Winter winners: M's, Phillies, Cubs top list of movers
1. Mariners. There are legitimate questions about the team the M's have put together, starting with where the offensive production is going to come from. But in taking Chone Figgins away from the Angels, adding Cliff Lee to Felix Hernandez at the top of the rotation and then getting Hernandez signed to a long-term deal, general manager Jack Zduriencik took three more huge steps in changing the image of the franchise.
It's hard to think of anything that didn't go right for Seattle this winter, starting with Kenji Johjima's announcement that he would opt out of the final two years of what had become a very bad contract. Later, the M's became the beneficiary of the Phillies' desire for Roy Halladay, which allowed Seattle to pick up Lee for a very reasonable price.
The way things are going in Marinerland now, maybe even Milton Bradley will be happy there.
2. Phillies. Yes, there are plenty of critics who say they should have kept Lee, either instead of trading for Halladay or to team with Halladay at the top of a monster rotation. But the way the Phillies see it, they have the ace they really wanted (Halladay), and they have him signed through 2013. Not only that, but they have almost their entire team signed through at least 2011. Instead of worrying that their window to win would start closing after the 2010 season, they've extended it by at least a year or two.
They love this group of players, and they love having Halladay. And they've totally changed the image of their franchise, to the point where there's no doubt that the Phillies are the dominant team in the National League.
3. Cubs. Their biggest player move was a dump, getting Bradley off their roster and out of their sight. The lineup has the same issues it did last year, and the only reason to think that the Cubs will be significantly better is that it's hard to imagine their star players underperforming as badly as they did in 2009.
So why do the Cubs make this list?
Simple. Just like the Rangers, the Cubs needed an owner, and now they have one. Not only that, but the Ricketts family is getting rave early reviews, both from the fans (who gave them a standing ovation at the Cubs Convention) and from the front office.
The early moves the Ricketts have made with the Cubs sound a lot like the early moves Arte Moreno made after taking over the Angels. They've already significantly improved employee benefits, and when they showed up at the organization meetings, they impressed everyone by staying for dinner and showing interest in every part of the organization.
There's a new and improved feeling around the Cubs these days, and it's not just because a certain grumpy outfielder is finally gone.