This was a quiet off-season in baseball, but that doesn’t mean nothing changed. If there is one constant in modern baseball - since we can’t count on even the definition of a walk to remain the same - it’s roster turnover every off-season. Just in case you couldn’t keep up, here’s a break down of what happened in the American League this winter.
Gained: RP Logan Verrett; C Welington Castillo; RF Seth Smith; 2B Johnny Giovatella; RP Richard Bleier; RP Vidal Nuno; P Gabriel Ynoa
Lost: DH Pedro Alvarez; RP Brian Duensing; IF/OF Steve Pearce; LF Nolan Reimold; CF Drew Stubbs; C Matt Wieters; SP Vance Worley; RP Tommy Hunter; SP Yovani Gallardo
The Orioles were among the most busy teams during this off-season; they also brought back Michael Bourn and Mark Trumbo. It’s hard to see them as anything but a lesser team without Matt Wieters, though.
Verdict: Slightly worse.
Gained: 1B Mitch Moreland; SP Chris Sale; RP Tyler Thornburg
Lost: C Ryan Hanigan; 3B Aaron Hill; C Bryan Holaday; P Sean O’Sullivan; RP Junichi Tazawa; RP Koji Uehara; RP Brad Ziegler; RP Clay Buchholz; DH David Ortiz
Boston was already a very good, very young team. Adding Chris Sale to their rotation makes it legitimately scary. They did lose a bunch of relievers and the irreplaceable David Ortiz. But their lineup was still good even without Big Papi and Mitch Moreland isn’t going to make them worse. There are also still plenty of guys in that pen to make it go, including Craig Kimbrel.
Verdict: Slightly improved.
Gained: 1B Chris Carter; RP Aroldis Chapman; LF Matt Holliday
Lost: C Brian McCann; RP Nick Goody; RP Richard Bleier; DH Billy Butler
The Yankees made a killing last year in trading Chapman to the Cubs for their stretch run and now they will still benefit from his talents - if not his character - for something very close to the remainder of his career. Considering how well Butler and McCann have played the last two years they almost can’t be considered losses. The Yankees should be in the middle of things, again.
Verdict: Slightly improved.
Gained: OF Mallex Smith; SP Jose De Leon; C Wilson Ramos; OF Colby Rasmus; RP Shawn Tolleson
Lost: 1B Richie Shaffer; SP Drew Smyly; OF Mikie Mahtook; 2B Logan Forsythe; RP Enny Romero; RP Kevin Jepsen; SS Alexei Ramirez; 1B J.P. Arencibia
Tampa did a lot of work in acquiring prospects for some of their guys. They added some controllable young talent, as well in guys like Mallex Smith and Jose De Leon. They might not compete this year, but they aren’t far away.
Gained: RP J.P. Howell; DH Kendrys Morales; IF/OF Steve Pearce; C Jarrod Saltalamacchia; RP Joe Smith
Lost: RP Joaquin Benoit; RP Brett Cecil; SP R.A. Dickey; 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion; SP Scott Feldman; C Dioner Navarro; RF Michael Saunders
The Blue Jays lost of hitting talent in Encarnacion and Saunders, but they still have the Whine Bros - assuming Bautista finds his swing, again. Kendrys Morales is not even close to Encarnacion’s league, but he’s still got plenty of pop left in his bat. The rest of the lineup doesn’t get the glory because of the big names, but guys like Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki certainly know what they’re doing. Their rotation might be the most underrated in baseball.
Verdict: About the same, but improved by young guys continuing to turn corners.
Gained: C Geovany Soto; SP Derek Holland; SP Lucas Giolito; 3B Yoan Moncada
Lost: RP Matt Albers; DH Justin Morneau; CF Austin Jackson; C Alex Avila; OF Adam Eaton; SP Chris Sale
It looks like the White Sox have finally given in and will attempt a rebuild - their two biggest off-season acquisitions were highly ranked prospects in Giolito and Moncada.
Verdict: Significantly worse.
Gained: DH Edwin Encarnacion; CF Austin Jackson; RP Boone Logan; RP Nick Goody; P Carlos Frias
Lost: RF Marlon Byrd; LF Coco Crisp, OF Rajai Davis, RP Jeff Manship; 1B Mike Napoli; RP Austin Adams
Cleveland shored up their lineup by replacing Napoli with Encarnacion and added a slew of new relievers to support their beastly rotation. And don’t forget that they’ve got star left fielder Michael Brantley returning from an injury that kept him out of the lineup all of 2016. The team that ran away with the division in 2016 has only improved.
Gained: C Alex Avila; OF Mikie Mahtook
Lost: SS Erick Aybar; 3B Casey McGehee; C Jarrod Saltalamacchia; Cameron Maybin; RP Joel Hanrahan
Alex Avila is back with his GM dad in Detroit after spending a year in Chicago. They added borderline big leaguer Mikie Mahtook to take over centerfield after dealing Maybin for a prospect. They still have plenty of talent under contract in their lineup and rotation, though.
Verdict: About the same.
Gained: SP Jason Hammel; 1B/OF Brandon Moss; RP Seth Maness; P Travis Wood; RF Jorge Soler; SP Nate Karns; Peter O’Brien
Lost: RP Wade Davis; OF Jarrod Dyson; RP Luke Hochevar; P Kris Medlen; DH Kendrys Morales; SP Edinson Volquez; RP Brooks Pounders, SP Yordano Ventura; P Dillon Gee
We all know what’s going on with the Royals. Mellinger would say they’ve got a puncher’s chance at the playoffs again, this year, but it’s not a lock by any stretch.
Verdict: Slightly improved.
Gained: RP Matt Belisle; C Jason Castro; OF Drew Stubbs; RP Ryan Vogelsong
Lost: C Kurt Suzuki; 3B Trevor Plouffe; RP Pat Light, SP Tommy Milone
If Minnesota improves this year it will be because their young guys turn corners; though Jason Castro appears to be a significant upgrade over Suzuki.
Verdict: About the same, still very bad.
Gained: C Brian McCann; DH Carlos Beltran; LF Josh Reddick; SP Charlie Morton
Lost: RP Pat Neshek; OF Colby Rasmus; 3B/1B Luis Valbuena; SP Doug Fister; C Jason Castro
The Astros have reunited Yankees’ teammates McCann and Beltran, perhaps hoping that their combined playoff experience and veteran leadership will help guide their young and talented team back into the playoffs, this year.
Verdict: About the same, maybe a tiny bit improved. Still very good.
Gained: C Martin Maldonado; RP Brooks Pounders; OF Cameron Maybin; P Jesse Chavez; RP Yusmeiro Petit; OF Ben Revere; 3B/1B Luis Valbuena
Lost: C Jett Bandy; IF Danny Espinosa; RP A.J. Achter; P Jhoulys Chacin; SP Tim Lincecum; C Geovany Soto; UT Gregorio Petit; SP Jered Weaver; SP C.J. Wilson
The Angels made a lot of moves in the off-season, but none of them stand out, particularly. Jesse Chavez might be their biggest acquisition, though Cameron Maybin should be an upgrade in left field, at least.
Verdict: About the same, not great.
Gained: RP Santiago Casilla; OF Rajai Davis; OF Alejandro De Aza; RF Matt Joyce; 3B Trevor Plouffe; 3B Adam Rosales
Lost: OF Sam Fuld; OF Brett Eibner; UT Danny Valencia
Oakland didn’t really lose anyone they couldn’t replace...but they didn’t add anyone with obvious talent, either. It’ll be interesting to see if Billy Beane has gone back to finding failed players who can succeed for cheap.
Gained: RP Casey Fien; RP Marc Rzepczynski; SP Drew Smyly; OF Jarrod Dyson; RP Shae Simmons; SP Yovani Gallardo; C Carlos Ruiz; UT Danny Valencia; 1B Richie Shaffer; OF Mitch Haniger; IF Jean Segura
Lost: OF Franklin Gutierrez; C Chris Ianetta; 1B Dae-Ho Lee; 1B Adam Lind; RP Drew Storen; RP Jesus Sucre; P Nate Karns; OF Seth Smith; RP Vidal Nuno; SP Taijuan Walker; SS Ketel Marte
Seattle made the absolute most moves out of anyone this off-season. They improved their rotation with Smyly, their outfield with Dyson, their infield with Segura, and their bullpen with Rzepczynski. They might miss Seth Smith, but not much with all that incoming talent.
Gained: SP Andrew Cashner; 1B James Loney; 1B Mike Napoli; SP Tyson Ross; RP Eddie Gamboa; P Dillon Gee
Lost: OF Carlos Beltran; SS/OF Ian Desmond; SP Derek Holland; OF Jared Hoying; SP Colby Lewis; 1B Mitch Moreland; RP Shawn Tolleson
The Rangers lost big pieces in Desmond and Moreland. They brough in Napoli to replace Moreland and they’ll try to strike it rich twice by moving perenially-injured Jurickson Profar into the outfield.
Verdict: Unclear. Rotation should be better, lineup may be worse, better or unchanged.
We often think of the off-season as a time for a team to take a huge leap into contention, but the only team to make a massive addition this off-season was Boston when they traded for Sale. It’s true that this year’s free agent class was widely regarded as less talented than most but maybe the lack of massive changes by most organizations means the Royals really did do the best they could have been expected to do, regardless of the money situation.
There are no guarantees in baseball, key injuries could knock teams without depth like Kansas City, Detroit, and Texas out of contention. Breakout years could boost a team like Minnesota or Tampa Bay to the forefront. I guess that’s why they play the games.
*All players listed are according to ESPN’s free agent tracker and SpotRac’s transaction tracker as of 2/25/17. There may be some errors, but I caught as many as I could. (For example Billy Butler shows up as a 2016 Twin in ESPN’s tracker, Peter Moylan doesn’t show up as signed by the Royals according to either site, and ESPN confused former MIN LHP Tommy Milone with TB’s OF prospect, Thomas Milone)