Welcome to my favorite time of the baseball calendar year — spring training — where I unjustly reach major conclusions based on meaningless inter- and intrasquad games and devote exorbitant amounts of attention to what’s going on in Arizona and Florida.
On the precipice of a new 162 games, all 30 Major League Baseball teams and their respective players are given a clean slate — an opportunity for new beginnings and, perhaps, unexpected improvements.
Here are my winners and losers of the 2022 MLB offseason.
Let’s start with an obvious winner: the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After falling short in the 2021 National League Championship Series, the Dodgers signed former National League (NL) MVP and perennial all-star first baseman Freddie Freeman. Not only does this help their own World Series aspirations, but they also stole him away from the Atlanta Braves, who knocked the Dodgers out of the playoffs last year. Once again, the rich get richer. Freeman adds to an already stacked lineup as the Dodgers become clear World Series favorites.
The New York Mets continued their pre-lockout front office overhaul (including stealing Ben Zauzmer, the guy who routinely predicts Oscar winners, from the Dodgers to become an assistant general manager) and added some serious major league talent.
The team signed quality veteran position players, including third baseman Eduardo Escobar and outfielders Starling Marte and Mark Canha, who were traded for 2021 All-Star Chris Bassitt to be their number three starting pitcher. And, of course, the Mets inked starting pitcher Max Scherzer to a three-year deal to create the best one-two punch in the league alongside ace Jacob deGrom.
Nevertheless, the Mets’ success relies on bounce back seasons from second baseman Jeff McNeil, first baseman and left fielder Dominic Smith, third baseman and designated hitter J.D. Davis and shortstop Francisco Lindor — all of whom underperformed their career average wins above replacement. McNeil, Smith and Lindor also underperformed their career-average on-base slugging percentage plus. The bullpen could have used an additional piece, but I believe a trade deadline acquisition could easily fix that problem before the postseason (looking at you, closing pitcher Josh Hader).
The Minnesota Twins surprised the baseball community when they gave up the 26th pick of the 2021 draft to acquire starting pitcher Sonny Gray. The Twins further confused me with the unexpected trade of third baseman Josh Donaldson, shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and catcher Ben Rortvedt for catcher Gary Sánchez and infielder Gio Urshela. However, this trade made more sense with the addition of superstar shortstop Carlos Correa to a three-year deal, which the aforementioned trade made financially possible. It is still a lineup and pitching staff with holes and limitations, but exciting times are coming for the Twin Cities.
The New York Yankees remain content with their roster. The supposed Kings of New York have let their crosstown rivals, the Mets, become the aggressor in both the trade and free-agency market. They settled for mediocrity in first baseman Anthony Rizzo and minor upgrades in third baseman Josh Donaldson and shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa. They needed to go after the big fishes available in shortstop Carlos Correa and first basemen Matt Olsen and Freddie Freeman. You’re the Yankees. You are the rich villains of the MLB. Act like it.
The hometown Washington Nationals are primed for a fifth-place finish in an ever-improving NL East. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Nats hold one of the worst records at the end of the regular season. The failure to re-sign their crown jewel, outfielder Juan Soto, to a deserving long-term mega-extension does not bode well for the team’s future, especially after scraping their roster of all other talents last season. Soto will surely explore all other options in free agency — a scary sight for Nationals fans, who can recall a similar tale with foregone superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Their new Cherry Blossom-inspired Nike connect uniforms are fantastic, though.
The Colorado Rockies boast the most senseless front office in the MLB. Trading away one of your franchise’s greatest players in third baseman Nolan Arenado — also including nearly $50 million to have the Cardinals take him away — for minimal return is just the start in a bizarre string of moves. The Rockies let shortstop Trevor Story walk to the Red Sox for nothing. The team then signed 30-year-old third baseman and outfielder Kris Bryant to a monstrous seven-year, $182 million deal this offseason. Huh? Why a team would replace a young, homegrown talent with an older, worse player is beyond me. I have no idea what the Rockies are doing, except that it is bad.