Paul Wezner, Senior Editor
Sure, they're considered the flashy team with all the big headline-grabbing deals. But you find me a team that brought in serious upgrades at the top of the rotation, in the closer's role, and a big bat in the middle of the lineup, and I'll concede the team. But until I see that, I have to go with the Toronto Blue Jays as the team that made the most improvement. Of course, no move is perfect. There is still the issue of potentially overpaying for someone like A.J. Burnett, who hasn't come close to fulfilling his potential. But he isn't going to be relied upon to be the ace of the staff; they already have one in Roy Halladay. There could be concerns that B.J. Ryan simply had a fluke season in a contract year, or even that while Lyle Overbay is an upgrade, he's still not a power hitter. But when we're talking about the biggest improvement, in my book, there's no question; that honor for this offseason goes to the Jays. Will they now be able to compete in the AL East? Probably not. But that doesn't mean they won't give Boston and New York a run for their money.
Mark Anderson, Minor League Editor
While teams like the White Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays made big splashes with names like Jim Thome, Javier Vasquez, Johnny Damon, and AJ Burnett, it's far from true that these moves made them the most improved teams this offseaon. In my mind, that distinction is a three horse race between the Dodgers, Mets, and Rangers. The Dodgers found a suitable replacement for the departed Jeff Weaver, on the cheap in Jae Seo, brought new infielders Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, and Bill Mueller to team with incumbents Jeff Kent and Cesar Izturis, giving the Dodgers a potentially lethal combination of bats. They also managed to dump Milton Bradley off on the Athletics in an attempt to harmonize their clubhouse. Everyone knows the big moves of the Mets, bringing in LoDuca, Delgado, and Wagner, as well as lesser known talents like Chad Bradford, Jorge Julio, Duaner Sanchez, John Maine, Jose Valentin, and Tike Redman. It's possible the Mets might have finally pulled themselves up by the boot straps and declared that they will contend with the Braves this season. However, in my opinion, Texas has done the most to make themselves a serious threat to the perennial contenders of the west; the A's and Angels. It's long been a known fact that the Rangers could hit a ton, but could pitch a lick; well that could change in 2006. Despite the departure of starter Chris Young, the Rangers bring aboard defending AL ERA champion Kevin Millwood, breakout candidate Adam Eaton, and comeback candidate Vincente Padilla. All three pitchers have the potential to be outstanding starters, and with the offense supplied by the Rangers, this could be a potent team. The Rangers didn't stop by upgrading the rotation, they also brought in outfielder Brad Wilkerson who gives them an all-around threat to put at the top of the order, and in the process rid themselves of one of the most over-rated players in the game; Alfonso Soriano. The Rangers have Ian Kinsler ready and waiting to take his spot with very good offense and much better defense. Watch out, this Rangers team could be something to talk about!
Jason Avery, Amateur Baseball Editor
The Mets, Blue Jays, and Red Sox may be trendy picks because of the money they spent and the publicity their moves made nationally, but I'm going to stay in the division with the White Sox. Many general managers have gotten complacent after winning a World Series, but Kenny Williams didn't.
His top priority was to re-sign Paul Konerko and he did. He traded for Jim Thome and got the Phillies to pay over half of his contract. By acquiring Thome, Williams could let go of both Carl Everett and Frank Thomas.
Even though he traded a fine center fielder in Aaron Rowand, the White Sox have Brian Anderson to take his place, and the two pitching prospects the White Sox dealt (Daniel Haigwood & Gio Gonzalez) are good, but the Sox's pitching depth can overcome their departure.
Despite having a pitching staff that was dominant in the postseason, Williams acquired Javy Vasquez from Arizona, which even more solidifies a staff that lead the American League in ERA. The D-Backs are covering a small portion (four million) of his deal, for Chris Young (a blue-chip prospect) and spare parts.
He also got utility player Rob Mackowiak for disgruntled pitcher Damaso Marte.
Lastly, he got A.J. Pierzynski and Jon Garland signed to long-term deals, so if any GM can say he accomplished all he wanted to get done and then some, Kenny Williams is the one.
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