Every team in baseball heads into the offseason with a strategy, a game plan of how it is going to attack the open market and look to improve its roster.

For some, it’s dealing from a position of strength—say an abundance of young pitching—to secure the impact bat that a team’s lineup desperately needs. For others, the strategy is simply to open the team’s coffers, buying the best free-agent talent available to plug holes on the roster.

Until teams get on the field and we can see the results of their offseason work, it’s difficult to declare winners and losers of the hot-stove league. But we can certainly look at what a team has—or has not—done up to this point and come to a conclusion about how its strategy is working out thus far.

While there are a number of teams that have yet to make waves this winter, the strategies employed by these clubs have us scratching our heads.


Boston Red Sox

Despite the fact that Pablo Sandoval isn’t a superstar (yet he’s being paid like one), Boston’s decision to sign the athletic yet husky third baseman made plenty of sense. The hot corner was a major problem for the Red Sox, and Sandoval represented the best player available at the position.

Problem solved.

But to then sign former top prospect Hanley Ramirez to play left field—a position that he’s never played—at a considerable cost?

It’s not as if Boston was in dire need of outfield help, with seven outfielders on the 40-man roster (eight if you count infielder Mookie Betts, who is blocked at second base by Dustin Pedroia).

Nobody disputes that when he’s healthy, Ramirez is one of the premier hitters in the game, capable of putting a team on his back and carrying it for a stretch. But the poster boy for health, Ramirez is not. He’s played in more than 130 games only once since 2010, and typically, a player’s health doesn’t improve as he gets older.

If you’re having visions of Carl Crawford dancing in your head right about now, nobody would blame you. Because this offseason is shaping up much like the winter of 2010 did in Boston.

Back then, the club spent nearly $300 million bringing Crawford (seven years, $142 million) and Adrian Gonzalez (signed to a seven-year, $154 million extension upon being acquired from San Diego) into the fold.

It wasn’t until 2013—the season after the Red Sox convinced the Los Angeles Dodgers to take on both of their bloated salaries in a late-season trade—that Boston held the Commissioner’s Trophy as World Series champions once again.

The Red Sox have spent nearly $200 million this winter on a third baseman and a left fielder—and they still have absolutely no idea who is going to take the ball for them on Opening Day. Adding at least one front-of-the-rotation starter—if not two—is a necessity.

Those kind of pitchers don’t come cheap.

It’s not a stretch to think that, by the time the offseason ends, Boston will have spent close to half-a-billion dollars to improve its ballclub.

The last team that spent that much in a single winter? Boston’s hated rivals, the New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers spent more than $450 million last offseason to add Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka.

What did it buy them? A second straight season of watching the playoffs from home.

Unlike the Yankees, a team that was devoid of young talent to build a new foundation around, the Red Sox are flush with prospects at nearly every position. If the club continues its current free-spending ways, none of that young talent is going to have a chance to shine in Boston.


New York Yankees

Speaking of the Bronx Bombers, general manager Brian Cashman has shown remarkable discipline in not getting involved with the biggest names on the free-agent market thus far.

Team sources told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that the club had no intention of pursuing the likes of Sandoval, Ramirez, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields. Given how their wild spending spree of a year ago turned out, you can’t blame the Yankees for taking such a stance.

But, as The Boston Globe‘s Nick Cafardo recently wrote, nobody’s buying what the Yankees are selling: “I asked a dozen or so GMs recently in Phoenix about the Yankees’ situation and not one of them thought the Yankees would stay away from a major signing.”

Part of that is because we’ve seen (and heard) this from the Yankees before, only to watch them scoop up a big-time free agent, like they did in 2009 when they came out of nowhere to land Mark Teixeira, who, ironically, was believed to be heading to Boston.

The overwhelming reason for the disbelief, however, is that this is the Yankees we’re talking about. This is a team that doesn’t measure success by wins and losses but by whether or not it has to order World Series championship rings at the end of the season.

Currently, the team has absolutely no idea who its starting second baseman or third baseman is going to be. The starting rotation, after the aforementioned Tanaka, is sketchy at best—and it’s one twang in Tanaka‘s balky elbow away from becoming one of the worst in baseball.

The simple fact is that, thus far, the Yankees have done nothing to improve a club that finished 12 games behind Baltimore in the division, while the rest of the AL East—Boston and Toronto, specifically—has done quite a bit.

Settling for mid-level free agents, such as former Yankees Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy, simply isn’t going to cut it. Unless, of course, the goal is for Cashman and manager Joe Girardi to be looking for new jobs around this time next year. 


Oakland Athletics

The A’s headed into the offseason with a plethora of players who profiled as first base/designated hitter types—John Jaso, Brandon Moss and Stephen Vogt among them—and have proceeded to add two more names to the mix in Ike Davis and Billy Butler.

Heck, they gave Butler a three-year, $30 million deal when no other team was going to come remotely close to those numbers given his diminished production and lack of discernible defensive ability.

If that wasn’t enough, Oakland then traded its best position player and a perennial MVP candidate, Josh Donaldson—a move that left both his former teammates and pundits scratching their heads.

If there’s a silver lining, I suppose it’d be that the A’s at least traded him out of the division.

Sure, Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career this winter and due a huge raise over the $500,000 salary that he pulled in last season. But he was under team control through the 2018 season, and the A’s could have fit his increased salary into their 2015 payroll.

There was no pressure to move him now.

While some, like Fox Sports’ Rob Neyer, will make the argument that the Donaldson trade doesn’t signal the beginning of a rebuilding process in Oakland, the clubhouse disagrees.

Could the package of talent that the A’s received—Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman, Brett Lawrie and Sean Nolin—turn out to be key members of the team’s future core? Sure. But that’s far from a sure thing, and only one of them, Lawrie, is assured of a roster spot next season.

Now, per John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, the A’s are rumored to be in talks with the Atlanta Braves about a potential deal involving outfielder Justin Upton—a free agent after the 2015 season that they cannot afford to re-sign—and Evan Gattis, a player with plenty of power but questionable defense who is best utilized as a designated hitter.

The same position at which the A’s have more bodies than they know what to do with.

General manager Billy Beane has proved himself to be smarter than most on multiple occasions, and maybe he’s about to do it once again. 

But on the surface, it’s hard to see how any of these moves make sense for a club that only five months ago looked like the best that baseball had to offer.


Find me on Twitter to talk hot-stove league action and all things baseball: @RickWeinerBR

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