Which team was the big winner at the 2015 winter meetings? I guess you could point to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who signed Zack Greinke just before everyone got to Nashville and then traded for Shelby Miller. Granted, everyone seems to think they paid too much for Greinke and gave up too much for Miller, but they do seem to be better off for 2016.
I’d point to the Chicago Cubs: Signing John Lackey (again, just before the meetings began) and then signing Ben Zobrist in Nashville, Tennessee, while trading Starlin Castro for swingman Adam Warren. Good moves for a club looking to build upon its playoff success of 2015.
Beware, however: Winning in December isn’t a guarantee of winning when it counts. Here are some of the teams deemed winners at the past few winter meetings:
San Diego Padres — The Matt Kemp trade was agreed upon during the winter meetings and officially finalized a week later. The same day, the Padres acquired Derek Norris, and a day later, GM A.J. Preller acquired Wil Myers and Justin Upton in a whirlwind of activity. “This team needed offense. This team needed presence. This team needed a star to serve as the foundation and to build everything around. And that’s exactly what Matt Kemp is,” wrote Richard Justice at Sports on Earth. The Padres did score 115 more runs than in 2014 — and dropped from 77 wins to 74.
Final 2015 record: 74-88 (-3 vs. 2014)
Chicago Cubs — Having already brought in Joe Maddon as manager, the Cubs signed Jon Lester and Jason Hammel and traded for Miguel Montero during the winter meetings. All three had solid seasons and, combined with the exploits of Jake Arrieta and all those rookies, the Cubs improved from 73 wins to 97.
Final 2015 record: 97-65 (+24 vs. 2014)
Detroit Tigers — After the Tigers acquired Yoenis Cespedes for Rick Porcello, Justice gave the Tigers an A for this trade. Grant Bisbee of SB Nation also gave the Tigers an A for this trade (and the Red Sox as well). “I think we’ve got a real good club,” said then-Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski. The Tigers finished in last place and Dombrowski got fired. The Red Sox? They finished under .500, and their GM got fired, too.
Final 2015 record: 74-88 (-16 vs. 2014)
Chicago White Sox — The White Sox signed Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke just before the winter meetings and then left San Diego with Jeff Samardzija and David Robertson. “They’re good,” one exec told ESPN’s Jayson Stark. “Really good. They’ll be no fun to play.” They later signed Melky Cabrera. The White Sox improved from 73 wins all the way to — 76 wins.
Final 2015 record: 76-86 (+3 vs. 2014)
Chicago White Sox — A lot occurred before the winter meetings, so not much actually happened in Orlando, Florida. Having already inked Jose Abreu, the White Sox traded for center fielder Adam Eaton as part of a three-team deal, a trade everyone loved for the White Sox. Eaton has been a solid contributor, and the White Sox did improve from 63 wins to 73 wins.
Final 2014 record: 73-89 (+10 vs. 2013)
New York Mets — The Mets signed Curtis Granderson to mixed reviews, but everybody gave a thumbs-up to the two-year, $20 million contract given to Bartolo Colon. Jesse Spector of Sporting News called the Mets one of the winners of the winter meetings: “By being willing to add a second year to their offer, the Mets were able to bring in Bartolo Colon, the best player to change addresses this week.” Guess it was a slow week. The moves obviously paid big dividends in 2015, as the Mets reached the World Series.
Final 2014 record: 79-83 (+5 vs. 2013)
Washington Nationals — The Doug Fister trade with the Tigers drew rave reviews, as did the minor acquisitions of Nate McLouth and Jerry Blevins. The latter two didn’t do anything, but Fister went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA in 2014 as the Nationals won 96 games before folding in the playoffs.
Final 2014 record: 96-66 (+10 vs. 2013)
Los Angeles Angels: Most of the big free agents signed after the winter meetings, but the Angels needed pitching help and signed Ryan Madson to be their closer, signed Sean Burnett to help in the bullpen and signed Joe Blanton for the rotation. Sporting News called them a winter meetings winner. Madson didn’t pitch well, Burnett pitched just 9⅔ innings, and Blanton went 2-14 with a 6.04 ERA. Later, they would sign Josh Hamilton. Oops. The Angels declined from 89 to 78 wins.
Final 2013 record: 78-84 (-11 vs. 2012)
Interestingly, one team viewed as a winter meetings loser was the Boston Red Sox. “So while the general consensus was that the Red Sox overpaid this week for Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, let’s remember something: They had plenty of money to spend, a slew of holes to fill and limited options to shop for,” Stark wrote. Victorino had a huge season, and the Red Sox went on to win the World Series (although the final two years of Victorino’s contract weren’t pretty).
Miami Marlins — Remember the big splash they made? They signed Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell, although some felt they did overpay for those guys. The Marlins had gone 72-90 in 2011. In 2012 they went 69-93, and Reyes and Buehrle were shipped off to Toronto as owner Jeffrey Loria threw a fit.
Final 2012 record: 69-93 (-3 vs. 2011)
Boston Red Sox — The Red Sox were the consensus winners, having signed free-agent outfielder Carl Crawford to a $142 million contract and trading for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and signing him to an extension. “Nothing triggers a spending spree like finishing in third place and missing the playoffs,” wrote Steve Henson of Yahoo Sports. The Red Sox lost Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre to free agency “but replaced them with better players” in Crawford and Gonzalez. The Red Sox improved from 89 wins to — 90, collapsing down the stretch and missing the playoffs. In 2012, the Red Sox were happy to trade Crawford and Gonzalez to the Dodgers. Since signing with the Red Sox? Crawford has been worth 4.4 WAR, easily making it one of the worst contracts in major league history.
Final 2011 record: 90-72 (+1 vs. 2010)
Chicago White Sox — The White Sox signed free agent Adam Dunn and re-signed Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski. They declined from 88 wins to 79. Maybe it’s time to stop praising the White Sox’s offseason moves.
Final 2011 record: 79-83 (-9 vs. 2010)