7:00 AM ET
The MLB offseason is nearly complete and virtually all of the major free agents have found new seats after baseball’s annual round of musical chairs. Every hot stove question you had about your team has been answered.
Unfortunately, for some, that answer did not arrive in the form of a new player, one who addressed a blindingly obvious roster gap or personnel need, but in the form of an absence of action. That’s how it goes sometimes.
Should you be mad? Should you take out your ire by your own demonstration of non-action, namely refusing to buy tickets or tune into your local baseball stream? Well, maybe, but that’s not what we’re going to preach today.
Every team has some sort of lingering question about what it has done since the Braves capped off their title run last fall. Including, and perhaps especially, the Braves.
We’re going to answer some of those questions but with a small twist: We’re going to spin things positive from each team’s perspective, even when that spin requires some real public relations gymnastics. Hey, it’s almost Opening Day, so if you can’t accentuate the positive now, when can you?
Why the heck didn’t the Diamondbacks get a third baseman?
The soothing response: This was not the time.
It’s fine. We’re just showing some restraint. This wasn’t a great free-agent class for third basemen and the top performer on the market, Kris Bryant, turned out to be awfully expensive. The organization has two infielders in Kiley McDaniel’s top-100 prospects list in Jordan Lawler and Gerald Perdomo. While he’s a shortstop, Nick Ahmed is still around, and so is Josh Rojas, who is more of a utility player but can play third and might have more to show at the plate than he has so far. Besides, we are in a very tough division and trying to build incrementally. There was no real reason to go heavy in pursuit of a third baseman. Be patient. The level of infield talent in Arizona is on the rise.
Why the heck didn’t the Braves get Freddie Freeman back?
Freddie Freeman, a World Series champion last season with the Braves, joins the Dodgers on a six-year, $162 million deal. Story »
Olney: Inside Freeman’s ‘heartbreaking’ split with the Braves (ESPN+)
Schoenfield: How L.A.’s roster stacks up to its recent superteams (ESPN+)
Doolittle: Why Freeman in a Dodgers uniform is a loss for baseball (ESPN+)
Grade: With Freeman on board, can anyone stop the Dodgers? (ESPN+)
The soothing response: We tried and anyway we got a younger version of Freeman.
This was rough. Freeman was the face of our franchise. We have a duty to run our franchise by certain parameters so the kind of high-level winning you saw last November can be sustained. When we reached a crossroads in our conversations with Freeman, we did so knowing that we had a chance to acquire Matt Olson, one of the game’s top first basemen and a player who is from the Atlanta area. And to prove that we are serious about keeping familiar faces on board with whom fans can identify, we immediately signed Olson to an eight-year contract extension. We’ll miss Freeman, but the future remains bright for the Braves.
Why the heck didn’t the Orioles get a time portal to 1970?
The soothing response: The process is happening. Now.
We know you’re heard about the good old days, when the Orioles were perhaps the best-run franchise in baseball. We know you’d like Baltimore baseball to return to those salad days, especially after we’ve lost at least 108 games in each of the last three full seasons. It’s been hard and, yes, we can confirm we did look into purchasing a time-traveling 1981 DeLorean DMC-12. Unfortunately, the bidding exceeded our present budget. But we’ve got the best catching prospect in the game (Adley Rutschman) and perhaps the best pitching prospect (Grayson Rodriguez) and they will be in Baltimore before long. We can’t take you back to the days of Earl Weaver and Brooks Robinson, and the present admittedly looks bleak. But the future is bright — we swear — and did you notice how pretty our ballpark is?
Why the heck didn’t the Red Sox get a starting right fielder?
The soothing response: The young bats are coming.
We will be selective when it comes to making significant investments in our club. We want to win, just as we did last season when we fell just short of the World Series, but we want that winning to be sustainable and based on a steady flow of talent identified and developed by the Red Sox organization. We’ve got high-quality young bats on the way like Triston Casas, Jarren Duran and, after them, Nick Yorke and Marcelo Mayer. We can’t block our young talent by over-reaching on veteran players who might impede their opportunity to ascend to Fenway Park. Besides, you never know, we might surprise you, just as we did with Trevor Story.
Why the heck didn’t the Cubs get the 2016 roster back?
The soothing response: There’s lots of new stuff around the ballpark.
Time moves on, and while Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber were all available on the open market, the time just wasn’t right for us to meet those kinds of market demands. That doesn’t mean we don’t value winning each and every season. Every campaign is an opportunity to win, and you will be pleasantly surprised by how competitive our 2022 club is going to be, even if you don’t know who any of the players are. We can assure you that they will be wearing Cubs uniforms and the ivy will be green and the beer in the bleachers will be cold. We’ll miss our old friends, but there is a nice hotel across the street where there used to be a McDonald’s, and in that open plaza across from the Sports Corner, you know, where there used to be statues of Billy Williams and Ron Santo, we’re building a gambling house. Cubs baseball: The party never ends.
Why the heck didn’t the White Sox get an impact right fielder?
The soothing response: Michael Conforto is still available.
The club is built to win now and is a heavy favorite to repeat as champions in the American League Central. We know there are no guarantees, but we also know that success in the postseason is heavily reliant on having a deep, dominating bullpen. We addressed that area by adding proven relievers like Kendall Graveman and Joe Kelly to join Liam Hendriks, Craig Kimbrel, Aaron Bummer and Garrett Crochet. You’ll be seeing plenty of those players in October. Meanwhile, we really like our position player depth. Michael Conforto? We don’t comment on individual free agents. We’ll just say that while it would be nice to have a right fielder you can pencil in every day, we have a number of capable players who need playing time like Adam Engel, the super-versatile Leury Garcia, Andrew Vaughn, Jake Burger, Micker Adolfo and Blake Rutherford. We are going to score runs.
Why the heck didn’t the Reds get their All-Stars back?
The soothing response: It was time to reallocate resources and streamline payroll to achieve synergy and circle back to our target action items.
When we traded Raisel Iglesias before last season, we told you we were endeavoring to reallocate resources. After we narrowly missed a playoff bracket last season that has now grown larger with the addition of another wild card in each league, we told you about our initiative to align our payroll to our previously reallocated resources. Everyone knows that resource management is crucial in today’s world, and no one has spent more time in baseball on resource management than the Reds. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to win.
Why the heck didn’t the Guardians get high-level outfielders?
The soothing response: The pitching is good.
To be honest, we’re still trying to figure out who some of those guys are on our outfield depth chart. What we can say is that this is an organization that has produced quality pitching with as much consistency as any in baseball. That’s our foundation. According to McDaniel, many of our top prospects are position players at present, including outfielders George Valera (50 FV), Steven Kwan (50) and Nolan Jones (45). This is how we have to compete in this market. And we do compete: Since 2013, the Yankees are the only AL team that has won more games. There is a certain amount of roster attrition that goes with this approach, but we have every reason to believe that the Guardians will continue to be a competitive franchise.
Why the heck didn’t the Rockies get a catcher?
The soothing response: Did you see that we signed Kris Bryant?
$3.265 billion?! Teams have never spent this much in an offseason before. Here’s why — and what it means. Jeff Passan
Tracker: Grades, analysis » | All moves »
Seriously, that was awesome. Yes, we might have overpaid. But this club is committed to winning. We’ve proved that by coming to terms with a player who has won everywhere he has been, and who has a very persuasive agent. You win with ballplayers, not spending efficiency. As for that catching thing, we are aware that we haven’t ranked in the top half of the majors at that position by bWAR in more than a decade. But McDaniel has young Drew Romo as a 50 FV prospect and ranks him as his No. 85 overall prospect. It’s fine. It’s all fine.
Why the heck didn’t the Tigers get Carlos Correa?
The soothing response: Greed is not good!
Just because we made our offseason splashes before the lockout doesn’t mean we were passive about improving a team that got a whole lot better in 2021. Javier Baez is the shortstop you longed for. Eduardo Rodriguez and Michael Pineda are the veteran stabilizers we needed for our deep, young roster of starting pitchers. And those pitchers are our best hope for continuing our rise. Carlos Correa is a very good player and we were very interested in him and he has a great relationship with our manager, A.J. Hinch. But the timing just wasn’t right, especially when we’ve got two of the top five or 10 prospects in baseball — Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene — on the cusp of breaking into the majors. Besides, it’s not like Correa was going to sign with another team in our division. … I’m sorry, what was that?
Why the heck didn’t the Astros get Carlos Correa?
The soothing response: His name is Jeremy Pena.
We love Carlos Correa. We thank him for all he did for the franchise during our extended and ongoing series of high-level success. We remained interested in bringing him back to Houston right up until he signed with Minnesota. But sometimes the reason you can go only so far in your talks with a player is because you have another player ready at his position. We have that player in Jeremy Pena, rated as a 55 FV prospect by McDaniel. As he tries to replace one of the best players in franchise history, our team leader, Jose Altuve, recently told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that Pena is going to be a “superstar.” No pressure at all.
Why the heck didn’t the Royals get a new first baseman?
The soothing response: His name is Nick Pratto.
After going heavy on college pitching prospects who are now the foundation of our big league rotation, our system made a miraculous turnaround last season in terms of overhauling our collective approach with young hitters. We already knew Nick Pratto was a future Gold Glover at first base. Sure, we were worried too when, during his last full minor league season, he hit .191 with nine homers and a .588 OPS. Then, last season, he hit .265 with 36 homers and a .988 OPS. We still have steady veteran Carlos Santana, one of the game’s most disciplined hitters, and Hunter Dozier, who is due for a bounce-back year. Yes, first base was a sinkhole last season and doesn’t look great in current projections, but we have every reason to believe those projections aren’t going to hold up.
Why the heck didn’t the Angels get more starting pitching?
The soothing response: Look, while you were whining about our starting pitching, we improved our starting pitching.
It’s become an annual rite to complain about the Angels not getting any starting pitching. And, yes, you can never have too much of it. But we’ve worked on that, and Fangraphs now projects us to get top-half production from our rotation. We have the game’s most interesting staff too. We have “Thor” — Noah Syndergaard — who is on a one-year deal and highly motivated to prove he can still be dominant and durable. We have the best-hitting rotation around, with Shohei Ohtani heading up our staff and moonlighting as the game’s best DH, and Michael Lorenzen now on board as a lower-rotation starter who also can wield a bat, if needed, and even log some time in center field in a pinch. And don’t forget about Reid Detmers, one of the game’s most promising young starters. Yes, there is a lot of risk and variability with this group. And, yes, we need to win while Mike Trout is still elite. But this might be a fun rotation, the best one we’ve had in a while.
Why the heck didn’t the Dodgers buy that ivory back scratcher?
The soothing response: We still might.
5dBradford Doolittle and David Schoenfield
What else can you get the roster that has everything? OK, we know that not everything will go exactly according to plan. Heck, last year we didn’t even make the World Series. (Though, in fairness, after we lost to the Braves in the National League Championship Series, we went out and signed the face of their franchise.) But even if roster needs arise, we have depth, we have money, we have a highly rated farm system and we have a terrific manager who just signed an extension. But, hey, we give you credit for finding something to complain about.
Why the heck didn’t the Marlins get Nick Castellanos?
The soothing response: Jorge Soler might be better, but it all comes down to our pitching anyway.
Look, it’s not great that Derek Jeter left the franchise. He has kind of been the one person who has given the Marlins an identity during this rebuild; otherwise, a lot of the national baseball media might have forgotten we exist. And there were some rumblings that the reasons for his departure had to do with not being allowed to sign Castellanos, a local product who would have been a great fit. But we’ve since gone out and signed Soler. He hasn’t been as consistent as Castellanos, but as he showed last season, Soler is the kind of power hitter who can carry a team for weeks at a time — including and especially if that team gets into the postseason. Yes, you’ve got to make the postseason first, but projections already have us in the middle of the pack, which in a 12-team playoff universe puts you in the mix. And with our starting pitching and the upside it represents, if we beat those projections, look out.
Why the heck didn’t the Brewers get a third baseman?
The soothing response: If we still need one at the trade deadline, we’ll get one.
We have a very complete roster. We need bounce-back and/or healthy seasons from Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, but we are heavily favored to win the NL Central and have been knocking on the pennant door for a few years now. Yes, your projections might see some uncertainty at third base. First: Your projections are not our projections, and our projections work — and, no, we aren’t going to tell you anything about them. Even so, our talented front office led by David Stearns and Matt Arnold has been as successful as any at making in-season upgrades when needed. Stay tuned.
Why the heck didn’t the Twins get more starting pitching?
The soothing response: Stay tuned.
Wow, greedy much? Didn’t you hear that we signed Carlos Correa? OK, we get it. We started last season with a veteran rotation we loved, and Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker and Kenta Maeda have all either moved on or, in the case of Maeda, are injured. It’s not like we haven’t replaced any of them. Trading for Sonny Gray will have a major impact for us. And don’t sleep on the addition of Dylan Bundy; our pitching program under Wes Johnson does great with veterans like him. We’ve got some other veterans in camp as non-roster invitees who can help and young pitchers like Jhoan Duran on the way. And Maeda might make it back by the end of the season. The process is ongoing, and you know we are trying to win. You don’t sign Correa to a contract that has an opt-out after the first season if you don’t plan on winning right away.
Why the heck didn’t the Mets get all the free agents?
The soothing response: There’s still payroll room below the Steve Cohen threshold.
What baseball needs more than anything is a team with a $300 million payroll. We signed free agents such as Max Scherzer, Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte and Mark Canha. We traded for Chris Bassitt. They put in that interesting new luxury tax threshold at $290 million just for us, and for an owner like Cohen, that’s like waving a red cape in front of a bull. The free-agent season might be pretty much over, but there are always trades to be made for a team willing to take on money.
Why the heck didn’t the Yankees get a star shortstop?
The soothing response: His name is Anthony Volpe.
A new season is coming. Get ready to dominate your fantasy baseball league.
The Playbook: Guide to fantasy baseball »
’22 rankings: Head-to-head » | Points »
Sign up (now featuring keepers by round) »
We are the Yankees. We can afford anybody. But we also work hard at developing our own players so that we spend on our terms, not those of someone else. McDaniel ranks Anthony Volpe as his sixth-best prospect, gives him a 60 FV and compares him to Bo Bichette. We could have extended ourselves and signed Carlos Correa, Javier Baez, Trevor Story or pretty much anybody else. We didn’t do that because we didn’t have to. We didn’t have to because we have Anthony Volpe. And even if it takes him a year to two to arrive, we have another young shortstop in Oswald Peraza who isn’t far away; and we just traded for veteran Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who provides an impactful upgrade for our defense.
Why the heck didn’t the Athletics get replacement Matts?
The soothing response: That new stadium might really happen.
The new stadium, if we can finally make it happen, will be really nice. And if we can’t, there is always Las Vegas. (We wish Matt Olson and Matt Chapman the best of luck with their new clubs.)
Why the heck didn’t the Phillies get defenders?
The soothing response: Let’s focus on the batting order.
Speaking for our general manager, Dave Dombrowski, this is not his first rodeo. He has built pennant winners in Miami, Detroit, Boston and, arguably, Montreal, if you consider that he was largely responsible for the talent core of the 1994 team that was on track for a pennant when the strike hit. There is no one way he has done it. He built the last pennant-winning Tigers team of 2012 around elite hitters like Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Well, we’ve got Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber and J.T. Realmuto. He built around elite starting pitchers such as Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Well, we’ve got Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. That Tigers team finished next to last in defensive efficiency. We want to catch the ball, but you can win with below-average and even poor defense.
Why the heck didn’t the Pirates get a very large shortstop?
The soothing response: There is only room for one of them.
In all seriousness, Oneil Cruz is a major talent and, at 6-7, is historically unique. His power is absurd. And we’ve got a lot of holes to fill, so for now, let’s focus on what’s exciting about our future. Oneil Cruz is exciting.
Why the heck didn’t the Padres get a championship rotation?
The soothing response: It might already be here.
Who is the greatest baseball player ever? We ranked the 100 best to ever take the diamond.
Top 25 » | 26-50 » | 51-100 » | Snubs »
Who is too high, too low? » | Full list »
The difficult case of Oscar Charleston »
Which current stars are next up? (ESPN+) »
It’s no secret that we have struggled to keep pitchers healthy. In all fairness, we’ve struggled to keep all players healthy, not just pitchers. And we admit that with Fernando Tatis Jr. out at the start of the season, we’re not off to a great start in 2022. And we admit that our organizational inability to string together plus starting rotations has become chronic. Since 2008, we’ve ranked 22nd in rotation bWAR in every full season. Every single one of them. Wait, what were we talking about? Oh yeah — this is the season it turns around. The flash of rotation success you saw in the shortened 2020 season is back. Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Mike Clevinger, if healthy, can match anyone’s top four. And the law of averages says we’re due for some rotation health. Right?
Why the heck didn’t the Giants get an elite power bat?
The soothing response: Did you see our record last season?
You know, you guys are kind of funny. On one hand, you worry that we’ve been too passive this offseason coming off a 107-win campaign. We let Kris Bryant and Kevin Gausman walk away in free agency. We signed some veteran pitchers that shore up the rotation in Carlos Rodon and Alex Cobb, just for starters. But given where we were just last October, and the resources with which the Giants franchise has to work, this offseason has lacked sizzle, for lack of a better word. That’s what we hear, anyway. As for that other hand, it’s there in which you guys get really irritated at projection systems that see this 107-win juggernaut as returning to the middle of the pack. Like we said, you guys are funny. But if you really do require some reassurance, just look up last season’s standings. You can trust this front office.
Why the heck didn’t the Mariners get an elite closer?
The soothing response: It’s more about depth than roles.
Last season was great. During what was supposed to be a rebuilding season, we won 90 games and nearly made the playoffs. We did it without abandoning the rebuilding effort, as we’re now an elite organization by the consensus of the prospect gurus. We have been aggressive, adding Cy Young winner Robbie Ray via free agency and trading for Adam Frazier, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez. But in today’s game, it’s hard to win at a high level without an elite bullpen. Projections, right now, don’t love our bullpen. There is no clear and obvious closer unless Ken Giles proves he is all the way back from his elbow injury. Have faith. Bullpens are hard to project. No one liked our bullpen last year, either, and we ended up ranking 10th in relief bWAR.
Why the heck didn’t the Cardinals get Albert Pujols?
The soothing response: We did!
How great is it to be a Cardinals fan today? Yes, we have concerns about our rotation depth after Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes turned up injured during spring training. But Pujols is once again a Cardinal and all is right with the universe. Or at least in this little sliver of it.
Why the heck didn’t the Rays get a replacement for Nelson Cruz?
The soothing response: We are a baseball amoeba.
We are built to win 90-something games. You might not understand how it keeps happening, but eventually you will just accept that it’s going to keep happening. You pluck what seems like a significant portion of our ability off our roster, and the gap just closes and reforms around it and emerges just as strong. Last year, the way the Rays were built, the need for an elite DH seemed obvious. We needed a middle-of-the-order masher whose presence wouldn’t mess with our elite team defense. We eventually traded for Cruz, and that worked out OK. The problem is that we just keep producing good players, in general and in particular for our strategies of roster building. We kind of need that DH slot. It might be easier to just pencil in a stud DH, but think of it like this: We might not know who the DH is going to be from day to day, but when you look at the depth of talent on hand in St. Petersburg, Florida, you can rest assured he’ll be a good player.
Why the heck didn’t the Rangers get an impact left fielder?
The soothing response: Michael Conforto is still available.
Buster Olney goes position by position to rate the best of the best in baseball.
Pitchers | INFs | OFs | Teams
We hear you. For a team that just spent a gazillion dollars on a new middle infield, along with an upgraded rotation, the outfield might still look a little journeyman-y. Well, we weren’t shy about setting the market early on. But you can’t keep doing that. We do need to upgrade the outfield but as we wait for our new veteran foundation to overlap with our coming prospects, we can be opportunistic. There is plenty to be optimistic about, but it would be a surprise for us to contend this season. We did, after all, lose 102 games last season. You can’t do it all at once. Maybe fate will bring Michael Conforto to our doorstep. But if not, we’ve taken a giant step in the right direction since last season ended. And we proved we’re committed to continuing in that direction.
Why the heck didn’t the Blue Jays get more proven relievers?
The soothing response: We might score more runs than the Dodgers.
No, really. It’s not implausible that our Jays will outscore that Dodgers lineup, the one everyone is comparing to the 1927 Yankees. Our group of hitters, bolstered by the addition of Matt Chapman, has that kind of upside. Our depth is better than last season, too. Our rotation has the potential to be elite. We have built to this point step by step over the past few years and now are legitimate contenders for the AL pennant. The bullpen isn’t full of household names, but relievers don’t achieve that level of notoriety until they’ve excelled for a winning team. We think that some of our relievers, like Jordan Romano and Julian Merryweather, can get there. And if it looks like we need upgrades during the season, we can pursue that knowing that our roster elsewhere looks pretty well stocked.
Why the heck didn’t the Nationals get one of the impact free-agent infielders?
The soothing response: Let’s see what we have first.
Trading away winning veterans the way we did last year hurt, but we’re not looking at a long-term rebuild here. If we did, would we have jumped in after the lockout to sign Nelson Cruz as the first-ever full-time NL designated hitter? These aren’t mixed signals. It’s just that we need a few things to go right. We need some of our stopgap veterans, like Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco and Alcides Escobar, to overachieve. We need Carter Kieboom to get healthy and become the player we thought he would be. We need Stephen Strasburg to build back toward performance and durability, because we’ve got an awful lot invested in him. And we need more than anything to get an extension done with Juan Soto. When that happens, everything else about the future of this club will become clear.
Source: ESPN MLB