Projecting Offseason Plans for MLB Teams Already out of 2022 Playoff Hunt
With MLB's 2022 trade deadline behind us, teams with no hope of making the playoffs should already be thinking about how they will approach the upcoming offseason.
Ten clubs entered play Saturday more than 10 games out of their respective wild-card races. There is very much an argument to be made that both the Marlins (10 GB) and Rangers (9.5 GB) are also out of the postseason hunt, but they didn't quite qualify.
For each of these 10 teams, we'll look back at every trade they made before the deadline—and discuss whether those moves/non-moves were beneficial—before speculating on their primary offseason goals.
1. David Peralta to Rays for Christian Cerda
2. Luke Weaver to Royals for Emmanuel Rivera
Trade Grade: B
In a perfect world, the Arizona Diamondbacks would have convinced someone to take Madison Bumgarner's eyesore of a contract off their hands. But short of that unlikely lifeline, the goal was getting something in return for impending free agent David Peralta, which they did.
Granted, what they got was a 19-year-old catcher who is still playing Rookie ball, but if Christian Cerda ever amounts to anything, it will have been worth it. Even if he doesn't, hey, Arizona saved almost $3 million by trading Peralta.
First, the Diamondbacks need to decide if they're ready to ride with Corbin Carroll in 2023. Widely regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball, the almost 22-year-old outfielder has 20 home runs, 26 stolen bases and a 1.047 OPS in 76 minor league games this season. And if he is ready for the bigs, the D-Backs could have a sneaky great outfield trio in Carroll, Daulton Varsho and Alek Thomas.
Beyond that, adding at least one more starting pitcher would be swell.
Arizona has a respectable top three in Merrill Kelly, Zac Gallen and Bumgarner—at least the team needs to hope Bumgarner can give it top-60 percent-of-the-rotation production for as much as he's getting paid (average of $18.5 million over the next two years)—but things get ugly in a hurry after that.
It doesn't need to be a big splash, either. Getting two of the presumably inexpensive Jose Quintana, Chad Kuhl, Vincent Velasquez and Ross Stripling would at least make Arizona intriguing heading into 2023.
1. Chris Martin to Dodgers for Zach McKinstry
2. Dixon Machado to Giants for Raynel Espinal
3. David Robertson to Phillies for Ben Brown
4. Scott Effross to Yankees for Hayden Wesneski
5. Mychal Givens to Mets for Saul Gonzalez
Trade Grade: D-
Not only did the Chicago Cubs fail to trade one of the best two-month rentals on the market (three-time All-Star Willson Contreras), but their return for one of the best closers on the market (David Robertson) was merely one high-A starting pitcher whom MLB.com doesn't even rank top-10 in his new farm system.
That isn't to say they should have gotten for Contreras and Robertson what the Nationals got for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, but it was baffling to see one of those players not traded and the other traded for little.
We didn't expect this to be part of Chicago's offseason checklist, but re-signing Contreras is clearly No. 1 on the docket now. What exactly that will cost is unclear, but at $9.625 million, he already has the fifth-highest salary among catchers in 2022.
I would guess they're looking at something in the four-year, $50 million range; perhaps more. That's steep, but the Cubs can surely afford it, and it's better than letting him walk for a compensatory draft pick.
The next step is extending Ian Happ. The 2015 first-round pick hasn't been homering like we've seen in years past (24 as a rookie in 2017; 25 last year; nine this season), but he is having the best all-around campaign of his career, and it's not even close. There was a lot of speculation that he might be on the move before the deadline, but the Cubs may want Happ—arbitration-eligible in 2023—for the long haul.
And then restock the bullpen. The Cubs only traded four MLB players at the deadline, but all four ranked top-five on the team in relief appearances. Spend the next two months giving Rowan Wick, Brandon Hughes and Michael Rucker a chance to prove they deserve a spot in the 2023 bullpen, but also plan on spending a fair amount of money to add a couple of established late-inning arms.
1. Luis Castillo to the Mariners for Noelvi Marte, Levi Stoudt, Edwin Arroyo and Andrew Moore
2. Tyler Naquin and Phillip Diehl to the Mets for Jose Acuna and Hector Rodriguez
3. Tommy Pham to the Red Sox for player to be named later
4. Tyler Mahle to the Twins for Spencer Steer, Steven Hajjar and Christian Encarnacion-Strand
5. Brandon Drury to the Padres for Victor Acosta
6. Cash to the Cardinals for Austin Romine
Trade Grade: A-
The Cincinnati Reds figured to be one of the biggest wheelers and dealers at the deadline, and they did not disappoint. In exchange for five major leaguers—three impending free agents and two pitchers with one year of team control remaining—the Reds added prospect Nos. 1, 6, 7, 16, 17, 18 and 30 in their current farm system rankings.
They weren't able to dump impending free agents Donovan Solano, Hunter Strickland or Mike Minor, but it was a doggone successful fire sale.
In trading both Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle with a year of team control remaining, the Reds basically threw in the towel on 2023 as well.
And you know what? It's hard to blame them. They have a mighty intriguing 25-and-under nucleus in Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Tyler Stephenson, Alexis Diaz and Jonathan India, but they have so many holes to fill and still owe Joey Votto and Mike Moustakas a combined $43 million next season.
Those veterans also each have a $20 million team option for 2024, but it'll cost a combined $11 million to buy them out. That makes 2024 the time for this club to make a spirited push for the playoffs.
As far as upcoming offseason/2023 season goals are concerned, the team should try to find a long-term solution at closer (Strickland isn't it) and add at least one legitimate threat in the outfield via free agency. Because with Pham and Naquin both out of the picture and nary a top-20-in-this-farm-system prospect who both plays outfield and is likely to reach the big leagues in the next two years, corner outfield is a clear position of need in Cincinnati.
Trade Grade: C
It is what it is. Re-signing closer Daniel Bard to a two-year, $19 million deal last week was a bold move. Once that happened, though, the Colorado Rockies didn't have much to offer. They probably could have gotten something for Jose Iglesias' .300+ batting average or Alex Colome's long history as a solid reliever, but they opted to do nothing.
Beg and plead with Charlie Blackmon to decline his $18.3 million player option for 2023?
If and when Blackmon inevitably exercises that option, the Rockies will be on the hook for more salary in 2023 than they were in 2022. Kris Bryant, Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, Ryan McMahon, Daniel Bard and Elias Diaz are each getting pay bumps in the combined amount of $29.1 million.
Plus, 2023 is when they owe Nolan Arenado that balloon payment of $21 million—compared to $5.57 million this year and $5 million in each of 2024 and 2025.
Per Cot's Baseball Contracts, in the past two decades, the Rockies have neither started nor finished a season with a top-10 payroll. Either that's going to change or they're doing a whole heck of a lot of nothing this offseason with the hope of making their Bryant-led push to the playoffs in 2024 when they start to get some wiggle room in the budget.
The hidden third option in that either/or is making a few salary-shedding trades during the winter meetings. If they shop C.J. Cron ($7.25 million in 2023; free agent the following winter), perhaps they could package him with a less desirable contract (Antonio Senzatela?) to free up some space for other acquisitions.
But as things stand, they're not in a great spot.
1. Robbie Grossman to Braves for Kris Anglin
2. Michael Fulmer to Twins for Sawyer Gipson
Trade Grade: D+
Similar to the Rockies, the Detroit Tigers didn't have much to offer. Frankly, it's a miracle they got anything for Robbie Grossman, who was batting .205 and slugging .282 before the Braves decided he was worth a shot in their quest to replace Adam Duvall, who's out for the year after wrist surgery.
It's surprising they didn't move Andrew Chafin, though. If he stays healthy, he'll almost certainly decline his $7 million player option for next season, and he easily would have been the best left-handed reliever on the move.
The Astros trading for Will Smith, who had a 4.38 ERA in Atlanta, and the White Sox trading for Jake Diekman, who posted a 4.23 ERA in Boston, tells you how depleted the lefty reliever market was this year.
One more year.
Only one more year of paying Miguel Cabrera $32 million per season before the Tigers can finally reallocate those funds to players who have been worth more than negative-1.6 Baseball Reference WAR dating back to the start of 2017.
That said, Detroit is in a weird spot after next season. Its only 2024 salaries on the books are $25 million to Javier Baez and $18 million to Eduardo Rodriguez, both of which are player options.
They're hitting the reset button after Cabrera's contract is up, but the Tigers might really be mashing that button if Baez and Rodriguez both excel in 2023 and decline those options in pursuit of better deals elsewhere. At least to some extent, they need to plan accordingly. And with only one top-100 prospect (RHP Jackson Jobe, No. 22) in their farm system, that's going to be tough.
With any luck, though, Rodriguez and Austin Meadows will be healthy, Spencer Torkelson will start actually hitting like the highly touted prospect that he was, they'll add a respectable free agent starting pitcher (or two) to pair with Tarik Skubal and they'll at least flirt with a .500 record, a mark they haven't reached since 2016.
Kansas City Royals
1. Andrew Benintendi to Yankees for Chandler Champlain, T.J. Sikkema and Beck Way
2. Whit Merrifield to Blue Jays for Samad Taylor and Maximo Castillo
3. Emmanuel Rivera to Diamondbacks for Luke Weaver
4. Cameron Gallagher to Padres for Brent Rooker
5. Anthony Misiewicz to Mariners for cash considerations
Trade Grade: B
While they didn't get any top-tier prospects, the Kansas City Royals did a respectable job of restocking their farm system. In the Andrew Benintendi trade, they got two pitchers (T.J. Sikkema and Beck Way) who could be contributors next season.
And in the trade of Whit Merrifield, they got two MLB-ready prospects and managed to get out from under the $6.75 million due Merrifield in 2023. Hard to argue with that.
It hasn't done them a lot of good this season, but the Royals have a solid core of hitters. Salvador Perez hit 48 home runs last year. Bobby Witt Jr. looks like the phenom we were promised. MJ Melendez, Vinnie Pasquantino and Nick Pratto are all talented rookies too. Edward Olivares showed a lot of promise before he went down with a quad strain this month.
And don't forget about Adalberto Mondesi, who has missed most of the 2021 and 2022 seasons because of various injuries but who has speed for days.
Pitching is another story, and if the Royals intend to compete in 2023, it starts with spending for a few starters. The beauty of having so many young hitters is that (aside from Perez) Kansas City is paying next to nothing for them, and they won't hit free agency for quite some time.
That means the Royals can afford a free agent such as Nathan Eovaldi, Sean Manaea, Noah Syndergaard or Jameson Taillon on a three-year deal instead of crossing their fingers and hoping Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic and Jonathan Heasley will help lead them back into AL Central contention.
Los Angeles Angels
1. Raisel Iglesias to Braves for Tucker Davidson and Jesse Chavez
2. Noah Syndergaard to Phillies for Mickey Moniak and Jadiel Sanchez
3. Brandon Marsh to Phillies for Logan O'Hoppe
Trade Grade: C+
The Syndergaard trade was solid. Not only did it save the Los Angeles Angels more than $7 million this season, but they also got a flier in 2016's No. 1 overall pick (Moniak) and a mildly intriguing outfield prospect (Sanchez).
However, trading Marsh (under team control through 2027) for one Double-A prospect was bizarre. And unless they manage to take the $16 million earmarked for Iglesias in each of 2023, 204 and 2025 and use it to sign Shohei Ohtani to a long-term deal, that trade will go down as the biggest head-scratcher of the deadline.
With more than $75 million tied up in Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon for each of the next four years, can the Angels afford to sign Ohtani to a long-term deal?
If they do pull it off, they're going to have three of the five-highest-salaried players in the majors, from which point, filling out a playoff-caliber 26-man roster will be a challenge, even in the lucrative L.A. market.
If they can't get it done, though, do they trade him during the offseason? Or do they ride out his final year before free agency and risk losing one of the most valuable, most unique players in recent history for nothing more than a compensatory draft pick?
It's a huge offseason domino, not just for the Angels, but for every team that would be in the market for Ohtani if he became available.
I think they'll re-sign him, though, and that they will fully embrace their deep pockets to pair Ohtani with at least one other ace pitcher. Per Cot's Contracts, the Angels have started each of the past 10 seasons in the top nine in payroll, but never in the top five. 2023 is the year they eclipse $190 million for the first time and go all-in to finally get back to the playoffs.
1. Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino to Yankees for Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears, Luis Medina and Cooper Bowman
2. Austin Allen to Cardinals for Carlos Guarate
Trade Grade: B-
After the haul that Cincinnati got from Seattle for Luis Castillo, it was surprising that the Oakland Athletics couldn't get more than they did for Montas and Trivino. But it's hard to argue with what they got from the Yankees. Waldichuk, Sears and Medina might all be in Oakland's starting rotation at the start of next season.
First off, the A's will buy out Stephen Piscotty of the final year of his contract. It'll cost them $1 million, but that's better than keeping him around on a $15 million club option.
It's unclear whether they'll need to pay $15 million for Elvis Andrus, though. That player option only goes into effect if he reaches 550 plate appearances, and he's on pace for 543.5. It will be a photo finish, and one that plays a huge part in what the low-budget A's are willing and able to do this offseason.
Either way, there's a good chance they'll trade Sean Murphy.
The 2021 AL Gold Glove recipient is having another great season, both at and behind the dish. Murphy is under team control through 2025 and is almost indisputably the most valuable player in this franchise at the moment. But he's also a player the A's can afford to part with, as the top two players in their farm system (Shea Langeliers and Tyler Soderstrom) are also catchers.
What exactly they'd be looking for in exchange for Murphy is unclear. There are a lot of needs here. But if they can turn him into at least two legitimate assets while also opening a path for Langeliers, it will probably be worth it.
1. Dan Vogelbach to Mets for Colin Holderman
2. Michael Perez to Mets for cash considerations
3. Jose Quintana and Chris Stratton to Cardinals for Malcom Nunez and Johan Oviedo
4. Cash to Blue Jays for Jeremy Beasley
Trade Grade: A-
The Pittsburgh Pirates' return for Quintana and Stratton was solid, and swapping Vogelbach for a rookie reliever having an impressive season was a seemingly good move. But the best thing about the Pirates' transactions at the deadline were the ones they didn't make.
Despite speculation that Bryan Reynolds and David Bednar could be on the trade block, the team held on to them. Both are under club control through at least 2025 and should be part of the long-term plan.
Somehow, some way, Pittsburgh needs to solve its starting pitching dilemma. The Pirates were dreadful in that department in 2021, and they have been just marginally better in 2022.
But don't expect this perennially frugal franchise to do anything significant about it in free agency. They have each of JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller, Bryse Wilson and Zach Thompson under team control through at least the next three seasons and will likely continue to ride with those starters for the foreseeable future—collective 5.10 career ERAs or not.
At least Brubaker and Keller have each made several quality starts in recent weeks, and at least there's serious promise in the pipeline in Roansy Contreras and Quinn Priester. So if they can find another bargain-bin, veteran pitcher such as Quintana, maybe they could be competitive in 2023.
They also need second base prospect Nick Gonzales to be ready for the big leagues soon. That position has been a disaster for the Pirates since they traded Adam Frazier at the 2021 deadline.
1. Juan Soto and Josh Bell to Padres for MacKenzie Gore, C.J. Abrams, Robert Hassell III, James Wood, Jarlin Susana and Luke Voit
2. Ehire Adrianza to Braves for Trey Harris
Trade Grade: D+
The Washington Nationals were never going to get full value for Juan Soto, who will now be under team control in San Diego through the 2024 campaign. But they surely could have gotten more than they did.
Worse yet, they included Josh Bell in that deal, even though similar two-month rentals such as Andrew Benintendi and Brandon Drury were deemed worthy of solid prospects. They also failed to part with a bunch of impending free agents, instead focusing all of their efforts on the Soto trade.
That 2012 to 2019 run sure was fun, but this will be a long rebuild.
The Nationals would not have traded Soto if they thought there was any realistic hope of competing in 2023 or 2024.
They still have nine guys hitting free agency this offseason—10 if you count Nelson Cruz, for whom they will absolutely be paying the $3 million buyout on the $16 mutual option for next season.
But rather than viewing the removal of that combined $34.6 million in 2022 salaries as spending money for this offseason, they need to view those roster spots as opportunities to find out which of their many prospects could be key contributors in 2025.
So what should they do this offseason? Aside from encasing Stephen Strasburg in bubble wrap in hopes of getting some return on investment in that gargantuan contract and lowering ticket prices to get any fans to actually show up for the next two years, not much.