Every winter, there are dozens upon dozens of interesting player moves, and as we've done in the past (2018-19, 2019-20) we're going to catalog all of them here, in a giant running list. (All of the Major League signings and trades, anyway, from players who have already been Major Leaguers.
Every winter, there are dozens upon dozens of interesting player moves, and as we've done in the past (2018-19, 2019-20) we're going to catalog all of them here, in a giant running list. (All of the Major League signings and trades, anyway, from players who have already been Major Leaguers. Even we're not going to get into every non-roster invite or new minor leaguer getting a big league deal. (Sorry, Sam McWilliams.) So keep this bookmarked, because new moves will appear at the top, as they happen, with analysis by MLB.com writers. Off we go ...
Nov. 24, 2020: P Charlie Morton signs with Braves
One year, $15 million
Unless and until Justin Turner returns to the Dodgers, this was the most predictable move of the winter. (We did, in fact, predict it in this space two weeks ago.) Morton seemed unlikely to want to leave the Southeast, and the Rays had already chosen not to pay him $15 million. Given his geographical preference, and the fact that the Braves desperately needed a reliable veteran starter -- Max Fried is an ace, but Mike Soroka is recovering from an Achilles injury, Ian Anderson has all of six career starts under his belt, and Kyle Wright has a career 6.22 ERA -- even after taking a one-year gamble on Drew Smyly.
Just like last year, the Braves have moved aggressively early in the winter on pitching. It paid off for them a year ago, and it seems like it might again. Don't worry about Morton's 4.74 ERA, or even the fact that it seemed like his velocity was down (it rebounded well later in the season). The Braves had to have 14 different starters in a 60-game season in 2020; at one point last summer they were so desperate for starters that they had to trade for Tommy Milone and give Josh Tomlin and Huascar Ynoa five starts apiece. They now have a rotation that lines up like Fried/Morton/Soroka/Wright/Smyly, with Bryse Wilson, Ynoa, and Tucker Davidson behind them. Not so bad. Not so bad at all. -- Mike Petriello
Nov. 16, 2020: P Drew Smyly signs with Braves
One year, $11 million
Just like last year, the Braves are being aggressive with pitching, this time going out to sign Smyly, who has had himself a career path. A decade ago, he was a second-round pick by the Tigers. Since then, he's been traded once as part of a deal for David Price, again as part of a deal for Ryan Yarbrough, a third time for the privilege of not paying Cole Hamels' buyout (seriously), tore his left labrum, required Tommy John surgery on his left elbow and that still only gets us up to 2019, which is where the fun really starts.
It's been a journey, is the point, and Smyly hasn't thrown at least 100 innings with at least a league-average ERA since back in 2014. That's why he's getting just one year. The $11 million is for the upside, the "maybe he's Rich Hill without the curveball" that's long been dreamed on, that the velocity uptick with the Giants can help you squint hard enough to see. We knew the Braves needed another starter. They probably still do. This is a worthwhile gamble on a player who might surprise and may not be able to contribute much at all. -- Mike Petriello
Nov. 11, 2020: P Josh Tomlin signs with Braves
One year, $1.25 million
In two seasons as a Brave, Tomlin has an 87/15 strikeout/walk ratio, which is strong, even if his primary fastball (a cutter) is thrown at all of 85.6 mph and he allows a homer every six innings or so. There's value in a guy who can be a spot starter (six games started for Atlanta) and mop-up (23 games finished), but mostly, sometimes you just need a guy, a guy you know, a guy who won't get you killed, and for $1.25 million, Tomlin, 36 years old, a veteran of 11 Major League seasons, is that guy. -- Mike Petriello
Nov. 11, 2020: P Marcus Stroman (Mets) / P Kevin Gausman (Giants) accept qualifying offers
When you're a free agent good enough to even be issued a qualifying offer -- in this case, that's $18.9 million for 2021 -- and you accept it, it generally means ones thing. It means that you're not confident you can match or beat that kind of average annual value on the market, especially with the accompanying Draft-pick compensation tax that comes with it. That concern isn't present for the "big four" of J.T. Realmuto, George Springer, Trevor Bauer and DJ LeMahieu, but it was for these two, for different reasons. Stroman didn't pitch at all in 2020, first due to an injury and then after choosing not to play due to COVID-19 concerns. Gausman was inconsistent for the first seven years of his career and was non-tendered by the Reds as recently as last December, before finding stunning success in his new home with the Giants. Neither was going to make this much as a free agent, so it made a ton of sense for them to accept. Without them on the market, the remaining non-Bauer starting-pitching group looks somewhat thin. -- Mike Petriello
Nov. 7, 2020: P Robbie Ray signs with Blue Jays
One year, $8 million
There's a way, if you set the minimum innings count just right and completely ignore the never-ending increase in strikeouts over the past two decades, to generate a leaderboard that shows that Ray has the highest strikeout rate of any starter in Major League history. (Here it is.) Of course, Ray also has a 4.53 ERA over the last three years, because he's been all but incapable of throwing strikes, with the highest walk rate of any qualified pitcher since 2018. He improved somewhat after a midseason trade to Toronto, and for now, he's penciled into the Blue Jays' rotation with Hyun Jin Ryu, Nate Pearson, Tanner Roark and Ross Stripling. We'll bet that's not the quintet that starts the season. -- Mike Petriello