MLB Hot Stove

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USA News-Sports Division January 23, 2023
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MLB Hot Stove

MLB Hot Stove

Recapping MLB’s Crazy Offseason

“The Hot Stove” is defined by as the early part of the Major League Baseball offseason, primarily the sport’s Winter Meeting, where many free-agent signings and trades are consummated.  This year’s Hot Stove was white hot from the beginning of December when Trea Turner signed the first big mega-deal of the offseason until last week when Carlos Correa agreed to a deal - with a THIRD team this offseason.


This offseason has certainly been one for the books, but the proverbial pilot light on “The Hot Stove” isn’t out just yet.  Just today, it was announced that the Minnesota Twins traded the reigning A.L. Batting Champ, Luis Arraez, to the Miami Marlins for promising starter Pablo Lopez.  It was the first time a reigning batting champ had been traded the following offseason since Rod Carew in 1978.  You want to guess who was the last team to trade away the reigning batting champ before today?  You guessed it – the Minnesota Twins!

Like in most MLB off-seasons, several big-name players left their longtime teams and signed with new clubs.  It just seemed like more All-Star caliber players were on the move this offseason than in other years.  Jose Abreu signed with the World Champion Houston Astros after 9 seasons with the Chicago White Sox.  Longtime Dodger Justin Turner signed a 2-year deal to join the Boston Red Sox.  Former Cubs All-Star Catcher Willson Contreras signed with the rival St. Louis Cardinals for 5 years, $87.5 million.  Longtime Mets ace and two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom signed with the Texas Rangers for 5 years, $185 million.

Fans of the San Francisco Giants had the toughest offseason.  It’s not even close.

These poor souls were told that their club would be aggressive and open their checkbooks.  The Giants front office was adamant that they would add big-name players.  It appeared as if they were on track early on.  Reigning AL MVP Aaron Judge was reported to have agreed to a deal with the Giants (thank you Jon Heyman).  Then just hours later, he wasn’t.  Judge re-signed with the New Yankees (9 years, $360 million) and became their first captain since Derek Jeter. All-Star pitcher Carlos Rodon left the Bay and joined both Judge in the Bronx on a 6-year, $162 million deal.  Then, the Giants had a deal in place with Twins shortstop Carlos Correa for 13 years, $350 million.  THIRTEEN years!  The Giants even scheduled a press conference to introduce their new star shortstop.  And then…

Concerns over Correa’s physical gave the Giants cold feet before the deal was completed.  The main concern was over the star shortstop’s right ankle.  Correa had suffered a fracture in said ankle back in 2014 and had it surgically repaired.  The concerns were based on the long-term risk of the ankle being a future issue.  That and there were reportedly concerns with Correa’s back, which kept him out of the Astros lineup for a chunk of time in 2018 and 2019.  While the Giants were deciding on going through with the deal with Correa when another team swooped in just hours later.  Again.

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen has not been shy about his willingness to spend money on his team.  Cohen has practically been printing money for General Manager Billy Eppler to spend.  Last year the Mets added Starling Marte, Mark Canha, reliever Adam Ottovino, and a future Hall-of-Famer in ace Max Scherzer.  They continued the spending spree this offseason with more free-agent signings:

Re-signed star Closer Edwin Diaz: 5 years, $102 million

Japanese Starting Pitcher Kodai Senga: 5 years, $75 million

Veteran SP Jose Quintana: 2 years, $26 million

Re-Signed OF Brandon Nimmo: 8 years, $162 million

Eppler also added another future Hall-of-Fame starting pitcher in former Astros ace Justin Verlander.  Verlander, who will be 40 years old on Opening Day, signed for 2 years, $86.6 million!  He reunites with Scherzer (also 2 years, $86.6 million left on his deal), who were teammates with the Detroit Tigers from 2010-2014.  The Mets have invested more in their top two starting pitchers, ages 38 and 40, on Opening Day, than the entire player salary payroll of (get this) EIGHT MLB teams!   They even thought they had pulled a coup by prying away Correa from the Giants.  Hours after it was reported that the Giants had cold feet about Correa’s physical, the Mets swooped in and got a 12-year-$315 million deal in place with the star shortstop…until they didn’t. 

Speaking of Carlos Correa, did any other free agent have a more interesting offseason than him?  Imagine being his real estate agent over the past month or so!  He agreed to a deal with the Giants on December 14th.  A week later, the deal fell through, and then Correa and the Mets agreed to a deal.  Like the Giants, the Mets became concerned with the star shortstop’s physical and long-term health.  Three weeks later, Correa re-signed with the Minnesota Twins for 6 years, $200 million.  He could earn an additional 4 years, $70 million, with incentives through 1-year team options.  There goes his real estate agent’s commission! 

It has been a great offseason to be a high-profile free-agent shortstop.  In addition to the Correa signing, there was Trea Turner signing with defending National League Pennant-winning Philadelphia Phillies, as previously mentioned.  Xander Bogaerts left Boston after 10 seasons and signed with the San Diego Padres for 11 years, $280 million.  Dansby Swanson joined the Chicago Cubs in signing a 7-year, $177 million contract.  Yeah, it was definitely a good time to be a free-agent shortstop!

It's also nice to be a big-name free agent courted by the Texas Rangers.  A year after signing shortstop Corey Seager (10 years, $325 million), second baseman Marcus Semien (7 years, $175 million), and starting pitcher Jon Gray (4 years, $56 million) to big long-term deals, the Rangers ownership group gave General Manager Chris Young the license to spend yet again.  Pitching must have been a priority for Young.  He revamped the Rangers starting rotation in signing deGrom, Andrew Heaney (2 years, $25 million), Nathan Eovaldi (2 years, $25 million) and re-signed All-Star Martin Perez for one year at $19.65 million.  A team can do worse than a rotation of deGrom/Gray/Perez/Eovaldi/Heaney. 

The San Francisco Giants missed out on Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa.  They did manage to add a few solid players, though. 

OF Michael Conforto: 2 years, $36 million

OF Mitch Haniger: 3-year, $43.5 million

OF Joc Pederson (re-signed): 1-year, $19.5 million

SP Ross Stripling: 2 years, $25 million

SP Sean Manaea: 2 years, $25 million

CP/RP Taylor Rogers: 3 years, $33 million

There has been some BIG money, long-term deals signed.  Sure, the shortstops should continue to play at a high level for the initial few years of these respective deals.  How will they perform in their agreement’s latter years?  Bogaerts will be 41 years old when his contract is up.  Turner will be 40.  Swanson will be 36.  Red Sox Third Baseman Rafael Devers signed an extension in Beantown (11 years, $331 million).  He will be 37 years old when that deal is up.  deGrom will be 40 when his deal is up.  Verlander is already 40.  Brandon Nimmo will be 37 when his deal is up.  Nimmo had only played over 100 games in a season just TWICE in his 7-year career!  Is this a genius move by Billy Eppler, or will this be the “Jason Heyward signing” off the off-season?

Speaking of the vets, don’t forget about the once All-Star veterans well past their prime who have signed with new teams for another season.  Aroldis Chapman will look to rebound with the Kansas City Royals.  Evan Longoria will be a Diamondback next year.  Veteran Slugger Nelson Cruz will be 43 years old during the season.  He signed with the San Diego Padres.  The feel-good story of the group, in my opinion, is Andrew McCutcheon.  The 2013 N.L. MVP returns to the Pittsburgh Pirates on a one-year deal.  That’s the biggest name the Pirates have signed in years!

There aren’t many big-name free agents left unsigned.  The best of the bunch includes catcher Gary Sanchez, shortstop Elvis Andrus, starting pitcher Michael Wacha, and a baseball equivalent of a Swiss Army knife – Jurickson Profar.  It will be interesting to see if any team takes a chance on the 2020 N.L. Cy Young Winner Trevor Bauer.  He is now a free agent after the Dodgers released him earlier this month.  He’s talented but undoubtedly carries some baggage.  Teams still looking to upgrade their rosters with impact players may contact the Pirates about outfielder Bryan Reynolds, the Twins on outfielder Max Kepler, or the Marlins with second baseman Jazz Chisholm.  Then again, there always seems to be a late-marquee trade in the offseason that shocks the baseball world.

Speaking of trades, there have been a few of those this offseason so far.  The most notable start with the Tigers trading closer Gregory Soto to the Phillies for some guys you would be upset to see in the baseball card pack you just opened.  There was the Blue Jays/Diamondbacks trade that featured a swap of outfielders Lourdes Gurriel and Daulton Varsho.  How about the three-team deal that netted the Braves catcher Sean Murphy (arguably the best catcher available this offseason), the Brewers catcher William Contreras, and the Oakland Athletics a number of prospects that no one is scheduling a press conference to introduce?  The Mariners upgraded at second base by acquiring Kolten Wong for Jesse Winkler and Abraham Toro. Seattle also traded for a middle-of-the-order bat in outfielder Teoscar Hernandez.  Finally, who can forget about the Angels acquiring outfielder Hunter Renfroe for guys named (Janson) Junk and Elvis (Peguero)?  Now they have two outfielders who look like Mike Trout!

Did you get all of that?  Which teams should be excited about their team’s chances in 2023?  Which team will fire their General Manager by June?      

The Offseason Winners:

Atlanta Braves – They made one move and locked up their franchise catcher this offseason.  Alex Anthopoulos barely had to give up anything to make it happen. Baller move.

New York Mets – The Nimmo deal confuses me, but it’s hard to argue against adding Verlander and keeping Diaz.  The Senga and Quintana signings are solid, and Eppler may not be done yet.  Plus, I think NOT finalizing the 12-year Correa deal was a win.

New York Yankees – Ho hum, the Yankees were offseason winners again.  This time, though, it was for keeping pieces in Anthony Rizzo and, more importantly, locking in the reigning A.L. MVP, Aaron Judge.  Plus, Carlos Rodon is an upgrade over Jameson Taillon.

Philadelphia Phillies – The defending N.L. Champs could be even better in 2023.  How about adding Tajuan Walker, Gregory Soto, and Craig Kimbrel?  Not too shabby if you ask me.  The Trea Turner signing, adding even more talent to the Phils’ lineup, puts them in the winner’s circle for me.

St. Louis Cardinals – If you’re going to make ONE signing, you might as well make it a good one.  Willson Contreras IS a good one.  Not only does he fill the void behind the plate left by Yadier Molina, he adds another powerful bat in the Cardinals lineup.

The “Not Too Shabby” Offseasons:

Chicago Cubs – Jed Hoyer absolutely had to land one of the top four shortstops.  He may have signed the best two-way player of the four in, Dansby Swanson.  Cody Bellinger on a one-year prove-it deal is a risk worth taking.  Taillon, Eric Hosmer, Brad Boxberger, Tucker Barnhart, and Trey Mancini add talent to a squad that was lacking it, along with veteran leadership.  Losing All-Star catcher Willson Contreras to a rival on an affordable deal kept me from adding the Cubs among this offseason’s winners.

Minnesota Twins – Locking up a star shortstop (Correa) is nice.  Christian Vazquez and Joey Gallo could prove to be underrated signings, especially since the shift will be banned starting next season.

San Francisco Giants – If you can’t sign one or two top-tier free agents, you may as well add a bunch of solid ones.  That’s exactly what Farhan Zaidi and Pete Putila did.

Seattle Mariners – They somehow broke a 20-year postseason drought with one of the weakest hitting lineups in MLB last season.  Jerry DiPoto upgraded at second base (Wong) and added a middle-of-the-order bat (Hernandez) for next to nothing.

Texas Rangers – They got their ace in deGrom and rebuilt their pitching staff on the fly.  Now the Rangers need to deliver in an all-of-the-sudden competitive A.L. West.

The Offseason Losers:

Baltimore Orioles – The O’s surprised everyone in baseball last season.  They have a team full of young and talented players.  Adam Frazier and Kyle Gibson are solid, but one would have thought that Baltimore would have been more aggressive to add to their emerging roster.

Chicago White Sox – Mike Clevinger is a solid, low-risk/high-reward signing.  Rich Hahn filled a need in signing All-Star outfielder Andrew Benintendi – whose 5-year, $75 million deal is the richest ever deal given out by Jerry Reinsdorf’s White Sox.  There is still a glaring hole at second base.  The championship window of the White Sox is at risk of closing before it even opened.

Los Angeles Angels – Nothing says we want to build around Mike Trout and convince Shohei Ohtani to stay like doing…carry the one…not much.  Infielder Brandon Drury (underrated and underpaid) and starting pitcher Tyler Anderson are solid signings but don’t move the needle in the A.L. West.  Are both Trout AND Ohtani on the block, and we don’t know about it?

San Diego Padres – The good news is they signed star shortstop Xander Boegarts to a deal.  The bad news is that it’s an 11-year deal with zero opt-outs.  The Padres also lost starting pitchers Sean Manaea and Clevenger without replacing them.  Maybe A.J. Preller knows something we don’t?

The “What in the actual hell are you even doing?” Offseasons:

Boston Red Sox – Are the Sox trying to compete or not?  They managed to re-sign Rafael Devers but added veterans past their prime (Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, and Corey Kluber).  The signing of Japanese star Masataka Yoshida is interesting, but he may have Kosuke Fukudome written all over him.

Detroit Tigers – They traded away a decent closer (Gregory Soto) for nothing and then brought back a former Tigers pitcher (Matthew Boyd) who was 39-62 with a 4.90 ERA in seven seasons in Detroit.  That’s it.  Nice.

Oakland Athletics –They didn’t get much back in the Sean Murphy deal.  The Braves have proven that they know what they're doing in evaluating their prospects.  How Billy Bean allowed the Braves to take Sean Murphy and NOT get a decent prospect haul in return baffles me.

Washington Nationals - Is there a baseball version of Connor Bedard that teams are purposely taking for that I don’t know about?  If so, it’s obvious that the Nationals are trying to get him.  I challenge you to name 5 players on the Nationals roster right now from memory.

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