The emergence of a new year means many things on the sports calendar. Before long, pitchers and catchers will report for MLB Spring Training in Florida and Arizona.
There are several teams that either made significant acquisitions over the free agent period or re-signed key pieces who will be important in their efforts to make a postseason run in 2023.
There are plenty of winners and losers from this offseason, but we narrowed that list of winners down to six, as we are counting down the days to another spring and summer on the diamond.
New York Yankees
The mantra is the same for Yankees fans — championship or bust. Following the season in which they came within one victory of a 100-win regular season, it had to be a disappointment for many backers of the pinstripes when they were unceremoniously swept by the eventual champion Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series.
The centerpiece of the Yankees’ stellar 2022 was Aaron Judge, who made headlines of his own this past season by setting the single-season American League home run record with 62. But Judge also managed to slug those 62 in a contract year, which meant a team that wanted his services for 2023 and beyond had to show him the money.
Despite being pursued aggressively by the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants, Judge eventually decided to return to the Bronx to the tune of a nine-year, $360 million deal.
New York Mets
The Yankees were not the only Gotham team wheeling and dealing this offseason.
Mets owner Steve Cohen has made no bones about his desire to spare no expense to ensure a winner is put on the CitiField diamond. The team that calls Flushing Meadows in Queens home also had a disappointing conclusion to the 2022 season because they led in the National League East for much of the campaign, only to be overtaken in the final days by the Atlanta Braves.
The Mets made at least two marquee deals this offseason. One was to land veteran pitcher Justin Verlander to a two-year deal worth nearly $87 million. Verlander was part of two World Series-winning Astros teams: last year’s version and the controversial 2017 rendition.
The Mets thought they landed former Astro Carlos Correa, who played last season with the Minnesota Twins. He was originally set to sign with the San Francisco Giants but concerns about his physical arose. More physical concerns altered Correa’s Mets deal, and now he’s set to return to Minnesota.
Remember that 2021 trade deadline where three cornerstones of the Cubs’ 2016 World Series champion team, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo, were all dealt to new teams? It appeared the days of the “Lovable Losers” were back on Chicago’s North Side. Not so fast, said the Ricketts family.
Last offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers landed one of the nuclei of the Braves’ 2021 championship team by signing Freddie Freeman to a six-year, $162 million contract. This offseason, the Cubs poached from that Atlanta team, and they inked a seven-year, $177 million deal with Dansby Swanson.
Swanson is widely praised in baseball circles for his offense, as well as his defensive talents as a shortstop. His wife, Mallory Pugh, also plays for a Chicago team — the Red Stars of the NWSL.
For much of the 2022 season, the Phillies were treading water in a National League East that was dominated by the Braves and Mets. Then came the playoffs, where the Phillies caught lightning in a bottle that nearly propelled the team to its first World Series championship since 2008.
Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski knows his team has a stacked roster with position players Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto. Not to mention pitchers Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler on the mound. He decided to add to that talented roster by signing Trea Turner to a massive 11-year, $300 million contract.
The Phillies are not afraid to spend money. Harper’s deal —which he signed in 2019 — was worth 13 years and $330 million.
San Diego Padres
In baseball circles, San Diego is widely referred to as a “small market.” The Padres’ front office has not been spending like a “small market” team recently. Prior to the 2019 season, they crossed dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s on a $300 million, 10-year contract with Manny Machado.
San Diego, as it turned out, made a late offer for Judge before he returned to the Yankees. They used that money to land star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, formerly of the Boston Red Sox, to an 11-year, $280 million contract instead.
The Cubs were also reportedly pursuing Bogaerts before they closed the deal for Swanson. Bogaerts spent 10 seasons with the Red Sox. Last season, he batted .307 with 15 home runs and 73 RBIs. He also had a .456 slugging percentage.
For a team like the Rangers that finished with a disappointing 68-94 record — Texas was due to make a big splash.
Indeed, that splash was made during this past offseason. Jacob deGrom, most known for building a storied career as a pitcher with the Mets, will take his talents to the Lone Star State as he signed a deal with the Rangers.
Texas will pay $185 million over 8 seasons for deGrom’s services. He is 34 years old, and while it is a big get for a Rangers team that finished fourth in the American League West in 2022, it is somewhat risky given deGrom’s recent history of injuries.
Keep up with all the MLB action this season.
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