The MLB offseason was interrupted by a lockout that seems destined to stretch on for a while. But several great moves came in under the wire. Here are the four best.
Major League Baseball has been locked out for almost six weeks and there is no end in sight as owners and players have still not hit the negotiating table following the new year.
There were a flurry of free-agent signings and trades, with teams spending a record-setting $2.16 billion before the lockout. Here are four of them that I really liked and felt flew under the radar.
I liked these signings for a multitude of reasons, most notably that both are signed to one-year contracts and present considerable upside. If Syndergaard is an ace-like pitcher, which the Angels clearly believe he can be as evidenced by the $21 million price tag, he gives them credibility atop the rotation they have lacked for years. They would also have the inside track at re-signing him before he even reaches free agency.
Lorenzen, meanwhile, has not started since 2015 and will be part of the rotation this season. The Angels were not alone in their pursuit of the right-hander — a number of west coast teams, including the San Francisco Giants — were eyeing him before he signed a $6.75 million deal with the Angels. While he comes as a relative unknown as a starter, the Angels are confident that his multi-inning relief stints and six-pitch mix will translate well to the rotation.
Even with Syndergaard and Lorenzen, the expectation is that the Angels will pursue another starter once the CBA is reached. They coveted Max Scherzer, but he sought going back to the east coast and ultimately landed a record-setting deal with the New York Mets.
3. Mets sign Mark Canha to two-year deal
Entering the offseason, I thought Canha was destined to sign with the Giants. He screamed Farhan Zaidi. But on the same day that they signed Starling Marte and Eduardo Escobar, the New York Mets swooped in and signed Canha to a two-year, $26.5 million deal.
Canha, 32, is a versatile defender who can play all three outfield positions and first base. He’s a high on-base player who further lengthens and deepens the Mets’ lineup. He’s also a high character player who should immediately step into a prominent clubhouse role, helping to improve a team culture that was reportedly among the focal points of their offseason plans.
Canha was coveted by a lot of teams in free agency, but team president Sandy Alderson and general manager Billy Eppler traveled to see Canha before Thanksgiving. Before that meeting, the Mets were not among the favorites. That meeting, Canha said, changed everything.
2. Brewers acquire Hunter Renfroe in trade with Red Sox
Give David Stearns credit. He often makes moves that few see coming. That held true when he acquired Hunter Renfroe from the Boston Red Sox only minutes before the CBA was set to expire.
The price – Jackie Bradley Jr. and prospects – drew positive reviews from rival executives. The Brewers had been looking to part with Bradley Jr., but the prevailing thought was that no one would want a player with a $11 million salary coming off a season in which he hit .163/.236/.261 with six home runs and 29 RBI in 428 plate appearances.
Alas, Stearns attached two prospects with Bradley Jr. to land a player in Renfroe that the Brewers internally believe is an upgrade over Avisail Garcia. Sure, he could be a candidate for regression following a breakout season with the Red Sox, but he’s cheaper ($7.5 million salary in 2021, arbitration-eligible in 2022) and is above-average both offensively and defensively.
For the Brewers, a small-market team with limited payroll flexibility this winter, the move made complete sense. It gives them their Garcia replacement and frees up additional payroll room to allow them to sign another bat and/or reliever.
1. Cubs claim Wade Miley off waivers from the Reds could be the steal of the MLB offseason
It wasn’t a flashy, big-name addition. But I thought the Chicago Cubs claiming Wade Miley on waivers from the Cincinnati Reds was perhaps the most underrated move of the season.
It was an outright waiver claim, so the Cubs didn’t part with any players to acquire Miley. All it cost was them taking on his $10 million salary when he’s coming off a season in which he posted a 3.37 ERA and 125/50 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 163 innings.
Sure, the Cubs are unlikely to compete this season, even after signing Marcus Stroman. But if Miley posts numbers similar to last season, he will become one of the most coveted assets at the trade deadline, and could fetch a high-end prospect or two in late July.
Which makes the Reds’ decision to part ways with Miley for nothing, only to shed payroll, even more confusing. It not only weakened their 2022 roster but might help accelerate the Cubs’ rebuild.