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MLB

2019 Free Agency: Three Most Improved Teams of the Offseason

Spring Training is just around the corner, and the offseason is near completion. But which teams had the best offseason? Today, we’re going to take a look at which three teams we can say were the winners of the offseason.

White Sox

The White Sox entered the offseason with several talented young players on their roster who had strong seasons in 2019. Lucas Giolito struck out 229 batters in 176.2 innings in a year where he was named a midseason All-Star. Infielder Yoan Moncada batted .315 and smacked 25 home runs last season, and rookie Eloy Jimenez hit 31 dingers in his first season. It was a strong development year for the White Sox’s youngsters, and after a tedious rebuild, GM Rick Hahn made several additions to his team to turn the South Siders to a contender in 2020.

Catcher Yasmani Grandal (5.2 fWAR in 2019) comes to the South Side after a stellar 2019 season, one where he hit 28 home runs and was an on-base machine. Former Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara (0.5 fWAR) was acquired by the Sox via a December trade. Edwin Encarnacion (2.5 fWAR) will join Grandal and Mazara in Chicago in 2020, giving the White Sox yet another power hitter. But Hahn didn’t neglect his pitching staff either, as he added several veteran pitchers to complement the Sox’s young starters. Crafty left-handed starters Dallas Keuchel (0.8 fWAR) and Gio Gonzalez (1.4 fWAR) will join the White Sox in 2020, as will veteran reliever Steve Cishek (0.2 fWAR).

Hahn also made another significant move this past offseason, but it didn’t include adding a piece to his team. Top White Sox prospect Luis Robert was locked up in December by the team, as he signed a six-year, $50M contract, wiping away all his arbitration-eligible years. Expect the Cuban outfielder to start the year in the White Sox outfield.

The White Sox will certainly look different entering 2020, but they’ll enter the season as a legitimate playoff contender, something they haven’t been for a while.

Reds

The Reds, like the White Sox, have been rebuilding their organization over the past few seasons. Last year, the Reds finished with a record of 75-87, but progress was made for sure. The Reds received fantastic performances from Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray in 2019. And offensively, the Reds were powered by Eugenio Suarez, who hit 49 home runs last season, which was not only a career high but also the most home runs by a third baseman in the Majors in 2019. In addition, prospects Nick Senzel and Aristides Aquino established themselves as Major Leaguers, and they’ll have some new teammates come 2020.

Their pitching staff will look pretty similar in 2020 compared to last season, but the Reds did pick up one significant arm, as they added former Astro Wade Miley (2.0 fWAR) on a two-year deal. Last season, Miley won 14 games and recorded a 3.98 ERA, while striking out 140 over 167.1 innings (7.54 K/9). The ERA and K/9 numbers may not look sexy, but the veteran left-hander has been consistent when it comes to generating ground balls. Miley has a career GB% rate of 49.0%, and the Reds are hopeful he could generate consistent weak contact again in 2020.

The Reds also picked up two big bats in free agency, and both of them played for division rivals last season. Mike Moustakas (2.8 fWAR), who hit 35 home runs for the Brewers last season, will head to Cincinnati and become their everyday second baseman. And former Tiger and Cub Nicholas Castellanos (2.8 fWAR) will join him, as the 27-year old outfielder signed a four-year deal with the Reds on Monday. But Castellanos wasn’t the only outfielder the Reds acquired this offseason, as they also signed Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama.

With a talented pitching staff, along with a strong lineup on paper, the Reds will look to make waves in the NL Central in 2020. However, their season may not only hinge on whether Trevor Bauer can succeed in Cincinnati, but also whether Joey Votto can find his stroke again.

Twins

Normally when you look at which teams are the most improved after an offseason, you wouldn’t expect a team that won over 100 games the previous season to be on that particular list. Yet the Twins, for a few reasons, are on this list. In 2019, the Twins set a MLB record for most home runs in a season (307), while finishing in the top 10 as a team in both ERA and FIP. But a terrible ALDS against the Yankees exposed some holes in their pitching staff, and the Twins front office seemed to address that this past offseason.

Homer Bailey (2.9 fWAR) and Rich Hill (0.9 fWAR) head to Minnesota in 2020, as both will look to fortify a Twins rotation that already includes Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda. Bailey had a nice 2019 season following a brutal 2018, and as we noted a couple of weeks ago, Bailey’s success last season could partly be attributed to his splitter. Not only did Bailey utilize it more in 2019, batters only hit .182 against his split-finger fastball. And as for Hill, he too could provide a major boost to the Twins’ pitching staff, but Minnesota will have to wait a little bit to seem him in action. Hill will miss part of 2020 after having modified Tommy John surgery this past November. In the bullpen, Tyler Clippard (0.7 fWAR) will look to bring some stability to a pen that included Taylor Rogers and Sergio Romo.

And just a couple of weeks ago, the Twins made their biggest move of the offseason, signing Josh Donaldson (4.9 fWAR) to a four-year deal. After an injury-filled 2018, Donaldson had a renaissance year for the Braves, smashing 37 home runs while driving in 94 runs. The “Bringer of Rain” finished 2019 in the top 10 among third baseman in both SLG (.521-10th) and wRC+ (132-9th), and he’ll look to replicate those numbers in the Twin Cities in 2020.


Be sure to keep checking out the FH Freeway site for more news, player reports, and fantasy tips. And make sure to follow us on Twitter, as well as subscribe to our growing YouTube channel, where we’ll post player videos of up-and-coming prospects you should keep an eye on.

 

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