NY signs top free agents

Spring Training has begun and teams are ready to showcase their hot free agent signings and trade acquisitions that will hopefully give them a shot at winning a World Series.

A busy free agency period this offseason benefited several teams looking to turn the corner and make the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Rays headlined the 2008 season by going from last place to first place in the American League East.

Here are the three teams that improved the most this offseason:

1. New York Yankees:

The Yankees had another eventful offseason, signing the three most talented free agents. A weak economy was not an issue for the Yankees, as first basemen Mark Teixiera and pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A. J. Burnett cashed in by signing with the team with the highest payroll in Major League Baseball.

Sabathia went 17-10 last season and was dominant down the stretch, leading the Milwaukee Brewers to the postseason. The former CyYoung award winner had 10 complete games and 251 strikeouts last season.

Teixiera, a switch-hitting machine, should fit in the lineup nicely behind third basemen Alex Rodriguez.

2.’ New York Mets:

You don’t have to go far to find out the Mets had the second best offseason in MLB. The Mets signed closer Francisco Rodriguez, formerly of the Los Angeles Angels. They also acquired former Mariners closer J.J. Putz via trade to replace Billy Wagner, who will miss the entire 2009 season to recover from Tommy John surgery.’

Two closers are better than one, and addressing the bullpen was the Mets No. 1 concern this offseason. Their high-powered lineup needs someone to seal the deal in the ninth inning.

Late inning one-run leads should be safe with K-Rod closing games and Putz protecting leads in the eighth inning. Rodriguez saved an MLB record 62 games last season. Putz saved 76 games in 2006 and 2007 combined.

The Mets also acquired utility player Alex Cora and pitcher Tim Redding and re-signed starting pitcher Oliver Perez.

3. Washington Nationals:

At the end of last season, I did not think this team would make the list, but the Washington Nationals made some surprising moves this offseason to sneak into my top three.

The 2008 National League bottom feeders recently signed slugger Adam Dunn, who hit 40 home runs and drove in 106 runs last season. Dunn will play first base and right field for a team that is desperately trying to garner some excitement in the nation’s capital.

A flurry of acquisitions included outfielders Corey Patterson and Josh Willingham, infielder Alex Cintron and Triple-A call up Alberto Gonzales.

The pitching rotation did lose innings-eater Tim Redding, but gained left-hander Scott Olsen, who started 33 games for the Florida Marlins last season. Despite winning only eight games and giving up 30 home runs, Olsen threw 133 strikeouts in 176 innings.

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