The 2022 MLB season is finally upon us. After the offseason was lengthened by a messy lockout, baseball is back. Before we dive headlong into the new season, it's time to take a look back at some of the deals that happened this winter. What follows is a list of the 10 biggest moves major league teams made to get better this offseason.
1. Twins sign Carlos Correa
This one seemed to come out of nowhere, but the Twins swooped in and inked Correa to a three-year deal worth $105.3 million. It immediately elevated Minnesota to contender status after they finished last in the AL Central in 2021. Any time you snag the best player available, you rocket up these rankings.
Correa had his best season in 2021, as the 27-year-old slashed .279/.366/.485 with a career-high 26 home runs, 92 RBI and a career-best fWAR of 5.8. He also won his first Gold Glove at shortstop and added a Platinum Glove to boot. He'll be the face of the franchise on and off the field, and the short three-year contract protects the Twins against any potential regression.
With Correa, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Gary Sanchez and (hopefully) a healthy Byron Buxton, the Twins have a lineup to contend with.
2. Braves trade for Matt Olson
World Series champions are often stripped for parts the season following their victory, as players search for big contracts following a high-profile postseason run. It's rare that title winners actually get better, but that's exactly what the Atlanta Braves did. As negotiations with long-time first baseman Freddie Freeman dragged on, the Braves decided to go in a different direction and got younger, while adding more power and a better glove at first.
Atlanta paid a heavy prospect toll to land Matt Olson, but given the affordable $168 million, eight-year contract they signed him to, it was worth it. The 27-year-old is in his prime and slashed .271/.371/.540 in 2021 with 39 home runs, 111 RBIs and a career-best 5.0 fWAR.
Keeping Freeman would have been the sentimental choice. Trading for Olson was the smart one.
3. Dodgers sign Freddie Freeman
Once the Braves landed Olson, it didn't take long for Freeman to find a new home. The Dodgers inked the 32-year-old to a six-year, $162 million deal and put together what is, on paper, one of the greatest lineups in MLB history.
While landing Olson was a great move for Atlanta, Freeman is no slouch. The 2020 NL MVP led the Braves to their title in 2021 while slashing .300/.393/.503, hitting 31 home runs, driving in 83 runs and posting a 4.5 fWAR.
Freeman's contract may hurt in the final few seasons, but the Dodgers are in win-now mode and Freeman was a monster pickup.
4. Mets sign Max Scherzer
The Mets wanted to make a splash this winter and boy did they ever. They landed Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte and Mark Canha in quick succession, then broke out the big bucks to land Max Scherzer. The three-time Cy Young Award winner signed a three-year, $130 million deal on the heels of yet another stellar season.
In 2021 while splitting time between the Nationals and Dodgers, Scherzer went 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA, with 236 strikeouts in 179.1 innings. He posted a 5.4 fWAR and finished third in Cy Young voting. He was incredible yet again.
Scherzer is 37 and somehow still in his prime. The Mets needed an elite starting pitcher to lead from the front. They paid a hefty price but got their man.
5. Rangers sign Corey Seager, Marcus Semien
These moves go together because they have to. In the span of a few hours, the rangers remade the middle of their infield. It cost them $500 million to do it, but they wanted to make a bold statement and did so.
Seager landed a 10-year, $325 million contract that raised plenty of eyebrows. He wasn't the top shortstop on the market and has deal with injury issues throughout his career. Still, in 2021 he slashed .306/.394/.521, with 16 home runs, 57 RBIs and a 3.7 fWAR. Seager's best two statistical seasons came in 2016 and 2017 (6.9 and 6.0 fWAR respectively), so this deal comes with a lot of risk. But it was big and bold and we love that around here.
Semien got a seven-year, $175 million deal following a massive campaign where he slashed .265/.334/.538 while hitting 45 home runs, driving in 102 runs and posting a 6.6 fWAR while winning a Gold Glove. As with Seager, this deal carries some risk. Semien is 31 so the years and cash were really high and he's had an up-and-down career with a few off-years mixed in.
The Rangers bet big on both Seager and Semien. It was a gamble but if it pays off, it will pay off big.
6. Mariners trade for Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez
The Mariners made some big moves this offseason, none bigger than the trade that incredibly boosted their offense. In one fell swoop, Seattle shipped four players to the Reds in exchange for Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez, immediately giving them two big bats.
Winker broke out big time in 2021, sashing .305/.394/.556 with 24 home runs and 71 RBI in 110 games, while posting a 3.2 fWAR. The 28-year-old lefty is clearly on the way up and the Mariners got him in the middle of his prime. Suarez is a bit more maddening. The 30-year-old only slashed .198/.286/.428, but he had 31 home runs and 79 RBIs. He's three years removed from a 49-home run, 4.3 fWAR season. He needs to be more consistent but the power bat is there.
Seattle swung this trade, signed Robbie Ray and landed Adam Frazier to a team that won 90 games in 2021. The Mariners had a huge offseason.
7. Padres hire Bob Melvin as manager
Yes, managerial hirings count on this list.
The Padres were the biggest disappointment in baseball in 2021. A team that entered the season with enormous hype limped to the finish and ended up 28 games out of first place in the NL West. After a 79-83 campaign, manager Jayce Tingler was fired and massive changes were needed. Well, San Diego landed the best guy it could have.
Melvin is a three-time Manager of the Year and was brilliant in 11 years with the Oakland Athletics. Many believe he's the best manager in baseball. He's exactly what San Diego's clubhouse needed. He's a respected authority figure who is the rare guy considered both a traditional leader and a players' manager.
Melvin's impact has already been felt this spring as the vibe around the Padres is different. He could be the key to a complete turnaround in San Diego. The Friars have a roster built to compete, they just needed someone to guide them. Melvin was the perfect fit to do just that.
8. Blue Jays sign Kevin Gausman
The Blue Jays lost Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray to the Mariners so they had to answer back. They did that by rapidly filling the hole and handing Kevin Gausman a five-year, $110 million deal.
A former top prospect, Gausman finally put it all together in 2021. He went 14-6 with a 2.81 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and 227 strikeouts in 192 innings over 34 appearances (33 starts). The 31-year-old with a devastating splitter will now lead a Blue Jays rotation that features Jose Berrios, Hyun Jin Ryu, Alek Manoah and Yusei Kikuchi, with Ross Stripling and Nate Pearson waiting in the wings.
The Blue Jays did a great job replacing production this offseason. They lost Ray and added Gausman; they lost Semien and added Matt Chapman. They look like a team ready to challenge for an American League pennant.
9. Phillies sign Nick Castellanos
Castellanos was one of the last big free agents to sign and it was worth the wait for his bottom line. The Phillies gave the 30-year-old a five-year, $100 million contract to add to a lineup of thumpers.
An All-Star in 2021, Castellanos posted a career-best fWAR of 4.2, while slashing .309/.362/.576 and hitting 34 home runs while driving in 100 runs. He's terrible in the field and his 2021 numbers may have been the work of a contract-year boost, but Castellanos is a really good right-handed bat.
Despite a lot of big names, an MVP season from Bryce Harper and an incredible campaign by Zach Wheeler, the Phillies finished 82-80 in 2021. As a result they went out and spent this offseason, bringing in guys like Corey Knebel, Brad Hand, Kyle Schwarber and Castellanos. They had better produce results this season.
10. Tigers sign Javy Baez
The Tigers have a great farm system with some top prospects not that far away, but this offseason they signaled that they're ready to compete now. They inked lefty Eduardo Rodriguez to a five-year, $77 million deal, then went out and grabbed Javy Baez on a six-year, $140 million contract. He might be just what Detroit needs.
No, Baez hasn't been an All-Star since 2019, but he looked good in 47 games with the Mets in 2021 after a slow start with the Cubs. In New York, he slashed .299/.371/.515 and hit nine home runs in 167 at-bats. On the season at two stops he posted a 3.6 fWAR. He's also still a very good defender at short -- he won a Gold Glove in 2020.
Perhaps more importantly, with Miguel Cabrera's career winding down, Baez can be the face of this young Tigers team. He's been in the spotlight for years with both the Cubs and Mets. He's the guy reporters will go to for a quote, which will give young guys like stud rookie Spencer Torkelson some breathing room. Baez's numbers may never live up to that contract, but his presence should more than make up for the financial commitment.