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These Four Teams Won the MLB Offseason

by Photo of Ankit Ahuja

Both of Chicago’s clubs had especially terrific winters, as did the Red Sox and Padres.

These Four Teams Won the MLB Offseason

Editor's Note: I'd also submit the Washington Nationals in this category. Getting Max Scherzer was a major coup and makes their rotation incredibly deep. - Ross

In my opinion, the MLB offseason is the most exciting of any sport. After the World Series in October, teams are already prepared for the hot stove period. Free agency and trades are a big part of the winter, as teams look to see which direction they want to go in. Some will try and make a splash through blockbuster trades and free agency, while others will look to rebuild by trading veterans for prospects and starting from scratch. Without a salary cap, teams dish out hundreds of millions of dollars to players to turn their franchises around. 

This year was no different. Teams made plenty of moves, big and small, and shelled out big money for game-changers. Now the dust is finally settling and Spring Training is right around the corner as the 2015 season looms. As always, a couple of teams stood out amongst others as winners of the offseason.

Boston Red Sox

Key Additions: 

Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson

Key Losses:

Yoenis Cespedes

The Red Sox, World Series champions in 2013, finished last in the AL East last season. When the offseason rolled around, the Red Sox were as active as anybody looking to get better at each position. Although pitching was a priority this offseason, the Red Sox upgraded their lineup with a few big names.

Maybe the biggest bat this offseason, Pablo Sandoval, coming off his third world series title with the Giants, signed a 5-year, 95 million dollar contract with the Red Sox. A switch-hitting third baseman, Sandoval brings a punch to the lineup that the Red Sox were missing last year. In a hitter friendly stadium like Fenway Park, Sandoval will hit for more power and drive in more runs. GM Ben Cherington wasn’t done with just Sandoval. He brought in another bat in Hanley Ramirez from the Dodgers to complete an overhaul of the lineup. Ramirez hadn’t been that healthy in his days with the Dodgers, but the Red Sox are counting on Ramirez to give them at least 130 games.

Getting back to pitching, the Red Sox were looking for an ace but came up with three starters in hope one can have a great year. Rick Porcello, who they acquired in a trade, had a good year last year but the Red Sox will need more from him. They acquired two more pitchers in Justin Masterson and Alexi Ogando who have shown flashes of excellence in their careers, but need to prove they are consistent. The Red Sox seem poised to make a postseason run again, but the starting pitching will still be a question mark.   

Chicago Cubs

Key Additions:

Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, Miguel Montero, Joe Madden

Key Losses:

Rick Renteria, Justin Ruggiano

The South Siders finally have hope of ending the dreaded curse without a World Series. With a bunch of great prospects, the Cubs will get a chance to see some of them play in the majors this year. Top prospects Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Javier Baez will get their chance at extended playing time this season. Their growth will be vital for the Cubs in terms of getting wins, but also accelerating the future.

Just having prospects wasn’t enough for President Theo Epstein. Quietly the Cubs were able to get maybe the best manager in baseball, Joe Madden. Nobody has been able to do more with less over the last few years than Madden. Managing a low payroll team in the Tampa Bay Rays, Madden was able to guide his teams to multiple postseason berths and an AL Pennant. Now with good young players and money to play with, Madden should be able to make this team better. The Cubs knew that adding a great manager still wasn’t enough. With prospects and a good manager on hand, it was time to go out and get proven veterans. 

The pitching had been a question mark coming into the offseason, and the front office had to fill those holes. Epstein, using his ties from his Boston days, was able to pry away starting pitcher Jon Lester from suitors like the Red Sox and Athletics. Lester signed a six-year deal and is poised to be the ace of the rotation for the rejuvenated Cubs which now includes Jason Hammel, a pitcher Epstein traded away to acquire prospects. If the Cubs are healthy, and their prospects contribute, expect the Cubs to fighting for a playoff spot in the NL Central. 

San Diego Padres

Key Additions:

Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Will Myers, Derek Norris, James Shields

Key Losses

Everth Cabrera, Seth Smith

Maybe the toughest team to watch in all of baseball last year, the San Diego Padres and GM AJ Preller knew they needed a big offseason. By far the worst offense in the league last season, the Padres upgraded at almost every position. Preller revamped the entire outfield bringing in Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and Will Myers through trades. Kemp and Upton have been MVP candidates in years past, but in a pitchers park like Petco Park, one can’t expect them to put up MVP type numbers this season. The other outfield piece Will Myers was the rookie of the year in 2013 and has a lot of upside. The Padres will need consistency out of him at the plate and in the field. There are concerns about the outfield defense, however. Kemp has lost some of his mobility and both Upton and Myers aren’t exactly that mobile either. The Padres will also need depth as Kemp hasn’t been that healthy over the last couple of years.

The Padres weren’t done with just those three players. They added all-star catcher Derek Norris from the Athletics and young third baseman Will MIddlebrooks from the Red Sox. Adding these two were huge because third base and catcher had been very weak positions for the club last season. With these additions, there is no doubt that the offense will be better, but Preller also made a splash in the pitching market as well. James Shields, the lead starter for the Royals, who made the World Series, was available on the free agent market. Preller was able to convince Shields to come to a pitchers' park and pitch for the Padres. The pitching staff was already pretty solid with Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy, but now with Shields the Padres boast one of the best pitching staffs in the National League. Although it will be tough to overtake the star studded Dodgers, and the champion Giants, expect the Padres to be very competitive in the NL West. 

Chicago White Sox

Key Additions

Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam Laroche

Key Losses

Paul Konerko, Matt Lindstrom

The White Sox followed in the footsteps of their neighbors, and made some good moves this offseason. First, they traded for starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who can be a nice number two starter behind ace Chris Sale. Samradzija has always had a lot of talent, but didn't get great run support in his brief stint withthe A's. With more stability this year with White Sox, expect him to be consistent striking out a lot of hitters. 

The White Sox didn’t just need to upgrade the starting pitching, but also the bullpen. They went out and signed former Yankees closer David Robertson. Robertson is a nice addition to a team that struggled to close out games last year. He will be a nice solution to their closer by committee issues. Robertson put together a very good year with Yankees replacing legendary closer Mariano Rivera, and he'll only turn 30 this April. He still has plenty of good seasons left.

The White Sox needed more than just pitching to complete a turn around. The offense lost a legend in Paul Konerko to retirement. To replace Konerko, the White Sox added first baseman Adam LaRoche to be a fix in the middle of the lineup. LaRoche hits for a ton of power, and someone who drives in close to a 100 runs each year. The White Sox also added a top of the order hitter in Melky Cabrera. Cabrera has been very consistent over the last couple of years hitting close to .300 and scoring a bunch of runs. He will be a good table setter for the White Sox in hopes of resurrecting their offense. Both players should help out their young star Jose Abreu.

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