Wow, didn’t you miss that? Those feelings of “Wait, they did what?” and “He’s now playing for who?” It’s great to have them back, isn’t it?
We all knew there would be a flurry of transactions in the days immediately following the lifting of the lockout, and while we still don’t know where Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant and Freddie Freeman are going, the first weekend of our post-lockout world was absolutely not a disappointment. There was more happening than any reasonable person could possibly keep up with. Here’s a look at five big takeaways from a wild weekend, including what we’ve learned, what might be coming, and what insights we can glean from a season that, wow, is now just three weeks away.
1. The Twins seem to think last year was a fluke.
As a reminder, the Twins lost 89 games last year and finished last in the AL Central. (They were worse than the Angels, Mets and Rockies.) They certainly are not acting like it, though; they’ve been one of the most active teams since the lockout was lifted. They’re the new Mariners! You can never stop tinkering! The Sonny Gray trade instantly gives the rotation a desperately needed upgrade, but, of course, the big trade was with the Yankees, as they got out from under Josh Donaldson’s contract and brought in a new third baseman (Gio Urshela) and a new catcher (Gary Sánchez). (Also, I hope you did not already buy your Isiah Kiner-Falefa Twins jersey.)
The Donaldson trade, in particular, seems to signal even more moves coming up -- or at least you’d certainly hope so. The Twins are not acting like a last-place team, and good on them for that.
2. The Yankees are … certainly moving!
The Yankees’ stasis before the lockout did make you think they’d be awfully active once it was lifted, and they sure have been. But it’s been a little strange, right? For all the talk of the Yankees going big after a shortstop, it’s a bit surprising to see their current shortstop being … Kiner-Falefa. Also, the catcher right now is … Ben Rortvedt?
Donaldson is an exciting bat in the middle of that lineup, but he is also an injury-prone 36-year-old. He’s also a right-handed hitter, and the Yankees really could use thump from the left side.
They still seem to have several holes in the lineup and there are still a ton of names out there to fill them. But right now, the Yankees have made a bunch of moves that seem to set up other, larger moves. But are we sure they will make them?
3. The Mets really aren’t kidding around.
We don’t have to get into that “Cohen Tax” business, though one must say that having a tax named after one’s self is a particularly unusual legacy. But it’s obvious that the Mets and their owner Steve are flooring it. They were the most active team before Dec. 1 and remained so afterward, trading for Chris Bassitt (to become their third starter -- a nice little luxury) and then signing Adam Ottavino, one of the top remaining relievers on the market. It wouldn’t be particularly shocking to see them add anyone left out there, would it? It’s fun to have a team just willing to do whatever it takes to improve. At this point, it wouldn’t shock me to see them sign Tom Brady.
4. The National League Central is going to have some wins to be found in it.
The Pirates were already in a rebuilding mode, in case you couldn’t tell by the fact that their cleanup hitter might be Ben Gamel. The Cubs tore down their roster at the Trade Deadline last year, and while their signings of Andrelton Simmons and Clint Frazier show they’re hardly punting on the year, they still have quite a climb back. But the real switch in this division is the Reds. They came this close to the playoffs last season, but with the trade of Sonny Gray to the Twins, it’s obvious now that they are taking a step backwards. They apparently haven’t even been talking to Nick Castellanos, they’ve made no major moves, and they’ve traded Gray, with potentially Luis Castillo and/or Tyler Mahle next.
Winning enough games to earn one of the two division winner playoff byes is going to be particularly important this year, and moving forward. The Cardinals and Brewers now look light-years ahead of the rest of this division and, in this final year of the unbalanced schedule, are poised to rack up some real win totals against the bottom part of NL Central.
5. The Giants are making their “prudent veteran risk” move again.
The Giants’ 2021 season was magical, totally confusing or both, depending on your personal whims and potential tolerance for the metaphysical. But there are reasons to be nervous about the 2022 season, with both Buster Posey and Kevin Gausman gone and all those veterans who came through in '21 a year older and a year more fragile. What would the Giants’ strategy be to fill the gaps? The answer appears to be “more of the same.” Last year’s team is mostly being rolled back out there, and the big addition, Carlos Rodón, is very much in the same spirit: A veteran arm with considerable risks but enough of a short-term commitment at two years (with an opt-out after one year) that it’s not going to hamstring them down the line. That’s very much in the spirit of just about all of president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi’s moves since taking over with San Francisco. It’s a risk, but a careful one that won’t hurt them much if it doesn’t work out. Though the way things have been going in the Bay Area over the last couple of years … it’ll probably work out.