Believe it or not, we are just eight days away from most MLB teams opening spring training and beginning another season. With Trevor Bauer and Marcell Ozuna finally signing late last week, all of the big free agents are off the board and we can begin to sift through the winners and losers of the winter. Here’s 2 teams I thought did the best this offseason and 2 teams (or groups of teams) that did the worst.
Winner: New York Mets The Mets won the offseason before a single trade was made or free agent was signed. That’s because they finally changed owners, with billionaire Steve Cohen purchasing the team from Fred and Jeff Wilpon. The Wilpons had gained a reputation over the years for being frugal owners who were seemingly content to exist in the shadow of their crosstown rival Yankees. Cohen is the richest owner in the league by a wide margin and has expressed a desire to spend big. He made his first big acquisition on January 7th when he acquired 4 time All Star shortstop Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians. Lindor is a bonafide superstar that can be the face of the franchise for the next decade if the Mets can get him signed to an extension. They also picked up righthander Carlos Carrasco in the deal. Carrasco posted a 2.91 ERA in 2020 and has been an above average pitcher in every season since 2013, with the exception of 2019 when he missed most of the season to undergo cancer treatments. The Mets are looking for another general manager after the recently hired Jared Porter was fired in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal, but their fans have to be thrilled with the franchise’s moves this offseason.
Loser: Los Angeles Angels Another offseason has come and gone without the Los Angeles Angels acquiring a big time pitcher. Plenty of teams miss out on their top targets every winter, but plenty of teams also aren’t trying to put a team around Mike Trout. Trout is already one of the greatest players of all time, and if he continues on his current trajectory for another half dozen years or so, he’ll be on the GOAT shortlist by the time he calls it quits. If Trout posts at least 4.6 WAR this season, which he’s done in every full season he’s played, he’ll pass Joe DiMaggio for 6th all time among center fielders. If he posts at least 9.3 WAR, which he’s done 4 times in his career, he’ll pass Ken Griffey Jr for 5th, and Trout doesn’t even turn 30 until August. Despite all that, he’s only made the playoffs once in his career, and that’s largely because the Angels’ front office has been unable to build a competitive pitching staff. They helped balance the lineup with last year’s acquisition of Anthony Rendon, but every year that they fail to address the pitching staff is another year of wasting the prime of one of the best players any of us have ever seen.
Winner: San Diego Padres The San Diego Padres were one of the breakout teams of 2020, making the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and defeating the St Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card Round before falling to the eventual champion Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. The Padres carried that momentum into the offseason, where no team was busier in the trade market. The Padres completely revamped their starting rotation, acquiring Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, and Joe Musgrove. With an already exciting lineup led by Fernando Tatis Jr and Manny Machado, San Diego strengthened their position as contenders. The Dodgers will likely still be the favorites in the NL West as they look to defend their title, but the Padres will certainly be in the mix.
Loser: Small Market Teams The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on businesses all over the world. Professional sports teams were no different. Because of the revenue drop caused by the pandemic, only a handful of teams could afford to spend a significant amount this offseason. A few small market teams went the other direction and slashed payroll. This led to some big names being traded in glorified salary dumps. The Indians sent Lindor and Carrasco to the Mets rather than try to extend the face of their franchise. The Rockies traded Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals, and it’s still unclear whether or not they’ll agree to an extension with Trevor Story. The Pirates traded pretty much everybody. At the end of the day, these moves are all horrible for baseball’s competitive balance. The spending disparity between large market teams and small market teams has been an issue for years, but the pandemic has accelerated that. Baseball is dangerously close to becoming like European soccer leagues where only the same few teams can reasonably expect to challenge for the title every year.