One month in. It's time for our annual look at another insane baseball offseason. We take that look through the eyes of 35 of the most astute baseball execs in the nation. As always, it's a fascinating Best and Worst of the Offseason poll.
Note: As ESPN pointed out, not everybody voted on every category. Not everybody voted for the same number of teams or players in every category. All tweets and emails from statisticians questioning their methodology were overlooked and unanswered.
Most improved teams (National League)
Diamondbacks, Cubs, Giants
If there'd been a category entitled "Most Shocking Winter," the Diamondbacks almost certainly would've won that one, too. Within the other 29 front offices, a lot of smart people were scratching their heads and describing the team's super-aggressive offseason with words like "hard to fathom." That's because nobody saw this coming.
Donald Trump is gonna be the Republican nominee and the Chicago Cubs are the best team in baseball. What the hell is going on?— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) May 4, 2016
Raise your hand if you predicted in October that the D-backs would be the club throwing $206.5 million at Zach Greinke. Or if you thought they'd drop the No. 1 pick in the country in June, shortstop Dansby Swanson, into a package that brought Shelby Miller. We're not seeing a lot of hands out there…
Chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and GM Dave Stewart enjoyed this immensely. They knew they were risking a little long-term peril for a dramatic short-term assault on the reign of the Dodgers and Giants in the NL West. But… they'd didn't care.
Most improved teams (American League)
Red Sox, Tigers, Mariners
Apologies to Greinke, we could argue there wasn't a better starting pitcher who changed teams this winter than David Price. No apologies to Aroldis Chapman, we could also argue there wasn't a better relief pitcher who called a moving van this winter than Craig Kimbrel. Guess which team snagged both of them? Yeah, those Boston Red Sox.
You're wondering, “How rare is it for a team to pull off two moves such as that in the same offseason?” Well, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, never. Elias says the Red Sox are the first team in history to acquire a Cy Young starter and a closer who led his league in saves at least four times in the same baseball winter.
It isn't up to Price to turn Hamley Ramirez into a real, live major league first baseman. It isn't Kimbrel's job to getmPablo Sandoval to hit the gym instead of the buffet. But when Dave Dombrowski set out in November to alter the face of his club, it was only a few weeks before the whole planet knew what he had in mind. His team still has big questions. But as one AL exec says, "It's hard to beat adding an ace and elite closer."
Most unimproved teams (NL) – worst to best
Rockies, Reds, Padres, Brewers, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Phillies, Pirates
You know the National League is in an odd state when nine of the 15 teams in the league get multiple votes for this not-such-an-honor. When you look at this league, as one NL exec said, "it's amazing how many teams won't be any good."
But although the Rockies have been voted “most unimproved”, things could take a turn for the better.
The Cardinals? Lost Jason Heyward and John Lackey to free agency (and the Cubs). Got a scary health bulletin on Yadier Molina. Were outbidded for their top free-agent targets, which was the biggest shock - they're “a team that's so used to getting whoever they want."
The Dodgers? Seemed as if every move they made was Plan B or C. Lost out on Greinke. Had to back out of a deal for Chapman. Didn't like the medicals on Hisashi Iwakuma. Were intent on hiring one manager (Gabe Kapler) but wound up with a different one (Dave Roberts). This is still a deep, dangerous team with massive resources, but this was one winter, where "nothing went the way it was supposed to."
Most unimproved teams (AL) – worst to best
Angels, Orioles, A's, Rays, Indians, Blue Jays, Twins
A couple of weeks ago, David Schoenfield argued the Angels are wasting the prime years of Mike Trout’s career. The voters in this poll agreed.
Owner Arte Moreno hired a creative new GM, former Yankees assistant Billy Eppler - then became obsessed with not paying a nickel in luxury tax so the Angels couldn't get their hands on that impact outfield bat they needed. Unless your definition of "impact outfield bat" is Craig Gentry (.339 career slugging percentage) or Daniel Nava (who slugged .245 last year).
One exec said, "But the bottom line is they still don't have enough around the center fielder."
This concludes Part Uno of the offseason poll. Part Dos (Most Outrageous Contracts and Trades), will drop next week. Stay tuned!