Analysis

Coming Out of the Rebuild Mindset: Why This Offseason Has Signaled a Change From Years in the Past

This time last year, there was a strong narrative surrounding the offseason in Major League Baseball. The free agent market highlighted by All-Stars such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel, and Craig Kimbrel was stagnant into March and even into early June. The reasoning behind this was centered on the lack of motivation for many clubs to spend substantial amounts of money towards building a winner for the 2019 season at the big league level. Going into opening day a season ago, it was pretty obvious that the Orioles, Blue Jays, White Sox, Tigers, Royals, Rangers, and Marlins had no intention of making a push to make the postseason. This isn’t saying they were trying to lose ballgames, but their lack of aggressiveness on acquiring MLB ready talent signaled they were still in a rebuilding phase. It became apparent that many front offices were trying to adopt the methods of the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, who completely tore down their rosters in order to gain young talent to lead to a future championship team. This foreshadowed a clear gap between the top teams and bottom dwellers that showed itself as the season played out. There were three 100 win teams and four 100 loss teams, along with an additional six 90 loss teams. Heading into this offseason, the desire for a more active offseason was strong. But many fans questioned its practicality. 

A common thought regarding free agency has been that the best teams are more likely to sign or trade for the best players. Coming off a season where there was a huge discrepancy in the “haves” and the “have-nots,” it would’ve been the best guess that the stars on the market would wind up on postseason teams from 2019. While there are some exceptions (See Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg), most of the aggressiveness has come from the teams who watched the postseason with all of us. The 90 loss Angels signed Anthony Rendon. The .500 Phillies signed Zack Wheeler. The Rangers traded for Corey Kluber. The rebuilding Chicago White Sox signed Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel. The young Toronto Blue Jays went big and paid Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Cincinnati Reds signed Mike Moustakas. The list goes on an on. Outside of the Nationals and Yankees, many of 2019’s contenders have watched the challengers below them rise up. Here’s a visual look at some of the moves the postseason teams have made. 

Team Notable AdditionsNotable Subtractions
AstrosDustin Garneau, Austin PruittGerrit Cole, Robinson Chirinos, Jake Marisnick
Athletics
Jurickson Profar 
BrewersJustin Smoak, Omar Narvaez, Ryon Healy, Eric Sogard, Avisail Garcia, Brett Anderson, Josh Lindblom, Luis Urias, Eric Lauer Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, Eric Thames, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Travis Shaw, Trent Grisham
BravesWill Smith, Cole Hamels, Travis D’ArnaudJosh Donaldson, Julio Teheran, Francisco Cervelli
CardinalsKwang Hyun-KimMarcell Ozuna*, Jose Martinez, Randy Arozerena
DodgersBlake Treinen, Jimmy NelsonHyun-Jin Ryu, Yimi Garcia, JT Chargois 
RaysHunter Renfroe, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Jose Martinez, Randy ArozerenaTommy Pham, Jesus Aguilar, Matt Duffy, Avisail Garcia, Guillermo Heredia, Eric Sogard 
TwinsHomer Bailey, Rich Hill, Josh DonaldsonJason Castro, CJ Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Tyler Clippard, Kyle Gibson, Trevor Hildenberger, Martin Perez

Outside of the Rays and potentially the Braves (although losing Josh Donaldson hurts), it’s hard to think any of these teams have marginally improved this offseason. In addition to these successful teams from last year, big market contenders such as the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs have done little to nothing to improve their respective rosters. In fact, as of January 12th, the Cubs are yet to spend a dollar in free agency towards their big league club. 

Looking back on previous years, the tables have definitely turned in regards to the aggressiveness to improve from the bottom half of the league. Even the Marlins aren’t accepting putrid offense anymore by acquiring Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson, and Jesus Aguilar. The Tigers went out and signed Jonathan Schoop and CJ Cron from their division rival Twins. The emphasis on fielding a more competitive roster is definitely a good thing for the game. Owners and front offices might be reacting to the drop in attendance from losing baseball, but whatever improves the overall quality of the league’s teams has to be satisfactory to the health of our game. Sure, there will still be teams that struggle, but this offseason has been a step in the right direction for fielding a more balanced league.

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