Following two strong seasons in which he went a combined 7-7 with a 2.66 ERA and 125 strikeouts over 105 innings, LHP Tony Sipp signed a three-year, $18 million deal last offseason. He returned for a third season in Houston and struggled mightily, posting a 4.95 ERA while allowing 12 home runs in just 43 2/3 innings, more homers than in his two previous seasons combined. Renowned for his ability to get lefties and righties out, Sipp allowed a 1.012 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) against right-handed hitters in 2016.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
LHP C.J. Wilson hoped to regain his spot in the rotation after undergoing elbow surgery in August 2015. However, Wilson experienced biceps tendinitis early in spring training, landing him on the disabled list. Shoulder problems limited him to just four innings in May during a minor league rehabilitation assignment, and he ultimately underwent season-ending surgery in July. Wilson, 35, is a free agent after finishing a five-year contract worth $77.5 million. He likely will retire to pursue his interests in automobile dealerships and racing.
RHP Sonny Gray finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting in 2015 and was an AL All-Star in just his third major league season. Gray was expected to be even better in 2016. Instead, he had by far the worst season of his young career. After winning three of his first four starts, Gray went 0-7 with a 6.16 ERA over 12 starts, and he finished 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA. Gray also had stints on the disabled list due to a strained right trapezius and a strained right forearm.
RHP Taijuan Walker, the organization's two-time top prospect, was supposed to emerge as a legitimate front-end-of-the-rotation starter this year. Instead, Walker struggled so badly that he found himself back at Triple-A. A strong September seemed to put Walker back in line as a key piece to the Mariners' future, but the front office might be tempted to gauge interest in the 24-year-old pitcher. Seattle's No. 2 starter to open the season, Walker went 8-11 with a 4.22 ERA and is no longer considered the replacement-in-waiting for aging ace Felix Hernandez.
In 2015, OF Shin-Soo Choo lived up to his mammoth seven year, $130 million contract in year one of the deal. This year was another story, as the expected leadoff hitter couldn't stay healthy. Three trips to the disabled list limited him to 48 games as he missed time because of lower back inflammation, a right calf strain and then a fractured left forearm. In his limited action, he hit just .242 with 17 RBIs. At 34 and with four more years left on his contract, Choo might be looking at a future as a designated hitter.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
RHP James Shields was supposed to provide the White Sox with a reliable No. 3 starter when the team acquired him in June from the San Diego Padres. Instead, Shields unraveled. He finished the 4-12 with a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts for the White Sox. Add a 2-7 record in 11 starts with San Diego, and the 34-year-old sustained a staggering 19 losses on the season. Shields figures to return to the South Side in 2017, and the White Sox will need him to be much better in order to compete.
C Yan Gomes got off to a horrendous start offensively, then missed the last 2 1/2 months of the season due to a separated shoulder. In 2014, Gomes won a Silver Slugger by hitting .278 with 21 home runs and 74 RBIs. This year, he played in only 74 games and hit just .167 with 11 homers and 34 RBIs. He continued to receive high marks for his handling of the pitching staff, but the Indians need more offense out of the catching position.
RHP Jordan Zimmermann signed a five-year, $110 million contract as a free agent last winter and looked to be a bargain when he earned the AL Pitcher of the Month for April with a 5-0 record and 0.55 ERA. Then came a groin injury, then came a sore neck, then came messed up mechanics, then came a big hole in the Tigers' rotation. Zimmermann made just three starts and one relief appearance after June 30, and he finished 9-7 with a 4.87 ERA. A winter of building arm strength should help.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Last fall, LF Alex Gordon helped the Royals win the World Series, and he subsequently signed the biggest contract in franchise history, both in terms of average annual value and total value: four years, $72 million. He then struggled most of the season to get his batting average above .200, finishing at .220. It was the worst average among the 75 players who qualified for the American League batting race. Gordon hit 17 home runs but drove in just 40 runs while striking out a career-high 148 times.
1B Joe Mauer, a former American League batting champion, hit a career-low .261 and again dealt with injuries. Mauer was out of the lineup often in the final month because of sore quadriceps, another leg issue for the former catcher. He finished with 49 RBIs while hitting mostly in the second and third spots in the order. Mauer had a bit of a resurgence in May with five home runs, but he managed just five the rest of the way. As the highest-paid player on the roster at $23 million a year, Mauer must contribute much more.
Although 1B Chris Davis finished with 38 homers and 84 RBIs, he batted just .221 and struck out 219 times, the most in the major leagues by a wide margin. Milwaukee Brewers 1B Chris Carter (206 strikeouts) was the only other player over 200. Davis, who signed a seven-year, $161 million deal last winter, was affected by nagging injuries. Still, he had a great season defensively, and the Orioles hope for fewer strikeouts and a higher average next year.
BOSTON RED SOX
RHP Junichi Tazawa, probably overworked in the first half, was relegated to less-important situations late in the season. Before the All-Star break, he was 1-1 with a 3.62 ERA. After the break, he went 2-1 with a 5.19 ERA, though he finished strong, throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings over his final seven appearances. Tazawa wound up with a career-high 4.17 ERA, and his 53 appearances and 49 2/3 innings were his lowest totals over the past four years.
NEW YORK YANKEES
RHP Michael Pineda's numbers were hard to explain: a 6-12 record, 4.82 ERA, 207 strikeouts and 27 home runs allowed. Manager Joe Girardi described Pineda's season as "the most interesting I've ever seen." Girardi added, "It's mind-boggling. It just doesn't make sense. And you look for reasons, and believe me, we'll look, and I'm sure we'll look a long time this winter." At times, Pineda displays the ability to dominate, but it is doubtful the Yankees would accept such inconsistency beyond next year.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
RHP Chris Archer had Cy Young Award buzz before the season, but he saw his ERA balloon from 3.23 in 2015 to 4.02 this year, and he needed a strong finish to bring it down to that level. He continues to be an elite strikeout pitcher (his 233 K's tied for second in the American League), but that comes at the expense of his pitch count, so he didn't go as far into games. Archer barely avoided being the majors' first 20-game loser since 2003, finishing 9-19.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
1B Justin Smoak was signed to a two-year deal during the season, but he did little to justify that confidence, batting .217/.314/.391 with 14 homers and 34 RBIs in 126 games. More consistent playing time might have helped him, but it was hard to give him more with 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion often required to play first base with the DH spot being used for players dealing with nagging injuries. Smoak still is an excellent fielder and was often used as a late-game defensive replacement.