MLB Offseason Grades – American League Version

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We are less than a month away from Opening Day 2020. This offseason, we’ve seen nearly all of our top 50 free agents sign deals and there were even a few major trades that went down. So while we continue to wait for meaningful baseball games to return, let’s take a look at what each of the 30 teams have done during this rather busy winter to address roster needs and hand out grades for their offseason work.

We’ll break this report card down division by division, starting with the American League.

AL East

Boston Red Sox: F
It has been a steady decline for the Red Sox since their 2018 championship season. After the club missed the postseason last year, Boston has been the subject of a league investigation into its illegal use of technology to steal signs. The Astros sign-stealing scandal cost manager Alex Cora his job and the team has yet to name a permanent replacement, with bench coach Ron Roenicke designated as the Red Sox’s interim manager. On top of the scandal, the Red Sox sent their franchise player, Mookie Betts, to the Dodgers (David Price also headed west in the deal). They received outfielder Alex Verdugo (plus Jeter Downs, Connor Wong and avoided luxury tax penalties), in the return from the trade, but it’s not even close to replacing what they lost on the field. Some of their other moves this winter included adding infielder Jose Peraza, trading catcher Sandy Leon to the Indians for right-hander Adenys Bautista and re-signing first baseman Mitch Moreland and left-hander Martin Perez.

While we wait for the final conclusion and/or punishment from the league for Boston’s alleged 2018 sign-stealing scheme, the club has achieved its goal of staying under the luxury tax. Although, hitting that goal is certainly not a mark worth earning a passing grade in this post, let alone one that’s going to help them win games in 2020.

New York Yankees: A+
The Yankees are leaving this winter with the biggest signing of the offseason — both literally and figuratively — as they signed top free agent Gerrit Cole to a record-breaking $324 million deal. Cole, the Yankees’ “white whale,” should become a permanent fixture as the team’s ace, and the right-hander is going to be an immediate boost to their rotation as the club hopes to return to the World Series for the first time since 2009.

Aside from the Cole signing, the Yankees also brought back outfielder and the longest tenured Yankee, Brett Gardner on a one-year deal. Despite losing shortstop Didi Gregorius to the Phillies via free agency, the Yankees will bring back most of their core in 2020.

Baltimore Orioles: D-
There’s not a whole lot to discuss about the Orioles’ offseason. The rebuilding club made their biggest trade of the winter when they sent Jonathan Villar to the Miami Marlins and got left-hander Easton Lucas in return. Their most notable free agent signing was inking shortstop Jose Iglesias to a one-year, $3 million deal. Other than that, the club made a few other minor trades and Rule 5 gets, but Baltimore will likely be in the same spot as last season: stuck in last place with 100 or more losses.

Toronto Blue Jays: B+
The Blue Jays are really working on setting themselves up for future success. The Jays revamped their rotation to pair with their young core group of position players. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark and Shun Yamaguchi will all be pitching in Toronto in 2020. There was also the low-risk Travis Shaw signing, who they’ll hope to get a bounce-back season from.

Tampa Bay Rays: C
The Rays didn’t make any huge moves, but they got a few well-balanced trades and signings done this winter to improve. They’ll likely be successful again next season, falling somewhere in the near 90 wins once again, but it’s going to be tough for the club to get far in the postseason. A quick round up of Tampa Bay’s moves: signed free agent Yoshitomo Tsutsugo from Japan on a two-year, $12 million deal, traded outfielder Tommy Pham to the Padres for outfielder Hunter Renfroe and top prospect shortstop Xavier Edwards, acquired Jose Martinez from the Cardinals, and traded for outfielder Manuel Margot from the Padres in exchange for reliever Emilio Pagan.

AL Central

Cleveland Indians: D
The Indians sent longtime ace Corey Kluber to the Rangers, and barely made any significant additions this winter. All the while, star shortstop Francisco Lindor was mentioned in trade rumors but appears set to open another season in Cleveland. The Indians signed both second baseman Cesar Hernandez and outfielder Domingo Santana to one-year deals. In return for Kluber, the Indians received right-hander Emmanuel Clase and outfielder Delino DeShields. While the White Sox and Twins improved for the 2020 season, Cleveland is going to struggle in a division where it won three straight titles from 2016 to 2018.

Chicago White Sox: A
There’s a lot to like from the White Sox’s moves this offseason. They signed top free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal, left-hander Dallas Keuchel, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, left-hander Gio Gonzalez and right-hander Steve Cishek. The club also acquired outfielder Nomar Mazara via trade with the Rangers. Their 2019-20 winter moves might just be enough for them to dethrone the Twins in the AL Central — or at least get to the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Kansas City Royals: N/A
Not much to discuss regarding the rebuilding Royals. They signed reliever Trevor Rosenthal to a minor league deal, signed third baseman Maikel Franco to a one-year deal and brought back Alex Gordon on a one-year deal.

Minnesota Twins: A
The Twins may very well win the AL Central once again. They re-tooled their rotation (re-signed Michael Pineda and Jake Odorizzi; signed Rich Hill and Homer Bailey, traded for Kenta Maeda) this offseason. Their strategy in 2020, however, might just be to out-slug opponents. The Josh Donaldson signing certainly helps in that department. He’ll join a lineup that includes five players with at least 30+ home runs: designated hitter Nelson Cruz (41), right fielder Max Kepler (36), third baseman Miguel Sano (34), left fielder Eddie Rosario (32) and catcher Mitch Garver (31). Donaldson, 34, himself hit .259/.379/.521 with 37 homers in 2019 with the Braves.

Detroit Tigers: N/A
It was a quiet winter in Detroit, one so dormant it doesn’t warrant a grade. The Tigers signed first baseman C.J. Cron, right-hander Ivan Nova and catcher Austin Romine. It will probably be another long summer in Motown.

AL West

Texas Rangers: B
The Rangers’ moves should be enough to keep them competitive in 2020, and at the very least, they’ll keep things interesting in the AL West. Texas will enter the season with a rotation that includes the new additions of Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles. Plus, they signed left-hander Joely Rodriguez, catcher Robinson Chirinos and third baseman Todd Frazier. Those moves could be enough to end the club’s streak of three straight sub-.500 seasons.

Seattle Mariners: N/A
Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto didn’t continue his 2018-19 offseason trend of nonstop trades, therefore there’s not a whole lot to talk about. Seattle did trade catcher Omar Narvaez to Brewers for right-hander Adam Hill and a draft pick and they acquired left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. from the Yankees in exchange for international signing bonus pool money, but that’s about it.

Los Angeles Angels: B
After losing out in the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes, the Angels managed to sign the best position player on the market in Anthony Rendon. He’ll be a huge upgrade for the Angels lineup, one that already includes Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. The Angels might not have fully addressed their lack of pitching depth, but when you combine the Rendon signing with the less splashy Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy signings, it’s still a productive offseason for the Angels.

Houston Astros: F
Where to start? The sign-stealing scandal? The lack of remorse for aforementioned sign-scandal? It was a mess and a half of an offseason for the Astros, and based on opponents’ reactions, their role of baseball’s villains will likely continue through the 2020 season. On the front office side of things, the Astros lost their GM and manager in the fallout of the sscandal. Dusty Baker and James Click were chosen to take the available jobs

In terms of their roster, there’s the obvious loss of Gerrit Cole as well as right-hander Will Harris, outfielder Jake Marisnick, right-hander Collin McHugh, right-hander Wade Miley and right-hander Aaron Sanchez. Houston did re-sign catcher Martin Maldonado after losing catcher Robinson Chirinos to the Rangers and added a trio of right-handers in Jared Hughes, Austin Pruitt and Joe Smith.

Oakland Athletics: C
Per usual, the A’s were not involved in any talks for the big free agents this winter. While the spending stayed sparse, Oakland managed to pick up outfielder Buddy Reed and catcher Austin Allen in the Jurickson Profar trade with the Padres and traded for Tony Kemp from the Cubs. Oakland also signed left-hander Jake Diekman to a two-year, $7.5 million deal. It’s decent, but probably not enough to hang with the Angels and Rangers in 2020.

What do you think of the grades? Do you agree or disagree?