Early MLB offseason winners and losers

CHRIS TOMAN, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 2:58 PM ET

TORONTO -- There's still time before the start of the 2011 season for Major League Baseball teams to improve their rosters, but for the most part the market has been ridded of impact players, with the exception of free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Despite the fact that some rosters will change between now and April, here's a look at the early winners and losers of the offseason:

BIGGEST WINNERS

BOSTON RED SOX: The last time the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs in 2006, they won 96 games the following season before capturing their second World Series title in four years. After a busy offseason for the club, similar fortunes may be on the horizon in 2011. Losing sluggers Victor Martinez (Detroit Tigers) and Beltre to free agency was offset by acquiring the top offensive free agent in Carl Crawford and trading for one of the game's most consistent power hitters in Adrian Gonzalez. The BoSox coughed up a plethora of money and prospects for Crawford and Gonzalez, respectively, but the return they're expecting to get for two stars in their prime is likely to catapult them to the top of the American League East standings.

The Bosox are the most complete team in the AL and on top of their latest All- Star acquisitions they will enter the year with a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Josh Beckett, three players who all missed significant time last season due to injury. Boston also signed reliever Bobby Jenks to add depth to the bullpen.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: While Crawford may have been the most sought-after position player on the market, no player was more coveted than ace left-hander Cliff Lee. After winning the AL Cy Young Award with the Cleveland Indians in 2008, Lee led two teams to the World Series in consecutive years (Philadelphia, Texas) and his return to the Phillies makes the team the early favorite to reach the Fall Classic for the third time in the past four seasons.

The addition of Lee gives the Phils' staff another dynamic arm, teaming the lefty alongside Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels to assemble a group of four who each have a career ERA lower than 3.90.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS: At the expense of gutting their farm system of top prospects, Milwaukee walked away as winners by trading with the Toronto Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum and the Kansas City Royals for Zack Greinke. The third- place finisher in the National League Central in 2010 with a 77-85 record, the Brewers will now feature a rotation with three opening day starters from last season (Marcum, Greinke and Yovani Gallardo).

These moves were imperative for a team that was faced with the decision to win now or elect to take part in a rebuilding process due to the impending free agency of star first basemen Prince Fielder. The club chose the former and set themselves up as contenders in the NL, which could ultimately convince Fielder to sign a long-term extension.

OTHERS THAT IMPROVED

COLORADO ROCKIES: Colorado has added a number of complimentary pieces to its roster in addition to the massive seven-year contract extension they agreed to with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. In addition to resigning lefty Jorge De La Rosa for three years, who projects to be the No. 2 starter in their rotation, the Rockies added utility players Ty Wigginton and Jose Lopez, while also acquiring hard-throwing reliever Matt Lindstrom.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS: Behind Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, the Dodgers have plenty of depth to fill out the back end of their rotation by resigning pitchers Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Vincent Padilla, while also inking free agent Jon Garland to a one-year contract. The club also signed utility man Juan Uribe and catcher Rod Barajas. Along with the Rockies, the Dodgers should make the Giants' run at a consecutive division title a difficult one.

HONOURABLE MENTION

Oakland Athletics (DH Hideki Matsui, OF David DeJesus, OF Josh Willingham, RHP Rich Harden)

Atlanta Braves (2B Dan Uggla, OF Eric Hinske, RHP Scott Linebrink, LHP George Sherrill)

THE LOSERS

TAMPA BAY RAYS: The Rays' roster was left depleted this offseason, losing players such as Crawford, Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, Joaquin Benoit and Dan Wheeler. Rafael Soriano and Grant Balfour remain unsigned, but they're likely to find new homes for 2011. It had been widely expected that Tampa would undergo a makeover, and while they're clearly a weaker team than the one that won the AL East in two of the past three seasons, they're still relevant.

Despite losing their most dynamic player in Crawford and having their bullpen stripped of its strongest assets, the Rays still have a perennial MVP candidate in Evan Longoria and a staff that may be even stronger than it has been any of the past three seasons. Following ace David Price in the rotation will be some form of Wade Davis, Matt Garza, Jeff Niemann, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson, a highly touted prospect who went 4-0 with 3.47 ERA in 36 1/3 innings last season in his first taste of the big leagues.

NEW YORK YANKEES: The Yankees haven't improved in the area they needed to the most and took a shot to the ego by failing to land any of the prized free agents on the market, while watching their biggest rival walk into the New Year as the biggest winners of the offseason. New York desperately needed starting pitching, but failed to land its main target - Lee - despite offering more money than any of his interested suitors. They are left with a rotation that is too shaky to instill confidence and one that may be without veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte, who could opt for retirement.

Despite any significant additions - minus the resigning of Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter - the Yankees are not about to fall out of contention just yet. They still have a dynamic offense regardless of age and along with Tampa Bay will still keep the AL East ultra-competitive. But the Red Sox are the clear- cut favorites heading into spring training.

TEXAS RANGERS: As with the Yankees, the Rangers lost out on the Lee sweepstakes, as they were unable to resign the anchor of their 2010 staff. Needless to say, their rotation will take a significant hit, and although they were competitive without Lee for much of the past season, the same can't be expected in 2011. The Rangers still have a playoff-caliber team, but can expect to face tougher competition from Oakland and Los Angeles this season. The Athletics will feature a staff that should be the strongest in the division, while the Angels will get a boost from the return of Kendry Morales to their lineup and a full year with Dan Haren in the rotation.


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