MLB offseason grades: Yankees, Phillies, Padres get top marks. What were the Dodgers doing?
There’s really no “winning” the offseason, since money alone can’t guarantee success for Major League Baseball teams. And many paths can constitute success, given how close a franchise might be to fulfilling its championship dreams.
With that, USA TODAY Sports has levied its grades for the winter quarter, with almost all offseason trades, signings and other transactions complete.
A look at the top marks and borderline failures in the AL and NL, with spring training camps set to open in less than two weeks and all 30 teams scheduled for Opening Day on March 30:
American League grades
By Gabe Lacques
New York Yankees: A
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They had to sweat it out but brought back Aaron Judge (and Anthony Rizzo), maintaining the guts of a 99-win team. And suddenly, they might be AL favorites with Carlos Rodon making them a problematic out come October.
Los Angeles Angels: A-
Committing $39 million to Tyler Anderson in November turned out to be a bargain. Additions of Brandon Drury and Hunter Renfroe as adequate as can be expected for a club believing it was competing with a lame-duck owner.
Texas Rangers: A-
Almost as nice as Jacob deGrom’s signing were the Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney adds – thickening a suddenly daunting rotation. Now, will the lineup be deep enough for it to matter?
Minnesota Twins: B+
Acquiring likely ace Pablo Lopez was the cherry on top after Carlos Correa re-signed, and at reasonable terms, no less. Just not sure what they’ll get out of Joey Gallo (at $11 million) that the Yankees and Dodgers couldn’t.
Seattle Mariners: B+
They opted out of the elite shortstop sweepstakes and will keep riding with J.P. Crawford, but Teoscar Hernandez’s bat and Kolten Wong’s glove provide palpable improvements to a 90-win club.
Toronto Blue Jays: B+
Trading Teoscar Hernandez and Gabriel Moreno and adding Daulton Varsho and Kevin Kiermaier to the outfield is a bold, defensively minded gambit. But it dovetails nicely with the solid add of Chris Bassitt to the rotation.
Cleveland Guardians: B
Josh Bell will be a very nice switch-hitting addition. Yet many doubts remain about whether the club will ever commit to a significant free agent or retain a star like Shane Bieber, beyond Jose Ramirez’s team-friendly extension.
Tampa Bay Rays: B
Adding Zach Eflin gives Tampa Bay a solid five-man rotation, and extensions for pitchers Jeffrey Springs and Pete Fairbanks and slugger Yandy Diaz bring some sense of stability. Watch out.
Houston Astros: B-
They can survive Justin Verlander’s defection. Striking early for slugger Jose Abreu – at $68.5 million – will be an interesting referendum on owner/temporary GM Jim Crane’s acumen.
Baltimore Orioles: C
No, it’s not quite go time, and the Orioles were probably wise to bow out of bidding for mid-range starters that got pricey, quickly. It’s an open question whether their modest buys – pitcher Kyle Gibson and infielder Adam Frazier – were the best use of their apparently limited budget.
Kansas City Royals: C
Zack Greinke is back, with Jordan Lyles, Ryan Yarbrough and Aroldis Chapman joining the party, almost like a mid- to late 2010s nostalgia tour.
Detroit Tigers: C-
Matt Boyd is a Tiger again, and the trade of Gregory Soto to Philadelphia returned useful spare parts in Matt Vierling and Nick Maton. Will modest improvements in 2022 be betrayed by a bullpen missing Soto and Andrew Chafin?
Boston Red Sox: D
There’s just no getting around the Red Sox misfiring so badly with Xander Bogaerts, who will probably reach a World Series in San Diego while Boston wonders if it will ever replace him. The immediate domino effect – Kiké Hernández to shortstop, Adalberto Mondesi to second as Trevor Story’s elbow mends, Adam Duvall to center field – doesn’t make this any easier.
Oakland Athletics: D-
Dumping Sean Murphy and Cole Irvin is par for the course for a franchise determined to make Oakland despise it.
Chicago White Sox: F
From a purely baseball standpoint, the Mike Clevinger signing was curious enough. Now, a domestic violence investigation may sideline him for much of the season, a startling failure of evaluation and due diligence.
National League grades
By Bob Nightengale
Philadelphia Phillies: A
The NL champions jumped into the deep end of the free agent market again, this time landing All-Star shortstop Trea Turner for $300 million. They didn’t stop there, signing starter Taijuan Walker and enhanced their bullpen by acquiring Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto, along with Matt Strahm.
San Diego Padres: A
San Diego may be only the 27th-biggest market, but chairman Peter Seidler once again is spending with the big boys, trying to capture the franchise’s first World Series. They spent $280 million on shortstop Xander Bogaerts, despite already having two shortstops, and were willing to spend $400 million on Aaron Judge, who took less money to stay in New York. They signed Matt Carpenter, Nelson Cruz and Seth Lugo, while retaining pitchers Robert Suarez and Nick Martinez. There’s still concerns about their rotation depth, but if Fernando Tatis Jr. bounces back from his PED suspension, they could have the most dangerous lineup in the game.
New York Mets: A-
It may have been an A-plus if they had signed Carlos Correa, but they were a force with an owner who still has a pocket full of money to spend. They re-signed center fielder Brandon Nimmo, closer Edwin Diaz and reliever Adam Ottavino, replaced ace Jacob deGrom with Justin Verlander, signed Japanese starter Kodai Senga, extended second baseman Jeff McNeil, and added David Robertson and Tommy Pham. It all added up to $498.1 million.
Chicago Cubs: B+
The Cubs walked the talk this winter, spending $305.5 million on nine free agents, led by Dansby Swanson’s seven-year, $177 million deal. They also brought in starter Jameson Taillon and veteran Trey Mancini. The team still has flaws and wasn't able to land a front-line starter or big bat, but they should be respectable.
Atlanta: B –
This is the second consecutive year they let a franchise icon walk away, not budging from their $100 million offer to All-Star shortstop Dansby Swanson, or even meeting him halfway from his $140 million request. They spent just a major league-low $3 million on the free agent market but they turned around and did a wonderful job landing Gold Glove catcher Sean Murphy and signing him to a six-year, $73 million extension.
Arizona Diamondbacks: C
The Diamondbacks wound up spending just $18.75 million in a division with the Dodgers and Padres. They made a shrewd move for the future by trading outfielder Daulton Varsho to Toronto for prized catching prospect Gabriel Moreno and veteran outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. The Diamondbacks added veteran third baseman Evan Longoria for clubhouse leadership and 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis, but they did relatively nothing to improve the bullpen – and are still stuck with veteran Madison Bumgarner and his bloated salary.
Miami Marlins: C
The Marlins spent all winter striking out trying to get a hitter, everyone from Jose Abreu to Justin Turner to Eduardo Escobar, before finally landing American League batting champion Luis Arraez. Jazz Chisholm is moving to center field to make room for Arraez at second base with new addition Jean Segura likely starting at third. They also landed veteran starter Johnny Cueto to bolster their rotation.
San Francisco Giants: C
So they didn’t get MVP Aaron Judge. They didn’t get Carlos Correa either. But they did spend almost $174 million on free agents, remaking their lineup with free agent outfielders Mitch Haniger (three years, $43.5 million) and Michael Conforto (two years, $36 million). They spent $33 million on closer Trevor Rogers and another $25 million on veteran starter Ross Stripling. They didn’t make that big splash, but they certainly have strengthened the club.
Milwaukee Brewers: C –
The Brewers, trying to make up for the Josh Hader trade that turned into a fiasco, did make some slight improvements. They acquired All-Star catcher William Contreras from Atlanta and hope that outfielder Jesse Winker can return to form after his miserable year in Seattle. Still, they lost power hitter Hunter Renfroe along with Gold Glove second baseman Kolten Wong. Their only free agent signings were veteran starter Wade Miley ($4.5 million) and third baseman Brian Anderson ($3.5 million). Their window to contend in the NL Central remains barely open.
Pittsburgh Pirates: C-
Certainly, the Pirates made a public relations coup bringing back outfielder Andrew McCutchen on a one-year, $5 million contract. They spent a total of $30.4 million if you include the signings of veterans Rich Hill, Austin Hedges, Carlos Santana, Vince Velasquez and Jarlin Garcia. They traded for first baseman Ji-Man Choo, too. So while they will sell more tickets with McCutchen, they’re still a year way from being a contender.
St. Louis Cardinals: C–
The Cardinals desperately needed a catcher to replace future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina, and did just that by signing Willson Contreras to a five-year, $87.5 million contract. Yet, despite vowing to spend money, that was their only big move. They brought back veteran starter Adam Wainwright but failed to bring in any more starters or add to their bullpen or even enhance their bench.
Los Angeles Dodgers: D
Well, either the Dodgers are this rich in talent or are doing everything possible to clear the books for free agent Shohei Ohtani. The Dodgers, for the second consecutive year, let a $300 million shortstop walk, this time Trea Turner. They let veteran third baseman Justin Turner go. They said goodbye to former MVP Cody Bellinger. Free agent pitchers Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney were shown the door. They did pick up aging DH J.D. Martinez and grabbed starter Noah Syndergaard to fortify the rotation. If they win the NL West again, it may be a bigger achievement than their 2020 COVID-19 World Series.
Washington Nationals: D
The Nationals, up for sale but still no buyer, are entrenched in no-man’s land. They can’t spend in free agency, and they remain years away from developing their top prospects, so all they could really do was grab players off the scrapheap and hope they can turn them into trade bait this summer.
Cincinnati Reds: F
They reduced payroll once again in Cincinnati, with their only significant addition signing slugger Wil Myers to a one-year, $7.5 million contract. If Myers can put up big numbers, the Reds would love to trade him for prospects in July, saving themselves about $4.5 million. They also acquired catchers Luke Maile and Curt Casali, along with veteran pitcher Luke Weaver. The Reds will struggle badly again this year, but with their array of young pitchers and prized prospects, they could be a contender by 2025.
Colorado Rockies: F
The Rockies were hoping to sign center fielder Cody Bellinger. They were willing to go big on center fielder Brandon Nimmo, a Wyoming native. But they came up short both times. They also failed to grab a quality starter, adding only Connor Seabold after he was designated for assignment by the Red Sox. The Rockies believe they’ll improve simply if outfielder Kris Bryant can stay healthy and their young pitchers take another step, but they are a long ways away from contention in the NL West.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB offseason grades: Yankees, Phillies, Padres top class. Dodgers?