Every champion can point to an important move, whether it’s a blockbuster trade, a splashy free-agent signing or an under-the-radar pickup whose full impact is only revealed months later. Here is a look back at the biggest addition made by each of the past 29 World Series winners, since the beginning of the Wild Card Era. (This list only includes moves made during the prior offseason; crucial Trade Deadline deals are a different conversation).
2023 Rangers: Signed RHP Nathan Eovaldi
Eovaldi had already developed a reputation as a big-game pitcher prior to signing with the Rangers after his time with the Red Sox. He only strengthened that reputation with a dominant 2023 playoff run with Texas. After making the All-Star team in the regular season and pitching to a 3.63 ERA across 144 innings, Eovaldi took it up a notch in the playoffs. The right-hander joined Stephen Strasburg as the only pitcher to go 5-0 in a single postseason and posted a 2.95 ERA in six starts.
He saved his biggest win for last with six scoreless innings in a winning effort that secured the first World Series in Rangers franchise history. It wasn't Eovaldi's crispest outing -- he allowed nine baserunners -- but he navigated through trouble until the Rangers' offense tacked on late runs, and the legend of Big Game Nate continued.
2022 Astros: Re-signed RHP Justin Verlander
The Astros' first World Series title came in 2017, and Verlander was a huge reason why after Houston acquired the former MVP and Cy Young Award winner from the Tigers prior to the Trade Deadline. That October, Verlander was named ALCS MVP following a masterful performance against the Yankees. When the veteran right-hander was a free agent following the '21 campaign, the Astros re-signed him to a one-year contract with a player option for another season. The move paid big dividends despite Verlander missing most of the 2020 campaign and all of the '21 season due to Tommy John surgery. Verlander posted an MLB-best 1.75 ERA over 28 starts during the '22 regular season before helping Houston return to the World Series and win it in six games over the Phillies after losing to the Braves in the prior year's Fall Classic.
2021 Braves: Signed RHP Charlie Morton
Unfortunately for Morton, his 2021 season ended in Game 1 of the World Series, when a comebacker off his right leg fractured his fibula. Still, the veteran played a huge role in Atlanta’s first title since 1995, an opportunity that opened up when the Rays declined his $15 million club option for 2021. The Braves quickly snatched him up for that same price, bringing Morton back to the organization that originally drafted him (third round, 2002) and called him up to the Majors (2008) before trading him to the Pirates in June 2009. The right-hander showed he still had plenty left in the tank at age 37, tying for the MLB lead in starts (33), while going 14-6 with a 3.34 ERA and 216 strikeouts -- production that was all the more important when Mike Soroka missed the entire season due to injury. This is Morton’s second appearance on this list in a five-year span (see below).
2020 Dodgers: Traded for RF Mookie Betts
If you can’t beat him, acquire him. So it went for the Dodgers, who fell to Betts’ Red Sox in the 2018 World Series -- one of seven straight seasons in which L.A. fell short of a championship after winning the National League West. When Betts became available heading into his final season before free agency, the Dodgers pounced. It took some time, including a three-way deal with the Twins that fell through, but Betts finally wound up in Dodger Blue in February 2020, in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo and two prospects. He quickly signed a 12-year extension to stay in L.A. through 2032, then finished as the NL MVP runner-up while leading the Dodgers to their long-awaited first title since 1988.
2019 Nationals: Signed LHP Patrick Corbin
Many times, teams use free agency to address a weakness. But sometimes, fortifying a strength works just as well. Washington already had a Big Two of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg when it landed Corbin with a six-year, $140 million deal coming off the southpaw’s breakout 2018 in Arizona. Corbin carried that success to D.C., posting a 3.25 ERA in more than 200 innings. His three scoreless relief innings in Game 7 of the World Series made him the winning pitcher in a championship clincher.
2018 Red Sox: Signed DH/OF J.D. Martinez
After finally signing a five-year, $110 million contract in late February, Martinez slashed .330/.402/.629 with 43 homers and 130 RBIs -- good enough to win Silver Slugger Awards at both of his positions in the same year. He kept right on raking in October (.923 OPS, 14 RBIs in 14 games) as the Sox cruised to their fourth championship in 15 years.
2017 Astros: Signed RHP Charlie Morton
Houston exploded out of its deep rebuild in 2015 and by the 2016-17 offseason was looking to put the finishing touches on a championship club. In came catcher Brian McCann, right fielder Josh Reddick and DH Carlos Beltrán. But Morton made the biggest impact, not only during a breakout regular season (3.62 ERA in 25 starts) but also in the postseason. Signed for only $14 million to a two-year deal after missing most of 2016 due to injury, Morton won Game 7 in both the American League Championship Series (with a five-inning start) and the World Series (with a game-ending, four-inning relief outing).
2016 Cubs: Signed 2B/OF Ben Zobrist
Coming off a breakout 2015 playoff run, Chicago signed starter John Lackey and right fielder Jason Heyward away from the rival Cardinals and ultimately re-signed center fielder Dexter Fowler as well. They also landed Zobrist, who got a four-year, $56 million contract to bring his versatility and on-base skills to Wrigley Field. Zobrist capped a successful year by taking World Series MVP honors, after hitting the go-ahead double in the 10th inning of Game 7.
2015 Royals: Signed RHP Edinson Vólquez
Kansas City didn’t sit on its heels after coming up just short in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. The roster saw a few key departures and several additions, including Vólquez, who signed a two-year, $20 million deal to replace James Shields. Vólquez would go on to reach the 200-inning mark in 2015 (3.55 ERA), and his quality starts in Games 1 and 5 of the World Series -- right after his father’s death -- helped K.C. win both contests (the latter of which clinched a championship).
2014 Giants: Signed RHP Tim Hudson
San Francisco was looking to supplement Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum as it sought a third straight even-year championship. So the club inked a two-year, $23 million deal with Hudson, who was heading into his age-38 season after a stellar, nine-year run in Atlanta. The righty responded with his fourth All-Star campaign, delivering a 3.57 ERA over 31 starts.
2013 Red Sox: Signed RF Shane Victorino
This was an extremely eventful offseason in Boston, with John Farrell replacing Bobby Valentine as manager after a last-place finish and then-GM Ben Cherington orchestrating a roster overhaul. (The Sox already had jettisoned Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez in a massive, money-saving deal with the Dodgers in August 2012). Sluggers Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes, shortstop Stephen Drew and closer Koji Uehara all were savvy additions, but none was bigger than Victorino. Signed for three years and $39 million, he responded with one of his best seasons, hitting .294/.351/.451 with 15 homers, 21 steals and 6 WAR, per Baseball-Reference.
2012 Giants: Traded for CF Ángel Pagán
San Francisco swung two trades for outfielders that offseason, landing Melky Cabrera from the Royals and Pagán from the Mets, the latter in exchange for fellow outfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez. Cabrera put up gaudy numbers (.346/.390/.516 in 113 games) but then was hit with a season-ending PED suspension. Meanwhile, Pagán became the Giants’ regular center fielder and leadoff hitter, enjoying a great all-around season that included 29 steals and an MLB-best 15 triples.
2011 Cardinals: Signed OF/1B Lance Berkman
St. Louis took a one-year, $8 million shot on the 35-year-old Berkman bouncing back from a disappointing 2010 season. It couldn’t have gone much better. The six-time All-Star slashed .301/.412/.547 with 31 homers and 94 RBIs, then posted a 1.093 OPS in the World Series, including a game-tying hit in the 10th inning of Game 6.
2010 Giants: Signed 1B/OF Aubrey Huff
It wasn’t the most active offseason for the Giants. Righty Santiago Casilla became a key bullpen arm (1.95 ERA in 52 games) after signing a Minor League deal, but the biggest Hot Stove selection for the club was Huff. Signing for just $3 million after a down year in Baltimore and Detroit, the 33-year-old led San Francisco in OPS (.891), homers (26) and RBIs (86).
2009 Yankees: Signed LHP CC Sabathia and 1B Mark Teixeira
In 2008, the playoffs took place without the Yankees for the first time since 1993. (Oh, the horror!) This would not stand. In response, the Bombers dropped a combined $341 million on Sabathia and Teixeira, not to mention more than $80 million on righty A.J. Burnett. They also swung a trade with the White Sox for outfielder Nick Swisher. All four of those moves paid dividends in 2009, when Sabathia and Teixiera combined for more than 11 WAR, the former leading the AL in wins (19) and the latter in homers (39) and RBIs (122).
2008 Phillies: Traded for RHP Brad Lidge
The year before, Philly had won 89 games and its division but without a great solution at the back of the bullpen. So the club sent outfielder Michael Bourn and two other players to Houston for Lidge and infielder Eric Bruntlett. Lidge hadn’t been great from 2006-07, but he recaptured his peak form in ‘08 with a 1.95 ERA, 41 saves and 92 strikeouts. He then put together a scoreless postseason, saving seven of the Phillies’ 11 wins.
2007 Red Sox: Signed RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka
There was a frenzy for Matsuzaka’s services when Japan’s Seibu Lions posted the 26-year-old sensation, and Boston spent more than $100 million combined to win that bidding and then work out a six-year contract. While the righty’s MLB career ultimately went awry, he was quite solid in 2007, giving the Sox more than 200 above-average innings (108 ERA+) and notching wins in Game 7 of the ALCS and Game 3 of the World Series.
2006 Cardinals: Signed INF/OF Scott Spiezio
The 2005-06 offseason was more notable for the players the Cardinals lost from the previous season’s 100-win club than for those they acquired. The most productive of the latter group was Spiezio, a 33-year-old who signed a Minor League deal in February 2006 after going 3-for-47 for Seattle in ‘05. Out of nowhere, Spiezio enjoyed a career year in a part-time role (.862 OPS) and came up with a huge, clutch triple in the NLCS against the Mets.
2005 White Sox: Signed RF Jermaine Dye
The White Sox got a significant makeover heading into manager Ozzie Guillén’s second year at the helm. GM Ken Williams acquired four starting position players (Dye, Tadahito Iguchi, A.J. Pierzynski, Scott Podsednik) and three key relievers (Dustin Hermanson, Bobby Jenks, Luis Vizcaíno), in addition to starting pitcher Orlando Hernández. All contributed, with Dye swatting 31 homers and earning World Series MVP honors by batting .438/.526/.688 in a sweep of Houston.
2004 Red Sox: Traded for RHP Curt Schilling
In 2001, Schilling had teamed with Randy Johnson to bring a title to Arizona. Two years later, Boston paired him with Pedro Martinez, acquiring him from the D-backs in exchange for four players. Once again, bringing together two superstar veteran pitchers worked wonders. For his part, Schilling went 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA while tossing 226 2/3 innings, then bolstered his postseason legend.
2003 Marlins: Signed C Ivan Rodriguez
Trades for center-field sparkplug Juan Pierre and lefty Mark Redman also worked out, but signing Pudge to a one-year, $10 million deal in late January was the icing on the cake. Despite questions about his health -- he’d missed time with a back injury in 2002 -- Rodriguez went on to start 134 games behind the plate and post an .843 OPS while guiding a talented young pitching staff. His 10 RBIs against the Cubs helped net him NLCS MVP honors.
2002 Angels: Traded for DH Brad Fullmer
The Halos’ improvement from 75 to 99 wins was driven more by a homegrown core than outside help, although veteran pitchers Kevin Appier (acquired from the Mets for Mo Vaughn) and Aaron Sele (signed) provided 58 combined starts. The highlight was probably Fullmer, who came over in a small deal from Toronto and hit .289/.357/.531 with 19 homers, then stole home -- as part of a double steal -- in the World Series.
2001 D-backs: Signed RF Reggie Sanders
Arizona already had a talented, veteran-laden team in place heading into 2001 and then bolstered it by bringing in the 33-year-old Sanders and 37-year-old first baseman Mark Grace. Both hit well. Sanders -- coming off the worst season of his career -- slugged .549 and bashed a career-high 33 home runs in just 126 games.
2000 Yankees: Re-signed LHP Mike Stanton
The Yankees already had won two consecutive championships and three of the past four, so it’s not as if the roster required major reinforcements. (Stanton, a reliever, had been with the team since 1997). Instead, the Yanks’ biggest splash would be a midseason trade for Cleveland’s David Justice, who went on to hit 20 homers in just 78 games.
1999 Yankees: Traded for RHP Roger Clemens
The 1998 Yankees had won 114 games before cruising on a championship run that included a World Series sweep of the Padres. Not content to stand pat, they swung a February trade for the Rocket, who had just won back-to-back AL Cy Young Awards with the Blue Jays, prompting owner George Steinbrenner to say, “You can equate this with getting a Michael Jordan.” The 36-year-old Clemens actually took a big step back in 1999, with just a 4.60 ERA (102 ERA+), but he was brilliant in a pair of postseason victories.
1998 Yankees: Traded for 3B Scott Brosius
There were plenty of moves made after New York lost in the 1997 ALDS, including trading for four-time All-Star second baseman Chuck Knoblauch and signing pitcher Orlando “El Duque” Hernández following his defection from Cuba. But the move that made the biggest impact on the team in ‘98 was the Yankees dumping underachieving pitcher Kenny Rogers (and eating $5 million of his remaining salary) in exchange for Brosius, who the year before had posted a .576 OPS for Oakland. Brosius responded by making his only All-Star team, driving in 98 runs with an .843 OPS, and best of all, earning World Series MVP honors.
1997 Marlins: Signed OF Moises Alou
The Marlins went on a shopping spree that also included free agents Alex Fernandez (17-12, 3.59 ERA) and Bobby Bonilla (.846 OPS, 96 RBIs). Then there was Alou, who inked a five-year, $25 million contract and put together an All-Star season that included 115 RBIs and a huge World Series performance (1.101 OPS, three homers, nine RBIs).
1996 Yankees: Traded for 1B Tino Martinez
This was the beginning of a dynasty driven in part by a homegrown core but also supplemented liberally with outside help. Among the additions for 1996: catcher Joe Girardi, second baseman Mariano Duncan, outfielder Tim Raines and starters Kenny Rogers and Dwight Gooden. The biggest acquisition was Martinez, who came over from Seattle with pitchers Jim Mecir and Jeff Nelson to replace the retired Don Mattingly. Nelson was a key reliever in the Bronx, and Martinez collected 25 homers and 117 RBIs.
1995 Braves: Traded for OF Marquis Grissom
A key part of the 1994 Expos team whose title shot was erased by the strike, Grissom was shipped to Atlanta before the delayed start to the ‘95 season. While he had a down year offensively, Grissom still stole 29 bases, won a Gold Glove Award in center field and got red-hot in the postseason (1.012 OPS).