Every offseason I can remember, fans beg and plead for their favorite teams to sign all the big-name free agents. In recent years, players like Pujols, J. Hamilton, Cano, Reyes and Fielder (just to name a few) were atop many teams' wish lists. But instead of just focusing on the individual players, let's take a look at the teams that have opened up their checkbooks and paid big money during the past few offseasons in hopes of instant success.
2012 Miami Marlins
2012 was the first year of the "Miami" Marlins and Marlins Park; Jeffrey Loria decided to splurge and spent big money on several free agents in hopes to fill up that brand new stadium. That offseason, they gave big contracts to Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell, with even more money going to Jose Reyes. This was the same year they traded Chris Volstad to the Cubs for Carlos Zambrano so he could meet up with good friend, and new Marlins manager, Ozzie Guillen.
In fact, the White Sox had traded Ozzie Guillen to Miami. With guys like Giancarlo Stanton, Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson already on the team, many believed they were favorites to come out of the NL East. The end result was a horrifying 69-93 record and a last place finish. During the season, Hanley Ramirez was traded to the Dodgers and Reyes, Buehrle, Johnson and others were eventually traded to the Blue Jays.
2013 Toronto Blue Jays
After the mega trade with the Marlins and taking on all those big contracts, hopes were already high for Toronto. A month later, they traded top catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud and top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard for Mets All-Star pitcher R.A Dickey. Toronto also gave Melky Cabrera, who had been suspended for failing drug tests the previous year, a chance to join the lineup with Joey Bats and the new players.
Everyone, myself included, was riding the bandwagon, only to be disappointed. The AL East has been one of the toughest divisions to play in for many years and even these acquisitions couldn’t help the Jays make a run as they finished with a 74-88 last place record. To put salt in their wounds, D'Arnaud and Syndergaard are expected to have a significant impact with the 2014 Mets.
2012-2013 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The 2012 offseason for the Angels brought in CJ Wilson and former Cardinal Albert Pujols. With Pujols anchoring the lineup and one of the top prospects in all of baseball, Mike Trout, expected to be called up at any moment, Angels fans, along with much of the rest of the league, believed Anaheim had a chance to make a run. They ended up winning 88 games that year, but it still was not enough to win the division; in fact, it was not even enough for them finish in second.
The next season, former divison rival Josh Hamilton joined an already-good-looking Angels lineup and expectations were literally through the roof. With Trout, Pujols and Hamilton, who struggled mightily, the Angels had a second consecutive 3rd-place finish with a record of 78-84. With a barren farm system and aging players with huge contracts, the Angels could again have a hard time in an improved AL West. They do have Mike Trout though.
The Seattle Mariners have potential to be part of this list, depending on how their season goes in 2014; but that, of course, remains to be seen. The Dodgers spent boatloads of cash and have many high-priced players but they may be one of the few teams that can succeed with this strategy, much like the Yankees have done for many years. The way the Cubs are doing things now is the best way in this age of baseball.
Building from within saves money and also allows teams to go after players based on necessity. With Baez, Bryant, Alcantara and others on their way soon, the Cubs could have an extremely young and cheap lineup; well, until these guys are ready to get big extensions. If, after a couple of years in the majors, the front office believes the kids can be a part of the future , they will more than likely try to sign them early to team friendly deals like they did with Castro and Rizzo. The 2012 Marlins, 2013 Blue Jays and 2012-2013 Angels prove that signing the big name free agents doesn’t always translate to success.
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