Friday, February 28, 2014

MLB Offseason Winners

New York put the pieces in place to make a championship run in Derek Jeter's (MSN)
Minus a few exceptions (Stephen Drew, Ervin Santana), most of the key free agents have signed and the offseason is pretty much over. So who "won" the offseason? Here are the five teams I think are most improved:

1. New York Yankees
Losing Robinson Cano didn't devastate the Yankees, who spent over half a billion dollars this winter. Not only did they land prized Japanese hurler Masahiro Tanaka to anchor the rotation, but they also added All-Stars Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran to beef up their lineup. I doubt Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts will pan out, but they're guaranteed to get more from Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter. After winning just 85 games last year--their fewest in a non-strike season since 1992--and missing the postseason for only the second time in the past two decades, New York should win at least 90 and reclaim their status as one of the American League's elite.

2. Washington Nationals
Washington added Doug Fister to a rotation that already featured Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez. Better yet, they didn't give up anyone of value to get him. Nate McLouth brings depth to an outfield that gave way too many at-bats to the likes of Tyler Moore, Roger Bernadina, Steve Lombardozzi and Scott Hairston last year. Expect the Nats to win closer to 98 games (their 2012 win total) than 86 (last year's total).

3. Texas Rangers
Signing Shin-Soo Choo and trading for Prince Fielder should give their lineup some much-needed oomph, especially given the free agent departure of Nelson Cruz. They also got nine years younger at catcher by replacing A.J. Pierzynski with J.P. Arencibia, who ranks fifth among catchers in home runs over the past three years.

4. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays needed to re-sign David Price and they did, keeping one of baseball's best rotations intact. They also improved their bullpen by signing Grant Balfour and trading for Heath Bell. David DeJesus solidifies the outfield, and first baseman James Loney will return to prove if last year's renaissance was legit.

5. Houston Astros
Houston's still going to be bad, but not as bad as they were last year. They fleeced Colorado for Dexter Fowler, improved their bullpen via Jesse Crain and Chad Qualls, plus landed a decent starting pitcher in Scott Feldman. Things can only get better for a team that lost 111 games last year.

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