The Major League Baseball offseason is here, and MLB.com's team of writers will have quick-hit analysis of each major transaction in a running list here.
Dec. 2, 2022: Rangers sign P Jacob deGrom
Five years, $185 million
Last year, the Rangers spent more than half a billion dollars to add Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Jon Gray, and then promptly went out and lost 94 games — which wasn't totally unexpected, even given the big adds. (They'd lost 102 the year before, so, improvement!) Following the season, they went out and hired Bruce Bochy to manage, and you don't convince a (likely) future Hall of Famer skipper to come back to merely supervise a fourth-place team, so you knew big moves were coming, and you knew they were likely to come in the rotation, which had the sixth-highest ERA in 2022. Two weeks ago, FanGraphs had the Rangers as an 80-82 team based on their 2023 roster, and the fact that they're still not likely a playoff team even with deGrom tells you a lot about how far they're coming from, and how far they still have to go.
Of course, so much of that depends on the great unknowable of how much you can realistically get from deGrom. It feels wrong to say "a team that wants to improve is an odd fit for baseball's most dominant starter," but in some sense it is, because you might be better served betting on him being healthy for a few high-importance October starts from a team likely to reach the playoffs anyway than hoping that he can help push a non-playoff team there in the first place, since he's made all of 38 starts (224 1/3 innings) over the last three seasons combined due to a number of arm injuries.
It's because of that recent history — and the fact that he throws harder than any starter this side of Hunter Greene, and that the five years will cover his ages 35-39 seasons — that despite the eye-popping dollar amount, expectations need to be tempered here. deGrom can't be counted on for 30 starts times five seasons; if he's available to the Rangers for 100 starts over the duration of the contract, it might be considered a win. It goes without saying, of course, that when he's on the mound, the results are stunning — a 2.05 ERA and 352/37 K/BB over the last three years hardly scrapes the surface here — and that the Rangers have made it clear they won't sit idly by and watch Houston and Seattle (and, to some extent, the Angels) control the AL West. It just gets them in the conversation, though, with deGrom ahead of Martin Perez and Gray in the rotation. It's going to take considerably more to get where they want to be. But for now, they have deGrom, and no one else does. Risky as it is, it's hard to dislike that. — Mike Petriello
Dec. 2, 2022: Brewers trade 2B Kolten Wong to Mariners for OF/DH Jesse Winker and INF Abraham Toro
We'd known for a while that Seattle would seek a middle-infield upgrade, because its second basemen were baseball's second-weakest at the plate in 2022, and because GM Jerry Dipoto has been pretty open about the need. Wong should help, but exactly what kind of player he is right now is an open question, because even though he had yet another solid season (2.5 WAR) in 2022, just like he's been doing for nearly a decade, the shape of it was much different than usual. Wong's 118 OPS+ and 15 homers were both career highs, and that paired with his usual excellent defense would have made him a star.
Except … the defense wasn't excellent. It was downright poor, by both the metrics (-9 OAA) and Wong's own words. It could just be a one-year blip, sure. But it could also be that his below-average speed and extremely weak throwing arm are, as he moves further into his 30s, becoming insurmountable issues. Even so, the cost to find out what the final year of Wong's contract will look like was in two recently acquired players who never found their footing in Seattle, as Toro posted a .618 OPS in parts of two seasons, while Winker fell from a .949 OPS with the Reds in 2021 to a .688 mark with the Mariners in 2022, while winning few friends in the clubhouse.
Given that — and the knee and neck injuries that both required surgery after the season — it's not hard to see Milwaukee betting on a change-of-scenery return to form, given that Winker is still just 29. At second, 2018 first-rounder Brice Turang, who hit 13 homers with 34 steals at Triple-A Nashville in 2022, should get a chance to replace Wong. — Mike Petriello
Dec. 2, 2022: Red Sox sign P Chris Martin
Two years, $17.5 million
Martin will be 37 next season, and we can confirm we don't plan to recap every signing of every mid-30s reliever here. But Martin isn't just any older reliever, and you can see that in the fact that he got multiple years and decent money out of a big-market contender. (Martin is going home, in a sense; he entered pro ball with the Red Sox in 2011, but was traded to Colorado in 2013 before reaching the Majors.)
As we wrote recently, Martin seemed like a terminally underrated reliever, given his truly elite strikeout/walk numbers, and we say that without hyperbole. To quote ourselves: "With the Dodgers, he whiffed 34 while walking just one; over the last three seasons, he’s struck out nearly 10 times (127 whiffs) as many as he’s walked (14). Martin might have only 251 career Major League innings after all this time, but he’s also got the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in integrated AL/NL history. The. Best." That'll play anywhere, and the Red Sox could use the help. — Mike Petriello
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Dec. 1, 2022: Rays sign P Zach Eflin
Three years, $40 million
This is the largest Rays free agent signing in a quarter-century, dating back to Wilson Alvarez getting $35 million back in 1997, so you know there's something they like here, and we can guarantee it is not his unimpressive 36-45, 4.49 ERA numbers. It's the feeling of untapped potential, because despite the fact he's been around long enough that he was teammates with Ryan Howard as a rookie, it still feels like there's a breakout yet to happen. Eflin's first two years were poor (5.85 ERA in 2016-'17), and his last three years have been marred by injury (just 240 1/3 innings thrown, largely due to knee problems).
Yet through all that, he's shown an excellent ability to throw strikes — he was in the 91st percentile in walk rate in 2022 — and this past year, he was excellent at avoiding hard contact, rating in the 94th percentile in hard-hit avoidance. While the strikeout stuff hasn't quite come yet, Eflin always has been a tinkerer, swapping out a four-seamer for a sinker in recent years, then all but ditching his slider in favor of his cutter and curveball as secondaries in 2022. If there's a team who can get the most out of a pitcher like that, it's probably the Rays, who will slot Eflin alongside Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow, Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs in a Tampa Bay rotation that actually might look like a rotation in 2023. — Mike Petriello
Nov. 28, 2022: Astros sign 1B José Abreu
Three years, $58.5 million
Even though Houston did just win the World Series, you still couldn't shake the feeling during their postseason run that they were a bat or two short, and it was easy to think that a target area would be first base, where Yuli Gurriel turned 38 in June and posted a .647 OPS — his weakest full season since arriving in the Majors in 2016. They've solved that problem by adding Abreu, who just posted a 133 OPS+ that almost exactly matches his 134 career mark. In nine seasons in the bigs, Abreu has been an above-average hitter nine times. It's an obvious upgrade.
What it's not, necessarily, is a risk-free one. Abreu may be younger than Gurriel, but he's not young, not when he turns 36 in January, meaning the Astros have committed to his age 36-38 seasons at nearly $20 million apiece. The good news is that he still hits the ball extremely hard, ranking in the 97th percentile in hard-hit rate, and he'll likely be the beneficiary of a handful of short flies to left that leave the yard in Houston that didn't in Chicago. But there's at least some concern here about a big step back in 2022 against four-seam fastballs, as he slugged just .404 against them despite never slugging under .520 previously, and a career-high ground ball rate that helped limit him to a career-low 15 homers. Some of those homers did turn into his 40 doubles, and doubles are still good.
There are no obvious signs of doom here. He's clearly an upgrade over Gurriel, in a lineup that needed one. It's just something to note for a hitter who is already among the oldest in the league. — Mike Petriello
Nov. 23, 2022: Brewers trade OF Hunter Renfroe to Angels for P Janson Junk and P Elvis Peguero
Brewers also receive Minor League P Adam Seminaris
The Angels haven't had much success with one Mike Trout, so they thought they'd try their luck with his twin:
The Angels adding off brand Mike Trout (Renfroe) to play next to actual Mike Trout is an early contender for trade of the decade. Thank you @Angels for all the joy we'll get out of this. https://t.co/TLn5jsHzS6
Renfroe, who will be joining his fifth team in five seasons, fills a similar role as Gio Urshela, who they traded for last week, which is solid, unspectacular depth on a team that desperately needs exactly that. Setting aside the shortened 2020, Renfroe has been a consistent source of power (26 or more homers in each of the last five full seasons) and offense (119 OPS+ over the last two years), pairing big power with lots of strikeouts and an excellent right field arm. That basically makes him an average player — and he's indeed a 2-WAR player each year — which, if unexciting, is still a boon for a thin Angels lineup, allowing Jo Adell and Mickey Moniak to be depth or trade pieces rather than relying on either to start.
It's somewhat less exciting for Milwaukee, which adds pitching and does have young outfield depth worth looking at, but subtracts one of the few productive hitters from an unimpressive 2022 lineup. — Mike Petriello
Nov. 18, 2022: Twins trade 3B Gio Urshela to Angels
Twins receive Minor League P Alejandro Hidalgo
In the four seasons since Urshela's 2019 breakout, he's posted a 119 OPS+, where 100 is league-average, and in 2022, it was 121. That won't last forever, but he's still only 31, and a hitter 20% above average is a pretty useful one — especially for an Angels offense that somehow, even with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, scored just the 25th-most runs in baseball. Despite his reputation, defensive metrics consider him average to somewhat below, but the larger question will be where, exactly, he'll be using that glove. You'd think Anthony Rendon would be the primary Angels third baseman, but he's also played all of 105 games over the last two seasons, so a solid backup plan is a welcome idea, especially if Urshela spots at second and shortstop as well, or either plays some first base. (Though letting Urshela just be the starting shortstop would seem to be a mistake.) Regardless, the Angels added a minor lineup improvement, and minor lineup improvements add up.
As for the Twins, there was a decent chance they were just going to non-tender Urshela before Friday night's deadline, as they have Jose Miranda, coming off a successful rookie season, ready to take most of the third base time anyway. So they at least get a prospect out of it, though they still have considerable work to do this winter. — Mike Petriello
Nov. 16, 2022: Blue Jays trade OF Teoscar Hernández to Mariners for P Erik Swanson
Blue Jays also receive Minor League P Adam Macko
"Toronto traded a middle-of-the-order bat for a middle reliever" is both an accurate and incomplete view of this one, but it's where you have to start. Over the last three seasons, Hernández has a 132 OPS+ with 73 home runs — he's been a Top 20 hitter in that time — while Swanson is 29 and was something like the fourth or fifth-best reliever on the Mariners. Of course, that says a lot about how good Seattle's bullpen was, because Swanson had a 1.68 ERA, striking out 34% of the batters he faced while walking just 10 of the 206 batters he faced. He's quite good.
For Seattle, the move is clear; they'd built up the bullpen enough to withstand Swanson's loss, and Hernández pretty easily slots in a corner next to Julio Rodriguez, giving the Mariners one of the lineup additions they badly needed this winter. (They still need more, likely a middle infielder.) For Toronto, it's a little about turning one year of Hernández into three years of Swanson, a needed upgrade to their thin bullpen, and the final-year-of-arbitration savings that moving Hernández entails. But the larger question is what's next, because it very much feels like the first step of two or three that reshapes their lineup.
George Springer, for example, now has a clear path to the right field/DH spot that seems necessary, as he's been banged up considerably in his two (otherwise productive) years with Toronto. Coming a day after the Blue Jays cut ties with Raimel Tapia as well, this makes it clear a center field upgrade is in play. Maybe that's Brandon Nimmo, a lefty swinger who would fit well. But maybe, too, we know they have a catching surplus they're willing to trade from. Arizona? St. Louis? Your phones may be ringing. — Mike Petriello
Nov. 15, 2022: Yankees sign 1B Anthony Rizzo
Two years, $40 million (includes $6 million buyout of 2025 team option)
File this one under "moves that always seemed likely to happen." Rizzo is a lefty bat in a ballpark that's suited for one, he seemed happy enough to be in the Bronx (which can't always be assumed), the Yankees had no obvious internal replacement, and the free agent first base market is non-existent outside of José Abreu, who is three years older, and the inconsistent Josh Bell, coming off a disappointing post-trade stint in San Diego. For Rizzo's part, he's exactly the type of good-not-elite older first base bat who would have struggled to get past the qualifying offer on the market.
Despite the fact that his 2022 season — 32 homers, 131 OPS+ — looked a lot like Peak Rizzo, the underlying metrics suggest he's settling more into a comfortably above-average second act, which is why he's getting just a two-year deal. Still, it's a value the Yankees couldn't easily replace, so the reunion makes sense enough all around. More interestingly, as one of the most-shifted-upon hitters in baseball, he'll be a very interesting test case for 2023's new positioning rules. — Mike Petriello
Nov. 15, 2022: Angels sign P Tyler Anderson
Three years, $39 million
Anderson, 33 in 2023, had a solid enough debut as a Rockies rookie back in 2016, then spent half a decade bouncing around between three more teams and various stints on the injured list before accepting a one-year deal from the Dodgers in 2022, resurrecting his career with 178 2/3 innings of 2.57 ERA ball, making his first All-Star team. If that's the player the Angels are getting, then $13 million annually for three years is an absolute steal, giving the perpetually pitching-starved Halos a reliable arm to go with Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers and José Suarez.
Of course, if you could be confident that the 2022 Anderson is what you'd get going forward, then he'd have earned a lot more than three years and $39 million. His rebirth this past year was largely credited to his improved changeup and the grip changes he made to it, but the larger question here is whether the changes the Dodgers make to get the most out of distressed pitchers will stick when those pitchers leave the lab and head elsewhere. The Angels are gambling $39 million and a Draft pick (since Anderson had been given a qualifying offer by the Dodgers) to find out. — Mike Petriello
Nov. 15, 2022: Astros sign P Rafael Montero
Three years, $34.5 million
If the early part of this offseason seems like a rush for teams to retain their own top-end relievers, that’s exactly right, because the market for bullpen arms is extremely thin. To say Montero has had an up-and-down career is more than understating it, because the long-ago failed Mets starter prospect who became a decent Rangers reliever who became a 7.27 ERA arm for the Mariners in 2021 who became a dominant Astros pitcher (2.18 over 2021-22) over the last decade has lived some baseball lives.
Through all that, he’s only 32 years old, and he’s throwing much harder than he ever did before, as you saw while he dominated in the playoffs. He is, however, almost a luxury in a loaded Astros bullpen, one that seems to consistently find players who had been cut loose by their former teams in the midst of a terrible season and turn them into high-leverage arms. Arms, like, say, Rafael Montero. — Mike Petriello
Nov. 10, 2022: Padres sign P Robert Suarez
Five years, $46 million with an opt-out after 2025
While Edwin Díaz’s five-year deal with the Mets (see below) was defensible in part because of his strong track record of success, a three-years-older Suarez getting the same length — albeit at less than half the guaranteed dollars — is a lot harder to justify. It’s not that he wasn’t good this past year; he was, very good, striking out nearly 12 per 9 and then helping the Padres blow through the Mets and Dodgers in the playoffs. It’s that the 47 2/3 innings of 2.27 ERA ball he just threw are his only regular season Major League innings, and he turns 32 in March. While he did receive an opt-out after three years, he might also be signed through age 36, too.
The success Suarez had in Japan before arriving in the Majors counts, of course. The 97.9 mph fastball counts, although it’s relatively straight. The backup plan if and when Josh Hader departs via free agency after 2023 counts, too. He’s hardly your normal 31-year-old rookie. He’s just being paid like he’s already one of the game’s greatest relievers, and there’s only a few months of big league evidence to show that he can be that. — Mike Petriello
Nov. 9, 2022: Mets sign P Edwin Díaz
Five years, $102 million, with a $20 million 2028 team option
This is the richest reliever contract in baseball history, and the history of contracts four years or longer for relievers is generally a poor one. (Though it does allow us to remember B.J. Ryan, Brett Cecil and Scott Linebrink.) Then again, Díaz didn’t just have a good season or even a great one; he had an all-time historic year, striking out 50% — 50%! — of the batters he faced, tied for the third-highest full-season mark a reliever has ever had. He’s relatively young, turning 29 in March, and aside from the general risk of “being a pitcher,” he has a nearly perfect health history. He could be a lot worse and still be pretty good.
It’s a big risk. But, more importantly, the Mets had to do this or not have a competitive bullpen. With Seth Lugo, Adam Ottavino, Trevor May, Mychal Givens and Joely Rodríguez all off to free agency – to say nothing of starters Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker and Chris Bassitt – the best returning Mets reliever was going to be Drew Smith, a perfectly competent arm who nonetheless shouldn’t be the front-line reliever for a team with title aspirations. If the Mets didn’t give Díaz this deal, someone else would have. He’s irreplaceable. Now, the trumpets will blare forever in Queens. — Mike Petriello
Every move of the 2022-23 offseason, tracked – MLB.com