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2014 MLB Offseason Winners And Losers

Billy Lennon |
February 17, 2014 | 9:39 a.m. PST

Staff Writer

Brian McCann might be the best Yankee catcher since Jorge Posada, and maybe even better. (@Yankees/Twitter)
Brian McCann might be the best Yankee catcher since Jorge Posada, and maybe even better. (@Yankees/Twitter)
Spring training has already begun, as teams across the league suited up on Sunday to informally kick off the 2014 season. But not all offseasons are created equal, as some teams primed themselves for playoff runs while others moved back in the pack. 

Biggest Winner: New York Yankees

Though it feels like the Yankees top the list of biggest free agent spenders every winter, in reality it's been five years since they've made major waves in an offseason. That year, they signed Mark Teixeira, AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia, spending over $430 million in just one offseason. 

This offseason, however, the Yankees have outdone everyone in the market. This has been possible in part due to the Alex Rodriguez's suspension, voiding his 2014 contract and freeing the Yankees to unleash a furious run of spending unlike anything seen from Brian Cashman, Hank Steinbrenner and company since 2009.

Having already spent nearly $470 million thus far, the Yankees have exploded through the $181 million luxury tax ceiling they publicly hoped to avoid. The Yankees organization has made an emphatic public statement this offseason, making it inherently clear that the Yankees are focused on one goal exclusively: winning, and winning now.

The biggest signing of the offseason came when highly coveted Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka made the decision to wear pinstripes for the next seven years, instantly revitalizing an aging Yankee rotation, even when considering the most modest projections for Tanaka's adjustment to the majors. Pairing that with the signing of 29-year-old backstop Brian McCann, who represents reliability behind the plate that has proven quite elusive for the Yankees since 2010, and the Yankees have a bright and seemingly clear future for the face of the rotation. 

The Yankees also managed to pry Jacoby Ellsbury from AL East rival Boston, a situation that felt heavily reminiscent to Johnny Damon's signing in in 2006. Ellsbury provides the Yankees with both speed and power in the leadoff position, while also playing plus defense in the heart of the outfield. If healthy, Ellsbury, in addition to the newly signed Carlos Beltran, should help solidify an outfield that has struggled with an identifiable hierarchy the past two seasons. With the short porch in right field that is the defining feature in Yankee Stadium, it seems that the pair should combine for 50 home runs this year if healthy.

The Yankees may not be done yet with their flurry of offseason spending. They still have holes in their bullpen, and have perhaps the worst infield in not only the majors, but in recent memory. Kelly Johnson will be serviceable, but the Yankees hope to sign someone who will provide defensive utility, especially given the general wear and tear of Derek Jeter over the past 18 months.  Overall, however, the Yankees have taken themselves from unlikely playoff candidates to legitimate title contenders in just one offseason, something only they can boast this year. 

Washington hopes Doug Fister will be the key third man in their rotation. (@Nationals/Twitter)
Washington hopes Doug Fister will be the key third man in their rotation. (@Nationals/Twitter)
Runner-Up: Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals were on the receiving end of perhaps the biggest steal of the offseason when they traded Steve Lombardozzi and Ian Krol, in addition to a midlevel prospect for starting pitcher Doug Fister, who has been one of the best in the American League over the past 4 seasons from a WAR (Wins Against Replacement) perspective. This should add depth to an already potent starting rotation led by Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg, hopefully providing much of the push that the Nationals will need in order to turn around their disappointing 2013 season.

They also received a capable and much needed middle-reliever in Jeremy Blevins and shored up their outfield with journeyman Nate McClouth, who should provide insurance for Bryce Harper if nothing else. Though their offseason was relatively quiet, they addressed their major needs and should now certainly have the front five to push themselves through the weak NL East and into the playoffs this October. 

Honorable Mention: Seattle Mariners

The Mariners lost no one vital, while adding perhaps the most notable signing of the entire MLB offseason in second baseman Robinson Cano. Though many people have called the 10-year, $240-million dollar deal irresponsible, the Mariners needed a major bat in the middle of their order to manufacture runs for their talented pitching staff. While many are skeptical of the other bats added into Seattle's lineup (Corey Hart, Logan Morrison), I am optimistic that both will provide needed pop in the middle of the order. They got that and more, adding a perennial MVP candidate who has not yet shown any symptoms of regression. The signing could prove to haunt them, similar to the contracts given to Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and others in the recent past. However, for the immediate future it appears that the Mariners have made the decisions they need to make to in order to compete for a pennant now.

Biggest Loser: Detroit Tigers

Someone had to be on the bad end of the Fister deal, and that was unfortunately Detroit. They received little in return for a major trade piece, a move that made many experts scratch their heads. They also failed to replace him with anyone notable.  

Trading Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler makes a lot of sense from the perspective of keeping Miguel Cabrera away from third base and healthy, but it also takes away a lot of the protection that Fielder offered batting behind Miggy in the lineup. Without that protection, its possible Cabrera will receive the Barry Bonds treatment, pitched around with little consequence.  

Kinsler also has a history of injuries, leaving this team one or two injuries away from a serious meltdown. This team is significantly worse off than it was at this time last season, something no GM realistically hopes for before the offseason begins. 

Runner-Up: Arizona Diamondbacks

Like the Tigers, The Diamondbacks also made poor trades, leading to them shipping away two of their top 10 prospects with little to show for it besides rapidly deteriorating closer Heath Bell.

They also acquired Mark Trumbo from the Angels, who was a serviceable power bat in the American League where his atrocious defense could be neutralized at the DH.  However, with Arizona, Trumbo will be forced to play defense every time he's in the lineup, leaving them with a major hole at whatever spot they try to hide him in.  

Overall, the Diamondbacks found themselves on the border of playoff contention and now seem to be at about the same spot they were a few months ago. However, they gave up valuable prospects in the process, hurting their long term potential as a franchise as well as having little to show for the trades they made in the process.  

Honorable Mention: Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles didn't have a particularly terrible offseason; it just so happens they inhabit the AL East, where if you don't gain ground, you lose it year in and year out.  

This problem was potentiated by Brian Roberts, a classic feature of the Orioles lineup in recent memory, abandoning ship and signing with the Yankees. They also lost Nate McClouth to the Nationals, as well as Jim Johnson and serviceable starting pitcher Scott Feldman.  

Adding Jemile Weeks adds speed at second base, but none of the other offseason signings are of much consequence. The Orioles need to hope for a massive leap from probably all of their budding stars in order to make a push at a playoff run in the vicious AL East. Given the signings the Yankees made, as well as the looming threat of the Rays, Blue Jays, or World Champion Red Sox, the outlook looks grim for the O's in 2014.  

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