With pitchers and catchers reporting for duty in Florida and Arizona, the offseason is pretty much over. This offseason was full of trades and acquisitions, with some big-name stars changing teams. Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to look at the big winners and losers of the baseball offseason.
The offseason began with a horrible tragedy, as Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic, on Oct. 26, 2014. Over the next few weeks, details came out that claimed Oscar was under the influence of alcohol when the accident occurred.
No matter the details, it was a horrible loss of a player destined for a great MLB career.
It was nearly a month later before the first large transaction of the offseason occurred. The Atlanta Braves traded away (as much as it pains me to say it) outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jason Walden in exchange for pitcher Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins.
The Cardinals strengthened their bullpen and found a suitable replacement for Taveras, while the Braves began their rebuild of a shallow farm system by getting valuable players for Jason Heyward, who may have left for a different team anyway in the next offseason (he was in the last year of his contract).
The American League had a busy November. The Boston Red Sox took a pair of West Coast stars by signing free agents Pablo Sandoval (a former San Francisco Giant) and Hanley Ramirez (a former Los Angeles Dodger).
Meanwhile, the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays swapped third base sluggers, trading Josh Donaldson for Brett Lawrie and a group of prospects.
Oakland continued to make deals into December, as they traded Jeff Samardzija to the Chicago White Sox for a slew of prospects. The Miami Marlins improved their rotation for 2015, signing Mat Latos (of Cincinnati Reds fame) and trading for Dan Haren.
This decision seemed to backfire, as Haren, wanting to join a team closer to his family in Southern California, threatened to retire rather than pitch for Miami.
As of now, Marlins management is “hoping” that Haren will be a Marlin in 2015. Soon after these deals, pitcher Jon Lester signed with the Chicago Cubs, representing the first major pitcher signing of the offseason. The Cubs beat the Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers, giving Lester a six-year, $155 million contract.
The San Diego Padres were a surprise buyer this offseason. They made headlines by looking just two hours north, trading catcher Yasmani Grandal and a pair of prospects to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Matt Kemp. These moves were followed by trading with the Red Sox for Will Middlebrooks and the Braves for Justin Upton.
Arguably the biggest free agent this offseason was former Tiger Max Scherzer, and he found a new home in late January. The former AL Cy Young award winner signed with the Washington Nationals in a seven-year, $210 million contract. However, this large sum is not to be paid by 2021, when the contract is up, but by 2028. Somewhere, Bobby Bonilla is smiling.
January marked another large change in baseball, as Rob Manfred took over as the tenth Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Manfred immediately drew controversy, openly admitting he was willing to listen to talks to ban defensive shifts, in addition to alternating home league for the All-Star Game regardless of home stadium.
Other proposed changes include a more lenient policy on sports betting and possible solutions to a lack of offense and slow pace of games.
The Padres made the last large move of the offseason, getting the services of James Shields, formerly of the Kansas City Royals. The contract totaled four years and $75 million.
So after all of these moves, who came out better and who came out worse? The San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs decided they had enough of being the punching bag of the National League, while the Washington Nationals created a pitching rotation reminiscent of the scary Phillies rotation of 2011.
The Red Sox and the Marlins were also able to strengthen their teams through the free agent market. The aforementioned Phillies came out the clear loser of the offseason, refusing to trade away old pieces like Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley to rebuild their struggling franchise.
The MLB offseason was extremely busy. The hot stove was as hot as ever, and new leadership turned the page to the next chapter of the history of Major League Baseball.