5 clubs having under-the-radar offseasons
At some point next season, we will remind ourselves that it's almost never about winning the offseason. We will slap our foreheads and shake our heads just like we do every summer. We are slow learners.
Your humble correspondent is getting out in front of this topic. Good, smart baseball work doesn't always grab the headlines, and plenty of teams have gotten better this offseason. Some of their work has slipped under the radar.
So before we get fooled again -- Peter Townshend, anyone? -- here are five teams that have had very solid, very underrated offseasons:
Oh sure, Jordan Zimmermann was the kind of impact signing that gets everyone's attention. That's adding 33 starts and 200 innings to the rotation, an addition that goes a long way toward getting the Tigers back to October.
Less noticed has been a series of small moves by general manager Al Avila that may have transformed Detroit's bullpen from a weakness into a strength.
The Tigers' bullpen ranked 27th in ERA the past two seasons, but that's unlikely to be the case after the acquisitions of Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson.
Throw those two guys into a 'pen that will have Alex Wilson, Blaine Hardy and Drew VerHagen returning from last season. That's a veteran closer (Rodriguez), two left-handers (Wilson and Hardy) and three other quality arms. All of a sudden, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus will have more late-inning options than he has had the past two seasons.
2. Blue Jays
Some have focused on David Price's departure, and he represents a sizable loss. However, the Blue Jays have taken his $30 million 2016 salary and spread it over three quality arms -- Jesse Chavez, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada. They'll make around $28 million and could reasonably be expected to pitch 500 innings.
Toronto will have Marcus Stroman at the front of that rotation. R.A. Dickey and Drew Hutchison figure into the mix as well. And there's always the option of moving Aaron Sanchez into the rotation. After all the comings and goings, this might still be the American League East's best rotation.
The Nats went hard for Jason Heyward a year after signing Max Scherzer. And with Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes still unsigned, Washington could still make a splash. But general manager Mike Rizzo has done very nice working in adding four arms to his bullpen: Trevor Gott, Shawn Kelley, Oliver Perez and Yusmeiro Petit.
If Rizzo is able to trade Jonathan Papelbon and/or Drew Storen, he will be in the market for a closer. But if he decides to stay the course with these six arms, the Nationals will have a nice assortment of stuff and experience. And Rizzo's roster isn't a finished product.
Jerry Dipoto has been baseball's busiest general manager, furiously remaking his club in his first months on the job. The Mariners still need their three biggest stars -- Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez and Nelson Cruz -- to have big years, but he has significantly shored up the supporting cast by adding help at first base (Adam Lind), the outfield (Nori Aoki and Leonys Martin), rotation (Wade Miley and Nathan Karns), catcher (Chris Iannetta) and bullpen (Joaquin Benoit and Evan Scribner).
GM Billy Beane has been especially quiet when compared to his usual offseason. That is, he hasn't made a single, gigantic roster-changing trade. But he has nevertheless been busy while positioning himself to do even more.
The A's could take the leap back into contention next season if they're healthy. But Beane has shored up the bullpen with the addition of Liam Hendriks and Marc Rzepczynski. With closer Sean Doolittle healthy again, they could create formidable late-inning options for manager Bob Melvin.