15 Offseason Moves That Helped Shape the 2022 MLB Playoff Picture

Joel ReuterOctober 3, 2022

15 Offseason Moves That Helped Shape the 2022 MLB Playoff Picture

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    ATLANTA, GA  OCTOBER 01: New York starting pitcher Max Scherzer (21) throws a pitch during the MLB game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves on October 1st, 2022 at Truist Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Max Scherzer (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Championships are won and lost with the moves that are made during the offseason, whether it's shoring up the roster in free agency or swinging a blockbuster deal to acquire a key piece of the puzzle.

    With the MLB playoff picture taking shape and the start of another exciting postseason right around the corner, now is the perfect time to look back at the offseason moves that have had the biggest impact in 2022.

    Ahead, we've highlighted 15 players who were either signed by contenders in free agency or acquired by contenders via trade, and their contributions this year have played a major role in their club reaching the postseason.

Jason Adam, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

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    DETROIT, MI -  AUGUST 5:  Jason Adam #47 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on August 5, 2022, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
    Duane Burleson/Getty Images

    Transaction: Signed to a one-year, $900,000 deal in free agency.

    With a career 4.71 ERA in 79 appearances, including a 5.91 ERA in 12 games with the Chicago Cubs in 2021, right-hander Jason Adam was little more than a line item on the transaction log when he signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays in March.

    Once again, the Rays have found a diamond in the rough to help bolster their ever-revolving relief corps.

    The 31-year-old has a 1.56 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 10.7 K/9 with eight saves and 22 holds in 67 appearances, employing a more slider/changeup-heavy approach to help take his game to another level as one of baseball's best relievers in 2022.

Tyler Anderson, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    PHOENIX, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 12: Tyler Anderson #31 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning at Chase Field on September 12, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Transaction: Signed to a one-year, $8 million deal in free agency.

    Left-hander Tyler Anderson pitched his way to being a sought-after trade chip in 2021 after signing a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, eventually landing with the Seattle Mariners at the deadline and finishing with a 4.53 ERA in 167 innings.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers signed him in March, hoping to add some useful depth to the back of the rotation, and they wound up getting one of the best starters in the National League this year.

    The 32-year-old is 15-4 with a 2.54 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 128 strikeouts in 173.2 innings, and he was an All-Star for the first time this season. With Walker Buehler and Dustin May on the injured list, expect him to be part of the postseason rotation behind Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw.

Matt Chapman, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

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    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 16  -  Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman (26) hits a second inning home run as the Toronto Blue Jays play the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre in Toronto. September 16, 2022.        (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
    Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

    Transaction: Acquired from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for RHP Gunnar Hoglund, IF Kevin Smith, LHP Zach Logue, LHP Kirby Snead.

    In an effort to help ease the loss of second baseman Marcus Semien's production, the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Matt Chapman to man third base, shifting Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal to second base in the process.

    The 29-year-old has provided his usual mix of over-the-fence power and elite defense at third base, posting a 115 OPS+ with 27 doubles, 27 home runs and 75 RBI while tallying 3.5 WAR in 152 games.

    He was at his best in July, hitting .325/.396/.699 with nine home runs and 22 RBI in 25 games, and he's capable of putting together a similar hot streak in October.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) bats in the first inning during game 2 of a doubleheader against the Arizona Diamondbacks on September 20, 2022, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Transaction: Signed to a six-year, $162 million deal in free agency.

    Already one of the most potent offenses in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers helped ease the loss of Corey Seager in free agency by signing Freddie Freeman to a massive six-year contract.

    The 33-year-old has been every bit the superstar he was with the Atlanta Braves in his first season with the Dodgers, leading the National League in batting average (.329), on-base percentage (.412), hits (196), doubles (46) and runs scored (116) in a 5.9-WAR season.

    With Max Muncy having a down year by his standards and Cody Bellinger again producing below a league-average rate, Freeman's contributions have helped the Dodgers maintain an elite level of offensive production.

Kevin Gausman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

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    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 26:  Kevin Gausman #34 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on September 26, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
    Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    Transaction: Signed to a five-year, $110 million deal in free agency.

    Disappointing seasons from Jose Berrios (5.37 ERA, 166.0 IP), Yusei Kikuchi (5.27 ERA, 99.0 IP), Hyun Jin Ryu (5.67 ERA, 27.0 IP) have made the contributions of Kevin Gausman to the Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation all the more important.

    The 31-year-old enjoyed the best season of his career with the San Francisco Giants last year, posting a 2.81 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 227 strikeouts in 192 innings to finish sixth in NL Cy Young balloting.

    In his return to the AL East after starting his career with the Baltimore Orioles, he has continued to pitch like a true frontline starter. In 30 starts, he's gone 12-10 with a 3.30 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 201 strikeouts in 171.2 innings, and his AL-best 2.42 FIP is a good indication he has actually dealt with some bad luck.

    If the Blue Jays are going to make a postseason run, Gausman will need to shoulder the load alongside Alek Manoah atop the rotation.

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19:   Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on September 19, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Transaction: Re-signed to a one-year, $17 million deal in free agency.

    For the first time in his storied career, it looked like there was a legitimate chance Clayton Kershaw could be calling somewhere other than Dodger Stadium home before he ultimately made his way back to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a one-year deal this past offseason.

    The 34-year-old is no longer the durable workhorse he was in his prime, but he is still an ace-caliber starter when healthy, and he's going to be vitally important to the Dodgers' postseason run with Walker Buehler watching from the sidelines.

    Kershaw has stayed healthy enough to make 21 starts this season, going 11-3 with a 2.30 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and a 128-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 121.1 innings. That $17 million was money well spent, even with the time he has missed.

Matt Olson, 1B, Atlanta Braves

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    OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 7: Matt Olson #28 of the Atlanta Braves bats during the game against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on September 7, 2022 in Oakland, California. The Braves defeated the Athletics 7-3. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
    Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

    Transaction: Acquired from Oakland Athletics in exchange for C Shea Langeliers, OF Cristian Pache, RHP Ryan Cusick, RHP Joey Estes.

    Losing longtime star Freddie Freeman was a less-than-ideal outcome last offseason, but the Atlanta Braves did a great job quickly pivoting to Plan B when it became clear they were not going to be able to retain Freeman.

    While he has seen a bit of a dip in his production relative to 2021, Matt Olson has still been one of the most productive first basemen in the league.

    The 28-year-old has a 120 OPS+ with 43 doubles, 32 home runs, 99 RBI, 83 runs scored and 3.1 WAR in 158 games. At nearly five years younger than Freeman, he's also a better bet to continue producing at a high level in the coming years, and the Atlanta front office wisely locked him up with an eight-year, $168 million extension shortly after the trade.

Adam Ottavino, RHP, New York Mets

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    WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 01:  Adam Ottavino #0 of the New York Mets pitches during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 1, 2022 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Transaction: Signed to a one-year, $4 million deal in free agency.

    Outside of the megadeal to sign Max Scherzer, the most impactful move of the offseason for the New York Mets has been the addition of Adam Ottavino to serve as the primary setup man for closer Edwin Díaz. That's why he finds his way onto this list, while Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Chris Bassitt settle for honorable mentions.

    Ottavino, 36, has a strong track record in the late innings, but after struggling to a 4.59 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 93 appearances with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in 2020 and 2021, it was unclear what could be expected of him this year.

    The slider specialist has a 2.11 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 10.8 K/9 and 2.2 WAR in 65 appearances, and his 19 holds have gone a long way toward stabilizing the late-inning bridge to Díaz.

Isaac Paredes, IF, Tampa Bay Rays

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    DETROIT, MI -  AUGUST 07:  Isaac Paredes #17 of the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the Detroit Tigers during the ninth inning at Comerica Park on August 7, 2022, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
    Duane Burleson/Getty Images

    Transaction: Acquired from Detroit Tigers in exchange for OF Austin Meadows.

    More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Tampa Bay Rays traded All-Star slugger Austin Meadows just before Opening Day in exchange for Isaac Paredes in what appeared to be a cost-motivated move.

    The results speak for themselves:

    Paredes: 107 G, 118 OPS+, 36 XBH (20 HR), 45 RBI, 2.3 WAR
    Meadows: 36 G, 99 OPS+, 8 XBH (0 HR), 11 RBI, 0.7 WAR

    With double-digit starts at first base, second base and third base, Paredes fits the mold of the versatile player the Rays have valued over the years.

Albert Pujols, DH, St. Louis Cardinals

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 30: St. Louis Cardinals designated hitter Albert Pujols (5) hits his 701st home run in the fourth inning during a MLB game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals, September 30, 2022, at Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO. Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images),
    Icon Sportswire

    Transaction: Signed to a one-year, $2.5 million deal in free agency.

    Albert Pujols proved he still had something left in the tank after latching on with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, posting a 99 OPS+ with 12 home runs and 38 RBI in 204 plate appearances.

    Still, the decision to bring him back was as much a PR move as it was a roster decision for the St. Louis Cardinals, and he was expected to be little more than a platoon bat off the bench.

    That's exactly the role he served during the first half of the season, but he has found the fountain of youth since the All-Star break, hitting .311/.380/.676 with 16 home runs and 41 RBI in 171 plate appearances.

    In the process, he has reached the 700-homer mark in his illustrious career while also helping the Cardinals pull away from the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central race.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, New York Yankees

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24: Anthony Rizzo #48 of the New York Yankees reacts after hitting a two-run home run during the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on September 24, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    Transaction: Re-signed to a two-year, $32 million deal in free agency.

    The New York Yankees saw enough out of Anthony Rizzo in a 49-game stint with the team last year to bring him back on a two-year deal that includes an opt-out this winter, and they traded Luke Voit to the San Diego Padres to clear a path at first base.

    The 33-year-old has been tasked with protecting Aaron Judge out of the No. 3 spot in the lineup for much of the year, and he has matched a career high with 32 home runs to go along with a 134 OPS+ in 127 games.

    Will he opt into a $16 million salary for next year and return, or will he parlay his solid all-around season into a more lucrative payday?

Max Scherzer, RHP, New York Mets

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    OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Max Scherzer #21 of the New York Mets pitches against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the first inning at RingCentral Coliseum on September 25, 2022 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Transaction: Signed a three-year, $130 million deal in free agency.

    Max Scherzer will fail to reach 170 innings pitched for the first time—excluding the shortened 2020 campaign—since his rookie season in 2008, but he has still been worth every penny in his first year with the New York Mets.

    The future Hall of Famer has a 2.29 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 173 strikeouts in 145.1 innings, and since returning from a month-and-a-half on the injured list in early July, he has a 2.16 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and a .208 opponents' batting average.

    The Mets starting rotation was not at full strength for much of the season, but it is ready to flex its muscles in October.

Eugenio Suárez, 3B, Seattle Mariners

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    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 28: Eugenio Suarez #28 of the Seattle Mariners at bat during the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers at T-Mobile Park on September 28, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
    Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    Transaction: Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds along with OF Jesse Winker in exchange for LHP Brandon Williamson, RHP Connor Phillips, OF Jake Fraley, RHP Justin Dunn

    The prize of this deal at the time was Jesse Winker, who hit .305/.394/.556 with 32 doubles, 24 home runs and a 143 OPS+ as an All-Star starter during the 2021 season, while veteran Eugenio Suárez was little more than a salary dump.

    Fast-forward to October and Winker has been a minus-0.3-WAR player, while Suárez has been vital to Seattle's success offensively, defensively and as a veteran voice in a young clubhouse.

    The 31-year-old has a 133 OPS+ with 31 home runs and 85 RBI, despite an AL-leading 189 strikeouts, and he has provided rock-solid defense at third base (2 DRS, 2.1 UZR/150) en route to a career-high 4.5 WAR in 146 games.

Jose Trevino, C, New York Yankees

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 23:  Jose Trevino #39 of the New York Yankees celebrates after he drove in the game winning run in the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The New York Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox 5-4. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Transaction: Acquired from the Texas Rangers in exchange for RHP Albert Abreu, LHP Robby Ahlstrom.

    The catcher position was a huge question mark for the New York Yankees entering the 2022 season after Gary Sánchez was traded to the Minnesota Twins and no proven starter was added to the roster.

    Defensive standout Jose Trevino was acquired from the Texas Rangers on April 2 to compete with incumbent Kyle Higashioka, Ben Rortvedt and Rob Brantly for playing time, and he wound up turning in an All-Star performance.

    The 29-year-old has 10 home runs, 42 RBI and 2.1 WAR in 112 games, and the Yankees pitching staff has a 3.10 ERA in 803.1 innings with him behind the plate, compared to a 3.58 ERA in 605.1 innings when someone else is doing the catching.

Justin Verlander, RHP, Houston Astros

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    HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 28: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Minute Maid Park on August 28, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Transaction: Signed to a one-year, $25 million deal in free agency.

    The Houston Astros took a $25 million roll of the dice on Justin Verlander in his return from Tommy John surgery, and he has rewarded them with a season that could very well end in his third career Cy Young Award.

    After pitching just six innings in 2020 and spending all of 2021 on the sidelines, Verlander has returned to go 17-4 with a 1.80 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 175 strikeouts in 170 innings, providing a veteran presence atop a young Houston staff.

    The 39-year-old has a $25 million player option for next season that vested when he reached 130 innings pitched, but he could opt to decline that in favor of a deal similar to the one Max Scherzer signed with the New York Mets last winter.

Honorable Mentions

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 01:  Starling Marte #6 of the New York Mets in action against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field on September 01, 2022 in New York City. The Mets defeated the Dodgers 5-3. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Starling Marte (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

    Other Notable Moves

    • ATL signed RP Kenley Jansen
    • ATL signed RP Collin McHugh
    • CLE signed RP Enyel De Los Santos
    • LAD signed SP Andrew Heaney
    • MIL acquired RF Hunter Renfroe via trade
    • NYM acquired SP Chris Bassitt via trade
    • NYM signed LF Mark Canha
    • NYM signed RF Starling Marte
    • NYY acquired 3B Josh Donaldson via trade
    • NYY acquired SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa via trade
    • PHI signed LF Kyle Schwarber
    • SD acquired SP Sean Manaea via trade
    • SD signed SP Nick Martinez
    • SD signed RP Robert Suarez
    • SEA signed SP Robbie Ray
    • TB acquire OF Harold Ramírez via trade
    • TB signed RP Brooks Raley
    • TOR signed RP Yimi García