By Peter Valentino
This baseball offseason was, for lack of a better word, slow. The collective bargaining agreement discussions slowed things down in November, but overall, this offseason could be remembered as one of the worst winters for free agent starting pitchers.
The class was headlined by veterans Rich Hill, Ivan Nova and Bartolo Colon, and this lack of talent lead to probably the biggest moment of the offseason, when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Red Sox for a number of big name prospects. The White Sox then traded outfielder Adam Eaton to the Nationals for pitching prospect Lucas Giolito. Regardless of starting pitching, the market was much more active in every other position.
This winter was headlined by the power bats, as Yoenis Cespedes, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo all hit the market. Three of those four went back to their respective teams, as Trumbo got a three year deal with Baltimore, Cespedes got four years with the Mets and Bautista got one year and options from Toronto. Encarnacion moved from Toronto to Cleveland on a three year deal with a club option for 2020. Along with these power bats, Dexter Fowler got five years from St. Louis, Ian Desmond got five years from Colorado and Justin Turner went back to Los Angeles for three years. Additionally, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran went to Houston.
The market was also headlined by relief pitchers, particularly closers. Aroldis Chapman was the man of the hour, getting five years to go back to the Yankees. Mark Melancon went to the Giants on a four year deal, and Kenley Jansen went back to LA for five years. Brett Cecil got four years from St. Louis and Brad Ziegler got two from Miami.
As all offseasons go, this winter had winners and losers. In the winner category are the White Sox, Rockies and Dodgers. The White Sox performed highway robbery on the Nationals, getting their best pitching prospect for an above average center fielder, and then got the number one prospect from Boston. The Rockies seem to have found a direction after signing Desmond and pitcher Michael Dunn, and by not trading Carlos Gonzalez, seem to be a contender in the near future. The Dodgers, in bringing back Jansen and Turner, helped them be competitive for a few more years, even with their incredible payroll.
The losers of the offseason were the Nationals, Pirates and Rangers. Even though two of the three teams were in the playoffs, the lack of moves and failure to close deals is what puts them in the loser category. The Pirates, seemingly heading downhill, failed to trade Andrew McCutchen, which is a necessity for small market teams to do. The Rangers can salvage their offseason by signing Mike Napoli, but their lack of moves could come to haunt them in the future. A similar situation is happening in Washington, but on a bigger scale. After losing out on many big signings and trades, such as Yoenis Cespedes and Andrew McCutchen, the team lost out on Chris Sale to Boston, and then let two great pitching prospects in Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez go for Adam Eaton. The team has been in on Wieters for a while, which could be a great compensation for losing Ramos to Tampa Bay, but for now, the Nationals lost badly this offseason.
This offseason was relatively slow compared to other winters, but as we move forward into the season, there now are a lot of great storylines. How will Chris Sale fit into the Boston’s rotation, and are they now the World Series favorites over the Cubs? With the Mets’ now healthy rotation, can they now win the NL East? And what will be the new team that rises from rebuilding to be a contender? This offseason may have answered a few of these questions.