The hot stove has a dead possum in it. Poor little feller is frozen stiff. As such, baseball’s eternal offseason will apparently bleed into the regular season, and it will still be possible to build a solid, competitive 31st team and plop it right in the middle of downtown Montreal. Now you can see how this could be the best offseason ever. There’s still a chance.
It’s been a dreadfully slow offseason, the kind that makes writers complain about it in the opening paragraphs of every article, but there’s a little recency bias at play. The Angels signed Shohei Ohtani. The Yankees traded for Giancarlo Stanton. The Cubs signed a couple of important relievers and Yu Darvish. The Giants reshaped their lineup. The Mets have been busy adding dingers. There are teams that have had active offseasons and made their fans excited about the coming season.
However, I’m going to provide you with a list of baseball players. These players were hastily ranked in order of their expected impact in 2018. If I ranked one too high or low, well, you can always tweet your thoughts to me, and I’ll respond right away.
- Yonder Alonso
- Welington Castillo
- Fernando Rodney
- Addison Reed
- Miguel Gonzalez
- Leonys Martin
- Zach Duke
- Mike Fiers
- Ryan Goins
- Wily Peralta
- Rob Scahill
- Xavier Cedeño
- Alexi Amarista
- Travis Wood
- Derek Norris
- Brayan Peña
If a kid opened a pack of baseball cards and got those 16 cards, he or she would sigh an existential sigh and Charlie Brown-slump all the way back home. That’s not to say that there won’t be some players up there who make positive contributions this year. It’s just a thoroughly uninspiring collection.
That’s a list of the free agents who signed with American League Central teams this offseason.
That’s a full list, give or take a minor-league deal.
If you want to add Michael Pineda (possibly out for 2018 after Tommy John), go for it, but it’s not going to change the general premise, which is that the entire AL Central might have added four or five wins above replacement through free agency. There’s at least a chance that the entire free agent class of the AL Central won’t be as valuable as Lorenzo Cain next year.
Ah, you’ve caught my deception, though. What about trades, you ask? Pretty inconvenient to leave off the trades.
That list looks like this:
- Joakim Soria
- Jesse Hahn
- Burch Smith
- Brad Keller
There’s more value leaving the top half of the Royals’ lineup than is coming into the entire AL Central. There are a lot of reasons why the offseason has been so slow. The worst offenders all happen to make up the AL Central.
If you’re looking for reasons why this particular division is slower than the others, look toward the bottom first. The White Sox are actively, aggressively rebuilding. They went full Astros last year, and there was no reason for them to spend money on anyone who’s better than Castillo. Well, there was one reason, which is to put together a team that’s even half-interesting. Maybe one that doesn’t have, oh, no, James Shields as the Opening Day starter, is that a possibility, hey, Marc, can you double check this? It says here that ... yeah, OK, yeah, it checks out, thanks. But nothing they were going to do was going to make them win more than 75 games, so why dump free agent money down the storm drain?
This goes for the Tigers, too, who basically called it an offseason after trading Ian Kinsler and signing a couple of backup catchers (which is going great, by the way.) While it would be only fair to the season-ticket holders if there were, say, one or two more watchable starting pitchers, all that would do is mess with their draft position. That’s the thing about tanking: Being half in seems like a great way to miss out on all the best benefits. And as long as you’re going to celebrate the 15th anniversary of one of the most impressive baseball teams in history, you might as well celebrate it with an absence of style.
The Royals haven’t given up with quite the same aggressiveness that the Tigers or White Sox have, but they’re getting there. It’s hard to argue that it would have been good for the franchise if they had locked Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain up with $300 million worth of extensions, and it’s also hard to see how they can replace that kind of value. Take the three best players out of any lineup, and it’s going to devastate a team. Still, if they were really tanking/rebuilding, they would probably start by trading Danny Duffy and some of the valuable players they still have. If they’re not going to do that, maybe they could add some players who are more valuable than Ryan Goins?
But these teams staying away from the eight-figure contracts makes sense. There are no real surprises here, (and there’s at least a little chance that the Royals might keep one or two of their fan favorites after all). I’ll save the bulk of my incredulity for the top of the division, where the Indians are heavy favorites and the Twins are riding the momentum of a surprising postseason appearance.
The Indians have added Yonder Alonso. It’s a modest, sensible deal for a franchise that can’t spend a lot. Even two or three J.D. Martinez-sized deals could mess with this team’s ability to contend if they didn’t work out, so I can understand their reticence to jump feet-first into the deep end of the offseason, especially when they spent on Edwin Encarnacion last year. At the same time, are we sure this is an Indians team with an infinite window? Francisco Lindor is a treasure and he’s around for a while, but there are more than a few 30-year-olds expected to be key contributors. While everyone’s laughing at the Giants for building a 2013 All-Star team, the Indians’ plan is wholly reliant on a pair of over-30 pitchers staying healthy and effective. Their confidence in Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco is understandable, but it’s also dangerous because it’s the reason why they’re fine with Josh Tomlin doing the same ol’ Josh Tomlin things.
But you can also argue that the Indians project to be one of the best teams in baseball, so it’s fine that they were relatively quiet this winter. Fine. What about the Twins, then? Where is the urgency? They have soooooo much financial flexibility, perhaps the most in baseball. They don’t have to worry about contracts in the year 2020 because they don’t have anyone under contract in 2020. They can go out and buy J.D. Martinez, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb today and still have one of the lowest committed payrolls for next season. And they would have a chance at catching the Indians, too.
That might be drastic, but you get the idea. The AL Central is where the offseason went to die, and there are two contending teams there that are making decisions that are somewhere between curious and oblivious.
There’s still a lot of offseason left. At least, metaphorically. The offseason is technically over, but there’s still a chance that one or two or three of these teams surprise us. The Twins really wanted Darvish, reportedly, so maybe they’re too busy with Plan B and actually improving the rotation to feed the rumormongers fresh rumors. The last chapter of the 2017-2018 offseason hasn’t been written yet. Don’t even think there’s a proper outline for it, even though the deadline is past.
For now, though, let’s all marvel at the one division in baseball that hibernated for several months. Oh, what a slumber. It’s been a slow offseason, but congratulations to these five teams for really slowing things the heck down.