Following the unforeseen development of a certain Cuban-born slugger taking a short-term deal to stay in Queens, this was supposed to be a list of the top 10 most surprising developments in baseball's offseason, to date.
Well, surprise! There are actually 15.
15. Dodgers hire Dave Roberts
Viva the interview process. Roberts stepped in and wowed the Dodgers' decision-makers, who were widely expected to give their vacant manager's job to in-house candidate Gabe Kapler. Roberts has the people and communication skills -- to say nothing of the baseball expertise -- to be a success in this spot, but he definitely has challenges in what has been a rather dysfunctional clubhouse at times.
As for Kapler, you can make the argument that he's more valuable to the Dodgers in his current role -- overseeing the club's player development program -- than he'd be in the dugout. Kapler seemed to agree with that argument when he opted to remain in his current role rather than join Roberts' staff.
Dave Roberts is an exceptional individual. pic.twitter.com/3hx6FpFmF1- gabe kapler (@gabekapler) November 23, 2015
14. Strange new gigs for ex-execs
Sure, Ruben Amaro Jr.'s time as Philly's general manager had clearly run its course, but who would have thought Amaro's next gig would be as an instructor for those running to first? Good on Amaro for fulfilling his passion to get back in uniform as the Red Sox's first-base coach, where the only criticism will come when he aggressively sends the wrong runner at first as opposed to aggressively extending the wrong former MVP at first.
Ben Cherington took a decidedly different path, walking away from the Boston front office upon Dave Dombrowski's arrival and becoming a guest instructor at Columbia, where he now teaches a leadership class in the school's sports management master's program. No word on whether the syllabus includes a lesson on the value of letting your employees grow shaggy beards.
13. Qualifying offers accepted for the first time
It might have seemed logical -- in light of the past plights of Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales and others -- for several players to take the $15.8 million offer and run with it, but players are prideful and, generally speaking, firm in their belief in their abilities to command a lucrative, multiyear pact.
So, yeah, I, for one, was a little surprised when Brett Anderson, Colby Rasmus and Matt Wieters took said offer. But all of those guys got great advice, because they could be in good position in a weak free-agent class a year from now.
12. Twins win the bidding for Byung Ho Park
Four teams bid $11 million or more for the right to negotiate with Park, who was the power-hitting property of the Korean Baseball Organization's Nexen Heroes, and the Twins came out on top with a $12.85 million submission. Because Park is basically considered a bat-only player who can hopefully handle first base on occasion, this was a non-obvious fit, given the recent emergence of Miguel Sano and, of course, the long-term ties to Joe Mauer. But the Twins are going to attempt to make it work by asking the big-bodied Sano to shift to right field -- a project that will be one of the more fascinating storylines of spring camp.
11. Alex Gordon returns to the Royals
This is how it's supposed to work: Defending champs ride the good vibes and robust revenues to keep one of their franchise faces. But the Royals went into the winter publicly pronouncing their payroll would remain just about where it was in '15, so this was no gimme. Ultimately, Kansas City was able to capitalize on the crowded outfield market that impacted Gordon's price tag.
And that payroll, by the way, has now crept into truly unchartered territory for that market.
10. Andrelton Simmons dealt to the Angels
Sure, the Braves had already shown a willingness to move anybody in their organization, with the possible exception of consultant Bobby Cox. Still, at a time when defense is valued so highly, if there was one player you could reasonably imagine them building their next contender around, it was Simmons up the middle. Atlanta fans certainly agreed. By and large, they hated this deal, though that anger has since been mitigated by the swap for Dansby Swanson.
Only time will tell if this was a wise time for the Braves to sell off Simmons. His glove-only profile becomes a lot less attractive as the pricier side of his contract kicks in, but the returns on the return (prospects Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis and one year of shortstop Erick Aybar) have been mixed.
9. Barry Bonds returns -- as a Marlin
Baseball's tainted home run king had largely lived in exile these last eight years, save for his guest-instructor stints in Giants camp. We had no reason to necessarily suspect he'd be interested in the everyday grind of travel and the untold hours in the cage that are par for the hitting-coach course.
But the Marlins were wise to look past Bonds' personal transgressions and instead focus on his almost unparalleled insights into the art of hitting and ask him to be on their staff. And Bonds, surprisingly, accepted.
8. The Nationals' non-deals
It all started with the Nats decision to hire Bud Black to replace Matt Williams as manager. A fine selection, but one undone by the Nats' curious lowball initial offer (one year, $1.6 million) at a time when three-year pacts are the norm for even rookie skippers. Black walked away, and the Nats turned to their second choice, Dusty Baker, himself a fine selection who will be energized by the opportunity after two years away from the game. Still, the whole situation seemed to speak to the tenuous nature of Mike Rizzo's standing in the GM seat right now, and it was, on the whole, a bad look for the Nats.
Then the Nats worked out a trade for Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips, who exercised his 10-and-5 rights to veto the trade on the grounds that the Nats wouldn't extend him. This was a bad look for Phillips, who has two years and $27 million remaining on a contract generally regarded as an albatross. He stands to potentially cede some playing time to prospect Jose Peraza on what looks to be a terrible Reds team as opposed to playing every day for a contender.
And finally, the Nats were late entrants into the Yoenis Cespedes market and, by all accounts, made the most aggressive offer for him, only to lose out to the rival Mets.
7. The Tigers' aggression
What happened to the oft-cited storyline about the Tigers, fresh off a last-place finish and midseason fire sale, going with a program of newfound austerity, with Mike Ilitch's son, Chris, taking over the ultimate decision-making for an aging team in need of an overhaul? It went out the window quite quickly, with the elder Ilitch not only prying open the wallet yet again but doing so for two $100 million-plus contracts, with Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton.
We all know post-prime pain is coming eventually, but, for now, Detroit's window is still wide open.
6. The Jeff Samardzija and Ian Kennedy contracts
Really, the fixation on free-agent pitching in this market was fascinating. We saw an early run on bats in the lead-up to the 2015 season, which made sense given the game's depressed offensive state. But this year, the bats were largely left to wait while teams paid through the nose for free-agent arms.
No contracts were as eye-catching in their size and scope as these two, given that the Shark and Kennedy had two of the highest OPS against marks in baseball last season. Samardzija got five years and $90 million from the Giants on the bet that his stellar stuff will better translate in a pitcher's park, while Kennedy, after getting widely criticized for turning down the Padres' qualifying offer, secured five years and $70 million from the Royals despite shaky American League numbers and a documented recent history of struggles in a pitcher's park.
5. Brewers hire Mike Schwartz as director of food and beverage hospitality
May the Schwartz be with you, Brew Crew. I never thought Schwartz would leave his job at the Kraft Heinz Company!
OK, was just making sure you're still paying attention. Let's return to the real list ...
5. The Blue Jays' front office shake-up
We probably should not be shocked when one powerful person decides he or she can't reasonably coexist with another. Alex Anthopoulos didn't want his authority on baseball matters compromised by the arrival of new team president Mark Shapiro, so he bolted, on the heels of the most successful season his home country's club had enjoyed in decades. Shapiro and Blue Jays fans were certainly surprised by this development, and the fans have reacted viscerally both to Shapiro and Ross Atkins, his hand-picked replacement for Anthopoulos, who has moved on to that great waystation for GMs between gigs -- the Dodgers' front office.
Hard to overstate just how much public pressure there is on Shapiro and Atkins to guide the Blue Jays to another October.
4. Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees
Surprising on two fronts, in that it was hard to imagine much of a trade market materializing for Chapman immediately after news broke about his alleged domestic violence incident and that it was doubly hard to imagine a Yankees club that already featured a profound 'pen further strengthening that strength in such a drastic way.
But with the trade price reduced after a defunct Dodgers deal (a surprise in and of itself) and Chapman now definitively not facing charges, the Yankees might very well have made a steal of a deal.
The Reds, meanwhile, haven't exactly overwhelmed with the returns in their rebuild.
3. Cubs swipe Jason Heyward from Cardinals
The Cubs were not -- and still are not -- an obvious fit for Heyward, as Jorge Soler is slotted in at right field. Furthermore, the Cubbies, at eight years and $184 million, did not come in with the highest offer. Reportedly, Heyward had $200 million proposals on the table both from the Nationals and, of course, the Cardinals, who were very much happy with Heyward's sole season in their lineup.
It was one of the biggest subplots of the offseason: Players were willing to pass up better offers or opportunities to play for the Cubs and potentially be a part of the North Side's first World Series winner in more than a century. But when a top-of-the-market player like Heyward makes such a decision -- and potentially even changes outfield positions to do so -- that's a pretty huge deal, especially as it relates to this increasingly fierce rivalry between the Cubs and Cards.
2. Cespedes re-signs with the Mets
The market for Cespedes was so mysterious going into the winter that you could have reasonably labeled any eventual destination as a "surprise." But considering the Mets' sentiment about this situation going into the winter -- the basic, blanket acceptance that they were going to let Yo walk -- this was a stunner. Especially considering Cespedes turned down a five-year offer elsewhere to take what very well might turn out to be a one-year deal (Cespedes' three-year, $75 million pact has an opt-out after 2016). It's probably shrewd, given the thin crop of free-agent outfielders next winter, but it was still very much unexpected.
The Mets, believe it or not, already had the makings of a pretty decent long-term outfield picture without Cespedes, whose erratic career includes an erratic tenure in Flushing. But to say there was much public pressure on the Mets to bring this guy back is an understatement.
1. The D-backs' bold pitching proposals
First, a $120 million offer to Johnny Cueto, who turned them down. Then, a stunning six-year, $206.5 million pact with Zack Greinke, who was minutes away from choosing either the Dodgers or Giants. And finally, at the Winter Meetings, the D-backs absolutely emptied the tank to land Shelby Miller, giving up outfielder Ender Inciarte, prospect Aaron Blair and-the big piece -- last year's No. 1 overall Draft pick, Swanson. A huge haul for Miller, coming off his first 200-inning season.
The industry hunch was that the D-backs, with a deep and defensively dependable lineup, were a couple of arms away from legit contention. No one could have imagined them filling those holes so aggressively. Indeed, the D-backs didn't even make their first contact with Greinke's people until 5 ½ hours before they wound up signing him.
So you could say they even surprised themselves.
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Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor and an MLB.com columnist. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.