The end of the Carlos Correa affair, mercifully! It’s ended! He went from “agreed with” the Twins to “signed with” them! — marks the unofficial conclusion of baseball’s free-agent frenzy. There are still a large number of unsigned players, headlined by backbone-testing characters like as Aroldis Chapman and soon-to-be free agent Trevor Bauer, but all nine-figure contracts have been signed.
Consequently, we have a fair notion of how each team will appear at the start of the 2023 season, and now is as good a moment as any to analyze whose offseasons stood out. The two largest outliers should not be unexpected.
New York has the greatest ambition
This city has triumphed in the offseason. The Yankees and Mets have committed more than a billion dollars to a total of 12 free agents, with Aaron Judge ($360 million) having the greatest annual salary ($43.3 million) among the two organizations. While the Yankees ($573.5 million) and Mets ($477 million) have spent more than $400 million on free-agent contracts, no other team has spent more than $400 million. Six clubs have signed free agents for less than $13 million (the Diamondbacks, Reds, Rockies, Mariners, Brewers and Braves, who at least have the excuse of locking up their stars early).
Steve Cohen considered Correa as the final piece and one true enhancement over the 2022 Mets, although the Mets retained Brandon Nimmo ($162 million), Edwin Diaz ($102 million), and Adam Ottavino ($14.5 million). Verlander ($86.6M) will replace Jacob deGrom, while Kodai Senga ($75M) and Jose Quintana ($26M) will take the place of Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker, respectively. David Robertson ($10M) will be a new weapon for a renovated bullpen, while Danny Mendick ($1M) will serve as a versatile infielder. The Mets, who dealt James McCann for Omar Narvaez, appear to have a similar roster composition to the squad that won 101 games last season.
The Yankees decided to pay $162 million for Carlos Rodon in order to pair him with Gerrit Cole as a co-ace.
The Yankees retained Judge and Anthony Rizzo ($40 million) and signed Carlos Rodon ($162 million) and Tommy Kahnle ($11.5 million) to reduce turnover in The Bronx. The addition of Rodon, a strikeout machine with injury concerns, raises the ceiling for a squad that won 99 games last season. To catch the Astros will likely require additional effort, including the development of prospects such as Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza.
We are distinguishing unsatisfactory from the worst (more on that later). Because the Giants accomplished much! Giants have signed more free agents than only the Mets (8). (seven). Farhan Zaidi, the president of baseball operations, spent approximately $193 million to restructure a disappointing squad from the previous season. If Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger remain healthy, if Joc Pederson becomes a star despite rules prohibiting severe defensive shifts, and if the Giants’ pitching brains work their magic with Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling, there is a clear path to the postseason.
But the Giants’ search for a star resulted in failure. Last season, they averaged 30,650 spectators per game, their lowest in a non-COVID-affected season since 1999. Zaidi’s conviction in platoons — using one lineup against left-handed pitchers and another against right-handed pitchers, with few hitters appearing in both lineups — has demonstrated its viability (in 2021) and its difficulty to market. Fans often attend games to see stars, not lineup adjustments that result in a different cleanup hitter when the opposing club uses a different-handed reliever.
The Giants began the offseason with aspirations of Carlos Correa at shortstop, but now expect Brandon Crawford to start there once again.
The Giants would have delighted to find a star to write into their lineup every day, and they did just that until they discovered a problem with Correa’s medical. The Giants, like the Mets, allowed the shortstop leave, but were left without a marquee player to develop around. This offseason may have been fruitful, but it fell well short of expectations.
Red Sox are the worst (on paper) team.
Baseball is amusing and erratic. The Nationals won the World Series despite losing Bryce Harper. The World Series champion Astros appeared more formidable without Correa. Rarely do offseason winners go on to win the title.
So perhaps the Red Sox know something that the rest of baseball doesn’t, but it is impossible to discern the strategy that led to the results of this offseason.
Xander Bogaerts, a four-time All-Star and lifetime Red Sox shortstop, is now with the San Diego Padres. Trevor Story, his anticipated heir, underwent surgery on his throwing elbow and may miss the entire season. Absent a late arrival, they may have to ask center fielder Kiké Hernandez to play shortstop in 2023.
J.D Martinez, a hitter with a significant impact, has joined the Dodgers. Eric Hosmer, who has hit 20 home runs over the past two seasons, will presumably fill his DH position.
The Padres’ 11-year, $280 million offer to the now-former Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was too much for him to turn down.
The Red Sox had the worst rotation ERA in the AL East last season, with a 4.49 ERA. To counter the problem, they have just replaced Nathan Eovaldi with Corey Kluber. With the additions of Kenley Jansen, Chris Martin, and former Met Joely Rodriguez, they may be betting on a dominant bullpen, but the unit is not projected to be strong enough to compensate for the team’s other faults.
Masataka Yoshida, who was signed for five years and $90 million by Boston, was a controversial acquisition. Many opponents believe that the Japanese batting champion is not deserving of the contract.
Perhaps the Red Sox’s offseason has been fantastic, but that outcome would likely surprise many baseball fans.
The team with the highest payroll in baseball last year has spent approximately $44.5 million on free agents, which is equivalent to one season of Verlander’s salary.
Clayton Kershaw has returned, and the Dodgers have added Martinez, Noah Syndergaard, and Shelby Miller as high-potential weapons. In contrast, the Dodgers, who generally negotiate with every top free agent, have largely sat out this winter, which has been costly in terms of player departures.
Clayton Kershaw, unlike a few other key Dodgers, will return to a Dodgers team that spent lightly in free agency.
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They lost longtime third baseman Justin Turner and one of baseball’s greatest players in Trea Turner, who was traded to the Marlins on Wednesday and replaced at shortstop by Miguel Rojas. Cody Bellinger, a gifted but confusing center fielder, signed with the Cubs. Both Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney, who were outstanding in the Dodgers’ rotation last year, left the team. And the Dodgers lost the arbitrator’s judgment over Bauer’s suspension, meaning they must pay him $22.5 million this season despite having released him.
The consistent juggernauts, who have averaged 103.8 victories over the past five full seasons and won the World Series in the abbreviated 2020 season, may be mortal after all. Seven of MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects (as of the end of the 2016 season) are candidates for these positions.
Unnoticed: Blue Jays and Rangers
Although neither team is a lock for the postseason, both have significantly boosted their ceilings.
Jacob deGrom was the Rangers’ most recent expenditure in their pursuit of the Astros in the AL West.
The Blue Jays have improved as a result of trades and additions. They acquired Daulton Varsho, a powerful hitter, outfielder, and catcher, from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and top prospect Gabriel Moreno. Few clubs can equal Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman at the top of the rotation, and Toronto signed former Met Chris Bassitt, one of MLB’s greatest No. 3 starters. Longtime Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who was acquired this week, endured an injury-riddled 2022, but had a.975 OPS in 2021.
The Rangers, who won the deGrom sweepstakes, were overshadowed by the Mets’ ear-splitting free-agent spending. Despite DeGrom’s injury history, the Rangers have strengthened their rotation by adding Heaney, Jon Gray, Eovaldi, and the re-signed Martin Perez, with Jake Odorizzi in the wings. If their prior free agent additions, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, can lead the offense and their pitching lives up to expectations, the Rangers might be a force in the American League West.
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New Jets offensive coordinator wanted
When a team that seemed poised for the playoffs loses its final six games, fans typically seek retribution. Teams seek out the weakest link. Changes get made.
Mike LaFleur was the offensive coordinator for the Jets, whose offense failed to score a touchdown in their final three games.
The Jets and their offensive coordinator parted ways on Thursday, which was only mildly unexpected in its wording. “Separated” is typically a synonym for “fired,” although not necessarily.
In two seasons, Mike LaFleur (right) failed to develop Zach Wilson. Will LaFluer’s replacement as offensive coordinator of the Jets confront this challenge?
The Post’s Ryan Dunleavy reported, citing a source, that rival teams reached out to the brother of the Packers’ head coach after weeks of speculation about Matt LaFleur’s job security. Following internal conversations, the Jets decided to permit LaFleur to pursue other possibilities.
The Jets, who have failed to develop Zach Wilson and have been an offensive shambles over LaFleur’s two seasons, cannot be held accountable for their decision. Since his arrival, Wilson has been the worst quarterback in football. The Jets must find a coach who can help the 23-year-old develop, as LaFleur has failed to do so.
If LaFleur pulled the plug, it is difficult to assign guilt to him as well. He was a rising star in San Francisco before Robert Saleh attracted him to New York, where he was tasked with developing Wilson, a prospect who required more time than the Jets had anticipated. If LaFleur, who is not the hot head-coaching candidate he most likely desires to be, remained for another season, he would be on precarious ground with a wobbly rookie quarterback and a win-now squad.
Regardless of who pulled the plug, the Jets must find a new offensive coordinator who can swiftly fix the offense and work under a system that will not survive long without better immediate results. Good luck.
There is no better place than home
Damar Hamlin is departing.
The Bills safety, whose health has been a national concern since he had cardiac arrest during a game on Jan. 2 and had to be revived on the field, has been released from a Buffalo hospital, according to the team.
A little more than a week after cardiac arrest threatened Damar Hamlin’s life on national television, he was given permission to continue his treatment at home in Buffalo.
“We are confident that Damar can be safely discharged to continue his rehabilitation at home and with the Bills,” said Buffalo General Medical Center critical care physician Jamie Nadler in conjunction with team physicians.
Already the nation’s darling, Hamlin might become the postseason’s sweetheart. If he appears on the Bills’ sideline in a few weeks, Buffalo crowds will explode and hearts will be warmed.
The Bills would have to first defeat the Dolphins — the same Dolphins that ruled out quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for Sunday’s wild-card game. Tagovailoa is reported to have sustained three concussions in 13 games this season, including a horrifying event in September in which his hands and fingers appeared to lock up in front of his face, a neurological response to the head injury.
Fantastic news about Hamlin, but every football player puts his body at risk whenever he gets onto the field.
There’s Ben, need to do that
Thursday night, the Nets will play their first game since Kevin Durant’s injury against the Celtics. The spotlight will likely be on Kyrie Irving, who is facing his former team and must fill the scoring void, but this should be Ben Simmons’ moment to shine.
Due to Kevin Durant’s injury, the Nets will require Ben Simmons to rediscover the offensive drive that once made him one of the NBA’s most exciting players.
Simmons has played good defense and filled holes on offense after a tough start to the season, which was understandable given that he sat out all of last season. He still refuses to shoot outside of the lane, but he has never had to. Teams with Durant and Irving do not require much scoring assistance.
However, now the Nets do. Simmons averaged 11.9 drives per game in 2019-20, which was just behind Markelle Fultz (12.0) and barely ahead of Eric Bledsoe (11.8), who could always go to the basket.
Simmons averages 3.2 drives per game this season, the same as 7-foot Kristaps Porzingis and just ahead of Evan Fournier (3.1), who barely dribbles.
Simmons will not be asked to score 30 points a game, but the Nets should expect him to produce more than he has all season.