SAN DIEGO - We've heard it plenty. "Winning" the offseason often has very little to do with actually beating teams after Opening Day. Look no further than the 2014 Yankees, who spent nearly $500 million last offseason and won 84 games.
The sheer number of transactions -- along with dollars spent -- seems to be unrelated to a club's future success, but hey, at least that gives the impression the front office is trying, right?
At last week's winter meetings, which wrapped up Thursday, we saw a handful of clubs that seemed determined to get most of their shopping done before Christmas, and others content to wait for the clearance sales afterward.
As Sandy Alderson pointed out, there's still two months before spring training begins, so predicting the World Series based on a few December moves doesn't make much sense. What we can do, however, is rate which teams made the most of their brief stay in San Diego and, on the flip side, which teams made us scratch our heads with their inactivity.
Let's call them the Doers and Duds of the winter meetings. Here are the rankings, in order:
1. CUBS. Weird, right? Putting the Cubs at the top of any list? But the North Siders got an early jump on their offseason makeover before the end of October by luring Joe Maddon, and club president Theo Epstein continued that momentum last week. The warm-up was signing Jason Hammel to a two-year, $18-million deal Monday, after trading him in July, and then trading for two-time All-Star catcher Miguel Montero while they were waiting for Jon Lester to make up his mind. When Lester did, finally choosing the Cubs' six-year, $155-million deal over the Red Sox, the week got even better. We're not saying the Cubs are about to end their 106-year title drought, but Vegas now has them at 14-1 odds, better than the Yankees (22-1).
2. DODGERS. Although the Dodgers won 94 games and the NL West title, they didn't hire former Rays visionary Andrew Friedman to preserve the status quo. And Friedman shook things up quickly, pulling off three major moves while the East Coast was sleeping -- and a fourth before the West Coast woke up. The Dodgers got Jimmy Rollins to replace the departed Hanley Ramirez, obtained Howie Kendrick to replace Dee Gordon -- who had been traded to the Marlins hours earlier -- and outbid the Yankees for Brandon McCarthy (four years, $48M). Then, with his bags packed, Friedman sent Matt Kemp to the Padres. That all occurred within a 12-hour span, so we get the sense that Friedman isn't finished this offseason.
3. WHITE SOX. Bringing Notre Dame product and former Cub Jeff Samardzija back to Chicago is a PR victory in itself for the White Sox. Samardzija should bring a few more fans to the South Side and strengthen an already solid rotation that includes Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. Signing former Yankee David Robertson to a four-year, $46-million deal made it clear that the White Sox will be serious players this offseason.
4. RED SOX. Seeing them ultimately whiff on returning Lester to Fenway Park might suggest this was a downer week for the Sox. But it's what GM Ben Cherington did after Lester's defection that made this a very productive trip. Cherington got Wade Miley from the Astros, traded Yoenis Cespedes to the Tigers for Rick Porcello and signed Justin Masterson. Boston already had upgraded its offense with Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, so adding three ground-ball starters for tiny Fenway was nice work.
1. ORIOLES. Talked to Buck Showalter a bit at the meetings and he didn't seem all that worried about his team's offseason. Maybe that's because there's still two months left -- and the Orioles are going to need every minute of it. The defending AL East champs are a shell of their former selves after losing the free-agent trio of Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller. Standing pat in San Diego probably won't sell many holiday tickets, and they can't rely on the healthy returns of Manny Machado and Matt Wieters in their effort to repeat. The Orioles were able to swoop in and get Cruz last February. We'll see what GM Dan Duquette has up this sleeve this time.
2. YANKEES. It's not as though we expected the Yankees to have a Dodgers-like rampage at the winter meetings. They often tend to gauge the market for some of the big-ticket players and wait to see how things unfold. But for a team desperate for rotation help, seeing McCarthy bolt to the Dodgers was an unsettling development. We're not exactly sure how much progress was made behind the scenes on getting another starter, but we'd be shocked if the Yankees didn't get involved with Max Scherzer. They need to do more than try to coax Hiroki Kuroda away from retirement.
3. GIANTS. It's hard to question a modern-day dynasty, but the Lester snub had to sting for the Giants, who reportedly were willing to pay more and add a seventh year in the bidding. No doubt GM Brian Sabean was in the mood to spend after losing two-time World Series hero Sandoval to Boston, and Lester would have been the perfect fit for pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. Does that put the Giants in the hunt for Scherzer or James Shields? And who's the Panda replacement? Chase Headley?
4. A's. We can't say Oakland didn't do anything. We're just a little stunned in the sudden change of direction. The A's went from having the best record in baseball at the trading deadline to losing in the wild-card game to going into full rebuilding mode by December. GM Billy Beane traded his best player, Josh Donaldson, two weeks before the meetings began, then shipped out Samardzija and Brandon Moss. We can't really count the departures of Lester and Hammel against the A's because they were goners anyway. Beane is a wizard at selling high on players, but it looks as though he's folding on 2015, too.