February 3, 2023

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Here are the 10 best moves from last offseason

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When a team signs a free agent or swings a trade for a big name, the hope is that they’ll be able to make an immediate impact.

It doesn’t always work out that way, of course, but there are a bunch of moves from this past offseason that are already paying dividends early in the 2022 campaign.

Here’s a ranking of the 10 best transactions made between the end of the 2021 season and the start of 2022, based on production, each player’s importance to their team and the impact they’ve had on postseason races so far. (All stats are through Friday.)

1. Astros sign SP Justin Verlander to one-year, $25 million deal
After making just one start during the shortened 2020 season, Verlander underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2021, then became a free agent last November at the age of 38. Houston was confident enough in the health of his surgically repaired arm that it guaranteed him $25 million in 2022, with a $25 million player option for 2023 that will kick in if he throws 130-plus innings this season. Verlander, who turned 39 in February, has pitched to a 1.38 ERA with an MLB-leading 0.68 WHIP over his first seven starts for the Astros, who are once again looking like the team to beat in the AL West.

2. Blue Jays sign SP Kevin Gausman to five-year, $110 million deal
Though 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray became a free agent and eventually signed with the Mariners, the Blue Jays replaced him with Gausman, who finished sixth in last year’s NL Cy Young race while pitching for the Giants. The 31-year-old righty has capably filled the ace role for Toronto, recording a 2.52 ERA (149 ERA+) with an MLB-leading 1.25 FIP and 19.0 K/BB ratio over 50 innings.

3. Yankees sign 1B Anthony Rizzo to two-year, $32 million deal
All too often last season, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton were left to do all the heavy lifting for the Yanks. While Rizzo helped alleviate some of the pressure after being traded to New York last July, the first baseman wasn’t close to the slugger we’ve seen this year. Rizzo, who re-signed with the Yanks in March, inking a two-year deal with an opt-out after Year 1, has produced 10 homers, 24 RBIs and a 151 OPS+ in 37 games this season, contributing to the Yankees’ best start since 1998.

4. Mets acquire SP Chris Bassitt from A’s in three-player trade
Part of an offseason haul that included Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar, Bassitt was supposed to be the Mets’ No. 3 starter this season, but with Jacob deGrom (shoulder) and Scherzer (oblique) sidelined, he has become their ace. The 33-year-old might have seemed like an unnatural fit for the role in the past, but he has recorded a 142 ERA+ since the beginning of 2020, including a 140 mark this season for a Mets club that has opened up the biggest division lead in the Majors.

5. Dodgers sign 1B Freddie Freeman to six-year, $162 million deal
Freeman hasn’t homered since April 24, but he’s been productive nonetheless for the Dodgers, putting up a .322/.414/.497 slash line (158 OPS+) over 38 games. His steady performance in the two-hole is a big reason why the Dodgers lead the Majors in runs per game despite getting very little from Max Muncy and Justin Turner.

6. Rangers sign SP Martín Pérez to one-year, $4 million deal
The Rangers were one of the offseason’s biggest spenders, signing Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Jon Gray to contracts totaling $556 million, but it’s their $4 million contract with Pérez that stands out the most so far. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, with the veteran lefty having put up a lifetime 4.71 ERA entering this season, but he has turned into Texas’ ace. The 31-year-old threw a shutout Friday against the Astros to lower his ERA to 1.64 through eight starts. Meanwhile, the Rangers’ other starting pitchers have recorded a collective 5.29 ERA in 30 outings. Texas has won each of Pérez’s four starts in May and is back in the AL Wild Card race after starting out 6-14 in 2022.

7. Giants sign SP Carlos Rodón to two-year, $44 million deal
The Giants entered the offseason knowing they’d need to find replacements for four-fifths of their 2021 rotation, including Gausman. After re-signing Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood and bringing in Alex Cobb in November, San Francisco struck a post-lockout deal (two years with an opt-out after Year 1 if he throws at least 110 innings in 2022) with Rodón, who earned his first All-Star selection and placed fifth in the AL Cy Young voting as a member of the White Sox last season. The left-hander ran into some trouble in a blowout loss against the Cardinals on Sunday night, putting a damper on his overall numbers, but he had a 1.80 ERA and a 39.3% strikeout rate over his first six starts.

8. Mets sign SP Max Scherzer to three-year, $130 million deal
Scherzer would have been higher on this list earlier in the week, but he exited his most recent start with a left oblique strain that could keep him out six to eight weeks. Prior to the injury, the three-time Cy Young Award winner was giving the Mets everything they expected when they signed him to a historic contract last December, posting a 2.54 ERA (153 ERA+) with 59 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings.

9. Padres acquire RP Taylor Rogers from Twins in five-player trade
The departure of 2021 MLB saves leader Mark Melancon as a free agent left the Friars with an uncertain closer situation, but the club addressed it with their Opening Day trade, sending Chris Paddack, Emilio Pagán and Brayan Medina to the Twins for Rogers and Brent Rooker. Rogers leads the Majors with 15 saves and has posted a 0.52 ERA with a 0.64 WHIP in 17 1/3 innings.

10. Yankees acquire 3B Josh Donaldson and SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa from Twins in five-player trade
With multiple shortstop prospects in the pipeline, the Yankees opted not to pursue one of the star free-agent shortstops that hit the market last November. Instead, they reshaped the left side of their infield with this trade, sending Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela to Minnesota for Donaldson, Kiner-Falefa and catcher Ben Rortvedt. After a cold start, Donaldson has produced four homers, six doubles, 14 walks and a .952 OPS in his past 23 games. Donaldson and IKF have combined for 2.2 wins above replacement, per Baseball-Reference, while Sánchez and Urshela have recorded 0.7 bWAR for the Twins.

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