Each MLB Team's Best, Worst Offseason Move Thus Far
There are no perfect offseasons, though Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington came pretty close last offseason.
Signing Ryan Dempster (4.57 ERA) to a two-year deal may not have been the best use of $26.5 million of ownership's money. And acquiring closer Joel Hanrahan backfired as he sustained a season-ending elbow surgery early in the season. Aside from those two moves, though, Cherington's very busy offseason was nearly flawless. He acquired several players who were integral to the team's World Series title.
It's also rare for a team not to have one bright spot in all of their offseason acquisitions, though the Los Angeles Angels and general manager Jerry Dipoto came dangerously close.
Free-agent acquisitions Joe Blanton, Sean Burnett and Josh Hamilton didn't pan out in Year 1 of their respective deals—Burnett missed most of the season due to injury; Blanton and Hamilton had unproductive seasons on the field— and Tommy Hanson, whom they acquired in a trade with Atlanta, posted a 5.42 ERA and was non-tendered after the season.
If not for minor league free agent Dane De La Rosa, who posted a 2.86 ERA in 75 relief appearances, it might qualify as one of the worst offseasons of all time.
After two busy months of free-agent signings, trades and waiver-wire pickups, it's time to take a look at each team and decide which was their best and worst move (or non-move).
Best Move: General manager Kevin Towers made a questionable decision last offseason to acquire Heath Bell (pictured) and $13 million of the $21 million remaining on his contract from the Marlins. While he wasn't terrible overall, posting a 4.11 ERA with 15 saves and eight holds, he was a big part of the team's problem holding on to leads late in the game.
So when Towers was able to send the 36-year-old and all but $500,000 of the remaining $6 million they owed him to the Tampa Bay Rays, it has to be viewed as a victory.
Worst Move: After Towers rid the team of two strikeout-prone players—Mark Reynolds was traded to Baltimore prior to the 2011 season; Chris Young was traded to Oakland prior to last season—the team appeared headed for a new identity with a prototypical leadoff man, Adam Eaton, setting the table with his speed and on-base ability.
But after Eaton missed most of the season due to an elbow injury, he was traded away to the Chicago White Sox in a three-team deal that brought the D'backs slugger Mark Trumbo, a one-dimensional player who brings power and, you guessed it, a ton of strikeouts.
Those 30-40 homers that Trumbo will hit will look good at the end of the season, especially for his agent at the negotiation table, but the team is reverting back to what it was before Towers decided that a change was necessary.
Best move: With Evan Gattis expected to take on the lion's share of the catching duties now that Brian McCann has departed as a free agent, the Braves will be without one of the most dangerous pinch-hitters in the game—Gattis was 6-for-10 with four homers as a pinch hitter last season.
By acquiring Ryan Doumit (pictured), they not only add some power to their bench, but he gives the Braves a third catcher, along with Gattis and Gerald Laird, so using Gattis late in the game when he isn't in the starting lineup becomes a more realistic option. Using the backup catcher as a pinch-hitter is risky when there are no other catchers on the roster.
Worst move: I'm assuming that general manager Frank Wren and the Braves' medical staff feel very confident that Gavin Floyd can make a quick recovery from Tommy John surgery or else they wouldn't have given him a guaranteed $4 million contract for 2014.
But based on the history of pitchers returning from the surgery, I find it hard to believe that Floyd will make it back sooner than July or August—he underwent surgery on May 7, 2013. And even if he does avoid the common setbacks that can occur and makes it back to the mound by midseason, the thought is that it can take up to two years for a pitcher to regain command of his full arsenal of pitches.
The Cubs gave $5.5 million to Scott Baker last offseason, hoping he'd return from April 2012 Tommy John surgery early in the season. He made three starts in September.
That shouldn't have been a big surprise, just like it won't be if Floyd fails to give the Braves much return on their investment.
Best move: It's not too late to sign free-agent slugger Nelson Cruz, but the Baltimore Orioles might very well head into spring training with several candidates competing for the starting left field job.
Among those, and maybe the favorite to win the job, would be David Lough (pictured), whom the team acquired from Kansas City last month for Danny Valencia. When finally given a chance to play on a semi-regular basis, the 27-year-old posted a .724 OPS in 96 games last season while providing excellent outfield defense for the Royals.
Worst move: While Lough could make an impact if he can win the starting left field job, the Orioles probably could've acquired him without giving up Valencia, who was poised to play an integral role in 2014 after a blazing finish last season (1.044 OPS, 4 HR, 9 2B in last 91 at-bats).
Instead of having Valencia as a designated hitter, as well as backup at first base, third base and possibly as a candidate for the left field job, they have Rule 5 pick Michael Almanzar penciled into a bench role. It would be a surprise if the 23-year-old, who had a .760 OPS in Double-A in 2013, was able to thrive in a part-time big league role.
Boston Red Sox
Best move: General manager Ben Cherington didn't have as many holes to fill this offseason, but the gaping hole in the middle of his lineup would've been evident had Mike Napoli (pictured) departed as a free agent.
The 32-year-old was probably worthy of a three or even four-year deal after he posted an .842 OPS with 23 homers and 92 runs batted in last season, but the Sox kept him in the fold on a two-year, $32 million deal.
Worst move: The Sox are excited about the catching depth in their organization with Christian Vasquez and Blake Swihart on the rise. But after Jarrod Saltalamacchia's breakout 2013 season (.804 OPS, 14 HR, 40 2B), it was a surprise that they didn't make more of an effort to re-sign him.
For a mere three years and $21 million, the 28-year-old landed with the Miami Marlins. While they did have the advantage of playing in his home state, you'd think the Sox could've kept him in Boston for the same deal.
Instead, they gave $8.25 million to 37-year-old A.J. Pierzynski.
Best move: By signing Jose Veras (pictured) to a one-year, $4 million deal, the Chicago Cubs added a proven closer to the mix who could be shopped to a contender at the trade deadline.
But he's not so proven—2013 was his first season as a closer—that they would have much issue with allowing him to pitch in a setup role should Pedro Strop, who pitched very well down the stretch last season (2.83 ERA, 35 IP, 22 H, 11 BB, 42 K) after he was acquired from Baltimore, prove to be the better man for the job in the present and future.
Worst move: They could still make up for it if they were to sign 25-year-old Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, but the Cubs do not appear to have improved at all after a 96-loss season in 2013.
They've done a terrific job building a very talented farm system and the positive results probably aren't that far away. But not making a splash in Year 3 of the Theo Epstein regime is a mistake that could make it more difficult to draw Cubs fans back to Wrigley Field once they are ready to compete again.
Home attendance has dipped from over 40,000 per game back in 2008, according to ESPN, to 32,625 in 2013. Another terrible season could push have them somewhere near a 10,000-fan-per-game drop-off in only six years.
Chicago White Sox
Best move: It's difficult to judge the White Sox based on their acquisition of several young unproven hitters. But on the surface, general manager Rick Hahn has turned the Sox from an aging team to a young and exciting team in a very short time.
The biggest payoff, if he's anything close to what fellow Cubans Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig have been, could be Jose Dariel Abreu (pictured). If the power-hitting 26-year-old can adequately replace Paul Konerko and hit 30 homers per season—he was described by one scout as having "monstrous power" according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN—the six-year, $68 million deal he signed in October will look like a steal.
Worst move: Nate Jones, in all likelihood, will be just fine as the replacement for Addison Reed as the White Sox closer—Reed was traded to Arizona for third baseman Matt Davidson. But if this is the route they do take and they fail to add another late-inning arm to the mix, they are counting on some combination of Ronald Belisario, Scott Downs and Matt Lindstrom to take on the primary setup duties.
Belisario was non-tendered by the Dodgers after a season in which his ERA jumped nearly a run-and-a-half and his H/9 jumped from 6.0 to 9.5. His strikeout rate also dropped drastically. If his past issues with alcohol and drugs aren't enough of a concern, those stats should be.
Downs, who will be 38 at the start of the season, had a strong overall 2013 season but had a rough time after being traded to Atlanta. He had a 3.86 ERA, which isn't awful, but he gave up 19 hits and walked eight hitters in 14 innings.
Lindstrom also had a solid season in 2013, though he allowed 38 percent of inherited runners to score and, despite throwing his fastball in the mid-to-high 90s, hasn't been a primary setup man too often during his seven-year career.
Things could get ugly late in games if Hahn can't add a more reliable arm to either set up for Jones or close games so Jones can continue in that role.
Best move: The Reds have been relatively quiet, but it's their involvement in a three-team trade with the Diamondbacks and Rays that could end up paying off in the future.
In exchange for catcher Ryan Hanigan, who had become expendable with the signing of backup Brayan Peña and the need to get youngster Devin Mesoraco more at-bats, the Reds received starter David Holmberg, a 22-year-old lefty who had a 2.75 ERA in 26 Double-A starts last season.
With Tony Cingrani expected to join the rotation full-time and Bronson Arroyo likely departing as a free agent, the Reds were badly in need of a No. 6 starter who could step in in case of an injury. Holmberg doesn't have Cingrani's ceiling, but he should be an adequate replacement if he is needed.
Worst move: You can't blame the Reds for not wanting to pay Shin-Soo Choo the kind of money he was demanding—he signed with Texas for seven years and $130 million—but to not replace him and opt to go with a rookie who posted a .308 on-base percentage in Triple-A could be a drop-off that's too tough for the lineup to overcome.
While there is plenty of excitement surrounding Billy Hamilton (pictured), who set the minor league single-season stolen base mark in 2012, there is a really good chance that he's just not ready to be a leadoff man for a team expected to contend for the playoffs.
Best move: By releasing Chris Perez and signing John Axford (pictured) as his replacement as the team's closer, the Cleveland Indians saved around $4 million in salary for 2014. Perez was due for a raise through arbitration on his $7.3 million salary; Axford will make $4.5 million.
The 30-year-old Axford lost his closing job with Milwaukee in each of the past two seasons. He finished the season strong after being traded to St. Louis (10.1 IP, 2 ER, 11 H, 3 BB, 11 K; 5.2 IP, ER, 2 H, 4 BB, 9 K in postseason). Perez, in the meantime, posted a career-high 4.33 ERA and a career-worst 83 percent save rate.
While the Tribe could've easily just handed the job to Cody Allen or Vinnie Pestano, they are a much stronger group overall with Axford in the mix.
Worst move: Losing free agent Scott Kazmir shouldn't have been a major blow to the Indians' pitching staff, and it still might not be. With a deep group of possible replacements on the free-agent market, they were sure to find a capable veteran who could give them 180-plus innings and a 4.00 ERA.
That group is thinning out, though.
They could still re-sign Ubaldo Jimenez or sign one of Bronson Arroyo, Matt Garza or Ervin Santana. But since they'll likely be bidding against teams with much bigger payrolls, their chances of heading into 2014 with only one starter in their rotation, Justin Masterson, who has logged a full big league season are increasing.
Zach McAllister (134.1 IP in 2013) and Corey Kluber (147.1 IP in 2013), penciled into the No. 2 and 3 spots behind Masterson, can't be expected to go much more than 180 innings in 2014. Rookie Danny Salazar and whoever else fills out the rotation has even less of a chance.
Without a No. 2 starter they know will give them a full season of solid production, it's hard to see the Tribe remaining in playoff contention past July.
Best move: After trading away their starting center fielder, the Colorado Rockies have assembled a long list of potential replacements. While Carlos Gonzalez is expected to take over in center field, Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson and the newly acquired Drew Stubbs will compete for time in left field.
The right-handed-hitting Stubbs was acquired from the Indians for lefty reliever Josh Outman, who was expendable after the Rockies signed Boone Logan.
Although Stubbs may not play everyday—the left-handed-hitting Dickerson or Blackmon are likely to get the bulk of starts against right-handed pitching—his plus outfield defense in spacious Coors Field should prove valuable, as well as his ability to hit left-handed pitching (.796 OPS career vs. LHP).
Worst move: Dexter Fowler (pictured), who has a .793 OPS and an average of 43 extra-base hits and 17 stolen bases per season since 2009, was traded to Houston for a backup outfielder (Brandon Barnes) and a back-of-the-rotation starter (Jordan Lyles). He'll be 28 years old at the start of the season and is under team control through 2015. I still have no idea why.
Best move: After late-inning meltdowns by their bullpen in consecutive postseasons, the Detroit Tigers had no other choice but to fix the problem once and for all. Signing Joe Nathan, one of the best closers in the game, to a two-year, $20 million deal should do the trick.
Worst move: Maybe Prince Fielder (pictured) was on the decline, and maybe it does help the Tigers down the road by clearing most of his remaining contract. And maybe Ian Kinsler does fill a major void at second base with Omar Infante departing as a free agent.
But when Detroit traded Fielder just two seasons after signing him to a nine-year, $214 million deal and agreeing to pay for $30 million of his remaining salary, they essentially ended up paying him $77 million for two seasons of service.
They also have a gaping hole in the middle of their lineup after Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez and, barring a Nelson Cruz signing, they will head into 2014 that way.
Best move: Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, after spending most of his first two years on the job trading veteran players away, has done some shopping on the free-agent market this winter.
One of his acquisitions, Jesse Crain (pictured), was one of the best setup men in baseball during the first half of the 2013 season. Now, the Astros are likely to give the 32-year-old his first chance at being a closer and are paying him only $3.25 million on a one-year contract to do so.
If he succeeds in the closer's role, his value would skyrocket and Luhnow could flip the veteran reliever to a contender and probably end up with a pretty good prospect in return.
The Dexter Fowler acquisition was also very good and could've easily been their best move.
Worst move: Signing Crain could prove to be a bargain, especially if he's closing out games in Houston. But if Crain is closing, that means Chad Qualls will be a setup man after he signed a two-year, $6 million deal last month.
I'm not sure why it was necessary to give the 35-year-old journeyman, who has pitched for seven different teams since he last pitched for the Astros in 2004, a two-year deal. Unless he's pitching as well as he's ever pitched throughout his career, it would be very tough to trade him to a contender because of the additional $3.25 million he's due in 2015.
Kansas City Royals
Best move: The Royals have added a leadoff hitter who can play all three outfield spots, has posted a .755 OPS with 18 homers and 50 stolen bases in two big league seasons, and will make less than $2 million in 2014.
And to acquire Norichika Aoki (pictured) from the Milwaukee Brewers, all they had to give up was a left-handed reliever, Will Smith, who might have a chance to be a back-of-the-rotation starter down the road.
Worst move: Replacing free agent Ervin Santana (pictured), should he sign elsewhere, won't be easy after the spectacular season he had in 2013. Their top two pitching prospects, Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer, are on the fast track to permanent rotation spots, which should help greatly.
For 2014, however, they needed a reliable innings-eater. Signing Jason Vargas, a 30-year-old lefty with a 3.97 ERA and an average of 190 innings per season since 2010, made a lot of sense.
But signing him for four years, even at a very team-friendly rate of $8 million per season, seems unnecessary considering that there were solid options (Bartolo Colon, Dan Haren, Tim Hudson, Scott Kazmir) who have signed one- and two-year deals for not much more of an annual rate this offseason.
Los Angeles Angels
Best move: On a seemingly tight budget and with very little talent in the farm system to use as trade bait, the Los Angeles Angels have done a terrific job filling holes in their roster. The additions of third baseman David Freese, designated hitter Raul Ibanez, starting pitcher Hector Santiago and setup man Joe Smith should help the team make a quick return to playoff contention in 2014.
It's the re-acquisition of pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs (pictured), however, that could have the biggest payoff down the road. Trading away power-hitting Mark Trumbo even though Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton have shown signs of decline was a tough decision. But getting back Skaggs, who was traded from the Angels to the D'backs in the Dan Haren trade of July 2010, made this a much easier call.
The 22-year-old has struggled in 13 big league starts, but he still has the talent to be a very good major league starter once he's given the opportunity.
Worst move: After revamping the roster without spending much money at all, the Angels are now in a position to make a splash that could take them from potential playoff contender to legitimate World Series contender.
Failure to sign either of the top four pitchers available—Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Masahiro Tanaka—would take away from the great work that general manager Jerry Dipoto has done over the past two months and would be the "worst non-move" of the offseason.
With the multiple bad contracts on the roster, it might be difficult to convince owner Arte Moreno to open up his pocketbook again so soon. But, led by superstar Mike Trout, they're really not that far away from being a top team. The addition of a third front-line starter behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson should put them there.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Best move: The Dodgers learned the hard way in 2013 that you can never have enough pitching in this league. Multiple injuries forced a roster with plenty of pitching to start the season to send rookie Matt Magill, who wasn't close to being ready for the majors, to the mound multiple times early in the season.
With Chad Billingsley recovering from Tommy John surgery and not expected to be ready for the start of the season and Josh Beckett returning from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, the Dodgers did well to sign veteran Dan Haren to a team-friendly one-year, $10 million deal.
While his value has dipped after a so-so 2012 season and a poor start to the 2013 season, the 33-year-old finished strong (3.29 ERA over last 87.2 IP) and should feel much more comfortable returning to his hometown after saying he longed to return to the West Coast after the season.
Worst move: Juan Uribe (pictured) was a key component to the Dodgers' success in 2013. But after one solid year and two of the worst years you could have imagined after he signed a three-year, $21 million deal prior to the 2011 season, giving him two more years at an even higher annual rate ($7.5 million per season average) seems like a bad investment to me.
As was the case last time, there aren't very many options available at third base and Uribe is coming off of a very good season. But if history repeats itself, the Dodgers and general manager Ned Colletti will be wondering why they allowed themselves to get burned by Uribe on two different occasions.
Best move: The biggest hole for the Miami Marlins heading into the offseason was at the hot corner, where they were desperate to find a viable stop-gap for Colin Moran, the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft. Options were limited, however, and the best available free agent was the inconsistent Juan Uribe, who re-signed with the Dodgers for two years and $15 million.
So they took a chance on a former big leaguer, Casey McGehee (pictured). He's making a return from a successful one-year stint in Japan (.891 OPS, 28 HR, 93 RBI in 144 games for Rakuten).
For a price of just $1.1 million, the Marlins signed the 31-year-old McGehee, who had two successful seasons with the Brewers in 2009 and 2010 (.823 OPS, 20 HR, 85 RBI per season) before struggling the next two seasons.
It's a relatively low-risk deal that has the potential to result in one of the biggest free-agent value signings of the offseason.
Worst move: Led by 21-year-old ace Jose Fernandez, the Marlins have the makings of a very good rotation. What they lack, though, is experience.
For 2014, at least, the team has room to add a veteran innings-eater behind, or in front of, Fernandez, Jacob Turner, Nate Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez. Top pitching prospects Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino are expected to start the season in Double-A.
But Miami has done no such thing, at least not yet, making this pitching staff vulnerable over a very long 162-game season.
Best move: The Milwaukee Brewers have done so little this offseason, it's hard to find a positive. Unless Khris Davis, who figures to get the first shot at playing everyday with Norichika Aoki being traded to Kansas City, has a big season, it's hard to like that move.
They still need a first baseman. But giving up Thornburg, who was terrific in four September starts (2.16 ERA, 25 IP, 18 H, 8 BB, 22 K), shouldn't be necessary to include a player whose value has fallen so far.
Worst move: Early in the offseason, Corey Hart expressed his desire to remain in Milwaukee and said he would sign at a reduced rate after missing the 2013 season due to multiple knee surgeries.
Shortly thereafter, Hart's agent, Jeff Berry, said the Brewers were making Hart their priority. If that was the case, it's hard to believe the team couldn't match the one-year deal he eventually signed with the Seattle Mariners for a guaranteed $6 million and an additional $7 million that can be earned in incentives.
For that amount, a 31-year-old with a career .824 OPS in 924 career games and two All-Star appearances as a Brewer should not have been allowed to get away.
Best move: I'm still not a big fan of the Minnesota Twins rotation, despite the additions of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes (pictured) this offseason.
But if there's a silver lining, it's that the 27-year-old Hughes is under contract at a team-friendly rate ($8 million per season through 2016) that will seem like an even bigger bargain if his move from hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium to pitcher-friendly Target Field helps him as much as it should.
Worst move: For the Twins to have any chance of being competitive in 2014, they had to bring in at least three starting pitchers to fill out their rotation with Kevin Correia the lone mainstay. While they've done that, bringing in Nolasco and Hughes and re-signing Mike Pelfrey, it's not nearly enough.
Signing Nolasco for four years and $49 million isn't a terrible deal, and he's a pretty solid pitcher. But he's a No. 3 or 4 starter on a playoff contender. On the Twins, he's their ace and they're lucky to be a fourth-place team in 2014.
Nolasco as the No. 2 starter behind Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana or Masahiro Tanaka would give this team a fighting chance of being a .500 team with an outside shot at the playoffs. As of now, the Twins just invested a lot of money in rotation stop-gaps.
New York Mets
Best move: In a move that might not have been necessary if staff ace Matt Harvey was healthy, the New York Mets signed Bartolo Colon (pictured) to a two-year, $20 million deal.
With Harvey expected to miss the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Mets needed a cost-effective solution for the top of their rotation. The 40-year-old, because of his age, came at a discount.
If he can hold up for another two seasons—he has a 3.32 ERA with a 1.6 BB/9 and 6.1 K/9 over the past three seasons—it will be a sound investment and the Mets might not be as bad as most teams would be if they lost one of the best pitchers in baseball for the season.
Worst move: Giving Curtis Granderson $60 million for his ages 33-36 seasons wouldn't be such a bad idea if the team was already a contender or if it was part of several big-name acquisitions that would make the team a contender.
But in the Mets' case, it's their biggest move of the offseason and, aside from adding Colon and outfielder Chris Young, they still have a long ways to go. Granderson's first year could seem like a waste when they're out of playoff contention in June.
New York Yankees
Best move: The Yankees paid market value to land three of the top free-agent hitters in the game. It's hard to find fault with that, although there's always a chance the deals look bad down the road.
In the case of Carlos Beltran (pictured), he might have the best chance of the three—Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann are the others—of earning his money during his entire contract.
He's better than a $15 million per season player—he signed a three-year, $45 million contract—but his price tag was limited because he'll be 37 in April.
The switch-hitter is still one of the most productive players in the game, though, and he has stayed healthy while playing the outfield regularly over the past three seasons. The Yankees will be able to rest him more often as the designated hitter in case he does begin to decline, and he's capable of filling Robinson Cano's No. 3 spot in the lineup.
Worst move: The Yankees, to their defense, had more holes to fill than any other team in baseball. That they still aren't anywhere close to filling all those holes shouldn't come as a surprise.
But unless they plan on acquiring two more starters, two more relievers and a better option at either second base or third base than Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson, respectively, the 2014 season won't go well.
To be more specific, failing to land one of the top starters available, one of the closers remaining—Grant Balfour or Fernando Rodney—and somehow find a better starting infield candidate, they'll have a lot of worst "non-moves" to choose from.
Best move: There are so many roster moves to choose from. General manager Billy Beane has had a busy offseason. He may not have brought in many big names, but he did acquire one of the best setup men in the league over the past several seasons.
In exchange for outfielder Seth Smith, the A's picked up Luke Gregerson (pictured) from the Padres, where he's posted a 2.88 ERA with a 2.8 BB/9, 9.1 K/9 and an average of 26 holds per season since 2009.
Both players can become free agents after the season. With closer Grant Balfour a free agent, Beane felt a shutdown setup man was more important than employing Smith as a fourth outfielder/part-time designated hitter.
Worst move: It's not like Beane gave up a lot to acquire closer Jim Johnson from the Orioles. He traded Jemile Weeks, whose value has dipped significantly and who probably wasn't going to make the team in 2014 anyways.
But with Johnson's salary expected to be close to $10 million in 2014, his last season before becoming a free agent, it would seem that re-signing Balfour, who had agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with Baltimore before it fell through because of concerns with his medical records, might've have actually been less expensive.
In addition, Balfour was just a more reliable pitcher in 2013 and probably will be again in 2014.
Best move: The Phillies needed to land a corner outfielder this offseason, preferably a right-handed hitter with power to balance out their left-handed heavy lineup. While the aggressive move would've been to sign Nelson Cruz to a long-term, big-money deal early in the offseason, they opted for the much safer and less expensive move and signed Marlon Byrd to a two-year, $16 million deal.
Both players were highly productive in 2013. Both have been suspended for PED use. Both are getting up there in age—Cruz is 33; Byrd is 36. Chances of either player declining drastically are good.
With that said, the Phillies likely made the smart investment.
Worst move: For a team that chose not to "rebuild"—signing Chase Utley and re-signing Carlos Ruiz told us that—it's been a surprisingly quiet offseason for the Phillies.
Not only is the one-year, $4.5 million deal for Roberto Hernandez (pictured) a questionable investment on a guy who had an ERA close to 5.00 in 2013, it's pretty much all they've done aside from the Byrd signing.
Barring a run at one of the top starters available, Hernandez will be the team's top pitching acquisition of the offseason. That should be a disappointment for a team that just lost Roy Halladay to retirement.
If Cuban Miguel Gonzalez, who is expected to fill out the back of the rotation with Hernandez, isn't up to the task of getting big league hitters out without ever having spent a day in the minor leagues, it could get even uglier in Philly.
Best move: The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't done much this offseason, aside from a few minor league free-agent signings and a handful of minor trades. Not that their front office ever considered it, but continuing to hold on to their top prospects is probably the best move they can make right now.
It's likely that they've at least inquired on top players thought to be available in a trade, such as David Price and Giancarlo Stanton. And it's likely that the asking prices were extremely high. Like, "give me your top two prospects and a lot more" high.
That would be outfielder Gregory Polanco and right-hander Jameson Taillon, who could each be in the majors for good by midseason.
Continuing the patient approach will eventually pay off, even though it has to be tempting to make an offseason splash for an ace starter or impact hitter that could put the team over the top.
Worst move: Adding some starting pitching depth is always a good idea. Adding an inconsistent pitcher who has a chance to be very good can be a terrific idea. But it shouldn't come at a cost of $5 million, which is what the Bucs are paying 30-year-old Edinson Volquez for the 2014 season.
For a small-market team, that's a lot of money to give to a guy who was one of the worst starters in the league last season (5.71 ERA). They got Francisco Liriano straightened out, but he was guaranteed just $1 million. Volquez might be an even bigger mystery and a much tougher case to crack.
San Diego Padres
Best move: With the inability of outfielders Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin to stay healthy for an entire season, the Padres made a smart move by acquiring Seth Smith (pictured) to give them a solid backup plan, as well as a very good left-handed bat coming off of the bench.
The 31-year-old has a .796 OPS with an average of 14 homers per season since 2009. Will Venable's ability to play center field should allow Smith to play often against right-handed pitching with Maybin on the bench.
Worst move: Replacing Luke Gregerson, who was traded for Smith, was necessary. Joaquin Benoit was one of the best replacements they could've gotten. But small-market teams shouldn't be spending $7.75 million per season on a setup man when their closer already makes $7 million per season.
If the 36-year-old Benoit isn't downright dominant as the eighth-inning guy on a contending Padres team, this was money that could've been better spent elsewhere.
San Francisco Giants
Best move: By moving quickly in free agency, teams risk overpaying a player before the market settles. In the case of the San Francisco Giants, they got Tim Hudson (pictured) at a bargain two-year, $23 million deal well before most free-agent pitchers came off the board.
With so much uncertainty in the Giants' rotation following Ryan Vogelsong's poor season, Matt Cain's down year and Tim Lincecum's up-and-down stretch of the past two years, the 38-year-old Hudson brings some much-needed stability to the table.
Worst move: Michael Morse may be the top candidate for "Comeback Player of the Year" award after he struggled through an injury-riddled 2013 season. For $6 million on a one-year deal, the Giants appear to have made a fine investment with big reward potential.
But in addition to providing potential 30-homer pop to the lineup, the 31-year-old is also expected to play left field every day, which could be a challenge.
A below-average defender, Morse will be replaced by Gregor Blanco late in most games. But for the six, seven or eight innings that Morse will play, Giants pitchers might be hoping that any batted ball to left field goes directly at him and not anywhere he'd have to track a ball down in the spacious AT&T outfield.
A first base/designated hitter job would've been much better-suited for the right-handed hitting slugger.
Best move: Unless the $240 million contract the Mariners gave Robinson Cano will keep them from acquiring other high-paid talent, it's hard to see much wrong with this deal.
Sure, the 31-year-old will likely be past his prime by the mid-point of the deal. But that doesn't mean he won't be an above-average second baseman, as Chase Utley continues to be for the Phillies.
Not only will Cano be productive on the field, his acquisition is a statement that the Mariners intend to turn around their losing ways.
Worst move: As was the case in 2013, the M's are stockpiling players who are best-suited for a first base/designated hitter role. With Justin Smoak expected to play first base and Corey Hart likely to take one most of the designated hitter duties, Logan Morrison will be the starting left fielder in Seattle.
While he's only 26 years of age and can move around pretty well when healthy, his history of knee and back injuries is significant enough that he probably shouldn't playing in the outfield regularly.
Acquiring Morrison from the Marlins for power reliever Carter Capps when they had already agreed to sign Corey Hart, who is coming back from two knee surgeries, seems like a repeat of last year's string of moves to acquire Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez.
St. Louis Cardinals
Best move: In one trade, the Cardinals improved their defense in center field, second base and third base. By trading David Freese to the Angels for defensive whiz Peter Bourjos, who'll start in center field, the Cards will move Matt Carpenter to his natural position of third base and allow rookie Kolten Wong to play second base.
And just in case Wong isn't ready to handle the full load at second, the team signed veteran Mark Ellis, who is also very good defensively.
Worst move: The Cards probably didn't get better defensively at shortstop, where Jhonny Peralta (pictured) will take over after signing a four-year, $53 million deal.
It's not a huge concern, however. The 31-year-old is at least an adequate defender and can possibly slide over to third base later in his contract. What they need to worry about is how likely he is to post the sub-.700 OPS he did in 2012 and how much PEDs contributed to any season in which he's had success at the plate, including 2013 (.815 OPS), when he was suspended for 50 games late in the season for PED usage.
If Stephen Drew's price tag falls anywhere near Peralta or if he settles for a one-year deal, Peralta's deal could look like even more of an overpay.
Tampa Bay Rays
Best move: With Jose Molina, widely regarded as one of the best in the game at framing pitches, closing in on 40 years old, the Rays acquired a younger player with similar defensive skills and at least a little bit more offensive ability.
The 33-year-old Ryan Hanigan, acquired from the Cincinnati Reds this offseason in a three-team deal that also brought Heath Bell (pictured) to Tampa Bay in exchange for two fringe minor leaguers, will now take on the bulk of the catching duties with Molina moving into a backup role, where he is a much better fit.
It's a move that won't make a huge difference on paper, unless you really like looking at advanced stats on catcher defense, but it should ensure that the team's young pitching staff will continue to work with a very strong leader behind the plate.
Worst move: If the Rays can turn Fernando Rodney into an All-Star, then they can surely fix Bell and help him get back to his All-Star form of 2009-2011.
But the $5 million they'll pay Bell for 2014 is more than they paid Rodney over his two combined seasons with the club.
It's not a huge amount for most teams. But for Bell, a reliever who hasn't been very good for a couple of years and needs to turn things around, it was a lot to take on, especially when former Rays reliever Grant Balfour, an All-Star closer in 2013, could probably be signed to a two-year deal for not much more annually.
Best move: Prior to the 2013 season, no one could've imagined that Shin-Soo Choo would land a seven-year, $130 million the following offseason. Yet that's exactly what happened. And while it's probably a bit of an overpay, no one seems to be complaining too much about it.
Because of everything that the 31-year-old Choo brings to the table—left-handed power, speed, on-base ability, defense—the Rangers are so much better heading into the 2014 season. That is overshadowing the fact that he's making more than $20 million per season.
Worst move: The Rangers haven't made a bad move or non-move yet in my opinion. I can make up a reason for why I hate the Prince Fielder trade. But I really don't. I like the move because it brings some much-needed left-handed power to the middle of their lineup.
I like the move to acquire talented prospect Michael Choice for Craig Gentry, who was expendable because the need for a fourth outfielder whose top value is defense isn't as great with the current starters all capable defenders themselves.
But where they could go wrong is in not acquiring one more starting pitcher, which would allow the oft-injured Alexi Ogando to move to the bullpen and give the team some more depth in case Matt Harrison doesn't return to form after back surgery.
They don't necessarily need to sign one of the top starters available, although it wouldn't hurt. But failing to bring in one more viable option is a mistake.
Toronto Blue Jays
Best move: The Blue Jays have made just one significant move this offseason: signing Dioner Navarro (pictured) to a two-year deal to be their starting catcher.
While no one knows if his strong 2013 season (.856 OPS, 13 HR in 89 games) was a fluke, they aren't paying very much to find out. The 29-year-old will make $3 million in 2014 and $5 million in 2015, which will make him an extremely underpaid player if he continues to produce as he did with the Cubs last season.
Worst move: Since they've been focused on acquiring a starting pitcher for most of the offseason, it would be a surprise if the Jays don't land Bronson Arroyo, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana or Masahiro Tanaka to add to their starting rotation.
They seem to have settled, however, on a second base platoon of Ryan Goins and Maicer Izturis. Despite limited options this winter, it seems that they should have at least tried a bit harder to find an upgrade.
The 25-year-old Goins had a .679 OPS at Triple-A last season, while Izturis was a major disappointment (.597 OPS) in his first year of a three-year deal.
Best move: For the price of utility man Steve Lombardozzi, lefty reliever Ian Krol and minor league pitcher Robbie Ray, the Washington Nationals acquired starting pitcher Doug Fister (pictured), who has a 3.48 ERA with a 1.8 BB/9 and 6.4 K/9 over the past four seasons, from the Detroit Tigers.
He'll be 30 years old at the start of the season and is under club control for two more seasons. The Tigers did "want" to clear a rotation spot for Drew Smyly, but this trade made it seem like they "had" to make the deal.
Worst move: Unless I dislike the Nate McLouth signing or the Jerry Blevins acquisition—I don't; both are solid moves—there really isn't anything bad I can say about the Nats' offseason. They still have one of the most talented rosters in baseball and didn't need to make a major acquisition to contend for a playoff spot.
If they were to sign Jeff Baker as their top right-handed bat off the bench, though, as opposed to hoping Tyler Moore and/or Scott Hairston can bounce back from poor seasons, I'd like the roster even more.