A quick look at how things have changed in Major League Baseball this winter reveals very little: Derek Jeter is still a Yankee, the Phillies once again have a collection of superstars that’s unparalleled in the National League, and the Pirates are still the lowly Pirates. It seems that a few of the already powerful teams simply got stronger and the rest of the league was left to fight for the remaining scraps.
The biggest off-season winners were the Boston Red Sox. By adding outfielder Carl Crawford and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox now have a very intimidating lineup. If injured stars Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia can rebound in 2011, the Red Sox have a very good shot at making a World Series run.
The Yankees missed out on the pitcher they most coveted, Cliff Lee, but retained Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. The Bronx bombers still have a lineup that will make them a force in the AL, but pitching could be their downfall. They prepared for this contingency by signing three big-name pitchers that have declined significantly in recent years. If even one of the risky signings of Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, or Mark Prior end up making an impact and returning to their past form, they will have a competent rotation led once again by C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.
The Angels had a tumultuous off-season, missing out on their major target in Carl Crawford. Although overpaying for Adrian Beltre, who ended up signing with the Rangers, may not have been the right way to compensate for that, it may have represented a better option than taking on the outrageous contract attached to Vernon Wells. The Angels can only hope they’ve kept up with the Yankees and Red Sox, but at this point that seems like a stretch, as they needed to make a splash and failed to do so.
The massive superpower in the National League once again got better as the Phillies added another ace, Cliff Lee, to an exceptional rotation that is now unanimously regarded as the best in the MLB. The Phillies lost Jayson Werth in easily the most perplexing move of the off-season: the Nationals rewarded the only one-time 30+ home run hitter with a seven-year, $126-million contract. Even without Werth, the Phillies have more than enough offensive firepower to provide run support for their dominant pitching staff.
Also in the NL, the World Series champs retooled. They replaced World Series MVP Edgar Renteria with Miguel Tejada, a swap that on paper seems logical due to Tejada’s stronger skills as a power hitter. With a good nucleus of young phenoms like ace Tim Lincecum and catcher Buster Posey along with veteran sluggers like Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff still intact, the Giants look like they could once again be capable of making some noise in the NL. The only thing that has changed from last year is that this time the league will be expecting it.
In an off-season where the familiar contenders dominated the headlines, one could conclude that next season will not be one of change, but then again very few experts were praising the Giants’ off-season a year ago. We will have to wait until summer to determine the true winners and losers of the off-season, but as of now it was one in which the familiar contenders fought each other for the big names that could give them the edge come October.