The winter that was -- and, in some cases, still is -- defined by the nine-figure notables (David Price, Zack Greinke, Jason Heyward, Chris Davis, Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmermann), some blockbuster swaps (Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Todd Frazier, Shelby Miller and Andrelton Simmons, to name a few), some international intrigue (Kenta Maeda and Byung Ho Park), the rewarded hand-wringing of the Mets faithful (welcome back, Yo), the limits-testing patience required of the likes of Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, Howie Kendrick, etc., and, as usual, the art of surprise.
Lost in all that discussion, though, are the people on the periphery. So let's round up some of them here with the best acquisitions nobody's talking about (until now).
Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce, Rays
There are reasons to like each of these acquisitions on their own, of course, but I prefer to think of them in tandem. Because if they essentially rotate the left-handed-hitting Morrison and the right-handed-hitting Pearce in and out of the designated hitter spot, the Rays may actually come out with some of the best power production from that position in the league.
In his career, the 28-year-old Morrison, who was acquired in a six-player swap with the Mariners, has a much higher slugging percentage against right-handed pitching (.438) than lefties (.362), with 76.6 percent of his career extra-base hits coming off right-handers. What's really appealing about the Morrison add is the shift he's making from Safeco Field, in particular, and the American League West, at large, to the AL East. No, Tropicana Field is not a haven for hitters, but the East is loaded with power potential for left-handed bats.
And then there's Pearce, who has agreed to a one-year deal (pending a physical, as of this writing) and very well might emerge as a free-agent steal. He's about to turn 33 and is coming off a bad year in Baltimore, but that bad year was aided, in part, by an abnormally low .232 batting average on balls in play. With a .481 career slugging rate against lefties and 36 homers in his last 682 plate appearances overall, there's a lot to like about Pearce as a buy-low power source. And if properly paired with Morrison, a Rays team in need of a boost from its bats has the DH spot covered on the cheap.
Adam Warren, Cubs
Jason Heyward and John Lackey defected from the Cardinals, Ben Zobrist reunited himself with Joe Maddon, and a 97-win team got discernibly better, to the point that the Cubs -- the Cubs! -- are prohibitive favorites to win the World Series. If they do go all the way, former franchise face Starlin Castro won't be along for the ride, as he was deemed the most superfluous of the Cubs' bounty of young position players and got dealt to the Yankees.
Because Castro is a three-time All-Star and, well, it's the Yankees, this is rightly considered "the Starlin Castro trade." And because of the Cubs' big-ticket acquisitions, the addition of Warren in that swap gets somewhat overlooked.
But with a goal of creating depth and, as Theo Epstein put it last fall, "redundancy" on the roster -- and particularly on the pitching staff -- Warren was a shrewd pickup. At best, Warren coaxes better results out of his sinkerball, maintains a greatly reduced homer/fly ball rate and sticks as a starter in the back end of what figures to be one of the better rotations in the National League.
At worst, Warren is a sound swingman on a Cubs bullpen depth chart loaded with former starters-turned-effective-relievers (Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill and Clayton Richard).
Justin Wilson, Tigers
Detroit just handed out two $100 million-plus contracts to lengthen its lineup and rotation. But none of it will matter if the bullpen implodes the way it did the last time the team reached the playoffs.
Obviously, the big play in the 'pen was for closer Francisco Rodriguez, and the hope is that K-Rod's unique ability to reinvent himself as his career rolls along plays well in his return to the AL. But somebody's got to set the dude up, and the left-handed, 28-year-old Wilson, who was acquired for pitching prospects Luis Cessa and Chad Green in a trade with the Yankees and is under three more years of team control, is a good bet to do so. This is not a lefty specialist. In fact, Wilson, in locking down the Yanks' seventh-inning role, was actually better against right-handers (.216/.275/.318 slash) than lefties (.236/.329/.292). And overall, he struck out 9.7 batters per nine and allowed just 0.4 homers per nine, which is no small feat in Yankee Stadium.
Yes, if you're scoring at home, that's two former Yankee relievers on this list. They augmented their bullpen quite a bit with the arrival of Chapman, but they also moved a couple of key pieces.
Aaron Hicks, Yankees
This has been a winter in which the Yanks have famously not signed a single free agent, with the Castro and Chapman trade acquisitions their biggest sources of improvement. But don't forget about the trade they made with the Twins for Hicks.
At 26, and with less than 1,000 plate appearances in the big leagues, there's an argument to be made for upside here. Though the Yankees' trade discussions involving Brett Gardner have gone nowhere, to date, perhaps they see Hicks as a guy worthy of an everyday spot should Gardner be moved (or is Jacoby Ellsbury gets hurt). But even if Hicks simply is for the Yanks in '16 what he was for the Twins in '15 -- a quality defensive option at all three outfield spots with fleet feet on the basepaths and terrific numbers (.307/.375/.495) against left-handed pitching -- that will suffice. Joe Girardi employed Chris Young expertly last season, and it's easy to see Hicks filling the same role.
Rich Hill, A's
This movie probably ends one of two ways. Either Hill, who was rescued out of independent ball and thrust into the Red Sox's rotation in time for a shockingly dominant September stretch run (1.55 ERA, 0.655 WHIP in 29 innings over four starts) sticks in the Oakland rotation and completes a comeback story for the ages ... or Hill flames out in said rotation and goes back to being a low-profile reliever.
Either way, the A's are only paying $6 million to see the ending. And given the way clubs paid through the nose to upgrade their rotations this winter, that's a truly miniscule investment in a guy who allowed just a 75 percent contact rate on pitches in the strike zone (for reference, Max Scherzer led all qualified starters with a 79-percent rate) in that four-start sample.
Joe Blanton, Dodgers
The former "fifth Beatle" in that loaded Phillies rotation, as well as a former retiree, Blanton returned from his 2014 absence in a 2015 relief role, to great effect. After a brief turn with the Royals, who simply ran out of roster room, Blanton went to the land of pitcher revival otherwise known as Pittsburgh, where he was good for a 1.57 ERA, 1.019 WHIP, 10.2 strikeouts per nine and a 4.33 K/BB ratio in 34 1/3 innings over 21 appearances.
This portends to be a multi-inning option in the Dodger bullpen. And if that's the case, it would be a luxury item for rookie skipper Dave Roberts if/when he's easing Hyun-Jin Ryu along in his return or simply looking for quality middle relief.
Cesar Ramos, Rangers
The Angels non-tendered Ramos despite his 2.75 ERA in 65 appearances last year. The thought there was that Ramos did his best work in mop-up situations and wasn't trustworthy enough in high-leverage spots to necessitate a raise.
But because the Rangers got the left-handed Ramos on a non-binding Minor League deal in a winter in which Tony Sipp -- the top lefty relief free agent -- commanded three years and $18 million, you've got to love the potential value here. Ramos, after all, does have a 3.41 ERA and 3.68 Fielding Independent Pitching mark over the last four years, he's limited same-handed batters to a measly .316 slugging percentage last season, and he's still just 31. The best bullpens are built around low-priced, serviceable sorts, and Ramos could very well fall within that framework.
John Jaso, Pirates
It's pretty sad that a guy who has played all of five innings at first base in his entire career is a good bet to be a defensive improvement over a team's previous first baseman. But that's just how bad the Buccos' defensive situation at first base was with Pedro Alvarez, who had a minus-14 Defensive Runs Saved mark in 2015.
I have no idea if Jaso, the former catcher-turned-designated-hitter who has battled concussion issues, can make a seamless transition to first, but he's obviously got a low hurdle to clear to better the situation for Clint Hurdle's club. And as far as the primary reason the Pirates signed Jaso -- his bat -- there's a lot to like here. He shouldn't see the light of day against lefties, but against right-handers Jaso has an excellent .285/.383/.458 slash line dating back to 2012. As noted by Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Pirates led the Majors in plate appearances against right-handed pitching last season, and the projected rotations of their division rivals make them a good bet to finish high in that ranking again this year.
And because these are the Pirates, we can't get away without making mention of a potential pitching bargain. I like the one-year, $3 million investment in reliever Juan Nicasio, who, in addition to making the appetizing move from Coors Field to PNC Park, ranked 22nd among relievers last year in whiffs per swing with his mid-90s fastball (.279).
Brayan Pena, Cardinals
On its own merits, replacing the poor-hitting Tony Cruz with the switch-hitting Pena, who is a high-contact hitter who struck out just 10 percent of the time over the last two seasons with the Reds, is a sound move on the part of the Cards. But this addition is equally important given what it means for Yadier Molina.
For one, Molina required a second surgical procedure on his torn thumb ligament this winter, putting his Opening Day status in doubt. So Pena is a good bet to be the Cards' everyday catcher in the very early going, at the least. But even when Molina returns, Pena presents a much better backup alternative -- both offensively and defensively -- than what the Cards had previously, and that could be key in giving Molina more rest. It's impossible not to notice that Molina's offensive performance has slipped in successive seasons, and it's easy to speculate that the heavy mileage the 33-year-old catcher has taken on over the years is a culprit.
So for the Cards, Pena -- on a two-year, $5 million contract -- was a worthwhile insurance policy.
Jim Benedict, Marlins
Any number of wily pitching acquisitions -- particularly, as evidenced above, on the relief side -- could round out this list, but Benedict has the potential to make the Marlins a continual source of such acquisitions.
You've seen Pittsburgh referenced as a place where pitchers are refurbished. For that, the credit gets doled out equally to pitching coach Ray Searage and to this guy -- the so-called "pitching guru" who served as a special assistant to general manager Neal Huntington. In an organization worthy of emulation, Benedict played a major role in the development of pitching prospects as well as the identification of Major League assets worth targeting. So he'll be equally instrumental with the Marlins, who swiped him from the 'Burgh and gave him the unique title "vice president of pitching."
Combine their big ballpark with Benedict's big pitching intellect, and you can see the Marlins becoming a haven for bounceback arms. That, I'd argue, is an even bigger deal than their $80 million investment in Wei-Yin Chen.
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Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor and an MLB.com columnist. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.