do as well as they could’ve. Also, I never thought I would say this, but it might be a good thing that John Lackey is out for the season.
The Yankees season was really a culmination of surprise seasons from players. Including, but not limited to, the guys in this next picture:
Michael Pineda, Russell Branyan, Bill Hall, Hiroki Kuroda, Hideki Okajima, and Dewayne Wise.
Jesus Montero, Andrew Brackman, Bartolo Colon, Hector Noesi, Jorge Posada, and Scott Proctor.
Why?: Ok, I know that everyone wants to know how the Yankees and Mariners could possibly both end up being better. I *do* think that the Mariners got the better talent. However, I think the Yankees did what was best for the team. The Yankees have long been an offensive powerhouse, but they needed cheap pitching. The Yankees may have been able to effectively use Montero, but what we know they needed is to get more pitchers in their rotation. That is what all the Yankees fans were complaining about. I realize that being a GM is mostly about winning and not pleasing people, but when you operate your own network like the Yankees do, it has an elelment of pleasing the crowd to it, because hype surrounding the team going into a season boosts the rating early on in the year.
While this may be a short-term benefit, there is also a long-term one to this trade. As you may or may not have heard, the Yankees are trying to get under the luxury tax threshold within the next two years, as MLB is hiking up the penalties for being over it. The goal being to try and save about $100 million over the three years after that with the raised penalties. Pineda satisfies this goal, because he will cost about $7 million a year for what appears to be a number 2 starter. Starting Pitching usually cost more on the open market than hitting. So the Yankees will be both trading a surplus category for a stregnthening of a weakness and will be getting a pitcher for less than a pitcher of his talent would have cost on the open market. So if they had to sacrifice some talent and take on some risk, so be it. This is my take on it, anyway.
As for the other players, I really don’t feel much like analyzing EVERY one of the players added and subtracted. I mean like “Hiroki Kuroda is better than Bartolo Colon, but is he given the fact that Scott Proctor went to Japan?” Yeah, that stuff, I don’t see as that important when looking at the Yankees’ offseason this year. I just looked at the aggragates and thought it seemed like they a B/B+ job this offseason. The aformentioned, Montero, Pineda trade seemed like a C+/B- trade so I averaged.
Predicted Record Range: 94-99 wins Yeah they did win 100 games last season, but I also think that a bunch of players over performed what they usually do and the Yankees will come back to earth this year.
This, for whatever reason, was pretty much the gist of the White Sox’s 2011 season:
Mark Buehrle, Jason Frasor, Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin, Sergio Santos, and Omar Vizquel.
Why?: Did you SEE all of their notable addition made this offseason? I looked up and down the list of Hot Stove people related to the White Sox and the highlight of their offseason is that Lastings Milledge is still on the market as a minor league free agent. Not even the prospects they got back in all of the trades were listed on the page. It just said: Jason Frasor, traded for two minor leaguers, or something like that. I like that the White Sox are trying to finally focus on their future as their Alex Rios and Jake Peavy moves have gone south, which is why I didn’t give them an “F”, but geez, they really lost a lot this offseason to have gained absolutely nothing.
Actually, no, I take the Lastings Milledge thing back. The highlight of the White Sox offseason has been re-signing Brain Bruney. Still, though, I don’t think that the highlight of any team looking to have even mild success in 2012 would be in signing a guy you had the previous season to a minor league contract. This mediocre-at-best offseason is most likely the product of Ken Williams’ signings of Alex Rios and Jake Peavy. Yes, the Adam Dunn deal has been a bust up until this point, but no one foresaw Dunn going this cold. When Williams traded for Rios and Peavy, there was a buzz among GM to the tune of: “Well he is really bold in making these moves, but I don’t know if I would do this. Rios is getting paid way more than he is performing and Peavy is coming off an injury.”
Predicted Record Range: 70-75 wins Dunn may return to form still, which would shift this range upwards, but they just lost too much net talent for my taste.
2011 was truly a fun year for the Cleveland Indians…the first half anyway:
Casey Kotchman, Jeremy Accardo, Jose Lopez, Derek Lowe, Felix Pie, Kevin Slowey, and Dan Wheeler.
Jim Thome, Adam Everett, and Austin Kearns.
Why?: This is a weird entry/grade. The addition far surpass the subtractions. That said, I usually don’t put in more than one or two players in the “Notable” lists that have been signed to a minor league contract. In this entry, however, I have five players that were signed to minor league contracts on the list. This serves as an indicator that a lot of the players aren’t game changers. In other words, the subtraction players aren’t that far away from equaling the value to a team that the addition players present, a fact which reflects itself in the grade I gave their offseason.
Also, Kosuke Fukudome and Chad Durbin have yet to sign, which may bring the Indians’ grade down as they were on the Indians last year.
Predicted Record Range: 77-82 wins
This image pretty much sums up the Royals’ 2011 season. The amazing farm system finally gave us a peak last season and the Royals were able to move out of that cellar they had been dwelling pretty regularly over the past few years:
Jonathan Broxton, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jose Mijares, and Jonathan Sanchez.
Why?: I don’t really know. The Royals do have many more people in the plus column than they do in the subtraction (and a few years ago, I would have said getting rid of Melky would be a positive) side. However, the additions they made really don’t make the team THAT much better in my mind.
The two “impact” acquisitions are obviously Broxton and Sanchez, but even they aren’t THAT big of an impact on the team. I guess you can argue that Betancourt and Mijares are polishing touches, but they really don’t pop out to you.
Also, Jason Kendall and Jeff Francis are still on the market and could sign with another team, making them notable subtractions. This definitely stayed in the back of my head while grading them, because it is a very real possibility,’even if the two players aren’t really team changers by any stretch of the imagination.
Despite what I may write about the offseason not working out that well as far as improving the team, I do think that the 2012 squad will be better than that of the year previous, because this may be the year we see most of the Royals’ famed farm system. This alone could get them five more wins.
Predicted Record Range: 75-80 wins
As a person who identifies himself as a Twins fan more than a fan of any other team, I would just like to forget that 2011 happened and be happy that Terry Ryan is back at GM to hopefully rebuild this shell of a team:
Josh Willingham, Jason Marquis , Jamey Carroll, Ryan Doumit, and Joel Zumaya.
Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Jose Mijares, Joe Nathan, and Matt Tolbert.
Why?: I just really don’t like that the Twins lost two of the most underrated Outfielders in baseball and their closer. This doesn’t seem like it went that well. To tell you the truth, I’m just still depressed that the Twins season was so bad and that I went to their stadium the one of the few series the whole year that it would be packed. I really can’t think straight anymore when it comes to the Twins. True, I did give the Twins a D- in this same entry last year, but I didn’t expect that losing most of their bullpen would result in a season of 30 fewer runs, and really, it didn’t. The whole team stunk last year. Michael Cuddyer was their All-Star rep and he ended the year with 20 HRs. This was a below-average season for him, but he was the best player on the team through the first half. They were just THAT bad.
I can’t explain at all what happened. It’s like the whole team just decided collectively to have the worst season of their careers. All I can say is that I really hope Terry Ryan can pick up where he left off and start getting the Twins back to the playoffs. Actually, the Twins never were a team for a big offseason haul. They really just didn’t lose too much in the offseason and developed talent. For example, they still made the playoffs the year Johan Santana. True, Bill Smith messed up big time by only getting back Carlos Gomez and Phillip Humber for Santana, but they made the playoffs (I remember that the Red Sox were offering Buchholtz and another player while the Yankees were on the verge of offering Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera. Everything worked out well in retrospect for the Yankee fan in me as the Mets took their rightful spot loserville, but I would have liked to see the Twins get a little more back. Yay for parenthetical statements!).
Also I really don’t like Target Field for the Twins. As a person who went there this year, it *is* a really nice stadium, it’s friendly and absolutely gorgeous, but it seems to be a disadvantage to the Twins. Yes they did do really well in the first year at Target Field, but this seems more natural. I guess I should actually wait a few more years to get a broader sample base, but it just doesn’t scream home to me like the Metrodome did. The Twins were better at home, but only by three games. I don’t know, maybe it’s just the fact that I prefer domed stadiums, but I would have liked to see the Twins stay in the H.H.H Metrodome -or whatever it is they’re calling it these days.
Predicted Record Range: 65-70 wins. I know I have the Twins getting worse as a result of this offseason, but I just can’t imagine them being worse than last season.