Keep an eye on these 9 intriguing offseason additions

January 29th, 2024

Any achievement is impossible without the opportunity to make it happen. For the nine players on the list below, opportunity has come knocking on their doors this offseason.

Everyone in this group has found themselves on a new team this winter via free agency or a trade. They may have experienced some big league success in their previous situation, but their fresh start could serve as the launching pad they need to attain MLB stardom. If everything breaks right for them, these offseason acquisitions could end up being better than you think.

, OF, Braves
For a player who has seemingly been in the spotlight for ages, Kelenic is just 24 years old. He is very much an unfinished product. We got a glimpse at him at his best early in 2023 as he produced a 169 wRC+ through the season's first month and crushed some truly majestic home runs for the Mariners. However, Kelenic soon fell into a protracted slump that included a .604 OPS and a 41.4% strikeout rate over the better part of two months. Following a strikeout on July 19, Kelenic lost his cool when he kicked a water cooler and broke his left foot.

Controlling his emotions and the strike zone will be crucial for Kelenic, a top-five prospect in 2021 according to MLB Pipeline. Atlanta has shown how much it believes in its new left fielder, and his big jumps in hard-hit rate (45.6%) and sweet-spot rate (38.4%) last year signal that he is capable of making the Braves' already formidable lineup that much more dangerous.

, 2B, Red Sox
A few weeks after acquiring a former top prospect, the Braves sent one away in order to obtain left-hander Chris Sale from the Red Sox. Grissom was ranked as Atlanta's No. 1 prospect when he debuted in 2022, and he promptly went deep in his new home park during his first game.

Although 2023, his age-22 season, wasn't much to write home about, Grissom did show plate discipline beyond his age, featuring low whiff and K rates. He looks like a seasoned hitter, and Fenway should help overall offensive production. Now he needs to prove that he can provide serviceable defense at second base and tap into more power at the plate. Grissom has minus-5 outs above average in just 44 career games at the keystone position, and he hasn't homered in his previous 121 at-bats, dating back to September 2022. The Red Sox believe there is more thump in his bat. If so, he and Trevor Story will form a quality up-the-middle duo.

, SP, Padres
Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Michael King? That's a pretty strong top three in the Padres' rotation, especially if King carries over his fantastic finish to last season. It was only seven starts, but King held opponents to no more than one earned run in six of them. His 25.5% strikeout-minus-walk rate during those 38 1/3 innings ranked sixth among starters, placing him between Tyler Glasnow and Spencer Strider.

There might be questions surrounding the right-hander's workload; injuries and his long history as a reliever have limited King to only 247 2/3 frames over five seasons, including a career-high 104 2/3 last year. But he does have a couple of seasons with about 150 innings on his Minor League résumé, and FanGraphs' Depth Charts projections have him pitching 160 innings in 2024.

, SP, White Sox
Is Fedde the next Merrill Kelly? The D-backs' hurler toiled in the Minors for a few years before turning his career around in Korea and becoming a rotation stalwart for the reigning National League champions. That would be a best-case scenario for Fedde, but it's within the range of outcomes. His 2023 campaign with KBO's NC Dinos was far better than any of Kelly's seasons across the Pacific. Fedde posted a 2.00 ERA with 209 strikeouts and only 35 walks in 180 1/3 innings. Besides being the league's best pitcher, he was also seen as its most feared, according to White Sox general manager Chris Getz.

Fedde owns a 5.41 ERA through six seasons and 102 appearances in the big leagues. That includes a 5.81 ERA in 2022. But as he returns to MLB with a new repertoire and renewed confidence, this former first-round Draft pick may be primed for a breakout year at age 31.

, SS, Rays
The Rays discussed trading for Caballero at the 2023 Deadline, about five months before they acquired him from the Mariners. A lot has changed for Tampa Bay at shortstop since. With Wander Franco on administrative leave until further notice, and Taylor Walls likely to miss some portion of the season following October hip surgery, Caballero became a must-add for the Rays.

The 27-year-old brings a couple of top tools to Tampa Bay: his near-elite 29 feet per second sprint speed and tremendous defense. He succeeded on 26 of 29 steal attempts in 104 games as a rookie last season while accruing 8 OAA. Although he doesn't carry an impact bat, Caballero's 10% walk rate and decent contact skills give him a shot at being a league-average hitter. That would be just fine for the Rays given Caballero's other standout skills.

Yuki Matsui, RP, Padres
Matsui is intriguing for a couple of reasons. Most obviously, there is an air of mystery surrounding one of the sport's most dominant relievers. Over the past three years in Nippon Professional Baseball, Matsui registered a 1.42 ERA with 214 strikeouts across 152 innings pitched. But most MLB fans have probably never seen him pitch before. And secondly, we've never seen anyone quite like the 5-foot-8 Matsui when you consider his size and stuff.

Josh Hader headed this year's group of free-agent relievers, and Matsui wasn't too far behind. The Padres watched the former join the Astros, but they have rebuilt the back end of their bullpen with Matsui, Robert Suarez and Korean righty Woo-Suk Go. There is a lot of upside in that trio.

Yariel Rodriguez, SP, Blue Jays
If Matsui is a mystery, Rodríguez is a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Once the right-hander makes his MLB debut this season, more than a year will have passed since his last competitive game. He recorded a 2.45 ERA with 10 strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings for Team Cuba during the 2023 World Baseball Classic. He then decided to prepare for his shot at the Majors rather than return to Japan, where he had a 1.15 ERA with 60 K's through 54 2/3 innings as a full-time reliever in 2022.

Rodríguez began his pro career as a starter in his home country, resulting in a 3.30 ERA across 464 1/3 frames. That period came with a low K-BB rate, but Rodriguez was 21 years old or younger for most of that time. He's gained more command and velocity, led by a mid-90s fastball, since those early days. He turned in a solid 60-18 K/BB ratio in his most recent season. His Major League role is uncertain, but Rodríguez's raw talent could benefit the Blue Jays in multiple ways.

, SP, Rays
Pepiot was slated to be a part of the Dodgers' Opening Day rotation last year until a left oblique strain sidelined him for more than four months. However, once he returned on Aug. 19, the right-hander was one of the best baseball's best starters for the remainder of the season. He finished among the top 10 in ERA (2.14) and opponents' batting average (.179), and he had the lowest hard-hit percentage (27.4%). One year after logging an enormous 16.9% walk rate, Pepiot made a few noteworthy changes in 2023, and they helped him shave that number down to a minuscule 3.1% through 42 innings.

The Rays have a long history of getting the best out of young starting pitchers who they brought in via trade. Scott Kazmir, Chris Archer and Tyler Glasnow are a few members of that group. Pepiot, acquired in a deal that sent Glasnow west, is next in line.

, 1B, Cubs
Let's end with another former Dodger who's prepping to handle a leading role this season. Barring any significant changes to the Cubs' roster -- like signing Cody Bellinger -- Busch will be the team's Opening Day first baseman and have plenty of runway to show why he is among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects.

He produced .283/.390/.529 slash line in the Minors and combined his 60-grade power with an 18.8% strikeout rate and a 13.9% walk rate. His .618 slugging percentage and 1.049 OPS at Triple-A last year ranked fourth and seventh, respectively, among qualified Minor Leaguers. And even though his cup of coffee with Los Angeles last year didn't have many highlights, he did put up a 50% hard-hit rate. Busch hasn't played first base regularly since his college days five years ago, but Chicago will take any possible growing pains there as long as his well-rounded offensive profile lives up to the billing.