Offseason Winners and Losers

The winter meetings are over, but the hot stove season of winter is still going strong. There are yet a few significant dominoes left to fall. And at least one, Cliff Lee, will have repercussions across several franchises.

If the Yankees don’t get their man Lee, expect them to find pitching somewhere. They will make a strong push for Zack Greinke of Kansas City or — don’t laugh — Barry Zito from the Giants. Why not? Yankee Stadium suits Zito and the Red Sox are loaded with lefties. And as bad as Zito has been the last two seasons, lefties have hit just .231 against him.

If the Rangers don’t retain Lee, Greinke is in play there as well, and Texas seems willing to trade veteran Michael Young. While the Angels are a long shot for Lee, signing him would allow them to trade pitching for a hitter, like Young. Not signing Lee, would make the Angels more aggressive in getting Adrian Beltre.

So just because the winter meetings ended on Thursday, the stove remains hot.

Winners and Losers…so far
While the offseason wheeling and dealing is still in full swing, there has been enough activity to begin assessing winners and losers.

First, the losers. While it’s easy to point to the Rays as losers, we knew they weren’t going to retain Carl Crawford or Carlos Peña. The lineup certainly took two huge blows.

The Angels, without yet signing Cliff Lee or Adrian Beltre, have done little to rebuild a winner for manager Mike Scioscia. They were shocked with how much they underbid for Crawford. They certainly expected to leave Florida with a better team. But all they have is Hisanori Takahashi. Who? Yeah, that’s the point.

The obvious winner is the Boston Red Sox. Trading for Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego and winning the Carl Crawford sweepstakes are likely the two most significant acquisitions of the offseason — even moreso than Lee. The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is alive and well.

An under-the-radar winner is the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers acted quickly to sign reliever Joaquin Benoit and catcher/DH Victor Martinez. With improving youngsters Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch along with Martinez and Miguel Cabrera, the lineup suddenly is threatening. It’s not all-world caliber of the Yankees and Red Sox, but it’s strong enough to win the A.L. Central — and that’s the idea in Detroit. Benoit deepens a bullpen that takes pressure off starters.

Much ado about…what?
The White Sox were certainly active, signing Adam Dunn and re-signing Paul Konerko. They now have money tied up in two mashers who are among the worst defensive first basemen in the majors. But what will it mean without addressing bullpen woes. They lost J.J. Putz and Bobby Jenks from the bullpen, which could be argued as addition by subtraction. But the A.L. Central could have been won last season with a strong pen. And it’s there for the taking again.

A few head-scratchers….
Why would the Cardinals sign Lance Berkman? He hasn’t appeared in the outfield since 2007. He hasn’t played as many as 100 games in the outfield since 2004. With Matt Holliday in left, man, will the defense be bad. Think Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter appreciate that? And Berkman hit just .171 vs. lefties last season, which has been a weakness for St. Louis.

And why did the Nationals commit $126 million to Jayson Werth? Werth is a nice player. He was a key cog in the Phillies’ recent success. But this contract puts Werth and the Nationals in tough spots. Werth can never live up to it. But the real point is, I understand that the Nationals have to overpay in order to sign free agents. If they offered the same contract as the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels  — or pick any team — the Nationals would never sign anyone. But if you’re going to overpay for a player, at least overpay for a marquee name that can excite a fan base and sell tickets. Offer Carl Crawford seven years, $180 million. If you’re going to pay Werth $126 mil, isn’t Crawford worth $180 million? How many more tickets would he sell this winter? For that matter, why not just re-sign Adam Dunn?

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