The stove is hot, and some of baseball’s best are on the move. Here’s what you need to know!
The winter meetings closed earlier this month, and some of baseball’s biggest stars are on the move left and right. By now, it also seems clear that most teams have picked their path, showing fans who is ready to compete in 2023 and beyond and who is content with where they stand.
Additionally, players and fans won’t be forced to deal with a lockout this year, potentially prolonging free agency and holding up the season, but that doesn’t seem to have cut the number of storylines. Here is what you need to know about the MLB offseason so far!
The Judge Hands Down His Sentence
And it’s a lengthy one. Aaron Judge, now the single-season record holder for most home runs by an American League player, will be returning to the Bronx and donning the pinstripes for nine more years. Judge will turn 31 during the 2023 season and inked a $360 million deal with the Yankees, which may have come as a surprise to those who expected him to return to his hometown San Francisco Giants.
It appears to be a win for both sides, as the Yankees bring back, if not the best, one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball, and Judge will walk away as the highest-paid position player in the game. The Yankees figure to look to add more pieces around Judge, as his historic 2022 wasn’t quite enough to bring the Commissioner’s Trophy back to New York.
Short and Sweet
If you were intrigued by last year’s free agent shortstop class led by Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Trevor Story, it’s quite likely you’re having a blast this year. Headlined by four players who all have an argument to be in the top five at their position, this offseason’s lineup is stacked. Trea Turner was the first off the board, heading back to the East Coast on an 11-year, $300 million contract with the defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies. Next was former Red Sox star Xander Bogaerts, who will be joining Juan Soto, Fernando Tatís Jr. and Manny Machado in San Diego. Bogaerts will be paid $280 million over the course of 11 years in San Diego and will look to help bring a title to a team refreshingly desperate to win.
The most recent shortstop to get a monster deal was Carlos Correa, who signed a three-year, $105 million deal with the Minnesota Twins last offseason. That contract, however, came with a player option after each season, and Correa opted out after one year in the Twin Cities. Now he’ll head to the Bay Area to play for the Giants on a monstrous 13-year, $350 million deal, helping him top Francisco Lindor with the biggest contract for a shortstop in baseball history. And then there was one. Dansby Swanson is the final elite-level shortstop remaining, and with a few teams still looking to fill that hole, the 2021 World Series champion and former No. 1 overall pick should have a competitive market.
High Heat for Star Pitchers
After the Mets signed Max Scherzer to a three-year, $130 million contract last offseason, the pitching market was expected to be on fire, and it certainly hasn’t disappointed. 2022 American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander will be heading from Houston to the Big Apple to join Scherzer in blue and orange, as Steve Cohen and the Mets continue to put their money where their mouths are. Verlander matched Scherzer’s AAV, however it’s only a two-year deal for a pitcher who will open the season as a 40-year-old.
Verlander will likely function as the hopeful replacement for Jacob deGrom, who will be making his way to Arlington to play for the Rangers on a five-year, $185 million deal. deGrom is inarguably one of the best pitchers in baseball when healthy and will look to bolster the Rangers rotation for the next half-decade. Coming off his tenure with the San Francisco Giants, Carlos Rodón remains un-signed as we near the end of 2022, but his market should heat up as he appears to be the best starting pitcher still available.
Dodgers Providing No Entertainment in Los Angeles
One of the biggest free agency players in recent years has been the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the 2020 World Champions have been quiet thus far. In fact, a few fan favorites walked away this year, leaving fans wondering if the Dodgers are expecting a quiet 2023. Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Dodgers can, and should, compete in their division and even the National League in 2023, but it is a bit surprising that they didn’t make a stronger run at keeping Trea Turner after losing Corey Seager last offseason. They also don’t figure to be players for Carlos Correa with perceived fan backlash on the table.
Again, any team with Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Clayton Kershaw and Will Smith shouldn’t be overlooked, but it does leave fans asking one question: What are they waiting for? Well, knowing the Dodgers, it could be something huge. Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani hits the market next season, and he seems primed to handle the spotlight and the attention. Could he take the I-5 25 miles to don Dodger blue? It sure seems possible with the team primed to come in under the luxury-tax threshold in 2023 and ready for a 2024 reset.
Trade Market Waits, Watches
While there has been no shortage in the number of eye-popping free agent deals handed out this offseason, the trade market has been quiet. So far, the Milwaukee Brewers seem to have been the most active in trades, wheeling and dealing in three separate transactions, but not with the three players they were rumored to be shopping. So, outside of Sean Murphy who was all but guaranteed to be on the move, what’s going on, and could trades begin to pick up as the remaining top free agents make their decisions?
Unquestionably, top-tier pitching is at a premium right now, so it wouldn’t be shocking if the names of players with upcoming expiring contracts started to be thrown around the rumor mill. That could include arms like Blake Snell, Shane Bieber and Pablo Lopez. Furthermore, Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds has asked out, and he could command a premium, but he is on a team-friendly deal with a team that appears to be averse to spending on players. A few clubs like the Diamondbacks and Twins also seemingly have a surplus of outfield bats, so other teams looking to compete could shore up their lineups with the addition of both starters and role players. Obviously Shohei Ohtani’s pending free agency makes him a top target, but who could blame the Angels for being reluctant to trade baseball’s biggest attraction? We’ve mostly been kept in the dark so far this year, but we fully expect answers to start rolling in as we inch closer to Spring Training.