Richard Justice

Month to move: 5 teams with a solid January

Blue Jays, Orioles, others opened 2017 with top-notch transactions

Month to move: 5 teams with a solid January

This has been a really good January for teams like Blue Jays and Orioles, among others. For a few teams, we may look back and see January as the month that saved their offseason.

January is an interesting month on the baseball calendar. By the time it rolls around, most of the big-name free agents have signed, and many teams are down to seeking a final tweak or two to the roster they'll take to Spring Training.

But there have been important deals done in January through the years. Last year, Chris Davis, Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes signed contracts totaling $368 million in January.

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In 2015, Max Scherzer signed with the Nationals for $210 million over seven years. In '12, the Tigers signed Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million deal in January.

So stuff does happen. In January, players begin to see the market has moved about all it's going to. For teams, it's decision time.

Let's look at five teams that significantly helped themselves this January:

1. Toronto Blue Jays
What they did:
Re-signed right fielder Jose Bautista.

What it means: No team faced a more uncertain offseason with the possibility that both Bautista and first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion might sign elsewhere. Encarnacion signed with Cleveland, but Toronto retained Bautista and acquired designated hitter Kendrys Morales to move just behind Boston in the American League East. General manager Ross Atkins is still looking to replace lefty Brett Cecil, who signed with the Cardinals, in his bullpen. Regardless, the Blue Jays had a productive month.

2. Baltimore Orioles
What they did:
Re-signed outfielder/first baseman/designated hitter Mark Trumbo and acquired outfielder Seth Smith from the Mariners for right-hander Yovani Gallardo.

What it means: We'll go ahead and write off the Orioles for the fourth or fifth conseutive year, then spend September apologizing for underestimating them again. There are still questions about a thin rotation as Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are being counted on to continue their progress. Trumbo brings a significant presence to the middle of Baltimore's lineup, and Smith gives manager Buck Showalter options at both corner-outfield spots. The O's will be picked to finish last, but that was true last season, too, and they made the playoffs for the third time in five seasons.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers
What they did:
Re-signed closer Kenley Jansen and acquired second baseman Logan Forsythe from the Rays.

What it means: These two moves didn't save the Dodgers' offseason because they were already favored to win the National League West for a fifth straight year. But Los Angeles may begin the season with "Best Team In Baseball" status. And when the January acquisitions are combined with the Dec. 23 re-signing of third baseman Justin Turner, the Dodgers couldn't have hoped for much more. Retaining Jansen was no surprise, but getting Forsythe to fill a hole at second after weeks of speculation of about Brian Dozier was. Forsythe averaged 28 doubles, 18 home runs and a .791 OPS the past two seasons with Tampa Bay.

4. Tampa Bay Rays
What they did:
Traded for left fielder Mallex Smith (Mariners) and right-hander Jose De Leon (Dodgers), signed outfielder Colby Rasmus and reliever Shawn Tolleson.

What it means: New general manager Erik Neander had a quiet offseason until this flurry of acquisitions. The Rays have a chance to contend in the AL East because their rotation should be one of baseball's best. But Tampa Bay's rotation has ranked 24th, 25th and 27th, respectively, in runs allowed during the past three seasons. Rasmus is two seasons removed from 25 home runs and a .789 OPS for the Astros. Smith has the most short-term intrigue of the three players acquired from the Mariners for left-hander Drew Smyly. He hit .238 in 72 games for the Braves in 2016, but has shown flashes (.830 OPS in Double-A) during five seasons in Atlanta's system.

5. Seattle Mariners
What they did:
Traded for Smyly (Rays), outfielder Jarrod Dyson (Royals) and Gallardo (Orioles).

What it means: These trades didn't save Seattle's offseason. It's just that general manger Jerry Dipoto deserves another tip of the hat for an aggressive reshaping of his roster for a second consecutive offseason. Earlier in the offseason, Dipoto traded for shortstop Jean Segura (D-backs), third baseman Danny Valencia (Athletics), catcher Carlos Ruiz (Dodgers), right-hander Chris Heston (Giants) and outfielder Mitch Haniger (D-backs).

Richard Justice is a columnist for You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.