1) Boston Red Sox: Like the Yankees, as some may have heard, the Red Sox have an advantage, in regards to money. It isn’t quite in the same class, but is above most other teams. They can cover up mistakes like Julio Lugo and Wily Mo Pena. And they can go out and pay $10 million for a guy like Adrian Beltre, all but admitting they overpaid by a year or two with a player like Mike Lowell.
But the emphasis on the Farm, and the ability to let veteran players walk –typically — has helped this team find a lot of success in recent seasons. They have not only brought up players such as Pedroia and Lester, they have locked them up to very club-friendly contracts. And their free agent acquisitions have been mostly positive outside of Julio Lugo, since the 2006 season ended (A year in which they learned a lot).
Theo Epstein is given a lot of credit, but the organization as a whole, is what deserves to be praised.
And three straight years with at least 95 wins doesn’t hurt either.
2) St. Louis Cardinals: Say whatever you want about the Cardinals, but they know how to get things done. Seven of the past ten seasons, they have experienced postseason play. And in one of those years, they won a World Series.
Granted, that team might be the worst team to ever win a World Series, and is probably the best example of the negatives that the Wild Card system beholds. But this came right after a couple seasons in which the Cardinals were a force — including one season where they won an MLB high, 105 games.
Another positive is that they do not spend a ton of money doing what they do. They are definitely not a large market team, or at least do not exercise their “large market” muscles.
But if there is a weakness, it is a relatively weak Farm system, as they emptied it out for veterans last year.
But this franchise is a very successful one. And even the back-end of Matt Holliday’s should not slow them down too much.
3) New York Yankees: The Yankees have a competitive advantage. Anyone who denies that is oblivious. But it is so difficult to weigh in how much of their success is attributed to that “advantage,” and how much of it is due to simply being smart at all matters that are baseball. For example: This season, they made two smart trades, on paper. But both of those trades had something to do with acquiring a player — albeit a good one — that was simply not financially suitable for the team that originally controlled them.
On the other hand, the organization has been very smart lately, in proving that they care about the Farm system. Keeping Phil Hughes, Joba, and a few others has not paid immediate dividends, like they would have hoped. But they at least displayed an ability to stress the importance of a strong system. Because the highest payroll AND prospects that are waiting for their shot, well, that is how you build a superpower.
4) LA Angels: Forget their identity crisis, the one that involves changing which city they wish to represent. This franchise is pretty much as good as it can get. They have combined the lost art of “small ball,” with what seems like a new found “ability” to care about On base percentage. They were smart about letting free agents Chone Figgins and John lackey walk. As they chose to shed some payroll, and get younger. Not that either of those players were poor signings for their current teams, just that an organization has to make unpopular decisions sometimes. And neither of those players, while good, were truly great by any means.
Their constant abuse of Jeff Mathis — which continues, by letting him hit — is somewhat bewildering. But they believe in what they believe in. And when you are talking about success Every. Single. Year. Then I guess stubbornness can be beneficial.
Their Farm isn’t great. And as Keith Law describes it, most of their upside guys are residing in the lower levels. But one accumulates talent by gaining draft picks. And that is what the Angels did this season, by letting their free agents walk.
You could make a case that the organization could be getting even better, by emphasizing draft picks, letting players in their thirties walk more frequently, and acquiring patient hitters that can get on base more often.
But the practice seems good. The future, however, will explain if they apply this consistently or not.
5) Minnesota Twins: Forget the statistics, this organization knows how to win. I am on board with the Sabermetric generation. But that is not the only way to make the playoffs. And the Twins seemingly make the playoffs every year.
Proof to those hard-core stat lovers, that numbers aren’t everything. Which means, the Twins are perfect for a guy like me. I love the numbers, and they show me why there is more to baseball, than simply formulas.
The Twins made what looks to be a gaffe in trading Matt Garza for Delmon Young. And they definitely did not get enough in return for the best pitcher in baseball at the time in Johan Santana.
But they simply find a way to get things done. And now since the organization is willing to spend more than the average team, they can actually entertain the idea of locking up their own stars. Something that will make winning much easier in the future. But with this newfound ability to spend, they cannot make poor decisions. It is easy to spend when the money is there, it is not as easy to spend wisely.
6) Philadelphia Phillies: Although I disagree with letting Cliff Lee get away, via their own decision to trade him. I have to give credit to the Phillies for having been so successful in recent seasons. They have, of course, been to the World Series in back-to-back seasons. And there isn’t much evidence against them returning for a third time. After all, they are still as good as any team in the National League. And, although flawed, they are still good enough to play at a very high level.
Their farm is definitely much lower than a front office would want though. They are as “win-now” as it gets. And that is why keeping Cliff Lee would have been a smart move. But they didn’t keep him, and now they are not as good as they could have been, AND the farm is still somewhat weak, comparatively.
One thing they did well, was making sure that if they traded away young, cheap talent for Roy Halladay, that they were damn well going to keep him long-term. And that was one of the important aspects of the tr
ade. Make sure that Halladay is wearing a Phillies uniform beyond 2010.
7) Tampa Bay Rays: I am not as high on the Rays recent success, as many others are. Mostly due to the fact they have only had two years of actual success. They drafted high, and it paid off. Being bad paid off. But it wasn’t all luck, give them credit for picking players that can actually play. After all, the Royals haven’t turned their failures into this kind of success.
The organization also rid themselves of potential distractions with players like Delmon Young, Elijah Dukes, and Josh Hamilton. They have displayed a cutthroat attitude with personalities, kind of like the Red Sox have shown — but with aging veterans.
It is one thing to let a guy like Manny Ramirez linger around in the clubhouse. A guy that is a Hall of Fame player, and one the team will suffer greatly without — in most cases. But it is a completely different scenario when the player in question has never done anything relevant at the big league level AND has shown a knack for being a cancer in the intangibles area.
8: Florida Marlins: The Marlins might be the most difficult team to rank, in all of baseball. They appear to be successful overall, two championships in merely seventeen years of existence. And they happen to have the lowest payroll in baseball most years.
But the fact is that they have not even made the playoffs since 2003. So while they deserve some credit for doing more with less, and ultimately bringing home World Series trophies in two different years. They also deserve some blame for missing the playoffs every year.
Nevertheless, their body of work is impressive. They win games — not enough — but they win. And to say that money doesn’t affect their overall success level, would be a fallacy.
This front office is great at acquiring young talent. And they are particularly great at knowing how to rid of their stars at the right time.
Sure, they could lock up a player like Miguel Cabrera if they wanted to, I suppose. But they know that he will take up way too much money, hindering their surrounding moves. Therefore, they dispose of him, trying to stock up the Farm system even more.
The Marlins are a great story, for sure.
9) Oakland Athletics: One of the A’s great strengths, are also one of their weaknesses. They have a knack for dispersing their money well — in a sense — where they avoid overpaying on the back-end of contracts. But that same “strength” can also be frowned upon, as they always seemed to be missing that one guy that could get them over the hump. Not to mention, they many times avoid paying a lot for a known good player, and instead pay much less for a gamble. But Eric Chavez could be why they have not spent big in some time, as the funds simply may not be available to take on a potentially disastrous contract.
One of the knocks on Beane has been for his inability to develop a hitter. And that is a very good point. But he is awesome at finding and acquiring young pitching. Brett Anderson being another example of a guy that could soon dominate.
The A’s can not be summed up in Beane alone, as they seemed to be credited to Beane alone when things were going well in the early part of the decade. He had help then, and he has “help” now. The problem that many small market teams have — And I continually will stress this — is that the well willrun dry. Prospects will be harder to find within the system, and draft picks will not turn into gold as often as the once did, or once will. If the money isn’t there, then the solutions aren’t as easy to find.
But after a while, Beane, who is a good GM, will have to start taking the blunt of the blame. And the Coco Crisp’s of the world are nothing more than complementary players.
Either someone’s wallet must open, or something must change in the way they develop and draft.
10) Colorado Rockies: The Rockies are actually very good at this baseball thing. They went to a World Series just a few years back, and now have one of the better Farm systems in baseball. Not to mention, they have a lot of talent at the Major League level. They have not won it all, ever. But they know what they are doing.
They have built a solid foundation, with Tulowitzki, Jimenez, and others used as anchors. And the org has avoided making disastrous decisions of late, something that many other teams cannot avoid, even teams higher on this list.
11) Atlanta Braves: The Braves took a lot of criticism for not making the playoffs for four consecutive seasons…After appearing there 14 straight seasons in which, you know, the seasons were actually completed (1994).
Now, after facing failure, they are back near the top again. They have a very strong farm system, and have enough talent at the highest level to compete for the time being. Locking up Chipper Jones was very questionable, but it isn’t difficult to understand why a team throws more money than they should at the face of the franchise.
The Braves however, are far from mistake free. Take the Chipper extension out, and they still traded multiple prospects for only a few months of Mark Teixeira — in a year that Tex wouldn’t be able to compensate for the lack of talent, that the big league club employed. They signed Derek Lowe, and ultimately had to trade Javier Vazquez to dump salary, in part because they signed Lowe in the first place. Although to be fair, Lowe isn’t a bad option. It wasn’t as though they were downgrading from Vazquez to Tim Redding. But Vazquez > Lowe.
But the point is, teams will experience down times. The Braves were on top for seemingly forever, then they were down — not miserable. And now, with the right moves, they can continue to trend upward once again.
12) Cleveland Indians: The Indians are going through what the A’s taught us every small market will go through: They will rebuild. The team actually did exactly what they should have done this off-season’s free agent market; they stayed away.
See, their division counterpart — The Royals — would have tried to make a splash, when a splash wasn’t needed — or wasn’t even present for that matter (See: Jose Guillen and Kyle Farnsworth).
Mark Shapiro knows what he is doing, and he knows that more pieces must be present in order for the Indians to do something. Something worthwhile. They traded two of their three best, most accomplished players just last August. There was no room for an impatient GM, one that would have tried to make an impactful move or two, when they weren’t really in the teams financial structures. Or philosophical structure for that matter. There was nothing realistically available on this free agent market to turn the Indians into serious contenders. They either could not afford to cough up the money, or the prospects (via trade).
All of the prospects they have been accumulating, from past trades, will help the organization. Some of them will fa
il, but every club suffers from the “prospect-fail” syndrome. They now have some young talent, and really only one albatross contract to deal with.
The worst thing to do would be to panic. And based on what has been done, the front office doesn’t look like they will be doing that any time soon.
13) Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers have a lot of success. But their avoidance of pitching is almost embarrassing. They have a rotation mixed up of veteran journeymen and young, promising arms. The problem is that no one knows what to expect out of Kershaw and Billingsley this year. And everyone knows what to expect out of Padilla, and Weaver, and others that shall be nameless.
They needed a pitcher. They failed to get one. Sure, the division is weak, but the team failed this offseason.
The club doesn’t have a great farm, and they have a good, but flawed Major League club. That is how I justify this ranking.
14) Texas Rangers: The Rangers have come a long, long way. They now have baseball’s best Farm System. And they have some money to spend, when they need to. The money part has been around, for the organization, for quite some time. But the ability to have players coming up at seemingly every position for the next few years, well, that was definitely not available four or five years back. And of course, it may not be available five years from now. But right now, this team is loaded for the future.
The reason they are lower, even with such a strong farm, is what have they accomplished? They have set themselves up for future success, but they have not actually done anything, other than win more games than they lost last season. They can’t be put extremely high simply because they have a bunch of good prospects. Winning at the Major League level matters a lot as well.
With that being said, there are few teams I would like to be for the next few years, then the Rangers. Will I be saying that in five years though? Because I definitely was not saying it five years before this…
15) Chicago White Sox: Say what you will about this franchise, but they have found success in being different. Their moves never seem to make sense, until hindsight is allowed to take over.
Take, for example, their absorbing the contract of Alex Rios. Everyone around baseball, and its surrounding areas, questioned the move. Why would they want to pay for a player with so many questions? But this is the kind of move Kenny Williams has thrived upon during his tenure.
The club always finds guys that can pitch some, and seem to make them even better. And we know that their ability to teach the “Cutter,” is one reason for this.
They mix and match good players, players any club would want, with other players that no one would touch. Carlos Quentin is good, and they brought him in when he was a questionable acquisition — albeit, a very talented one. And they have John Danks, Jake Peavy, etc.
But who really wants Juan Pierre starting on their team? I know that if I were a GM, I would not. Even as a fan, I would not. Nothing more than a 4th outfielder.
The one aspect of building a team that they seem to be failing at, currently, is down on the Farm. Their “Farm” is far from impressive and in the lower tier.
This must change, one would think. But the team will find a way. Whether it is thinking outside the box, or whatever, they will probably find a way to stay afloat.
Unfortunately, “afloat’ isn’t great for Kenny Williams’ job security. So a few good years must be mixed in. And if the team runs dry, they only have themselves to blame.
16) Seattle Mariners: The Mariners are everyone’s darling lately, and rightfully so. But for every Franklin Gutierrez, there seems to be a Mike Sweeney mixed in. And for each Cliff Lee, there is a Ken Griffey Jr.
But the two DH options mentioned, are rumored to be preferences of the higher-ups, even higher up than the GM happens to be.
The organization, fundamentally, has done a very good job since they rid of the past decision makers. We will not mention his name. They stress defense, locking up young players brought up through the organization, who are, more importantly, skilled as well. And they of course value pitching. One might think they don’t care about as offense as much as they should, but that is ludicrous. They just don’t have the options that they should have. This because of mistakes a few years back, which have little to do with Jack Z. (And I say little, because unfortunately, they do affect him now). The Mariners attempted to solve part of their offensive problem by trading Carlos Silva, who was close to useless, for Milton Bradley. Whether that works out or not, is yet to be seen. But the move was a good one, because Bradley’s upside is much greater than Silva’s — who simply did not have any upside.
If the organization is limiting Zduriencik’s power, by forcing him to play these aging vets, then that needs to “cease to exist.” When a team goes out to find someone to do the job of a general manager, then they need to actually let him do that job. Having Bradley play in left, while AB’s are wasted, well, there is no excuse for that.
17) Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers do one thing well, they play within their means. You probably won’t see them overpaying for anyone, because they lack the funds, and choose not to do so. But their system is, according to Keith Law, lacking in pitching. And since their current rotation is lacking in quality arms, one wonders where they are going to come from. They could trade Prince Fielder, but that would set the club back now. Or they could lock him up and hope the right free agents fall into their lap, at the right price.
Either way, they must choose a direction to go in. Because they are kind of in limbo right now.
18) Detroit Tigers: The Tigers have been made a mockery lately. They seem to be intrigued by guys that can throw hard, especially relievers. They are actually underrated in the defense-first era (A rebirth), that seemed to start with the Mariners. But remember, the Tigers were the ones that traded Edgar Renteria and replaced him with Adam Everett. They fielded one of the better defensive infields in baseball at the time. Being efficient defensively, was the route they chose.
Financially, they have made far too many mistakes to be any higher on this list. The Dontrelle Willis extension was completely unwarranted. They had what looked like a decent fifth starter when they bought low on Willis. It turned out much worse. But regardless, the contract was one of the worst decisions in recent memory.
Magglio Ordonez wasn’t as big of a disaster. But right now, he is proving why too many years, and too much money can be a very bad id
ea. At least Ordonez gave them some good years, however. Something that Willis never did do.
It’s easy to say they are a failure of late, because of the money committed to players that are not all that great anymore. But it is also easy to overlook the fact the organization has actually been a success the latter half of the this past decade.
19) New York Mets: The Mets struggle for a large market team. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2006, and fundamentally, they are flawed. They do, of course, have a very good core, and are keen at locking those type of players up. But that core isn’t enough. And the organization is sub-par at building around this core.
For example: They traded for Luis Castillo in 2007. Ok. The trade wasn’t that bad, as they needed someone to fill the position. But then they went and extended his contract, which at the time was a bad move, and became even worse as more time passed.
Their avoidance of filling out rotation spots, with quality, is just another problem, in what is a long line of problems. The logical next step for the organization would be to clear the front office and start over. And even a guy like Carlos Beltran could be used as trade bait, as great as he is, because the Mets couldn’t surround him well enough during his prime in New York.
20) San Francisco Giants: Pitching, pitching, pitching. They definitely have it. But they don’t address the offense properly. Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez is nice. But Pablo Sandoval, and well, that’s it, isn’t so compelling.
The Giants are still feeling the effects of mistakes past; Barry Zito, trading away young talent for veteran pieces. But they are okay at the Major League level, and okay at the lower levels. It could be worse I guess.
Just remember, Barry. This team suffered for you. They are still feeling the negative impact of building around you, year after year…
21) Chicago Cubs: Staying with the high priced, yet failing organization theme…
Everyone wants the Cubs to do well. Well, everyone that isn’t a fan of one of their rivals. The problem is that they do not know how to run a franchise properly. Alfonso Soriano was a mistake the day he signed, and it is only going to become more and more evident every single year of his contract. They overpay for questionable veterans; Fukudome, Bradley. And they trade away prospects for guys that simply are not impact players.
They now are paying Soriano, Carlos Silva, and Fukudome big-time money, for not being big time players.
They now have started to replenish the Farm (Hopefully it turns out well). But they now must play the waiting game. .500 ball isn’t too far off their true talent level, and they have albatross contracts to deal with. It could be worse, as they could be in the Astros position. But given their distinct financial advantage over most teams, it could be much better.
22) Cincinnati Reds: The Reds might be higher…if they had made the playoffs even once since 1995. The club is making strides in the right direction. But they must continue in doing so.
The next step must be to rid of Dusty Baker. Look, I know that it is fun to point the finger at Baker all the time in the Sabermetrics community, but this is serious. They have a lot of young arms, and Baker has the most questionable track record — in regards to young arms — in the biz. If one does not agree with Baker’s philosophy on how to score runs, then that is something different. It is understandable why this is, but they are simply differing philosophies.
Bring in a manager that has a keen sense for younger players. And bring him as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, if Baker wasn’t fired before the season, he probably won’t be let go until after. Because when managing this current crop of talent, it should not be expected to have anything more than limited success. And by limited I mean 81-84 wins, realistically.
23) Arizona Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks have depleted their system acquiring players such as Dan Haren. They made a mistake by signing Eric Byrnes, and they have a team that is decent, but is very flawed in certain areas.
What the team did in 2001, has virtually no baring on what they should be ranked now. They have some solid pieces, but what Justin Upton and Dan Haren do, isn’t what the team will do. In other words, those guys should do what they do, and do it very well. But two players having success doesn’t translate into enough wins to make the playoffs. If their Farm was better, then they would be higher. But it isn’t better, and they are questionable as to how good they are at the Major League level anyway.
24) San Diego Padres: The Padres are a tough one. They are bottom-feeders now. But they have a promising farm system, and won 89 games just three seasons back. Plus, they employ all of our favorite stat-buddies, which makes us think they will turn the franchise around eventually.
Whether they trade away Adrian Gonzalez probably doesn’t make a huge difference, not like some of us think it does. The most important thing is to draft right, accumulate picks, and accumulate prospects. If they keep Adrian Gonzalez, then worst case scenario, they have a really good player making millions of dollars. One could argue either way, as to what they should do.
Jed Hoyer was a great acquisition. But just because he was part of a successful front office, does not necessarily make him a shoe-in to do his current job well. We have seen other GM’s have success, allow their helpers to get away, only for those “helpers” to have a tough time out on their own. This could happen again.
But it is much better than the direction they could have headed, that is certain.
25) Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles, under the current regime, have made great strides these past few years. They traded a veteran pitcher for a very good, young, and cheap return. And they have stocked up on young pitching. They also showed a willingness to make smart decisions. See: Nick Markakis extension. They have avoided any potential contract disasters lately. And now seem to have shown the propensity to try and build, rather than try and spend with clubs they will never be able to spend with.
Three of the four up the middle positions, are under contract for multiple seasons. Showing that they might be adept at concentrating on the middle of the field, which is always a good idea.
But to be honest, their moves at the corner infield spots have been nothing short of perplexing. Maybe they saw potential trade bait when brining in Tejada and Atkins. I see two players that really don’t have all that much ability to play this game a high level anymore, especially Atkins.
Nevertheless, they are a team trending upward, and have the ability to make some noise in the coming years.
26) Toronto Blue Jays: Ricciardi put the Blue Jays in a precarious situation. They had a team that could compete, but couldn’t compete well enough. His tenure was not bad, necessarily, but it could have been better.
As many have noted in the past, the club, because of its front office, had sort of an identity crisis. They spent on free agents, and made the kind of mistakes a large market team could make, but they simply could not absorb these mistakes, as other teams could. Vernon Wells is a prime example. They had the right idea, up-the-middle player, solid hitter = lock him up. But the money and years were way, way out of their price range for a player that was never really a truly great player to begin with. And because the previous regime made the mistake of inking Wells for too much, the current employees now have to deal with that.
They traded Doc Halladay. They traded Alexis Rios. And both are great moves — undisputed great moves. Rios was to shed payroll, and he wasn’t all that good to begin with. And Halladay was to avoid future payroll, and allow the team to acquire young talent, which should help the 2012-13 teams — teams that should be better built for the long haul.
The Jays currently lack that “identity crisis.” They have a new identity, and it is in their rebuilding. And that is the best thing the org could have done after failing to build properly via free agency, in past years.
27) Houston Astros: The Astros are a prime example of a team with money, that does things the wrong way.
They had some success in the front half of the decade, but now they suffer from a depleted farm system, and a Major League team that is full of veterans, who just aren’t good enough to make any noise. The idea is to spend money, when you have it, but also to have a solid core that will one day help bring success. Win now, win later. Pretty simple. But the Astros do not win now, and unless they unload near untradeable veterans (No trade clauses) then the future will be rough as well.
Seriously, the only thing that will save this team is if they move Oswalt, Lee, Berkman, and others. Then absorb some of the money from those players, and hope the prospects in return pan out.
The team has a lot of work to do. And it may — yet again — be only a clearing of house to do what needs to be done.
28) Washington Nationals: The Nationals were an embarrassment just a few years back. They had just relocated, because Montreal didn’t care enough for a baseball team. And they had arguably the worst GM in the game.
Not to mention, they were terrible.
But things have changed. They are still terrible at the Major League level. But they have started to put together a foundation, a solid one at that. The club has had a knack for taking on risky players; Milledge, Dukes, to name a few. But none have worked out. However, they didn’t give up much to get those players. And they were definitely risks worthy of being taken, for a team so far out of contention that golfing sounded like more fun than baseball.
Stephen Strasburg is not a savior to the franchise. But he could be a large part of saving future embarrassment, if they surround him with the right parts.
They now have to decide what to do with players like Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham. Because flipping them to a contender makes a lot of sense, for a non-contender.
29) Pittsburgh Pirates: Really, the only debate with the Pirates is which spot they should occupy out of the last three.
The org has traded away good, Major League players, and really doesn’t have too much — this side of Andrew McCutchen — to show for it.
And as a matter of fact, I have had no problem jumping from depth chart to depth chart, via ESPN, during the writing process. The only team that didn’t load properly, was the Pirates on their first try. For a second, the “Worldwide Leader” didn’t even know they existed.
But seriously, the Pirates have been dismal for a long, long time. The things they do well? Not much, to be honest. But they are at least able to part with veterans, even though they haven’t really acquired much to replace them. But buying low on prospects, can only bring them so far. They need guys that have actual value. Guys that will most undoubtedly turn into solid Major League players. They have done okay recently, compared to how they were doing before. But they have a long way to go, philosophically.
30) Kansas City Royals: The Royals franchise needs to desperately step back and take a look in the mirror. They have some nice pieces, mostly pitchers, but they are far from being continuous threats, year in and year out. The don’t emphasize On base percentage, which is the way a team scores runs. And they overpay for mediocrity — sometimes even overpay for bad.
Jose Guillen is a prime example for an organization that just doesn’t know what they should be doing. They bring in a head-case, who is a corner outfielder, that isn’t very good, on a team that is terrible. And the guy just came into the season after being named in ‘The Mitchell Report,” and was now going to help mentor young players?
This was easily one of the worst moves that I have ever witnessed.
But aside from that, they try and build a team through the free agent market, more than they should. The farm should be stressed more so for all teams, especially the teams that aren’t capable of spending in the top few tiers. The Royals made some strides in this area, but they keep wasting on money on free agents — in particular, the wrong free agents.
The club either needs to learn from their mistakes very soon, or change the personnel that resides overhead. Unfortunately, based on what we’ve seen, a change will probably be the only thing that can fix what has been a dismal franchise for several seasons now.
This is the one small market front office that I really don’t feel all that bad for.
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