Red Sox, reshaped into relevancy, and Cubs, on the cusp, are MLB’s winter winners

Gregg Patton on which two teams in baseball really improved with their off-season moves and which two fruitlessly spun their wheels.

David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox went 78-84 last season. Jim Rogash / Getty Images / AFP
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Baseball’s Hot Stove League, the ancient term for off-season manoeuverings, does not generate actual standings, just opinions.

That noted, with less than three weeks before spring training, we have our designated biggest Hot Stove winner and loser from each league.

American League Winner: The Boston Red Sox finished at the bottom of the AL East last year, but with several moves, have reshaped themselves into relevancy.

For the sum of US$217 million (Dh797m) spread over seven years, the Sox landed prize left-hander David Price.

Their ace-less, suspect rotation of 2015 now becomes, at least, respectable. Better still, the bullpen, which had been adequate, becomes commanding, thanks to trades for Craig Kimbrel and Carson Smith.

American League Loser: The Seattle Mariners list 10 fresh, big-league players on their team, as new general manager Jerry DiPoto spent the winter in a signing-trading frenzy hoping to move them up the AL West ladder from fourth place. The makeover, however, appears astonishingly unremarkable. Not an impact player in the bunch.

New slugger Adam Lind might be an improvement over the parade of recent flops at first base. But he still cannot hit lefties. And centrefielder Leonys Martin, from the Texas Rangers, should catch a few extra fly balls and steal some bases. Big deal. They went for quantity over quality, replacing Who’s That with Who Cares.

All of that activity and the new Mariners look a lot like the old Mariners – non-contenders.

National League Winner: The Chicago Cubs turned themselves into a play-off team a year ago, and decided they were not satisfied just getting to the party. The Cubs – with three solid free agent signings – now look like the team to beat in the NL Central, if not the entire league.

Kudos to Chicago who got stronger at the expense of division rival St Louis Cardinals. Pitcher John Lackey and outfielder Jason Heyward were Cardinals last year, Cubs this year.

Chicago also filled their biggest question mark at second base by convincing Ben Zobrist to ignore a reported 19 other suitors and leave the Kansas City Royals, the World Series winners.

National League Loser: The Los Angeles Dodgers spent more money on salaries the past three years than any other team. This winter, however, they would not pony up the market rate for their own superstar free agent, pitcher Zack Greinke, and lost him to NL West rival Arizona Diamondbacks.

New pitchers Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda from Japan are poor substitutes.

Next, the Dodgers crafted a trade for closer Aroldis Chapman, then backed out when news of a domestic abuse issue surfaced. Baseball’s continuing investigation did not scare off the New York Yankees, who signed him up.

The Dodgers also let their free agent second baseman Howie Kendrick depart, and may have to rely on ageing, injury-risk Chase Utley.

Meanwhile, Arizona and the San Francisco Giants aggressively bolstered their pitching. Talent-wise, those two appear to have surpassed the oddly passive Dodgers.

Luckily for them, Hot Stove hot air evaporates on Opening Day.

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