It was an offseason to remember. Things got pretty nasty — there was this whole lockout thing. The ghost runner is back. People got mad at Max Scherzer for driving a Porsche. Rob Manfred practiced his golf swing. The Rays wanted to share their team with Montreal. Really, it was just a whole big thing.
But, thankfully, mercifully, Major League Baseball is just about back, with Opening Day scheduled for April 7.
Here’s how every MLB team graded out for their moves this offseason, sorted in alphabetical order.
MLB offseason grades
Key departures: P Dylan Bundy (free agent); P Alex Cobb (free agent)
Key acquisitions: P Noah Syndergaard (signed), RP Raisel Iglesias (re-signed), RP Aaron Loup (signed)
To shore up their rotation, the Angels signed Noah Syndergaard to a one-year, $21 million contract. There’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal, but Syndergaard has pitched just two innings over the past two years. They whiffed on Max Scherzer, despite being in the market, and somewhat confusingly let Alex Cobb walk for just two years and $20 million.
The Angels also made upgrades to their bullpen, bringing in Archie Bradley and left hander Aaron Loup to strengthen the ranks. They also made good to re-sign closer Raisel Iglesias after the season.
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In all, it was a relatively quiet, un-sexy offseason for the Angels, considering that they didn’t have a whole lot of moves to make. They have a ton of money wrapped up in the lineup, though their search for a top-of-the-rotation starter continues for at least another season.
Key departures: SS Carlos Correa (free agent)
Key acquisitions: RP Hector Neris (signed); P Justin Verlander (re-signed)
Even without Carlos Correa, the Astros will still be good. After all, they did just make it to the World Series, and largely have the same roster as they did last year.
Losing Kendall Graveman in free agency will hurt, but the Astros moved quickly for Hector Neris on a two-year deal before the lockout to help in the bullpen. They didn’t do much to pursue any other high-priced free agents, either, which is equal parts confusing and frustrating to watch.
The ‘Stros have a top-heavy lineup and could use some outfield help in a big way, but they’re still about in line with the firepower that the rest of the AL West has to offer.
Athletics: R, for ‘Rebuild’
Key departures: 1B Matt Olson (traded); 3B Matt Chapman (traded)
Key acquisitions: OF Billy McKinney (the prodigal son has returned)
This latest era of the Athletics baseball is going to be remembered fondly as the Little Engine Who Couldn’t Quite, which is a lot like, well, almost every other era of Athletics baseball since the turn of the century.
In the words of Tobias Funke, “Oh my God, it’s a fire … sale!” The Athletics made some of the loudest moves after the restart of baseball in March, trading Matt Olson to the Braves, Matt Chapman to the Blue Jays and generally kickstarting another down period before entering another boom period. Lather, rinse, repeat.
With more moves potentially on the horizon for the A’s, including rumored trades of Frankie Montas or Sean Manaea, the slow dagger isn’t quite done turning in the chests of fans.
What’s next? Moving to Las Vegas?
Blue Jays: A-
Key departures: OF Randal Grichuk (traded)
Key acquisitions: 3B Matt Chapman (trade); P Kevin Gausman (signed)
The Blue Jays are juuuust about ready to compete for a World Series now, and they’re not necessarily being shy about it.
Following up on their mid-2021 deal bringing in José Berrios, the Blue Jays are banking on Kevin Gausman’s last two years in San Francisco not being smoke and mirrors, signing him to a five-year deal worth $110 million this offseason.
The lineup isn’t the issue (5.22 runs per game in 2021 ranked third in MLB), but the consistency of it. If their strong 22-9 finish over September and October was an indication of what’s to come, then the Jays could be in line for their first AL East crown since 2015.
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Key departures: 1B Freddie Freeman (free agent); OF Jorgé Soler (free agent); Joc Pederson (free agent)
Key acquisitions: 1B Matt Olson (trade); OF Eddie Rosario (signed); RP Kenley Jansen (signed)
The Braves apparently didn’t have much interest in keeping the band together, but they still made savvy moves to mitigate the departure of Freddie Freeman and strengthen the team elsewhere.
Trading for Matt Olson, who is younger, cheaper and entering the prime of his career, was a great Plan B to retaining Freeman. Also, adding Kenley Jensen to the bullpen on a one-year deal was a smart move, even if Jansen doesn’t miss bats like he used to.
In all, it wasn’t an overly sexy offseason for the Braves, but an effective one as they look to defend their World Series crown.
Key departures: OF Avisail Garcia (free agent); OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (traded)
Key acquisitions: OF Hunter Renfroe (trade)
The Brewers had a relatively quiet offseason: They moved Jackie Bradley Jr. after a tremendously disappointing first (and last) season in Milwaukee, shipping him up (or back) to Boston for Hunter Renfroe.
With an infield that features Luis Urias, Willy Adames, Keston Hiura, Rowdy Tellez and Kolten Wong, the Brewers should be able to hit a little bit. “Should” is the operating term.
The biggest question will be at first base: Will the Brewers stick with Tellez or Hiura, or maybe both? Hiura hasn’t particularly hit since his first season in the majors, but his newfound defensive flexibility will only add value to the Brewers lineup, if he can stick elsewhere.
Key departures: P JA Happ (free agent); RP Andrew Miller (retired)
Key acquisitions: 1B/DH Albert Pujols (signed); OF Corey Dickerson (signed); P Steven Matz (signed)
Devil Magic won’t work with Jack Flaherty out to start the season. Same with Alex Reyes (labrum issue). And even though the NL Central isn’t much improving around St. Louis, the Cards still didn’t do enough to fix their rotation, which has had its share of injury issues in years past.
The Cardinals still have a pretty good lineup, and the addition of the perpetually underrated Corey Dickerson should help lengthen it a bit. But no one will mistake them for world beaters this year (unless someone is sacrificing chickens in the underbelly of Busch Stadium).
Key departures: C Robinson Chirinos (free agent)
Key acquisitions: P Marcus Stroman (signed); OF Seiya Suzuki (signed)
The Cubs have been one of the more confusing teams in baseball for a few years. The dynasty that was promised turned out to be a one-year wonder, and now Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez and Kris Bryant have all moved on to greener pastures.
But what seemed to be a total teardown is not, and the Cubs reloaded with some money this offseason. They signed Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki to a five-year, $85 million deal, while also inking Marcus Stroman to a three-year, $71 million pact.
Still, it seems weird for the Cubs to not have made a bigger, better effort at signing their own stars that were grown and groomed and won a World Series.
The Cubs’ most interesting player is 30-year-old Frank Schwindel, who will be Chicago’s Opening Day first baseman after being claimed off waivers from the Athletics in 2021. He slashed .342/.389/.613 for Chicago over 222 at-bats last season, with 13 home runs, too.
These might not be your juggernaut Cubbies of yesteryear, but they may be just good enough to make noise in a stalling NL Central thanks to their depth additions.
Key departures: OF Kole Calhoun (free agent)
Key acquisitions: P Zach Davies (signed); RP Mark Melancon (signed)
If the Diamondbacks have a good player, you can bet your butt that they’ll find a way to trade him, as has been the case for a long time now in Arizona.
Well, something’s certainly changed a bit: They’re keeping a star player around instead, locking up Ketel Marte to a five-year, $76 million extension prior to the start of the season.
Maybe the biggest acquisition for the D-backs was the hiring of former Astros pitching coach Brent Strom. Strom has developed a very good reputation, largely thanks to the work he did during his tenure in Houston.
Key departures: SS Corey Seager (free agent); P Max Scherzer (free agent); RP Kenley Jensen (free agent)
Key acquisitions: 1B Freddie Freeman (signed); P Andrew Heaney (signed)
There’s something admirable about the Dodgers: Despite spending through the roof, despite winning a World Series, despite losing to the Braves in the NLCS, they Just. Don’t. Stop.
While Los Angeles could have thrown its collective hands up after the departure of Corey Seager or Max Scherzer, they didn’t. They signed Freddie Freeman, further lengthening the NL’s best lineup, which already pairs with their deep, deep bench and farm system.
Big market, big-spending teams that act like big market, big-spending teams will always get a high grade, especially big market, big-spending teams in an already tough division.
Key departures: OF Alex Dickerson (released)
Key acquisitions: OF Joc Pederson (signed); P Carlos Rodon (signed); P Alex Cobb (signed)
It’s difficult to see a world in which the Giants somehow replicate the success they had last year, but they made a few smart signings to help.
Joc Pederson will add some more pop to a lineup that was one of, if not the, best in the Senior Circuit last year. Adding Carlos Rodon to try to alleviate the departure of Kevin Gausman this offseason was an under-the-radar move for San Francisco — as long as Rodon doesn’t turn back into a pumpkin after a stellar 2021.
Guardians: F, but really, should be worse than that
Key departures: C Roberto Perez (released)
Key acquisitions: RP Bryan Shaw (signed), C Luke Maile (signed) … uh … a new name?
The Guardians seem about as willing to compete as Bruce Wayne is willing to go to therapy in “The Batman.”
Make no mistake, though: Gotham’s guardian is better than Cleveland’s Guardians, who have one of the league’s lowest payrolls — not always an indicator of success, of course, but a general sign of effort in trying to compete. Their two major acquisitions this offseason are a new team name and Bryan Shaw.
The team isn’t done disappointing, either, with infielder José Ramirez reportedly on the trade block.
Sorry, Guardians fans. Hey, at least you have Shane Bieber (for now).
Key departures: 3B Kyle Seager (retired)
Key acquisitions: P Robbie Ray (signed); OF Jesse Winker (trade); 3B Eugenio Suarez (trade); 2B Adam Frazier (trade)
It feels like Seattle’s days of wheeling and dealing under Jerry Dipoto are starting to slow just a bit, and the final picture is, finally, clearing just a bit.
Dipoto has constantly churned the roster since getting the job in 2015, and it resulted in one of the offseason’s biggest trades, with the Mariners acquiring Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez from the Reds. Suarez hasn’t been very good in the past two years, but at $11 million a season it’s worth finding out whether he just needed a change of scenery to start hitting again.
The AL West is figuring to be one of the more competitive divisions in baseball (and the A’s), and the M’s did enough this offseason to keep themselves in the mix for a division run.
Also, it certainly helps to sign a reigning Cy Young winner.
Key departures: SS/executive Derek Jeter (resigned)
Key acquisitions: IF Joey Wendle (signed); OF Jorgé Soler (signed); OF Avisail Garcia (signed); C Jacob Stallings (trade)
On one hand, it’s a good thing that the biggest departure of the offseason was Derek Jeter. On the other hand, when the biggest departure is an executive who only wants to win and spend more cash, then it’s not the best look for the franchise.
The Marlins still could be feisty, especially with the additions of Joey Wendle, Avisail Garcia and Jorgé Soler. If they hit, they’ll help support a staff that posted a sub-4.00 ERA last year. Jacob Stallings, one of the game’s best defensive catchers who the Marlins acquired in a trade, could help lower that number.
Key departures: OF Michael Conforto (free agent)
Key acquisitions: P Max Scherzer (signed), OF Starling Marte (signed); OF Mark Canha (signed); IF Eduardo Escobar (signed)
Spend Uncle Steve’s money. The Mets made smart, savvy moves this offseason to help a readymade core of young players, which is very un-Mets-like.
Unlike the days of Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets didn’t seem overly concerned with making a massive splash trade. Instead, they opened up the checkbook for Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar. All of the deals were smart, and only cost cash, no prospects. (Mets fans, it’s time to let go of Jarred Kelenic.)
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Arguably the best addition the Mets made is the one they had no control over: With the DH coming to the NL, they no longer have to worry about how to get consistent at-bats for Dom Smith and Pete Alonso, clearing up a bit of a logjam of hitters. That should bode very well for their lineup in, what should be, a really good season in Flushing.
Key departures: OF/1B/DH Kyle Schwarber (free agent); Ryan Zimmerman (retired)
Key acquisitions: OF/DH Nelson Cruz (signed)
The Nationals let fans know on July 30 of last year that they were heading for a rebuild after shipping off Trea Turner and Max Scherzer to the Dodgers, and that mindset has stuck with them through the winter.
Even with the (eventual) return of Stephen Strasburg, Washington is going to go through a lean year or two as the farm system catches up.
Taking that into account, it’s nice to see that they made a move to keep Nelson Cruz around: The 41-year-old knocked 21 dingers last year, and if nothing else, he could be a viable trade chip if he hits through the first few months of the season.
Key departures: P Matt Harvey (free agent)
Key acquisitions: A new outfield wall?
So, when are the Orioles supposed to be, like, good?
The team had just one major league free agent last year, pitcher Matt Harvey, so it’s safe to say that they’re still trucking along on this rebuild path.
When push comes to shove, Baltimore should be doing right by its fans to at least spend a little money for more quality baseball after finishing in last place once again.
Yes, their farm system looks good. Yes, Adley Rutschman is going to be very, very good for a long time. But the Orioles have also lost more than 100 games in three of the past four full seasons. With the farm system in place and the prospect pool deep enough, they should sign some legit, proven MLB talent. Give fans something to look forward to aside from lotto tickets. Plainly: Do Something.
Unfortunately, that “something” may come in the form of a Trey Mancini trade. Enjoy the last few months of Boom Boom in an Orioles uniform while you can, Baltimore fans.
Key departures: RP Mark Melancon (free agent); OF Tommy Pham (free agent)
Key acquisitions: Manager Bob Melvin (hired); P Nick Martinez (signed); 1B/DH Luke Voit (signed)
The Jayce Tingler era didn’t exactly go as planned for the Dads, so they brought in Bob Melvin to help jut open their World Series window. Melvin has long been considered one of baseball’s best, so pairing him with an already excellent core of talent should prove to be beneficial for San Diego.
The Padres’ starting rotation could and should be better than what it put forth last year, especially in a cavernous ballpark. On name value alone, Blake Snell, Chris Paddack and Yu Darvish should be good: All three of those guys posted FIPs under 4.00 last year, so it wasn’t all bad.
Key departures: IF Brad Miller (free agent); RP Archie Bradley (free agent)
Key acquisitions: OF/DH Nick Castellanos (signed); 1B/DH Kyle Schwarber (signed)
Typically, we frown upon polluting, but watching Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, Alec Bohm and Rhys Hoskins launch baseballs into the Schuylkill River will be capital-F fun this year.
The Phillies will mash with the best of them, and hopefully the additions of Castellanos and Schwarber will lengthen the lineup and mash enough to hide some of their infamous bullpen misadventures. Corey Knebel could help remedy the back end, but it’s still not an overly strong unit.
Key departures: C Jacob Stallings (traded)
Key acquisitions: 1B/DH Daniel Vogelbach (signed); P José Quintana (signed)
It would be far too easy, accurate and appropriate to just type “Bob Nutting LOL” in this section and move on, as that would explain the Pirates of the past 20 years or so.
The Pirates are in a position similar as the Orioles: They’ve been bad for a while, their farm system could be good, but they just haven’t spent enough to bolster their major league roster.
In all, the Buccos could be good — in a few years. For now, it’s going to be another down year in a division that’s not great, but still has four better teams than them.
Key departures: SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa (trade); SP Jordan Lyles (free agent)
Key acquisitions: SS Corey Seager (signed); IF Marcus Semien (signed), C Mitch Garver (trade)
The Rangers made a pair of pre-lockout splashes in the free-agent pool: First, they signed Marcus Semien to a seven-year, $175 million deal. Soon after, they inked Corey Seager to a 10-year, $325 million deal, strengthening the middle of their infield for the foreseeable future.
The AL West is a tough division to figure altogether, but the Rangers will at least give themselves a puncher’s chance with their offensive additions. Simply put, you love to see it.
Key departures: IF Joey Wendle (free agent)
Key acquisitions: P Corey Kluber
It is going to be absolutely fascinating to watch Corey Kluber pitch for the Rays this year: Kluber threw a no-hitter for the Yankees in 2021, then missed the next three months with an injury.
It was shocking — albeit very nice — to see that the Rays were in the hunt for Freddie Freeman, but they kept the band together after a 100-win season and added a bit more to it, which is only a good thing.
Red Sox: B+
Key departures: RP Adam Ottavino (free agent);
Key acquisitions: SS Trevor Story (signed); OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (trade); RP Jake Diekman (signed); P James Paxton (signed)
The Red Sox didn’t just dip, but jumped into the free-agent pool to bring in Trevor Story after a few years of “Will they/Won’t they” spending habits and roster decisions, so it’s nice to see Boston behaving like Boston again.
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There’s very big, inherent risk in bringing in James Paxton and Michael Wacha to fill out their rotation — a rotation that’s already dealt with injury issues — but if health is all the same and Chris Sale’s eventual return proves him to still be, well, Chris Sale, then the Red Sox could be back in the AL East hunt. It was a sneaky good season for them in 2021, but a lot has to go right for them to reach those ALCS heights again.
Key departures: 3B Eugenio Suarez (traded); OF Jesse Winker (traded); OF Nick Castellanos (opted out)
Key acquisitions: OF Tommy Pham (signed); RP Hunter Strickland (signed)
Oh, the Reds.
Cincinnati was a sexy pick among many as an NL sleeper team in recent years, but now it just looks like they’re asleep at the wheel.
They traded off Sonny Gray, Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker this offseason as they half-commit to a rebuild. It’s fine if they want to keep Joey Votto around, but it feels like the Reds could have also done more to keep their window open and really compete in the NL Central.
Instead, the Reds parted with Winker, their best trade chip, in a salary dump with Suarez, and no one quite knows what they’re doing, as there’s a drive into deep left field by Castellanos and that’ll be a home run. And so that’ll make it a 4-0 ballgame.
Key departures: P Jon Gray (free agent); SS Trevor Story (free agent)
Key acquisitions: 3B Kris Bryant (signed); OF Randal Grichuk (trade)
What in the Purple Mountain’s Majesty are the Rockies doing?
It was just over a year ago when Colorado decided to trade Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals, this after giving him a massive contract extension that would have made him a Rockie for a very long time.
Then, they turn around and sign Bryant to a deal that pays him less, but they didn’t do much else to improve the roster.
The Rockies can’t decide whether they’re coming or going, but it was cool to see them give big money to Bryant. Even if it makes not a lot of sense.
Key departures: IF Hanser Alberto (released)
Key acquisitions: P Zack Greinke (signed); RP Amir Garrett (trade)
If nothing else, Amir Garrett is must-see TV any time he takes the mound. The Royals could use a jolt of energy as they wait for the arrival of wunderkind Bobby Witt and others from a rebuilt farm system.
Oh, and welcome back, Zack Greinke. Seems like a good fit for a team that’s just kind of treading water while the team tries to turn to the future in the next year or so.
Key departures: P Matthew Boyd (non-tendered)
Key acquisitions: IF Javy Baez (signed); P Eduardo Rodriguez (signed); C Tucker Barnhart (trade)
The Tigers could still be pretty bad this year, because their lineup isn’t particularly great. But it was nice to see the team open up the check book for a couple of good players in Javy Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez.
A lot of the Tigers’ rotation hopes land on the arm of Casey Mize, who had a decent first, full season as a starter in 2021. It’s nice to see the team trying to accelerate the clock a bit, though, signing Baez and acquiring Tucker Barnhart earlier in the offseason.
The AL Central is still a two-horse race at the top — between the White Sox and the Twins — but the Tigers should be able to pick on the Royals and the Guardians quite a bit this year, especially if their key acquisitions help.
Key departures: 3B Josh Donaldson (traded); C Mitch Garver (traded)
Key acquisitions: SS Carlos Correa (signed); P Sonny Gray (trade); C Gary Sanchez
Break up the Twins?
Minnesota got out from underneath the Josh Donaldson contract, something it flirted with around the trade deadline last year, while also adding Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela in the same deal. Then, they shocked the baseball world by entering — and winning — the Carlos Correa sweepstakes with a smart deal for both the player and the team.
The Dylan Bundy signing is also particularly intriguing: Should Bundy get back to his 2020 ascending self and not his 2021 injury-riddled self, then the Twins may have gotten a sneaky steal on the free-agent market.
In all, it was, quietly, a very smart and effective offseason for the Twins.
White Sox: B
Key departures: P Carlos Rodon (free agent)
Key acquisitions: RP Kendall Graveman (signed); RP Vince Velasquez (signed); IF Josh Harrison (signed)
The Sox made moves to shore up the bullpen, and in a division that didn’t drastically improve around them, they did a neat enough job fixing that up, at least on paper.
If the White Sox compete — which they will, especially so with the expanded postseason picture — then lineup options will come available via trade during the season. Or, they could pony up some cash and sign Michael Conforto now, because it’d be a great fit for both sides.
Key departures: C Gary Sanchez (trade); 3B Gio Urshela (trade)
Key acquisitions: 3B Josh Donaldson (trade); IF Isiah Kiner-Falefa (trade); UT Marwin Gonzalez (signed)
As Albert Einstein famously said: The definition of insanity is the Yankees running back largely the same team over and over again and expecting different results.
The Yankees have a tendency of doing this interesting thing where they come up short of their ultimate goal (winning a World Series) and decide to double down on the strategy rather than try to retool.
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While the Donaldson addition might add some pop to the lineup, there are some questions about his age and durability. On paper, the trade could help, but it feels more like a lateral move than a championship-winning one.
In all, the Yankees should expect more of the same: Defensively, they should be a bit better, their lineup should be about the same, and their rotation and bullpen will remain status quo, as well. It’s Groundhog Day — again.