Off-Season Winners & Losers, (So Far,) Part I: The Winners.

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Updated: January 23, 2017
Albert Pujols

It’s that point in the offseason where we can envision final rosters heading into Spring Training. While there are a few notable free agents available on the market, teams are mostly what they are at this point. It’s a perfect time to choose the winners and losers of this offseason so far! Today we’ll focus on the winners, and save the losers for later! Let’s get on with it!

Boston Red Sox – All the Red Sox did was add one of the top five best pitchers in baseball, who’s still under contract at a ridiculous bargain for three more years and added Tyler Thornburg, a good young reliever, on the cheap before the market set itself as high as it did for good relievers. Losing David Ortiz will hurt, but they still return a lineup full of all-stars and MVP candidates with Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, and Brock Holt, and now feature a staff highlighted by Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, and shut-down closer Craig Kimbrel. Consider them the favorites in the AL. Unless….

Cleveland Indians – The Indians return the shut-down staff that got them to the World Series last season, along with prospective returns to health for pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar along with All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley, who missed all of last season. Combine that with a full season of bullpen ace Andrew Miller and the marquee signing of slugger Edwin Encarnacion, and the Indians will have something to say about the Red Sox being crowned AL Champions so early. What makes the Indians winners is that not only did they sign Encarnacion, but for a relative bargain of only $20 million for three years and a club option for a fourth. Twenty million a year for only three years is a steal for a player of Encarnacion’s caliber, and the fact that the reigning AL champions acquired him potentially pushes the Indians ahead of the Red Sox.

Baltimore Orioles – The Orioles added catcher Welington Castillo, coming off a career year, to a good contract, traded disappointing pitcher Yovani Gallardo for consistently solid outfielder Seth Smith, and waited out slugger Mark Trumbo before signing him to an eminently reasonable contract, three years for only $37.5 million dollars. That contract is a steal for a player who can mash like Trumbo, regardless of his shortcomings. The Orioles have also positioned themselves to retain catcher Matt Wieters for a reasonable contract, as he’s still a free agent without a real suitor. The Orioles have improved their team without breaking the bank; that makes you a winner.

Houston Astros – The Astros continue to boast an impressive young core – Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Lance McCullers, Ken Giles – along with a veteran core of Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, Evan Gattis, and Collin McHugh, and added OF/DH Carlos Beltran, who continues to produce at almost forty years old, catcher Brian McCann, and outfielder Josh Reddick to that great core. The Astros continue to improve every year, and as their youngsters develop, the Astros could push themselves into the upper echelon of contenders.

Los Angeles Angels – The Angels weren’t very good last season. They were also colossally unlucky, with injuries and with record. The Angels were outscored by only ten runs over the course of the season, a run differential of a team expected to win around eighty games. Eighty wins after a season like the one the Angels had would have the Angels feeling very positive about their season. Instead, the Angels finished fourteen games under, and things seemed dire. It’s a remarkable feat that the Angels were only outscored by ten runs considering the injuries, the pitching staff, and the lack of production from multiple positions. The Angels improved in left field and second base, and drastically improved their defense and depth with the additions of Cameron Maybin and Ben Revere in the outfield, Danny Espinosa at second, Martin Maldonado at catcher, and Luis Valbuena as a utility infielder. The Angels are hoping for health and development more than anything else in the pitching staff, but there are still options for the Angels to add to the staff. As it stands now, however, the Halos are a winner.

Chicago White Sox – After years of hovering in mediocrity, the White Sox finally decided to pull the cord and make some drastic moves. It’s hard to envision the White Sox making out much better in their first round of sell-offs. The White Sox traded Sale and outfielder Adam Eaton, and made out with two of the top three prospects in all of baseball in second baseman Yoan Moncada (#1) and pitcher Lucas Giolito (#3), along with pitchers Michael Kopech (#30) and Reynaldo Lopez (#38). The White Sox now easily boast one of the best farm systems in baseball. They may not be a winner very much this regular season, but for a team that seemed stuck in the mushy middle of mediocrity, the rebuild is off to a grand start.

Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers entered the offseason with many question marks and marquee free agents, and were able to retain them all. Kenley Jansen cleaned up with his massive contract, but Justin Turner and Rich Hill were kept on affordable contracts when compared to their potential output, especially Turner, and the Dodgers continue to boast a deep roster, with the prospects to continue to improve.

Atlanta Braves – After a few rough seasons at the bottom of the barrel, the Braves are finally beginning to see the benefits of losing. Top prospects Dansby Swanson, Matt Wisler, and Aaron Blair made their debuts to various levels of success, and pitchers Jesse Biddle, Max Fried, and Lucas Sims are expected to make their contributions this season. The Braves also still boast the consensus best farm system in baseball. The Braves added consistent veteran pitchers Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey to bolster their young staff along with catcher Kurt Suzuki and utility infielder Sean Rodriguez. All of these players bring strong veteran leadership and a positive clubhouse presence to a very young team just starting to scratch the surface, and on the cheap. Those are positive steps for a team just starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Aroldis Chapman – Chapman set a record for relief pitchers with his massive contract, and not only was it huge but Chapman got every single detail he wanted from the New York Yankees. He got a no trade clause to the West Coast, where he refuses to play, and an opt-out after 2019 to maximize his potential earnings. After his domestic abuse scandal and struggles at the end of the World Series, it appeared maybe Chapman’s earnings could take a bit of a hit, especially considering he wasn’t the only top closer available. In the end Chapman was actually a huge winner at the Yankees’ expense.

Kendrys Morales – Morales struck a deal quickly with the Blue Jays, signing for three years at $33 million dollars. In retrospect, this is a huge win for Morales, as the Blue Jays completely misread the market for sluggers. Looking at deals for player like Jose Bautista, Encarnacion, and Trumbo, and the fact that players like Brandon Moss, Mike Napoli, and Wieters are still available, Morales did very well to land the deal he did. It’s certainly possible that if the Blue Jays had waited out the market, they would still have Encarnacion and Morales would still be available. Consider Morales one of the biggest individual winners of the offseason.

Versatile Free Agent Outfielders – Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, Yoenis Cespedes, and Reddick all signed big contracts for four years or longer, veritable hauls compared to how the slugger market developed. Cespedes was the consensus top free agent available, so his contract was no surprise, but Fowler, Desmond, and Reddick all did very well to get the term and AAV they did.

Stay tuned for the losers of the offseason, and any team that signs Wieters could possibly be added to this winners list!

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