Mets, Phillies and the Biggest Winners and Losers of 2022 MLB Winter Meetings
The annual MLB winter meetings have once again brought a flurry of activity, headlined by shortstop Trea Turner and right-hander Justin Verlander both finding new homes as rivals in the National League East.
The Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets both moved the needle with their flashy signings, but they were far from the only winners at the annual offseason gathering of the baseball world.
There is still one final day of the meetings in San Diego on Wednesday, with the Rule 5 draft bringing the festivities to a conclusion, but now is a great time to take inventory of the biggest winners and losers of this year's winter meetings.
We'll add to this as needed throughout the day on Wednesday, so check back for potential updates.
Winner: Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies were one of the most obvious landing spots for one of the market's top shortstops, and they wasted no time getting their guy, signing Trea Turner to a massive 11-year, $300 million deal on Monday.
For the first time since Jimmy Rollins departed via trade after the 2014 season, the team will have stability at the shortstop position, and with 2022 rookie Bryson Stott shifting to second base, the double-play combination is set for the foreseeable future.
The signing also helps ease the sting of losing Bryce Harper for a good chunk of the 2023 season after he underwent Tommy John surgery in late November.
With Taijuan Walker also signed to bolster the starting rotation behind Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Ranger Suárez, and left-hander Matt Strahm added to the relief corps, the Phillies have already plugged the most glaring holes on the roster and spring training is still months away.
Loser: San Diego Padres
It's easy to forget that Trea Turner started his pro career with the San Diego Padres, who selected him No. 13 overall in the 2014 draft out of NC State, only to trade him a year later in the three-team, 11-player deal that brought Wil Myers to San Diego.
The Padres front office tried to rectify that mistake with an aggressive run at him in free agency, meeting twice with Turner ahead of the winter meetings, according to Dennis Lin and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, and reportedly coming in with an offer that exceeded the 11-year, $300 million deal he ultimately signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.
"Multiple sources said the news hit hard in the Padres' front office and that there was a high level of disappointment," wrote Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
On Tuesday, Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported that the Padres' offer was for a staggering $342 million, but that still wasn't enough to get a deal done.
Bringing in Turner could have meant a full-time move to the outfield for Fernando Tatis Jr. once he returns from suspension, though an infield alignment with Jake Cronenworth at first base, Turner at second base and Tatis at shortstop might have also been an option.
Instead, it's back to the drawing board for the Padres as they look to plug a number of holes around the superstar trio of Tatis, Juan Soto and Manny Machado.
Winner: Carlos Correa
With Scott Boras as his agent and a loaded shortstop market around him, there was always a good chance Carlos Correa was going to be one of the last dominoes to fall on the 2022-23 free-agent market.
Now that Trea Turner has signed with the Phillies, Correa's market is likely to unfold a bit faster, which gives him more leverage than he would otherwise have if his market didn't truly start to take shape until January.
The 11-year, $300 million deal that Turner signed is unlikely to be a one-to-one comparison for Correa, who prioritized finding the highest AAV over length of deal last winter and is 15 months younger than Turner.
However, it is another data point alongside the 10-year, $325 million deal that Corey Seager signed with the Texas Rangers last offseason that should help Correa join the rapidly growing $300 million club.
Winner: New York Mets
I wrote at length Monday about why I thought the decision to let Jacob deGrom walk and then signing Justin Verlander to replace him was a brilliant move by the New York Mets, but here are the bullet points:
- The risk of signing a 39-year-old Verlander to a two-year deal is far outweighed by the five-year, $185 million deal that deGrom signed with the Texas Rangers on the heels of two straight injury-plagued seasons.
- The Mets have now lined things up so that Verlander and Max Scherzer are both free agents after the 2024 season, giving them a two-year window where they are all-in on this veteran core without putting themselves in a bad position long-term.
- With so much money on the books over the next two years but limited commitments beyond that, they can still sign one or two more impact players to backloaded deals without blowing comically far past the luxury-tax threshold.
- The Los Angeles Dodgers were reportedly interested in Verlander, so they signed him away from one of their biggest competitors for the NL pennant.
Sure, there's some obvious risk having $86-plus million per year tied up in a pair of pitchers rapidly approaching their 40th birthdays, but we're also talking about two of the greatest pitchers of their generation coming off fantastic 2022 seasons.
The Mets flexed their spending muscles, but they did it in the smartest way possible.
Loser: Toronto Blue Jays
Justin Verlander almost signed with the Toronto Blue Jays last offseason.
The AL East contenders were involved in his market once again this offseason, only to again watch him sign elsewhere, and their options to fill a glaring hole in the starting rotation are becoming less exciting by the day.
Left-hander Carlos Rodón is still available, and the team could always use its enviable catcher depth to facilitate a trade for a controllable arm. But otherwise they are left turning to second-tier options like Chris Bassitt, Jameson Taillon, Nathan Eovaldi and Japanese League standout Kodai Senga.
That's not a knock on any of those pitchers who are all capable of holding down a spot in a contender's rotation, but none of them moves the needle like Verlander would have for a team fighting to keep pace in a loaded division.
The Blue Jays will be one of the most interesting teams to monitor on the other side of the winter meetings, with so much potential but also some obvious areas of need.
Winner: Yu Darvish
This one might not make a ton of sense at first glance, but hear me out.
The three-year, $130 million deal that Max Scherzer signed with the Mets last offseason has seemingly paved the way for veteran starting pitchers to get PAID on short-term deals late in their careers.
Jacob deGrom (5/$185M), Justin Verlander (2/$86M) and Clayton Kershaw (1/$20M) all signed lucrative high AAV deals this winter despite being past what would generally be considered prime age for a pitcher.
Looking ahead to the 2023-24 free-agent class, Yu Darvish is the pitcher who best fits the mold for a similar contract.
The 36-year-old went 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 197 strikeouts in 194.2 innings to finish eighth in NL Cy Young voting, and a similar performance in 2023 would put him alongside Julio Urías and Aaron Nola at the top of a stacked pitching market next winter.
With 2,756.1 innings under his belt between Japan and the majors—a total that would rank third among active pitchers if they were all accumulated stateside—there is some obvious risk of age regression, but the Verlander deal is just the latest example of how teams are increasingly willing to overlook that factor.
Loser: Teams Looking for Affordable Bullpen Help
The reliever market has exploded, and while it started with a record-setting five-year, $102 million contract for Edwin Díaz, he is far from the only bullpen arm who has cashed in already this offseason.
Here's a rundown of the other MLB contracts handed out to relievers so far this winter:
Robert Suarez, SD: five years, $46 million
Rafael Montero, HOU: three years, $34.5 million
Chris Martin, BOS: two years, $17.5 million
Carlos Estévez, LAA: two years, $13.5 million
Tommy Kahnle, NYY: two years, $11.5 million
Miguel Castro, ARI: one year, $3.5 million (plus 2024 option)
Jarlín García, PIT: one year, $2.5 million (plus 2024 option)
Joely Rodríguez, BOS: one year, $2 million (plus 2024 option)
Trevor Gott, SEA: one year, $1.2 million
Nick Anderson, ATL: one year, $875,000
The deals given to Estévez and Kahnle at the winter meetings and Martin a few days prior are particularly telling of how the market price of quality setup options has climbed, and for teams still searching for established bullpen help, it's now clear that's going to come at a steep price.
Winner: All Involved in the Jesse Winker-for-Kolten Wong Swap
With a crowded outfield and a glaring need at second base, the Seattle Mariners flipped outfielder Jesse Winker and infielder Abraham Toro to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for second baseman Kolten Wong.
It's a rare deal that looks like a win for all involved.
Winker gets a change of scenery after a disappointing 2022 season that saw him post negative WAR and have his work ethic called into question, the Mariners get the left-handed hitting second baseman they were known to be seeking, and the Brewers buy low on a player who started the All-Star Game in 2021.
The X-factor in the deal is Toro.
The 25-year-old is controllable through the 2026 season, and he could get an opportunity to win a starting job at either second base or third base, depending on where Luis Urías is slotted and whether any other outside additions are made.
Even if he breaks out in a bigger role in Milwaukee, this looks like a great move for both sides as they shore up holes on their respective rosters.
Loser: Miami Marlins
It might seem strange to single out the Miami Marlins like this when so many other teams have also not made major moves, but with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets both active and the Atlanta Braves returning a stacked core in the NL East, their inactivity is the most glaring.
The only notable move of the offseason so far for the Marlins was acquiring reliever JT Chargois and prospect Xavier Edwards from Tampa Bay in November while the Rays tried to navigate a 40-man roster crunch.
That doesn't exactly move the needle, and it's quickly shaping up to be another wasted offseason for a franchise that settled for signing Avisaíl García and Jorge Soler in an effort to throw a Band-Aid on a flawed offense.
The team has been linked to veteran third baseman Justin Turner, and the front office has made it known that while Sandy Alcantara is off-limits, it is open for business on the trade market. But so far that's all just talk.
This team has a long way to go to bridge the gap to the rest of the division, and the clock is ticking on building a viable roster around one of the best young rotations in baseball.
Winner: A Texas Rangers Team That's Not Afraid to Spend
Baseball free agency would be a lot more fun if everyone spent with the same reckless abandon we've seen from the Texas Rangers over the last two years.
Last winter, they spent $500 million on the new middle infield tandem of Corey Seager (10/$325M) and Marcus Semien (7/$175M) while also handing out multiyear deals to right-hander Jon Gray (4/$56M) and utility man Brad Miller (2/$10M).
With so many billionaire owners crying poor and treating their teams like a business rather than actually trying to field a contender, it's refreshing to see an organization that is actually spending money on the on-field product and genuinely trying to win now.
So while it may have been an initial surprise to see Jacob deGrom sign a five-year, $185 million deal with the Rangers, it fits their recent narrative. They didn't stop there either, adding Andrew Heaney on a two-year, $25 million deal Tuesday to further bolster the starting rotation.
They may not have reached the postseason since 2016, but they are clearly committed to winning now. And that's more than can be said for a significant percentage of teams around the league.
Loser: San Francisco Giants*
There's an asterisk here because the San Francisco Giants still have time to make a splash.
Carlos Correa has already been identified as the team's top option among the shortstops, and if they can reel him in, it would be a major boon to an offense in serious need of an overhaul.
Still, there's no question missing on Aaron Judge is disappointing, and in hindsight, it feels like the three-year, $43.5 million deal the Giants gave to oft-injured Mitch Haniger was a rash decision made because they had a sense that Judge was headed back to New York.
There's also the matter of the starting rotation.
They still have a chance to re-sign Carlos Rodón, but his bargaining power has only increased now that Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom have both signed, leaving him as the only ace-caliber starter left on the market.
If they're not able to bring Rodón back, the second-tier market is quickly evaporating, with Jameson Taillon and Taijuan Walker the latest to join an ever-growing list of starting pitchers who have found new homes.
It feels like the last several years in San Francisco have been building toward this offseason, and now it's hard not to think the team is whiffing on its grand plans.
Winner: Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees
It all worked out in the end.
When Aaron Judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension offer from the New York Yankees just before Opening Day, it looked like the towering slugger and the only team he's ever known could be headed for a split.
He bet on himself, and it paid off as he put together a historic season offensively, took home AL MVP honors and hit the open market for the first time while coming off arguably the greatest contract year in MLB history.
Despite a full-court press from San Francisco and even a quickly deleted report that he was joining the Giants on Tuesday evening, he ultimately found his way back to the Yankees on a massive nine-year, $360 million deal, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
There will be plenty of time to debate the ins and outs of his contract, whether this was the best use of those funds for the Yankees and how well a player with his injury history and frame can be expected to age, but bringing Judge back was the Yankees' No. 1 goal heading into the winter meetings, and they've done it.
Now it's time to further address a flawed roster around him.