Offseason winners and losers
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.
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.
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.
| February 9, 2011; 1:40 PM ET
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