As the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement snuck up on teams and players alike, both sides were eager to secure their futures before the uncertainty of a lockout ensued. That eagerness created the perfect storm for fans of offseason moves and acquisitions, as the stage was set for a wild two weeks of transactions with the threat of a lockout looming. An unprecedented amount of moves made the past couple of weeks overwhelming and exciting, as a record number of free agents signed, kicking the offseason into high gear for a short period. To help with all of the confusion created by this wild week of moves, I’ve gone ahead and broken down and analyzed the most impactful acquisitions from November 22nd-29th.
Anthony DeSclafani – SP / RHP
Three-year, $36 million deal to re-sign with the San Francisco Giants
($12 million/year from 2022-24)
The move that kicked off this crazy week was Tony Disco re-signing with the team that got the most out of him last year. He was a key member of the Giants’ rotation in 2021, posting a 3.17 ERA alongside a 1.09 WHIP with 152 strikeouts in 167.2 innings. Re-signing the right-handed pitcher allows the Giants to lock down a solid starter during his age 32-34 seasons, and was essential after San Francisco lost the majority of their 2021 rotation to free agency.
For the next couple of years, DeSclafani will slot in as the number two starter behind Logan Webb in the rotation. At $12 million per year, the Giants won’t be paying too much if DeSclafani reverts back to the 7.22 ERA he posted in 2020, but that seems unlikely given the pitcher-friendly nature of Oracle Park in San Francisco and that he became a new pitcher in orange and black. Overall, the Giants were smart to bring back a pitcher they helped to figure out his stuff, fortifying a rotation that will see a few more additions this offseason.
Alex Wood – SP / LHP
Two-year, $25 million deal to re-sign with the San Francisco Giants
($12.5 million/year from 2022-23, multiple $2.5 million escalators based on innings pitched)
In a similar vein to DeSclafani, Wood was another successful reclamation signing by the Giants in 2021. The lefty struggled to a 5.96 ERA across 2019-20 but made progress with his slider in San Francisco, leading to much better results. Wood was a reliable member of the starting rotation for the Giants, pitching to a 3.83 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP while striking out 152 batters in 138.2 innings.
As previously mentioned, the Giants had four rotation spots to fill with DeSclafani, Wood, Kevin Gausman, and Johnny Cueto all hitting free agency. Bringing Wood back gives San Francisco a solid left-handed option that they can give the ball to with confidence, knowing the success he had for them last season. Wood will slot in as the third starter behind Webb and DeSclafani in the rotation for the next couple of years across his age 31 and 32 seasons. He will be the highest-paid Giants pitcher next season and if he can replicate last season’s performance, he will be another important member of the pitching staff.
Aaron Loup – RP / LHP
Two-year, $17 million deal to sign with the Los Angeles Angels
($7.5 million/year from 2022-23, $7.5 million club option with a $2 million buyout for 2024)
Following the signing of Noah Syndergaard just a few days prior, everyone knew the Angels still needed more pitching. They found what they needed, agreeing to a short-term deal with one of the best relievers from this past season. Loup was incredible for the Mets in 2021, recording a minuscule 0.95 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP with 57 strikeouts in 56.2 innings out of the bullpen, setting him up for a big payday this offseason.
The Angels obliged and will slot Loup in as a setup man to whomever they deem fit to be the closer next year. Loup will be the top lefty for a bullpen that struggled to a 4.59 ERA last season and the Angels will hope that he can maintain the improvements he saw last season. If the Halos end up exercising the 2024 club option in this deal, Loup would be in LA through his age 36 season. At $7.5 million, the Angels might be slightly overpaying for an aging bullpen arm, but at the moment, Loup is an elite reliever and this signing represents a solution to the Angels’ most glaring weakness.
Harold Ramirez – OF/1B
Traded from the Cleveland Guardians to the Chicago Cubs
(Guardians receive cash considerations in return)
Ramirez was a surprising DFA by the Guardians, making him available to be acquired by the Cubs. They will retain contractual control over him through 2025. In limited time in 2019 and ‘21, the right-handed-hitting outfielder has shown the ability to hit for a solid average (.271 career AVG), but lacks a carrying skill at the plate and has looked lost in the outfield (-5 Outs Above Average in 2021).
What makes this trade intriguing are Ramirez’s impressive Statcast metrics. His 114.8 mph max exit velocity puts him in the 94th percentile, revealing a higher ceiling to Ramirez’s power than he has shown previously. Ramirez also placed in the 88th percentile in sprint speed, suggesting that he could be more dangerous on the basepaths if the Cubs let him loose. His wheels also give some hope that, with some coaching, Ramirez could become a passable defender in left field.
The Cubs didn’t give up much of anything to acquire Ramirez and giving him a shot on a team that has a lot of spots to fill could afford him the opportunity to reach the higher ceiling he has hinted at with his raw metrics.
Wander Franco – SS/3B/2B
11-year, $182 million contract extension to remain with the Tampa Bay Rays
($5 million bonus, $1 million in 2022, $2 million/year from 2023-24, $8 million in 2025, $15 million in 2026, $22 million in 2027, $25 million/year from 2028-32, $25 million club option with a $2 million buyout for 2033, $3 million if traded, multiple $3 million escalators based on MVP voting)
The Rays locked down one of baseball’s rising young stars by agreeing to the largest contract extension ever for a player with less than one year in the MLB. The deal will keep Franco in Tampa Bay for the majority of his prime, and if his option is exercised, would take him through his age-32 season, allowing him time to sign another multi-year deal when this extension concludes. While the dollar amount of the contract is record-setting, it was well-earned after the switch-hitter was the consensus top prospect in the minor leagues for multiple seasons and capitalized on that potential by recording 2.5 fWAR in just 70 games, finishing third in the AL Rookie of the Year Award voting. He also tied the AL/NL record for the longest on-base streak by a player under the age of 21 (43 games).
Franco will be the centerpiece of the Florida franchise for years to come and his future is as bright as any budding superstar in the MLB. He is a generational talent that can play multiple infield positions, allowing the Rays to move him around as needed, but he will be sharpied into the top half of the starting lineup for the next decade. This deal was incredibly surprising coming from a Tampa Bay franchise that consistently has the lowest payroll in the league but makes sense for both sides. The Rays lock up a player to build around for the next decade while Franco secures his future and can now focus on reaching the fullest extent of his potential. Rays fans can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their new Wander Franco jersey will be relevant for years to come.
Kendall Graveman – RP / RHP
Three-year, $24 million deal to sign with the Chicago White Sox
($8 million/year from 2022-24)
The Mariners turned Graveman from an unsuccessful starter to an elite back-end reliever, setting them up to trade him to the Astros before he hit free agency this offseason. Now, the right-handed reliever heads to the South Side of Chicago, joining an already loaded relief corps to create a three-headed bullpen monster to finish off close games. Graveman will slot in as the setup man behind closer, Liam Hendriks, and fellow setup reliever, Craig Kimbrel (who could wind up being traded) to create one of the most feared bullpen trios in the American League.
Graveman joined the ranks of the top relievers after pitching to a 1.77 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 61 strikeouts in 56 innings pitched in 2021. His newfound success was the result of increased fastball velocity (96.5 mph) that came from his move to the pen, helping him become more of a strikeout pitcher with his blazing heater. Graveman’s ERA estimators weren’t exactly supportive of the notion that he was one of the best relievers last year, but nonetheless, the right-hander makes the White Sox bullpen rock solid. This deal will take Graveman through his age-33 season, and both he and the White Sox will hope that the success he found in the bullpen last year can carry over to the next three seasons.
Yoshi Tsutsugo – 1B/RF/LF
One-year, $4 million deal to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates
This was a relatively unheralded signing from last week’s flurry but is still notable because Tsutsugo put up massive numbers in Japan and has yet to show similar progress in the States. The left-handed hitter originally signed with the Rays out of Japan and was traded to the Dodgers during the middle of last season but failed to catch on, and ultimately, signed a deal with the Pirates. He had a few clutch hits, including a walk-off home run, looking like the hitter he was in Japan. The .883 OPS Tsutsugo put up in his 43 game sample with the Pirates was enough for the team to sign him back for another test run. A rebuilding squad is a perfect situation for Tsutsugo to not only have the playing time he needs to show off his bat, but also to have a stress-free environment where he can get comfortable — especially after playing for three different teams in two years in a new country. For the Pirates, $4 million is a small price to pay to see if Tsutsugo can once again provide the value he hinted at last season.
Steven Matz – SP / LHP
Four-year, $44 million deal to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals
($11 million/year from 2022-25, incentives to push the max deal to $48 million)
Four years seems to be a long commitment for a pitcher that has constantly struggled to remain healthy for full seasons. 2021 was just the third time in seven seasons that Matz has eclipsed even 150 innings, and his career-high is just 160.1 IP (2019). Regardless of his health issues, Matz has been a serviceable enough pitcher that excels at keeping the ball in the yard and on the ground but doesn’t strike out a lot of batters because of his sinker-centered approach. This might be why the Cardinals were so confident in signing the left-hander to such a long deal.
The Cardinals employ the best defense in the major leagues, having been awarded the Platinum Glove Award for team defense this offseason. That kind of defense would be ideal for a groundball pitcher like Matz, who would benefit from having the likes of Gold Glovers on the infield scooping up the bevy of ground balls he coaxes. If The Cardinals can keep Matz healthy, this could wind up being a worthwhile signing as Matz’s numbers would assuredly play up with the elite St. Louis defense behind him.
The Cards were in desperate need of more pitching and got just that, inking the former Met and Blue Jay through his age-34 season, but still lack proven starting pitching depth. Matz will slot into the rotation as the number three starter behind Adam Wainwright and Jack Flaherty and will be an important member of that troop if the Cardinals are to have any playoff hopes.
Starling Marte – OF
Four-year, $78 million deal to sign with the New York Mets
($5 million bonus, $14.5 million in 2022, $19.5 million/year from 2023-25)
After missing out on Matz, the Mets went on a spending spree, starting with the speedy center fielder, Starling Marte. Having played for four different teams the past three seasons, Marte has experience in different markets, making him a good fit for a Mets squad in need of a legit center fielder.
He will most likely slot into the two-hole in the lineup where he can show off his blazing speed. In just 120 games in 2021, Marte led the Majors with 47 steals, making him a difference-maker when he got on base. Speaking of getting on-base, Marte became a much more disciplined hitter last season, recording an OBP (.383) more than 40 points higher than his career rate entering the season. That provided the right-handed hitter with ample opportunities to swipe bases and made him a more complete offensive threat.
This four-year deal will take Marte through his age-36 season, and with the skillset that Marte employs, he may not be as effective as he was in his 20s. Right now, however, he makes the Mets a lot stronger by giving them an on-base and stolen base threat at the top of their lineup and a capable defender in center field.
Mark Canha – OF/1B
Two-year, $26.5 million deal to sign with the New York Mets
($2 million bonus, $12 million in 2022, $10.5 million in 2023, $11.5 million club option with a $2 million buyout for 2024)
Canha has been an on-base god in Oakland over the past few years, making him one of the most underrated players in the MLB. Since the start of 2019, the right-handed hitter has reached base at a .377 clip while providing decent power and the ability to play all three outfield spots and a little bit of first base. He will help lengthen a new and improved lineup in New York, slotting in as the everyday left fielder and, most likely, batting sixth or seventh.
If the Mets decide to exercise the 2024 club option in the contract, Canha will be in Queens through his age-35 season, pushing the deal to a total of $38 million. At a $12 million AAV, Canha will be nicely compensated while the Mets should get a pretty good price on a player that should age gracefully. Overall, this was a deal that made sense for both sides, and the Mets now have an impressive outfield (Canha, Marte, Brandon Nimmo) that will stack up well against their competitors in the NL East.
Eduardo Escobar – 3B/2B/1B/SS
Two-year, $20 million deal to sign with the New York Mets
($10 million/year from 2022-23, club option in 2024)
Having been named to the first All-Star team of his career, Escobar set himself up for a nice payday this offseason. The Mets scooped up the switch-hitting infielder to finish off their Friday free agent frenzy and will plug him in as the everyday third baseman. In 146 games with the Arizona Diamondback and the Milwaukee Brewers last year, Escobar crushed 28 home runs while being worth at least 3.0 fWAR for the third time in the last three full seasons.
Escobar not only gives whoever the Mets hire as manager lots of options when filling out the lineup because of his multi-position eligibility, but he also provides a solid bat with some power that will make the Mets lineup one of the scariest in the MLB. If Escobar’s club option is exercised, he will be in New York through his age-35 season, giving the Mets plenty of depth and power in the infield for the next couple of seasons.
Hector Neris – RP / RHP
Two-year, $17 million deal to sign with the Houston Astros
($8.5 million club option with a $1 million buyout for 2024, can vest into a player option if appearance thresholds are met)
This seemed like a questionable signing at first glance because of Neris’s inability to remain consistent from year-to-year (two seasons under four ERA, two seasons over 4.50 ERA since 2017), but maybe the Astros see something in his elite splitter. Getting out of Philadelphia might also help as they seem to have bullpen troubles every year despite efforts to bring in new personnel. The Astros, on the other hand, have become one of the ideal places for pitchers to go to reach their fullest potential. The team is hoping they can do with Neris what they’ve done with other pitchers coming to Houston in the past. Ryan Pressly and Gerrit Cole are recent examples of players coming to Houston from different organizations and immediately becoming elite flamethrowers.
This contract will take Neris through his age-35 season if the club option is exercised and could be a good deal if the Astros can turn him into the next-in-line behind Pressly. Right now, he fits in as a setup man alongside Ryne Stanek and should give the Houston bullpen more depth, regardless of whether or not the Astros transform him into a different pitcher.
Michael Wacha – SP / RHP
One-year, $7 million deal to sign with the Boston Red Sox
This deal was one of the least talked about deals from this past week, and it makes sense given that Wacha has pitched to a 5.11 ERA across the last three seasons combined. Under the hood though, this signing could pay dividends for a team in need of pitching. Wacha changed his pitch mix in the second half of last season and pitched much better than the 5.61 ERA he posted indicates. If the Red Sox can continue to help Wacha make progress with his pitch mix like the Rays began to do in the second half, they could have themselves a cromulent and inexpensive swingman.
Adam Frazier – 2B/LF
Traded from the San Diego Padres to the Seattle Mariners
(Padres receive LHP Ray Kerr and OF Corey Rosier in return)
Traded for the second time this year, Frazier now finds himself in Seattle where he is projected to fill in as the everyday second baseman. Frazier is a contact-oriented left-handed hitter who made his first All-Star team this summer after an incredible first half that saw him post the third-highest AVG (.330) in the MLB. Other than that though, Frazier provides little in terms of power, maxing out at ten home runs in both 2018 and ‘19, and does most of his damage by being difficult to strike out (career 12.9% K%).
Nonetheless, Frazier is a capable defender at both second base and left field and should be a good enough option at second base for the Mariners during the one year of control they maintain over him before he hits free agency. Frazier currently projects as the number two batter in the lineup, and considering the Mariners gave up two prospects that have never appeared on a top 30 list, didn’t have to give up much to get him. The Mariners will need all of the offensive help they can get as they continue to search for their first postseason appearance since 2001. Frazier represents help in the offensive category, but Seattle will need to make a few more moves if they want to have legitimate playoff aspirations.
Marcus Semien – SS/2B
Seven-year, $175 million deal to sign with the Texas Rangers
($25 million in 2022, $26 million/year from 2023-27, $20 million in 2028)
Semien bet on himself heading into 2021, signing a one-year “prove it” deal with the Blue Jays. It paid off, as he proved his 2019 breakout wasn’t a fluke by making even more progress towards becoming one of the game’s best middle infielders in 2021. He broke the single-season record for most home runs by a second baseman (45 HR) and finished in the top three of AL MVP voting for the second time in the past three seasons. Over the past three seasons, Semien has been worth more fWAR than any other position player, earning himself this massive contract from the Rangers.
Semien heads back to the AL West, a division he’s familiar with after spending six years with the Oakland A’s. Now in Texas, Semien immediately becomes the best hitter for a team attempting to start its emergence from a rebuild. He will be the starting second baseman for years to come and will most assuredly slot in at the top of a new-look lineup. Securing Semien from his age 31-37 seasons seems a little risky, but for the first few years of this deal, he will most likely be worth the hefty price the Rangers paid for his services and will make their path to contention much faster.
Jon Gray – SP / RHP
Four-year, $56 million deal to sign with the Texas Rangers
($15 million/year from 2022-23, $13 million/year from 2024-25)
The second significant signing on Sunday by the Rangers was bringing in former Rockies starter and 2013 number three overall pick, Jon Gray. Any pitcher leaving Coors has a chance to become a better pitcher because of the detrimental effects of the thin air in Colorado that boost offense, making it difficult for pitchers to reach their fullest potential. Now in the spacious stadium in Texas, Gray could legitimately become the ace he was tabbed to be when he was drafted. The Rangers will ask Gray to lead the pitching staff either way as he joins a rotation filled with young, unproven starters.
Gray has had an up and down career, making the $56 million he signed for seem exorbitant. Additionally, Gray has matching home/road splits (3.91 FIP home and away), making it that much more uncertain whether or not he can improve in a new environment. The deal will take him through his age-33 season, and considering Gray doesn’t have a lot of mileage on his arm, he could start to break out in his early thirties. The Rangers are going to need a lot more pitching if they’re going to compete with the Astros, Angels, and Mariners, but signing Gray, who could blossom into an ace, is a great start.
Kole Calhoun – RF
One-year, $5.2 million deal to sign with the Texas Rangers
($5.5 million club option for 2023)
The third of the Rangers’ trio of moves from Sunday was to bring in a veteran outfielder. Calhoun won’t be the biggest difference-maker in the Texas lineup, but he will provide solid power and an adept glove in right field. The left-handed hitter dealt with injuries in 2021 but was one of the best right fielders from 2019-20, during which he combined for 49 home runs and a 110 wRC+. Calhoun will most likely play the part of strong side platoon right fielder because the Rangers have plenty of right-handed hitting outfielders that could fill the short side. At just $5 million, this deal is worth the roll of the dice that Calhoun can get back to being healthy and productive.
Kevin Gausman – SP / RHP
Five-year, $110 million deal to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays
($21 million/year from 2022-23, $22 million in 2024, $23 million/year from 2025-26)
As the 2012 fourth overall pick, Gausman has always had a lot to live up to. He failed to reach his potential in Baltimore and didn’t catch on with a team until the Giants scooped him up a couple of years ago and went to work on turning him into the ace he was promised to be. Gausman was good enough for the Giants in 2020 (3.62 ERA) for them to offer him the qualifying offer the following offseason. Gausman jumped at the offer and improved even more in 2021, becoming one of the best pitchers in the National League. He pitched to a 2.81 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP with 227 strikeouts in 192 innings pitched, earning his first All-Star selection and finishing sixth in the NL Cy Young Award voting.
Now Gausman heads to Toronto where he will join a rotation that already includes Alek Manoah and Hyun-Jin Ryu. His co-ace in the rotation will be the recently acquired and extended, Jose Berrios. With Gausman, Manoah, Ryu, and Berrios in tow, the Jays will have an elite rotation that perfectly complements one of the most dangerous lineups in the American League. Gausman will be in Toronto through his age-35 season, and the Jays are obviously banking on him to maintain his Cy Young caliber production for the next half-decade as they aim to be a World Series contender.
Yimi Garcia – RP / RHP
Two-year, $11 million deal to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays
($1 million bonus, $4 million in 2022, $5 million in 2023, $5 million club option with a $1 million buyout for 2024, can vest into a $6 million option if appearances or innings thresholds are met, multiple $250k and $500k escalators based on appearances)
Not to be overshadowed by Gausman, Garcia also signed a multi-year deal with the Blue Jays on Sunday. He will slide into a setup role behind closer Jordan Romano after pitching for a team that made the World Series last year. Garcia joined the World Series bound Astros after a midseason trade from the Marlins. He was the closer in Miami, racking up 15 saves and a 3.47 ERA in 36.1 innings before things fell apart in Houston (5.48 ERA).
The Blue Jays will be hoping that Garcia can recapture that first-half performance for them for the next couple of seasons, but there were some underlying metrics that suggested Garcia was actually better with the Astros than with the Marlins. His K% and BB% both improved which explains the fact that his FIP and xFIP were much lower in Houston than in Miami despite the disparity in ERA. If Garcia’s option is exercised, he will pitch for Toronto through his age-33 season and will help to add depth to a team headed for postseason contention.
Byron Buxton – CF
Seven-year, $100 million contract extension to remain with the Minnesota Twins
($1 million bonus, $9 million in 2022, $15 million/year from 2023-28, multiple $500k escalators based on plate appearances, $8 million for first place in MVP, $7 million for second place, $6 million for third, $5 million for fourth, $4 million for fifth, $3 million for sixth-tenth place)
Trade speculation has swirled around the Twins and Buxton since last offseason, but they finally put an end to that by coming to an agreement on an unprecedented extension. Buxton had one of the highest prospect pedigrees as a consensus number one prospect before his MLB debut. Since his debut, he’s shown flashes of that potential, but injuries have kept him from showing what he could do in a full season. Last season was the same, he couldn’t stay healthy but set the record for most WAR (4.5) by a position player in a season in which they played 70 or fewer games.
Now, Buxton will be the centerpiece of the Minnesota franchise through his age-34 season. What makes this extension unprecedented are the incentives Buxton would receive for placing in the top-10 of MVP voting. If the speedy center fielder can stay healthy and earn those escalators, the Twins will be happy to hand out the money after finally pushing him to reach his MVP potential. Even if the Twins aren’t competitive in 2022, they will have many more shots in the future at building a contender around the former 2012 number two overall pick.
Avisail Garcia – OF
Four-year, $53 million deal to sign with the Miami Marlins
($12 million/year from 2022-25, $12 million club option with a $5 million buyout for 2026)
Since his 2017 breakout season, Garcia has had his ups and downs, sandwiching subpar seasons in between impressive showings at the plate. He timed another good season perfectly, as he set a career-high in home runs (29) and tallied the second-highest wRC+ (115) and fWAR (2.9) of his career right before hitting free agency for the second time. The Marlins, in desperate need of some legitimate offensive threats, jumped at the opportunity to ink one of the top free-agent outfielders to supplement an anemic lineup that lost its best hitters at last season’s trade deadline.
Slotting in as the three-hole hitter, Garcia will be counted on to replicate his 2021 performance as he enters 2022 as the biggest threat in the Marlins’ lineup. The right-handed hitter will take over everyday right field duties in Miami for up to the next five seasons, keeping him in town through age-35 if the Marlins exercise the contract’s club option. While Garcia might not be the difference-maker the Marlins need to become competitors in the NL East, he is a much-needed addition to a team that struggled to create scoring opportunities last season. With a burgeoning rotation, this move is a step in the right direction towards supplementing a Marlins lineup that has failed to support that flourishing pitching staff.
Corey Kluber – SP / RHP
One-year, $8 million deal to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays
(multiple $500k, $1 million, and $1.5 million escalators based on starts)
From 2014-18, Kluber was in the conversation for best pitcher in the MLB, finishing in the top ten of AL Cy Young every season across that five-year stretch. During that time, a typical Kluber season was incredible and would be most pitchers’ peak. That run saw Kluber average 32 GS, 218 IP, 16 W, 245 Ks, a 2.85 ERA, and a 1.02 WHIP. Since then, the two-time Cy Young Award winner (2014 & ‘17) has been unable to stay healthy, combining for just 116.2 innings pitched across the last three seasons, and hasn’t been able to remain as consistent as he was in Cleveland.
Kluber will head to Tampa Bay next season, a team known for fixing pitchers. He might not need much fixing, though, after throwing a no-hitter for the Yankees last season before succumbing to injuries once again. The biggest key for the 36-year old will be to stay healthy. The Rays are in desperate need of innings eaters with Tyler Glasnow out for most of the year following Tommy John surgery, and the rest of the rotation being either inexperienced or not stretched out enough to get close to the 200-inning threshold. Kluber will look to fill the role of veteran innings eater, and if the Rays can maximize his pitch mix and help him regain his Cy Young form, they could be getting a huge value on this deal.
Michael Lorenzen – SP/RP / RHP
One-year, $6.75 million deal to sign with the Los Angeles Angels
This signing is interesting for a multitude of reasons and it stems from the Angels being in need of any kind of pitching and Lorenzen being a unique player. Lorenzen was supposed to enter the Reds rotation last season after pitching out of the bullpen for the past five seasons, but got injured during Spring Training and never got a chance to start a game. The Angels will be counting on him to start games for a team that has struggled to find innings in recent years. He will slot into a rotation that already features the newly acquired Noah Syndergaard and the reigning AL MVP, Shohei Ohtani.
Lorenzen is intriguing because he is one of the few legitimate two-way players in the game, and will join the most legitimate two-way player (Ohtani) in LA. The right-handed pitcher has previously played left field and has shown the ability to handle the bat in Cincinnati. Now, on a team that has shown the willingness to deploy pitchers in alternate situations, the Angels provide the ideal situation for Lorenzen to potentially become a threat on every side of the ball. Even if he just ends up pitching out of the bullpen for most of the season and rarely sees at-bats, this deal will still be a worthwhile dart throw at a serviceable reliever who could become much more.
Corey Seager – SS
10-year, $325 million deal to sign with the Texas Rangers
($5 million bonus, $32.5 million in 2022, $35 million in 2023, $34.5 million in 2024, $32 million in 2025, $31 million/year from 2026-31)
Just a day after inking one of the top free argent middle infielders, the Rangers inked one more, announcing to the league just how serious they are about exiting their rebuild phase. They did so by signing Seager to the largest deal handed out so far this offseason, making the pact between the two the sixth-largest in MLB history. It makes you wonder just how much Carlos Correa will get once he eventually signs because, although Seager was once a number one prospect and has shown a high offensive ceiling, he was the consensus number two free-agent shortstop available behind Correa. His secondary placement was a result of appearing in more than 95 games just once in the past four seasons, as he has failed to stay on the field since winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2016.
The left-handed-hitting shortstop will head to Texas where he will join the newly signed Semien to create a dynamic double-play duo. They will most likely bat back-to-back in the lineup and should create loads of problems for AL West pitchers. With a career 132 wRC+, Seager has shown that, when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best hitters in baseball. His bat makes up for his sub-par defense at shortstop, but he will most likely move to third at some point during this deal. For the next ten years, the Rangers will be doing all they can to keep their big offseason addition on the field as much as possible. Seager will be dubbed the next franchise icon in Texas as he will remain with the team through his age-37 season where he will attempt to bring the Rangers their first World Series championship.
Max Scherzer – SP / RHP
Three-year, $130 million deal to sign with the New York Mets
($43.333 million/year from 2022-2024, can opt-out after 2023)
A three-time Cy Young Award winner and surefire Hall of Famer, Scherzer set himself up to be the most coveted free agent pitcher after his incredible run with the Dodgers that showed he still has a lot left in the tank. Many teams were interested, but it always looked like he would be going to the top bidder. The top free-agent pitcher is now off the board after signing with the New York Mets to a record-breaking deal. Scherzer was lured in by the Mets’ lucrative offer that will make him the highest-paid player on a per-year basis of all time.
After the Mets went on a spending spree just three days prior to this signing, it was somewhat surprising to see the team cash out even more for the top starting pitcher. It was necessary, however, as the Mets were still a couple of big moves away from being an intimidating opponent in 2022. Now they have the most intimidating pitcher in the MLB in the same rotation as the hardest throwing starter in the MLB. Scherzer will join Jacob deGrom in the starting rotation to create the best ace pairing in all of baseball. They will be one of the few pairs of teammates ever to have won multiple Cy Young Awards.
This contract will take Scherzer through age-39, but after a season in which he posted a 2.46 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP with 236 Ks in 179.1 innings and finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting, it doesn’t seem like he will be slowing down any time soon. The Mets may not be done improving the team, but the signing of Scherzer was certainly the icing on the cake of their offseason haul. Now they have an impressive lineup and an incredible rotation duo, and that might be just enough to push them over the top next year.
Robbie Ray – SP / LHP
Five-year, $115 million deal to sign with the Seattle Mariners
($23 million/year from 2022-26, Can opt-out after the 2024 season)
Taking a similar path to Semien, Ray signed a one-year deal with the Blue Jays to prove his abilities before hitting free agency once again this year. He made the most of his opportunity to eat innings in Toronto, winning the AL Cy Young Award after posting a 2.84 ERA with an MLB-leading 248 strikeouts in 193.1 innings, setting himself up for a big payday this offseason. Needing an ace to lead their rotation, the Mariners inked Ray after watching other top free-agent starters sign elsewhere.
He will be counted on to replicate the success he had last year, a result of a more efficient windup and an improved pitching plan. Ray altered his approach to feature his fastball in the zone more, helping his offspeed pitches play up, ultimately massively cutting his walk rate and becoming one of the best pitchers in baseball. Ray will be in Seattle through his age-34 season if he chooses not to opt-out following the 2024 season. He will be the ace of a team with playoff aspirations and will make a noticeable impact on their playoff hopes if he can continue to throw his fastball in the zone and snap off devastating strikeout pitches.
Alex Cobb – SP / RHP
Two-year, $20 million deal to sign with the San Francisco Giants
($9 million/year from 2022-23, $10 million club option with a $2 million buyout for 2024)
The Giants made the third addition to their starting rotation last week, bringing in the veteran Cobb to serve as a middle-of-the-rotation innings eater after bringing back Wood and DeSclafani on more lucrative deals. Cobb had mild success last season (3.76 ERA) in a limited sample for the Angels and now heads to a franchise in San Francisco known for its ability to improve veteran starters. The Giants will place him in pitcher-friendly Oracle Park in front of a solid defense where Cobb’s ERA from 2021 might play up and more closely resemble his FIP (2.92). As the fourth starter in the rotation, the Giants won’t be counting on Cobb to be an ace, but if they want to be competitive, they’ll need him to at least stay healthy throughout the year with little depth in the rotation at the moment. Cobb will be in SF through his age-36 season if the Giants exercise his 2024 option. Considering the amount of success the Giants have had with getting the most out of pitchers recently and the fact they were confident enough to sign him to a multi-year deal, fans should have few doubts that Cobb will be at least a serviceable starter during his time in San Francisco.
Brooks Raley – RP / LHP
Two-year, $10 million deal to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays
($5 million/year from 2022-23, club option for 2024)
What could end up being one of the more sneaky free-agent adds, the Rays brought in the veteran lefty, Raley, on a two-year pact. If the 2024 club option in his contract is exercised, Raley will be in Tampa Bay through his age-36 season. As a reliever in his mid-thirties, it would be a mistake to believe that Raley has already achieved his ceiling.
Coming back to the MLB after five seasons as a starter in Korea, Raley signed a deal with the Reds prior to 2020 before moving to the Astros mid-season. In 49 innings for the Astros in 2021, Raley put up an uninspiring 4.78 ERA out of the bullpen. That bloated ERA is misleading and doesn’t portray the upside the lefty displayed last season. Under the hood, Raley posted a 3.27 FIP, resulting from an impressive 65/16 K/BB ratio, suggesting that he has elite control and could blossom for an organization that can work wonders with lesser-known relievers. If the Rays can optimize Raley’s usage and get the most out of him, they could have an elite slinger at the back end of their bullpen for the next couple of seasons.
Kirby Yates – RP / RHP
Two-year, $8.25 million deal to sign with the Atlanta Braves
($1 million in 2022, $6 million in 2023, $5.75 million club option with a $1.25 million buyout for 2024)
Once one of the best closers in the MLB, Yates hasn’t been healthy for two straight seasons, pitching just 4.1 innings in 2020 before succumbing to multiple injuries that kept him from appearing in a single game for the Blue Jays in 2021. Now he heads to the 2021 World Series champion Atlanta Braves where he will hope to regain some health and get back to the form that saw him save 41 games with a 1.19 ERA for the Padres in 2019. He will be 37 by the time his contract is up (if the Braves exercise the 2024 club option), and will be a lottery ticket for the Braves bullpen. He could either once again fail to stay on the field or he could return to his former levels and make the Braves bullpen one of the deepest in the National League. Taking a chance on the veteran reliever will be worth the price that Yates is coming at, but this deal isn’t without its risks.
Daniel Hudson – RP / RHP
One-year, $7 million deal to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers
($6 million in 2022, $6.5 million club option with a $1 million buyout for 2023, multiple $100k escalators based on games finished)
Hudson joins the Dodgers as a free agent for the second time in the past three years after spending the past couple of years with the Washington Nationals, where he won a World Series championship. He will join a powerhouse Dodgers bullpen that won’t count on him to be a closer. Hudson could wind up being a prominent setup man if the team fails to bring back free-agent closer, Kenley Jansen, which would make Blake Treinen the closer, and Brusdar Grateral a setup man alongside Hudson.
Last season, the veteran right-handed pitcher performed well for the Nats (2.20 ERA) before a trade to the Padres where he turned in multiple disastrous performances (5.21 ERA). Remaining in the NL West after struggling so much there last season might present some troubles for Hudson, but the Dodgers will do their best to get the most out of him as they look to continue their recent run of overpowering success.
Jacob Stallings – C
Traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Miami Marlins
(Pirates receive RHP Zach Thompson, RHP Kyle Nicolas, and OF Connor Scott in return)
The Marlins have been in need of a catcher, so they went out and traded for the best defender behind the plate in the National League last season, 2021 NL Gold Glove Award winner, Jacob Stallings. The right-handed hitting catcher was adept at blocking wild pitches and leading the pitching staff in Pittsburgh and will now bring his services to Miami. In Florida, he will attempt to guide a young and talented rotation with his impressive pitch framing and cannon of an arm. He doesn’t provide much with the bat (career 90 wRC+), and at 32 years old next season, might not have much more room to grow at the plate. What Stallings does provide in terms of pitch calling and defense at his position will surely make up for whatever he lacks with the bat. The Marlins will maintain control of Stallings for the next four seasons, during which they hope he can aid in the improvement of their up-and-coming rotation.