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Posted at 1:40 PM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Offseason winners and losers

By Dave Sheinin

This was a winter in which almost nothing went according to script. The New York Yankees whiffed on their biggest targets. The Milwaukee Brewers outmaneuvered everyone for the best pitcher on the trade market. The Washington Nationals took home the best (and most expensive) power-hitter on the free agent market. The Cliff Lee sweepstakes, which set up perfectly as a duel between the Yankees and the Texas Rangers, were instead won by the Philadelphia Phillies, who swooped in quietly at the end and snagged him.

(Well, some things went according to script. For example, if you had to guess beforehand which star baseball player attending the Super Bowl would be shown on live television at the precise moment his movie-star girlfriend was shoving a handful of popcorn into his mouth, you would immediately say, "Duh, Alex Rodriguez.")

But now, a mere week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Florida and Arizona, it is time to wrap up the winter and look ahead to the 2011 season. Yes, that means it is time for one last look back at the winners and losers of the off-season.

WINNERS

1. Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox get the top spot here not only for their aggressive moves to add Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to their lineup, or for the acquisition of Bobby Jenks for bullpen depth (and insurance on Jonathan Papelbon), but also for the relative backwards steps of their top AL East rivals. With Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Josh Beckett presumably healthy again, the Red Sox are the game's most complete team.

2. Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies' stealth acquisition of Lee, who apparently grew enamored of the franchise and the city during his stint there in the second half of 2009, gives them a potentially all-time-greatest rotation -- which should allow them to compensate for a questionable bullpen and an aging lineup that lost one of its most potent contributors, Jayson Werth, to free agency.

3. Milwaukee Brewers. They could have traded first baseman Prince Fielder for prospects, as many expected them to, and reloaded for a run in 2012 or beyond. Instead, they took a bold, double-barreled shot at winning now -- trading for Toronto's Shawn Marcum and Kansas City's Zack Greinke, giving them three starting pitchers (including holdover Yovani Gallardo) who started on opening day in 2010.

4. Oakland A's. The A's tried hard, but ultimately failed, to get Adrian Beltre. What they did instead -- adding cheaper options Josh Willingham, David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui -- might be cumulatively better still. Paired with a pitching staff that allowed the fewest runs in the AL last season, and a division race that looks wide open, the A's might just be your AL West favorites.

5. Jayson Werth. The 31-year-old right fielder played his free-agency card like a champ. First, he hired Scott Boras as his agent. Then, he stayed out of the way as Boras found a team (the Nationals) that was both itching to make a big splash and resigned to the notion that they would have to vastly overpay for said splash. The result: a $126 million contract. Well-played, sir.

LOSERS

1. New York Yankees. Let's see... They whiffed on Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford. They turned their negotiations with Derek Jeter into a public shaming of their iconic shortstop. And they watched in horror as Andy Pettitte chose retirement over 12 million of their dollars. Yes, they made a huge bullpen upgrade by grabbing Rafael Soriano as a lock-down eighth-inning man. And yes, they are still legitimate contenders. But it's hard to remember the last time a Yankees off-season went as badly as this one.

2. St. Louis Cardinals. True, the Cardinals neither gained (Lance Berkman, Ryan Theriot) nor lost (Brendan Ryan, Blake Hawksworth) much of consequence. They're on this list for a different reason: because they allowed their contract negotiations with Albert Pujols drag on to the point where the odds appear to be 50-50 that he files for free agency after the season. If that happens, it's anyone's guess as to where he winds up.

3. Los Angeles Angels. Entering the winter, the surest thing in baseball was that the Angels would land Carl Crawford. Except they didn't, losing him to a $142 million bid from the Red Sox. But their response to that losing effort -- trading for Vernon Wells in what amounted to a salary-dump by the Toronto Blue Jays -- may have only made matters worse.

4. Tampa Bay Rays. All you need to know to understand why they're on this list is look at the players they lost over the winter: Matt Garza, Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Randy Choate, Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler. They can fill some of those holes with pieces from one of the game's best farm systems, but it still hurts.

5. Manny Ramirez. He went unsigned until late January. He had to swallow a 90 percent pay cut (from $20 million in 2010 to $2 million in 2011) to sign with the bargain-hunting Rays. And on top of everything else, he had to share the stage at his introductory news conference with Johnny Damon, who got more than twice as much ($5.25 million) from the Rays as Ramirez did.

By Dave Sheinin  | February 9, 2011; 1:40 PM ET
 
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Comments

I can’t really see the reason the A's are on this list. This is supposta be the winners of this off-season. It’s hard to keep the Orioles off that list. They have completely overhauled their lineup with right handed power which is currently essential in the AL East. Their defense is also significantly upgraded. But to say the additions of Josh Willingham, David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui are better than Mark Reynolds, Derrick Lee, J.J. Hardy, and Vlad Guerrero is a bit off.

Posted by: leftovers | February 9, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

You're right, signing 'Mark Reynolds, Derrick Lee, J.J. Hardy, and Vlad Guerrero' would of looked great... if this was listing best 2003 offseasons!

Posted by: Ryan9009 | February 9, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Anal. They wouldn't include the Orioles on the win list even if they signed every free agent.

Posted by: coastallp74 | February 9, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I have no problem with the 1 year deal the O's made to both Lee and Vlad. They are looking to cash in one more time and want to have big years. Reynolds and Hardy are both still in their 20's.

Posted by: leftovers | February 9, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

A lot of people are also beating up on the Yankees cause they didnt make any "big" free agent signings. Has anyone noticed they have a good farm system right now? They will still be the Yankees and still manage to spend their money on many willing players. But i guess just because they miss out on a player here or there, it's news worthy and means they were huge losers in the market during a relatively weak offseason.

Posted by: leftovers | February 9, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

With that starting pitching -- the most important thing in baseball -- I don't even really see the Yankees being contenders. For a wild card, maybe. They look like an 87-win squad.

Maybe not even that. If you just looked at this group of guys without their pinstripes on, you'd probably guess they'll be about .500.

Posted by: spunkydawg1 | February 9, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

It's true Vlad and Lee are a little old, but they were not very expensive one year deals. It appears the O's are trying to remain a little competitive while biding time for their young, talented pitching staff to mature. I still find it hard to believe that they are left off this list when you take into consideration the totality of all their off-season moves. Reynolds and Hardy are still young and while their numbers were not amazing last year, they are proven and are were struggling with injuries. They also signed a solid closer from Toronto.

Posted by: cnoll | February 9, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I am fine with most rankings, but stating that the Nats took home the best free agent power-hitter is a clear oversight (or slight). That distinction goes to the White Sox who signed Adam Dunn.

If you wanted to give the Nats their due, you could have said that the Nats signed the most above average right fielder available.

Posted by: pehb5 | February 9, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I think the Nats seriously overpaid for Werth but I also think the White Sox overpaid for Dunn.
Werth is a good player...especially in a lineup with Howard, Utley, Rollins & Victorino in it. All of them didn't accompany him to DC. Other than Zimmerman he really doesn't have much protection in the lineup. Adam LaRoche won't hit until June...so he'll have a bit more then.

Posted by: BigDaddy651 | February 9, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

This article is kind of fun, but of course it's all speculation at this point. Hey Dave, pull this up again around the all-star break, and let's see who really had the best off season. That way we can see whether your crystal ball is working, or not.

Posted by: cliffdweller | February 9, 2011 5:35 PM | Report abuse

"It appears the O's are trying to remain a little competitive while biding time for their young, talented pitching staff to mature."

------------------------------------------

Ummmm, "remain" means that they were competitive to begin with. Have I been in an extended coma or are the Orioles still on a 13 year streak of not being competitive?

Posted by: ouvan59 | February 9, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

@Ouvan59:

Let's see, Jeffrey Maier is now 26, so, nope, no extended coma, you got it about right. Good old Jeffrey Maier...

Posted by: spunkydawg1 | February 9, 2011 6:23 PM | Report abuse

pehb5, Dave didn't say the Nats were winners...he said Werth was a big winner. Big diff. The Lerners got fleeced, they should have been graded as the #1 losers.

Posted by: howjensen | February 9, 2011 6:34 PM | Report abuse

pehb5, Dave didn't say the Nats were winners...he said Werth was a big winner. Big diff. The Lerners got fleeced, they should have been graded as the #1 losers.

Posted by: howjensen | February 9, 2011 6:35 PM | Report abuse

pehb5, Dave didn't say the Nats were winners...he said Werth was a big winner. Big diff. The Lerners got fleeced, they should have been graded as the #1 losers.

Posted by: howjensen | February 9, 2011 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Jesus, my computer stutters.

Posted by: howjensen | February 9, 2011 6:40 PM | Report abuse

I am sorry about that, my son.
Would you like me to do something about it?

Posted by: spunkydawg1 | February 9, 2011 7:28 PM | Report abuse

ouvan59

You are obviously taking one word in my post too literally. How about I change the verb a little bit just for you. It appears the O's are trying to BE a little competitive while biding time for their young, talented pitching staff to mature. I assume you're a Nat's fan, and that is fine. But if I were you, I'd be a little more concerned about paying such an absurd amount of money to one barely better than average player than playing semantics.

Posted by: cnoll | February 9, 2011 8:22 PM | Report abuse


It pays to shop around for a mortgage refinance. Mortgage rates have gone down like anything. My brother in law just got a 30-year fixed loan at 3.76% He told me search online for "123 Mortgage Refinance" for the lowest rate.

Posted by: nelsonbentz | February 10, 2011 4:21 AM | Report abuse

As for the Yankees starting staff, yeah, they are a little down, but apparently CC has lost over 40 pounds and Posada will be doing most/all of the Dh'ing. Many Yankee fans can tell you that pitchers have problems with Posada catching. Granted it was in the beginning part of last year, but when Cervelli was catching, Hughes couldn’t lose and Burnett was much better with a much higher K/BB. With a healthy Tex at 1st, their lineup will provide plenty of breathing room. Its tough to argue against an order (even aging) that has A-Rod, Tex, Cano, Jeter, and Granderson in it.

Posted by: leftovers | February 10, 2011 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Was watching MLB Network last night, and they were giving PECOTA rankings to some of the FA's this year, and they were saying that Werth was going to hit .265 and score 70 runs. They didn't even bother with his RBI totals or slugging or OBP numbers. I guess even the sabermetrics people have to acknowledge that he's not going to get the lineup support that he got last year. As difficult as it is for them to admit that the guys hitting in front of and behind you make a difference. In this case, a pretty big difference. He's not gonna get anything to hit. He'll probably end up shortening his stroke and going for base hits just to make consistent contact. I guess I'll just have to take the light rail down and watch the Birds. Or whatever. At least it'll be less painful. Nats are gonna lose 100. I've given up looking at any silver lining. They're just a poorly run team waiting for its high draft picks to save them. Like the Royals. The rotation is like a sitting duck, and they're not gonna score any runs either. FREE HARPER PUT HIM IN THE LINEUP RIGHT NOW PANTS NO SEASONING NEEDED JUST ADD SALT AND PEPPER AND STICK HIM IN THERE!!!!!!! Think about the kids, Pants! They can read the scoreboard too!! What about these poor handicapped people who struggle just to get to the game - you're gonna make em watch another fiasco?? Livan a #1??? Oh the humanity!!

Posted by: Brue | February 10, 2011 9:44 AM | Report abuse

This Spring "Must Read" - World Cup Soccer in The Middle East in eBook, audio,and print in all languages.

www.MiddleEastSoccerBook.com

Posted by: Mansealy | February 10, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Re: 'This Spring "Must Read" - World Cup Soccer in The Middle East in eBook, audio,and print in all languages.'

Guess it slipped past you, Mansealy, that this is a baseball column. Move to Europe or South America to get your fix.

Posted by: joeblow7 | February 10, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

'barely better than average' player?

I guess that comment about Werth came from an Orioles fan.

Baltimore hasn't seen the light of day for YEARS before the Nationals moved to Washington as a semi-expansion team.

Since the Orioles were in the playoffs in 1997, this club has fallen off the planet and has become the AL's version of the Pirates.

Yep, they are finally spending SOME dollars but in the AL East some dollars is just enough to finish 15-20 games back instead of 30.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | February 10, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Its not that Werth is "'barely better than average' player", but like Brue mentioned, the players hitting around Werth, in his case, will make a HUGE difference. I would have to imagine when Werth was in Philly, he was the odd guy out when pitchers went through their game plan for situations where they needed to try and get an out or pitch around someone. It will be very interesting to compare his numbers from last year to this year mid way through the season with that of Nick Markakis. I feel like Markakis in Baltimore this year will be a lot like Werth from last year with a little less power under the new Orioles lineup.

Also, the O's didn’t spend tons of money. They were able to grab guys who were out of options with Lee and Vlad for what is considered good deals these days. Count what they gave Gregg, Uehara, and Duke combined with modest raises to guys who were arbitration eligible and I bet they still come in the bottom half of payroll for 2011.

The Orioles made a Werth type signing a few years back on Albert Belle. Yeah, he had 2 good seasons for the O’s but he handcuffed the organization for almost a decade. It also made Angelos get a lot closer to the team’s day by day operations.

Posted by: leftovers | February 10, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

126 Million is a lot of money for a guy who is almost 32 and only been on 1 all star team.

Posted by: leftovers | February 10, 2011 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Its not that Werth is "'barely better than average' player", but like Brue mentioned, the players hitting around Werth, in his case, will make a HUGE difference. I would have to imagine when Werth was in Philly, he was the odd guy out when pitchers went through their game plan for situations where they needed to try and get an out or pitch around someone. It will be very interesting to compare his numbers from last year to this year mid way through the season with that of Nick Markakis.

Posted by: leftovers

Yeah, you'll see them go in opposite directions in the power department. That's because you see more fastballs when people are always on base in front of you, and those are the easiest ones to hit for distance. Plus your timing becomes so fine tuned because you're expecting it, that you can start to look in zones to pull the ball. He might hit .300 this year, but he's not gonna do a lot of damage. I mean, Zimm only had like 75 rbi's last year anyway. What's he going to do now where there's no giant to defend him? Werth will have to do the same thing Dunn did last year- expand his strike zone, almost anything he could reach at times. But he's a lot stronger than Werth, who will probably end up getting tied up with his lanky body. Or popping up if it's off the plate outside.

Posted by: Brue | February 10, 2011 7:09 PM | Report abuse

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