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2018 MLB offseason grades for every team

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2018 MLB offseason grades for every team

Spring is finally here, and with it comes MLB Opening Day.

Before the start of the 2018 MLB season take a quick stroll through the last four months with our winter report card for each franchise.

If you thought this was a dull and or bland offseason, you are correct.

The 2017-2018 MLB offseason was one of the coldest Hot Stoves in recent memory and the end result is a lot of bad grades.

RELATED: PRESEASON MLB POWER RANKINGS

A.L. EAST OFFSEASON GRADES

Baltimore Orioles — D

Here’s the thing. If you believe the Orioles should put all their chips in for the 2018 season, knowing that the team is going to look vastly different in a year, then you could make the argument that they have done okay this winter.

Adding Andrew Cashner and Colby Rasmus are decent moves in a vacuum, considering their prices.

That said, everything we know about building baseball teams in 2018 tells us that the Orioles are the exact team that should commit to a rebuild. Losing their second-best trade chip and best pitcher in Zach Britton didn’t help, but barring an unlikely turnaround in (so far non-existent) contract negotiations with Manny Machado, not trading him will haunt this franchise for years to come.

A Wild Card appearance could be fun, and the Alex Cobb addition was a nice surprise, but this team made bad decisions for the long term, and didn’t do enough to compete in the short term. This is a tough time to be an O’s fan.

Boston Red Sox — B+

Adding J.D. Martinez is certainly a nice move for the Sox, and considering the contract he was looking for entering the offseason, the deal he signed looks completely reasonable for Boston.

Martinez is somehow still underrated as a hitter, but his swing isn’t ideally suited to Fenway Park. That’s not nearly as big a concern as the injury concerns, which should always worry teams when inking a guy to more than $100 million guaranteed.

New York Yankees - A

I mean, what other grade could it be? Just two seasons ago, New York embarked on a rebuild.

With their considerable resources and terrific farm system, we should have known it wouldn’t have taken long to get back on top.

Acquiring Giancarlo Stanton for pennies on the dollar, knowing they’ll always have the means to afford his monstrous contract, the Yankees have built the most fearsome middle of the order in baseball, combined with the deepest bullpen the sport has seen in years.

They’ve set themselves up to compete now and in the future, and for that they have to earn an A.

Tampa Bay Rays - B

Trading Evan Longoria certainly wasn’t an easy decision, but it’s tough to argue against it being the right decision. The Rays are in a perpetual state of looking up at the competition within their division, but the gap between New York/Boston and the rest of the AL East is especially wide this year.

Tampa saw what was happening, and decided to be proactive, unlike the other two have-nots in their division. We’ll see if they find themselves competing sooner rather than later, but at least they’re willing to make the tough moves.

Toronto Blue Jays - B

It’s a new era in Toronto, as Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have left the team in recent years. At the same time, it feels like we should expect more of the same from the Blue Jays this season. With Josh Donaldson on the team, you know they’ll hit for power, and the addition of Randal Grichuk helps in that area. Marcus Stroman should be healthy in April, and the rotation is talented to bounce back as a whole from last year. They didn’t add much in the way of true impact players, but don’t expect a step back quite yet.

A.L. CENTRAL OFFSEASON GRADES

Chicago White Sox — B

The White Sox didn’t do much, and that’s exactly what the front office wanted.

This team embarked on a major rebuild in obvious fashion, and in the last 18 months has completely revamped their farm system.

They are very happy to lose 100 games this season. The cheap additions of Welington Castillo and Joakim Soria, plus resigning Miguel Gonzalez, almost hurt this team more than it helps.

But it’s good to have a few quality regulars, even for teams not trying to compete, so this ends up a pretty good offseason for Chicago fans.

Cleveland Indians — C

Please note that this grade is representative of the Indians’ offseason only and not the state of their current roster.

Cleveland has one of the deepest, most talented rosters in baseball, and clearly ranks as one of the five-to-seven most likely teams to win the 2018 World Series. It’s a roster with few needs, and the front office recognized that.

Yonder Alonso was the biggest acquisition this winter, and that’s okay for a team already stacked with stars.

Detroit Tigers — C

Miguel Cabrera recently said he looked around at his teammates this spring and didn’t know many of their names. I can’t say I blame him, considering how few proven players are on the current roster, but that’s okay for Detroit as they embark on a long rebuild.

Ian Kinsler was traded to Los Angeles and Anibal Sanchez wasn’t retained, taking away even more familiar names in the Motor City. Francisco Liriano isn’t good enough at this stage in his career to help much, which is exactly what a rebuilding squad should want.

This team is bad, and boring. They almost got an F just for removing the classic Old English D from their home uniforms.

Kansas City Royals — B-

It’s been pretty tough assigning grades this offseason for a few reasons.

First off, it’s been a famously slow-developing winter for free agents. Perhaps more importantly, fewer teams than ever are looking to compete. In the era of superteams, it’s far easier for middling, average squads to decide not to waste money on an 85-ish win season, and instead save up for bigger free agents down the road.

So for a team like the Royals, in a vacuum, adding Lucas Duda and Jon Jay doesn’t look very exciting. But, for a team like the Royals, not spending money is exactly the right plan.

They get a B- for getting Moustakas back on an incredibly cheap deal, but this is yet another franchise on the cusp of a rebuild, and they spent accordingly this year.

Minnesota Twins — B

As solid of a B as any team on here. The Twins didn’t make that one big flashy move fans love so much, but there are nearly half a dozen transactions that could pay off for them in 2018. Lance Lynn, Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, Jake Odorizzi, and Logan Morrison were all acquired via trade/free agency on the cheap and could be contributors for a playoff team this season. In all likelihood, none will be All-Stars in Minnesota, but these are the types of regulars that good teams need. They still feel a piece or two away, but this was a good, active offseason.

A.L. WEST OFFSEASON GRADES

Houston Astros — B+

The Astros didn’t have an outstanding offseason, but frankly, they didn’t need to. They’re the defending champions for a reason, and given their young talent core, it was an easy decision to put them at number one in our preseason power rankings. The biggest move they made this winter was bringing in Gerrit Cole, a former top overall pick. Houston should be a terrific fit for Cole, considering Minute Maid Park’s pitcher-friendly dimensions. Plus, one of Cole’s weaknesses in Pittsburgh was an over-reliance on his triple-digit fastball, but Houston’s organizational philosophy has always been to utilize breaking pitches, which should help maximize Cole’s potential. It was a nice move for a team that didn’t really need any nice moves to stay on top of the MLB landscape.

Los Angeles Angels — A

One of my favorite offseasons any team had this year. The headline is obviously winning the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, and he will form with Mike Trout to make the most intriguing 1-2 punch in Major League Baseball. But the additions of Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart turn this infield into maybe the best defensive unit in the sport, in addition to providing more bats for a top-heavy lineup.

Oakland Athletics — C+

I actually like the one-year contract for Jonathan Lucroy, a former top-three catcher in baseball who fell off a cliff last season. It’s a worthy gamble for a team without much buzz or opportunity within its own division and Stephen Piscotty has flashed some decent potential in previous seasons. They earned a passing grade because they didn’t do anything particularly poorly, but they didn’t do anything particularly inspiring either.

Seattle Mariners — B+

In one of his least active offseasons as general manager, Jerry Dipoto still managed to swing a major trade, acquiring speedster Dee Gordon for three minor leaguers. Gordon has primarily played second base in his career, but he’ll be manning center field for the Mariners, and his speed should play well at the top of the lineup. Seattle has been on the cusp of contention for nearly two decades, and their fans are hoping this is the move that finally gets them back in the playoffs.

Also, Ichiro is back! That’s enough for them to get the extra plus on their grade, despite Suzuki’s advanced age and obviously declining skills.

Texas Rangers — C

This season, Texas will be relying on the guys who have been there for years. Their biggest acquisitions in name are Bartolo Colon (on a minor league deal with a spring training invite) and Tim Lincecum. As a reminder, we’re currently in the year 2018, which means those additions don’t add much of anything to the outlook of this roster. They’ve still got plenty of talented position players, and have limited depth in the rotation. They probably should have done more, considering where they are in their contention window.

N.L. EAST OFFSEASON GRADES

Atlanta Braves — B

Similarly to the White Sox, this season remains focused on player development for the Braves.

In that respect, jettisoning Matt Kemp to the Dodgers for a decent return (I’ve long loved the potential of a healthy Brandon McCarthy, and Charlie Culberson is a perfect fit for this Braves team) is a great move. The team is handing the reins to Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna (once service time permits), which is a smart move, even if it meant not making many major moves this winter.

Ridding themselves of Kemp in the manner they did is enough to bump them from a C to a B though.

Miami Marlins — F------

Honestly, six minuses isn’t enough.

This franchise is an embarrassment, and the fans of Miami and every other MLB team deserve better.

New York Mets — B+

Bringing in Todd Frazier is actually a nice move. The third baseman still provides good pop and is a respected clubhouse presence.

Really, though, the biggest move for New York was hiring Mickey Callaway as their new manager. Callaway is an up-and-coming star after finding much success as the pitching coach for the Indians the last few years. Given the immense talent in the Mets’ starting rotation, Callaway appears to be a perfect fit for the franchise and should be a move that pays off for years to come.

Philadelphia Phillies — B

The Phillies made some nice moves, but we still shouldn’t expect to see them anywhere close to the 2018 postseason.

The Jake Arrieta deal could end up looking like a steal, but it could also look like a massive overpay, depending on how real his decline was last season. Carlos Santana is a much safer quality addition, though one with less upside.

Either way, Philadelphia has put themselves in prime position to enter their contention window starting in 2019, assuming they’re able to make as big a splash next offseason as they’re likely hoping to.

Washington Nationals — B-

Like the other super teams who stayed relatively quiet this offseason, the Nationals are a roster with few holes, meaning the front office didn’t need to make a major splash in order to compete this year.

The reason their grade is a little worse is that it appeared Washington tried to make some impactful moves and simply couldn’t seal the deal.

At various points in time they were listed as having interest in Jonathan Lucroy, Wade Davis, Addison Reed, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer, and of course, Shohei Ohtani.

None of these potential deals panned out, so Nats fans may be feeling a little disappointed. This is still a really good team though, so a relatively lackluster offseason doesn’t mean much, and they’ve still got plenty of flexibility to make a deal in-season if they’d like to.

RELATED: NATIONALS SEASON PREDICTIONS

N.L. CENTRAL OFFSEASON GRADES

Chicago Cubs — B

This grade may look a little low, considering the Cubs are very much in their prime contention window and bolstered their rotation with an ace in Yu Darvish. I believe Darvish has bounceback potential after his brutal finish to the 2017 season, and the ace he’s replacing (Jake Arrieta) is likely on the decline as well.

However, at best it is likely a lateral move, and at worst, it’s a terrible contract to be saddled with for half a decade. It probably doesn’t matter too much though.

This team entered the offseason really good, and it’ll leave it really good too.

Cincinnati Reds — B

In a vacuum, the Reds’ offseason was just about as nondescript as it gets.

By far, the most noteworthy event was losing Zack Cozart to a 3-year contract with the Angels. If your team’s offseason is highlighted by the loss of a perfectly fine infielder, then it was probably pretty boring.

That said, this is totally okay for Cincinnati since they are firmly in the middle of rebuilding mode, and adding/retaining talents like Cozart are only going to hurt your draft position, without making your team a true contender (no offense to Cozart).

So, despite a lackluster list of moves, the Reds did good work this winter.

Milwaukee Brewers — A-

I’m not confident enough in Milwaukee’s ability to compete this year to remove the minus from their A, but frankly, this was never supposed to be their contention window anyways.

Their rebuilding process moved three stages beyond what was expected last season, and the Brewers capitalized on that momentum by adding outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich.

Both should enjoy tons of freedom on the basepaths this year, and their limited power numbers will be augmented by Miller Park, which is historically very friendly to left-handed hitters. This team is going to be relevant, and it’s going to be fun, it just may not be a World Series contender just yet.

They’re making smart moves though, and the excitement around the team is genuine.

Pittsburgh Pirates — B

The Pirates are in a very similar spot to the Rays.

It was just as difficult trading Andrew McCutchen as it was for Tampa to move Longoria, but given the state of their roster and the haves in their division, it was a move that needed to be made.

They won’t be expecting to compete this year, but committing to a rebuild is smart, hence the passing grade.

St. Louis Cardinals — B+

The Cardinals are in a tough spot. They’re the only team in their division that’s neither a serious World Series contender nor in the midst of a rebuild.

They certainly view themselves as closer to the Cubs than the Reds, but their roster just can’t match the likes of the Cubs, Dodgers, and Nationals. Still, they deserve credit for jumping on Marcell Ozuna during Miami’s garage sale, and that move alone is good enough for a quality grade.

Committing to Paul DeJong after just one decent season keeps them from an A, though.

N.L. WEST OFFSEASON GRADES

Arizona Diamondbacks — C

The Diamondbacks technically look worse after the departure of slugger J.D. Martinez, but I’m still a believer in this roster.

The biggest change for the organization appears to be the installation of a humidor. Some scientists believe home runs at Chase Field could be cut by 25%, turning the team’s home park from a hitter’s haven to a pitcher’s dream. While this hurts the outlook for Paul Goldschmidt and company, the projections for Robbie Ray, Zack Godley, and Zack Greinke certainly took steps forward.

Either way, there wasn’t much here, so while I can’t give Arizona too high a grade I can’t knock them either.

Colorado Rockies — C-

Frankly, I don’t really get it. I like this Rockies team.

They’ve got big stars, quality regulars, and depth. The problem is all that depth is at 1B/OF. Gerardo Parra, Ryan McMahon, Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, Ian Desmond, David Dahl, and Raimel Tapia all should be playing, but also all are fighting for the same four positions.

Unsurprisingly, Colorado is also lacking at pitcher and didn’t do much to address their rotation. I still think they’re set up to compete, so I can’t drop them below a C, but this team ideally would have tapped into that depth to add another pitcher or three.

Los Angeles Dodgers — C

This grade looks worse than it really is.

Yes, the Dodgers lost Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow (both to the Cubs), which will be a hit to their pitching depth. But frankly, a diminished Dodgers pitching staff is still deeper and more talented than at least 25 other organizations.

They didn’t add much unless you count Matt Kemp (editors note: don’t count Kemp), but this team is still great, losing a few pieces from last year’s NL pennant-winning squad doesn’t change that.

San Diego Padres — C+

When I first saw the eight-year contract Eric Hosmer signed to play in San Diego, I immediately chalked the Padres up for an F in this year’s grades. The more I think about the player, the terms, and the state of the roster, however, I think it’s a better fit than I thought.

Having to move Wil Myers (a talented player with a history of injuries) doesn’t bode well, but Hosmer is young enough and talented enough to still be a quality contributor by the time the Padres reach their window of contention. They’ve got some dynamic young players, and Hosmer’s experience and leadership should help, in addition to giving their lineup that much more thump.

It’s good enough for them to earn a C+, though still isn’t exactly what I’d call inspiring.

San Francisco Giants — D

Easy grade, for me, but I can see how this might come down to personal preference. Acquiring Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen seems strange, as those moves don’t help for the future and won’t be nearly enough to challenge the Dodgers within their division.

Giants fans may be happy to have some decent offensive players, unlike last season, and these moves do at least make them competitive on a nightly basis. Maybe they’re banking on some even-year magic?

Otherwise, I can’t see how these moves are particularly worthwhile.

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Mike Trout raised the red flag about free agency, and Nationals players took notice

Mike Trout raised the red flag about free agency, and Nationals players took notice

WASHINGTON -- Mike Trout was everywhere, especially for the supposedly tough-to-market star of the game. 

Anaheim made Trout’s 12-year, $426.5 million extension official Sunday. Trout was the center of a large press conference in California, hopped on MLB Network, made the rounds expected of someone who signed the largest deal in American sports history.

Trout made a telling remark at each stop: He noted watching Manny Machado and Bryce Harper slog through last winter as free agents. He then talked to both. The conversations and visual prompted him to label their situations a “red flag” when he thought about free agency.  

That term, from that player, is eye-popping, despite the heft of his current extension and others being struck around the league. It holds force even after Harper set a record with a new contract that was summarily crushed three weeks later by Trout. It also turned heads when read to players in the clubhouse before the Nationals played the New York Yankees on Monday in the final exhibition game of spring training.

“To me, that’s the red flag,” Sean Doolittle told NBC Sports Washington. “We’re not talking about a veteran guy that’s, you know...we’re talking about the face of our game. If he doesn’t want to go through the free agency process the way it’s been going for guys these past few years, like if he doesn’t think the process could benefit him and he could recognize his full value on the open market, that’s really tell you everything you need to know, right?”

Free agency, once referred to by Max Scherzer as the players’ “golden egg,” has pivoted. Players previously groused about the veteran player who was left jobless. Teams moved away from paying players 30-plus for past performance, both learning a more efficient way to run their team and more financially viable one. Younger players -- unproven players in the eyes of many major leaguers -- were receiving jobs based more on market forces and perceived value than actual value. The process rankled those already in a clubhouse.

“It’s not about players,” Ryan Zimmerman told NBC Sports Washington. “It’s about the valuation or the way that they use it to say it’s going to change their organization. I’ve always said you have to have young guys come up and play. I get it. But my whole thing is to not sign legit big-league players, who you know what they’re going to do at the big-league level, because you have the best farm system in the league, two of those kids might be something. The other eight you’re never going to hear about them again once they leave Baseball America. I just think the percentage of people who become real big leaguers is not very high, and they hold it at a very high value.”

That portion of the debate is receding. What free agency has become is at the forefront. The recent cluster of extensions suggested players realized their best path under this collective bargaining agreement was to stay. The plight of Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel -- who remain unemployed just days before the season begins -- shows that premise is correct.

“[I do] recognize the free agent process has changed,” Scherzer said. “Teams used to covet players, marquee players, and be aggressive trying to bid on them -- don’t feel like that’s the case. That’s what I’ll say.”

Doolittle continued to churn through how the idea related to Trout. If he entered free agency, what could be the possible knock on him? 

It’s not on-field skill. It’s not how he interacts with fans. It’s not how he conducts himself off the field. 

“It would have been really fun to see him go through the free agency process,” Doolittle said.

Instead of finding out, Trout decided to take a lifetime deal to stay in Anaheim. The cash haul was enormous. The terms record-setting. The process? Not so good.

“We need to make some adjustments to the system,” Doolittle said. “Because, yeah, it’s good Manny and Bryce got those deals. It’s unfortunate it took so long. I think it’s very concerning and very notable the face of the game, one of the best players in the history of the game, didn’t want to have to go through that because of the way it’s been going.”

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Bryce Harper's old locker will go to Howie Kendrick (when he gets back)

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Bryce Harper's old locker will go to Howie Kendrick (when he gets back)

With Bryce Harper no longer in town, his locker was open for a new tenant this season. Fans speculated on which veteran would take over his spot, and now we know.

It’s Howie Kendrick.

As every Nationals fan knows by now, after a long, arduous offseason, Harper took his talents to Philadelphia. The Phillies gave him a record-breaking contract, and Harper will be spending the next 13 years of his career in the City of Brotherly Love.

Down in Florida, it wasn’t clear who might take over his locker once the team returned to the nation’s capital. Now that the team is back for an exhibition game and Opening Day this week, media members can see the new locker layout.

Kendrick, of course, is still in Florida rehabbing his hamstring. He’ll begin the season on the Injured List and will play in extended spring training while working to get back to 100 percent. The team expects him to be ready to go sooner rather than later, and even though he’s injured, he’ll still come up to be with the team for Opening Day.

Kendrick makes sense as the choice to fill Harper’s vacated locker. As a veteran entering his 14th season in the Major Leagues, Kendrick is a well-respected voice in the Nationals locker room. He’s only been with the team since midway through 2017, but at 35, he has plenty of experience in the sport.

Entering 2019, Kendrick is set to be a valuable piece for the roster as a quality bench bat who can play multiple positions. Much of his value will also come in the form of his leadership and presence in the locker room, which will now resonate from the same place it had from Harper the previous several seasons.

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