Pitchers and catchers are reporting this week, which means it's time to reflect on the offseason. It was an offseason filled with the gobbledygook trade rumors that usually never happen and big signings that are questioned by fans. Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, Mookie Betts, and Nolan Arenado have been dangled around by their current clubs, but nothing has happened yet. I don't expect any of those big names to get moved until the trade deadline. UPDATE, Mookie Betts is likely on the move soon, but it is unknown where or when he will get traded.
Let's not focus on that though. We'll focus on the teams that did work this offseason and catapulted themselves into contention, as well as the teams who laid a big fat egg and are looking at a rough season ahead. We might even see a team here who cheated and got heavily punished for wearing wires and stealing signs. Time to get into the winners and losers of MLB free agency.
Winners and Losers of Free Agency
Winner: Chicago White Sox
Additions: C Yasmani Grandal, SP Dallas Keuchel, 1B Jose Abreu (Re-signed), RF Nomar Mazara (Trade), DH Edwin Encarnacion, RP Steve Cishek, SP Gio Gonzalez
The White Sox needed to make some noise this offseason and that's exactly what they did. Bringing back Jose Abreu was one of their main priorities, especially after the phenomenal campaign Abreu had. Chicago followed that move by getting one of the most coveted free agent bats in Yasmani Grandal, who also happens to be a very good defensive catcher. Grandal should significantly help the Sox relatively young pitching staff.
If you ask any Sox fan, they would say that pitching should've been a point of attack. While they didn't get a Stephen Strausburg or Gerrit Cole type, they got a former Cy Young award winner in Dallas Keuchel, who will be the veteran trying to mentor this young pitching staff as he did with the Atlanta Braves. Chicago also added another veteran southpaw in Gio Gonzalez who has a lot of playoff experience. Steve Cishek was good for the Sox crosstown rivals and provides a solid right-handed arm out of the bullpen.
The White Sox concluded their offseason by snagging two explosive power bats, one from each side of the plate. Edwin Encarnacion is aging but proved he's still got some gas left in the tank. They also traded for former Texas Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara. Mazara has struggled early on in his career, but has flashed major power potential and could easily become a 30 HR guy.
With the AL Central being very wide open this year, I could definitely see Chicago contending for the division crown. They're going to need their young pitchers to continue to take steps forward and also need young studs in Eloy Jiminez and Luis Robert to perform at a high level. Overall, I love what the White Sox did this offseason.
Winner: Cincinnati Reds
Additions: 3B Mike Moustakas, OF Nick Castellanos, OF Shogo Akiyama, SP Wade Miley
The Cincinnati Reds were a lot better than their record suggested last year. They had a top-five pitching staff but struggled to score runs. It's safe to say that those struggles are probably going away.
Cincinnati started out by snagging former World Series champion Mike Moustakas. The three-time all-star had one of the better years of his career last season, hitting 35 long balls and driving in 87 runs. Moose also has defensive versatility, as he's played all infield positions but shortstop in his career. He joins a star-studded group of infielders, including aging, yet productive Joey Votto, as well as blossoming star Eugenio Suarez.
The Reds were also able to sign coveted Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama. Akiyama was a career .300 hitter in Japan and was considered one of the top leadoff options in this draft class. Looking for a veteran arm, they agreed to terms with former Houston Astros pitcher Wade Miley, who's coming off two very productive seasons.
This one was tough to write. To end the Reds stellar offseason, they signed former Chicago Cubs and Detroit Tigers OF Nick Castellanos. Being a Cubs fan, I know how important Castellanos was to the Cubs in the second half. If he wasn't there, the Cubs would've won about 70 games. Dude can rake. He struggled in the first half with the Tigers, but came around and put together a dominant second half, finishing with 27 home runs, 73 RBI's and lead all of Major League Baseball in doubles with 58.
The Reds needed to upgrade their offense this winter and that's exactly what they did. These three guys will make an immediate impact and if the Reds pitching staff can perform like they did last year, they'll surely be a team to watch in the National League.
Winner: Gerrit Cole
Gerrit Cole got the bag this offseason. He signed a record, 9 years, $324 million contract to become the ace of the New York Yankees. Cole was masterful last season, coming up just a few votes short of being the A.L. Cy Young award winner. Cole joins an already stacked pitching staff, including Luis Severino, James Paxton, and Masahiro Tanaka.
You're probably wondering why I don't have the Yankees as a winner? I think Gerrit Cole's a very good pitcher, but $324 million is a lot of money. He shattered the record for pitcher contracts. Also, more money means more pressure on Cole. If he underperforms, especially in the market of New York, he's going to become hated quickly. However, good for Cole getting that much money. Power to the players.
Loser: Houston Astros
Ope! The Houston Astros had a less than ideal offseason. Not only did they lose Cole, but they also got hit with the hammer by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. The Astros got busted in a cheating scandal, where they allegedly had cameras planted that stole signs, which then were transferred to players by banging a trash can.
That led to the Astros having to let go of their general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. In addition, they were fined a significant amount of money and were also stripped of multiple draft picks. Really tough look here, the Astros are going to have a huge target on their back. While they still have an extremely talented roster, everybody's going to be on a revenge tour. I wouldn't be surprised if the Astros led the league in hit by pitches this year.
Loser: Colorado Rockies
Rule number one in sports should be never piss off your best player. Especially one that you just signed to a massive extension just one offseason ago. The Rockies had an extremely disappointing offseason, one that saw them do next to nothing. They have an extremely talented lineup, led by Arenado and Trevor Stroy, but lack good starting pitching. There was a good market for starting pitching, and instead of trying to go after one, they decided to dangle their best player in trade talks.
When Arenado got word of this, he was not happy and who can blame him? They just signed you to a long term extension last year and now they're dangling you around like a piece of meat. Colorado's GM looks like the biggest egghead for doing that. Now, he wants out and is likely going to be on the move. Colorado did have preliminary discussions with the Chicago Cubs on a potential one for one deal that would send Arenado to the Cubs and Kris Bryant to the Rockies. Despite the big contract, there should be a ton of interest in Arenado, who has proven to be one of the best players in baseball.