|Five Best Offseason Moves||| Print |||Send|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on January 15, 2011
There is no award for having the best offseason, but these moves, if made properly, greatly shape what happens from April through October. Having money helps but sometimes a trade or a cheap contract is more important than a nine-figure contract. Largely discounting these mega-deals, because it's so easy for a general manager to hand a blank check to an agent, here are the five best moves of the offseason.
5. Brewers acquire SP Shaun Marcum for 2B Brett Lawrie
Infielders Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks are nearing the end of their contracts, while players like Corey Hart and Yovani Gallardo are becoming more expensive through arbitration. That means the Brewers's window for competing, at least with this group, is quickly closing.
General manager Doug Melvin's main concern was starting pitchers. His team finished 26th last season in ERA, ahead of just Baltimore, Arizona, Kansas City and Pittsburgh - company no one wants to keep.
Perhaps his most inspired move was obtaining Shaun Marcum from the pitching-rich Blue Jays. He was consistent last season, suggesting his performance wasn't a fluke, and survived the American League East. The weak offenses of the National League Central should be a welcome respite.
One thing to keep an eye on: Marcum didn't pitch in 2009 before throwing 195 1/3 innings last season. That exceeded his major league high by 36 1/3, but he should be able to handle that jump at 29.
4. Cubs acquire SP Matt Garza for a large collection of prospects
The Cubs farm system didn't have the depth to withstand losing this much talent, but an essentially new manager forced general manager Jim Hendry to try to contend this season. Chicago would've been much better off beginning the necessary rebuilding process, rather than signing Carlos Pena to a large deal and hoping for comebacks from Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano.
Remember: The Reds won this division last season with plenty of young talent, the Cardinals still have plenty of talent and the Brewers have improved immensely.
Garza, like Marcum, is leaving the American League East for the National League Central. Facing opposing No. 8 hitters and pitchers should provide welcome relief each time through a lineup.
The only difference between Garza and Marcum is that the former has had more experience (and success) at the major league level. His stuff also rates better.
3. White Sox sign 1B/DH Adam Dunn to four-year, $56 million contract
The White Sox finished 10th in runs scored last season. That came with a down season from Carlos Quentin and so-so years from Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez and Alex Rios. Imagine the production should those players turn around.
Yes, Paul Konerko is due for a drop-off, but Dunn - coming off a 38 homer, .536 slugging season - should pick up any slack. He will switch between first and designated hitter, hiding his poor defense for the first time in his career.
His career .381 on-base percentage suggests he'll also help the White Sox in that category. They finished 12th, at .332, last season, though in a virtual tie with Philadelphia and St. Louis. That added production should help a strong rotation and perhaps push the White Sox into the postseason.
2. Brewers acquire SP Zack Greinke for SS Alcides Escobar, three others
Zack Greinke desperately wanted out of Kansas City, making his indifference about the Royals' rebuilding plan and attempts of contending known. He also admitted to giving less than complete effort at times. Sounds like a winner of an acquisition, right?
The Brewers hope Greinke will regain the form he showed in 2009 when he won the American League Cy Young with a 2.16 ERA over 229 1/3 innings. His stuff is unquestionably good and his command is excellent. It's just if Greinke will find himself motivated to compete at his highest during next season. The guess here is that a winning atmosphere in Milwaukee will do him some good.
1. Red Sox acquire Adrian Gonzalez for SP Casey Kelly, OF Reymond Fuentes and two others
This clearly has to be considered the best move of the offseason, especially when the Red Sox sign Gonzalez to a long-term extension after opening day. (By doing so, his new salary won't count against the team's luxury tax figure just yet, thereby saving Boston some money.) Gonzalez gives them an excellent defender and excellent bat at first base.
It's true the Red Sox already had that in Kevin Youkilis. But the trade slides Youkilis to third, his original position, and gives the Red Sox a potent left-handed bat that will dent the Green Monster. The Red Sox offense lost a few key pieces - Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez - but it should be fine now. Here is how the lineup projects: LF Carl Crawford, 2B Dustin Pedroia, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, 3B Kevin Youkilis, DH David Ortiz, RF J.D. Drew, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, SS Marco Scutaro, CF Jacoby Ellsbury. Not too bad.