Every week during the 2017 season, we checked in with California’s five MLB teams. Now that the Eric Hosmer is headed to Peoria and Padres camp, we’re putting our hands on the range to see which of the Golden State’s five franchises had the hottest of an exceptionally cold offseason.
Welcome back to baseball after one of the longest, most strife-addled offseasons in recent history. More than 100 guys who were good enough to play baseball last year don’t have jobs this year, and that lack of free agent action meant that following the fortunes of California’s five MLB teams was like watching paint dry outside of a few big splashes. While the 25-man rosters aren’t quite set, let’s look at who won the offseason so far in the Golden State:
The Gene Autry Big Spender Award for most payroll added: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Halos only paid about $2.3 million plus a league-minimum salary for Japanese pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani, but the additions of 2B Ian Kinsler ($11 million/yr) and 3B Zack Cozart ($12.6 million/yr), plus an extension for Justin Upton ($21 million/yr) make Anaheim California’s spend-iest team. It’s all the more impressive, because Mike Trout is making $34 million in good money, while Albert Pujols is making $29 million is unspeakably bad money. It’s not like the Angels were bottomed-out and awash with unspent cash.
The Lew Wolff “We like to keep the money on the field” Award for least payroll added: The Oakland Athletics (of course). Righty reliever Yusmeiro Petit got $10 million over the next two seasons and that’s basically it for the Coliseum’s soon-to-be sole remaining renter. However, it looks like $10 million really, really well spent. Every one of Petit’s numbers are tracking in the right direction as he heads toward his mid-30s, with a career-high in appearances (60), career low in ERA (2.76), and a career-best 5.61 SO/W rate. Billy Beane is the guy who somehow finds a rare Beanie Baby in the bargain bin on the way to your 8-year old’s birthday party to defend his title as coolest uncle.
Most additions: The Angels added five new big league faces to the roster—Ohtani, Kinsler, Cozart, catcher Rene Rivera, and reliever Jim Johnson.
Fewest additions: The Los Angeles Dodgers, meanwhile, added just two big leaguers to their (stacked) roster—relievers Scott Alexander and Tom Koehler. Both are big-time strikeout guys who also excel at walking people, which is, you know, not ideal. Still, Alexander is considered to be a breakout candidate, which the Dodgers will need, because…
Biggest loss: Reliever Brandon Morrow is gone from LA’s bullpen, off to Chicago to help rebuild a Cubs back-end that could use the help. In his lone season as a Dodger, the Cal grad and California native was a human momentum killer for the opposition, a sure hand throwing 5.56 SO/W who could stabilize a shaky staff in the eventual handoff to Kenley Jansen, or finish games in critical non-save situations when Jansen, whose workload can greatly expand in the playoffs, needed to rest his arm. On top of that, Morrow is a coach’s son and somebody who has overcome injury after injury to produce at a high level. He’s exactly the kind of guy you want on a team with as many big personalities and distractions as the Dodgers.
Biggest get: Ohtani. The Angels bought themselves the hottest prospect in the whole sport, bought credibility in the eyes of a skeptical fanbase, bought a promise to Trout that he won’t have to go it alone until his free agency starts in fall 2020, and maybe most importantly, bought themselves a pitcher worth $200 million, all for $2.3 million and a regular-ass six year rookie free agent deal that’ll pay him a little better than half a million a season. If Ohtani pitches as well as analysts think he will, the deal is a steal. If he hits as well as he thinks he can in limited action as a DH, the deal could be the greatest in baseball history. There’s simply no understating how big landing Ohtani was for the Angels.
Biggest headscratcher: In December, the San Diego Padres brought 33-year old Chase Headley (1.8 WAR last year) back from the Yankees to play his very questionable brand of third base at Petco Park this season. Cory Spangenberg (-.1 WAR last year), a 26-year old who is also uninspiring around the bag and worse at the plate, manned the hot corner last season for the Pads. Spangenberg has a lot of positional flexibility, but there wasn’t a glaring need to improve the position and anyway Headley probably isn’t the answer in anything other than the very, very short term. Perhaps his presence on a young club is worth the $12 million difference between he and Spangenberg, but his value isn’t outwardly apparent.
Notes: Was it all worth it, Eric Hosmer? The new Padres 1B apparently had his San Diego offer in December, and then waited and waited through baseball’s interminable and desperately cheap offseason before accepting it. With only three years of a no-trade clause and front-loaded money, Hoz’s $144 million seemed to trade compensation for any security as he transitions into his 30s. This deal was built to flip… The San Francisco Giants are ready to win the 2012 World Series again after the signings of 3B Evan Longoria and OF Andrew McCutcheon. While they did get better, this team lost 98 games last year. Two guys on the back nine aren’t fixing that… One thing to remember about the Dodgers’ quiet offseason: Cody Bellinger will be 22 this year, Corey Seager 24, Joc Pederson 26, Alex Verdugo 22, and Julio Urias will be 21 if he makes it back from injury by this summer. This team still has a ton of in-house improvements coming.