Clearly the winners and losers of this Major League Baseball offseason will not be decided until the 2012 season has concluded. Only then can statistics and standings provide final judgment on the quality of decisions made between November and April.
Based on what is known about the players taken and the moves made, here are some of the best and worst off seasons thus far in the MLB.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Simply put, you cannot be considered anything but a winner when you manage to land a once-in-a-lifetime player like Albert Pujols. He instantly upgrades an offense, which for years, seemed like an offense one great hitter away from being great.
Kendry Morales was that guy, until a season-ending injury put his future production in doubt. If Morales can make a healthy return in 2012, posting similar numbers to the ones he was on track to post last season, this lineup could be one of the top three in the American League.
In addition to adding Pujols, the Angels were also able to land CJ Wilson, who will step into an already strong pitching staff after a dominant year for the Texas Rangers in 2011.
The Angels were also able to shore up other holes on the roster. They brought in Jorge Cantu, who should prove to be a nice piece off the bench.
They completed a trade with Colorado to bring in Chris Iannetta, and they were also able to sign Latroy Hawkins to help improve an already talented bullpen.
With these moves, the Angels certainly have to be considered World Series contenders moving into 2012.
The Cincinnati Reds are another team that fell a few pieces away from being a very competitive team.
In an offseason where division rivals Milwaukee and St. Louis lost, arguably, their biggest sluggers in Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, respectively, the Reds were able to hold on to their biggest assets, while also making some key additions to assure they will vie for a playoff spot in 2012.
The first big splash came when, after nearly a month of speculation, GM Walt Jocketty pulled the trigger on a deal that sent a package of four players to San Diego in return for Mat Latos, a player the Reds expect to become a staff ace. The price for Latos was heavy, but more so in prospects than in MLB talent.
After they made the move to acquire a No. 1 starter, the Reds then filled the closer’s role, which was recently vacated by incumbent Francisco Cordero, by pulling off, what many thought impossible – they landed closer Ryan Madson, with only a one year commitment.
It had previously been thought that Madson would seek a deal akin to that of Jonathan Papelbon’s four-year, $44 million deal inked earlier in the offseason.
Madson provides a great option at closer and the team will not be stuck with money wrapped up in him for years to come.
Finally, in a trade with the Cubs, the Reds were able to land Sean Marshall, the stellar young bullpen arm, who will certainly provide this club with a stellar middle reliever who has been nothing short of dominant each of the last two seasons.
It seems that every year the Nats’ are speculated to be players for every big name on the market, and every year, it seems, those players pass up Washington to go and play elsewhere.
This year, however, Washington got its man (well, one of them anyway).
In a blockbuster trade, the Nationals instantly improved their rotation with the addition of Gio Gonzalez from Oakland.
The lefty starter has been great the last two seasons, and he provides a consistent top of the rotation starter that has been sorely lacking in Washington.
To further improve their rotation, the Nationals recently signed free agent Edwin Jackson, which holds the same benefit for Washington as does the Madson signing for Cincinnati, as it is only a one-year obligation.
With these two moves, the recent resigning of John Lannon, and factoring in Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman, the rotation in Washington figures to be exponentially better than in recent years.
In an NL East that is teeming with offensive power, it seems the Nationals have finally decided to step up to the level of competition. They may yet struggle at the plate, but at least they will keep opponents in check.
New York Mets
The Mets making this list should not come as a shock to most. In a division where the talent-level is rapidly expanding, and in an offseason in which this team lost arguably their best player, the Mets, frankly, did very little to help themselves improve.
The most notable additions to the team have been the pickups of Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch to improve the back end of their bullpen. However, besides those two pitchers, the Mets have done nothing of any note.
It is unclear what the strategy is in New York right now, but with Jose Reyes now a Marlin, and with the aforementioned improvement of the Nationals’ pitching staff, the Mets could very quickly find themselves in the basement of the NL East in 2012.
This team is, probably, the most arguable addition to this list, but here is the reasoning.
The Marlins’ decided to bulk up their club to compete with the likes of Philadelphia and Atlanta in the NL East this off season.
To do this, they made big splashes early in the free agent market, landing closer Heath Bell and shortstop Jose Reyes.
Since bringing in Reyes, there has been constant speculation about the state of the clubhouse because Hanley Ramirez did not take too kindly to the idea of moving to third base to accommodate the team' new acquisition, and he did so publicly.
Furthermore, Reyes ended the year as controversial figure in New York after he pulled himself out of a game at the end of the year to maintain a batting title.
On top of all of this, the Marlins also brought in Ozzie Guillen to manage the club.
The contention here is that you can only fit so many egos into a clubhouse before something gives. If they all find harmony and work together, the results could be fantastic. The chances of that happening, however, are very slim.
For as beautiful a ballpark, and as ardent a fan base, as the Houston Astros possess, there has been next to nothing to get excited about with this club for quite some time, and if the fans were restless exiting 2011, I cannot even imagine how they’re coping now.
Going into this offseason, there was a lot of discussion about trying to move big contracts, such as Carlos Lee and Wandy Rodriguez, in an attempt to begin retooling for the future.
Now four months into the offseason, and only a few weeks away from spring training, the most remarkable move they made sent what was probably their best closer candidate to the Boston Red Sox, and in return, they acquired utility man Jed Lowrie, who has been considered a bust to this point in his career, and Kyle Weiland, a 25-year-old minor league pitcher who posted a 7.66 ERA in seven major league appearances last season.
When teams like the Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics have made smart moves to add plenty of future talent to their club, the Astros have, by all accounts, done almost nothing to change what was an awful team in 2011.
Also, it doesn’t help that they received news this offseason that as soon as 2013, the team will be dealing with the likes of the Angels and Rangers in a tough AL West.