Organization Report Cards

See who has work to do in 2008




For our annual collection of Organization Report Cards that accompany our Organization of the Year award, which this year goes to the Rockies, we took a slightly different approach.

We still look at major league performance, minor league performance, stability in the front office, talent in the farm system, young talent in the big leagues, talent procured through the draft or trades, and the overall direction of the franchise. But this year we broke our writeups into more flexible categories without an emphasis on grades.

Teams this year are grouped into four self-explanatory categories: High Achievers, Trending Up, Trending Down, and Better Luck Next Year. For High Achievers, the teams are in order of merit, but for the other categories teams are listed alphabetically.

And while we recognize that every team's goal each year is to make the playoffs and win the World Series, we tried to focus on more achievable goals for each team in our "Goals For 2008" heading.

So without further ado, here's how things broke down for 2007:

HIGH ACHIEVERS

COLORADO ROCKIES

Highs: Reached the franchise's first World Series with a late flourish and an overwhelmingly homegrown lineup . . . Every starting infielder and outfielder except Kaz Matsui was a Rockies draft pick . . . Young pitchers not only plugged holes but sparked the team's late run . . . Stability from general manager's office down created foundation for success . . . Even with talent graduated to the big leagues, farm system remains one of the better-stocked in the game.

Lows: Death of Mike Coolbaugh cast a pall over Double-A Tulsa's season . . . Draft featured more solid players than future stars.

Goals For 2008: What do you do for an encore after your franchise's best season? Show it wasn't a fluke and get back to the playoffs, then see what happens from there.

GM Watch: It's well documented by now that staying the course with Dan O'Dowd (and manager Clint Hurdle, for that matter) paid off big for the Rockies, and with the success on the field and the young talent all over the diamond, he should be sitting pretty for years to come.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Highs: Won 90 games to finish with the best record in the National League, with a roster built on young talent, then swept Cubs in NL Division Series . . . Eight players from last year's Top 10 Prospects list finished the season in the big leagues . . . Used extra picks in the draft to build the farm system's pitching stock, led by high school arm Jarrod Parker.

Lows: After graduating so much talent, farm system is notably thinner now . . . Major league team won in spite of a negative run differential and worst on-base percentage in the NL . . . Lack of a complex team can put a strain on the organization's youngest prospects.

Goals For 2008: Staying atop the NL West, then taking the final step if they can get back into the playoffs while reloading the farm system.

GM Watch: Josh Byrnes certainly deserves kudos for guiding a team to the NL Championship Series in his second season at the helm, but much of this talent was already in the organization when he took over. His legacy will be determined over the next few seasons, based on where the team goes from here.

BOSTON RED SOX

Highs: Using the game's No. 2 payroll, Boston tied for the major league lead with 96 regular-season wins to take their first AL East title since 1995, then went 11-3 in the playoffs and won its second World Series in four years . . . Relied heavily on recent farm products such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis . . . Established a foothold in Japan with free-agent pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima . . . Clay Buchholz became the 21st rookie in modern baseball history to throw a no-hitter . . . Despite not having a first-round pick, had another strong draft and remained active on international market.

Lows: Lost to the Yankees 10 times in 18 games and fell behind the Indians three games to one in the AL Championship Series.

Goals For 2008: After going 86 years between their fifth and sixth championships and then three between their sixth and seventh, to see if they can further reduce the wait for their eighth.

GM Watch: Theo Epstein isn't infallible—see the J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo contracts—but he'll have this job as long as he wants it. Not only have the Red Sox won two World Series in four seasons, but they've infused youth into their major league roster and stocked their farm system.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Highs: Tied with Boston for the major league lead with 96 wins with a roster built on homegrown talent and good pro scouting, then wiped out the Yankees in the AL Division Series . . . Second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera started the year in Double-A before being inserted in the big league lineup . . . Righty Fausto Carmona emerged as 19-game winner while homegrown ace C.C. Sabathia won Cy Young Award.

Lows: After graduating talent over the past three years, farm system is now middle of the pack . . . Due to injuries and lack of performance, none of the club's best prospects took a major step forward in 2007.

Goals For 2008: After signing Japanese righthanded reliever Masahide Kobayashi to bolster the bullpen, the Tribe looks to stay a step ahead in the AL Central and reach their ultimate goal.

GM Watch: Mark Shapiro deserves much of the credit for rebuilding the major league roster into a contender since he took over as GM in 2001. After winning 95 games in 2005, the bullpen struggled in 2006 and Shapiro and assistant GM Chris Antonetti revamped their relievers, leading to 2007 success.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Highs: Continued to make strides with homegrown impact players, with Yovani Gallardo and BA Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun as the latest examples . . . Posted first winning season since 1992, though pitching gave way and they missed the playoffs . . . Posted the best minor league winning percentage (.565) among NL organizations.

Lows: Missed the playoffs after leading the NL Central most of the season . . . Farm system isn't barren but shows the effects of recent graduations . . . Two crosscheckers have been hired away as scouting directors in the last two years.

Goals For 2008: In short, finish the job. The Brewers are built around young talent, so there's no reason they shouldn't expect improvement next season, if for no other reason than they'll get a full season of Braun and Gallardo.

GM Watch: Doug Melvin has made few missteps since taking over as Brewers GM, starting with his decision to keep Jack Zduriencik as his scouting director (see Page 40). He's secure as the Brewers head into a new spring with as much optimism as they've had in more than a decade.

TRENDING UP

CHICAGO CUBS

Highs: Reversed a slippage over the previous three seasons, rebounding to 85 victories and just their second division title in the last 18 years . . . While spending $297.7 million on free agents was a major factor, the farm system contributed as well with the likes of Rich Hill, Carlos Marmol and Ryan Theriot . . . Trying to end an inability to develop position players, added third baseman Josh Vitters, catcher Josh Donaldson and second baseman Tony Thomas with their first three picks in the draft.

Lows: After raising Chicago's hopes, got swept in the NL Division series by the Diamondbacks and fell short of the World Series for the 62nd straight year . . . Club president John McDonough resigned to take the same job with the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.

Goals For 2008: To continue to blend imported and homegrown talent in an attempt to secure their first back-to-back postseason berths since 1907-08—also the last time they won the World Series.

GM Watch: Jim Hendry was on an increasing slippery slope before righting the ship in 2007. But the Tribune Co. plans to finalize the sale of the club next year, and the identity of the new owner and the direction he'll want to take remains to be seen.

CINCINNATI REDS

Highs: Grabbing Josh Hamilton in the Rule 5 draft proved to be a great gamble, as he showed the tools that once made him a top prospect in spite of years of inactivity . . . Jay Bruce won Minor League Player of the Year and is one of the best prospects in the game, emblematic of a farm system that has taken a significant leap forward in talent.

Lows: Horrendous pitching dragged down the major league team again, making it 12 straight seasons without a playoff appearance . . . Instability has been the rule in baseball operations, with numerous people including international scouting guru Johnny Almaraz either getting fired or leaving the organization.

Goals For 2008: With a talented lineup and the soft NL Central as competition, there's no reason the Reds can't contend for the division title if they shore up their pitching. Signing Francisco Cordero and hiring Dusty Baker indicate expectations will be high.

GM Watch: Wayne Krivsky has mixed successes, such as dealing for Bronson Arroyo or seeing the farm system improve, with continued failure at the big league level. Though this will be just his third season at the helm, he could be on the hot seat if the Reds disappoint again.

DETROIT TIGERS

Highs: Contended for another playoff appearance all season before fading down the stretch . . . Resurgent season from Magglio Ordonez that makes his signing look like a stroke of genius . . . Minor league affiliates were among the most successful in the game, led by another strong low Class A West Michigan team and Minor League Manager of the Year Matt Walbeck at Double-A Erie . . . Grabbed Rick Porcello with the 27th pick of the draft, highlighting another strong effort.

Lows: Missed the playoffs in effort to follow up dream season . . . Walbeck left the organization to become third-base coach for the Rangers.

Goals For 2008: With the major league team showing staying power and young talent coming up through the farm system, the Tigers look like they'll be fighting with the Indians for AL Central supremacy again.

GM Watch: Dave Dombrowski has a track record of success to match any other GM in the game, and the Tigers have been on a roll ever since he took the reins of the baseball operation, so he has as much job security as anyone.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

Highs: Finished with the third-best record in the majors and won their third American League West title in the past four years . . . Three minor league affiliates qualified for the postseason and Orem won the Rookie-level Pioneer League crown . . . Again drew more than three million fans.

Lows: Swept by Boston in AL Division Series . . . General manager Bill Stoneman stepped down following the season . . . Lost first- and second-round picks for free-agent signings, and the 2007 haul appeared even less inspiring when sandwich choice Jonathan Bacahnov came up with a sore arm after signing.

Goals For 2008: Manager Mike Scioscia was publicly frustrated by the team's lack of offensive thump, and while Torii Hunter will aid the offensive effort, new GM Tony Reagins was still searching for more power. He dealt Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox for Jon Garland, which puts the rotation in good shape.

GM Watch: Reagins' inexperience showed when he made a mistake in protecting minor league free agent Warner Madrigal, a righthanded reliever who was lost to the Rangers. He'll have lots of input from Scioscia, and owner Arte Moreno will continue to be involved heavily in player procurement decisions.

NEW YORK METS

Highs: Won 88 games and led NL East most of the season led by MVP-caliber performance by David Wright, who posted a 30-30 season . . . Young starters John Maine and Oliver Perez, both 26, tied for team lead with 15 victories . . . Tom Glavine posted 300th career victory . . . 2006 draftee Joe Smith ranked fifth in appearances for big league club one year after being picked.

Lows: Blew seven-game lead with 17 left to play, with 4-13 finishing kick and 6-12 record against the Phillies dooming them to a second-place finish. It's the largest late collapse in baseball history . . . Touted rookie Mike Pelfrey bombed in extended trial.

Goals For 2008: The Mets must get Jose Reyes back on track and regain their swagger after their humiliating collapse. Finding a way to compete while also improving a mediocre farm system might be costly in the short run but would pay off long-term.

GM Watch: Omar Minaya survived the collapse and needs to learn from mistakes made in building the bullpen and relying too much on aging veterans.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Highs: Earned 13th consecutive playoff berth, recovering from 21-29 start thanks to baseball's best offense (968 runs) . . . Alex Rodriguez earned BA's Player of the Year award, leading the majors with 54 HRs, 156 RBIs while hitting .314/.422/.645 and showing flair for the dramatic . . . Rookie pitchers Joba Chamberlain (0.38 ERA in 24 relief IP, 34 SO) and Ian Kennedy (1-0, 1.89 in three starts) flashed considerable promise in their first pro seasons.

Lows: Failed to win the division for first time since 1997, due mostly to 4.49 team ERA . . . Joe Torre, manager since 1996, rejected contract offer after AL Division Series loss to Indians, and club hired ex-catcher and broadcaster Joe Girardi to replace him.

Goals For 2008: The Yankees have won 26 World Series titles, and Girardi aims for No. 27 to come in the final year of the current Yankee Stadium.

GM Watch: As George Steinbrenner has aged (and sons Hank and Hal become more visible leaders), Brian Cashman has consolidated control of the organization. He deserves credit for the club's consistency but curiously has not been blamed for chronic shortages on the bench and in the bullpen.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Highs: Finally broke through to the playoffs, winning their first NL East title since 1993 . . . Injuries depleted the rotation, but rookie righty Kyle Kendrick stepped in and won 10 games after he was promoted from Double-A . . . After losing picks the past several years, the Phillies nabbed Rice lefthander Joe Savery in the first round and added more talent in the draft.

Lows: Injuries nearly cost the Phillies the division, and the club lost righthander Freddy Garcia—who came over in an offseason trade—in June . . . While the farm system boasts several arms with upside, the lack of position players is glaring.

Goals For 2008: Continue to battle with the Mets atop the NL East, with more quality outings from their starters and a better bullpen, highlighted by the acquisition of Brad Lidge from the Astros.

GM Watch: After taking over for Ed Wade in 2006, Pat Gillick did a tremendous job of shuffling his roster in the face of injuries, trading for second baseman Tadahito Iguchi and righthander Kyle Lohse to keep the club in the race with New York. This will be his last season as GM and the club is built to win now.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Highs: Jake Peavy won the NL Cy Young and pitching triple crown, and major league team won 89 games, the most since the 1998 club won 98 and the NL pennant . . . Netted righthander Will Inman and lefties Steve Garrison and Joe Thatcher from the Brewers for reliever Scott Linebrink . . . Signed righthander Matt Latos, the top draft-and-follow talent in the final class of draft and follows.

Lows: Lost their final three games—the last one against the Rockies for the wild card—with their playoff lives at stake . . . Righthander Chris Young went 1-5, 4.80 in 13 second-half starts as he battled back problems . . . Lost first-round pick Nick Schmidt to Tommy John surgery after seven pro innings.

Goals For 2008: Get back to the pinnacle of the NL West, and continue to supplement an improving farm system through the draft.

GM Watch: Kevin Towers, who remains criminally underrated, built the 2005-07 Padres despite a poor farm system. He traded for key pieces like Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young, Mike Cameron, Heath Bell and Kevin Kouzmanoff while sacrificing little.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Highs: Won 88 games, fifth-most in the AL, and stayed in the wild-card hunt until late August despite being outscored by 19 runs on the year . . . Graduated four prospects, including No. 1 Adam Jones, who broke out with Triple-A Tacoma . . . Righthander Felix Hernandez, still just 21, took 30 rotation turns and went 14-7, 3.92, taking another step toward stardom . . . Stayed active in Latin America, signing three prospects to six-figure bonuses.

Lows: Manager Mike Hargrove resigned in the midst of a seven-game win streak . . . Lost nine in a row and 13 out of 14 in August and September . . . Offseason acquisitions Jeff Weaver (7-13, 6.20) and Horacio Ramirez (8-7, 7.16) bombed miserably.

Goals For 2008: Incorporate more young players, like Jones, Jeff Clement, Ryan Feierabend, Mark Lowe and Ryan Rowland-Smith, and take advantage of AL West to make playoffs for the first time since 2001.

GM Watch: Despite a spate of questionable trades and signings, Bill Bavasi's Mariners remained in contention for much of the year. Seattle extended him through 2008, but may change directions if the club falters out of the gate.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

Highs: Another No. 1 pick brought in another premium talent, this time in the form of lefthander David Price, adding to game's most talent system . . . Double-A Montgomery won its second straight Southern League title with a prospect-laden team . . . Carlos Pena resurrected his career with one of the best offensive seasons in the game, and Scott Kazmir looks like he'll have staying power . . . Franchise tried to give itself a new start with a new logo and the elimination of "Devil" from its nickname.

Lows: In spite of progress, major league team still finished with the worst record in baseball—again.

Goals For 2008: It's hard to judge Tampa Bay's progress in the rugged AL East, but until the pitching becomes at least mediocre the Rays will struggle to get out of the cellar. It's time for some of the pitching talent to step forward in the big leagues.

GM Watch: Andrew Friedman seems to be doing the right things to keep the minor league talent flowing, though he hasn't had enough moves in the major leagues to be judged on yet. He'll get plenty of rope with the Rays' slow build, but at some point the team has to take a step forward.

TEXAS RANGERS

Highs: Dramatic overhaul transformed farm system from one of the weakest in baseball into one of the best . . . Trading veterans Mark Teixeira, Kenny Lofton and Eric Gagne returned promising prospects Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Max Ramirez and Engel Beltre . . . Five draft picks before the second round and more solid work on the international front bolstered lower levels of farm system.

Lows: With a 75-87 record, the Rangers finished in last place, 19 games behind the division-winning Angels . . . Continued to struggle assembling a pitching staff that can succeed at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, as the team's 4.75 ERA ranked 24th in baseball.

Goals For 2008: Improving the pitching staff and staying competitive until the minor league talent can settle in with the parent Rangers in 2009 or 2010.

GM Watch: The jury is still out on the Jon Daniels era, but the trades of 2006 that shipped away Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young, Alfonso Soriano and Francisco Cordero for minimal return have been remedied by a renewed commitment to building the farm system. Solid drafting and smarter trades in 2007 have given the Rangers an exciting young nucleus for the future.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Highs: Embraced youth movement in the final season before moving into new ballpark along the Anacostia River . . . Stabilized front office in the first full year under Lerner family ownership and president Stan Kasten . . . Brought talent into the farm system with six picks in the first two rounds and aggressive spending on its draft class, rated as best in the industry.

Lows: Though first-year manager Manny Acta got the most out of his club, the Nationals still went just 73-89 and finished 16 games out of first place . . . Patchwork pitching staff failed to produce a single 10-game winner . . . Upper levels of farm system remain mostly barren.

Goals For 2008: Ushering talented young prospects through the low minors without growing impatient and stunting their development, while upgrading the pitching staff and fielding a competitive team in the new ballpark.

GM Watch: Jim Bowden received a vote of confidence from the new ownership heading into the season, and he deserves credit for overseeing a dramatic improvement in the farm system and keeping the rebuilding process on course.

TRENDING DOWN

ATLANTA BRAVES

Highs: Resurgent season from Chipper Jones and trade for Mark Teixeira had the Braves back in playoff contention, though they couldn't finish the job . . . Getting Jason Heyward in the first round and Cole Rohrbaugh as a draft-and-follow helps restock the system . . . Triple-A Richmond won its first International League title since 1994.

Lows: John Schuerholz stepping down after an amazing 17-year run continues a period of instability and uncertainty for the franchise . . . Graduations, trades and disappointments have pitching at the major and minor league levels below expectations.

Goals For 2008: If the Braves can improve their rotation and fill the hole left by Andruw Jones in center field, there's no reason they can't contend for the playoffs again.

GM Watch: Frank Wren's first run at being a GM was a disaster, but history has shown that's more a reflection on the Orioles. As Schuerholz' hand-picked successor, he has worked quickly to establish continuity in the organization. Duplicating Schuerholz' track record will be a considerably taller order.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Highs: Stock of arms in the farm system continues to be one of baseball's best . . . Promoting Michael Hill to general manager and extending contracts of execs such as Dan Jennings gives the front office stability that has been rare in franchise history . . . Went for bats in the draft to fill the system's biggest needs.

Lows: Injuries added to youth and a low payroll equaled a last-place finish in the NL East, the first in eight years . . . Affiliates also struggled to win, compiling a .468 winning percentage . . . Long-term future will continue to be a question until a new baseball-only ballpark gets built.

Goals For 2008: Following the organization's traditional blueprint, the Marlins will endure a few down seasons and stockpile talent in hopes of a season or two of contention. That's still a couple of years off.

GM Watch: Though Larry Beinfest was promoted to president of baseball operations and Hill is now GM, their duties aren't expected to change much. The promotions and contract extensions were a vote of confidence from ownership that the team is on the right track.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Highs: Entered September just 14 games under .500, their best mark so late in the season since 2003 . . . Third baseman Alex Gordon and DH Billy Butler emerged as offensive cornerstones, free agent acquisition Gil Meche ranked 12th in the league in ERA and righthander Brian Bannister finished third in rookie of the year voting.

Lows: Ranked last in home runs, RBIs and slugging in the AL, with no impact bats in the system ready to contribute . . . Poor pitching contributed to 9-19 September finish.

Goals For 2008: Graduate Luke Hochevar to the rotation on a full-time basis while acquiring a hitter to complement Gordon and Butler, and dig their way out of the AL Central cellar for the first time since 2003 under new manager Trey Hillman.

GM Watch: Second-year GM Dayton Moore has a ways to go to repair the mess he inherited, but has made strides in each of the past two drafts (particularly with 2007 first-rounder Mike Moustakas), acquired pitching prospects via trades (righthander Daniel Cortes) and free agency while placing an emphasis on scouting and player development.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Highs: Supplemented the major league roster with homegrown talent . . . Hired manager Joe Torre after the season, replacing Grady Little . . . Despite the farm system's contribution to the major league team, assistant general manager Logan White and scouting director Tim Hallgren keep replenishing it.

Lows: Despite leading the division for much of the first half, the major league team crumbled in September, underscored by a clubhouse feud between the team's veterans and youth . . . Major league hitting coach Eddie Murray was fired during the season . . . Minor league hitting coordinator Bill Robinson died suddenly in July . . . Scott Elbert, one of the organization's top pitching prospects, had shoulder surgery and missed almost the entire season.

Goals For 2008: Integrate the team's young stars with its veterans and contend with the rest of the competitive division.

GM Watch: Every move Ned Colletti made in 2006 seemed to work, but a year later he had committed more than $100 million to Schmidt, Estaban Loaiza and Juan Pierre. But now he has a Hall of Fame manager and one of the best scouting and player development departments in the game. His use of those resources reflect how he'll be judged.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Highs: Mostly individual, such as third-year pitcher Scott Baker just missing a no-hitter (he one-hit the Royals Aug. 31), or Justin Morneau's second straight 30-homer season, or Johan Santana's 17-strikeout effort against the Rangers Aug. 19.

Lows: Posted first losing record since 2000—back when the Twins were a contraction candidate . . . Ranked 12th in the league in runs due in part to offensive black holes at DH and third base . . . Franchise linchpin Torii Hunter posted a career year, then bolted as a free agent to the Angels in November . . . Stud 2006 rookie Francisco Liriano, out all year with Tommy John surgery, was sorely missed . . . GM Terry Ryan resigned late in the year.

Goals For 2008: Either re-sign Santana long-term, or use him in a trade to bring impact hitters to complement Morneau and Joe Mauer. The Twins must add offense somehow, and their farm system doesn't have any big league-ready bats.

GM Watch: Bill Smith, Ryan's former assistant, takes over as the GM in title and has ample experience for the job. Organization insiders insist Ryan remains the organization's top talent evaluator in a role one described as "GM Light."

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Highs: Made over the big league roster with nine rookies (Daric Barton, Jerry Blevins, Dallas Braden, Travis Buck, Jay Marshall, Kevin Melillo, Danny Putnam, Connor Robertson and Kurt Suzuki) making their major league debuts.

Lows: Finished 18 games behind Los Angeles, putting an end to a streak of eight consecutive seasons with a winning record . . . Killed by injuries, as A's players combined to miss 1,259 games, with 11 of the 22 disabled list stints on the 60-day DL.

Goals For 2008: Finding ways to score more runs and and staying healthy could mean a return to contention. The A's scored just 741 runs, fourth-fewest in the AL and ranked last in stolen bases. Losing closer Huston Street for two months hurt the pen, which converted just 59 percent of save opportunities and tied for the AL lead in blown saves.

GM Watch: Billy Beane enters his 10th season as Oakland's GM, and he's not going anywhere anytime soon. He's one of the longest-tenured and most visible executives in the game, and the A's will keep him as long as they can.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Highs: Minor league talent has improved considerably since Jeff Luhnow took leadership of scouting department, with prospects like Colby Rasmus and Chris Perez nearly ready to contribute in the big leagues . . . Double-A Arkansas won first- and second-half division titles in the Texas League and placed five players in the Texas League Top 20 Prospects.

Lows: Major league team's first losing season since 1999 resulted in Walt Jocketty's departure as GM and laid bare deep divisions in the team's baseball operations . . . In the wake of Jocketty leaving, many of the organization's longtime baseball employees also were pushed out or left on their own.

Goals For 2008: Though they might work in a few more young players than usual, the Cardinals will expect to get right back to contention. Tony La Russa wouldn't have stayed aboard otherwise.

GM Watch: Who knows if he was the organization's first choice, but John Mozeliak could prove to be the perfect man to replace Jocketty. He blends the organization's traditions with new thinking and has already sought to bridge the gulf that had developed in the baseball office.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Highs: Drew plenty of fans to watch Barry Bonds set the career home run record . . . Every affiliate except Double-A Connecticut had a winning record, highlighted by powerhouse teams at short-season Salem-Keizer and low Class A Augusta . . . Extra picks made for one of the year's most promising drafts . . . Young pitchers like Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum have shown ability to dominate.

Lows: Bonds was one of the year's feel-bad stories . . . Effort to patch a team of veterans together fell apart with a last-place finish in the NL West, and there's little in the way of young position talent on the way . . . In a division loaded with young talent, Giants are a notable exception.

Goals For 2008: With Bonds finally out of the way, the Giants are free to begin a rebuilding process. They'll try to contend and plug in new players at the same time, but it's hard to see how they'll do that. Time to start over.

GM Watch: Brian Sabean is one of baseball's longest-tenured GMs and has taken the Giants through a great period of success, but cracks are beginning to show in the team's foundation. He got a contract extension last year, but it's not hard to imagine him feeling the heat if the organization doesn't show some progress in the next year.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Highs: Righthanders Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett were great, leading Toronto to a No. 2 finish in AL ERA . . . Righthander Dustin McGowan broke out, going 12-10, 4.08 in 25 starts , and Shaun Marcum (12-6, 4.13) and Jesse Litsch (7-9, 3.81) held down rotation spots, while Jeremy Accardo and Casey Janssen thrived in relief roles . . . Overhauled farm system with strong draft that netted half of top 10 prospects . . . DH Frank Thomas hit his 500th home run.

Lows: Offense sputtered to 10th in runs, receiving very little from Vernon Wells—fresh off signing a seven-year, $126 million deal—Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay . . . Lost four games in the standings from 2006, when they finished second in AL East.

Goals For 2008: Align offense and pitching for one year to compete for wild card, and continue rebuilding farm system through the draft.

GM Watch: J.P. Ricciardi's Blue Jays have been marked by mediocrity, averaging 83 wins a year from 2005-07. His player-development track record has had similar results: current stars like Halladay, McGowan and Alex Rios are products of the previous regime.

BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Highs: Took a gamble in the draft that paid off when they signed catcher Matt Wieters . . . Brought in Andy MacPhail to try another overhaul of the baseball operation, bringing credibility to an organization desperately in need of it . . . Erik Bedard has the look of a legitimate ace, finishing fourth in the AL in ERA and first in strikeouts.

Lows: Tenth straight losing season, with little real hope of a quick turnaround . . . Losing season in the minors as well, with few prospects showing the star power to make a big difference in the majors . . . Fans stayed away from Camden Yards in droves, with the team averaging 56 percent capacity for the season.

Goals For 2008: Have a winning season and re-establish credibility with your fans in a market that should be one of the best for baseball, and go a year without having anyone read about Peter Angelos.

GM Watch: Mike Flanagan remains as executive vice president, while MacPhail's title is president of baseball operations, but make no mistake about who is in charge. MacPhail said when he was hired that Angelos promised him free rein, but we'll have to see about that.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Highs: Jim Thome hit his 500th home run and was the team's best offensive player . . . Rookie-level Great Falls was the best team in the Pioneer League, though it lost in the finals of the playoffs.

Lows: Great Falls was the only White Sox affiliate to finish with a winning record . . . Major league slumped to fourth place in the AL Central, ranking last in the league in runs and 12th in ERA . . . Trades, graduation and disappointing performances have made for one of the thinnest farm systems in the game . . . Though they got several power arms in the draft, White Sox got little in the way of potential impact bats.

Goals For 2008: Hope for bounceback seasons from veterans, and if that doesn't happen then begin the rebuilding process. In either case, a lot of work needs to be done with the farm system.

GM Watch: Kenny Williams will forever get credit for bringing a World Series title to the White Sox, but as that fades into history and the major league team continues to slump, he'll have to feel the heat at some point.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Highs: Hunter Pence should have won a job out of spring training, and once the Astros recognized that he was easily their best center fielder, he hit .322/.360/.539 in 108 games . . . Craig Biggio collected his 3,000th hit.

Lows: Went 73-89 for just their second losing season since 1992 and their worst mark since 2000 . . . Less than two years after guiding Houston to its only World Series appearance ever, general manager Tim Purpura and manager Phil Garner were fired in August . . . Had the worst draft of any club in June, not signing a player before the fifth round . . . Scouting department was also restructured.

Goals For 2008: McLane expects the Astros to return to contention in the weak NL Central, but that may be a reach. Taking the first steps toward rebuilding the big league team and the thin farm system would be a more practical goal.

GM Watch: Ed Wade, former GM of the Phillies, just came aboard in September. He has close ties to club president Tal Smith, but owner Drayton McLane isn't known for his patience, so it's unclear how much rope Wade will get if the Astros don't turn around quickly.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Highs: Steve Pearce has a nice season, hitting 31 home runs in the minors and making his major league debut . . . Tom Gorzelanny broke through in rotation with 14-10, 3.88 season.

Lows: Everything else: After 15 straight losing seasons and countless rebuilding plans, Pittsburgh finally blew up its entire front office, from former team president Kevin McClatchy on down . . . Lowest moments of 2007 included another draft class driven by the bottom line, and trading for $13.7 million worth of Matt Morris.

Goals For 2008: Stability and a new outlook. It's unrealistic to even contemplate when contention might happen again, so for now the Pirates should concentrate on hiring good people and finding better players.

GM Watch: Neal Huntington is saying all the right things, and cleaning out everyone in an effort to build cohesiveness and a new culture is a good way to start. Scouting and player development are the watchwords for the Pirates, so Huntington will get at least three or four years to prove himself.