Baseball’s off-season is in full swing, and the Winter Meetings capped off what has an eventful time since the last pitch was thrown. Here’s a recap of the teams that have improved, who has gotten worse, and which team’s haven’t exactly moved the needle just yet:


Chicago Cubs- Everybody knows about the Cubs have plenty of young bats in their pipeline in Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler, and Addison Russel and Kris Bryant still to come. Their weakness has continued to be pitching, and they finally took steps to address that at the Winter Meetings. Jon Lester, who thrived under Theo Epstein in Boston, signed for six years/$155 million, and Jason Hammel, resigned for two years after being moved midseason in the package that brought Russel. Add that to the breakout from last season, Jake Arrieta and the Cubs finally have the makings of a legitimate rotation. They need more, but adding a front-line ace plus a quality catcher in Miguel Montero more than move Chicago out of the cellar and have them ready to compete for the first time in the Epstein/Hoyer regime.

Chicago White Sox- The Cubs aren’t the only Chicago team looking to get back to the postseason, as their American League counterparts continued their busy off-season, adding Jeff Samardzija and David Robertson to a haul that includes lefty reliever Zach Duke, and first baseman/DH Adam LaRoche. The rotation now boasts two potential aces with Samardzija and lefty Chris Sale, plus another solid left hander in Jose Quintana, and might be in a position to leap-frog teams like the Indians and possibly the Royals, in the suddenly ultra-competitive AL Central.

Miami Marlins- The Marlins made a bold statement in locking up Giancarlo Stanton for over $300 million early in the off-season, and that statement was that they intend to compete for the wide-open NL East. They started by upgrading their bullpen, adding left-hander Aaron Crow from the Royals. Then they took a risk by trading prospect Andrew Heaney to the Dodgers, but they did it to add a legitimate leadoff hitter in Dee Gordon, and if Dan Haren decides to pitch, he upgrades the rotation. But in a division with teams rich in pitching such as the Nationals, Mets and Braves, they couldn’t stop there. They added Mat Latos, an All-Star caliber starter, who could very well form a dual-ace tandem when Jose Fernandez comes back. This team will make the NL East one of the toughest divisions in baseball this year.

Boston Red Sox- They lost out on Jon Lester because they didn’t want to give him more than $135 million, but outside of that this has been a strong off-season for the Sox. They added Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to go with David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and their bevy of young outfielders. Then, when they lost out on Lester, they knew they had to do what they could to revamp a rotation that finished as one of the worst in baseball this season. None of the trio of Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello, and Wade Miley are Jon Lester, but they are considerably better than what they had previous, as their prospect pitchers are not ready, and now with Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly the Red Sox have a legitimate rotation, especially with the lack of improvements from the other teams in their division.


Detroit Tigers- Adding Yeonis Cespedes’ power to Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez is a solid upgrade to the roster, and Anthony Gose could turn into a solid leadoff hitter and should be a better fielder than Rajai Davis. But even with Justin Verlander, David Price, and Anibal Sanchez, losing Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello will hurt, especially if Alfredo Simon fails to repeat his 2014. And they haven’t added one arm to the bullpen that was terrible at times last season.

Oakland Athletics- Normally, general manager Billy Beane’s off-season moves tend to be beyond reproach, in that his teams’ always make seem to make the postseason, regardless of how far they get. But this year Beane looks like he might be reaching. After his “all-in” approach at the deadline failed to change his October luck, the A’s look to be in full-on rebuild mode. Samardzija, Josh Donaldson, and Brandon Moss all traded, while Lester, Luke Gregorson, and Jed Lowrie all leaving via free agency. The fact is the replacements don’t look nearly as capable as their predecessors, particularly in the rotation, where Beane is banking on speedy Tommy John recoverys from Jarrod Parker and AJ Griffin to offset the loss of his traded aces. Meanwhile Ike Davis and Brett Lawrie, relatively inconsistent over the last two years, are expected to replace All-Stars Moss and Donaldson. Not to mention that their moves this off-season, don’t count the loss of top prospect Addison Russel, traded for Samardzija. While Marcus Semien could turn into a solid major leaguer and Chris Bassit a solid back-end starter, not one of the players they got from the White Sox has the potential, or value as Russell. Once again, Billy Beane leaves us wondering.

Cincinnati Reds- With the Cubs upgrading, the Cardinals adding Jason Hayward, and the Pirates bringing back Francisco Liriano and AJ Burnett, the Reds picked a bad time to cut cost and trade Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos for prospects. With the activity going on around them, the Reds just put themselves in serious danger, at least on paper.


Los Angeles Dodgers- Switching their middle infield from Dee Gordon and Hanley Ramirez to Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins doesn’t seem like much of an upgrade or downgrade, and trading Matt Kemp, despite his tremendous upside, seems like the right move for a team that has Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Yaisel Puig under contract and Joc Pederson ready for the majors. While Yasmani Grandal could be their catcher of the future, giving Brandon McCarthy $48 million seems like a huge overpay. Bottom line is, despite the high-profile moves, the Dodgers haven’t gotten better or worse this off-season.

New York Mets- The Mets can’t seem to make a trade because every team wants Matt Harvey, Jake deGrom, Zach Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard. The teams that might want Dillon Gee, Jon Niese or Bartolo Colon look at them as fall back options and might not be inclined to talk until names like Scherzer and James Shields are signed. The Amazins’ have added Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry to the lineup, and other than possible upgrades at short and in the bullpen from the left side, have no glaring holes. But it’s an inconclusive off-season due to the intrigue of having as many as eight options for only five starting rotation spots, and the need to finally score runs at Citi Field.

New York Yankees- It seemed like things were going their way, as they were able to add Didi Gregorius to fill the hole at shortstop, and bring in left hander Andrew Miller for the bullpen. But they didn’t make an offer to David Robertson, and lost him to the White Sox, while Brandon McCarthy, who thrived after being acquired midseason, left for the Dodgers. Now, the question is whether or not the Yankees spend big, and go after Scherzer or Shields.

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