Who Won The Off Season?
With pitchers and catchers already reported, and full teams reporting in just a few days the off season has been winding down. Despite the fact that several major free agents are still unsigned, this off season has still be incredibly busy with many teams shaking up their rosters heading into the 2018 season. Let's take a look at some of the more successful teams during the off season to see what team strengthened their club the most since the World Series.
San Francisco Giants: The Giants had a very disappointing season in 2017 as a team that was looking to contend for the post season ended up losing 98 games. Due to the struggle of the club last year the Giants front office decided to make major adjustments to the club. The Giants did a great job this off season in the trade market with 2 major additions to their club, veterans Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. Longoria was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade the had prospect Christian Arroyo as the centerpiece of the deal for the Rays. Longoria is a very consistent hitter and a solid defender, but possibly more important than those is the fact that he is an incredible leader. In their short existence Longoria has been arguably the Rays best player in their history and has taken the Rays to the World Series in 2008 and through many pennant races and has gotten the team through tough times. This spring Longoria will be taking his leadership and talent to the bay area and will hopefully help keep this team with many new faces blend together. McCutchen on the other hand is a little more of a question marks as his ability to hit at the major league level is undeniable. McCutchen however is coming off a weird span in Pittsburgh in which he won the NL MVP in 2013 and was a perennial all-star until 2016 where he had a very uncharacteristic season. In 2016 McCutchen hit .256 with 24 home runs. Although these numbers don't seem terrible these stats came from a player who the year prior hit almost 40 batting points higher. After the disappointing season McCutchen picked up his game when in 2017 he hit .279, not a complete return to form but a better season than his 2016 campaign. McCutchen will look to be a solid middle of the lineup bat for the Giants as they look to gain momentum in the stacked NL West.
Colorado Rockies: The Rockies made it into the post season in 2017 with high hopes. The team was young, and had their own murderers row in the middle of their lineup highlighted by Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado. The Rockies were primed and ready to make a playoff run and all they had to do was get past Arizona in the Wildcard game. Sadly for Rockies fans the Diamondbacks had a great lineup of their own and the combination of Zack Grenkie and Archie Bradley on the mount was sufficient enough to stop the Rockies offense enough to give the D'Backs the win. After this loss the Rockies looked to avoid repeating history and wished to avoid working all year to be eliminated after one playoff game. In their efforts to not have another similar defeat the Rockies did a lot of work, especially in their bullpen. The Rockies added 3 power arms, Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw, added arguably the best closer in the game Wade Davis. With the bullpen being a big question mark going into the 2018 season the Rockies had a lot of work to do. Their set up man Jake McGee was a free agent and their closer who had 40 plus saves, Greg Holland, was also a free agent leading the Rockies to have many vacant spots in their bullpen. This led the Rockies to make some big signings, as the re-signed their set up man Jake McGee, and adding star pitchers Bryan Shaw and Wade Davis. McGee is a flame throwing lefty who the Rockies acquired when they sent Corey Dickerson to the Rays and although he hasn't be as solid since the move out west, he has still been a solid reliever out of the Rockies pen. Bryan Shaw has been the set up man for the Indians for the few years and he's been a big part of the Indians success the past few seasons as his ability to eat up innings especially in the post season has been extremely important for the Tribe. Finally Wade Davis was the big free agent they got as he was undoubtedly the best reliever on the market this off season. Davis had a phenomenal year with the Cubs in 2017 where he helped the Cubs win an incredibly close NL Central Division as he racked up 32 saves for the club. The Rockies have done a lot of work to bluster their bullpen to give their young rotation a safety net.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels have undoubtedly the best player in baseball Mike Trout on their club in center field. Along with Trout the Angels have a lot of other promising players such as Andrelton Simmons who made big strides with his hitting in 2017 to go along with his stellar defense, and promising young pitcher Garret Richards who had injury troubles in 2016. With this club the Angels made a playoff push but fell short of the playoffs by a few games. Due to this the Angels looked to upgrade their team in order to get over the hump and make it to the playoffs. This off season they added several players at key positions including Zack Cozart who had a surprising 2017 season where he was an NL all-star, veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler, and the newly named MLB Pipeline's number one prospect Shohei Ohtani. Along with these additions the Angels were able to re-sign all-star outfielder Justin Upton and they will have several key players return from injury as well. Cozart will be a solid hitter in the middle of the Angels lineup and will be moving to third base for the next season, while Kinsler is a question mark for the Angels. The upside of Kinsler is definitely there as Kinsler is just a few years removed from an all-star caliber year in 2015 for the Tigers, but his 2017 campaign is troubling for Angels fans. Kinsler regressed majorly in 2017 which is especially worrying due to his age as he is entering his age 36 season. Compared to his 2016 season, in 2017 Kinsler batted over 50 points worse leading to a .236 batting average which is quite troubling.Angels fans will have high hopes for their new second baseman as he looks like he will bounce back as he's now in a more hitter friendly park and he has more dangerous bats around him to give him protection in the lineup. Ohtani is definitely the biggest acquisition for the Angels this off season as all the media surrounding him is outrageous. The media attention is deserved however as this man has been called the modern day Babe Ruth. Ohtani is not only a power pitcher who has an incredible fast ball and a devastating breaking ball but he's also an above average hitter who's approach to hitting has been compared to Bryce Harper. Angels manager Mike Scioscia has said that Ohtani will have a chance to both hit and pitch in 2018 so along with the other additions to the team, Ohtani will look to push this team to the postseason.
Houston Astros: The saying goes "if it ain't broke don't fix it". The Houston Astros won a World Championship in 2017 but despite the famous saying there was still work to be done. The Astros had a sound rotation and an alright bullpen but they could do better, and a front office that won a world series on depth went out and made 2 big move to strengthen the pitching staff. The first player they acquired was Joe Smith who was a good righty out of the bullpen who threw submarine. However the bigger move for the 'Stros was acquiring starter Garret Cole. Cole is a veteran pitcher who has had his ups and downs throughout the past few years but a player who's upside is tremendous. Cole is the former ace of the Pirates who has an overpowering fastball to go with a strong arsenal of off speed pitches. In a rotation with Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, Cole won't be a number one starter like he was in Pittsburg but he'll have the ability to make a difference on a club that's primed and ready to make another World Series run.
Honorable Mentions: There are several teams I omitted from this list. I've listed them here along with the reasons why I left them off my list.
New York Yankees: The addition of reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton was major for the Yankees and resigning of Sabathia and Tanaka not opting out were important for the Yankees, but despite all these I feel despite all these moves the Yankees still have a lot of holes. Todd Frazier was a perfect fit in the Bronx and although there were concerns about the luxury tax that led to the Yankees not pursuing Fraizer I believe the Yankees made a big mistake letting Frazier sign with the Mets. If I were the Yankees I would find a way to get Todd Frazier, even if it blocked the way for a player such as Miguel Andujar. Frazier did a lot for that team off the field and his absence could have adverse affects on the 2018 Yankees.
Milwaukee Brewers: Adding Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain were big, and the minor additions of Yovanni Gallardo and Jhoulys Chacin aid the Brewers greatly as they now have an abundance of starter depth which is always good to have. Despite this however I still feel the Brewers have work to do. I feel the Brewers definitely need to find an ace pitcher, especially one more experienced than Jimmy Nelson who will start the year on the DL. The Brewers could also use another middle relief arm but that's much less of a priority than getting an ace such as Jake Arrieta possibly.
Those are the top teams from this off season in my mind. The off season isn't over yet however and there are still several big ticket free agents on the market. Hopefully all these teams will have a successful and let's play ball!