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MLB Offseason 2011-12: Three Winners And Three Losers

Max Meyer |
January 25, 2012 | 1:05 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

Acquiring Albert Pujols helped the Angels to the best offseason in baseball. (Dave Herholz/Wikimedia Commons)
Acquiring Albert Pujols helped the Angels to the best offseason in baseball. (Dave Herholz/Wikimedia Commons)

You may be wondering why I'm writing about the baseball offseason when the Super Bowl is just around the corner, and when pitchers and catchers are not going to report to Spring Training for another month.

However, with the Prince Fielder sweepstakes wrapped up in the Tigers' favor, this offseason looks mostly over (except for some minor moves here and there). This winter definitely had a few eventful months of hotstove rumors. Whether it was Albert Pujols leaving his beloved Cardinals for the West Coast or two clubs swapping high-profile prospects, there seemed to be a flurry of moves every week.

But with every offseason, there are winners and losers, and here are mine: 

Winners:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Owner Arte Moreno should be thanking Fox Sports a lot for the TV rights deal that was the key to the best offseason by any baseball club. Thanks to a 20-year, $3-billion contract with Fox, the Angels were able to acquire arguably the best player in baseball, as well as add another ace to their collection. Albert Pujols was no bargain and he will not be effective throughout the full duration of his 10-year contract, but the impact he'll have on this previously mediocre offense will be great.

Even with Pujols, though, the offense isn't close to the best part of the team. Former Rangers ace C.J. Wilson joins the already tremendous trio of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana, giving the Angels the best rotation in baseball. Extending Howie Kendrick's contract to a very reasonable deal of four years and $33.5 million only bolsters the Angels' title of best offseason.

Miami Marlins - The Marlins had a laughably bad start to the offseason with their ghastly new uniforms, but they definitely made up for it with their mostly shrewd offseason moves. The Marlins will add some pizzazz with their new stadium, and eccentric new manager Ozzie Guillen. Then they bolstered their pitching by signing starter Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell.

Jose Reyes (alpineinc/Wikimedia Commons)
Jose Reyes (alpineinc/Wikimedia Commons)
And of course their best move was stealing shortstop Jose Reyes (seen left) away from their NL East rival, the New York Mets. However, the only reason why they didn't even contest for the top spot was the baffling move of trading for headcase and locker room tumor Carlos Zambrano. While he does have some upside, is it worth trading for a pitcher who's more known for his outbursts with water coolers than his actual pitching?

Cincinnati Reds - The biggest reason for their disappointing season last year, after winning the NL Central division in 2010, was their pitching. So not only did the Reds fix that problem, they found inexpensive solutions that could benefit the team long-term as well. In one of the biggest trades this offseason, the Reds acquired a young stud pitcher in Mat Latos. While he did cost four good prospects, most notably power-hitter Yonder Alonso and flamethrower Edison Volquez, Latos is locked up in a cheap, long-term deal and it is very difficult to find a promising young starting pitcher on the market.

Then, in shoring up their bullpen, they signed reliever Ryan Madson to a bargain one-year, $8.5-million deal (compared to the Phillies signing reliever Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50-million deal to replace Madson) and traded for the effective Cubs' lefty reliever, Sean Marshall. Also, while the Reds have outfield depth already, signing Ryan Ludwick gives the Reds another solid bat to make another push into the postseason.

Bonus Winner: American League - In what will be one of the best pennant races in years, the American League now has six incredible teams in the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Angels and Rangers. Throw in a potential surprise AL postseason contender, and you have the makings of a phenomenal September.  

Losers

Terry Francona (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Terry Francona (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Boston Red Sox - Their classic September choke along, combined with all the controversies surrounding the clubhouse, led to an offseason where it seems like nothing went right. Management fired iconic manager Terry Francona (right), who led the Red Sox to two World Series titles in four years after not winning one in the previous 76 years going back to 1918. The loss of Theo Epstein, one of the best GM's in the game and the guy who built the Red Sox into contenders, to the Cubs for nothing back in return, foreshadowed what would be a rough offseason.

New manager Bobby Valentine was not a popular choice in the Red Sox clubhouse, and new GM Ben Cherington has had a shaky first offseason. Overpaying for closer Andrew Bailey by giving away two top hitting prospects in Josh Reddick and Myles Head was the start. Trading starting shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitching prospect Kyle Weiland for mediocre Astros reliever Mark Melancon was the middle. And trading away their second-most-effective player during the collapse, Marco Scutaro, for nothing was the nail in the coffin. Not a good offseason to try and wipe away those putrid memories of last season.

St. Louis Cardinals - Has a World Series champion ever had a worse offseason than the Cardinals? Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa went out on top by retiring after he won the World Series, but why didn't the Cardinals have a better plan for what they were going to do when Tony finally did retire? To hire Mike Matheny, a guy with no managerial experience, was inexcusable. Then, they lost the face of St. Louis, Albert Pujols, because of a small cash discrepancy between their offer and the Angels' offer. To lose a top-three Cardinals player of all-time will be a major loss to the franchise, the fanbase, and the whole city of St. Louis.

The attempt to replace Pujols' bat was underwhelming as well, with the Cardinals ending up with aging and injury-prone outfielder Carlos Beltran at two years and $26 million. Re-signing struggling Rafael Furcal for two years and $14 million gave the Cardinals another aging and overpaid player for their lineup. Incredible how bitter the aftertaste of a championship can be, no?

Texas Rangers - Calling the Rangers an offseason loser after one high-profile move and one non-move is ballsy, but they lost the opportunity to be an American League powerhouse for years to come. Signing superstar Yu Darvish may look like a good move on the surface, but if you dig a little bit deeper, things start to get interesting. The Rangers signed Darvish to a six-year deal for $60 million, along with the $51.7 million it took for the team to win the bidding rights for Darvish.

The fact that the Rangers spent over $110 million on a starting pitcher who has never pitched in the MLB is peculiar to say the least. Also, looking at Japanese pitchers who came to the U.S. and who signed absurd contracts with MLB teams, the results have been largely disappointing. Does Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kei Igawa, Hideki Irabu, or Hideo Nomo (although Nomo did have a great first couple of seasons) ring a bell? Granted, Darvish is a different pitcher and a new opportunity, but the poor track record for Japanese pitchers stands.

Losing out in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes to the Tigers was a huge blow. The weakest part of the Rangers lineup is first base, and Fielder would have been a massive upgrade over the subpar Mitch Moreland. Maybe the Rangers should have signed a more proven and cheaper option at starting pitcher so they could have gotten Fielder and had their own version of "Murderer's Row." Now they are stuck with a questionable rotation and a hole at first base.

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