By: Lucas Reyes
Spring training is already underway, and a lot has transpired since the final out of the World Series was recorded.
Ranging from big-time free agency signings to blockbuster trades, the action was perpetual, and the outlook of many teams has changed compared to last year.
Despite all the action, there were some teams that stood taller than others in their pursuit to improve going into 2023. Meanwhile, there were a few teams that put themselves through the winter blues.
Let’s go through some of this winter’s winners and losers.
Winner: Toronto Blue Jays
Additions: Brandon Belt (1B), Chad Green (RHP), Chris Bassitt (RHP), Daulton Varsho (OF/C), Erik Swanson (RHP), Kevin Kiermaier (OF).
Subtractions: David Phelps (RHP), Gabriel Moreno (C/3B), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF/1B), Ross Stripling (RHP), Teoscar Hernandez (OF).
It all started with fans being skeptical of a trade that saw fan-favourite outfielder Teoscar Hernandez go to Seattle in exchange for reliever Erik Swanson. However, three months later, the vision couldn’t be more clear.
The Blue Jays shifted their focus from super slugging to run prevention, which was necessary given how their 2022 campaign came crashing down in their game two collapse against the Seattle Mariners just a few months ago.
Since the deal for Swanson, who is one of the game’s finest bullpen arms, Toronto has gone on to pick up two of the best defensive outfielders in Daulton Varsho and Kevin Kiermaier, along with a quality starter in Chris Bassitt.
They completed the plan with the signing of reliever Chad Green, who looks to add serious depth to an already improved bullpen once he returns from injury down the stretch.
Top it off with the signing Brandon Belt, who will be a complete windfall in offensive value if he can return to his 2020-2021 form.
Despite losing a big bat in Hernandez, the lineup still packs a strong punch, which will be pivotal in helping them chase the AL East crown.
Loser: Chicago White Sox
Additions: Andrew Benintendi (OF), Mike Clevinger (RHP).
Subtractions: A.J. Pollock (OF), Danny Mendick (2B/SS), Elvis Andrus (SS), Johnny Cueto (RHP), Jose Abreu (1B), Josh Harrison (2B), Vincent Velasquez (RHP).
The White Sox had one job, which was to get better following a disappointing season. To summarize, they didn’t do that.
Andrew Benintendi was the lone position player to join the club over the winter, but the problems with this team need further addressing. A contingency addition to the bullpen, given the status of closer Liam Hendriks’ health, is crucial. Instead, they’ve opted to leave it in the hands of a group that could’ve used extra depth, and it creates a cluster of uncertainty for the upcoming year.
The bats can be dangerous if all goes right, but losing out on longtime slugger Jose Abreu is going to hurt a lot. So unless there are some major revivals from some of the bigger names in the lineup, scoring runs will be an issue for this club.
Yes, they did bring in a starting pitcher in Mike Clevinger. But, he’s coming off a career-low season that saw his strikeout numbers plummet to 7.2 K/9, along with his home run rate being the highest it’s ever been.
Barring some seriously good luck with injuries this year, it is going to take a lot for Chicago to make noise. They have the talent on paper to make it possible, but standing on their heads this offseason is going to hurt.
Winner: New York Mets
Additions: David Robertson (RHP), Jose Quintana (LHP), Justin Verlander (RHP), Kodai Senga (RHP), Omar Narvaez (C).
Subtractions: Adam Ottavino (RHP), Chris Bassitt (RHP), Jacob deGrom (RHP), James McCann (C), Mychal Givens (RHP), Seth Lugo (RHP), Taijuan Walker (RHP), Trevor May (RHP), Tyler Naquin (OF).
It was clear Jacob deGrom ultimately preferred the idea of playing elsewhere after signing with the Texas Rangers. While that was terrible news for those in Queens, the signing of Justin Verlander almost entirely negated this void.
Verlander is coming off his third career Cy Young season, and going into his age 40 season, he looks better than ever.
The lack of financial concern for this club has allowed them to go after many star players, even venturing internationally, proven by the signing of Japanese phenom Kodai Senga. The Japanese star pitched to 1.89 ERA in the NPB last year, as he looks to do the same for the Mets this season.
Other notable moves include the signings of Jose Quintana and Omar Narvaez, who shore up positions that were in need of further depth.
While New York was one of two teams to be pump-faked by the Carlos Correa sweepstakes, the club still turned in a stellar offseason that will see them have the highest payroll in baseball for the 2023 campaign.
Loser: Baltimore Orioles
Additions: Adam Frazier (2B), Cole Irvin (LHP), James McCann (C), Kyle Gibson (RHP), Mychal Givens (RHP).
Subtractions: Chris Ellis (RHP), Jesus Aguilar (1B), Jordan Lyles (RHP), Robinson Chirinos (C), Rougned Odor (2B), Travis Lakins (RHP).
This one isn’t too concerning given that Baltimore doesn’t need to capitalize on a closing window, but it feels as if they could’ve done more.
Offensively, nothing was added aside from Adam Frazier and James McCann, who aren’t exactly remarkable.
But the starting pitching could’ve seriously gotten a better boost than Kyle Gibson and Cole Irvin. Both starters could potentially fight for the top spot in the rotation as it stands with John Means still recovering, which says a lot on its own.
The Orioles don’t feel rushed in finalizing their rebuild, but there was plenty of value available this year in all markets that simply won’t be available next winter, and it seems as if this was a missed opportunity to add at least a high-impact player to help transcend the team.
“Could payroll be double or triple what it is? Or could it be over $100 million? Yeah, we’re not there yet,” said Orioles CEO and Chairman, John Angelos.
Time ticks quicker than you think, John. Let’s hope for Baltimore’s sake this was worth it.
Winner: Philadelphia Phillies
Additions: Craig Kimbrel (RHP), Gregory Soto (LHP), Josh Harrison (2B), Kody Clemens (2B), Matt Strahm (LHP), Taijuan Walker (RHP), Trea Turner (SS/2B).
Subtractions: Brad Hand (RHP), Corey Knebel (RHP), David Robertson (RHP), Jean Segura (2B), Kyle Gibson (RHP), Matt Vierling (OF/1B), Nick Maton (SS/OF), Noah Syndergaard (RHP), Zach Eflin (RHP).
From spending a decade as baseball’s definition of mediocre, to a magical postseason run that saw them fall two games short of a World Series, it’s clear that the Phillies are finally meant to be taken seriously.
They absolutely unloaded the Brink’s truck on Trea Turner, and what a move it is for a team so desperate to take that next step after tasting November baseball. Filling in their hole at shortstop with Turner is a move that shows they want to avenge their 2022 shortcomings, and badly.
While the pitching still does need further convincing, adding Taijuan Walker was a solid decision, along with the bullpen additions of Craig Kimbrel, Matt Strahm and Gregory Soto. There is risk involved in all of these moves, but the risk-to-reward on these deals is a net positive.
It is truthfully hard to picture this team coming in first, given the two other goliaths in the NL East who have superior regular season resumes. But, if they can get in the picture once again, this team will be a complete nightmare come October.
Loser: Boston Red Sox
Additions: Adam Duvall (OF), Chris Martin (RHP), Corey Kluber (RHP), Joely Rodriguez (LHP), Justin Turner (3B), Kenley Jansen (RHP), Masataka Yoshida (OF), Richard Bleier (RHP), Wyatt Mills (RHP).
Subtractions: Eric Hosmer (1B), Hirokazu Sawamura (RHP), Jaylin Davis (OF), J.D. Martinez (DH), Matt Barnes (RHP), Matt Strahm (LHP), Michael Wacha (RHP), Nathan Eovaldi (RHP), Rich Hill (LHP), Tommy Pham (OF), Xander Bogaerts (SS).
For a team that added several pieces over the winter, it’s concerning how much the departures outweigh the addition in terms of sheer significance.
Yes, the Red Sox did a great thing in extending their all-star and best player, Rafael Devers, to an 11-year deal. But, that’s about the end of the club’s good fortune.
They saw Xander Bogaerts, Boston’s long-time star shortstop, leave for San Diego. It was noted that re-signing Bogaerts was “top priority” for Chaim Bloom and co., but ultimately the Padres were willing to pay him the dollars that the Red Sox just weren’t willing to devote.
This leaves them with an inferior offense compared to last year, which means the world to a team that has to rely on its hitting. Yes, bringing in Justin Turner can help, but he’s nowhere near Bogaerts going into his age 38 season.
The Red Sox better hope Masataka Yoshida is the same player he was in Japan, otherwise it’s going to be a brutal year of watching the pitching blow into pieces (and no, adding Kenley Jansen and Corey Kluber don’t solve these deep-rooted issues).
Winner: Los Angeles Angels
Additions: Brandon Drury (UTL), Carlos Estevez (RHP), Hunter Renfroe (OF), Matt Moore (LHP), Tyler Anderson (LHP).
Subtractions: Archie Bradley (RHP), Greg Mahle (LHP), Kurt Suzuki (C), Kyle Barraclough (RHP), Michael Lorenzen (RHP), Philip Gosselin (2B).
After years upon years of lacklustre management in Anaheim, the Angels might have a semi-genuine shot at something.
A team so thin on pitching for years finally has three dependable starters in their rotation, thanks to the signing of Tyler Anderson, who enjoyed a career year down the freeway with the Dodgers.
The signings of Brandon Drury and Hunter Renfroe also serve as significant upgrades at their respective positions, with the latter providing a serious boost in the outfield.
Throw in a possible resurgence in Anthony Rendon and the emergence of top prospect Logan O’Hoppe, and you realize that the Angels, at long last, have a hitting core that can potentially deal legitimate harm one-through-nine.
Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout are the game’s two greatest talents, with the former looking at testing free agency waters come next winter.
While they’re still not a top two team in the AL West, the Angels need to make the most of this season, for their own sake.
*All additions and subtractions only include those currently at the major league level.