Every offseason, it never fails. The baseball pundits all come out in droves to predict the landing spots of the top free agents, and some unknown, “mystery team” crashes the party. Robinson Cano a Mariner? Josh Donaldson and David Price both shipped to the harmless and docile Toronto Blue Jays? The Padres, Marlins, and Angels now all have reputations for being major offseason spenders, and perhaps throwing around dollar signs bigger than the budget can handle. The offseason is a time for confident GMs to show their talents, and for underrated markets to flex their muscle. Yesterday the small market Minnesota Twins shocked the baseball world by dipping into the Korean market, nabbing Byung-ho Park for a staggering 12 million dollar posting fee, not to mention the actual contract itself, which figures to surpass the four year deal Jung-ho Kang received from Pittsburgh. The Twins are the first, but don’t expect them to be last surprises of the offseason.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks
I have the D-Backs as my number 1 sleeper team. They aren’t tied up in a lot of big contracts, they have relatively new management (former manager and player Tony LaRussa and Dave Stewart) that wants to win badly, and they have the resources to pull off a big signing or trade. Their staff was among the worst in baseball last year, which should put them in play for Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, or perhaps a second tier pitcher like Mike Leake or Jeff Samardzija. If they wanted an offensive upgrade over Nick Ahmend or Chris Owings up the middle, they could do that as well.
2. Detroit Tigers
You thought they were rebuilding, right? Their owner is aging, and he didn’t take too kindly to the fire sale that Dave Dombrowski put on last summer. He wants to win a World Series now, and he has no qualms about spending big money. Dangerous combination. I would expect the Tigers to be “in” on everyone this offseason, especially front line starters to back up Justin Verlander. I belive either Zack Greinke or Jhonny Cueto finds himself in Detroit in 2016.
3. Baltimore Orioles
It’s difficult to imagine the Orioles without Chris Davis and Matt Wieters, isn’t it? The Orioles are losing more players due to free agency than any other team, but don’t expect them to be content with a few lull years. With the expected departures of Wieters, Davis and Steve Pearce, the Orioles will have significant needs offensively. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them land Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton, or maybe make make a huge splash and steal Jason Heyward from bigger market teams like the Yankees and Cardinals. They also don’t have a starter who threw more than 150 innings last year, so they will most likely be looking for a durable starter more than anything. Think Jordan Zimmermann or Scott Kazmir.