Frenetic Winter Meetings had bit of everything
This was riveting to watch. When the Dodgers weren't wheeling during the Winter Meetings in San Diego, the Red Sox were dealing. Then you had everybody else doing much of the same.
I do mean everybody else.
Well, it seemed that way after most of the 30 Major League teams spent the past few days shuffling their rosters to some extent during the most active Winter Meetings in years. In fact, when you look at the whole offseason for 2014, it has been unusually busy.
That's great for baseball. It means the overwhelming majority of the teams in the Major Leagues wish to win, and they wish to do so now.
Speaking of now, here are the top five teams who have done the best during this epidemic of makeovers throughout the game from the end of the regular season through the Winter Meetings.
How badly do the Cubs wish to capture their first World Series championship since the turn of the century -- you know, the last one, not this one? They hired Joe Maddon, the ultimate miracle worker as a manager.
That's enough right there to put the Cubs at the top of this list.
After just three years on the job, Maddon led the historically awful Rays to an American League pennant, and he kept them vibrant by winning 52 percent of the time during his nine seasons with the small-market team.
The Cubs have more bucks than Tampa Bay, and they showed as much when they gave a six-year deal worth $155 million to Jon Lester. The left-hander was the free-agent prize among pitchers. If that wasn't enough, the Cubs reached farther into their vault for another $20 million to bring Jason Hammel back into the rotation. They also traded for All-Star catcher Miguel Montero.
Sounds like the Cubs kept looking across town while saying to themselves, "If nothing else, we want to stay ahead of the ..."
2. White Sox
Talk about a crosstown rivalry. Even before they continue their battles in Interleague Play next year, the White Sox are almost matching the Cubs for drama regarding offseason maneuvering.
I stress the word "almost."
The White Sox began slowly with the addition of first baseman Adam LaRoche, a solid veteran at the plate and in the field. It's just that he can't pitch, but the bosses of the South Siders took care of that in a hurry.
In a multiplayer trade with Oakland, the White Sox acquired ace starter Jeff Samardzija from the A's to combine with Chris Sale, their holdover ace. I'm sure the White Sox also were aware that Samardzija is a Chicago native and that he started his Major League career with ... the Cubs.
Take that, North Siders.
And those Wrigley Field folks also can take this: The White Sox signed impressive free-agent closer David Robertson. The Cubs get the nod, though, because they have Maddon, and the White Sox don't. Neither do the ...
3. Red Sox
Even without Maddon (and Lester, for that matter), Boston suddenly has a nice starting rotation out of nowhere.
The Red Sox wanted Lester badly, but their Plan B is impressive after they sent Yoenis Cespedes to the Tigers for Rick Porcello, a steady force in Detroit behind the likes of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. The Red Sox also got Justin Masterson and Wade Miley.
Not bad. Even better, the Red Sox used their weeks before the Winter Meetings to pry Pablo Sandoval away from the Giants via free agency. You just know Sandoval will become an inspirational soulmate of David Ortiz as Panda meets Big Papi. Sandoval can hit and field a little, too.
The Red Sox also acquired Hanley Ramirez and his frequently impressive offense from the Dodgers, and they will convert the former shortstop into a left fielder with his blessings.
You just know the Red Sox aren't done.
The same goes for the ...
You almost could swap the Dodgers with the Red Sox at No. 3, because they both have enough pennies to remain a work in progress this winter.
Just like that, the Dodgers changed their whole double-play combination from Dee Gordon and Ramirez to Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, and Los Angeles did so with defense in mind.
Teams think defense when they think pitching. And, as you know, the Dodgers always think pitching, which is why they signed free agent Brandon McCarthy, and which is why they're likely not done.
In addition to getting those four Gold Gloves from Rollins and Kendrick's reputation as a competent fielder, the Dodgers improved defensively by solving their season-long glut of outfielders by moving Matt Kemp to the Padres. That allows the Dodgers to place Joc Pederson in center field and switch Yasiel Puig to his more comfortable spot in right.
The Dodgers already have made at least 11 moves since the end of the season, and that shows they are as serious about an October run as the ...
If you've doubted the Marlins' commitment to winning in the past, all you need to know is that they made slugger Giancarlo Stanton their $325 million man last month, and it was well deserved.
Stanton is baseball's most feared hitter at 25. Then there is Gordon, who, at 26, is one of the most prolific basestealers in the game, which means the Marlins will have a mighty power-speed thing happening here for a while.
In total, the Marlins have made three trades this winter involving 12 players, and among those headed to Miami are starting pitchers Mat Latos from the Reds and Dan Haren from the Dodgers. They'll join a rotation filled with promise, ranging from Henderson Alvarez to Jose Fernandez -- especially if the All-Star right-hander recovers without complications from Tommy John surgery.
I didn't even mention the Blue Jays acquiring Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, or the Mariners getting Nelson Cruz. Plus, the Tigers added to their awesome offense with Cespedes. And despite the A's trading accomplished hitters Brandon Moss and Donaldson for prospects, well, Billy Beane's Moneyball has worked before.
If you're a baseball fan, you've got to love it.
All of it.