Analyzing every offseason transaction

April 1st, 2022

After a three-month break, the Hot Stove is back, and transactions ought to be flying for the remainder of the spring. We’ll collect each notable move here. Looking for all the signings that happened in November? You can find all of those in our first attempt at this, here.

April 1, 2022: Dodgers trade OF AJ Pollock to White Sox for P Craig Kimbrel

Kimbrel being traded to an NL West team on the eve of Opening Day is starting to become "a thing," we guess. Anyway, we'd been expecting all winter for Chicago to find him a new home, simply because things just did not work out very well for him on the South Side after last summer's big crosstown trade, and the White Sox have a very stuffed bullpen, even with Garrett Crochet's injury. They really did seem to be short an outfielder, with previous dalliances with Nomar Mazara and Adam Eaton failing to pan out, so while it would be a little better if Pollock were left-handed, you're certainly not going to turn down a solid veteran who's posted a 137 OPS+ over the last two seasons. He's projected to be only their sixth-best hitter, which, considering that the contracts here are similar, is a neat little swap for a reliever who posted a 5.09 ERA last year and seemingly wanted to be somewhere he could pitch the ninth.

The Dodgers, of course, are betting on Kimbrel being considerably better than the pitcher he was for the White Sox, and you don't have to look too far to find that pitcher, because in 39 games for the Cubs, he allowed two earned runs, striking out nearly 16 per nine. Of course, in the previous two years with the Cubs, he had a 6.00 ERA, plagued by home runs, and for how historically great he's been, the entire Kimbrel Experience has been an exhausting mountain of ups and downs over the last few years.

The Dodgers certainly must have confidence they can regain the first-half Kimbrel again, but they aren't looking for him to be their best reliever. They're looking for him to be their closer. For the last half-century of baseball, those two terms were one and the same. That's not how baseball works these days, though, because the superior Blake Treinen can take higher-leverage opportunities earlier. So consider Kimbrel a replacement for Kenley Jansen, keeping the hierarchy of bullpen arms stable. This also has the side benefit of opening up more time for Gavin Lux, who was seemingly without a spot; on the downside, losing an outfielder puts just a bit more pressure on Cody Bellinger to rebound. -- Mike Petriello

March 24, 2022: Rockies trade OF Raimel Tapia to Blue Jays for OF Randal Grichuk
Blue Jays also get Minor League infielder Adrian Pinto

We knew the Blue Jays were going to have to find another left-handed hitter to join Cavan Biggio in their lineup, and indeed they have. We just didn't expect it to be this left-handed hitter, because Tapia has spent parts of six seasons kicking around Colorado as a perfectly decent depth piece, one without a particularly great skill in power, contact or defense, though he's shown speed. Until last season, that is, when he stole 20 bases and, in a career-high 533 plate appearances, cut his strikeout rate down to a very good 13.3% -- well below the career 21.5% mark he'd had before.

He does have the obligatory massive home/road splits, as most Rockies hitters do, but we've been over this enough, haven't we? Nolan Arenado was good in St. Louis, as was Matt Holliday. DJ LeMahieu was good in New York. Trevor Story is going to be good in Boston. Tapia may or may not be good, but he'll be like most ex-Rockies, which is to say he'll be worse than his home numbers were and better than his road numbers. He's not the power lefty bat Toronto needed, and probably still needs, but he's a nice bench piece. (Pinto, not to be forgotten, has his supporters too.) Of course, Grichuk was the team's backup center fielder, which puts just a ton of pressure on George Springer to stay healthy, as this list explains:

For the Rockies, suddenly active after signing Kris Bryant and extending Ryan McMahon, they take on money (Grichuk is owed $10.3 million this year and next, while Tapia will make $3.95 million this year) in order to add a veteran bat with power to lengthen their lineup. Grichuk has hit at least 22 homers in each of the last five full seasons, and he's also done a very good job of cutting down strikeouts over the last two years. He's generally a below-average OBP hitter, though (career .293 OBP), which limits his value, as does his below-average defense. Presumably, he'll see time in right, center and at DH, sharing time in the latter two of those spots with Charlie Blackmon. -- Mike Petriello

March 20, 2022: Red Sox agree to deal with INF Trevor Story
Six years, $140 million

After an offseason that had quietly been among the most disappointing of any contender, the Red Sox finally made their big strike, landing the final remaining top-end shortstop in Story, who had hit 158 home runs while playing strong defense over six years with the Rockies.

Or at least, he has been a shortstop, because the Red Sox already have a pretty good one in Xander Bogaerts, who is a more dangerous bat but a considerably weaker defender. Unless, of course, they only have him for one more year, since he can opt out after 2022. For the moment, Story is likely to play second base, where he has played exactly zero Major League games, which should push Enrique Hernández to center, which should take time away from Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jarren Duran, unless it all gets undone in 2023 if Bogaerts departs, and oh yes, Boston's top prospect is a shortstop, Marcelo Mayer, and ... and there are a lot of moving pieces here, anyway.

The upshot is that this is going to take a lot of plate appearances away from Christian Arroyo, Bradley and Duran, and that is a pretty big net positive for this lineup. (We'd like to think that after recent post-Coors successes from Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieu and Matt Holiday, we would not need to remind people not to overthink Story's home/road splits, but we feel like we do.) Story is projected to be Boston's fourth-best hitter -- where the top three are All-Stars -- and every plate appearance he gets is one that was going to go to a below-average hitter. Combine that with a bit more insurance if Bogaerts departs, and this is a nice way to turn around a downer of a winter. -- Mike Petriello

March 19, 2022: Marlins sign OF/DH Jorge Soler
Three years, $36 million, with opt-outs after 2022 and '23

"The Marlins have impressive young pitching but desperately need bats" has been the refrain in Miami for a while now, especially when they scored the second-fewest runs in 2021, and to be honest, that's still true, even after acquiring Soler, Joey Wendle and Avisaíl García. But it is, at least, better.

Soler immediately projects to be the best Miami hitter, even if it's not always terribly clear what kind of Soler you'll get. Is he the slugging monster who pounded 48 homers for the Royals in 2019? Or the strikeout machine who was merely a league-average bat for the next two seasons? Or the World Series MVP who hit three homers in the 2021 Fall Classic against Houston? That he went from "traded by the Royals for a mid-level pitching prospect" to a three-year deal in the span of a few months tells you a lot about the ups and downs.

The answer, is usual, is somewhere in between. His ability to take a walk is somewhat underrated, top 30 among qualified hitters last year, and his top-end power is, well, top-end. That his best position is designated hitter -- he's a well-below-average defender -- might work in Miami, given the new DH in the NL, and that García, Bryan de la Cruz, Jesus Sánchez, Jon Berti, Garrett Cooper and Brian Anderson are all outfield options as well. Frankly, given the cavernous dimensions of Miami's home park, if you couldn't get Kyle Schwarber or Nick Castellanos, each superior options, Soler was probably the best full-power bat left. Miami's offense should be better. Given the rest of the moves we've seen in the NL East, though, better may not be enough. -- Mike Petriello

March 19, 2022: Twins agree to deal with SS Carlos Correa
Three years, $105 million, with opt-outs after 2022 and '23

A few days ago, when the Twins made the Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela trade, we wrote that their winter still felt incomplete, that they still needed a shortstop and a pitcher, that "there's much more to come here. There has to be."

Well, there was, but raise your hand if you really thought they'd convince Correa, 27, who just posted a 131 OPS+ with Platinum Glove defense, to come to Minnesota. Not only that, but they did it without committing the $300 million or more that pretty much everyone expected he'd get, especially when Corey Seager got $325 million from Texas. Suddenly, the Twins have Correa, Jorge Polanco and Byron Buxton up the middle. They have Urshela, Sánchez, Miguel Sanó, Max Kepler, Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff and Luis Arraez. Even if Correa opts out after a year, they've now bought some more time to see if Royce Lewis can really be their future at shortstop.

Now: Do they have enough pitching to challenge the White Sox? Well, no, not even with Sonny Gray. But maybe they're not done yet. Maybe they've earned the right to finish the winter.

It's a disappointing day in Houston, of course. It's a really disappointing day in New York, who took on $50 million of Josh Donaldson's deal, but were unwilling or unable to do this for Correa. Twins fans, of course, should be doing somersaults; players like this just don't generally choose the Twin Cities.

As for Correa, it's easy to see this as a massive disappointment considering, again everyone expected he'd get three times as much. Then again, think about what this contract really means. At $35 million per year, he now holds the new infielder average annual value record. If he has another good year, he'll be positioned to get back onto the market next winter, still only at 28, in a year with fewer great shortstops available and a whole lot less labor uncertainty.

And if he doesn't have a great year? If he's injured, or plays poorly? Having another year at $35 million -- and another after that -- if he chooses to take them is a pretty nice consolation prize. -- Mike Petriello

March 19, 2022: Tigers sign P Michael Pineda
One year, $5.5 million, plus incentives

The Tigers think they're going to be a lot better this year, and they might be right, because a lineup that will have Javier Báez, Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene should be better than one that did not. But if they're really going to make some noise, it's mostly going to be about how a very young rotation -- Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning -- steps up to the plate. This is why, after all, they gave Eduardo Rodriguez a five-year deal to lead the group.

Now, they've added another veteran arm, one without anything like the upside of Rodriguez but who might be a crucial piece nonetheless. Pineda, 33, is a long way away from being that highly-touted prospect he was a decade ago with the Mariners, before his career got sidetracked by multiple injuries. But for the last three years, in the AL Central with the Twins, he's been quietly useful, posting a 3.80 ERA across 282 innings. If he can do anything like that across 130-150 innings for Detroit in 2022, taking some pressure off the kids, it'll be well worth the money and more. It might just help Detroit find its way into contention. -- Mike Petriello

March 18, 2022: Phillies agree to deal with OF/DH Nick Castellanos
Five years, $100 million

Two days after the Phillies reportedly agreed to a deal with a big lefty slugger and defensive limitations in Kyle Schwarber, they turned around and acquired a big righty slugger with defensive limitations in Castellanos, who is coming off a 34-homer season for the Reds and clearly chose right when he opted out of the remaining two years and $34 million remaining on his deal. Over the last six years, he’s posted an OPS+ of 122. Over the last three years, it’s 124. Did he have big home/road splits in Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly ballpark? Sure. Is Philadelphia some kind of pitcher’s paradise? It is not.

Suddenly, a lineup that will roll out a top half in some order of Schwarber, Castellanos, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and Jean Segura isn’t just good. It might be really good, especially if Alec Bohm can rebound. This is why you go over the CBT for the first time in team history, as the Phillies have just done. You do it because you can add some thump to a lineup that needed more of it, in a very tough division.

And yet: It is all but impossible to talk about this fit without wondering how on earth an already-poor Philadelphia defense is going to incorporate a pair of below-average corner outfielders in Schwarber and Castellanos. The DH coming to National League will help, certainly. But Didi Gregorius, Bohm and Hoskins are all below-average at best in their positions, and potentially worse than that. They don’t really have a center fielder. Segura is OK at second, and Realmuto is a very good catcher. But one has to at least wonder that if going over the CBT was an option, if shortstop Trevor Story might not have been the better fit here. We feel for the multiple ground ball oriented pitchers on this staff. – Mike Petriello

March 18, 2022: Braves sign P Kenley Jansen
One year, $16 million

Jansen going to Atlanta isn’t quite the shock to the system that Freddie Freeman going to the Dodgers was, just because a closer isn’t on the field quite as regularly as a first baseman, but Jansen’s tenure in California was even longer than Freeman’s was in Georgia. Originally signed as a catcher in 2004, Jansen had been one of the best relievers in the game pretty much since the day he arrived in the Majors in 2010.

After several years of concern about the declining velocity of his cutter, Jansen seemed to find a new life in 2021, regaining some mph and incorporating other pitchers, like a sinker, more than he ever had before. The end result was another very good season, posting a 2.22 ERA and striking out more than 11 per 9. That, with his long track record of success, should have made him a highly-sought free agent this winter.

But … he wasn’t, was he? Just a few days ago we wondered why there had been no buzz around him at all. The Dodgers, the team that knows him better than anyone else, apparently chose not to match or top this to retain him, despite a bullpen that could probably use another top-end arm. And the market only provided a one year deal.

It’s a good add for the Braves, who rode their “Night Shift” bullpen to a title last year and probably have very reasonable worries about how all that work will affect them in 2022. It makes them better, and the Dodgers worse. It does just come with more than a few questions. – Mike Petriello

March 18, 2022: Yankees trade 1B Luke Voit to Padres
Yankees receive Minor League P Justin Lange

From the moment the Yankees brought back Anthony Rizzo to play first base again, it was clear that Voit was going to be on the way out the door. From the moment Fernando Tatis Jr. broke his wrist, it would be clear the Padres would be looking for another bat. Throw in the fact that incumbent San Diego first baseman Eric Hosmer has been generally disappointing, and there was always a pretty clear fit here. Friday morning, the deal that seemed so obvious became reality.

Voit missed a big chunk of the 2021 season, thanks to knee surgery and an oblique strain, and he's not a terribly strong defender. But it's also not entirely clear that if you look at him, Rizzo, and DJ LeMahieu that the Yankees didn't just trade away their best first base hitter, because consider what's happened over the last two years. Voit, 31, has a 132 OPS+. LeMahieu, nearly 34, has a 117. Rizzo, 32, is at 109. There's obviously more to it than this, because health matters, and defense matters, and LeMahieu's contract matters, and Rizzo being left-handed where Voit is not matters. It all matters. It just seems like the Yankees are dumping a pretty good player, though getting the 34th overall pick in the 2020 Draft in Lange is a nice lottery ticket.

For San Diego, he's a boost to an offense that suddenly badly needs one, not just because Tatis is out, but because Tommy Pham is a free agent and because Hosmer, Ha-Seong Kim, and Wil Myers just didn't offer a whole lot last year. Maybe it's as simple as Voit and Hosmer splitting some 1B/DH time. But with this team, and GM AJ Preller, nothing is ever simple. It feels like there's another move or three still yet in there. -- Mike Petriello

March 16, 2022: Dodgers sign 1B Freddie Freeman
Six years, $162 million

When the Braves traded for Matt Olson and then inked him to an eight-year extension, it was pretty clear that Freeman was headed to one of the coasts. It turned out to be the West Coast, near where he grew up. The Dodgers may have lost Corey Seager to free agency earlier this offseason, but they made up for that lost production by landing the 2020 NL MVP and one of the elite hitters in the game.

Coming off a season in which their eight-year hegemony atop the NL West came to an end thanks to the 107-win Giants, it would have been surprising to see the Dodgers not make a significant move. This is about as significant as it gets, given the player involved and the monetary commitment. There's no reason to believe Freeman won't excel with L.A. -- following his MVP campaign in 2020, he overcame a slow start at the plate with Atlanta in '21 to finish with an NL-best 120 runs scored to go along with 31 homers and an .896 OPS.

The Dodgers already had a scary lineup with the likes of Mookie Betts and Trea Turner at the top. Now, add in Freeman, and you've got a juggernaut ready to make a run back to the World Series in 2022. -- Manny Randhawa

March 16, 2022: Rockies sign OF/3B Kris Bryant
Seven years, $182 million

There's a long-running article here at about the most shocking free-agent signings in baseball history, and it's now got Colorado bringing aboard Bryant atop it, in case you're wondering how out of nowhere this one was. That's not entirely fair, because there had been rumors about the team's interest for some time. It's just that it never seemed likely it would actually happen, because this is the same team that just one year ago kicked in over $50 million to the Cardinals to take Nolan Arenado, that did not either sign or retain Jon Gray or Trevor Story, that is coming off three straight fourth-place finishes in the tough NL West.

That the Rockies went out and made this deal is unequivocally a good thing, because it shows that despite all the challenges facing their thin roster, despite the presence of three heavy hitters in their division, they're still trying to push forward while they have what remains a pretty solid rotation. If the calculus is merely "did your team get better and more interesting today," then yes, the Rockies did, considerably so, and they ought to be praised for that. Presumably, he'll spend most of his time in the outfield corners, since Ryan McMahon is a better defender at third base, and that was a big need, especially if Charlie Blackmon sees more of his time as the DH.

It just leaves us with more questions than answers, though. Before Bryant signed, FanGraphs projections had the Rockies' roster as the weakest in baseball, and unless there are a lot more moves coming -- a lot -- he's not going to move the needle to put them anywhere near the Dodgers. While he is coming off a solid enough season (25 homers, 124 OPS+ between the Cubs and Giants), he's increasingly looked more like a good, above-average player than the true superstar it looked like he'd be in his first three years in the Majors. It's hard not to remember that they would likely have drafted him in the 2013 Draft had the Cubs not one pick earlier, and that there were rumors over the years that they'd be interested in trading for him. Is this just the culmination of a long-time fantasy, finally fulfilled?

For Rockies fans, it's money you'd absolutely rather see spent than not spent. But it's curious strategy after what just happened with Arenado, especially with Bryant's similar full no-trade clause, and if this money was available, might it have been better spent on multiple pieces to reinforce the team's porous depth? -- Mike Petriello

March 16, 2022: Giants sign OF Joc Pederson
1 year, $6 million

On the same day the Rockies signed Kris Bryant, whom the Giants acquired in a Trade Deadline deal with the Cubs last July, San Francisco replaced that loss in the outfield by signing Pederson, who helped the Braves during their championship run last October.

The left-handed-hitting Pederson, who turns 30 in April, is a career .232/.332/.462 hitter with 148 home runs in eight Major League seasons. He has been a much better hitter against right-handed pitching during his career, with an .832 OPS vs. righties and a .610 OPS against lefties, making him a good platoon option in the outfield for San Francisco.

Pederson began his MLB career with the Dodgers and signed with the Cubs as a free agent prior to the 2021 season. Atlanta acquired him midseason and he hit .429 with a pair of homers in the NL Division Series against the Brewers before homering again in the NL Championship Series against his former club, the Dodgers.

Pederson has won two World Series rings -- one last year with the Braves and one the year before with the Dodgers -- and has been in the postseason in each of his seven full MLB seasons. He owns an .814 career OPS in the postseason, as well as 12 homers in 195 postseason at-bats. -- Manny Randhawa

March 16, 2022: Royals sign P Zack Greinke
1 year, $13 million

Wait, what is this, the year 2009? That's the year Greinke won his only Cy Young Award (it took Jake Arrieta's historic second half in 2015 to deny Greinke a second), and it was with the team that drafted him sixth overall in '02, the Royals. Fast-forward 13 years, and Greinke is returning to where it all began in Kansas City. A lot has happened since then -- the Royals won their first World Series in 30 years in '15, and Greinke went on to become one of the best starting pitchers in baseball while pitching for the Brewers, Angels, Dodgers, D-backs and Astros.

Greinke is a six-time All-Star and a six-time Gold Glove Award winner, and while he's entering his age-38 season, he's still an effective starter who will amuse us every now and then with his tremendous eephus pitch. He continues to induce soft contact by opposing hitters and his control remains pinpoint. And by signing him to return to the Royals' starting rotation, the club accomplished its goal of bringing aboard a veteran starter to lead a very young group.

A homecoming to the club that originally drafted you, and where you rose to stardom, is always a cool story, so it's fun to see Greinke back with the Royals. -- Manny Randhawa

March 16, 2022: Royals trade P Mike Minor to Reds for P Amir Garrett

OK, let's try to unpack this one. Back in November, the Reds placed Wade Miley on waivers, where he was claimed by the Cubs. Miley, 35, was due to make $10 million, but he was coming off a season in which he'd posted a 3.37 ERA. Four months later, after also trading away starter Sonny Gray, the Reds traded away the remaining two seasons of one of their best relievers, Garrett, so they can acquire Minor, 34, who will make $8.5 million after posting a 5.56 ERA in 2020 and a 5.05 ERA in 2021. If you're confused, well, you're not alone.

Here's the charitable interpretation, anyway. The first is that it's really hard to expect a 3.37 ERA from Miley going forward, especially when he'd rolled up a 4.66 ERA over the previous five seasons and a 3.97 FIP and 4.12 xERA tell a slightly lesser story. You can say the opposite for Minor, who probably pitched a bit better than that ugly ERA would indicate. So, maybe these two lefties are closer than you'd think, and it's really not all that hard to envision Minor having a better season in 2022 -- plus, he's controllable via option for 2023. But is that worth the cost of losing Garrett, who despite a rough 2021, has shown plenty of bullpen talent over the last few years?

For the Royals, there's a bit of risk in removing a veteran starter from a very young rotation, but there's clearly more happening here (in addition to adding Garrett to the bullpen). Kansas City reportedly saved more than $8 million in this deal, and appears likely to turn around and acquire a better starter in the near future. Now that's a starter swap that would make some sense. -- Mike Petriello

March 16, 2022: A's trade 3B Matt Chapman to Blue Jays for SS Kevin Smith, P Kirby Snead and Minor Leaguers P Gunnar Hoglund and P Zach Logue

Oakland trading an outstanding two-way third baseman to Toronto for a quartet of prospects? Well, that is certainly hard to imagine. Hopefully, for the A's, these four work out better than what they got for Josh Donaldson eight years ago, when Kendall Graveman gave them a few years of decent back-end starting and Sean Nolin, Franklin Barreto and Brett Lawrie didn't give them much of anything at all. We won't know how this looks for Oakland for a while, though Smith might be their primary shortstop in 2022, and Hoglund was the No. 19 overall pick in the Draft less than a year ago. None will be Top 100 prospects in the soon-to-be updated MLB Pipeline rankings.

For the A's, Chapman isn't coming off his best year -- a 100 OPS+ is actually his worst year, and his 33% strikeout rate was far higher than 22% he had in his excellent 2019, though he was recovering from offseason hip surgery -- but it isn't going to take a lot to upgrade on Toronto third basemen, who were merely 19th best at the plate in 2021. That group of third basemen (mostly Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal) were also just OK on defense, and that's where Chapman will have an enormous impact. Chapman was the best defensive third baseman in the game in 2021, and if you go back to 2018, he and Nolan Arenado are the only ones even in the conversation. He's so good that he might even help take some of the load off of Bo Bichette, an excellent hitter who is not considered to be a strong defensive shortstop.

It says a lot about what the Jays have done this winter that they've lost the Cy Young winner in Robbie Ray, and a top-3 MVP finisher in Marcus Semien, and everything they've done since has made them look stronger overall. (And they may yet get José Ramírez, too.) The AL East looks brutal. Toronto might not just be the best team in their division, though. They might be the best team in the American League. -- Mike Petriello

March 16, 2022: Cubs sign OF Seiya Suzuki
Five years, $85 million

Suzuki was the import pretty much every team wanted, and it's not hard to see why. Still just 27 years old, he's a five-time NBP All-Star who reportedly has a cannon of a throwing arm from right field, and he's coming off a season in which he hit 38 homers with a .317/.433/.639 line for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. That's not the exact output you should expect in the Major Leagues, but all the scouting reports on Suzuki are in alignment, which is that this is going to be a player who can make an impact on both sides of the ball, right now.

Which is sort of why it's at least a little surprising that he ended up with the Cubs, who are deep in the mist of a post-Rizzo/Bryant/etc. rebuild. Even with Suzuki and Marcus Stroman, this is likely the third-best team in the NL Central, and that's mostly because the Reds and Pirates haven't done much to impress this winter. None of which is to say that the Cubs shouldn't be attempting to add good players, because obviously they should be doing exactly that. It's just that if you're going to make a move like this, you don't do it to spend the next five years rebuilding. You do it because you hope that when Suzuki is 29, 30 or 31, he's anchoring the lineup of the next good Cubs team (in addition to likely displacing Jason Heyward right now).

Is that what will happen? It's up to the front office to prove that's the plan. -- Mike Petriello

March 16, 2022: Phillies sign OF/DH Kyle Schwarber
Four years, terms not disclosed

Two years ago, the Cubs non-tendered Schwarber. One year ago, the Nationals signed him to a mere one-year deal. This year, he collects a big four-year deal from the Phillies. It's a good time to be Kyle Schwarber, isn't it? It helps that in just 113 games, Schwarber mashed 32 homers for the Nats and Red Sox, and it helps too that the Phillies had a giant hole both in left field and in the middle of their lineup. Their hitter-friendly ballpark is a perfect fit for him, and opposing pitchers won't exactly have fun navigating a middle of the lineup that includes Schwarber, Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto. There's some pop here.

What's not clear is whether there's any defense here. Last year's Philadelphia defense was one of the weakest in the Majors, just like it was in 2020, and while Schwarber can catch what he can get to, his range is below average at best. Maybe that makes him a DH, except they really do need him to play the outfield as the roster currently stands, and they have three or four other players who are best served at DH. None of that means they shouldn't have made this deal, because Schwarber is a very good bat who immediately becomes the second-best hitter on this team. But can anyone catch the ball? -- Mike Petriello

March 15, 2022: Yankees sign 1B Anthony Rizzo
Two years, $32 million

Anthony Rizzo, Who Is Not Freddie Freeman, is how we assume his name will be officially styled in the Bronx for some time. That's more than a little unfair to Rizzo, who has been a star in the Majors for a decade and openly talked about how much he hoped he'd get to return to the Yankees. But the days of that 2014-19 peak (139 OPS+) are long gone, as shown by the fact that over the last two years (109 OPS+) he's been a whole lot more good than great. That's still a fit for a Yankee lineup that needed a lefty bat and a good defensive first baseman, which Rizzo still is. It's just not the first baseman Yankee fans wanted. It's not anywhere near the five-year, $70 million extension that Rizzo reportedly declined one year ago. It's fine. It's just that in the AL East, fine is not enough.

Not that the Yankees are done, of course. Luke Voit seems like he might be traded before we even finish this sentence, now that Rizzo, Voit, and DJ LeMahieu are all on the first-base depth chart. -- Mike Petriello

March 14, 2022: Brewers sign OF Andrew McCutchen
One year, $8.5 million

Last year's Milwaukee outfield had some big, big names, and if production was measured on name value alone, then a quartet of Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Avisaíl García should have been among baseball's best. It didn't end up that way, clearly; though García had a good year, Yelich and Cain struggled to regain past stardom and Bradley's lone year in Milwaukee was such a mess (.163/.236/.261) that the Brewers packaged some pretty good prospects just to ship him back to Boston, returning Hunter Renfroe. As a group, Milwaukee outfielders were fourth-weakest in the Majors.

With García in Tampa Bay, there was room for another outfielder, which the Brewers have filled with, wouldn't you know it, another big-name outfielder in his thirties. This time, it's McCutchen, the 2013 NL MVP who is now 35 years old and coming off three decent-not-great years in Philadelphia, posting a slightly above-average 109 OPS+ from 2019-21. But there's more than that in there, if he can be used appropriately. McCutchen is probably not an everyday player any longer at this stage of his career, but he can still absolutely mash lefty pitching; over the past five years, he has a .957 OPS against southpaws, far better than the .744 he's had against righties.

Since Cain, Renfroe and Tyrone Taylor are all righty swingers, maybe that platoon fit isn't obvious here. Then again, Cain is 36 and has played only 83 games the past two years. Yelich is a lefty and his production is anyone's guess after what he's shown the past two years. Taylor hasn't yet proven he's a regular starter. The National League has the DH, now. These sorts of playing time questions always seem to work themselves out. -- Mike Petriello

March 14, 2022: Reds trade OF Jesse Winker and 3B Eugenio Suárez to Mariners for P Justin Dunn, IF Jake Fraley, Minor League P Brandon Williamson and a player to be named later

Last year, the Mariners won a surprising 90 games despite a pretty obvious weakness, which was lack of thump. Seattle finished with the fifth-weakest slugging percentage in baseball, which is why it was always clear they'd be interested in a bat or two this winter. Consider that thump acquired, though we have to admit this was not exactly the way we thought it would go down.

That's because Winker, 28, has done pretty much nothing but mash in parts of five seasons as a Red, culminating in the 140 OPS+ he's posted over the last two seasons, meaning that not only will he be a huge upgrade over Fraley and the cast of thousands in left field for Seattle -- we're only half-joking, there were 11 last year -- it's not all that hard to see Winker, Mitch Haniger, Julio Rodriguez, Jarred Kellenic, and Kyle Lewis being a real good outfield, real soon.

Suárez adds pop, too; he did hit 31 homers last season, after all. That he did it with a .198/.286/.428 line, good for a mere 80 OPS+, mutes the impact of those dingers more than a little, and he's here mostly because Seattle is taking the $35 million remaining on his contract. He did, at least, perk up in September, hitting 8 homers with a 1.232 OPS, and time he spends at third is time that allows Abraham Toro to move around the field.

The Mariners are indisputably better, turning last year's sort-of-a-mirage record into something that much closer to a real thing. They won't miss Fraley or Dunn very much, if at all. For the Reds, the less said here, the better, because this hardly seems the last move to dismantle the roster for 2022. Williamson, at least, who struck out 94 in 67 1/3 innings in Double-A in 2021, is a nice get, and could be part of a very good future rotation with Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene. Eventually. Maybe. -- Mike Petriello

March 14, 2022: A's trade 1B Matt Olson to Braves for CF Cristian Pache and Minor Leaguers C Shea Langeliers, P Joey Estes, and P Ryan Cusick

So long, Freddie Freeman. That's the main reaction here, right? We can -- and will -- break down the particulars here, but the only place you can start is that the Braves, coming off a World Series win, have chosen not to retain Freeman, their star first baseman for most of the last 12 seasons. It's a stunning end to what was, and would have been, one of the best careers in franchise history.

It's a measure of how beloved Freeman was in Atlanta that this is going to raise emotions in the fanbase despite the fact that they've acquired a first baseman just about as good, four-plus years younger and a native of nearby Lilburn, Ga. Olson, who's turning 28 before Opening Day, hit 39 homers with a 153 OPS+ last year, along with his usual stellar defense. Over the last three years, including Olson's miserable 2020 and Freeman's MVP season that year: Olson has 11.6 WAR. Freeman has 11.7 WAR. On the field, the Braves won't suffer much, if at all, for the rest of Olson's contract, and after that, Freeman will be in his mid-to-late thirties. (Off the field, we do feel for heartbroken Braves fans losing their longtime favorite).

It's a defensible move especially if you feel, as we do, that the defensively talented Pache just won't hit enough to become a Major League regular, muting the impact of the package they gave up. He's still just 23 years old, and we should not overstate 72 plate appearances across two seasons, but a .366 OPS -- that's OPS, not batting average, not OBP -- in that time, after a just-okay .736 Minor League OPS that tracks with underwhelming scouting reports doesn't fill you with optimism. Then again, his glove is so special that he really doesn't need to hit that much to stick. The real prize here is Langeliers, a top prospect catcher who hit 22 homers in Double-A last year and should be ready to reach the Majors in 2023.

We think it's going to take a long time for Atlanta fans to get over the loss of Freeman, who should have ended his career with a statue outside of the ballpark. We imagine watching Olson blast baseballs and make great defensive stops will help. -- Mike Petriello

March 13, 2022: Yankees trade C Gary Sánchez and IF Gio Urshela to Twins for IF Isiah Kiner-Falefa, 3B Josh Donaldson and C Ben Rortvedt

Trying to evaluate the run of recent Minnesota moves is a little like trying to grade a restaurant before you've even been served the main course, because it seems all but impossible that the Twins are finished. After all, look what they've done: They traded away a starting catcher (Mitch Garver) for a starting shortstop (Kiner-Falefa), then traded away a first round pick (Chase Petty) for a veteran starter (Sonny Gray), then traded that shortstop and starting third baseman (Donaldson, but mostly the $50 million left on his contract) for a different catcher (Sánchez) and a different veteran infielder (Urshela). Are they better? Unclear. They're definitely different.

It's a lot to unpack, but the end result is now that the Twins are making a reasonable change-of-scenery gamble on the talented-but-frustrating Sánchez, 29, who hits the ball as hard as just about anyone but is deeply inconsistent on both sides of the ball. It's been a long time, now, since that 33-homer 2017 season that marked him as a future star. They'll likely slot in Urshela, who was a standout for the Yankees in 2019 and '20 before a mildly disappointing 2021, at third base. Once again, they have to find a shortstop. They need another pitcher. There's much more to come here. There has to be.

The same might be true for the Yankees. Donaldson (127 OPS+ in 2021 and also in 2019-'21) is signed for two more years, and he's a big upgrade on Urshela at third, but he's 36 and he comes with regular health concerns about the calves that often flare up -- maybe some questions about how he and Gerrit Cole will get along. Kiner-Falefa gives them the defensive upgrade on Gleyber Torres at shortstop they so badly needed, but he's not much of a hitter (85 OPS+ in 2021, 81 OPS+ career), and one almost wonders if he's better served as a utility player if the Yankees still land one of the big shortstops. Now Torres moves to second, and Luke Voit shares time with DJ LeMahieu at first, at least until they realize they still need another lefty bat and acquire Freddie Freeman, or Matt Olson, or Anthony Rizzo, and make another trade.

Oh, and their catching situation is now Kyle Higashioka (65 career OPS+) and Rortvedt, who has 98 career (mostly unimpressive) Major League plate appearances, after a .672 OPS career in the Minors. Plus, they still need another starting pitcher, and there are no top ones left in free agency. If this move feels like a stepping stone on the way to another deal for the Twins, consider it the same for the Yankees. It all might make more sense soon. -- Mike Petriello

March 13, 2022: Nationals sign DH Nelson Cruz
One year, $15 million

The Nationals, coming off a 65-97 season, find themselves in something of a difficult spot, because you'd think a team coming off of a season that bad -- worse than that, really, because most of it came with Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and Ryan Zimmerman, all since traded or retired -- would be in position for something of a reset. But teams with Juan Soto, and hoping to convince him to sign a long-term deal, don't reset. Teams with Stephen Strasburg don't reset. The Nationals, generally, do not reset.

All of which is useful context to the question of "why would a team in this situation sign a DH who will be 42 years old this summer," as well as reportedly also bringing in veterans Sean Doolittle, Aníbal Sánchez, Ehire Adrianza and Steve Cishek on various one-year or Minor League deals. None of them, Cruz included, will by themselves bring the Nationals back to prominence; that question is almost entirely based on whether Strasburg and Patrick Corbin can be healthy and productive in 2022. But what they'll do is make the team competitive, perhaps even interesting, and maybe even be useful trade assets in July. It's worth the effort.

Assuming, of course, Cruz can hold off Father Time for one more year. The ageless slugger has hit 32 or more homers for the last seven full seasons (we're setting aside 2020 here, obviously), and he was still mashing along with a 148 OPS+ when the Twins traded him to the Rays last summer. But in 55 games for Tampa Bay, he was more of a league-average 103 OPS+. Whether that's just a blip over the course of a long run of excellence, or the realization that time remains undefeated, will have a lot to say about whether this investment pays off for Washington. -- Mike Petriello

March 13, 2022: Phillies sign P Jeurys Familia
One year, $6 million

On the surface, this makes sense enough. Plenty of sense, really. Once again, the Phillies headed into an offseason knowing they'd badly need to upgrade their leaky bullpen if they hoped to contend -- a process they began by signing Corey Knebel just before the freeze on Dec. 1 -- and adding a veteran pitcher who has spent a decade thriving in the NL East, as Familia has done with his 3.28 career ERA, makes all sort of sense. Can he be a high-wire act at times? Well, sure; most relievers are. But for the minimal investment of just one year, it's easily a risk worth taking.

Here's the thing, though. When he's at his best, Familia uses his high-velocity sinker, which averaged 96.4 mph last year, to induce weak contact and ground balls, especially against right-handed batters. Sounds good, right? It should be, except that over the last two seasons, no National League team -- and only one Major League team -- has had weaker left-side infield defense than the Phillies have had. Maybe they'll yet come up with a way to reshuffle a defense that would, if the season began today, still start Alec Bohm at third base and Didi Gregorius at shortstop. If not, Familia might not find the outcomes on those grounders that he's used to. -- Mike Petriello

March 13, 2022: Reds trade P Sonny Gray to Twins
Reds receive pitching prospect Chase Petty; Twins also receive Minor League pitcher Francis Peguero

After back-to-back American League Central titles, little went right for the Twins in 2021, as they finished in fifth place with a 73-89 record. The club still has a solid core in place, but after trading José Berríos in July and losing Kenta Maeda to Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda to free agency, Minnesota came out of the lockout needing to improve its rotation beyond the addition of Dylan Bundy, who signed a one-year deal in December on the heels of a 6.06 ERA in 2021.

Gray, 32, should slot in as the Twins’ staff ace, a role he’s proved capable of filling at times during his nine-year career. The right-hander posted a 3.49 ERA and a 28.5% strikeout rate in 68 starts over three years with the Reds, though he’s coming off a season in which he made three trips to the injured list, dealing with back, groin and rib cage ailments. Gray is entering the final season of a four-year, $38 million deal, but he can be retained for 2023 via a $12 million club option.

Gray is the latest veteran to be jettisoned by Cincinnati. After the Reds traded catcher Tucker Barnhart to Detroit in November, Reds general manager Nick Krall indicated that the team planned to make additional moves to cut costs. In exchange for Gray and Peguero, a 24-year-old who hasn’t pitched above High-A, Krall was able to snag Petty, the 26th overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. -- Thomas Harrigan

March 13, 2022: Mets sign P Adam Ottavino
One year, $4 million

After spending 2021 with the Red Sox, Ottavino is coming back home. The New York native, who pitched for the Yankees in 2019-20 after signing a three-year, $27 million contract to join the Bronx Bombers, has returned to the Big Apple to pitch for the Yanks’ crosstown rivals.

Ottavino, 36, has his share of flaws, including wildness and a tendency to struggle against left-handed batters, but his funky motion and sweeping slider make him a highly effective option against right-handed batters when he’s right. The question is, which Ottavino are the Mets’ getting -- the one who had a 2.68 ERA with zero home runs allowed over 40 appearances in the first half of 2021, or the one who pitched to a 6.48 ERA with five homers allowed in 29 games after the All-Star break? -- Thomas Harrigan

March 12, 2022: A’s trade P Chris Bassitt to Mets
A’s receive pitching prospects J.T. Ginn and Adam Oller

One of the busiest MLB clubs before the lockout, the Mets made their first big post-lockout splash by swinging a trade for Bassitt, who adds a fourth 2021 All-Star to the team’s rotation, joining Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Taijuan Walker, with Carlos Carrasco, Tylor Megill, David Peterson and Trevor Williams also in the fold. The move gives the Mets added rotation insurance after a season in which deGrom dealt with elbow issues and didn't pitch after July 7.

Bassitt, a 33-year-old right-hander, has come into his own in recent years, recording a 142 ERA+ in 38 starts since the beginning of 2020. He posted career bests in strikeout rate (25%) and K/BB ratio (4.1) last season, making the All-Star team for the first time in his career. Bassitt’s campaign was interrupted when he was hit in the head by a line drive on Aug. 17, resulting in facial surgery, but he was able to return to the mound in September.

With Bassitt due to receive a salary bump in his third year of arbitration eligibility and free agency looming after the 2022 season, the A’s opted to move him for a pair of pitching prospects. Ginn slots in as Oakland’s No. 4 prospect, while Oller is No. 19, according to MLB Pipeline. -- Thomas Harrigan

March 12, 2022: Rockies sign P Alex Colomé
One-year deal

The Rockies haven’t had much success with free-agent relievers in recent years (think Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw), but this is a low-risk move to acquire a proven closer. 

Although he doesn’t have the strikeout stuff of a prototypical late-inning arm, Colomé has collected 155 saves since the beginning of 2016, ranking fourth in the Majors behind Kenley Jansen, Edwin Díaz and Aroldis Chapman in that span while posting a 146 ERA+.

Colomé, 33, spent 2021 with the Twins and recovered from a rough first month (8.31 ERA, three blown saves, three losses) to record a solid 3.51 ERA in his final 58 appearances. His ability to keep the ball on the ground (54.1% ground-ball rate in 2021) could work well at Coors Field. -- Thomas Harrigan

March 12, 2022: Blue Jays sign P Yusei Kikuchi
Three years, $36 million

What do you do when you lose the reigning AL Cy Young winner, as Toronto did with Robbie Ray? You go out and give Kevin Gausman five years to come to Canada. You go out and you give Kikuchi three more. And, you remember that you already had Jose Berrios, Hyun Jin Ryu and Alek Manoah, meaning that Kikuchi really doesn’t need to be more than your fifth starter.

It’s an exciting group -- we haven’t even mentioned Ross Stripling or Nate Pearson -- though we shouldn’t overlook the fact that Kikuchi’s brief Major League career has been, charitably, “inconsistent,” or perhaps even “not that impressive,” given his 4.97 ERA in parts of three seasons with Seattle. But it sure seemed like early in 2021, he began to figure it out, given that in his first 15 starts, he had a 3.18 ERA and made the All-Star team. Of course, his last 14 starts were so bad (6.22 ERA) that he may have single-handedly kept the Mariners out of the playoffs, but who’s keeping track?

What the Jays are surely noticing is that after throwing 92.5 mph in 2019, he was up to 95.1 mph in 2021. What they’re noticing, as you can see below, is that his release point dropped pretty much in line with his success. What they’re remembering is what pitching coach Pete Walker did to help Ray go from a similarly inconsistent lefty to a star. Kikuchi isn’t exactly the greatest fit in the AL East, we’ll admit. But again: He might be their No. 5 starter. If he's what he was in the first half, he might be more than that.

March 12, 2022: Twins trade C Mitch Garver to Rangers for SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Twins also receive Minor League P Ronny Henriquez

After the Rangers signed two shortstops to massive deals in Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, it was clear that the incumbent, Kiner-Falefa, was either headed to third base or out of town entirely. Despite not currently having an option at the hot corner, Texas chose the latter option, turning its sudden embarrassment of middle-infield riches into a badly needed catcher in Garver.

There’s potentially huge upside here for the Rangers, who received little offense behind the plate from Jonah Heim and Jose Trevino in 2021. (Only three teams got less offense out of the backstop position than Texas did.) Garver, meanwhile, put a miserable 2020 behind him by posting a 139 OPS+, at least in part backing up his breakout 2019, when he hit 31 homers with a 157 OPS+. The problem, as always, was health; Garver has taken just 683 plate appearances in the last three years combined due to a litany of injuries. But in a catching market that was all but non-existent, the Rangers have added a third dangerous hitter to a lineup that desperately needed -- and still does -- some life.

As for the Twins, Kiner-Falefa replaces the disappointing Andrelton Simmons at shortstop, which carries with it the benefit of keeping Jorge Polanco at second base, where he’s far better suited, and pleasing Kiner-Falefa himself, who made clear he’d rather be playing shortstop. It’s a gamble in a number of ways, starting with the fact that Ryan Jeffers now has to step up as the starting catcher, to the fact that Kiner-Falefa didn’t actually hit very much in 2021, with a .670 OPS (85 OPS+). As a defender, he’s something of a step down from Simmons; as a hitter, he’s a bit of a step up. For a team that desperately needed a shortstop, that’s not nothing, though one wonders if it was worth the cost of Garver’s big power bat. – Mike Petriello

March 11, 2022: Dodgers sign P Clayton Kershaw
One year, $17 million

It’s now been 16 years since the Dodgers selected Kershaw in the first round of the 2006 Draft, and all he’s done is become a first-ballot Hall of Famer and the most dominant pitcher in team history. But for the first time, a departure seemed possible, given that Kershaw had accomplished all he could ever hope to in Los Angeles, and that his hometown Rangers were finally starting to make some moves. It wouldn’t have been difficult at all to see him head home to finish things off nearer to his four children, or even retire.

For now, Dodgers fans avoid that painful fate, at least for one more year. But which Kershaw will they get? Given his level of excellence over his career, it’s easy to forget that his 2021 was really, really good, as he struck out nearly 7 times as many as he walked and posted what was, on a rate basis, one of the best seasons in the National League. Of course, he hasn’t thrown even 180 innings since 2015, and he missed two months with arm inflammation, and then missed the entire postseason with that same issue.

It’s probably not reasonable to expect him ever to be more than a 150-inning type ever again, really, and even that is an open question. But while we’d like to say this was a necessary signing because the Dodgers have a ton of rotation questions beyond Walker Buehler and Julio Urías -- and it is, and they still do -- it’s also because there’s only one Clayton Kershaw. It just wouldn’t feel right seeing him anywhere else. – Mike Petriello

March 11, 2022: Giants sign P Carlos Rodón
Two years, $44 million, with an opt-out after 2022

At the end of the regular season, the Giants rotation looked something like this:

1. Breakout ace Logan Webb
2-5. ?????

Needless to say, there was considerable work to be done, and that’s because Anthony DeSclafani, Kevin Gausman, Alex Wood and Johnny Cueto -- who combined to make 82% of the team’s non-Webb starts -- were all free agents.

DeSclafani returned, and so did Wood, and eventually Alex Cobb, too. Three months later, the rotation is rounded out by Rodón, who just might have the highest upside of any of them. Might, of course, being the operative word, because it was barely more than a year ago that the White Sox opted to not even offer him a contract for 2021, and he pitched just 28 innings over the final two months of last year due to shoulder fatigue, the latest in a long line of arm troubles. Chicago chose to not even extend a qualifying offer.

So yes, there’s risk, and lots of health concerns, but there’s also the memory of just how phenomenal Rodón was for much of the season. In his first 16 starts, through July 18, he had a 2.14 ERA. He struck out 140 in 96 2/3 innings. He threw a no-hitter, too. Given the understanding that Clayton Kershaw was never coming to San Francisco, Rodón was the only high-end starter even available. You can’t expect 200 innings from him. You probably can’t even expect 160. (This is why he’s getting a two-year deal, not five.) But if what he offers is as outstanding as what he showed in 2021, the Giants will be more than happy to take whatever they can get. – Mike Petriello

March 11, 2022: Cubs sign SS Andrelton Simmons
One year, $4 million

The most recent regular Cubs shortstop, Javier Báez, had baseball’s highest swinging strike rate in 2021. The new Cubs shortstop, Simmons, had one of baseball’s lowest swinging strike rates. If that’s all baseball games were scored on -- swing bat, make contact -- well, Chicago would surely be coming out ahead here. Of course, there’s a little bit more to it than that, like the fact that Simmons had baseball’s second-weakest hard-hit rate, meaning all that contact is generally lousy contact, and that’s how you end up with a mere 57 OPS+, a nearly unplayable bat even when paired with a still high-quality glove.

Then again, Simmons is more of an insurance policy than a clear starter here. Ideally, the middle infield would have Nick Madrigal, 25 years old and acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade, at second base. Ideally, it would have Nico Hoerner, nearly 25 and drafted in the first round in 2018 playing some shortstop, as well as other spots. Maybe that’s how it will play out. But Madrigal hasn’t played since seriously injuring his hamstring as a member of the White Sox last year, and Hoerner made it into only 44 games due to a number of injuries.

Maybe that’s how it will play out. But if not, well, someone has to field those ground balls from a pitch-to-contact Cubs pitching staff, and even after all these years, Simmons remains one of the better defensive shortstops in the game. It might just be advisable to go dig up some of his great fielding highlights when he’s at the plate. – Mike Petriello