Let's focus on the teams that probably won't "win" the offseason. To tell the truth, they're not even trying, at least not when it comes to the free agents commanding the most money.This month has delivered a series of big, splashy moves. That said, plenty of other teams have also
Let's focus on the teams that probably won't "win" the offseason. To tell the truth, they're not even trying, at least not when it comes to the free agents commanding the most money.
This month has delivered a series of big, splashy moves. That said, plenty of other teams have also gotten better.
Check out last offseason when a string of under-the-radar moves had huge impacts on getting teams to the postseason: Mike Napoli (Indians), Mark Trumbo (Orioles), Ian Desmond (Rangers) and Joe Blanton (Dodgers), among others.
Those deals raised pretty much zero eyebrows, nor were they seen as game-changers. But they were more impactful than a bunch of the bigger-ticket players who signed.
Almost every season, we look back on a handful of teams that slipped below the offseason radar but still improved themselves.
Let's look at five of them:
General manager Billy Eppler has had a tremendous offseason, acquiring Danny Espinosa to play second base, Cameron Maybin to play left field and right-hander Jesse Chavez for the pitching staff.
Eppler would still like to acquire another starting pitcher or two, and perhaps an extra outfielder. But he has done enough already to perhaps insert the Angels into the American League West race.
The Astros may be a bit better than every other team at this point, but the Angels feel great about where they are. If the medical reports on Garrett Richards continue to be positive, the Halos have quietly put themselves in the mix for a postseason berth.
Jerry Dipoto has had an amazing first 15 months as general manager in Seattle. In a whirlwind first offseason last year, he reshaped the Mariners with 25 trades, then later watched them improve by 10 games, to 86-76.
Dipoto has made seven more trades this offseason, including one with the D-backs in which he received shortstop Jean Segura to put atop his lineup.
Segura led the National League with 203 hits last season for Arizona, and Seattle manager Scott Servais will place him in front of his big sluggers -- Robinson Canó, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.
Dipoto also acquired Danny Valencia to platoon with Dan Vogelbach at first base, and Mitch Haniger, 25, to compete for playing time in the outfield. Carlos Ruiz will provide both clubhouse leadership and depth behind starting catcher Mike Zunino. Dipoto is still shopping for pitching, but the Mariners remain firmly on an upward arc.
The Brewers won 17 of their last 30 games in 2016, thanks to a pitching staff that had a 3.16 ERA in that span, tops in the NL for the final five weeks. As general manager David Stearns continues to build around youth, he has added two left-handed bats that will have an immediate impact in 2017 -- third baseman Travis Shaw and first baseman Eric Thames. He also acquired catcher Jett Bandy from the Angels.
With Jonathan Villar shifting from short to second and Orlando Arcia taking over at short, the Brewers' lineup will be deeper, and potentially better, in 2017. Stearns is far from done. He's open to trading left fielder Ryan Braun for more youth, but in just more than a year on the job, he's quickly putting Milwaukee in position to compete for a playoff berth.
The Padres are playing the long-term game, which means stockpiling young players. This is what general manager A.J. Preller has always done best. There's still work to do, but San Diego is headed in the right direction.
Padres fans will see plenty of Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Austin Hedges in 2017. Last week, San Diego got the top three picks of the Rule 5 Draft, and all of its selections will have a chance to play in 2017.
"They're all guys that our scouting group really likes, guys we've been tracking for a while now," Preller said.
Preller took the same approach a year ago by getting four players in the Rule 5 Draft, then seeing two of them -- right fielder Jabari Blash and right-hander Luis Perdomo -- become contributors.
Plus, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, the Padres have signed 20-year-old Cuban right-hander Michel Baez, and his 95-mph fastball, for $3 million. San Diego has spent more than $35 million on 40 international prospects since July 2. That money should eventually pay dividends. Regardless, the Padres will be younger and more interesting in 2017.
The D-backs have a chance to contend in a tough NL West in 2017, and that's maybe not what fans expect after a 93-loss season. But with outfielders A.J. Pollock and David Peralta healthy, and with an assortment of talented young pitchers, Arizona could get better quickly.
Meanwhile, the D-backs' new administration -- general manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo -- is off to a fast start. First, they added a pair of high-ceiling young players in right-hander Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte. They also signed veteran closer Fernando Rodney and catcher Jeff Mathis.
Hazen would still like to add bullpen depth, but with one of the best players in the game -- first baseman Paul Goldschmidt -- and impressive young pitching depth -- Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley, Patrick Corbin -- behind Zack Greinke, Arizona could be in the mix in the NL West.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @richardjustice.