The Major League Baseball offseason always finds some teams making a big splash by acquiring players in a trade, or signing someone to a surprising contract, like the Angels did with Josh Hamilton after most signs pointed to him staying in Texas.
This year there have been a number of big transactions, especially with trades. Here is a look at some of the best moves made by teams so far this offseason and what they mean for the 2013 campaign.
Toronto Blue Jays make a splash
-Trade for SS Jose Reyes, RHP Josh Johnson, LHP Mark Buehrle, INF Emilio Bonifacio and C John Buck from Miami Marlins for SS Yunel Escobar, RHP Henderson Alvarez, C Jeff Mathis, RHP Anthony DeScalfani, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, CF Jake Marisnick, and LHP Justin Nicolino.
-Trade for Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets for Travis d'Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard
No other team in baseball improved more than the Toronto Blue Jays have so far. The team finished in fourth place in the AL East after going 73-89 and ended up 22 games behind the New York Yankees.
The team and GM Alex Anthopoulos felt they needed to make big moves to gain ground in the division and the Blue Jays did just that by making the trades. Toronto had to part with some top prospects, including catcher Travis d'Arnaud, but at the end of the day, the team is greatly improved.
Although the Yankees won the division in 2012, there's no reason to think that right now the Blue Jays are better by a huge margin on paper. The team has a solid rotation with Johnson, Dickey and Buehrle and now has some extra speed on offense with Reyes and Bonifacio.
Toronto also signed free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera to a two-year contract worth $16 million and still have Edwin Encarnacion, who had a breakout season by hitting 42 home runs with 110 RBIs. The Blue Jays will be set in the division for a few seasons, since most of the players they acquired will be under team control for a number of years.
Johnson will be a free agent soon, but Reyes signed a six-year deal when he signed with Miami, while Buehrle signed a three-year deal. The team signed Dickey to a two-year extension when they signed him a may have a window in the AL East with the Red Sox in a slight rebuilding mode and the Yankees turning into an early retirement home with older players like Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.
Kansas City Royals trade for James Shields
Tampa Bay Rays acquire Wil Myers
-Kansas City receives SP James Shields and RP Wade Davis, Tampa Bay receives OF Wil Myers, SP Jake Odorizzi, SP Mike Montgomery and 3B Patrick Leonard
The Kansas City Royals haven't made the playoffs in 20 years and had to make some sort of move to help step up into the group of teams that will be in contention for 2013. The AL Central isn't an impossible place to win and the Wild Card is an option for lower tier teams after Major League Baseball added a fifth playoff spot this season.
Many writers in the baseball world think the Royals got the bad end of this one because they had to give up prized prospect Wil Myers, but overall as a team, Kansas City improved for 2013. Myers might become a star down the line, but the Royals have been develping its young roster for years and it finaly looking for it to pay off,
The team has brought up Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas as well as Billy Butler and now adds Shields and Davis to a staff that includes Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie. For the trade to truly pay off for the Royals, they will need to make the playoffs in the next two years since Shields will be a free agent after the 2014 season. The Royals are a small-market team, but will have Shields for a decent $9 million in 2013.
The biggest risk for the Royals is treating Shields like a number one starter when he may not actually be one. He pitches deep into games and racks up a number of complete games (14 in his career), but has never been as good for the Rays as David Price has been. Eventually the trade will be judged through the context of how good Myers becomes as a major leaguer.
The Rays made themselves better for the future with the trade, even if it gives the rotation a hit for next season. Myers has been described by scouts as a near-can't miss prospect and as a player who resembles Dale Murphy.
Over the years the Rays have done a great job of acquiring young pitchers and developing them successfully through their system, including with David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Shields. The team adds Myers to a lineup that includes Evan Longoria, but not much else after losing B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena to free agency.
The 21-year-old outfielder was named Minor League Players of the Year in 2012 after hitting .313 with 37 home runs at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha and also played in the MLB Futures Game during the All-Star break.
Last season the Rays finished in third place in the AL East, five games behind the New York Yankees. The Royals finished third in the AL Central with a 72-90 record, 16 games behind the Detroit Tigers.
Boston Red Sox trade for Joel Hanrahan
-Red Sox receive closer Joel Hanrahan and infielder Brock Holt from Pittsburgh for reliever Mark Melancon, pitcher Stolmy Pimentel, infielder Ivan De Jesus and first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands. Along with Hanrahan, the Red Sox also received infielder Brock Holt.
Not the splashiest move of the offseason, but the Red Sox desperately needed to solve their situation at closer after struggling mightily in 2012. The team planned to use Andrew Bailey as closer, but he was injured and only played in 19 games and gave up 12 earned runs while making six saves.
The 31-year-old pitcher will give the Red Sox some consistency in the bullpen and has made the All-Star team in the past two years while earning 76 saves. Boston gave up a nice chunk of prospects, but no one they will truly miss.