At his introductory news conference with the Colorado Rockies after signing a seven-year, $182 million contract, Kris Bryant was asked about the future of his new franchise.
"I take a lot of pride in the fact that I have never played on a losing team in the big leagues, and I don't plan on doing that here," Bryant said.
It was a perfect answer to an impossible question. What was he going to say, that the money was simply too lavish to refuse?
Bryant's contract was certainly the most stunning of the free-agent frenzy, landing with the Rockies at that dollar amount. As Jeff Passan pointed out, however, the owners spent money across the board in free agency: a record $3.265 billion as of last week, with other free agents still trickling in, shattering the previous high of $2.4 billion in 2016. The Rangers committed $580.7 million to free agents, a record for one offseason. It should be noted, however: Two of the three previous highs (the 2014 Yankees and 2019 Phillies) failed to make the postseason.
There was also a flurry of post-lockout trades as front offices tried to cram three months of offseason transactions into 10 days. Now that the dust has mostly settled, Boston Red Sox Jersey let's give each team an offseason grade. Obviously, expectations are different for each franchise; nobody expected the Pirates to sign Carlos Correa and Freddie Freeman. Contenders should be expected to fill holes and spend some money. (All payroll estimates are from the invaluable Cot's Contracts.)The Braves stuck to the cold, hard calculus and didn't think a 32-year-old Freddie Freeman was worth the investment. So how do you lose a franchise icon and still win the offseason? When you quickly pivot to Olson and immediately sign him to an eight-year, $168 contract -- the biggest in franchise history. "When something like this happens, there's an emotional component, and that can be anger, that can be sadness, that can be frustration," general manager Alex Anthopoulos told MLB Network. "That's completely fair. I completely understand. This guy was everything to the organization. ... At the end of the day, you have to look at what makes sense for us in the now and going forward." The Braves now have Olson, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies signed through at least 2027 (plus Austin Riley under team control through 2025). The foundation is set for a long time ... and the payroll still low enough for Liberty Media to cash in huge profits.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Additions/re-signings: Freddie Freeman, Clayton Kershaw, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Anderson, Danny Duffy, Daniel Hudson
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Maybe Freeman fell into their laps, and in a sense his bat only replaces the departed Corey Seager, but how can you not love adding Freeman to the lineup and the clubhouse? I'd rather have Freeman for six/$162 million than Seager for 10/$325 million despite the age and position difference for one obvious reason: Freeman has missed seven games the past four seasons (Seager missed 67 just last season). Kershaw returns on a one-year deal, is healthy heading into the season and should once again be good for 20 or so quality starts, while Heaney, Anderson and Duffy provide rotation depth. If you want to nitpick, that's three more lefties to go alongside Julio Urias and Kershaw, and the rotation is relying heavily on getting 65 starts again from Urias and Walker Buehler (pending Trevor Bauer's status). But that lineup ...
New York Mets
Additions/re-signings: Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt, Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Adam Ottavino (plus manager Buck Showalter)
The Mets moved quickly, signing Scherzer, Marte, Canha and Escobar before the lockout and then adding the underrated Bassitt in a post-lockout trade. Bassitt provides New York with a strong No. 3 starter behind Jacob deGrom and Scherzer. The Mets are now neck-and-neck with the Dodgers for the highest payroll, a far cry from just three years ago, when they ranked 11th -- let alone 2014, when they ranked 27th. We should note that they reached the World Series in 2015 with the 21st-highest payroll, so Steve Cohen's checkbook doesn't guarantee anything and the playoff hopes rest heavily on how many starts they get from deGrom and Scherzer. Still, Mets fans surely love having an owner despised so much by other owners that a special tax level was added just for him.
Additions/re-signings: Carlos Correa, Sonny Gray, Gary Sanchez, Gio Urshela, Dylan Bundy
The above doesn't include signing Byron Buxton to a seven-year, $100 million extension in November, and that's part of their offseason grade. It's a reasonable gamble even given Buxton's health history, and after he put up 4.5 WAR in 61 games in 2021, we can only dream on what he might do if he plays 140 games. As for Correa, it's possible Houston Texans Jerseys he does opt out of his three-year contract and is here just one year, but it's still a great deal for the Twins. Consider the Rangers are paying Seager $32.5 million per season for 10 years compared to Correa at $35.1 million. The only knock here: The rotation still seems a little short (remember, Kenta Maeda is out after Tommy John surgery). One more starter would have given them an A+ offseason.
Additions/re-signings: Javier Baez, Eduardo Rodriguez, Tucker Barnhart, Andrew Chafin, Michael Pineda
We all know Baez's flaws: Too many strikeouts, he walks about once a week. But he picks it in the field, has 30-homer power and fills a huge need at shortstop. His defense gives him a high floor, so the six-year, $140 million deal is reasonable, even if he's never the six-win player he was in 2018 and 2019. Rodriguez had the best strikeout and walk totals of his career in 2021, so his five-year, $77 million deal also feels sensible. In the midst of the free-agent frenzy they quietly added Chafin, one of the top lefty relievers last season, and Pineda.
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My only qualm: They went only so far and remain more than $50 million below payrolls they've run in the past. This was a great free-agent class to dig into. Why not add Kyle Schwarber to DH (sorry, Miguel Cabrera's at-bats should be limited) or, in a dream scenario, sign Carlos Correa and play Baez at second?
San Francisco Giants
Additions/re-signings: Brandon Belt, Joc Pederson, Carlos Rodon, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Alex Cobb, Matthew Boyd, Carlos Martinez
Yes, the Giants lost Buster Posey to retirement, along with Kevin Gausman and Bryant to free agency, but they brought back DeSclafani and Wood, and I love the high-upside move on Rodon -- although he's not without risk after his velocity fell off in the second half last season. The Giants will also see whether they can work their pitching magic on Boyd and Martinez. Belt has quietly been great the past two seasons with a .285/.393/.595 line, and all he cost was the $18.4 million qualifying offer. I like the series of moves, but the Giants' payroll is still some $30 million below where it was from 2015 to '17. Marcus Semien or Trevor Story would have looked nice at second base.
Additions/re-signings: Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Jon Gray, Mitch Garver, Garrett Richards, Martin Perez, Brad Miller, Kole Calhoun
Now that's a busy offseason. It's difficult to criticize an ownership/front office that signs an All-Star middle infield -- although Seager and Semien come at the steep, steep cost of $500 million. Seager is a terrific player; I just don't think he's a $325 million player. He has never hit 30 home runs, he's not a Gold Glove shortstop and he has missed a lot of time because of injuries. But he can hit. So can Semien, but don't expect 45 home runs again. I also like the Garver pickup, and it will be interesting to see what Gray does away from Coors Field. The problem is the best years the Rangers will get from Seager and Semien will be the next three, and they still don't have a viable rotation.
Additions/re-signings: Andrew McCutchen, Hunter Renfroe, Brad Boxberger, Pedro Severino
The Brewers are in obvious win-now mode coming off 95 wins and the NL Central division title, and perhaps the best move they made was one they didn't: trading Josh Hader. It's tempting for a small-market franchise to deal Hader for a slew of prospects when you have Devin Williams, who could take over as closer, but the Brewers will run with perhaps the best late-game combo in the majors. McCutchen and Renfroe combined for 58 home runs last season and can especially thump left-handers. Perhaps the Brewers are looking ahead to a playoff rematch against the Braves, after they couldn't touch Max Fried or all those lefties in the Atlanta bullpen.
Additions/re-signings: Seiya Suzuki, Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley, Andrelton Simmons, Jonathan Villar, Drew Smyly, Yan Gomes, Clint Frazier, Daniel Norris, David Robertson, Chris Martin, Jesse Chavez
Don't feel too bad if your brain just cramped up looking at that list of names; even Cubs fans weren't aware of all these signings. I'm not exactly sure what the strategy was here other than the Cubs, who went 27-45 in the second half, had plenty of room on the 40-man roster. The confusing thing is they brought in Stroman (three years) and Miley (one year) on short-term contracts, establishing an aspiration to compete now. Then they signed Simmons, who had a .558 OPS last season, to fill their need at shortstop. With a $168 million payroll -- after going over $200 million three times since 2016 --- they had money to lure Correa or even Freeman to Wrigley.
Additions/re-signings: Mike Minor, Tommy Pham, Justin Dunn, Jake Fraley, Brandon Williamson, Chase Petty, Hunter Strickland, Donovan Solano, Colin Moran
"We're not making trades because we have to," GM Nick Krall said after the Jesse Winker/Eugenio Suarez deal with Seattle and Sonny Gray trade with Chicago White Sox Jersey Minnesota. "We're making trades because it's best for our long-term outlook of this organization." Reds fans were apoplectic after those deals ... but, you know, they haven't followed up with trades of Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle as everyone expected and even acquired Minor and Pham (who, by the way, has a higher WAR over the past three seasons than Winker).
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One thing nobody brings up: The Reds were on the hook for $27 million to Suarez and Mike Moustakas; that wasn't going to work because both were awful in 2021. Yes, the rebuild to 2020-21 didn't pay off and now it's time for another one. Maybe Reds fans deserved better. But I don't think it was an awful series of moves -- as long as they keep Castillo and Mahle.
Boston Red Sox
Additions/re-signings: Trevor Story, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rich Hill, Michael Wacha, James Paxton
I love the Story signing for six years, $140 million and believe he'll bounce back from a so-so 2021, when an elbow injury likely affected his production. As a pull hitter, he'll love Fenway. He'll play second base in 2022 but also provides insurance at shortstop if Xander Bogaerts opts out after the season. I don't quite understand the Bradley trade after he hit .163 last season, and the Hill/Wacha/Paxton trio is more like a fishing expedition to see if one works out. Hill did make 31 starts last season, but he's also 42 and missed time in both 2019 and 2020. Paxton underwent Tommy John surgery last April and won't be back until later in the season.
Los Angeles Angels
Additions/re-signings: Noah Syndergaard, Raisel Iglesias, Aaron Loup, Ryan Tepera, Michael Lorenzen, Archie Bradley, Matt Duffy, Kurt Suzuki
Signing Syndergaard to a one-year, $21 million deal and re-signing closer Iglesias to a four-year, $58 million deal are the flashy moves here, but GM Perry Minasian also added some bullpen arms (Loup and Tepera ranked in the top 20 in FanGraphs WAR among relievers), while Lorenzen will be given an opportunity to start. They spent more than $28 million for the four relievers and another $6.75 million for Lorenzen, which you would prefer not to do, but it's a sign of how inept the Angels' farm system has been at providing even serviceable relief help. Shortstop is still a big hole, however, and if ever there was an offseason to sign a shortstop, this would have been it -- especially with Albert Pujols' salary finally off the books. That feels like a big whiff.
Additions/re-signings: Avisail Garcia, Jorge Soler, Joey Wendle, Jacob Stallings, Louis Head
The Marlins needed to improve an offense that was next to last in the NL in runs, and Kim Ng made two rational signings in Garcia (four years, $53 million) and Soler (three years, $36 million), the team's biggest expenditures in free agency since the ill-fated $80 million Wei-Yin Chen signing in 2016. Would Nick Castellanos at $100 million (his deal with the Phillies) have made more sense than $89 million for these two? Derek Jeter apparently thought so. Garcia has alternated good years with bad years since 2016, while Soler, the 2021 World Series MVP, seemed to find his swing again with the Braves and makes sense as a DH option, but there is some risk with both. I also like the Stallings trade to add a Gold Glove catcher to a position the Marlins have struggled at for years.
Additions/re-signings: Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, Odubel Herrera, Corey Knebel, Jeurys Familia, Brad Hand
My gut instinct says this lineup of DHs is not going to work -- but it sure will be fun to watch. At least on offense. The other side of the ball? Not so much. As colleague and resident Phillies fan Eric Karabell said on his podcast, "It's arguably the worst defensive team of all time." To be fair, we probably won't see both Castellanos and Schwarber together too often in the outfield, but even though the game has morphed into a strikeout-filled version of softball, defense still matters, and that could be a disaster. The bullpen added three former veteran closers (Knebel probably gets first shot) and it might work, although we've said that about Phillies bullpens the past few years.
Additions/re-signings: Robbie Ray, Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez, Adam Frazier, Sergio Romo
The Mariners signed the AL Cy Young winner for $115 million and traded for a high-OBP hitter in Winker and a power bat in Suarez, so it's not like they didn't address needs -- yet it feels like the Mariners should have done more. They spent three seasons building up to this offseason -- and signed only one major free agent. "We do have payroll flexibility and we're going to use it go out and make the team better," Jerry Dipoto said in October. Hmm. The payroll is higher, up from $102 million in 2021 all the way to ... $114 million, well below levels they ran even when they were bad.
Toronto Blue Jays
Additions/re-signings: Kevin Gausman, Matt Chapman, Yusei Kikuchi, Yimi Garcia, Raimel Tapia
The Blue Jays add Gausman and Chapman but lose Cy Young winner Ray and second baseman Semien, third in the MVP vote. In terms of 2021 numbers, that's a drop from 14.0 combined WAR from Ray and Semien to 8.7 for Gausman and Chapman. To be fair, Ray and Semien weren't likely to post those numbers again. I would be a little concerned that Gausman and Kikuchi move from pitcher-friendly home parks to the AL East -- and it's worth noting that both weren't as effective after the pitch-grip crackdown, with Gausman posting a 4.42 ERA in the second half and Kikuchi 5.98. Chapman's defense at third is as good as it gets, although a left-handed bat would have fit better in the righty-heavy lineup.
San Diego Padres
Additions/re-signings: Luke Voit, Nick Martinez, Robert Suarez, Luis Garcia, Jorge Alfaro (and manager Bob Melvin)
The run-up A.J. Preller and majority owner Peter Seidler made the past two seasons created a roster that was easily the most expensive in Padres history and pretty stable heading into 2022, so there wasn't a lot do other than trying to dump Eric Hosmer and/or Wil Myers to free up some money.
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Former Rangers right-hander Nick Martinez returns to the majors from Japan, where he had a 1.60 ERA, while Suarez also comes over from Japan, where he had a 1.16 ERA and 42 saves. Both could be sleeper signings. Voit, who led the majors in home runs in 2020, fits in at DH, although he battled injuries in 2021. The best move, however, might be bringing in Melvin, who always seemed to get the most out of his A's teams.
Additions/re-signings: Justin Verlander, Hector Neris
Other than re-signing Verlander for $25 million (with a conditional player option of $25 million for 2023 if he pitches 130 innings), it has been a quiet offseason for the Astros. They were rumored to be in on Carlos Correa post-lockout, but they apparently stuck with a five-year, $160 million offer. Given Correa's eventual deal with the Twins, it seems odd the Astros weren't willing to beat that. Their current $192 million payroll is still some $37 million below the $230 million luxury tax threshold. Granted, there weren't a lot of holes to fill, and they did bring back Verlander on what is essentially a two-year deal.
Tampa Bay Rays
Additions/re-signings: Corey Kluber, Brooks Raley, Luke Raley
One of the major surprises of the free-agent frenzy was the Rays were reportedly a finalist for Freeman. For a team that hit .243 with only rookie Wander Franco topping .275, adding a .300 hitter like Freeman would have been the perfect anecdote to an offense that is a little too heavily Three True Outcomes. Alas. They will try to soak 125 innings or so out of Kluber and added all the Raleys they could find, but otherwise the 2022 Rays will look a lot like the 2021 Rays (and will even run a payroll about $23 million higher than the past two seasons).
Additions/re-signings: Kris Bryant, Randal Grichuk, Alex Colome, Jose Iglesias, Chad Kuhl
"We're extremely excited to have Kris with us for the next seven years to help us win that elusive World Series that we all are looking for," owner Dick Monfort said at the Bryant introduction. What do you say, Rockies fans? Think it will happen?
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The biggest issue I have with the Bryant deal is that the Rockies basically were bidding against themselves at that price. The Phillies signed Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber for less combined than the Rockies gave Bryant. Grichuk at least allows them to move Charlie Blackmon to DH, and Iglesias is either an above-average shortstop (Statcast) or absolutely horrible (defensive runs saved).
Chicago White Sox
Additions/re-signings: Kendall Graveman, Joe Kelly, Josh Harrison
The White Sox didn't have to do anything to remain the favorite in the AL Central, a division they won by 13 games in 2021 despite a slew of injuries to their position players. They added two power arms to an already strong bullpen, with Michael Kopech moving from the bullpen to the rotation to replace Carlos Rodon.
Rotation depth is a concern (and Dallas Keuchel got hit hard last season) and I would have liked to see a left-handed bat added to their righty-heavy lineup, but they've already pushed the payroll to $210 million, a $33 million increase from 2021.
New York Yankees
Additions/re-signings: Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Rortvedt
With one of the best free-agent classes in history to spend money on, the Yankees signed ... Tim Locastro. Look, the Yankees are still going to run the highest payroll in franchise history, but it's a far cry from their last World Series trip in 2009, when they spent $65 million more than any other team. Kiner-Falefa fills the hole at shortstop, but he won't improve an offense that ranked 10th in the AL in runs -- not like, you know, Carlos Correa or Freddie Freeman would have. Moving away from Gary Sanchez makes sense, but the addition of Donaldson means the offensive core is three injury-prone players in their 30s plus Joey Gallo, who hit .160 with the Yankees last season. It might work. My colleague Bradford Doolittle's projection system still forecasts 94 wins.
Additions/re-signings: Mark Melancon, Ian Kennedy, Jordan Luplow
The Diamondbacks lost 110 games last season, same as the Orioles. The difference being that the Diamondbacks were trying to be competitive. Oops. Not surprisingly, it has been a slow offseason. They signed Melancon to a low-risk, two-year $14 million deal before the lockout to help shore up their ninth-inning problems but were quiet post-lockout other than adding Kennedy, a blast from the past (he won 21 games for Arizona in 2011). Their biggest move is one they didn't make in not trading Ketel Marte. Their payroll sits at $96 million -- $78 million less than in 2017, the franchise's only playoff appearance in the past 10 seasons.
Additions/re-signings: Nelson Cruz, Cesar Hernandez, Sean Doolittle, Steve Cishek, Anibal Sanchez, Aaron Sanchez
In isolation, there's nothing wrong with the Cruz signing. After all, he did hit .265/.334/.497 with 32 home runs -- although his numbers tailed off big time in the second half. The issue is the Nationals didn't do enough around him to make anybody think this is a potential playoff team.
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Their plan to fix a rotation that had a 4.64 ERA (and no longer includes Max Scherzer) was to bring in the Sanchezes on minor league contracts. Anibal did have a solid 2019 World Series season with the Nats, but he didn't even pitch in 2021. Aaron made seven starts with the Giants. Meanwhile, the payroll is at $153 million for a team that has run $200 million-plus.
Additions/re-signings: Zach Thompson, Roberto Perez, Jose Quintana, Yoshi Tsutsugo
With a $56 million payroll, the Pirates could add $62 million for Carlos Correa and Freddie Freeman to bump their payroll to $118 million -- only $2 million higher than it was in 2015. Since then, the Pirates have done nothing except methodically pay less and less for a "major league" team: From $116 million to $109M to $104M to $84M to $70M to $62M to $56M. Frankly, it's distasteful. The only reason the grade is this high is because they kept Bryan Reynolds.
Kansas City Royals
Additions/re-signings: Zack Greinke, Amir Garrett
The Royals were 13th in the AL in runs and last in home runs -- Salvador Perez hit nearly one-third of their home runs -- but didn't do anything to upgrade the offense, instead relying on homegrown products Bobby Witt Jr. and perhaps Nick Pratto to infuse some long ball life. Bringing back Greinke to his original team, where he won a Cy Young Award in 2009, is a nice full circle kind of thing, although we'll see if he has anything left in the tank after posting a 5.34 ERA in last season's second half. It's not that the Royals don't spend; they're not the Pirates. They just haven't spent wisely. Five of their six highest-paid players in 2022 (Greinke, Carlos Santana, Andrew Benintendi, Hunter Dozier and Brad Keller) will make nearly $41 million but posted just 0.7 combined WAR in 2021.
St. Louis Cardinals
Additions/re-signings: Adam Wainwright, Steven Matz, Corey Dickerson, Nick Wittgren, Albert Pujols (and new manager Oliver Marmol)
Yeah, I don't really understand what's going on here either. Not only did the Cardinals not make any major additions other than Matz, you rarely heard them attached to any of the significant names in free agency or in trade rumors. Sure, they won 90 games in a bad division thanks to that 17-game winning streak in September, but this is a team that was 10th in runs and sixth in runs allowed. I get that there were no glaring holes here to fill, but the 40-year-old Wainwright and Matz are the only starters who made more than 15 starts a season ago. Cardinals fans will love the Pujols homecoming and he did crush lefties last season, so can help in a part-time DH role if he does that again. To top it off, the payroll sits almost $30 million below where it was last season.
Additions/re-signings: Jordan Lyles, Rougned Odor, Robinson Chirinos
I'm willing to cut the Orioles a little slack because rebuilding in the AL East is a tough road, and the front office's focus has been developing a farm system that should pay dividends in 2022 with Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez. But Rougned Odor? How can you claim you care about the big league roster when you're signing a guy who hit .202/.286/.379 in 2021 and has a .280 OBP since 2017?
You hear people say, "Oh, the lineup isn't so bad." Actually, it is; the Orioles were 14th in the AL in runs scored. At some point, you need to show progress, even if that means spending a little money to win 70 games instead of losing 110.
Additions/re-signings: Luke Maile
Yep, that's it: Luke Maile for the grand sum of $900,000. The Guardians have just six players making more $1 million, and the only reason Jose Ramirez is still here is that his contract is so ridiculously team-friendly that it's almost impossible to get fair value in a trade. The team's payroll projects to about $67 million for a franchise that ran $150 million payrolls in 2017 and 2018. I mean ... it ran a $95 million payroll 20 years ago.
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The sad thing is they're only a couple good players away from perhaps giving the White Sox a run in the AL Central. Add, say, I don't know, Nick Castellanos and Mark Canha to this lineup and the payroll is still just inches over $100 million.
I'd suggest this is depressing, tearing apart an 86-win team, but this is what the A's do. To Billy Beane's credit, he managed to rebuild twice last decade: The A's made three straight playoff trips from 2012 to '14 and then again from 2018 to '20. Out the door are Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Chris Bassitt, with Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas perhaps soon to follow. In are a bunch of prospects. The A's didn't sign one free agent to a major league contract until adding Stephen Vogt a couple of days ago. Time will tell if this rebuild will work, if the A's get a new stadium or eventually relocate, or whether Beane even wants to keep running this organization.