clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The most baffling offseasons in baseball

Two teams go in. Only one team can come out. Unless they lock themselves in there. Which is entirely possible.

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Around this time last year, I wrote something titled "The most baffling offseason in baseball." It was about the Reds, and I'm pretty sure the idea to write about the Reds came before the title. Still, I liked the idea enough to revisit this year. Figured it wouldn't take too long to hone in on an easy-to-pick-on team, make fun of their inexplicable moves, and scurry off.

The most baffling team can't just be a team making all sorts of moves I don't like (Marlins) or a rebuild/reload that came about a season or two earlier than expected (A's). You see what both of those teams think they're doing, even if you question the way they've gone about accomplishing it. The most baffling team can't be a contending team that hasn't made a move. Not just because there are a lot of them, as Sam Miller notes, but because when you start at "good" and jog in place, it's not that bizarre. Those teams were already good, ostensibly.

After whittling down the contenders, there's a problem. There are two of them. There are two teams which are clearly having baffling offseasons that transcend anything the other 28 teams are doing (or not doing.) We need to have a baffling-off.

What are you doing, Braves?

What are you doing, Mets?

More importantly, which one of you is more confusing?

The case for the Braves

For the last season or two, the Braves have been locking their young players up. Freddie Freeman signed a monster extension; Andrelton Simmons signed a more modest one. Craig Kimbrel signed a hefty deal for a closer, but Julio Teheran agreed to something that already looks like a steal. They couldn't agree on an extension with Jason Heyward, though, so they traded him away for a young, major league pitcher under contract for few years.

That's not a baffling sequence. That's downright reasonable. It was a way to reset the expiration date of a current asset, while not entirely giving up on the next season. Stick with me, though.

The Braves were faced with the same problem with Justin Upton, I'm sure. He probably wanted the money he would get after an MVP-type walk year; the Braves probably wanted to pay him the money he's more likely to be worth. Another stalemate, another chance to exchange short-term assets for long-term assets. Except this time, they didn't bother worrying so much about who could help the team win in 2015. A year from now, we could be talking about Jace Peterson's Rookie of the Year season, but that would be a huge surprise. The Braves got a low-power middle infielder, a low-power outfielder in the low minors, a teenager with a .634 OPS in the Midwest League, and a prospect who threw 10⅔ innings last year because of elbow problems.

Okay, so the Braves aren't really going for it. I mean, they'll take success if it shows up, but they were more interested in spreading their risk around in the Upton deal. They didn't want to focus in on a player who could help in the short term; they just wanted the best haul. You can tell that 2015 wasn't their biggest concern because they traded Justin Upton and Jason Heyward in the first place.

They also signed Nick Markakis for four years, $44 million.

Markakis is 31, and he's okay. Don't bother stealing that pickup line: It's already taken. It's the only thing to write about him, though. He'll probably be worth about two or three wins next year, just a little less than Justin Upton, and he'll be okay. Pleasantly okay. But, this is the important part, you buy a player like Markakis for only one reason: because you're in full win-now mode for the next season. Markakis almost certainly isn't going to be worth $11 million when he's 34. That's just the premium a team has to pay to get those sweet, sweet short-term benefits for their win-now team.

Except they're not a win-now team. They traded their two best outfielders.

Except they have to be a win-now team. They outbid other win-now teams for Markakis. Then Markakis underwent fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck, and the Braves were like, "Oh, yeah, that thing, we knew about it. Totally cool," as if he had a tattoo removed with lasers.

Oh, and they got rid of their GM and essentially made the position disappear.

Baffling. But they might not be the bafflingest, because here comes ...

The case for the Mets

The offseason started in an unusual fashion. The Mets stood on a mountaintop and screamed that they wanted a player, they will go out and get him. This was new. This was exciting. The Mets were spending again. Forget that the player in question was Michael Cuddyer, who is one of the worst defensive players in baseball, and has been for years. Forget that he'll be 36 when the season starts (red flag) and missed most of last season with an injury (red flaaaaaaaag). Forget that Baseball-Reference tells us he hasn't been worth two wins above replacement since 2009, and that the Steamer projection system suggests he'll have a .315 on-base percentage for the Mets. Forget that they had to give up the #15 overall pick in the 2015 Draft to get him.

Forget about all that. The Mets were active. Right away, they made a statement. Don't sleep on the Mets. They have the pitching. They have a plan.

Then they sat the rest of the offseason out. Michael Cuddyer was the entire plan. Like, the whole time. When the Rockies surprisingly made the qualifying offer to him, the Mets front office probably groaned, and someone in the back yelled, "STAY ON TARGET. DO NOT ABORT 'OPERATION DAD MAGIC.' REPEAT, 'OPERATION DAD MAGIC' IS A GO." Looking at you, Wilpon.

They really do have the pitching to contend. They might be the 2008 Giants, but they're oh so close to being the 2009 Giants, which led to good things. It wouldn't take much for the Mets to harass the NL East. A breakout season there from a hitter, a rebound season there from a hitter. It still can happen. Don't laugh at the Mets; they're a lot closer than you think.

Laugh at the Mets' plan this offseason, though. That plan was a 36-year-old DH and nothing else. Other than shortstop, which apparently makes a lot of Mets fans nervous, I don't see the obvious FIX FIX FIX for the roster. Still, the Mets are an interesting team that could have been a magnificent team with a creative offseason. Instead, the offseason plan was "michael cuddyer?" written on a whiteboard in the world's least-creative front office. There was a doodle of a sleeping donkey, a reminder to clean out the break room fridge, and "michael cuddyer?" Then someone got up and triumphantly erased the question mark.

Baffling. I was leaning toward the Braves, then I wrote that. Now I'm stuck again.

There's a poll.