Jayson Stark's poll of big-league executives is a fun way to finish out the offseason. Here are a few highlights:
-P- Executives overwhelmingly voted the Padres and White Sox the most improved teams in their respective leagues, while the Phillies and Rays were voted least improved. The Pirates didn't get a significant number of votes in either category. As I've noted here before, I'm not the biggest fan of what the Padres have done, although they almost certainly will be greatly improved. I would have voted for the White Sox in the AL -- they already had a legitimate core in place, and their key offseason acquisitions will fit well with that core.
-P- Many execs evidently think the Jays' five-year contract for Russell Martin was the best free-agent signing of the offseason, which surprises me given how much Martin got paid. Martin also got a bunch of votes in the "most outrageous contracts" category, however.
-P- A.J. Burnett got a bunch of votes for the best free agent signed to a one-year deal, while Corey Hart got several for the best free agent signed for $3 million or less. The Burnett votes don't surprise me -- he can still help a team like the Pirates, he took a significant pay cut to play in Pittsburgh, and being one of the best one-year free agents isn't a high bar to clear. The Hart votes are different, and they seem to reflect confidence throughout the industry that Hart will bounce back this season. Personally, I'd take Brandon Morrow or Alexi Ogando (both of whom got similar numbers of votes) as better cheap free agent signings than Hart.