Every MLB Team's Smartest 2022 Offseason Decision So Far
Teams across Major League Baseball had a lot of work to do after the league lifted its lockout on March 10. Not even two weeks later, that work now looks to be mostly finished.
So, here's what we think of the smartest decisions teams made throughout the 2021-22 offseason.
By "smartest," we don't necessarily mean "biggest" or "most dramatic." Though lucrative free-agent signings and extensions and blockbuster trades can be and indeed often are good moves, we wanted to leave the door open for decisions that might have flown under the radar but nonetheless make a ton of sense. We're also including moves that teams chose not to make.
We'll go division by division, starting in the American League East and ending in the National League West.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: Not Trading CF Cedric Mullins or LHP John Means
When reports surfaced in November that the Orioles were willing to listen to offers for Mullins and Means, our reaction was: "Don't do it, Orioles." Though rebuilding typically does mean cashing in veteran stars for prospects, there comes a point when you have to have faith. With a top-10 farm system underneath them and both aforementioned All-Stars controlled through at least 2024, that time is now.
Boston Red Sox: Signing 2B Trevor Story
The Green Monster is out there in left field at Fenway Park, and Story is a right-handed hitter with a 1.545 OPS to his pull side. This alone arguably justifies the six-year, $140 million contract he agreed to on Sunday, but the Red Sox also needed his athleticism in their lineup and especially amid their infield defense. They'll just have to hope his not-so-secret issues with his throwing arm don't get worse.
New York Yankees: Trading C Gary Sanchez
The Yankees have a handful of new regulars in their everyday lineup, but their best move was actually a subtraction. Not just because trading Sanchez to the Minnesota Twins netted Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ben Rortvedt, but more so because another year of Sanchez in New York just never seemed like a good idea. As Didi Gregorius said in 2020, the guy simply needed a change of scenery.
Tampa Bay Rays: Extending SS Wander Franco
The Rays are typically stingy with their money, so it was shocking when they signed Franco to an 11-year, $182 million extension in November. However, the deal will likely prove to be a bargain. Franco was a game-changing hitter as a mere 20-year-old last season, especially during a 43-game on-base streak. For him, the road ahead should include a few All-Star nods and some MVP-caliber seasons.
Toronto Blue Jays: Trading for 3B Matt Chapman
Toronto's trade for Chapman is worth praising if for no other reason than it didn't decimate what's left of the team's farm system. It's also a good buy-low move. Chapman will play an excellent third base no matter what, but he can also be an MVP-contender if his right hip is fully healthy and his offense bounces back accordingly. The Jays also did well to lock him down for $25 million through 2023.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: Signing RHP Kendall Graveman
Honestly? We don't get the White Sox's signing of Joe Kelly either. Graveman, though, was a darn good pickup on a three-year, $24 million deal in November. The 1.77 ERA that he posted as a reliever last year may look like an outlier now, but not for long if he keeps chucking high-90s two-seamers at hitters. If so, he'll be an excellent setup man for closer Liam Hendriks.
Cleveland Guardians: Not Trading 3B Jose Ramirez
Just because this hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it won't. But it doesn't seem like the Guardians want to trade Ramirez, which is good. They wouldn't want to open their first season under their new banner without a star who ranks third among position players in rWAR since 2017. Besides, they'll have a shot at getting into the expanded 12-team playoff field if they keep said star.
Detroit Tigers: Trading for C Tucker Barnhart
Yes, the Tigers dropped $217 million on left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and shortstop Javier Baez, but both of those signings come with substantial risk. There's less of that where Barnhart is involved. He doesn't hit much, but he's a two-time Gold Glover who handled baseball's best starting rotation in 2021. That kind of experience is just what the Tigers need as they look to come out of their rebuild.
Kansas City Royals: Signing RHP Zack Greinke
After more than a decade away, Greinke is back where it all started. Perhaps he's unlikely to push the Royals back into contention after five straight losing seasons, but he should stabilize a rotation that needed a proper leader. The 38-year-old could also impart some wisdom on the four 20-somethings in Kansas City's rotation. Like, for example, how much guacamole should cost.
Minnesota Twins: Signing SS Carlos Correa
Of the things that could have happened during the offseason, it's doubtful that anyone anticipated the market's top free agent signing a short-term deal with a fringe contender. But good on the Twins for getting Correa—who's averaged about 7 rWAR per 650 plate appearances—on a three-year, $105.3 million deal. They now have a much better chance at pulling off a worst-to-first season in 2022.
American League West
Houston Astros: Signing RHP Hector Neris
Though Justin Verlander is back with the Astros on a one-year, $25 million contract, that's a risky roll of the dice on a 39-year-old who's returning from Tommy John surgery. We more so prefer the low-risk, high-reward nature of Neris' two-year, $17 million pact. Courtesy of an elite splitter, he was a standout reliever even amid small dimensions and generally bad defenses with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Los Angeles Angels: Re-Signing RHP Raisel Iglesias
The Angels have done much to reinforce their pitching staff, but retaining Iglesias in their bullpen strikes us as more consequential than their addition of Noah Syndergaard to their rotation. Iglesias was arguably the club's second-biggest bright spot in 2021 after AL MVP Shohei Ohtani, pitching to a 2.57 ERA with peripheral stats that suggest he could be even better in 2022.
Oakland Athletics: Purchasing RHP Brent Honeywell Jr.
A's fans surely hoped that Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Chris Bassitt wouldn't get traded, much less for packages that can generally be described as underwhelming. But at least the team took a worthwhile chance by purchasing Honeywell from the Rays. Elbow injuries sidelined him for all of 2018, 2019 and 2020, but the 26-year-old was still appearing in top prospect lists as recently as the 2020 season.
Seattle Mariners: Signing LHP Robbie Ray
The Mariners didn't have a proper No. 1 starter in 2021. Now they do after signing Ray, who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2021 with a 2.84 ERA and 248 strikeouts, to a five-year, $115 million contract. Last year's performance was pretty far outside his norm, but he should keep it up as long as he continues using his fastball and slider as nasty complementary pitches.
Texas Rangers: Signing SS Corey Seager and 2B Marcus Semien
It's fair to take issue with the Rangers' apparent calculation that they were only a few good players away from contending after losing 102 games in 2021. But if you're going to make such a calculation, it's better to go all-in. And even if their $500 million investment in Seager and Semien doesn't result in a playoff berth, those two will at least make the team much more watchable in 2022.
National League East
Atlanta: Trading for 1B Matt Olson
There's no ignoring that Olson is replacing Freddie Freeman and no accounting for how that's going to affect the fabric of a team that just won the World Series. But at least Olson is an Atlanta native. He's also younger than Freeman by more than four years, and he can be similarly impactful with both his bat and his glove. On paper, at least, these things make him a better long-term bet.
Miami Marlins: Extending RHP Sandy Alcantara
By signing Avisail Garcia for $53 million and Jorge Soler for $36 million, the Marlins added two power bats that they very much needed. Yet the biggest steal of their offseason involved extending Alcantara for only $56 million over five years. He's only gotten better since his All-Star breakout in 2019, pitching to a 134 ERA+ over 247.2 innings across the last two seasons. And he's still only 26.
New York Mets: Trading for RHP Chris Bassitt
Max Scherzer is now in the Mets' rotation, but he's 37 years old and he cost the team $130 million over three years. The acquisition cost for Bassitt in a trade with the A's wasn't nearly as high. And while he may not be a three-time Cy Young Award winner, he quietly pitched to an excellent 142 ERA+ over the last two seasons. He's frankly overqualified as a No. 3 behind Scherzer and Jacob deGrom.
Philadelphia Phillies: Signing DH Kyle Schwarber
The Phillies needed another impact hitter alongside reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper. In Schwarber, whom they signed for $79 million, and Nick Castellanos, whom they signed for $100 million, they found two such hitters. The former is especially worth getting excited about, in part because the 148 OPS+ he posted last year was largely the result of his work with the Phillies' new hitting coach, Kevin Long.
Washington Nationals: Signing DH Nelson Cruz
Was it odd that Cruz opted to sign a one-year, $15 million deal with the Nationals even though he had actual contenders lined up for his services? A little, yeah. But their lineup is that much more interesting with him in it, and he'll be a valuable trade chip if he keeps the power coming in 2022. Seeing as he's averaged 44 homers per 162 games since 2014, that should be doable even though he's now 41 years old.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: Claiming LHP Wade Miley
There are a ton of new faces on the Cubs, including Japanese superstar-turned-$85 million major leaguer Seiya Suzuki. Yet we're going all the way back to the club's waiver claim on Miley. He's been an easily above-average starter in three of the last four seasons, and he even had the exact same rWAR as NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes in 2021. Yet they plucked him as if he were an apple on a tree.
Cincinnati Reds: Trading for LHP Brandon Williamson
The Reds' payroll is set to drop by tens of millions of dollars, which is a good thing for team owner Bob Castellini's pockets. It's less of a good thing for the club's major league roster. But at least Cincinnati bolstered its farm system via trades this offseason. Williamson is a guy to keep an eye on in particular after he posted a 3.39 ERA and whiffed 153 batters in 98.1 innings at High-A and Double-A in 2021.
Milwaukee Brewers: Trading for RF Hunter Renfroe
Even if he isn't the impact hitter that their lineup arguably still needs, it's remarkable that the Brewers were able to take a depreciated asset like Jackie Bradley Jr. and turned him into Renfroe via trade. He's topped 30 home runs in two of the last three seasons, and he should do so again in 2022 provided he stays healthy and consistent enough to keep earning regular at-bats.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Not Trading CF Bryan Reynolds
From what's out there on the rumor mill, it seems like there's enough interest in Reynolds for the Pirates to cash him in for a boatload of prospects. The fact that they haven't done so indicates that they're well aware that their farm system is already plenty strong. Because of that, they may yet be able to build a contender around Reynolds before his club control is up after the 2025 season.
St. Louis Cardinals: Signing LHP Steven Matz
Though the Cardinals were mostly quiet throughout the winter, their four-year, $44 million deal with Matz looked like a shrewd move even at the time they made it in November. His pitch-to-contact style is a good fit for the club's excellent defense. With Jack Flaherty's shoulder now acting up, the Matz signing only looks more important in retrospect.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: Not Trading 2B Ketel Marte
After losing 110 games in 2021, the Diamondbacks would have been justified in switching gears into rebuild mode. Yet we can't fault them for choosing a different path, specifically to the extent that it involved holding on to Marte. If he stays healthy in 2022, the 2019 All-Star will either help them contend or rebuild trade value that's taken some dings fron injuries and inconsistency over the last two seasons.
Colorado Rockies: Not Trading RHP German Marquez
Look, we don't get the Kris Bryant signing either. Or, frankly, the $150 million worth of extensions the Rockies have done with four non-star players. But we do get holding on to Marquez. The Rockies surely could have traded him, but there's no rule that says bottom-dwelling teams have to move whatever young and controllable All-Star hurlers they have. Good on them for not pretending like there is.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Signing 1B Freddie Freeman
Somebody had to sign Freeman after Atlanta passed on offering him the six-year deal he was seeking. That somebody was the Dodgers, who did a six-year, $162 million deal with the 2020 NL MVP. They're getting yet another experienced winner and impact bat for a lineup that was already loaded with both. In fact, don't be surprised if this lineup gives some of the best in baseball history a run for their money.
San Diego Padres: Hiring Manager Bob Melvin
In the Luke Voit trade, the Padres didn't pay a steep price to acquire the major league home run leader from 2020. Yet the best thing the Padres did all offseason was also the first thing they did. By hiring Melvin, they replaced a skipper who lost control of the clubhouse in 2021 with one of the most experienced and respected managers in the business.
San Francisco Giants: Signing LHP Carlos Rodon
In Rodon, the Giants are getting a pitcher who was one of baseball's best in the first half of last season. The trick will be getting him to sustain that dominance for a full season. The team's rotation depth can only be helpful in this regard, though the Giants' coaching staff might also be up to the task. Either way, the team stands to gain a No. 1 starter for only $44 million over the next two years.