Offseason report card: Nats, Twins score high marks
While some teams have significantly improved, D-backs, O's, Cubs post Incompletes
The ball is in the on-deck circle at Times Square, and as usual, there are plenty of useful players still available on the free-agent market. As for trade chips, David Price and Jeff Samardzija remain with the Rays and the Cubs, respectively, and either could change the dynamic for a team bold enough to deal for them.
The Yankees continue to wait on the Alex Rodriguez ruling and have openings in their starting rotation to fill. And, oh yes, Masahiro Tanaka has been posted and could go to any of eight teams, if not more.
These rankings will change before players report to Arizona and Florida. But here's a look at what has been an active, intriguing offseason:
1. The Rangers. When the Rangers were at their most dangerous, they brought thunder down upon the berm in center field. They had lost that intimidation factor, but have taken a major step forward by trading for Prince Fielder and signing on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo, who might hit 20 home runs himself. They let Joe Nathan leave, because Neftali Feliz is healthy and they feel good about Tanner Scheppers and Joakim Soria. And somehow they have more talent on the cusp than they did when the offseason started, adding outfielder Michael Choice to a surplus that includes middle infielders Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas.
2. The Nationals. We knew Doug Fister was under appreciated, but we didn't think that applied to his own organization. He joins Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg to give Washington the National League's deepest rotation. Nate McLouth is nice insurance behind Denard Span.
3. The Mariners. They did what they had to do to take Robinson Cano away from the Yankees. If they're healthy, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison should be productive. And there is at least one or two trades left to be made, with youngsters Justin Smoak, Nick Franklin, Dustin Ackley and Abraham Almonte feeling the squeeze.
4. The White Sox. A lineup in need of a reshuffle got one, with Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson joining Avisail Garcia, who was acquired at the Trade Deadline last July. The challenge now is to trade a middle infielder (Alexei Ramirez or Gordon Beckham) for a catcher, opening up a spot for Southern League MVP Marcus Semien.
5. The Twins. Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes slot into the rotation alongside veterans Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey (re-signed) with guys like Kyle Gibson, Alex Meyer, Sean Gilmartin and Kris Johnson pushing to earn jobs. And believe it or not, the Twins are planning to bid on Tanaka.
1. The Yankees. With Mariano Rivera retiring and Cano and three starting pitchers entering free agency, the deck was stacked against general manager Brian Cashman. Landing Jacoby Ellsbury may have cost him Cano, and while Brian McCann addresses a huge hole, too many questions remain about the pitching staff he'll handle. The Carlos Beltran signing could salvage the winter.
2. The Reds. The Joey Votto contract seems to be doing for the Reds what Joe Mauer's did for the Twins. As close as Cincinnati has been in recent years, there was little money for GM Walt Jocketty to spend. He'll cross his fingers and hope Billy Hamilton can fill the hole left by Choo's departure.
3. The Tigers. Joe Nathan figures to get loud cheers on Opening Day, but he could work 150 innings less than Fister's usual load. The infield sets up better with Miguel Cabrera at first base and Ian Kinsler at second, but Fielder, Omar Infante and Jhonny Peralta will be missed. Signing Max Scherzer to a long-term deal remains a huge priority.
4. The Cardinals. Year in and year out, these guys are best judged over 12 months, not just the offseason. But Beltran leaves a hole in the middle of the order that the addition of Peter Bourjos won't offset, and Peralta arrives with questions about whether he'll be the same guy after his Biogenesis suspension. Chris Carpenter's innings can be easily replaced by the stable of young arms -- Carlos Martinez for a full season in the rotation, yes! -- but his presence will be missed in the way that the Rays' pitching staff missed James Shields last season.
5. The Red Sox. The defending champs could lose three regulars to free agency, with Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia already gone and Stephen Drew one phone call away from leaving. Re-signing Mike Napoli was major, but the onus to produce in 2014 falls on Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr.
1. The Diamondbacks. They added a thumper to hit behind Paul Goldschmidt in Mark Trumbo, but continue to search for a front-of-the-rotation arm to work alongside Patrick Corbin. Addison Reed should be a major piece in the bullpen, either as a setup man or closer.
2. The Orioles. When closer Jim Johnson was offloaded to Oakland, it seemed at least one big move was coming. That hasn't happened, and neither Matt Wieters nor Chris Davis (free agents after 2015) have been extended.
3. The Blue Jays. Executives with other teams expect Toronto to land one of the remaining free-agent starting pitchers, with Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana possibilities. They have two protected first-round picks, which help make it palatable to give up a second-round pick for a free agent. So far, a normally hyperactive front office has made only minor moves, including taking a chance with a two-year deal for catcher Dioner Navarro.
4. The Phillies. Somehow they've gotten older, signing free agents Marlon Byrd ( age 36), Wil Nieves (36) and Roberto Hernandez (33), while re-signing Carlos Ruiz (34). They'd love to unload a veteran or two, but have found no takers for Jimmy Rollins, Jonathan Papelbon or Ryan Howard.
5. The Cubs. Always looking for undervalued players, they've acquired center fielder Justin Ruggiano and pitchers Brett Marshall and Tsuyoshi Wada. But there's been no headline move for Theo Epstein's staff, with a couple possible as they stalk Tanaka and shop Samardzija.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.