UPDATE (Dec. 21, 2022, 9:16 a.m.): As it turned out, the Mets were even bigger winners than we thought. In addition to all of the moves detailed below, it was reported early Wednesday morning that Carlos Correa would not be heading to the San Francisco Giants after all, instead signing with the New York Mets on a 12-year, $315 million contract.
Remember when baseball’s hot-stove season was ice cold? Well, if the free agents of a few years ago had trouble getting big contracts, this offseason’s crop has had no such worries.
So far, we’ve seen five deals of eight years or longer be signed, along with three deals of at least $300 million in total money and two deals with at least $40 million in average annual value. During the winter meetings alone, MLB teams made over $2 billion in commitments to free agents. It’s been an eclectic mix of players getting major paydays, from 39-year-old pitchers (Justin Verlander) to young shortstops entering their primes (Carlos Correa). In short, it’s been a spending bonanza like we haven’t seen before.
At this point, every marquee name is off the board (with freshly signed Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson being the last major domino to fall). And while there are plenty of players still looking for jobs, it appears that, for teams who consider themselves playoff contenders at least, rosters have mostly taken shape. With all of that out of the way, it’s not too early to think about this offseason’s winners and losers, broken into a few handy categories.
Biggest winner: New York Mets
When billionaire Steve Cohen took over the Mets, he made headlines not just because he was unusually open about wanting to spend money to make the team better, but also because of his willingness to engage with fans on social media. Whatever your critiques of Cohen may be, he has literally put his money where his mouth is this year, bringing in the aforementioned Verlander to replace Jacob deGrom while re-signing both closer Edwin Díaz (who inked a record-setting contract) and center fielder Brandon Nimmo. Other notable veteran signings included pitchers David Robertson and Jose Quintana. But perhaps the most interesting move was bringing in Japanese ace Kodai Senga, who possesses a skill set that pundits agree should translate well stateside. All told, the Mets committed more dollars of 2023 payroll to this free agent class than any team, according to Spotrac.
Under-the-radar winner: Toronto Blue Jays
Sometimes, having a great offseason doesn’t need to involve signing a free agent to a megadeal or making a blockbuster trade. Sometimes, an organization looks at its needs and addresses them by bringing in the players who just … fit those roles. The Blue Jays ranked 22nd in baseball in center field defense last season with minus-5 defensive runs saved, and by bringing in Kevin Kiermaier on a one-year deal, they’ve not only solidified that position for 2023, they’ve brought in perhaps the best outfield defender of his generation. Since his first full season in 2014, Kiermaier leads all outfielders in DRS, despite spending significant time on the injured list. Meanwhile, the Jays also brought in starter Chris Bassitt to shore up the middle of their rotation. Bassitt has been one of the more underrated starters in baseball, as he’s pitched to a stellar 3.31 ERA over the past four seasons. He’ll slot behind co-aces Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah to give the team quality innings every fifth day.
Most interesting offseason: Chicago Cubs
Though the Cubs won only 74 games in 2022, they must feel like they are close to contention considering how active they’ve been this offseason. It certainly helps that the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers — the two teams ahead of Chicago in the NL Central standings last season — have been relatively inactive, save for each bringing in a Contreras brother at catcher. But the North Siders have made quite a few splashes, including signing Swanson to a seven-year deal, bringing in veteran starter Jameson Taillon for four years, and taking a flier on former MVP Cody Bellinger, who became one of this offseason’s more intriguing free agent options after getting non-tendered by the Los Angeles Dodgers. This compounds on last year’s active offseason, in which they brought in starter Marcus Stroman and Japanese slugger Seiya Suzuki — both of whom had solid seasons.
Strangest offseason: Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have been no strangers to spending big in past offseasons, but it has been a while since one of those deals has worked in their favor. In addition, they’ve had a hard time building and developing a competitive team around arguably the sport’s two best players, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. This offseason, they may be going a different route by bringing in a cornucopia of dependable-if-unspectacular major league veterans, including trading for Gio Urshela and Hunter Renfroe and signing Tyler Anderson and Carlos Estévez. With Ohtani’s free agency looming after the 2023 season, it’s definitely an interesting strategy — and so long as everyone can stay on the field, it might just work.
Biggest loser: Boston Red Sox
The Chaim Bloom era of the Red Sox has, to put it gently, gotten off to a rocky start. Things began to go off the rails when the team traded Mookie Betts, its franchise player at the time, to the Dodgers in 2020. More recently, the Sox let star shortstop Xander Bogaerts walk to the San Diego Padres in free agency this offseason. To be fair, the team did have one winning season (which included an ALCS berth) since Betts’s departure, but it also has had two last-place finishes, including one this past season. And while the Red Sox have made some legitimate moves to augment the roster, such as adding Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida, veteran closer Kenley Jansen and the newly minted signing of Justin Turner, even those moves haven’t been without their critics. As productive as they still may be, Jansen and Turner are well past their primes, and some pundits saw the contract of Yoshida as a massive overpay.
The disappointment about Boston’s offseason has been twofold: The Sox both lost Bogaerts for nothing, and seemingly came up just short in talks with other top free agents. To make matters even worse, the team designated both Eric Hosmer and Jeter Downs (who was part of the return in the Betts trade) for assignment, meaning they’ve been bumped from the 40-man roster. For a franchise that long ago shed its long-held reputation for losing, the Red Sox and their fans are not accustomed to these types of missteps.
Of course, these are not the only winners, losers and offseasons of interest. The defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies have done well to improve on the defensive side by bringing in shortstop Trea Turner. The San Francisco Giants have been active as well, pivoting to Carlos Correa after coming in second in the Aaron Judge sweepstakes, while also adding starter and outfield depth. Speaking of Judge, the New York Yankees did the thing they needed to do by bringing back 2022’s most valuable player (not just talking about the award), along with signing Carlos Rodón, who one could argue was the best starting pitcher available.
On the other side of the coin, the Dodgers have only managed to bring in Noah Syndergaard and J.D. Martinez, while re-signing Clayton Kershaw. And the Oakland A’s, who are clearly in a rebuild, received a head-scratchingly underwhelming return for catcher Sean Murphy, one of the best and youngest available players at his position. All of this sets the stage for what should be another fascinating season in MLB next year — one that will look very different from 2022, with so many new faces in new places.