With spring training about eight weeks away, we’re roughly midway through the offseason, but almost all of the most significant signings have occurred. Only two players remain unsigned from my initial top 25 free-agents list that was published in early November. So, let’s catch our breath and, just for fun, run through the biggest “winners” and “losers” from the first part of the 2022-23 offseason.
From players to teams to executives to agents, here are my choices for eight winners and eight losers from the start of another wild winter.
1. Scott Boras, Boras Corporation
Boras has owned the offseason, breaking records for his clients and negotiating four nine-figure contracts, including the deals for Carlos Correa (13 years, $350 million), Xander Bogaerts (11 years, $280 million), Carlos Rodón (six years, $162 million) and Brandon Nimmo (eight years, $162 million). He also negotiated the contracts for Masataka Yoshida, Josh Bell, Taijuan Walker, Sean Manaea, Matthew Boyd, Cody Bellinger, Joey Gallo, J.D. Martinez, Austin Hedges and Michael Brantley. That’s more than $1.24 billion in new contracts this winter. And by the way, he’s still working on deals for free agents such as Jurickson Profar, Michael Conforto, Zack Britton, Elvis Andrus and Kyle Davies. Assuming a 5 percent commission rate, that means the Boras Corporation has secured approximately $62 million in total commissions this offseason.
2. Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees
Judge turned down the Yankees’ extension offer of $213.5 million in March, betting that he’d have a big year and be rewarded with a better contract this offseason. He proceeded to produce arguably the best offensive season in MLB history, logging a .311/.425/.686 slash line with 28 doubles, 62 home runs, 133 runs scored, 131 RBIs, 111 walks, 391 total bases and a 211 OPS+. Judge’s historic year was worth 10.6 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. It earned him the American League Most Valuable Player Award, but also a nine-year, $360 million contract, which set a position-player record for average annual value ($40 million). Bottom line: Judge made an extra $146.5 million by betting on himself.
3. Free-agent shortstops
The top three shortstops in this free-agent class — Correa, Trea Turner and Bogaerts — are among the offseason’s biggest winners, as they all were significantly overpaid in terms of years and dollars. They set a new standard. Correa became the highest-paid shortstop in history with a 13-year, $350 million deal with the Giants that runs through his age-40 season. Turner, the first of the trio to sign, landed an 11-year, $300 million deal with the Phillies that pays him through his age-40 season. Bogaerts, whose deal was sandwiched in between Turner’s and Correa’s, received an 11-year, $280 million contract from the Padres that also runs through his age-40 season. (Dansby Swanson, the fourth elite free-agent shortstop, benefited from agreeing to terms last, likely getting an extra year on his contract because of how the market moved; he received a seven-year, $177 million deal from the Cubs that goes through his age-35 season; all said, the four deals total a whopping $1.1 billion).
None of the first three contracts will end well, but it’s the new way of doing business for major-league teams. The basic concept for teams is this: We’ll decide how much money to pay you for the rest of your career, and we’ll enjoy the productive seasons you can give us, while understanding the risks of age and decline after 35, and knowing that we’re lowering our tax rates and basically deferring money without interest — and if we get lucky and you perform into your late 30s to early 40s, we’ll get an unexpected benefit. It’s great for the trio of star shortstops, and the first half of these contracts should be great for the teams. But, in all likelihood, these contracts will end the same way the long-term deals to Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Canó, Joey Votto and Albert Pujols did — poorly.
4. Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, Philadelphia Phillies
In late November, Dombrowski received a contract extension through the 2027 season, then went right back to work and filled the biggest hole on the Phillies roster with an All-Star shortstop. Turner provides traffic at the top of the lineup, and has a special combination of speed and power. He’s won a batting title and led the league twice in both hits and stolen bases. Dombrowski improved the middle of the rotation by signing Walker to a four-year deal, which also took the right-hander away from the Mets. The veteran executive bolstered the bullpen with a two-year deal for Matt Strahm, who gives the Phillies a second lefty reliever. Dombrowski has put the defending National League champs in a strong position for 2023, and earned the Phillies an A+ in my recent midterm offseason grades.
5. Steve Cohen, owner, New York Mets
Cohen is baseball’s new George Steinbrenner, ready to outspend every MLB owner and he really doesn’t care about it. If you can’t beat them, just outspend them, and don’t worry about what’s going to be the biggest luxury tax bill in the history of the sport. The Mets’ payroll is already in the $350 million range, which carries an expected tax in the neighborhood of $75 million. The Mets’ tax payments alone will be more than at least 10 teams are expected to spend on their entire rosters next year. This offseason, Cohen has committed approximately $460 million to future player salaries, and that comes a year after he doled out $550 million just for Max Scherzer, Starling Marte and Francisco Lindor. His spending is so outrageous that a new tax threshold in the latest collective bargaining agreement is known in the industry as the “Steve Cohen Tax” because he’s the only one who’s expected to have to pay it. I wish I could have had an owner like Cohen during my 16 years as a general manager. Of course, GM Billy Eppler and manager Buck Showalter better win now.
6. Cy Young Award winners
This has been a tremendous offseason for current and former Cy Young Award winners. Jacob deGrom landed a five-year, $185 million deal from the Rangers and Justin Verlander received a two-year, $86.66 million contract from the Mets with a vesting option for a third year. DeGrom won the NL Cy Young Award in 2018 and 2019, pitching more than 200 innings in both seasons. However, since then, he’s never made more than 15 starts, nor pitched even 95 innings, in a single season. (He made 13 starts and totaled 68 innings in the shortened 2020 season, finishing third in the NL Cy Young voting.) DeGrom pitched just 64 1/3 innings last season and has had to overcome a variety of injuries in recent years but, entering his age-35 season, he still commanded $185 million on the open market. Meanwhile, Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, matched new teammate Max Scherzer’s record AAV of $43.3 million. Verlander will turn 40 in February, and although I believe he has two Cy Young-caliber seasons ahead of him, guaranteeing that kind of money for a player in their 40s is not something we’re used to unless your name is Tom Brady.
7. Seattle Mariners
Jerry Dipoto has made 140 trades as the head of baseball operations for the Mariners and two of his last three deals might be difference-makers come October 2023. First, he landed Teoscar Hernández, a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, in a trade with the Blue Jays. Hernández will give Seattle solid defense and 25-to-30 home run power in right field. Then, Dipoto improved the Mariners up the middle by acquiring second baseman Kolten Wong, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner, in a trade with Milwaukee. The Hernández trade provided important thump for the middle of Seattle’s lineup and the Wong swap made their defense special up the middle. Next on the Mariners’ agenda is finding another corner outfielder or designated hitter type, preferably a right-handed hitter.
8. Fred McGriff, Hall of Famer
McGriff, along with Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell, was the best first baseman of his era. But for whatever reason, he’d been snubbed for all these years. However, the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee righted that wrong by electing McGriff to the Hall of Fame earlier this month. McGriff received unanimous support, all 16 possible votes, and was the only player elected by the committee. He finished his career with 493 home runs, a .377 on-base percentage and 52.6 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. The five-time All-Star also won three Silver Slugger awards and hit 20 or more home runs 15 times and 30 or more home runs 10 times. After a career spent with six different teams, McGriff’s final stop — Cooperstown — is where he belongs.
1. James Click, former GM, Houston Astros
Click, the former GM of the Astros, won it all but still somehow lost. His reward for Houston’s success, including this year’s World Series championship: a lousy one-year contract offer with a minimal raise from team owner Jim Crane. Click said thanks but no thanks and is now unemployed. That’s right, the world champion GM is out of work, which almost never happens. To my knowledge, the only other head of baseball operations who did not return after a championship was Larry MacPhail, who resigned from his post with the Yankees after leading them to the 1947 World Series title.
2. Boston Red Sox
This has been a nightmare offseason for the Red Sox. They watched as Bogaerts, their team leader, departed in free agency to the Padres. They still haven’t been able to extend their star player, Rafael Devers, who will be a free agent after next season; if they’re finally able to get a deal done, the Red Sox would at least salvage something from this bizarre offseason. They spent a whopping $90 million on Yoshida, guaranteeing the Japanese outfielder that hefty sum on a five-year contract without knowing how he’ll fare against major-league pitching. They filled their closer role by signing Kenley Jansen, 35, but did they have to give him a second year on the deal? (Remember, the Braves signed Jansen to a one-year contract last offseason.) And should they be concerned about how the new pitch clock will affect one of the slowest workers in the game by pitch tempo? Can he speed up his delivery by more than 10 seconds and still be as effective? Their latest questionable move: giving Justin Turner, 38, a two-year, $21.7 million deal with a player option for 2024. The Red Sox are taking huge risks with some of their moves, and Bogaerts bolting is a big clubhouse loss as well as a talent loss.
Dictionary definition of the word BIZARRE:
1. very strange or unusual, especially so as to cause interest or amusement.
2. Boston Red Sox off-season 2022-2023.
— Jim Bowden⚾️🏈 (@JimBowdenGM) December 19, 2022
3. Travis d’Arnaud, C, Atlanta Braves
D’Arnaud helped the Braves win a world championship in 2021 and he’s respected in the organization for his game-calling as well as his clutch hitting. However, Atlanta traded for Sean Murphy, an elite defensive catcher who is under team control for three more seasons, and now d’Arnaud will split his time between catching and DHing. Of course, that’s just the immediate plan, as most people believe Murphy will become the everyday catcher and d’Arnaud, who is signed for one more year, will eventually be traded.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have won the NL West in nine of the past 10 seasons and have been the favorite in all of them. But next year, for the first time since 2012, they will be supplanted by the Padres as the team to beat in the division. They lost Trea Turner, Justin Turner, Bellinger, Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney in free agency. Their only additions of note have been right-hander Noah Syndergaard, who went 10-10 last year with a 3.94 ERA, and J.D. Martinez, who at 35 has started to decline. The Dodgers didn’t sign any significant free agents even though the market was loaded with elite shortstops and solid everyday outfielders. Despite their need for a closer, they’ve been silent on that front, too. It’s understandable the Dodgers want to get under the luxury tax and create a runway for many of their young prospects and players, but the reality is their overall team talent is going to take a major dip for the first time in years. Coming off a 111-win season, the Dodgers are no longer the favorites to win the West, let alone the NL.
5. Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Los Angeles Angels
In October, Ohtani inexplicably agreed to a one-year, $30 million contract for the 2023 season, despite the fact he was arbitration-eligible and with five years of service time could have compared himself to every player in the game. He was the AL MVP in 2021 and the runner-up to Judge this year. Judge was just paid $40 million per year; Correa was paid $35 million for 2022 and just signed a new deal for $350 million. As a star two-way player, Ohtani is a unique case, and he would’ve had a strong argument for a contract in the $35 million to $45 million range. Yes, his $30 million contract set a record for arbitration-eligible players. Yes, he will be a free agent after next season and stands to make a lot of money. But I think it would have been easy to convince an arbitrator that as a unicorn two-player, Ohtani should be paid more in recognition of what he provides as both a pitcher and a hitter.
6. Brandon Crawford, SS, San Francisco Giants
Crawford, 35, has been the Giants’ starting shortstop for more than a decade, accumulating four Gold Gloves, three All-Star appearances and a Silver Slugger Award in his 1,561 games with the club. That impressive run at shortstop is over after San Francisco signed Correa. He will be their starting shortstop, and Crawford will need to accept a position change for the first time in his career. Crawford will make the move reluctantly, but he told The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly that for “the rest of this offseason, spring training and during the season, I will be working my hardest to be the best I can be at a different position and help us get back to the postseason.” We’ll have to wait and see how the Giants use Crawford and whether he remains OK with the arrangement — could he eventually waive his 10-and-5 rights and be traded to another team where he can be a full-time shortstop? — but for now, one of the great runs at shortstop is ending (only five players in major-league history have played more defensive games exclusively as a shortstop).
7. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens
Bonds and Clemens received a resounding message from the Hall of Fame when the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s vote was announced at the Winter Meetings: They aren’t getting elected to Cooperstown anytime soon. After both Bonds and Clemens failed to even collect four votes apiece from the 16-person committee (12 votes were needed for induction), our own Jayson Stark weighed in on their Hall hopes, saying it’s “over” for them for the “foreseeable future.” Now, Bonds and Clemens must wait until 2026, if they’re even considered by the committee then. But, if this vote was any indication, it looks like Bonds and Clemens will be on the outside looking in for a while, as will all-time hits leader Pete Rose.
8. Oakland A’s
The A’s offseason is going about as well as their regular season. After finishing with the second-worst record, they were victims of the new MLB Draft lottery, ending up with the No. 6 pick in 2023; that is typically a significant drop in talent. And the one major move they made — trading Murphy, their Gold Glove catcher in a three-team deal — did not bring back as many strong players as most expected, outside of outfielder Esteury Ruiz, who has great athleticism and tools but is still a high-risk, high-reward type prospect. The rest of the return was mediocre at best. Finally, the franchise is about to enter another year without a new stadium deal. Can it get any worse for the A’s?
(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic / Getty Images)