Over the last few weeks, the Boston Red Sox have said goodbye to three very important players. The most important is Mookie Betts, of course, as the 2018 MVP was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers not once but twice. David Price was also part of that deal, and then another domino fell this week as Brock Holt signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, although Holt’s importance to the Red Sox is a bit more subjective. Even if the effects of those departures on the organization vary considerably, it is still wild that those three are gone.
Of course, this isn’t anything new. Every offseason features plenty of roster shakeups and saying goodbye is part of the deal. Sometimes those moves make sense and sometimes they don’t, like when you trade a 27-year-old former MVP...
I’m going to stop myself there before this gets too off track.
The point is, every team deals with player departures each winter. Even if the Red Sox self-inflicted the biggest loss of the offseason by any team, that doesn’t mean the rest of the squads in their division didn’t lose significant talent either. Here are the biggest losses for the other teams in the AL East.
Baltimore Orioles - Jonathan Villar, INF
Villar rebuilt his career in Baltimore last season. After coming over in a midseason deal in 2018, he produced a stellar 2019 season for an Orioles team that lacked much standout talent. He led the team in fWAR (4.0) while slashing .274/.339/.453 with an OPS+ of 109. Always a threat on the base paths, he kept that up by swiping 40 bags, which was his highest mark since stealing a MLB-leading 62 in 2016.
Villar will turn 29 this season and could still be a cornerstone for a contending team. Unfortunately for the Orioles, they are nowhere near contention, finishing with only 54 wins last season. They wasted little time cashing in on Villar’s bounce back campaign in the offseason, sending him to Miami and receiving 23-year-old pitching prospect Easton Lucas in return. That’s not exactly a franchise-changing deal, but it could speak to a more tepid trade market for Villar’s services than the Orioles might have expected.
New York Yankees - Didi Gregorius, INF
The Yankees made the biggest splash of the offseason by inking a $324 million deal with starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. With that kind of money being spent, even the Yankees couldn’t afford to bring everyone back. Gregorius did miss a chunk of last season while producing his lowest OPS+ in his five years as a Yankee, but before that he was a pretty solid starting shortstop. He was even more than that in 2017 and 2018 when he managed to get top 20 votes in the AL MVP discussion while swatting 20 or more home runs in three-straight seasons from 2016-2018.
Even if the Yankees were in more of a spending mood, they don’t really need help in the infield thanks to Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu. When you combine big spending elsewhere with a lack of positional need, its easy to see why the Yankees were okay with letting go of Gregorius. To his credit, Gregorius didn’t wait around for the Cole deal to be finalized, as he signed a one-year deal with the Phillies five days before Cole became a Yankee.
Tampa Bay Rays - Tommy Pham, OF
It’s been a fairly noisy offseason for the Rays and its tough to stir up a racket like that without losing some players. Pham left Tampa Bay in a trade with the San Diego Padres that netted the Rays a pretty nice return, including top 100 prospect Xavier Edwards and power-hitting outfielder Hunter Renfroe.
The Rays made a bit of a gamble by dealing for Pham in the summer of 2018. A late bloomer in St. Louis, Pham enjoyed a ton of success in 2017, but started slow in 2018 before being dealt to Tampa Bay. He was great down the stretch for the Rays that year as he geared up for his age 31 season in 2019. The Rays’ gamble continued to pay off as Pham ranked third on a playoff team in fWAR (3.3) while hitting 21 home runs and stealing 25 bases. The Rays are still a team in win-now mode, even if letting Pham go seems antithetical to that notion. However, they made a deal looking toward the future and you have to give something up in such a situation.
Toronto Blue Jays - Jason Adam, RP
The Blue Jays got a jump start on their goodbyes by trading away or letting go of a host of players in the middle of 2019, including ace starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, former first round pick Aaron Sanchez and top reliever Daniel Hudson. Stroman still ended up leading the 2019 Blue Jays in fWAR by season’s end, illustrating his importance to the team. However, we’re only looking at players that left in the offseason and the Blue Jays have done a lot more adding than subtracting.
Most of the players from the end of 2019 who are gone were low impact guys like Ryan Tepera, Luke Maile and Derek Law, which makes Jason Adam the pick pretty much by default. The 28-year-old right-hander pitched to a 2.91 ERA in 21 2⁄3 innings of relief work for the Blue Jays, but now he’ll be taking a crack at it with the Chicago Cubs.