This has been a pretty active offseason, what with Shohei Ohtani signing a jaw-dropping contract with the Dodgers — the $700 million grabbed everyone’s attention, but the details really set that signing apart — and the Yankees trading for Juan Soto.
But there’s still plenty left to unfold. The free-agent ranks have thinned, but there are lots of impact players still available. Same thing with the trade market. The final chapters for this Hot Stove season have yet to be written.
That said, we’re almost to Christmas and there are several fan bases that would love to send a bit of coal to their favorite team’s front office types. For some, it’s about the things those decision-makers have done. For others, it’s what they haven’t done yet.
Let’s take a look.
What’s gone wrong: No team made a bigger splash to start the offseason than the Cubs, who shocked pretty much everybody by stealing manager Craig Counsell away from the Brewers and unceremoniously — and, really, cruelly — dumping David Ross. That felt like the springboard to a massive offseason of upgrades. They were going after Shohei Ohtani. They were rumored to be in the mix for Juan Soto or KBO outfielder Jung Hoo Lee. Cody Bellinger was thought to be a possibility to return. Trading for Tyler Glasnow seemed like an obvious solution. They were counted among the suitors for Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Blake Snell and just about every impact starting pitcher on the free-agent market.
But up until this point, crickets. A couple minor-league free agent signings.
Ohtani’s a Dodger, and so is Glasnow. Soto’s with the Yankees. Lee is a Giant. We might never know exactly how those pursuits went wrong, but it doesn’t appear that the Cubs were particularly close on any of them. Cubs fans are frustrated. They expected to order new jerseys for Christmas, but those MLB.com shopping carts remain empty.
If adding a new manager winds up being the biggest change this offseason, Cubs fans might revolt.
How to save the offseason: At this point, they pretty much have to bring back Bellinger. They were a good-not-great offense last year, and that’s with 26 homers and 97 RBIs from Bellinger. If he signs elsewhere, they’ll have to find some sort of lineup replacement, and those are few and far between this offseason. Bellinger plays center field and first base, two areas of need on the roster — especially if outfield prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong (an elite defender) isn’t ready for MLB pitching, which is certainly possible considering he went 0-for-14 in his short big-league stint last year. Rhys Hoskins is another option to add to the lineup.
And, oh yeah, Blake Snell would look good atop the rotation. If not him, some sort of rotation reinforcement at the top or middle of the group would help solidify what’s been an area of strength the past couple of seasons. Bullpen help is key, too.
What’s gone wrong: No fan base is more disillusioned right now than M’s fans. OK, except for the Ohtani-less Angels, but that’s a whole different level. Seattle fans went into the offseason thinking maybe Ohtani was a possibility — he’s lived there in the offseason, he was serenaded by fans at the All-Star Game — but for sure upgrades were coming. Heck, catcher Cal Raleigh even publicly asked for it. This was a franchise that seemed like it had momentum, with Raleigh, an elite rotation and an emerging superstar in Julio Rodriguez.
Instead, not only have they not added to the cause, they traded fan favorite and clubhouse leader Eugenio Suarez and then, they gave up on the still-talented and still-young Jarred Kelenic as part of a salary dump to cut loose the contracts of Marco Gonzales — a rotation staple for years now — and Evan White. Teoscar Hernandez was not given a qualifying offer, and he’s taking his 26 homers and 93 RBIs elsewhere. Issues with ROOT Sports are at the, well, root of the money problems, and those have led directly to the shedding of money and talent. And all of this on the heels of GM Jerry Dipoto’s now-infamous “54 percent” comment in early October? The club has basically spent the offseason giving fans who want to be excited reason after reason to disconnect from the franchise, emotionally and financially.
How to save the offseason: For starters, stop trading away fan favorites. Use some of those savings from the Suarez/Gonzales/White deals to actually add players who can help the M’s win this offseason. Maybe trade from their surplus of young, outstanding and controllable starting pitching — few franchises can match the M’s depth here — and bring back a bat that can provide more impact in the lineup than the reclamation projects and 4A players who were given way too many PAs in 2023. Basically, figure out a way to shift from free-fall to some sort of damage control.
What’s gone wrong: This one’s obvious. They lost Ohtani. And they didn’t just lose Ohtani, but they lost him to the Dodgers, so he stays in town. And they didn’t just lose him to the Dodgers, but his agent, Nez Balelo, went out of his way to say that the Angels had “every opportunity” to match the deal Ohtani signed with the Dodgers, but didn’t.
So not only did the Angels never reach the postseason with Ohtani, but they didn’t trade Ohtani because owner Arte Moreno wouldn’t allow it, and then Moreno declined to do what it takes to keep him with the franchise. The only thing they get is a compensation draft pick. That’s just brutal to the fans, folks.
How to save the offseason: The wounds won’t be healed with any acquisitions, at least not right away. A new owner would help.
What’s gone wrong: The Toronto front office has made some missteps in recent years, but it’s hard to blame the fan frustration on that crew this offseason. They were in the thick of the Ohtani sweepstakes, and for a couple hours on a fateful Friday, it looked like they might shock the world — literally, the world — and give Canada a new baseball hero. Instead, Ohtani signed with the Dodgers, and while that courtship was going on, the Jays missed on Juan Soto, too, because the Yankees aggressively gave the Padres an offer they couldn’t refuse.
And now Toronto fans with high hopes are left without either star, and the list of available impact bats isn’t exactly plentiful. Cody Bellinger seems to fit, but given his up-and-down career path, that’s risky money, no matter what his agent, Scott Boras, says. Maybe they make a trade with the Twins, who could offer up Max Kepler or Jorge Polanco (or both).
How to save the offseason: I mean, the first step is obvious, right?
Sign Joey Votto. Right now. Give him literally whatever he wants, because he won’t ask for much. Bring the most famous Canadian baseball player since Larry Walker home to play his last year or two in Toronto. It’s a no-brainer, especially considering he can step right into the role that Brandon Belt — another veteran left-handed bat — played so well last year. No, he’s not Ohtani or Soto in the batters box at this point, but it’s not often a franchise has a chance to make a low-risk signing that would immediately give fans a new favorite player. And sales of Votto’s Blue Jays jersey would damn near pay for his salary.
And maybe make a decision on extensions (or trades?) for Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. Both are eligible to become free agents after the 2025 season, and while trades wouldn’t be preferred, both would bring back a big haul. If the Jays don’t see extensions as likely, moving one or the other wouldn’t be the worst move, if the return is right.
What’s gone wrong: I mean, nothing’s gone wrong, necessarily. It’s just that nothing much has happened, and the club definitely still has needs, plural. They signed Luis Severino as a bounce-back candidate for the rotation, and one-year contracts with high-upside players are never a bad thing. The “what to do with Pete Alonso” question grows a bit larger every day, as the home-run marvel edges closer to potentially reaching free agency at the end of the 2024 season. Will they trade him? Extend him?
Thing is, most of the players who were considered primary offseason targets are still on the board. Sure, they would have loved Ohtani or Soto, but it’s not like Mets fans were necessarily expecting either. They’ve been kind of in a holding pattern so far this offseason, waiting for owner Steve Cohen and his new decision-maker guru David Stearns to make their move.
Will it happen? Or are the big changes/upgrades coming next offseason?
How to save the offseason: Win a bidding competition and sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto. And then sign Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery or even bring back Marcus Stroman. The Mets could use at least two impact starters, and a third would be welcome.
What’s gone wrong: At various points of this offseason, the Red Sox have been considered by oddsmakers to be among the top-five favorites for Ohtani, Soto, Snell, Yamamoto, Bellinger, Jordan Montgomery and Aaron Nola. To this point, their biggest moves were dumping outfielder Alex Verdugo and trading for outfielder Tyler O’Neill, the very talented but oft-injured outfielder who has played a total of 168 of a possible 324 games the past two seasons. So, yes, it’s been more than a bit disappointing. New front-office decision-maker Craig Breslow has yet to make his first impact move. The biggest question is this: What type of budget is he working with? That commitment has been lacking recently from the ownership group.
Actually, that’s the second-biggest question. The biggest question is this: Do they have sure thing aside from Brayan Bello in the 2024 rotation at this point? At this point in his career, Chris Sale being healthy is a nice surprise, not a sure thing. Kutter Crawford slots in there, but Tanner Houck took a step back in 2023, with a 5.01 ERA. What, exactly, is Nick Pivetta’s role for 2024? He certainly pitched better out of the bullpen in 2023. There’s a reason the Red Sox were seen as likely possibilities for so many of the free agent starters.
How to save the offseason: The Sox have to find rotation stability, and no starter offers more certainty than Montgomery. Over the past three years, pitching for the Yankees, Cardinals and Rangers, Montgomery has a 3.48 ERA/3.62 FIP in 94 starts — tied for sixth in the bigs in that span — covering 524 1/3 innings. And, yeah, he was great in the 2023 postseason for the Rangers, but Montgomery’s immediate value to Boston would be the innings and reliability.
Source : ESPN.com