The GM's Office: Jose Reyes

Ranking the offseason for all 30 teams 

February, 12, 2013
It was an active offseason that witnessed the trade of a Cy Young Award winner, several large, multiteam trades and an inflated free-agent market. So to evaluate and rank the offseason of all 30 teams, I took into account the following factors:

• How it improved the team for 2013, as well as the next five years.
• How it affected payroll and budgets -- both short and long term.
• How it affected team chemistry and clubhouse culture.
• How effectively needs were filled -- through free agency, trade or farm system.
• The amount of money committed compared with the value received.
• Aggressiveness.

With spring camp upon us, we'll see whose offseason produces the best results. Here are the rankings of all 30 teams’ offseason campaigns.

1. Toronto Blue Jays | GM: Alex Anthopoulos
Acquired: RHPs R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, LHPs Mark Buehrle, Darren Oliver, SS Jose Reyes, C's Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas, IFs Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, OF Melky Cabrera
Analysis: Anthopoulos had a tremendous offseason, making two of the biggest offseason trades in baseball history. It cost him some prospects, and when the dust settled the Blue Jays added three top-of-the-rotation starters to complement Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow to give the Jays the best five-man rotation in the division -- on paper. They now have the veteran leadership, speed, energy and enthusiasm to be a legitimate World Series contender.

Anyone can win the AL East 

January, 24, 2013
Rivera-Pettitte Getty ImagesWith Rivera and Pettitte back, the Yanks can contend. But so can everone else in the AL East.

During my entire 15-year career in baseball as a GM and through today, commissioner Bud Selig has emphasized improving the game’s competitive balance.

He said his goal was for all 30 clubs’ fan bases to have “hope and faith” on Opening Day that their team would be able to contend for a postseason berth. However, full parity has eluded one division for more than a decade. The American League East stood as an example of how wide the chasm can be between winning and losing teams.

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Why Marlins-Jays deal actually works

November, 14, 2012
Jose ReyesJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesPeace out! After only one season, Jose Reyes is leaving Miami and headed to Toronto.

We thought we had seen it all with the super-blockbuster nine-player trade in August between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox.

Then this happens.

Like the Red Sox-Dodgers deal, it’s a megatrade that works for both parties as one team rids itself of onerous contracts to another team that’s starving to win. Until now, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has operated with shrewdness and precision. If this deal works out, he’ll be on the short list for 2013 Executive of the Year.

Meanwhile, after the Miami Marlins endured a disastrous debut season in their new ballpark, wearing new uniforms, with a new team and a new manager, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is going back to an old technique: the fire sale.

Regardless of Loria and his track record of gutting his teams, the deal made sense for the Marlins from a baseball perspective, as well as the Blue Jays. It looks lopsided, but the Marlins did much better in this megatrade than people think. By acknowledging they simply weren’t going to win with the team they had, they cleared out almost $185 million in payroll and moved a bunch of veterans in one fell swoop.

How it makes sense

For the Blue Jays: Anthopoulos acquired some rotation leadership to mentor the Blue Jays' young starters in Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson. Their presence will be significant for Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison as they return from Tommy John surgery as well as helping Ricky Romero bounce back from a horrendous 2012 season.

Anthopoulos also brought catcher John Buck back to the team with whom he enjoyed a career year in 2010, hitting .281 with 20 homers and 66 RBIs. Buck had lost his starting job to Rob Brantly, whom the Marlins had acquired from the Tigers. The Blue Jays now will have Buck and fellow catcher J.P. Arencibia to keep the seat warm for top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, and trade one of them when d'Arnaud is ready for the big leagues.

I’m not sold completely the Blue Jays will win the AL East outright because of the injury history of Jose Reyes and Johnson, but they have instantly become contenders for the division title if they get reasonably healthy seasons from the players they acquired.

For the Marlins: After recognizing their team simply wasn’t going to win with the players they had, selling them off was the most logical next step for Marlins president Larry Beinfest and general manager Mike Hill. They already had begun the process over the summer, dealing Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante.

They had a serious medical question mark in Johnson. For me, Johnson’s shoulder must be considered a high risk; it has hampered him since his All-Star campaign in 2010. With only one year left on his contract at more than $13 million, moving him made sense because they certainly weren’t going to re-sign him. And the worry would always be if he reinjured his shoulder, what could they get for him then?

In Buehrle they had a solid innings-eater whose best seasons are certainly behind him. And with Buehrle's heavily backloaded contract, the Marlins saw no logic in holding onto the decline for two more years when their team had little chance to contend.

Jose Reyes was the one major piece the Marlins had to give up in order to shed the other two. Reyes will immediately improve the Blue Jays at the top of the order, on the field and in the dugout and clubhouse, where his high energy and enthusiasm is priceless. He is one of the game’s best shortstops and was perhaps the one brilliant move the Marlins made last December. But like Buehrle, his deal is backloaded, so the Jays are taking on a heavy financial burden.

If the Marlins truly believe that Johnson and Buehrle's trade value will only go down from here, you can't blame them for making this deal.

What’s next for the Marlins?

Shortly after news of the deal broke, Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton sent out a tweet.

@Giancarlo818: Alright, I'm pissed off!!! Plain & Simple

He probably has every right to be upset. With his team gutted, he won’t sniff the postseason until at least 2015. New Marlins manager Mike Redmond probably knew this was going to happen -- that’s why he got a three-year deal.

Naturally, this got many people wondering: “What is Stanton’s fate?” With Stanton ineligible for free agency until 2017, he’s not going anywhere and eventually should share the outfield with newly acquired prospect Jake Marisnick and current Marlins top prospect Christian Yelich. However, that doesn’t mean the Marlins are done dealing.

Look for them to move right-hander Ricky Nolasco next. Either Henderson Alvarez or Justin Nicolino can take Nolasco’s place in the rotation at some point. Alvarez, with improved command and a better breaking ball, can be a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm in time. Likewise, Nicolino’s easy delivery and advanced poise and control could easily help him develop into a solid starter.

With what they acquired for Hanley Ramirez and Heath Bell, the Marlins’ starting rotation could eventually looking something like this. (For those who don't know, Fernandez is one of the game's best pitching prospects who posted a 1.75 ERA across two levels of Class A this season.)

Jose Fernandez, RHP
Jacob Turner, RHP
Justin Nicolino, LHP
Henderson Alvarez, RHP
Nate Eovaldi, RHP

Another move the Marlins could make is flip shortstop Yunel Escobar to the Oakland Athletics. In the event the A’s are unable to re-sign Stephen Drew, the Marlins could spin Escobar to Oakland and play Adeiny Hechavarria -- whom they also acquired from Toronto -- at shortstop. Hechavarria is an exceptional fielder, but his bat lags far behind. Outfielder Logan Morrison also is a candidate to be moved, but he more likely will serve as a stop-gap player until Yelich arrives in Miami.

It's true the Marlins now enjoy massive payroll flexibility and could theoretically afford to sign a free agent for other needs. However, no significant free agent is ever again going to sign with the Marlins without a complete no-trade clause after watching them deal Reyes, Buehrle and Bell less than a year after signing them.

Nats and Marlins rising in the East 

March, 14, 2012
Drew Hallowell/Getty ImagesHow well Howard comes back from his Achilles injury will heavily impact the Phillies' offense.

Last year, the National League East was a two-horse race, with the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves jockeying for position on the strength of deep starting pitching. The Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins were essentially afterthoughts, but each has made tremendous strides filling out their respective rosters and have nearly caught up to the Phillies and Braves. The NL East pennant race, save for the New York Mets, will be a much closer contest than most realize, and don't be surprised if Miami or Washington comes out on top. Here’s why:

Phillies ages and injury

Ryan Howard’s Achilles injury will be a major factor and will dictate the Phillies’ success. They need his home runs and RBIs and don’t have enough at first base and left field when he’s not in the lineup. Further, Chase Utley’s knees are questionable. Will he have power at the plate and range in the field? Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco are getting long in the tooth and could see more decline this season. As Jayson Stark writes today, this once great infield is fading.

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Grading the offseason: National League 

February, 17, 2012
Jose ReyesAP Photo/LM OteroMarlins owner Jeffrey Loria (right) opened up the wallet and grabbed Jose Reyes.

To say baseball's landscape has shifted this offseason is an understatement. The gap between the top and the bottom isn't as vast in the NL as it is in the AL, but this offseason was a time of reckoning for some teams with ownership troubles (Dodgers and Mets) and a time of emergence for others (Marlins). Here's how each NL team did during the winter. (You can find my AL grades here.)

Miami Marlins – Grade: A

Key Transactions: Acquired RHP Carlos Zambrano and cash from Chicago Cubs for RHP Chris Volstad; signed SS Jose Reyes, six years, $106 million; signed LHP Mark Buehrle, four years, $58 million; signed RHP Heath Bell, three years, $27 million; signed IF Greg Dobbs, two years, $3 million.

Bowden’s Take
The Marlins hadn’t signed a major free agent since they inked Carlos Delgado back in 2005. However, with the excitement of a new stadium and Ozzie Guillen as manager, owner Jeffrey Loria opened up the checkbook. They signed the second-best shortstop in baseball, improved the rotation, upgraded the bullpen and improved the clubhouse by 180 degrees. The Marlins are finally legitimate contenders for the division or a wild-card berth.

Cincinnati Reds – Grade: A-

Key Transactions: Acquired RHP Mat Latos from San Diego for 1B Yonder Alonso, C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Edinson Volquez and RHP Brad Boxberger; acquired LHP Sean Marshall from Chicago Cubs for LHP Travis Wood, OF Dave Sappelt and IF Ronald Torreyes; acquired IF Wilson Valdez from Philadelphia for LHP Jeremy Horst; signed RHP Ryan Madson, one year, $8.5 million; signed OF Ryan Ludwick, one year, $6.78 million; signed LHP Jeff Francis, one year, $2 million; signed RHP Andrew Brackman, one year, $500,000.

Bowden’s Take
The Reds weren’t afraid to trade away four of their top 10 prospects this offseason, but the haul from those deals at the major league club was astounding. Latos is a potential No. 1 starter; Marshall is a shutdown left-handed setup man; and Madson is an impact closer. Ludwick was a solid midlevel free-agent signing who should add some pop in the small confines of Great American Ball Park. The Reds are primed to return to the postseason this year.

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Five teams that got worse this winter 

January, 12, 2012
Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew BaileyGetty ImagesGio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey are gone, and the A's are likely headed for the cellar in 2012.

Facing the stark reality that a rebuilding project is inevitable, some teams held fire sales this offseason, dealing from areas of strength and depth. Others simply continue to be mired in bad decisions or the aftermath of those decisions, or simply won’t be able to withstand the loss of an All-Star player to free agency. Regardless, here are the five teams that got worse in the offseason:

1. Oakland Athletics

What they lost: Left-hander Gio Gonzalez, 26, amassed a 31-21 record with a 3.20 ERA and striking out 368 hitters in 402 2/3 innings the last two years. Trevor Cahill, 23, averaged double-digit win totals in each of his three years in the majors. When healthy, Andrew Bailey was highly effective, saving 75 games over the last three years, striking out a man per inning. The A’s also lost reliever Craig Breslow in the Cahill deal, and outfielders David DeJesus and Josh Willingham left via free agency.

What they added: Gonzalez fetched two starters who are close to the big leagues in Brad Peacock and Tom Milone. Peacock has a high upside but could be a year away, and Milone is more of a back-of-the-rotation starter. For Bailey, the A’s received a fourth outfielder in Josh Reddick and two prospects; among the two, hard-throwing pitcher Raul Alcantara, 19, has more upside. For Cahill, the A’s received a package of prospects highlighted by right-hander Jarrod Parker, who has ace potential but is recovering from Tommy John surgery. For Willingham and DeJesus, the A’s received two first-round supplemental picks (Nos. 34 and 47 overall).

Bottom line: Without Gonzalez, the rotation has no stopper, and there will be many losses in 2012 for Oakland. Without Bailey, the A’s have a void in the ninth inning. Most of the prospects won’t even see the light of day until 2013 or 2014. The A’s shouldn’t be expected to compete in a stacked AL West for several years.

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Ranking 10 moves of the offseason 

December, 27, 2011
Albert PujolsStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesThe Los Angeles Angels spared no expense to acquire Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.

With the midpoint of baseball’s 2011-12 offseason upon us, it’s a good time to circle back to take stock of the most significant moves made thus far.

1. Los Angeles Angels sign 1B Albert Pujols and LHP C.J. Wilson

Angels owner Arte Moreno shocked the baseball world the morning of Dec. 8, when he signed three-time National League MVP Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million contract and left-hander Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million pact. Pujols’ move from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Angels can be effectively compared to when Babe Ruth changed teams, going from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees in 1919.

2. Miami Marlins winter meetings spending spree

The Marlins hadn't signed a significant major league free agent since 2005. Now nearly seven years later, the Marlins made a splash by signing closer Heath Bell, left-handed starter Mark Buehrle and shortstop Jose Reyes. Buehrle gives the Marlins a lefty to put between staff ace Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco. Bell has been one of the most effective closers in baseball over the last three years, while Reyes is one of baseball’s best leadoff hitters and improves the Marlins' defense on the left side of the infield.

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Bowden Bullets: Wilson might decide today 

December, 8, 2011
WilsonMike Segar/US PresswireC.J. Wilson will make up his mind between SoCal and South Beach today.

• Multiple sources said C.J. Wilson spent Wednesday night visiting with both the Los Angeles Angels and Florida Marlins one final time before making his decision. If the Angels don't add a sixth year to their offer, it appears Wilson will join Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Jose Reyes in Miami. The Marlins have six years on the table for Wilson already.

• Rays manager Joe Maddon acknowledged his team has enough starting-pitching depth to trade one starter for a long-term solution at first base and catcher. Following are some scenarios for first basemen who could become available for one of the Rays’ starting pitchers (Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann or Alex Cobb):

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Bowden's Bullets: Bourjos for Wright? 

December, 5, 2011
Peter BourjosSteve Mitchell/US PresswireWould the Angels part with rangy center fielder Bourjos? For David Wright they might.

With free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes signing with the Miami Marlins, the winter meetings have begun with a bang.

• The Marlins are not done, either, as one top-ranking team official insists that Miami is still in on left-hander Mark Buehrle (No. 6 on my free-agent value rankings) and first baseman Albert Pujols. Signing Pujols after adding Reyes and Heath Bell would equal the Miami Heat’s coup two years ago when they signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

• New Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto will be busy this week. He is targeting starting pitcher C.J. Wilson and closer Ryan Madson, the two best hurlers in their respective markets. He also might be in the market for a third baseman, and the Mets match up well with the Angels. With Reyes leaving the Mets, it only makes sense for Mets GM Sandy Alderson to trade David Wright now and begin the rebuilding mode in earnest. The Mets might be able to get a package of Peter Bourjos and Hank Conger for Wright. Wright would solve the Angels’ nagging third-base problem, and they could insert prospect Mike Trout in center field.

• It would be shocking if the Washington Nationals did not land Buehrle or Wilson. They prefer Buehrle because they feel they can get him for three years rather than the five years it will take to get Wilson. And like the Marlins, the Nationals feel they are well in the hunt for Pujols or Prince Fielder. The Nationals also have interest in Bourjos, as they continue to search for a center fielder. They’ve talked to the Rays about B.J. Upton, but the likeliest target is Yoenis Cespedes. Still, they’re not convinced that they want to meet Cespedes’ asking price, which is in the $50 million neighborhood.

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Reyes impacts Marlins in many ways 

December, 5, 2011
Jose ReyesAP Photo/Kathy KmonicekJose Reyes will impact the Miami Marlins with his bat, glove and personality.

With the signing of free-agent Jose Reyes to a six-year, $106 million contract on Sunday, the Miami Marlins netted themselves the one of the best shortstops in baseball, second only to the Colorado Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki. It also gives the new-look Marlins much-needed dose of star power.

From a baseball sense, Reyes is a terrific fielder. He has great range to his left and boasts one of the strongest arms at the position. His high energy and enthusiasm will positively influence Hanley Ramirez on the field and in clubhouse. Though there has been talk that Ramirez would head to center field, a team source confirmed that Ramirez will go to third base, with Emilio Bonafacio and Chris Coghlan sharing time in center field. Reyes is also one of baseball's best leadoff hitters, and he should activate a lineup that has lacked decent pop and on-base percentage at the top of the lineup.

Risk? Certainly any time a team signs a player to a long-term contract there is some inherent risk in the latter years as the player ages. Reyes has already had a history of injury, but working in the Marlins' favor is the fact that Reyes is entering his prime years physically, so the next six years should be as good if not better than the first six.

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Marlins need to pony up for Reyes 

November, 29, 2011
Jose ReyesGreg Fiume/Getty ImagesIf the Miami Marlins are really serious about Jose Reyes, they will have to up their offer.

The Miami Marlins have made some waves this offseason. Aside from unveiling their colorful new uniforms and the new stadium’s massive aquarium behind home plate, they’ve come out throwing around some big offers early to several of the top free agents including Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Ryan Madson.

However, the Marlins’ approach to free agency has become as transparent as it has been aggressive. They’ve been wining and dining free agents left and right. But like a bad date, the Marlins’ lowball offers have often left their guests disappointed.

Even the most casual baseball fan knows the Marlins haven’t pursued a big-time free agent in years. Of course, their underwhelming offers have kept the Commissioner’s office happy, as the Marlins are certainly staying within MLB’s recommended guidelines for free-agent offers. The problem is, those types of offers never get players signed.

Indeed, the Marlins have already begun their most critical offseason in nearly a decade. With a new ballpark ready to open on Opening Day 2012, there is significant pressure to drum up buzz and interest -- the kind that attracts potential season-ticket holders and skybox lessors, as well as advertising and corporate sponsorship dollars. Case in point: the Marlins’ basketball brethren Miami Heat spoiled the local fan base with LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade on South Beach. What kind of buzz would signing Pujols and Reyes create?

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Bowden's Bullets: Free-agent bear market 

November, 26, 2011
Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols & Yu DarvishAP Photo/Getty ImagesWho will sign Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols? Will Yu Darvish become available?

Major League Baseball’s winter meetings begin next Sunday at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, and there will be fireworks.

Make no mistake, general managers are savvy enough to take advantage of being in a spotlight under which they can get their clubs national attention and maximize their teams' ability to sell tickets, luxury boxes, promotions and advertising. I predict there will be a flurry of movement this year because the free-agent market has remained somewhat inert thus far.

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Bowden's Bullets: Wallace to the Indians? 

November, 17, 2011
Brett WallaceAP photo/Pat SullivanBrett Wallace already has played for four organizations, and it soon could be five.

I come across daily tidbits on possible personnel moves straight from the front offices of all 30 clubs. Here's what I'm hearing on Thursday.

Possible trades and signings

• Astros manager Brad Mills says Carlos Lee will be the Astros’ starting first baseman in 2012, and that could open up a deal involving Brett Wallace to the Cleveland Indians. The Indians have been discouraged by Carlos Pena's (No. 17 on my free-agent board) high asking price and are not convinced that Matt LaPorta is going to hit well. Wallace has been in four different organizations since being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008.

• Multiple teams have inquired about left-hander Mark Buehrle, including the Washington Nationals, who have made Buehrle a top priority. They feel that he could be the perfect leader for their talented young rotation.

• The Chicago White Sox are not confident they will agree with Buehrle on years and salary, so look for lefty Chris Sale to replace Buehrle in the rotation. Further, a source close to the White Sox said not to be surprised to see them deal left-hander John Danks and right-hander Gavin Floyd. Danks will be a free agent next winter, so the Sox could look to move him while he still has a lot of trade value. Floyd's ERA has risen in each of the past three seasons, and the White Sox might try get a decent return before his value bottoms out. A rotation of Jake Peavy, Phil Humber, Sale and Zach Stewart is entirely possible.

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Scouting the agents of the free agents 

September, 2, 2011
Mark BuehrleRick Osentoski/US PresswireWhite Sox left-hander Mark Buerhle will lean heavily on his agents at CAA for what could be the biggest payday of his career.

We've discussed scouting out the top free agents this week, but what about the people representing those free agents? Here's a scouting report on the agents who will play an integral part in negotiations for four big free agents this offseason.

Mark Buehrle, LHP, Chicago White Sox

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The NL payroll picture 

August, 26, 2011
Earlier this week, we took a look at the American League teams and the dollars coming off their books due to free agency. Today we look at the National League, where the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants have the most cash coming off their books and should have the most flexibility in terms of offseason spending. However, keep in mind that their arbitration-eligible players and long-term contractual commitments factor into their financial payroll flexibility.

Here is breakdown of each team's estimated 2012 salary commitments compared to their 2011 Opening Day payroll. Remember that 2012 commitments do not include the money that players will get via arbitration. For example, the Phillies' 2012 number does not include the salary that Cole Hamels will earn via arbitration, which will almost certainly be more than $10 million.

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