This offseason has been truly rewarding, giving us endless trades, free agent signings, and even head-scratching non-tenders to analyze. Look back at the 2017 offseason which was about as boring as watching paint dry, this offseason has kept baseball fans on their toes, despite both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper still looking for their new employers. With that being said, let’s observe which teams make Santa’s “nice” list and who is relegated to the dreaded “naughty” list this Christmas.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Winning teams all share a common trait: depth. Despite Johan Camargo’s 3.5 WAR season in 2018, the Braves added third baseman Josh Donaldson on a one-year, $23 million dollar deal. While I am not a big fan of the price tag (he hasn’t played over 120 games since 2016), the one-year deal doesn’t block top prospect Austin Riley from becoming the starting third baseman in 2020 while allowing Johan Camargo to serve as a super utility player, similar to the role Marwin Gonzalez had during the Astros 2017 World Series Championship. The Braves also brought back catcher Brian McCann to split duties with Tyler Flowers, giving the Braves a solid, veteran catching tandem to handle their young and promising pitching staff. Productive offseason thus far to give the team depth in the infield next season. Nonetheless, the team needs to sign another starting pitcher to truly put them over the top. They have been linked to Zack Greinke and Dallas Keuchel on numerous occasions this offseason, and bringing one if not both of them onto the scene makes the Braves rotation a force to be reckoned with.
“It’s a new era of Marlins baseball”. This phrase has become a tired act in the city of Miami, but new team president Derek Jeter has taken the necessary steps to win back the fanbase with shrewd moves both on and off the field. The Marlins added #1 overall international prospect Victor Victor Mesa, who has the makings of a franchise cornerstone whose Cuban heritage is sure to appeal to the Miami fanbase. Bryan Holaday was brought back on a one-year deal to back up JT Realmuto, who with every passing hour, is more likely to remain a Marlin. The demand for catchers figures to increase closer to the trading deadline, and given that the Marlins seem to have missed their chance to deal him during the winter meetings, perhaps the best course of action is to stay put (for now) and deal him at the trading deadline. The team has also yet to address the bullpen which finished dead last in baseball with an ERA over 5.00 last season. Off the field, this offseason has been an A+ for the city of Miami and the franchise. On the field, there is serious work left to be done if they want to avoid a 100 loss season in arguably the most competitive division in baseball.
New York Mets
This grade is sure to cause some disagreements. Simply put, the Mets have absolutely shocked the baseball world this offseason. A fair share of fans and baseball insiders speculated that with new GM Brodie van Wagenen coming onto the scene, the Mets would hit the reset button and start from scratch… boy were they wrong. Credits to the Mets organization for not deciding to tank and giving their new GM the financial flexibility to field a competitive team in 2019. Pundits will say that it was a mistake to give up top prospect Jarred Kelenic in the deal with the Seattle Mariners for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, but Kelenic is still at least three years away from the Major Leagues while the Mets receive one of the most consistent second baseman in all of baseball along with a top tier closer who saved 57 games last year with a FIP of 1.61. The Mets followed this up by signing Wilson Ramos to a 2 year $19 million deal, which is quite frankly one of the biggest free agent steals in recent memory. Jeurys Familia was brought back to strengthen a talented bullpen and center fielder Gregor Blanco was signed to give the team much needed outfield depth as Yoenis Cespedes comes back from injury. Outstanding offseason, both by ownership and the new general manager; this will be an exciting team to watch during 2019.
Make no mistake, Andrew McCutchen is no longer the perennial MVP contender he once was. That’s perfectly fine. The Phillies signing him to a 3 year deal worth just over $50 million is absolutely brilliant. While he is aging player who may no longer have the same speed he once had, he walked a whopping 95 times last year and posted a 2.8 WAR, his highest since 2016. This is a great value addition by the Phillies front office, and McCutchen’s new home ballpark will certainly do no harm to his counting stats. The Phillies also moved on from former top shortstop prospect JP Crawford to acquire Jean Segura and relievers James Pazos and Juan Nicasio, who may be the true diamonds in the rough of this trade. It seems as if the team is truly banking on Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta to take the next step forward in their development next year because they have been virtually silent on the starting pitching market. It’s no longer a certainty that they will sign either of Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, so until that dust settles, it will truly be difficult to assess the overall success of this offseason. One year from now, the Jean Segura (and Nicasio and Pazos) trade may perhaps be the most lopsided trade this offseason.
It’s difficult to criticize a team for signing the best free agent starting pitcher on the market, more so when you add that starting pitcher to a rotation that already features Max Scherzer and Steven Strasburg. Patrick Corbin is an absolute stud who deserves every cent he earned this offseason, but I don’t believe his best fit was with the Nationals. The Nationals continue to shove aside the idea of retooling their bullpen which has been the main culprit behind their recent late season collapses. Kyle Barraclough is an interesting trade acquisition from the Marlins, but it is not a given that he will return to his pre-2018 All-Star Game form. Where the Nationals were efficient was by bringing in Yan Gomes from the Cleveland Indians rather than JT Realmuto from the Marlins. Intra-division trades generally mean having to overpay for talent, and in Gomes the Nationals have a catcher with three more years of control (in comparison to two years for Realmuto) at a far more affordable rate. Add to that equation the signing of veteran backstop Kurt Suzuki, and the Nationals are very well set up at the catching position. With the news that Bryce Harper turned down a $300 million offer from the team early in the offseason, I’d love to see the team try to sign Anthony Rendon to an extension before reaching free agency next season. The Nationals are better in the starting rotation and catching, which desperately needed to be addressed, but their inability to settle the bullpen situation keeps them from being at an “A” so far.