We’re roughly halfway through the offseason, and that means it’s way too early -- ridiculously early, really -- to start compiling a list of winners. We’re doing it anyway, because lots of people are feeling great about things. Looking at you, Gerrit Cole.
Now back to business. Yes, this offseason has all kinds of unfinished business, and speaking of Donaldson, here’s hoping he takes his good sweet time picking a new team because we love the suspense.
Check out our first (but not last) nine offseason winners:
Let’s not overthink things. When a team that just won 103 games adds one of the most dominant starting pitchers on the planet (Gerrit Cole), that’s the very definition of winning an offseason. In slotting Cole atop their rotation, the Yankees will go to Spring Training in a familiar position: As favorites to win their 28th World Series.
2. Gerrit Cole
Isn’t this how the system is designed to work? After two absolutely dominant seasons with the Astros, Cole hit free agency at 29 and got a record-setting nine-year, $324 million contract. That’s by far the largest contract any pitcher has ever gotten and the highest average annual salary ($36 million) for any player regardless of position.
3. Mike Hazen
The D-backs’ president of baseball operations seems about three steps ahead of his competitors at times. In the last year, he has played the long game beautifully, swapping Paul Goldschmidt for two young cornerstones in the offseason (catcher Carson Kelly and right-hander Luke Weaver) and sending Zack Greinke -- whose contract had seemed untradable at times -- to the Astros this past July for a bevy of prospects, including first baseman Seth Beer, who is ranked by MLB Pipeline as their No. 4 prospect. The D-backs still won 85 games along the way, and then Hazen just landed Madison Bumgarner this weekend with a five-year, $85 million contract that gives him the flexibility to deal lefty Robbie Ray -- who is a year from free agency -- and address other areas.
Strasburg opted out of a contract that would have paid him $100 million over the next four seasons, and let’s be diplomatic when we say that seemed like a risky move couple of months ago. It would have been at the time. The World Series MVP got a new contract from the Nationals that includes an additional three seasons and another $145 million.
In an 18-day stretch, Texas' rotation was transformed from a problem area into one of the best in franchise history. General manager Jon Daniels worked the edges of free agency in signing Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles, then on Sunday acquired two-time Cy Young Award-winner Corey Kluber from the Indians. He’ll join Mike Minor and Lance Lynn to give the Rangers a dramatically different look. Daniels still needs a third baseman and a center fielder, but his offseason is off to a great start.
There may not be a happier player than Moustakas, who finally landed a multiyear contract in his third venture into free agency. Widely respected for his production, work ethic, and professionalism, Moustakas found a chilly free-agent market after the 2017 and '18 seasons. He signed two one-year deals before landing a four-year, $64 million contract with the Reds this month.
Rendon's seven-year, $245-million deal with the Angels came together in a matter of hours last week and was a surprise since the team seemed completely focused on acquiring starting pitching. That’s still a priority, but the opportunity to put Rendon and Mike Trout back-to-back in their lineup was too tempting to pass up. As for Rendon, he said the Halos offered everything he could have hoped for.
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has put his team in a solid position to win the National League East for a third straight season by a series of moves that upgraded his rotation (Cole Hamels), strengthened the bullpen (Will Smith) and added a solid veteran catcher (Travis d'Arnaud). He would check his last box by re-signing Donaldson to play third again.
How about quality over quantity? The Phillies have made two solid signings in getting right-hander Zack Wheeler and shortstop Didi Gregorius, and while they’ve surprised us in the past, this could be the end of the offseason’s heavy lifting. What the Phils need now is a little bit of luck in keeping their core players healthy and finding out how they stack up in the NL East.