Every move of the 2022-23 offseason, tracked

January 20th, 2023

The Major League Baseball offseason is here, and MLB.com's team of writers will have quick-hit analysis of each major trade or multi-year signing in a running list here.

Jan. 20, 2023: Twins trade INF/DH Luis Arraez to Marlins for SP Pablo López
Twins also receive two Minor League hitting prospects

If it feels like this one happened months ago, that's only because that's how long we've been talking about exactly this kind of trade. Of course the Marlins were going to trade for a high-contact bat; they said as much in October. Of course the Twins would trade one of their glut of lefty bats to add pitching; that's been clear for months.

Miami's offense in 2022 was both strikeout-heavy (fifth-highest rate) and punchless (third-lowest slugging), and Arraez, who struck out at an unfathomably low 7.1% rate, will help with one of those things. We're now more than 1,500 plate appearances into a career that proves he has elite bat-to-ball skills, but little power and increasing questions about his defense. If he's limited to first or DH, the bat doesn't play as well. But if he plays second, pushing Jazz Chisholm Jr. to short, it's an incredibly weak defensive middle infield. The lineup is better, but still not good; the defense might be worse; the rotation is thinner. They also had to throw in a pair of position player prospects, including Jose Salas, who had been ranked as their No. 5 prospect.

As for the Twins, López is not the ace they really needed, but then again, aces are not readily available in January, are they? With Carlos Correa back in the fold, Jorge Polanco is squarely back at second base, and adding López to a rotation with Joe Ryan, Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, Bailey Ober and Josh Winder gives them depth they were badly missing last year -- even if there's no one there you really feel comfortable starting a postseason Game 1 (or maybe even Game 2). López has had some consistency and injury issues, but he's also got a 3.52 ERA over the last three seasons, and it's not hard to see him providing more value over the two years of control he has remaining than Arraez would have over three. It does, however, put some more pressure on Alex Kirilloff to stay healthy and productive at first base. One wonders if a Luke Voit-type move is next. -- Mike Petriello

Jan. 11, 2023: Marlins trade INF Miguel Rojas to Dodgers for Minor League INF Jacob Amaya

The Dodgers, at shortstop, have gone from Corey Seager to Trea Turner to ... Miguel Rojas, a blast from the 2014-era past? This one won't make Dodger fans think differently about the team's underwhelming offseason, even if this trade, viewed by itself, makes sense enough. That's because Rojas has long been a plus defender (+12 OAA in 2022), and Gavin Lux's time at shortstop in 2021 was, charitably, uneven. Rojas isn't a strong hitter (72 OPS+ last year), a long-term option or even an everyday starter, but he provides someone who can reliably catch the ball at the most important position. It's worth noting, too, that the Dodgers have generally done a good job of knowing which prospects to keep or move -- and no, Yordan Alvarez, who hadn't even played a Minor League game for them at the time of his trade, doesn't count. On the other hand: Couldn't they have just signed Elvis Andrus and kept Amaya?

As for the Marlins, they trade one year of Rojas for potentially six of younger Rojas, in that Amaya profiles as a good defender who might not have quite enough bat. That makes sense in and of itself, but the more urgent question is: Who plays shortstop in 2023? Jazz Chisholm Jr., like Lux, is best kept at second base. Jean Segura was signed to play third base. Joey Wendle, coming off a down season, could probably handle it part-time but isn't really an everyday option. Miami GM Kim Ng says that they just don't know yet. One would think more moves still need to be in the works to fix a poor offense, and the addition of veteran starter Johnny Cueto might allow them to make a long-rumored move of an arm for a bat. -- Mike Petriello

Jan. 10, 2023: Twins agree to deal with SS Carlos Correa
Six years, $200 million (plus four years and $70 million in vesting clauses)

No, for real this time. We think, anyway. We won't honestly be certain he's back with Minnesota until some time in June, to be honest, and that's not unfair considering the Minnesota-to-San-Francisco-to-New-York-back-to-Minnesota whirlwind of an offseason Correa's been through. After his 13-year, $350 million deal with the Giants and a subsequent 12-year, $315 million pact with the Mets fell apart over concerns about the state of his right leg -- an injury that required surgery in 2014 but hasn't been an issue since -- Correa ends up back on a Twins team that badly wanted and needed his star power.

What Correa ends up with, then, is a deal that's considerably lighter overall than his other rumored contracts, but gives him a hefty bump in annual value instead -- sort of. He was to get approximately $26 to $27 million per year in the various iterations of his Giants and Mets deals, and it's now $33 million per for the six guaranteed years with the Twins. That said, each year he stays healthy will knock it down, as each of the four vesting years kicks in if he takes 502 plate appearances in the previous season. It also kicks him back into free agency after 33 if he doesn't take 502 plate appearances in 2028. It's all very complicated, but it provides both Correa and the team security.

All of the obvious rubbernecking about the unprecedented way this has all gone down does somewhat obscure the fact that the Twins badly needed this to happen. A disappointing 2022 had been followed by an underwhelming offseason -- with all due respect to Kyle Farmer, he's not exactly a Correa-level replacement at shortstop -- with little recourse to change that trajectory. It's not every day you get a strong defensive shortstop with a 135 OPS+ dropping in your laps, one who has already enjoyed his year in Minnesota to boot. That this comes for less than the 10 years and $285 million the Twins reportedly offered him at the start of the winter is a nice treat, and while they're taking a risk that the Giants and Mets wouldn't, it's worth again pointing out that Correa has missed exactly zero games due to the leg injury in question. It took a long, long time to get here. The Twins must be thrilled. -- Mike Petriello

Jan. 7, 2023: Tigers trade P Gregory Soto and IF Kody Clemens to Phillies for IF/OF Nick Maton, IF/OF Matt Vierling, and C Donny Sands

By acquiring Soto as well as signing Craig Kimbrel to a one-year deal earlier in the winter, the Phillies are placing a bet that their player development staff can do something like what they did for José Alvarado last year, which is to take hard-throwing relievers who don't always know where the ball is going and help them find some control. Soto is a back-to-back All-Star, though that somewhat overstates his abilities, given that in 2021 he was Detroit's lone representative -- every team needs one -- and pitching in the ninth inning allowed him to get saves, which gave him more of a spotlight than other relievers. Far more important is that his strikeout rate has declined in each of the last two seasons, and only a small handful of pitchers over the last three years have a higher walk rate than he does.

Still, Soto throws extremely hard (his 98.5 MPH four-seamer was the hardest of any lefty last year) and one of the names with a higher walk rate in 2020-'22 was ... Alvarado, who was absolutely dominant down the stretch last year after the Phillies helped him learn some command. Given that he's under control for three more years, the Phillies are doing exactly what a team in their situation should be doing, which is to turn bench depth into potentially high-end relief talent, though losing Vierling does put slightly more pressure on Brandon Marsh in center.

For the Tigers, this is not the big-ticket splash their fans were hoping new GM Scott Harris would make, but it's also not a coincidence that all three names are ready-now bats, which last year's third-weakest run-scoring outfit desperately needed.  Between them, Maton and Vierling can play any non-catcher position on the diamond, yet  neither had a real path to playing time in Philadelphia. That should change in Detroit, especially if the Tigers can unlock a little more of Vierling's hard-hit skills if he can lift a little more. That the return for a two-time All-Star isn't higher shows the risk that's associated with Soto. That the Tigers thought it worth flipping him for a few interesting-not-certain bats shows how desperate they were to shake up the lineup. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 29, 2022: Marlins sign IF Jean Segura
Two years, $17 million

In the seven seasons since he was traded from Milwaukee following 2016, Segura has had six somewhat similar seasons of being about 10% above league average as a hitter, with some value on the bases and defensively at both middle infield spots. (His disappointing 2019 Phillies debut is the outlier.) Now, he'll be asked to do something he's very rarely done in his career, which is to play third base, given that incumbent Brian Anderson was non-tendered.

If not exactly a difference-maker on a Marlins team that is still something like four bats away from contention, he's a clear upgrade on Miami's relatively unimpressive .695 third base OPS from last year. He's also valuable depth if necessary, given second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr.'s injury concerns and shortstop Miguel Rojas's general inability to hit. If Segura's their biggest offensive upgrade this winter, that's a huge problem. But if they manage to get the larger bats they so desperately need, he is an excellent supporting piece, a veteran with a track record who just went to the World Series. If not the flashiest add, it's a meaningful one. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 28, 2022: Rangers sign P Nathan Eovaldi
Two years, $34 million (with 2025 player option)

Last year, Dane Dunning started the season's second game and threw Texas' second-most innings. Next year, at least so far, he might be the sixth-best option on the depth chart, given that the Rangers have added Jacob deGrom, Andrew Heaney, Jake Odorizzi, and, now, Eovaldi, who has been a pro since 2008 but has long seemed destined for this team, given that he's a hard-throwing righty who hails from Alvin, Tex. ... better known as the home of Nolan Ryan.

Or, at least, he used to throw hard. By the end of last season, Eovaldi's four-seamer -- which once averaged in the 97-98 mph range -- was down to a more mortal 94, likely due to the back and shoulder injuries he dealt with. The Rangers are clearly gambling on health -- and a hope that he'll look more like the hero of the 2018 Boston World Series run or the 2021 All-Star, recent enough success that a mere two-year deal is more than reasonable. But like with the rest of their pitching moves, the key here is depth. It's all but certain that between deGrom, Eovaldi, Heaney, and Jon Gray -- all talented, all with recent health concerns -- starts will get missed. What Texas is going for here is enough coverage to handle that. It's the highest-variance rotation in the game. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 23, 2022: Blue Jays trade C Gabriel Moreno and OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to D-backs for C/OF Daulton Varsho

We've known two things almost for certain this offseason: That the Blue Jays would trade from their catching surplus, and that the D-backs had more young outfielders than they knew what to do with. Why, then, not just match up with one another? It's been an obvious fit for months, though it's never been certain which combination of players would be involved.

Now we know. For Toronto, they get four years of Varsho, a badly needed lefty bat with power (27 homers in 2022) who rated as a truly elite defensive outfielder (+18 OAA, best in the Majors), a power/glove combo so valuable that he was worth 4.6 WAR despite an unimpressive .302 OBP. As a bonus, he can also catch, giving Toronto valuable depth now that Moreno is on the move. If and when he, Kevin Kiermaier and George Springer are all in the outfield together, it could be the best defensive unit in the entire sport.

Varsho didn't come cheaply, however. Moreno was the No. 4 overall prospect (per MLB Pipeline) when he was called up to Toronto this past June, quickly impressing with his arm behind the plate. While Arizona will miss Varsho, the fact was that he was one of four different young, lefty D-backs outfielders (with Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy and Corbin Carroll), and turning one of them into an elite ready-now catcher is tidy business. Throw in two more years of Gurriel, a righty swinger with a career 117 OPS+, and what we've got here is something we don't see nearly enough of: A good old-fashioned baseball trade that fits both sides. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 23, 2022: Giants sign OF Michael Conforto
Two years, $36 million (with opt-out after 2023)

It might have been a decent winter, if it wasn't such a disastrous winter. Retaining Joc Pederson and adding Ross Stripling, Sean Manaea, Taylor Rogers, Mitch Haniger, and now Conforto, in an offseason where the Dodgers have taken a step back, could have been seen as a tidy bit of work around the edges, adding three potentially good bats to a rotation that's now considered somewhere around the 10th-best in the bigs. Of course, that view requires you to overlook the massive, franchise-upending failures to obtain a true star like Aaron Judge or Carlos Correa -- especially given the embarrassment over how the Correa failure went down.

Conforto, of course, is not a replacement for Correa. He's another bat in a lineup that needed one, and still does. It would help considerably if he was more like the bat who posted a 134 OPS+ from 2017-'20, though that seems a long way away now, considering that he hit just .232/.344/.384 in 2021, and then didn't even play in 2022 due to a shoulder injury, which is why he's signing just a two-year deal now. There's a version of this where Conforto, Pederson, Haniger, Austin Slater, Mike Yastrzemski, and LaMonte Wade Jr. put together above-average outfield offense, and this is a perfectly reasonable two-year bet to make. There's a version of this, too, where Conforto and Haniger's recent injury woes pop up, while Correa posts a healthy, star-level season in New York. That version might be easier to expect. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 23, 2022: Giants sign P Taylor Rogers
Three years, $33 million

Let's get all the "Taylor and Tyler Rogers, the twins, on the same team!" jokes right out of the way, because all the extremely fun focus on that sort of overlooks that Taylor has been one of baseball's better relievers the last few years. He might look like Tyler, but he couldn't be less like him on the mound, as he's a sometimes hard-throwing lefty who, at his best, misses a ton of bats.

It's the "at his best" part that's tricky here, because 2022 threw a wrench into that. From 2017-'21, Rogers had a 2.91 ERA for the Twins, making the 2021 All-Star team and striking out 6.4 batters for every walk. In 2022, he was traded to the Padres, put up a 4.35 ERA that didn't at all reflect that he'd pitched better, then was dealt to the Brewers, where he earned every bit of his 5.48 ERA, mostly due to home run trouble (and knee soreness). 

If he's healthy, and the three-year deal might imply that he is, Rogers has been one of the best of the second tier of relievers in the game. Slot him with his brother and a cast of thousands ahead of Camilo Doval, and the Giants might just have something going with the pitching staff. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 21, 2022: Angels sign IF Brandon Drury
Two years, $17 million

Drury -- like Gio Urshela, like Hunter Renfroe, like Carlos Estévez -- is not a star. He's a solid, competent Major League player, and if that doesn't sound exciting, because it's not, say, signing Trea Turner, it's also something this Angels team has badly needed. (Look no further than the fact that a team that had Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and a Taylor Ward breakout somehow still managed to finished 26th in on-base percentage.) Drury, 30, looked like he was on his way out of the league after a 60 OPS+ from 2018-'20 with the Blue Jays, but a huge 2022 (122 OPS+, 28 homers) put him back on the radar. He'll probably mostly play second, though (like Urshela) he's another good third base option if Rendon can't answer the bell again. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 19, 2022: Red Sox sign IF/DH Justin Turner
Two years, $21.7 million (opt-out after 2023)

If the 2012 trade for Adrián González is what signified the Dodgers were entering a new age of spending, then it was the 2014 non-roster signing of Justin Turner that kick-started their reputation as a place where players went to get better. Turner had been a backup infielder that the Mets didn't even tender a contract to, but in nine years as a Dodger, he hit .296/.375/.490 with 156 homers. He's one of the greatest hitters in franchise history. He did turn 38 in November, and a decline in his skills is evident, especially on defense. But he also just hit .319/.386/.503 in the second half, too. This should have ended with a comfy 3B/1B/DH/PH role for his hometown team.

Instead, he'll swap spots with J.D. Martinez and head off to Boston, which has third base well spoken-for -- for now, at least, given Rafael Devers has yet to receive a long-term contract -- and will likely use him as a designated-hitter and first-base complement to young lefty Triston Casas. That Turner, three years older, got twice the contract Martinez did shows what teams think of the duo. That the Dodgers let one of the most popular players in recent team history go -- someone who could have provided backup third-base insurance to Miguel Vargas, no less -- when there was still life in his bat is the disappointing cherry on the top of a terribly quiet offseason. So far, anyway. It's a nice add for a Red Sox team that needed a win. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 17, 2022: Cubs sign SS Dansby Swanson
Seven years, $177 million

Once the other top shortstops were off the board, it didn't figure to be long for Swanson, the final remaining top-tier free agent, to join them, and for weeks the rumored destination had been the Cubs, not only because they'd done very little this winter, but because his wife is a professional soccer player for Chicago's Red Stars.

Swanson had a career year at the exact right time, having his first-ever full-season above-average offensive year (115 OPS+) while, per Statcast metrics, playing baseball's best defensive shortstop, giving him a massive 6.4 WAR platform year. It's more than a little concerning, for a deal this large, that he does not have a strong track record, and given his enormous trouble hitting non-fastballs -- last year, he had a .316 AVG/.505 SLG against fastballs, and .216 AVG/.301 SLG against everything else -- one wonders if teams will ever throw him something straight ever again.

On the other hand, he has shown some important improvements under the hood ...

... and an up-the-middle defense with Swanson at shortstop and Nico Hoerner at second base could be the best in the entire sport. The Cubs are better today than they were yesterday, though coming away with the fourth-best of the four good shortstops this winter has to be at least somewhat disappointing. It remains a slow march back to respectability for the Cubs, and they're not -- as currently constructed -- likely to get there in 2023. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 16, 2022: White Sox sign OF Andrew Benintendi
Five years, $75 million

The White Sox had had an oddly quiet winter, considering what's still a high-quality core, and a pretty clear need for an outfielder and a second baseman. They've managed to solve one of those problems, adding 28-year-old left-handed hitter Benintendi to bring his high-BABIP, low-power approach to a team that's made up of kind of a lot of that already. It's difficult to evaluate this without really knowing what version of Benintendi you're getting, because the early-career version (2016-18 with Boston) looked like a star, but from 2019-21 he was average at best as he moved to Kansas City, and then in 2022, he got off to a great start (124 OPS+) before being traded, playing worse (109 OPS+), and eventually missing all of September with a broken wrist.

Working in his favor is his youth, since Chicago is signing up for his age-28 to age-32 seasons, which seems refreshingly youthful given all the "through age 40" contracts we've seen. But the concern here is that he's a player who generates almost all of his value through defense and balls dropping in for hits, which makes a surprising early-career speed decline seem all the more worrisome. (Much of that nice start to 2022 with Kansas City was fueled by a .366 BABIP, well above his career norms, and one that predictably dropped to .303 with New York.)

None of which is to say that a lefty corner outfielder with a solid glove doesn't fit the White Sox. With Benintendi in left and Andrew Vaughn now back at first, this should push Eloy Jiménez to designated hitter, where he'll do less damage to both Chicago's defense and his own health. The early projections suggest that they just added their sixth-best bat, which isn't nothing, especially in a weak division, and $15 million per year is maybe just what the going rate is now for an average player who has a shot to be slightly more, at least at first. It's just surprising to see a player who has been worth 2+ WAR just twice get five years -- and one wonders if a shorter bet on a rebound year from a more powerful bat like Michael Conforto might have been better worth the risk. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 15, 2022: Yankees sign P Carlos Rodón
Six years, $162 million

The Yankees have added one of the most talented and exciting players at his position, stealing him away from San Francisco ... and also, they signed Aaron Judge. That's how dominant Rodón has been over the last two years, finishing fifth in the 2021 AL Cy Young voting and sixth in the 2022 NL ballot, throwing 310 2/3 innings of 2.67 ERA ball. It's been a stunning turnaround for the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 Draft, overcoming years of inconsistency and injuries to add velocity and make his fastball one of the sport's truly elite pitches.

Now, he joins with Gerrit Cole to form perhaps the best 1-2 punch in baseball, and yes, we see you, Mets fans. At the very least, the Yankees are now projected to have baseball's best rotation, and while projections are exactly that, realize that with Luis Severino and Nestor Cortes Jr. behind the big two, Frankie Montas is their number five starter. Clarke Schmidt, who had a 3.12 ERA last year, might be their No. 7, depending on how you feel about Domingo Germán. (Which makes that initially unpopular Harrison Bader-for-Jordan-Montgomery deal feel quite different, doesn't it?)

There's risk that Rodón's shoulder issues pop up. There's also a risk that Cole and Rodón combine to strike out 500 batters between them next year and that no one scores on this team all season long. They still might not even be done, because there's weakness at third base and in the outfield. But there's been plenty of griping the last few years, not entirely unearned, that the Yankees haven't acted like The Yankees. They're The Yankees right now. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 13, 2022: Giants sign P Ross Stripling
Two years, $25 million, with opt-out after 2023

Stripling had an excellent 3.01 ERA season for Toronto, and the Giants gave him $25 million over two years (with an opt-out after the first year) and if that sounds familiar, it's because it's the exact same deal they just gave to Sean Manaea, who had a miserable 4.96 ERA season for the Padres. It might be that teams just don't value ERA as much as you'd like them to, though it's not exactly like more advanced metrics tell a terribly different story here. It's that, similarly to the Dodgers paying Andrew Heaney last year after a 5.83 ERA, clubs are more interested in seeing what they think you can do going forward, rather than just looking back.

For Stripling, the ultimate swingman -- 104 career starts, 100 career relief appearances -- he ended up being a life-saver for the 2022 Blue Jays after the rotation fell apart behind Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman, and it's highly likely he'd have even started a playoff game had the Blue Jays not been eliminated in two against Seattle. Like Manaea, he's hardly the Aaron Judge / Carlos Correa level of free agent the Giants wanted, and still want. But now, with Manaea, Stripling, Alex Cobb, Alex Wood, and Anthony DeSclafani all backing up ace Logan Webb, San Francisco suddenly has envious rotation depth. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 12, 2022: Twins sign C Christian Vázquez
Three years, $30 million

Minnesota had shown little interest in a reunion with Gary Sánchez, and Ryan Jeffers has hit all of .203/.277/.384 over the last two years, so the Twins were going to have to do something behind the plate, even if it was always likely that they'd end up shooting lower than Willson Contreras or Sean Murphy. Vázquez, who turned 32 last summer, might not be as exciting as the bigger names, but they did well enough here to add a two-time World Series winner who is highly respected defensively and at least competent at the plate.

That last part makes more sense if you put aside a 23-homer 2019 that now looks wildly fluky, given that he's hit only 32 combined homers in his seven other seasons. His 91 OPS+ over the last three years is both A) below-average for all hitters and B) actually not that bad for catchers, all things considered. Given his solid enough defense behind the plate, likely in a way that's a considerable upgrade over Sánchez, this is a reasonable deal for the Twins, especially given the dearth of remaining free-agent catching options. This move won't alone push them back into the playoffs, but it's a necessary one nonetheless. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 12, 2022: A's trade C Sean Murphy to Braves and Braves trade C William Contreras to Brewers in three-team deal
A's receive OF Esteury Ruiz (Brewers) and C Manny Piña, P Kyle Muller, P Freddy Tarnok, P Royber Salinas (Braves)
Brewers also receive P Justin Yeager (Braves) and P Joel Payamps (A's)

You wouldn't have thought that catcher was a primary need for Atlanta, but it's not often one the caliber and youth of Murphy, 28 years old, becomes available. Murphy is coming off a 5-WAR season in part because he's an elite defensive catcher -- he's allowed just three passed balls in the last two seasons, and he rates highly in both framing and pop time -- with enough pop in his bat that he just hit 18 homers with a 120 OPS+. There's possibly more in there, too, because he's routinely been hindered by his home park (where he's hit for 136 fewer points of OPS), and now he's going from baseball's worst righty hitter's park to the 10th-best. They get him for three more years. They will love him.

It comes largely (though certainly not entirely) at the cost of Contreras, 25 this month, who had a breakout 2022, making the All-Star Game while slugging .506 with a 138 OPS+. While he's not near the defender Murphy is, he did post barrel rates similar to Juan Soto and Corey Seager this year, and he's not able to be a free agent until after 2027. It's a tremendous upgrade for the Brewers, who had a mere .608 OPS from catcher in 2022, largely due to a down season from free agent Omar Narváez. That they managed Contreras (and Yeager, and Payamps) for Ruiz (acquired in the Josh Hader deal), who has absolutely elite speed (86 steals in 2022) but absolutely unacceptable hard-hit rates seems like a coup, even if Ruiz is the next Billy Hamilton. Milwaukee didn't even get the primary player in this one, but they may have done the best.

As for the A's, Piña is a veteran catcher to get them through the day, and Muller (5.14 ERA in parts of two seasons) has some post-hype sleeper qualities, though he's still not even graduated off being Atlanta's No. 1 prospect. There's a lot to like about him in Oakland's park, but a lot of this depends on if Ruiz can hit at all and if Tarnok (Atlanta's No. 6 prospect) and Salinas (No. 18) turn into big leaguers. Oakland has had a good track record of this kind of move in the past; on the other hand, Atlanta has shown excellent skill in knowing which prospects to keep and which to move. It's why, for example, the A's have Cristian Pache, and the Braves have Michael Harris II. Atlanta fans should be thrilled today. Milwaukee, too. It's another long day in Oakland. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 12, 2022: Blue Jays sign P Chris Bassitt
Three years, $63 million

The Blue Jays already had Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman, and that's a pretty nice 1-2. But then they also had José Berríos (a very disappointing 5.23 ERA in his first full year with Toronto) and Yusei Kikuchi (a very disappointing 5.19 ERA in his first year with Toronto), and Ross Stripling is a free agent, and Hyun Jin Ryu is injured, and, well, it's been clear for quite some time they needed starting pitching depth, a need that became more critical as names kept coming off the board.

Bassitt, 34 in February, is hardly a flamethrower, instead using his six-pitch mix to throw a bunch of mid-rotation innings, and if that doesn't sound like the most exciting profile in the world, well, it's not. But look at those Toronto names we just went through. For this move, they didn't need exciting. They needed reliable. They needed someone you could toss out 30-ish times per year and know you'll get solid to somewhat-above-average starting pitching. That they had to only sign him through 36 and not beyond, given the way this winter has gone, can only be seen as a win. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 12, 2022: Giants sign P Sean Manaea
Two years, $25 million, with opt-out after 2023

While we wait for the Giants to get the big fish they so badly need -- no disrespect to Mitch Haniger, who was a reasonable addition -- they've moved ahead to add Manaea as a fifth-starter type behind Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood. If not exactly exciting, given the 4.96 ERA he posted for San Diego last year, he's at least been durable enough to make 71 starts over the last three seasons. He's not anywhere near Carlos Rodón in terms of talent or production, and so this should not be seen as a one-for-one replacement, despite their similarities as lefties born in 1992. It's a depth add for a back-of-the-rotation arm, the kind every team ends up needing at some point (especially if the Giants can get more out of him than the Padres could).

Ultimately, though, that's up to the Giants. If they don't want Manaea and Haniger to be the headlines of what's been a disappointing offseason so far, then what comes next is of the ultimate importance. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 10, 2022: Mets sign Kodai Senga
Five years, $75 million

After what's already been a hyper-active winter in Queens, it sounds wild to say that the Mets still needed to do anything, except ... they needed to do this, or at least something like it. That's because of the top four starters in the rotation before signing Senga, the youngest was José Quintana, and he turns 34 in January. Talented though a rotation fronted by Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander may be, they weren't exactly youthful and free of recent health questions either, making it all but a necessity that a younger starter be brought aboard.

Senga, 30 in January, certainly fits the bill, and he reportedly can touch 100 mph with a splitter (or forkball, depending on how you view such things) so nasty that it has its own name: The Ghost Fork. That doesn't mean there aren't questions here -- he might not have a good enough third or fourth pitch, he may walk too many batters, he's had numerous minor injuries over the years -- and it remains possible that if he can't turn a lineup over more than twice, he ends up being a potentially pretty good reliever. But for now, he'll get every chance to start. It may seem like the Mets didn't need another talented player on what's becoming a star-studded roster, but they did. There's yet to have been a team with too many good pitchers. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 8, 2022: Mets sign OF Brandon Nimmo
Eight years, $162 million

It says a whole lot about the way this winter is going that Nimmo absolutely blew past the 5/$110 million that FanGraphs estimated for him, as well as the 6/$132 million The Athletic guessed, and the reaction is not so much "this is stunning" as it is "yes, that sounds right, what's next?" Nimmo, a member of the Mets organization since being drafted in 2011, is now in position to spend the rest of his career with New York.

That probably won't all come in center field, but it also doesn't matter all that much, because he'll be fine there for the next year or two or three, and then slide over to the left field position he's best suited for. That he can play there now is a win, because the center field market behind him was absolutely bereft of talent other than short-term gambles on Cody Bellinger or Kevin Kiermaier, and anyone who can competently play center while posting a 134 OPS+, as he's done over the last five seasons, is a star-level player. The skills he relies on -- an elite ability to avoid chasing out of the zone, which has helped him pile up walks and avoid whiffs -- tend to age well.

That the years and dollars are more than you expected is true only if you hadn't been paying a single bit of attention to the Hot Stove. That the Mets can afford it without a second thought -- and in fact, almost certainly aren't done, signing David Robertson to a one-year, $10 million deal, and reportedly still looking for the starting pitcher under 35 years old they still badly need -- is basically a given. The uniforms may look the same, but this all-in franchise bares no resemblance to the one that existed before Steve Cohen purchased them in 2020. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 8, 2022: Padres sign SS Xander Bogaerts
Eleven years, $280 million

After striking out on Trea Turner and Aaron Judge, you figured the Padres would have something massive up their sleeves, and this certainly qualifies. Bogaerts, who just turned 30, is a two-time title winner with the Red Sox, who over the past five years has been one of baseball's most consistent hitters, with a 133 OPS+ over that time that's rarely deviated in either direction in any of those seasons. He'll push Ha-Seong Kim to second base, Jake Cronenworth to first, Fernando Tatis Jr. to right and Juan Soto to left. There's a lot of moving parts here. The Padres are going to be incredibly fun.

Despite the consistency, there is the larger question of just what type of player Bogaerts is going to be over the next number of years. For most of his career, he'd been rated as a terribly below-average defender at shortstop, but in 2022, he improved considerably, and while there were real, actionable changes to point to, it doesn't change the perception that he's probably not a shortstop long-term. Some of the under-the-hood power metrics showed concerning trends, though it's possible wrist and shoulder injuries contributed to that.

Ultimately, the $25.5 million annual value is not unreasonable for a player of his skills, and it's likely to look even better as the years go by, and salaries go up. It's just that the length of this one is more than a little stunning, given that you usually see deals this long going to even better players (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado) at younger ages (26). -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 8, 2022: Red Sign sign LF Masataka Yoshida
Five years, $90 million (plus $15.375 million posting fee)

In the midst of what's generally been a disappointing moment for the Red Sox, they made a big splash in acquiring Yoshida, a 29-year-old outfielder with elite contact skills, to the point that he posted a nearly unbelievable 42/82 strikeout/walk ratio for Orix in 2022. (He also hit 21 homers with a 1.007 OPS.) At 5-foot-8, 176 pounds, he's likely to lose some of the pop that led to a .559 slugging against the higher velocity pitching he'll see in the Majors, though you can expect he'll be one of the best in the game at avoiding strikeouts. If that's what matters most -- high contact skills -- he'll be great. But most scouting reports highlight his lack of defense and speed, and if the power takes a step back, he might end up being a LF/DH type who relies entirely on batting average to succeed. It's worth the risk, though one wonders if giving the same deal -- or less, given the posting fee -- to Willson Contreras might have been a better fit. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 7, 2022: Yankees sign RF Aaron Judge
Nine years, $360 million

Judge chose not to take the offer the Yankees extended before the season, went out and hit 62 home runs -- plus two more in the postseason -- and ended up making $146.5 million above the reported original offer. So far as "betting on yourself" goes, this is an absolute all-timer, especially since there was all sorts of smoke and fire that Judge was going to choose the Giants in the final 24 hours, hot rumors that were soon extinguished. For the Yankees, this clearly goes beyond their comfort zone -- Judge will be 31 next year, meaning this goes through age 39, and while he'd obviously had success before, his 2022 was a step above anything he'd done previously -- but it's also something they had to do. The lineup was ultimately not good enough even with him, and there wasn't a way to replace him if he'd left. It goes beyond that, too. Now there's a future in Monument Park, with the all-time legends.

Of course, the cynical view is: Now what? It's the largest free agent deal in history, but it mostly serves to retain their best hitter, who anchored a lineup that simply wasn't good enough. It's hard to think that after an outlay this large the team absolutely must continue to do more, but they absolutely must continue to do more, because as it stands, the lineup is full of holes. On the other hand, a lineup without him would have been disastrous. The PR hit of letting the man who just hit 62 homers walk away would have been incomprehensible. Sometimes, there are situations where you have to go beyond what makes you comfortable. The Yankees did exactly that here. They had little other choice. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 7, 2022: Cardinals sign C Willson Contreras
Five years, $87.5 million

For the first time since 2003, Yadier Molina won't be on the St. Louis roster, and the Cardinals had made it clear that his replacement would be coming from outside the organization. While most assumed that meant a trade for Sean Murphy or Danny Jansen, St. Louis instead made a huge splash by taking the best catcher available away from the rival Cubs, with whom Contreras had a 128 OPS+ last year and a 115 OPS+ over his career. That's a considerable upgrade over Molina, who was once a solid enough hitter but hadn't been even a league-average bat since 2018.

Of course, there's a pretty massive defensive difference in the other direction, where Molina's glove will likely get him into Cooperstown, while Contreras' ability to backstop a pitching staff has been called into question for some time. The Cardinals might be betting on the possibility that framing is less vital in the years to come if balls and strikes become automated, but most obviously, they're looking at a lineup that was somewhat weak on power outside of the infield corners, and adding the best bat they could at a position they were badly in need of. If Contreras can't catch for the entirety of the five-year deal, well, that's what the DH is for. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 7, 2022: Red Sox sign P Kenley Jansen
Two years, $32 million

To date, the Boston offseason has been defined more by who hasn't taken their money than who has -- along with, of course, the ongoing Xander Bogaerts saga -- but by adding Jansen along with previous moves for Chris Martin and Joely Rodriguez, the Red Sox have quietly built a pretty interesting bullpen for 2023, which was kind of a must-do after finishing 2022 with the 25th-highest reliever ERA. Jansen, 35, is no longer the peak-level legend he was with the Dodgers, but he did have a bit of a rebound for the Braves, slicing his walk rate while posting his highest strikeout rate since 2017. So long as you don't expect the version of Jansen who starred in Los Angeles, he'll be fine, though an interesting subplot will be how one of baseball's slowest workers handles the pitch clock. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 7, 2022: Mets sign P José Quintana
Two years, $26 million

Justin Verlander may have been the Jacob deGrom replacement, but the Mets still needed to do something about the fact that Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker went off to free agency, too, so they turn to Quintana, the long-ago White Sox star who struggled to live up to his lofty trade price with the Cubs, then bounced between the Angels, Giants, Pirates, and Cardinals over the last two seasons. In 2021, the Giants claimed him on essentially-free waivers; in 2022, the Pirates signed him for one year and $2 million. But in a dozen starts for St. Louis, he posted a 2.01 ERA, enough to push him back into relevancy. 

Of course, he did that in front of an elite Cardinals defense, pitching to Yadier Molina, and in one of baseball's most difficult places to hit. He'll have that last part, still, in New York, though his strikeout rate dipped from 29% in 2020-'21 to just 19% in 2022. (Mostly, he posted a wildly unsustainable 0.14 HR/9 for the Cardinals.) Though he's getting a massive raise, he's still only being paid to be a back-end starter who can eat up some innings, which, given the age of the entire Mets rotation, might be something they need more than you think. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 7, 2022: Cubs sign P Jameson Taillon
Four years, $68 million

Even after adding Marcus Stroman last year, the Cubs rotation wasn't good enough -- 17 pitchers made a start, Kyle Hendricks missed much of the year to injury and they finished 25th in starting pitcher WAR. It was clear they were going to add at least one starter, and it seemed they'd zeroed in on Taillon from the start, as they were apparently the only team to meet with him in person during his free agency.

Taillon, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 Draft, has never quite lived up to the lofty billing of being selected between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but a dozen years later -- and two Tommy John surgeries and one bout with testicular cancer later -- he's finally become a reliable, average-to-slightly above starter, giving the Yankees 61 starts in his two years there. While he doesn't miss many bats, he's excellent at avoiding walks (just 1.6 BB/9 in 2022), and he'll line up with Stroman, Justin Steele and Hendricks (if healthy) to form a decent, if unspectacular, starting unit. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 6, 2022: Phillies sign P Taijuan Walker
Four years, $72 million

Less than two years ago, Walker joined the Mets for two years and $20 million, and he gave them 59 starts worth of up-and-down performance, pitching to a 2.55 ERA in the first halves of those years, but a 4.80 ERA in the second half. That would seem bad, except that in 2022, he started throwing his splitter more than ever, ending with a very good September (39/7 K/BB), except against very weak competition, and overall he finished the season with a career-low strikeout rate, which he’ll now take to a much less favorable ballpark. Ultimately, he gave the Mets 3.9 WAR, a great return on that deal. Now, the Phillies are giving him nearly four times as much.

If it sounds like we’re down on this one, that’s not entirely true, because the Phillies are beyond all-in right now, and he’ll make for a solid fourth starter behind Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Ranger Suárez as well as a transitional veteran as the team’s trio of high-end pitching prospects near the Majors. There’s no such thing as overvaluing useful if unspectacular starting, which is what Walker is likely to provide -- and don’t forget the team did need to replace Zach Eflin and Noah Syndergaard. Philadelphia couldn’t stop. They didn’t. They’ll probably be happy they did so (as well as making Mets fans question why Walker didn’t receive a qualifying offer). It’s just that in a winter of higher-than-expected contracts, this is the one that stands out the most so far. – Mike Petriello

Dec. 6, 2022: Giants sign OF Mitch Haniger
Three years, $43.5 million, with opt out after 2024

No, it’s not Aaron Judge -- not yet, anyway -- but even with Joc Pederson back, the Giants still needed to sign two more outfield/DH options. Enter Haniger, a nearly 32-year-old Bay Area native who has received down-ballot MVP votes in both 2018 and 2021, but who also has had such a lengthy injury history that those are also the only two seasons where he’s been able to play 100 or more games. Since being traded to Seattle in 2017, he’s posted a 127 OPS+, and it was only a year ago that he managed to get into 157 games for the 2021 Mariners, mashing 39 homers.

Of course, it’s hard to ignore how much time he’s missed, though at least some have been flukish, including a 2017 hit by pitch (in the face) and a 2019 foul ball (to the, let’s say, midsection). This year, it was two weeks missed for COVID-19, then a bad ankle sprain in his first game back. The Giants can’t count on six months of health, but when he’s available, he hits. Even if they do score Judge, there’s still other spots to fill around Pederson. Haniger goes a long way towards making it a more complete lineup -- if still one that could use a certain enormous local slugger. – Mike Petriello

Dec. 6, 2022: Cubs sign CF Cody Bellinger
One year, $17.5 million

Don’t pretend you know what’s behind Bellinger’s stunning decline from “2019 MVP” to “2022 non-tender,” because the Dodgers couldn’t figure it out, and they’re generally the place that down-on-their-luck players go to get fixed. Will the Cubs have better luck? It might just be that Bellinger, who had been a Dodger since being drafted in 2013, needed a change of scenery and new voices. It might be that he’s still feeling the effects of the 2020 shoulder surgery or the 2021 broken leg. It might just be that his swing is irreparably broken, too, at just 27 years old. It’s worth Chicago’s effort to find out, and they’ll at least get strong center field defense for their trouble. – Mike Petriello

Dec. 6, 2022: Rangers sign P Andrew Heaney
Two years, $25 million, with $12 million in incentives, and an opt-out after 2023

You knew that Texas wasn't going to go sign Jacob deGrom and then stop, though they didn't exactly add reliability by adding another high-upside/high-risk arm in Heaney, who had a 4.81 ERA from 2018-2021, then went to the Dodger pitching machine and turned into a 3.10 ERA pitcher who struck out 36% of the batters he faced. Of course, he did that in only 72 2/3 innings, thanks to multiple shoulder injuries. It's also a short-term gamble, likely, because if Heaney stays healthy he'll probably opt out, and if he doesn't, he definitely will not.

There's a version of this rotation where deGrom is healthy, Heaney is healthy, Jon Gray is healthy, and Martín Pérez looks more like the 2022 All-Star he was and less like the struggling back-end starter he'd been for seven years before that, giving Texas a strong starting group. There's also a version of this where the team's top three starters in July are something like "Jake Odorizzi, Glen Otto, and Dane Dunning, because the injury guys are injured and Pérez has a 5.20 ERA again." The Rangers, to their credit, are shooting for talent, and they've just added two of the top 10 strikeout rate pitchers (min. 50 innings) from 2022, accurately knowing that even deGrom wasn't enough to make this a playoff team. There just might not be a higher-variance rotation in the entire sport. Buckle up. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 6, 2022: Guardians sign 1B/DH Josh Bell
Two years, $33 million, with an opt-out after 2023

If we learned anything from the Guardians' run toward and into the postseason in 2022, it was that their high-contact offense was badly short a thumper or two. Enter the switch-hitting Bell, who hit 37 homers in 2019 and is likely to be the primary DH alongside Josh Naylor at first base, as well as depth there if Naylor is unavailable. It's a great fit on a team that had literally the weakest DH production in baseball last year, meaning that even if Bell was a league-average bat, he'd be an upgrade, and over the last three full seasons -- note the 142 OPS+ in 2019, the 124 in 2021, and the 122 in 2022 -- he's been considerably more than that. It's a win, full stop.

Of course, you do have to stop and ask why a bat seemingly that good didn't get a larger or longer deal than that, and that comes down to consistency, or lack of it. That breakout 2019 had an OPS 244 points worse in the second half than his first. His 2020 was a write-off entirely. His 2021 started off extremely slow before a great second half; his 2022 had a smashing 153 OPS+ for the Nationals, then saw him hit only .192/.316/.271 for the Padres. This move is an obvious upgrade for a team that clearly needed one, and he even fits the team mold of striking out less often than the Major League average. It's just the defensive limitations and questions about which Bell you get at what time that kept him from scoring bigger. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 6, 2022: Yankees sign P Tommy Kahnle
Two years, $11.5 million

This might not be the homecoming Yankee fans were waiting for, but it's a needed one nonetheless, because as dominant as the Yankee bullpen looked at times in 2022, it's a group in transition. Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Chad Green are all free agents, and Michael King is still recovering from elbow surgery. While Clay Holmes and Jonathan Loáisiga remain, there was a need for depth, and Kahnle, who was an up-and-down reliever for the Yankees from 2017-20 (after originally having been drafted by the team in 2010 before leaving for Colorado) has the capacity to help. He missed almost all of 2020 and '21 due to injury, but resurfaced with the Dodgers for 12 2/3 innings late last year, striking out 14 while somehow throwing 76% changeups. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 5, 2022: Angels sign P Carlos Estévez
Two years, $13.5 million

So far, the Angels have added Estévez, Gio Urshela, Tyler Anderson and Hunter Renfroe, and if none of those players are superstars, they're all good, solid, average-to-somewhat-above players, which is exactly what a team that's had the stars but has continually been sidetracked by lack of depth needs. For Estévez, the hope is that there's something more in there, because he has a 5.57 career ERA at home and a 3.51 career ERA on the road, befitting a player who's been in Coors since 2016.

Now, whether or not the Angels are the team to help him take that next step -- as the Dodgers did with Yency Almonte in 2022 -- remains to be seen. But almost no one throws harder more regularly (as we wrote recently, only three relievers have thrown more four-seamers 95 mph or harder since 2016, when Estévez debuted, and those names are Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel and Edwin Díaz). Even if they can't, just getting a flamethrower away from altitude should make for a useful reliever. He's already projected to be their best one. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 5, 2022: Phillies sign SS Trea Turner
11 years, $300 million

We're going to see some surprises this winter, but A) the Phillies signing a shortstop, and B) that shortstop being Turner, and C) Dave Dombrowski going big for a player he covets can all be filed under "extremely expected," since the defending NL champs need to cover for Bryce Harper's elbow surgery and had an unsettled middle-infield situation anyway after declining the option of Jean Segura. Turner has hit .316/.364/.514 over the last three years with good-enough if-only-average shortstop defense, and it's easy to salivate over a 2023 lineup that has Turner, Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto, Nick Castellanos, Rhys Hoskins and (when healthy) Harper atop it. It'll be good. Very good.

If anything was unexpected here, it was the terms, because 11 years is an incredibly long contract for a player who is young (he'll be 30 in 2023) but not that young. When the Phillies gave Harper a 13-year contract, for example, he was only entering his age-26 season, and the obvious question is how a speed-based player will fare over that long of a period. That the length makes the average annual value not even a Top-15 mark in baseball is a nice bit of accounting to add one of the sport's most exciting players; that the Phillies will owe Turner and Harper something like $275 million from ages 35 and beyond is a problem for an executive unlikely to be Dombrowski. If they win enough before that, it'll be worth it. -- Mike Petriello

Dec. 5, 2022: Mets sign P Justin Verlander
Two years, $86 million, with a 2025 vesting option for $35 million

There's no scenario where giving a pitcher a guaranteed $86 million for his age-40 and 41 seasons isn't a risk, especially when he just missed almost all of his age-37 and 38 seasons due to injury. All Verlander has to do to get that $35 million at 42, pushing it all the way up to $121 million total, is to pitch 140 innings in 2024. It's a massive amount of money for a pitcher who was already the third-oldest in the Majors last year. It's an incomprehensible figure for any pitcher, much less one with one with more than 3,300 regular season and postseason innings on his arm.

But there's a bigger risk than that, and that's the risk of not getting Verlander. Once Jacob deGrom departed, and given the fact that Taijuan Walker and Chris Bassitt are each free agents as well, the Mets rotation was basically Max Scherzer (who will be 38) and Carlos Carrasco (who will be 36), and you simply cannot build out a playoff rotation without another top-end starter -- of which there was maybe one more, in Carlos Rodón. There's also the little fact that Verlander isn't just any 40-year-old, he's a slam-dunk Hall of Famer who just won a unanimous Cy Young, his third.

It's a whole lot of money, a tremendous sum. Then again, it's Verlander. It's an ace you desperately needed. It's the price you pay for not guaranteeing more than two years. It's what a New York baseball team is expected to do. -- Mike Petriello

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

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:

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