Friday, May 20, 2022
HomeSportsMLB Free-Agency Tracker: Eddie Rosario Stays in Atlanta

MLB Free-Agency Tracker: Eddie Rosario Stays in Atlanta

Because the lockout prevented Major League Baseball from conducting normal off-season business from December until late last week, numerous free agents are still seeking teams and clubs are looking to make trades before the season begins.

Here are some highlights of the deals as they become official.

Outfielder | Atlanta Braves | Two years, $18 million

Eddie Rosario, 30, was an unexpected October hero for Atlanta after a deadline trade with Cleveland. He was named the most valuable player of the National League Championship Series and hit .383 over 16 postseason games. He also looked good doing it.

Rosario now returns to the Braves on a two-year deal with hopes of recreating that magic in the regular season. He hit 32 home runs for Minnesota in 2019 but struggled in 2020 and the first half of 2021.

Atlanta’s other unexpected postseason star, Jorge Soler, remains unsigned, as does the former face of the franchise, Freddie Freeman.

Third base | Toronto Blue Jays | Acquired in a trade with Oakland for pitchers Gunnar Hoglund, Zach Logue and Kirby Snead and infielder Kevin Smith

Matt Chapman, 28, is a top-tier defensive talent who slumped over the last two seasons in batting average and on-base percentage. But he was still worth 3.5 wins above replacement in 2021, according to Baseball Reference, hitting 27 home runs and having 10 defensive runs saved. He will combine with first baseman Vladimir Guerrero, second baseman Cavan Biggio and shortstop Bo Bichette to form one of the most talented infields in the majors.

In Oakland’s sell-off, which included trading first baseman Matt Olson to the Atlanta Braves last week, Chapman was expendable because he will soon command large salaries through arbitration. He is not eligible for free agency until 2024.

The deal involved four prospects going to the Athletics, including Gunnar Hoglund, a right-handed starting pitcher, who was the 19th overall pick in the 2021 draft.

The following deals were made before the lockout began.

Starting Pitcher | Seattle Mariners | Five years, $115 million (Announced: Dec. 1)

What a difference a year makes. Ray took a one-year, $8 million deal last off-season in a bet on himself that his improvement in Toronto was real, and that bet paid off when he won the A.L. Cy Young Award. Ray led the A.L. in starts, innings, E.R.A. and strikeouts and erased the memory of his struggles in Arizona that resulted in his trade to the Blue Jays in 2020.

Ray has always had the ability to pile up strikeouts, but it was his control that came together in Toronto. Should that keep up, Seattle may have secured the best long-term starter of this free-agent class and the Blue Jays may regret letting him get away. The Mariners were surprisingly good in 2021, winning 90 games and being in the race for a playoff spot right up until the end of the season. Adding a left-handed ace who has reminded some of Randy Johnson could make the team far more formidable.

Starting Pitcher | Mets | Three years, $130 million (Announced: Dec. 1)

With a résumé that screams Cooperstown, Max Scherzer will join the Mets after a season in which he recorded the 3,000th strikeout of his career and had an incredible run of success after a midseason trade, with the Los Angeles Dodgers winning every regular-season game he started.

A three-time Cy Young Award winner who is still throwing gas at 37, Scherzer smashed the record for the average annual value of a contract and he will pair with Jacob deGrom in a Mets rotation that could be comically dominant in the postseason should both pitchers be healthy. Scherzer’s missing time in last year’s playoffs with what he described as a dead arm is mildly concerning, but a player with his track record is worth the risk for a team that desperately wants to build a new winning culture.

Infielder | Texas Rangers | Seven years, $175 million (Announced: Dec. 1)

When Oakland let Marcus Semien walk away after his disappointing 2020 season, the best deal he could find was with Toronto for one season and $18 million. One year, 86 extra-base hits and 7.3 wins above replacement later, he was handed a massive contract by Texas. With shortstop Corey Seager, the Rangers have $500 million committed to their middle infield.

Semien’s 2021 was incredible. His .873 on-base plus slugging percentage was the second best of his career, and he powered the Blue Jays with 45 home runs and 39 doubles while stealing 15 bases and playing stellar defense at second base.

The deal, however, is not without risk for Texas. Semien is 31 and his seven full seasons in the majors have consisted of two where he played at the M.V.P. level (2021 and 2019), two where he was very good (2018 and 2016) and three where he struggled (2020, 2017, 2015). At his best he could make a case for himself as being more valuable than Seager. If he were to revert to his 2020 form, this contract could become an albatross.

Starting Pitcher | Toronto Blue Jays | Five years, $110 million (Announced: Dec. 1)

Toronto was unable to retain Robbie Ray, but it will replace him in the rotation with Kevin Gausman, who was also a breakout star in 2021. An All-Star for the 107-win San Francisco Giants, Gausman had a 2.81 E.R.A. in 192 innings and struck out a career-high 227 batters.

His improvement was impressive, but it is hard not to view this move as a downgrade from Ray. Both players had mixed track records before 2021, but Ray’s breakout season was stronger, he is nearly a year younger and he is left-handed. Gausman, meanwhile, will return to the A.L. East, where he spent six solid but unspectacular seasons with the Baltimore Orioles.

Shortstop | Tampa Bay Rays | Terms: 11 years, $182 million (Announced: Nov. 27)

Continuing a trend of teams locking up talent incredibly early in their careers, Tampa Bay signed up to have Wander Franco, 20, as the team’s shortstop for the next 11 seasons despite his having played only 70 games at the major league level.

“The pace at which Wander has developed speaks to his potential,” Erik Neander, the Rays’ president of baseball operations, said in a statement. “We have seen him do special things on the field, particularly for a player that is only 20 years old. He’s an exceptionally driven, budding superstar who can contribute to our success for a long time.”

It is not hard to figure out why the Rays are optimistic. Signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, Franco was sensational in two and a half minor league seasons — he was named the sport’s top prospect by Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus — and was an immediate success in the majors, hitting .288 with an .810 on-base plus slugging percentage in 70 games. He had a streak of 43 games in which he reached base safely, and he finished the season with 3.5 wins above replacement, a pace that would have given him more than eight if he had played a full 162 games.

The risk of such a long contract is obvious, but like the San Diego Padres with Fernando Tatis Jr. and the Atlanta Braves with Ronald Acuña Jr., the chance to lock in a transcendent talent made a big gamble worthwhile. If anything, the Franco and Tatis deals have emphasized what a bargain Acuña was at “only” $100 million.

Starling Marte: Four years, $78 million; Eduardo Escobar: Two years, $20 million; Mark Canha: Two years, $26.5 million

With the fourth-lowest scoring offense in the majors in 2021, the Mets needed to shake things up, and they did so in bulk, coming to terms with outfielder Starling Marte, infielder Eduardo Escobar and outfielder/first baseman Mark Canha.

Marte, 33, is coming off his best all-around season. He led the majors with 47 stolen bases, and thanks to a quirk of his trade from Miami to Oakland, he managed to be in the top 10 in both the National League (fifth) and the American League (tied for sixth). More important was his .841 on-base plus slugging percentage, which included a career-best on-base percentage of .383. There is little doubt he can hit, and he is sure to be a fan favorite, but there should be some concern if he is a long-term answer in center field. According to Sports Info Solutions, Marte has been worth 71 defensive runs saved in 593 games in left field but minus-12 in 553 games in center. That, combined with his age, makes it likely that he will be a left fielder by the end of his four-year deal.

Escobar and Canha are less flashy, but they add offensive depth and defensive versatility. Escobar, 32, can play first, second and third base, was a first-time All-Star in 2021 and is two years removed from a season in which he had 74 extra-base hits — which helps make up for his pedestrian on-base percentages. Canha, 32, has spent time at all three outfield positions as well as first base and has a .377 on-base percentage with some power over the last three seasons.

Starting Pitcher | San Francisco Giants | Three years, $36 million (Announced: Nov. 22)

After a 107-win season, San Francisco entered this off-season with only one starting pitcher (Logan Webb) under contract for 2022. Now they have two, with DeSclafani agreeing to return after a career season that saw his stock rise considerably.

Underwhelming in his time with Cincinnati, DeSclafani, 31, had a 3.17 E.R.A. in 167 ⅔ innings for the Giants and kept runners off base to the tune of a 1.091 WHIP. He threw two shutouts and had 4.1 WAR, which is more than he had in the previous three seasons combined. The possibility certainly exists that 2021 was an aberration, but $12 million a year with a three-season commitment is not big money in this market and he would still be valuable even if he showed some regression in 2022.

Starting Pitcher | Toronto Blue Jays | Seven years, $131 million (Announced: Nov. 18)

Acquired at the trading deadline from Minnesota, Berríos apparently delivered on expectations as Toronto locked him in for the next seven years. A two-time All-Star, Berríos is a 27-year-old right-hander who has been a reliable and durable starter since 2017. In 12 starts for the Blue Jays, he had a 3.58 E.R.A. and he struck out 78 batters in 70 and a third innings, which makes his mediocre record of 5-4 a bit misleading.

While few would quibble that Berríos is a good starter, the massive financial commitment will look a bit unusual if the team does not find a way to retain Robbie Ray, a free-agent left-hander who does not have Berríos’s track record but just won the A.L. Cy Young Award.

Starting Pitcher | Houston Astros | One Year, $25 million (Announced: Nov. 17, by his brother)

It has been a quiet few years for Justin Verlander, a right-handed ace, as he has dealt with surgical procedures on his groin and pitching elbow that have limited him to only one appearance since 2019. But in his last full season he threw the third no-hitter of his career and won the American League’s Cy Young Award. And with a résumé that screams “Cooperstown,” there was plenty of reason for teams to be clamoring for his services.

What Houston can expect of Verlander, who turns 39 in February, is a little unclear after such a long layoff. But with multiple teams watching his workouts and a buzz developing that he had his old stuff, it was not surprising for him to get paid like an ace — and he got a pretty large vote of confidence in a player option that effectively guarantees him $50 million over two years.

It is unlikely that Verlander has enough time left in his career to get the 74 victories he needs to reach 300, but helping Houston through another deep playoff run would add a feather to his cap in a career that already includes a Rookie of the Year Award, a Most Valuable Player Award, a pitching triple crown, two Cy Young Awards and seven other top-10 finishes in Cy Young voting. He also won a World Series ring in the Astros’ tainted 2017 season after going to Houston in a trade from Detroit.

First Base | San Francisco Giants | One year, $18.4 million (Announced: Nov. 17)

Fourteen players were offered the $18.4 million qualifying offer by their teams — which attaches draft-pick compensation if the player signs with another team — and only Belt accepted it. A leader on and off the field, Belt, 33, could still be negotiating a long-term deal, but he will assuredly be with the Giants in 2022, which very likely comes as a relief for the team’s fans, many of whom are probably wondering what the playoffs would have looked like if Belt had not been sidelined by a fractured thumb.

Belt has had some injury issues over the years, but there is no denying he can hit. Over the past two seasons, his on-base plus slugging percentage is .988, which is fourth in the majors among batters with at least 500 plate appearances. The only players ahead of him make for impressive company: Juan Soto of the Nationals (1.042), Bryce Harper of the Phillies (1.021) and Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Braves (.989). That Belt has put up numbers like that in a park that favors pitchers is doubly impressive.

San Francisco has plenty of players who had what might be considered career seasons last year, meaning the 107-win team could be in for some regression to the mean. But Belt is a safe bet to produce — provided he can keep himself on the field.

Starting Pitcher | Detroit Tigers | Five years, $77 million (Announced: Nov. 16)

Detroit is banking on Rodriguez, 28, as a front-end starter, which he was at times for the Boston Red Sox. In 2019, he was Boston’s best starter by a fairly wide margin and finished sixth in the American League Cy Young Award voting (he had more wins above replacement than three of the pitchers who finished ahead of him). He missed the entire 2020 season after he developed myocarditis after having tested positive for the coronavirus, but he recovered to be Boston’s No. 2 starter in 2021. While his record and E.R.A. declined from 2019, he showed improvement in strikeouts per nine innings and walks per nine innings.

In Detroit, Rodriguez should slot in as a reliable left-handed complement to the promising Casey Mize at the top of the Tigers’ rotation, and he should benefit a great deal from the shift from hitter-friendly Fenway Park to pitcher-friendly Comerica Park. To lure him, however, was pricey: Rodriguez is not only guaranteed $77 million, but the Tigers will forfeit their third-round draft pick to Boston as compensation since the Red Sox extended a qualifying offer to Rodriguez.

Starting Pitcher | Los Angeles Angels | One year, $21 million (Announced: Nov. 16)

Syndergaard, 29, will give the Angels the pitcher with the highest upside in this year’s free-agent class, but one who also comes with a great deal of risk. While the commitment is for only one year, Los Angeles, which is desperately in need of starting pitching, paid a steep price, guaranteeing the hard-throwing Syndergaard $21 million and sacrificing a compensatory draft pick to the Mets, who had extended a qualifying offer that would have paid Syndergaard $18.4 million.

At his best, Syndergaard could be the ace the Angels have lacked. He has a 3.32 E.R.A. over six seasons and has averaged 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. As a rookie in 2015, he was pitching in the World Series. In 2016, he was an All-Star. But things have been far rockier since. Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 because of a torn right latissimus muscle. And after uneven efforts in 2018 and 2019, he missed all of 2020 after having Tommy John surgery. Once he did return, he made only two token appearances in the final week of the 2021 season because of inflammation in his pitching elbow.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -
Google search engine

Most Popular

Recent Comments