Biggest Winners of the MLB Offseason Thus Far

By Vincent Frank

The MLB offseason may still have a long way to go, but we have a really good idea of where certain teams are heading at this point.

While some clubs have remained quiet through the early stages of the offseason, others have made strong statements by adding key players to positions of utmost need. From both Chicago teams filling holes with quality additions to a specific Florida team going back to its buying ways, here are the three biggest winners of the offseason thus far.

1. Chicago Cubs

Not only did Chicago add the top free-agent manager on the market in Joe Maddon, it was able to net the biggest prize on the player market, Jon Lester. Both of these moves indicate that general manager Jed Hoyer plans on competing in 2015.

Lester, who signed a ridiculous six-year, $155 million contract, will head a rotation that also includes Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel. That’s not a bad 1-3 punch, especially considering the Cubs have other lively arms on the horizon and will likely still add to the rotation moving forward.

Chicago was also able to acquire All-Star catcher Miguel Montero on the cheap in a deal with the Diamondbacks. Known as one of the best defensive backstops in the game, the veteran will do a wonderful job catching what is quickly becoming a talented rotation.

So while the Cubs may not be World Series contenders quite yet, they have built a nice mix of youngster and veterans. It’s going to be all about how the likes of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Addison Russell mature, but the pieces are in place here. And to be honest, Hoyer and Theo Epstein are nowhere near done.

2. Miami Marlins

Fresh off getting Giancarlo Stanton locked up on an absurd $325 million contract extension, the Marlins have made it known that they plan on competing in the short term. They added Mat Latos and Dan Haren to a starting rotation that’s going to be among the best in baseball.

They already boasted Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler and Jarred Cosart, all of whom posted solid 2014 campaigns. This doesn’t even take into account the eventual return of Jose Fernandez from Tommy John Surgery.

Offensively, Miami was able to add All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon to hit at the top of the lineup and provide some much-needed speed in front of the middle of the order. The addition of veteran Michael Morse will  also help stabilize the lineup.

3. Chicago White Sox

It seemed that the White Sox were preparing to start a rebuilding process after what was a disastrous 2014 campaign. But after a flurry of moves, this obviously isn’t the case. Using both the free-agent and trade markets, Chicago has made itself into a top contender in the AL Central.

It picked up potential staff ace (who won’t need to be an ace in Chicago), Jeff Samardzija in a blockbuster deal with the A’s. While Samardzija did post a horrendous 7-13 record last season, he finished with over 200 strikeouts and an ERA under three. The tall right-handed pitcher will join Chris Sale and Jose Quintana to form a potentially dominant rotation.

With such a solid rotation, Chicago made sure that its late-inning relief help is going to be equally as good. It signed former New York Yankees closer David Robertson to a massive deal and signed left-handed specialist Zach Duke to a three-year contract. And in a completely under-the-radar move, Chicago acquired former Marlins reliever Dan Jennings in a deal just recently. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 1.34 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning in 47 appearances for the Marlins last year.

Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera signed to fortify what had quickly become a struggling and over-the-hill lineup. Both are capable of driving in over 100 runs and will act as protection for all-everything power hitter Jose Abreu.

In finding upgrades up and down the roster, Chicago has made it known that it is ready to compete with the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians in what promises to be a difficult AL Central next year.

Photo: Chicago Tribune