This is an admittedly un-scientific undertaking, but then that’s not really the point. Several teams have made a series of moves that, in the aggregate, have led at least some observers to label them as being “all-in” on near-term contention. In many cases, this offseason truly started at last year’s trade deadline.
We could quabble endlessly on the list — plenty of teams have made several impactful deals and/or significant free agent commitments, and some will surely undertake more such actions before camp opens — but here’s mine, based on each team’s cumulative moves to take on future salary obligations and/or give up talented youngsters to obtain anticipated near-term production:
Blue Jays: Some of the offseason’s first big salvos were fired from Toronto. The team was a somewhat surprising victor in the Russell Martin sweepstakes, dealt for one of the game’s best players in Josh Donaldson, traded for a talented outfielder in Michael Saunders, and made a series of other moves — all while holding onto its best young arms.
Cubs: They signed Jon Lester. You could probably end there, but the team also took on the contract of Miguel Montero and inked Jason Hammel. “All-in” may be a bit presumptive at this point — the team has not given up any young talent, for example, and still has plenty of untapped future payroll capacity — but over $200MM in new future commitments for a team coming off of a 73-89 season says quite a bit.
Marlins: It all started with the massive Giancarlo Stanton extension — if not last summer’s Jarred Cosart deal — and continued with trades for Dee Gordon (along with, potentially Dan Haren) and Mat Latos. Miami parted with some well-regarded pitching prospects to add established players to its talented and youthful big league core.
Red Sox: The word “asset” probably best characterizes the focus of GM Ben Cherington’s recent work, as he has traded away veterans like Lester, John Lackey, and Yoenis Cespedes as well as younger players such as Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster. The team has, in turn, added the since-dealt Cespedes, as well as Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson, and Wade Miley, while agreeing to bring back Koji Uehara.
Tigers: Detroit paid big bucks to re-sign Victor Martinez after trading for David Price and Joakim Soria at last year’s trade deadline. The club has gone on to add Cespedes as well as Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon. Referring to the Tigers as “all-in” is now cliche, but the term still fits; if the Miguel Cabrera extension was not enough to convince you, then the latest round of transactions should.
White Sox: While much of the attention heading into the winter was on the North Side of Chicago, their neighbors to the south have been even more active. When GM Rick Hahn added Zach Duke and Adam LaRoche via free agency, it was clear that the organization was at least interested in putting some pieces in place to bolster its younger roster. But he followed that up by dealing for one year of Jeff Samardzija and drawing David Robertson and Melky Cabrera off of the open market.
So, all said, which of these aggressive teams has been most successful to date in positioning itself for the near term while steering clear of an ugly future — or, better yet, setting up for a good one?