By Andrew Simon
Bold moves have dominated the baseball landscape this offseason, with big money handed out to free agents and a plethora of All-Stars changing hands through trades.
The Cubs brought in Joe Maddon and Jon Lester to take the next step toward contention, and on the south side of Chicago, the White Sox's free-agent haul has made them a factor in the American League Central again. New front offices with the Dodgers, Padres, D-backs and Braves wasted no time making their marks. The Red Sox added Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, the Blue Jays scored Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, and the Marlins gave Giancarlo Stanton the largest contract in baseball history before working to surround him with more talent.
But not every team has turned up the dial on the Hot Stove. Here's a look at five teams that have stayed relatively quiet this offseason, and what they still have left to accomplish.
First, a couple of caveats:
1) Almost two months remain before the start of Spring Training, and even that doesn't put an end to signings and trades. So there is plenty of time, even if the pool of impact free agents is dwindling.
2) Just because a team hasn't been active, that doesn't necessarily mean it's had a bad offseason. Many times, the best moves really are the ones you don't make.
Key additions: RP Wesley Wright, OF/DH Delmon Young (re-signed), C Ryan Lavarnway
Key subtractions: OF/DH Nelson Cruz, OF Nick Markakis, RP Andrew Miller
Key free agents remaining: INF Kelly Johnson, C Nick Hundley
On one hand, it's hard to blame the Orioles for not matching the meaty offers that landed Cruz (Mariners), Markakis (Braves) and Miller (Yankees), as all three easily could be considered overpays. On the other hand, Baltimore is going to have to find some way to make up for that production as it tries to repeat as AL East champions, and the club's only moves thus far have been around the fringes of the roster.
Healthy, productive returns from Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Matt Wieters would help considerably, but it still seems prudent to add at least one significant bat to the mix in the corner outfield. Free agent Nori Aoki makes a lot of sense as a replacement for Markakis in right and at the top of the lineup, which needs his .353 career on-base percentage. Colby Rasmus would offer more power as a high-risk, high-reward option, and Baltimore also could look to the trade market. The Padres now have an outfield surplus and might part with Carlos Quentin, Seth Smith or Will Venable, while the Phillies' Marlon Byrd should be available as well. None of those players is set to make more than the $8 million that Baltimore paid Cruz last year.
Key additions: INF Daniel Descalso, RP Jairo Diaz
Key subtractions: 1B/OF Michael Cuddyer, SP Brett Anderson, SP Juan Nicasio, RP Matt Belisle, INF Josh Rutledge
Key free agents remaining: RP Nick Masset, SP/RP Franklin Morales
The Rockies are in a tough spot this offseason, sharing a division with the defending champion Giants, financial powerhouse Dodgers and the highly active Padres and D-backs. Their own first-year general manager, Jeff Bridich, has neither started a rebuild, nor added any major pieces to a club that won 66 games last season. That lack of direction can be frustrating, but Bridich, citing a slew of injuries that helped derail the '14 campaign, has said his front office isn't looking for a radical facelift.
While it's tempting to argue that the Rox should go ahead and move shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez for controllable talent, it's also easy to understand why they haven't. Both players are immensely talented faces of the franchise, yet expensive and carrying checkered injury histories, making it difficult for Colorado to attract a worthwhile return. At this point, it might be best to continue exercising patience, hope Tulo and CarGo get off to healthy and productive starts in '15, then look to make a deal this summer if the team isn't contending. In the meantime, the Rockies should be open to trading first baseman Justin Morneau, catcher Wilin Rosario and outfielder Drew Stubbs -- all the subject of various rumors -- in an attempt to stockpile as much young pitching as possible.
Key additions: 1B Adam Lind
Key subtractions: 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, RP Zach Duke, SP Marco Estrada
Key free agents remaining: RP Francisco Rodriguez, 2B Rickie Weeks, 1B Lyle Overbay, RP Tom Gorzelanny
After a rough second half ruined the Brewers' 2014 playoff hopes, the club hasn't done a whole lot to keep up with the Cardinals, Pirates and on-the-rise Cubs in the NL Central. Milwaukee and third baseman Aramis Ramirez picked up their respective sides of his mutual option for '15, and Estrada was dealt to Toronto for Lind, who fills a major void at first. At the same time, Lind owns a career .588 OPS against lefties and has dealt with injury problems, so he might not be an everyday solution. Free agent Gaby Sanchez had a down year but has crushed lefties throughout his career and could make a solid platoon partner, though the Brewers also might use catcher Jonathan Lucroy in that role, with Martin Maldonado behind the plate.
Even coming off an 82-80 season, there isn't a spot in this lineup that screams out for an upgrade, and the starting rotation appears set. One area that does need work is the bullpen, where Milwaukee still has a chance to bring back Rodriguez or Gorzelanny. Last winter, the Brewers hit it big by signing Duke to a Minor League deal, and perhaps they will find another diamond in the rough this time around. Neal Cotts, Dana Eveland and Joe Thatcher are among the low-cost lefties remaining on the market, while former Brewers Burke Badenhop and Carlos Villanueva could help from the right side. Sergio Santos, who struggled mightily last year, also would make for an intriguing upside play, with a career 3.29 FIP and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
San Francisco Giants
Key additions: SP Jake Peavy (re-signed), RP Sergio Romo (re-signed), 3B Casey McGehee
Key subtractions: 3B Pablo Sandoval, LF Michael Morse
Key free agents remaining: SP Ryan Vogelsong
When you're the defending champion, coming off your third title in five years, maintaining the status quo is a much easier sell. Still, replacing Sandoval with McGehee isn't likely to be an upgrade, and the Giants also have missed out on Lester, third baseman Chase Headley and Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas. The outfield remains thin, and even with Peavy back, more starting pitching would be nice, with Matt Cain coming off surgery, Tim Lincecum a big question mark and Tim Hudson entering his age-39 season.
Max Scherzer could be out of the Giants' price range, but James Shields would come cheaper than Lester, and his consistent innings eating would help stabilize the rotation. At this point, that seems like an easier place for San Francisco to make an impact addition than in left field. The best bet there might be signing a low-cost right-handed bat such as Jonny Gomes or Chris Denorfia to complement Gregor Blanco, who also is needed to back up often-injured Angel Pagan in center. Both veterans are coming off down years and will be 34 this season, but have a history of hitting left-handed pitching. Denorfia, the superior defender, probably would be a better fit for an NL club in a big ballpark.
Key additions: None
Key subtractions: 1B Adam LaRoche, RP Ross Detwiler, OF Steven Souza Jr.
Key free agents remaining: 2B/SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RP Rafael Soriano, OF Nate Schierholtz, OF Scott Hairston
No team this offseason has been involved in more juicy rumors while actually doing so little. The one significant move the Nats have made will have a negligible impact on the 2015 club, with Souza (a backup outfielder) and a Minor Leaguer going to Tampa Bay in exchange for two promising Padres prospects in the big three-team deal that sent Wil Myers from Tampa to San Diego. Thus far, general manager Mike Rizzo has held on to his large contingent of soon-to-be free agents, headlined by right-handers Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister and shortstop Ian Desmond, but he also hasn't worked out an extension with any of them. Deciding which ones, if any, to lock up long-term is probably the most important order of business.
Otherwise, the Nats aren't forced to do anything, with a deep and talented roster that still looks like the clear favorite in the NL East a year after producing 96 victories. The only obvious position of need is second base, where Danny Espinosa could use, at least, a left-handed platoon partner. Inking Dan Uggla to a Minor League deal Friday was a no-risk move that certainly doesn't preclude the Nats from re-signing Cabrera, who was solid for them last year, or taking a chance on a rebound season from Stephen Drew and his .779 career OPS against righties. Perhaps the most intriguing option is a trade for the Rays' Ben Zobrist, who would give the Nats yet another impending free agent, but who also is relatively cheap ($7.5 million) and has six straight seasons of at least 4.6 WAR.
Andrew Simon is a contributor to Sports on Earth and a reporter for MLB.com.