Spring Training is approaching, and I'd like to take stock of the offseason so far. Keeping in mind that there are a ton of free agents still available, here are the four teams I think hurt themselves the most this winter. (My article about the five best offseasons is here.)
GIANTS: When a Pirates fan feels as free as I do to call the Giants the worst, stupidest franchise in baseball, well, San Francisco's got a problem. Heading into this offseason, the Giants were a 71-win team whose lineup managed to be incredibly boring despite the presence of Barry Bonds. Now Bonds is gone, and the Giants' big move this offseason was to sign a scarily inconsistent hitter (Aaron Rowand) to a five-year contract that could hamstring the Giants for years to come. Meanwhile, the Giants have six projected starting offensive players ages 33 or older, and only one projected starter besides Rowand who posted an OPS above .800 last year. They're also planning on starting four guys with 2007 OBPs below .306, all of whom are at least 33. Nice work, Brian Sabean!
WHITE SOX: Most of the Sox's major moves this offseason - including signing Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel to multi-year deals and trading a pair of very high-upside arms in Faustino de los Santos and Gio Gonzalez for Nick Swisher - would've made a lot of sense if the Sox were a 90-win team. But they weren't. They were a 72-win team. Even after their offseason moves, their 2008 forecast is third place with a slight chance of dead last, and they're millions poorer and no longer have any farm system, either. They were probably headed in the wrong direction anyway, but the White Sox's offseason probably ensures that they're going to be in really terrible shape in two years or so.
ASTROS: Like the White Sox, the Astros don't seem to understand the shape their franchise is in. They won 73 games in 2007, so their big moves were... to trade their best reliever for pennies on the dollar, to sign Kaz Matsui and to trade several of their few remaining prospects for Miguel Tejada? Sure, their middle infield will be a lot better, and they're apparently finally going to start phasing out the execrable Brad Ausmus in favor of young catcher J.R. Towles, but this is all deck-chair shuffling. Even in the weak NL Central, the Astros are going nowhere. They could've used this offseason to acknowledge that obvious fact and make some strides toward addressing their uncertain future, but instead they did the exact opposite.
MARINERS: This one is more debatable than the first three, but I still think the Mariners' attempts to catch the Angels are doomed to failure. Seattle somehow managed to win 88 games last year, but by third-order wins, they were 78-84, and their Pythagorean record was 79-83. At least they correctly identified their rotation as one of their big problems, but Carlos Silva isn't a great pitcher by any stretch of the imagination, and he isn't a great fit for Safeco Field, either. Erik Bedard is a legitimately terrific pitcher, but Seattle gave up a king's ransom to get him, and he's not going to get them to the playoffs. Texas and Oakland have acknowledged the Angels' clear superiority and started rebuilding projects; in a couple years, the Mariners are going to wish they had, too.