By Kevin York
Earlier this month, pitchers and catchers reported, marking the official preseason start of baseball season. It seemed like there were a lot of offseason moves, so to kick off the beginning of baseball season, let’s look at some of the most interesting. Notice I didn’t say the best offseason moves or the worst offseason moves. I just want to discuss the most interesting moves.
The Upton brothers, Atlanta – The Braves signed B.J. Upton to their largest free agent contract ever. That’s right. Ever. Think about some of the people that have put that Atlanta uniform on. Dale Murphy, Greg Maddox, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones. Upton’s contract bettered all of them. That’s significant. Nearly equally significant is that Atlanta gave up five players in a trade to acquire B.J.’s brother, Justin. They now have one of the top leadoff men (the top?) in the game and a quality bat in the middle of the order.
Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, Toronto – The Blue Jays’ trade with the Marlins showed the league that they’re serious about winning now, tired of being overshadowed by their AL East brethren for years. Should be their first really good year since the first Cito Gaston tenure.
R.A. Dickey, Toronto – Noticing a theme here? The 1-2-3 combo of Dickey paired with Johnson and Buehrle forms possibly the strongest top of the order in the league.
James Shields and Wade Davis, Kansas City – The Royals decided to go for it. For years they labored with their strong farm system, waiting for young players to develop and hoping they’d be able to get enough production out of them before they got too good and priced themselves out of Kansas City’s price range. The trade for Shields and and Davis, in exchange for promising young talent, shows they’ve decided to go for it now in a weak division instead of waiting for potential talent to develop. Adding Ervin Santana to its rotation helps as well.
Zach Greinke, Los Angeles – The Dodgers continued to spend money, picking up Greinke in the offseason and adding him to a rotation that already includes Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett. To round out the rotation, LA can choose from Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano and Aaran Harang. This has the potential to be a pretty dangerous rotation to compete with division rival San Francisco. As Eric Stephen notes in this article which lists Bill James‘ predictions for the Dodger starters, LA could have their first pair of 200 strikeout pitchers since 2000 in Kershaw and Greinke.
Joakim Soria, Texas – The Rangers already have Joe Nathan as their closer. The signing of Soria gives them possibly the game’s best setup man in front of Nathan, if Soria returns from Tommy John surgery with the same stuff he had prior to it. With its starting rotation again raided in the offseason, it’s vitally important for the Rangers’ bullpen to be strong, especially as its division rival in Anaheim continues to stockpile offensive talent. Soria could provide that added strength.
Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs – The addition of Jackson to Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood actually could give the Cubs a pretty decent rotation. The previous three World Series winners were all teams with good starting pitching, pitching so good that it made up for offensive flaws. Now I’m not crazy enough to put the Cubs in that kind of company (this pitching lineup isn’t close to being as strong as those three World Series teams – they’re not even making the playoffs), but I think they will play better than expected, powered by their starting pitching.
Those are my most interesting moves of the offseason. What did I miss?