The MLB offseason is like no other. No, this isn’t a positive endorsement of it overall but I’ll give credit where it’s due, this year was a good one. On a normal basis, the MLB offseason is relatively drawn out. For example, one of the best players in the majors, Bryce Harper, didn’t even sign with the Phillies until February 28th last season! Thankfully, this offseason boasted some big signings early, some huge trades and lots of talk of trash cans. With the regular season just weeks away, let’s rank the biggest transactions that took place to set the landscape of the 2020 season.
Gerrit Cole signs historic nine-year, $324 million contract
You can’t start off a transactions post without first getting into the unbelievable deal the Yankees handed to the biggest free agent on the market. After being robbed of the AL Cy Young, Cole was consoled with the largest signed by a pitcher and the fourth biggest deal in MLB history. Cole, who posted a K% of 40 last season with the Astros, will anchor a Yankees rotation for years to come and will likely end his career in pinstripes.
The Yankees rotation has been plagued by injuries over the past year and that trend has already begun once again, as Luis Severino is planning on getting Tommy John surgery and James Paxton will miss the first couple months of the season. Had the Yankees missed out on Cole, we’d be looking at a current rotation (presumably) of Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, Jordan Montgomery and possibly Jonathan Loaisiga. As you’d imagine, Cole is the early favorite to win the American League Cy Young (+275 on DraftKings Sportsbook) and should help propel the Yankees to yet another AL East title (-480).
Mookie Betts, David Price traded to Dodgers
It dragged out for way longer than we wanted but the Red Sox were able to offload Betts and Price with hopes of getting their payroll underneath the luxury tax. In doing so, the Dodgers acquired an outfielder that slashed .295/.391/.524 with 29 home runs, 80 RBI and 16 stolen bases through 150 games. The “throw in” of Price is a pitcher who is coming off a new career-high in K% at 28 to go with a a 4.28 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and a 3.62 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching; measures a pitchers ERA with league average defense). As if the Dodgers weren’t favored enough, this put them over the top, with their odds shifting with the move.
The Dodgers may very well have the best lineup in the National League with Betts at the top. With so much power already with Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Justin Turner and Corey Seager, the addition of Betts will be massive. Oh, let’s not forget, top prospect Gavin Lux will also be in the mix but he’ll likely be batting seventh! What a hell of a problem to have that your top prospect can only crack the seventh spot. Truly, if this Dodgers club can stay healthy, they’ll be the team to beat in the National League.
Angels place a halo over Anthony Rendon
After missing out on Cole, the Angels immediately shifted their attention and checkbook to Rendon. As one of the top free agent hitters on the market, Rendon would sign a seven-year, $245 million contract. The third base position was a big area of need for the Angels. David Fletcher mainly played the position but we also saw Zack Cozart and Matt Thaiss take some reps. Overall, this position slashed .243/.306/.345 with 13 (!) homer runs and 58 RBI for the Angels. As you can imagine, all of these were at or amongst the lowest in the league.
Rendon will bring a much needed bat to this offense and help give Trout some protection in the lineup. This is a player who just finished third in the NL MVP voting and slashed .319/.412/.598 with 34 home runs, 126 RBI and 117 runs scored with the Nationals. His move to the AL West could hurt his power a bit with some of the stadiums he’ll frequent but this was a much needed signing for a club that’s looking to compete in 2020.
Rangers add former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber to the mix
The Rangers rotation last season was, well, interesting. They used a total of 19 pitchers to start a game last season, which was even more than the Rays. For reference, the Rays, who lived and died by the “opener” used 15 pitchers to start games for them. Realizing this was a big hole that needed to be filled, the Rangers first signed free agents Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles, who’ll occupy the back end of the rotation. Then, they made the trade for Kluber, sending Delino DeShields and Emmanuel Clase to the Indians. Quite frankly, it feels like it didn’t take much and the Rangers got quite the steal here.
Of course, any deal comes with risk but this one is a bit heightened for the Rangers. They’re getting a pitcher who only made seven starts last season, spanning 35 2⁄3 innings. Kluber suffered a fracture of his right arm after taking a come-backer off the bat of Brian Anderson at 102.2 mph in May. It doesn’t look as if it’ll be an issue for the 33-year old and the Rangers aren’t hoping so either. With a much improved rotation and a new stadium, the Rangers are hoping to be more of a contender in what could be a very exciting AL West division in 2020.
Nationals re-sign Stephen Strasburg to a seven-year deal
The Nationals offseason basically came down to one big decision. Do you bring back Rendon or Strasburg? The money these players would command was too rich to have both and it was the 31-year old ace that was paid in December. At the time, it was the biggest contract for a pitcher at $245 million but that was dispelled quickly by Gerrit Cole. The reigning World Series MVP had a strong 2019, posting a 18-6 record with a 3.32 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, a K% of 30 and a 3.25 FIP. It’s a deal that needed to be made and solidified the top of the rotation for the next few years with Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin.
The concern here is that this seven-year deal will take Strasburg to the age of 39. Turning 32 in July, the end of this deal could get real ugly for the Nats, as it also includes a full no-trade clause. If you’re a Nats fan, this is a “later” problem and not one to worry about. While we can worry about that later, the Nationals reacquired the services of one of the more elite arms in the game who is home grown and likely a lifer in the organization.
White Sox looking to boost their 2020 outlook with Yasmani Grandal
This was one of the biggest moves that didn’t get the recognition it deserved. Grandal is an excellent player both behind the plate and offensively. The signing speaks to that as the White Sox already had the service of James McCann, who slashed .273/.328/.460 with 18 home runs and 60 RBI through 118 games and is two years younger. As for Grandal, he posted .246/.380/.468 with 28 home runs and 77 RBI through 153 games with the Brewers. It brings more power to a White Sox lineup that has some sneaky potential and power with their mix of young players and veterans.
The biggest and most underrated part of this move is what Grandal will bring to the pitching staff. Grandal has been highly touted for his pitch framing abilities, which essentially states a catcher’s ability to make a subtle movement for a borderline pitch to be called a strike when in fact, it may not have been. When you consider the White Sox have someone like Lucas Giolito, who has +2000 odds to win the American League Cy Young according to DraftKings Sportsbook, to work with, it could really unlock his true potential. When thinking of some of the bigger moves that happened this offseason, this could go down as one of the most underrated and beneficial to the White Sox.
Phillies strike a deal with Zack Wheeler
The contract makes it out to be a big move for the Phillies. Anytime you add a player that boasts a five-year, $118 million deal, it draws your attention. Despite the immense amount of talent this team had last season, they still finished with a .500 record at 81-81, good for fourth in the NL East. Wheeler, who was drawing a ton of interest from a number of teams on the open market, lands in the same division as his former Mets team. In his final year before hitting free agency, Wheeler tossed 195 1/3 innings, the most of his career, with a 3.96 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, a 23.6 K% and a 3.48 FIP.
The concern here is Wheeler has posted some less than stellar numbers away from Citi Field. His FIP on the road last year sat at 4.13 and he’s pitching half of his game in a ballpark that favors left-handed bats. Lefties have hit 42 of the 75 home runs he’s allowed in his career to go with a 32.8% hard-hit rate. In an area he’s struggled with throughout his career, this isn’t exactly the best landing spot for him. He’s a much needed boast to the Phillies staff overall but I have a feeling this could go down as another swing and a miss for the Phillies.