As the Winter Meetings approach, the MLB offseason has been relatively quiet. However, a few impact moves have been. The Houston Astros signed first baseman Jose Abreu, the New York Yankees brought back another first baseman Anthony Rizzo. The Tampa Bay Rays signed Zach Eflin. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed starting pitcher Tyler Anderson. They also traded for outfielder Hunter Renfroe and infielder Gio Urshela. The Seattle Mariners traded for Blue Jays outfielder Teoscar Hernandez.
Which of these moves during the MLB offseason so far has been the best?
First base market
The Astros won the World Series and now are the early offseason winners. Adding Jose Abreu to that stacked lineup is just overkill at this point. They took their weakest offensive area aside from catcher and now made it a strength. Yuli Gurriel had a great Astros tenure, but last year he had a negative WAR during the season.
The money at three years and $60 million is steep, but his impact will make it worth it in the first year or two. Abreu is 36, but his contact skills are incredible. He had a 304 batting average with an OBP of .378. On the downside, his home runs dropped to 15 and his slugging fell to .446 which is 60 points lower than his career average. Abreu had a WAR of just under four. Batting him sixth in that lineup with his ability to keep the line moving is scary.
Anthony Rizzo re-signing with the Yanks always seemed inevitable. Once the Astros interest became known, the Yankees signed him the next day. Rizzo was great last year, hitting 32 homers despite missing over 30 games. He was the second-best hitter on the team besides Aaron Judge.
Rizzo was the only player besides Judge on the Yankees to have an OPS over .800. Rizzo’s production goes beyond the stat sheet with his leadership. He’s an important member of the Bronx Bombers locker room. Judge is very close with him and it’s a good first step to convince him to return. Rizzo’s defense is also a huge factor in helping out his fellow infielders.
Teoscar Hernandez had a down year and missed 30 games, but still managed to hit 30 home runs with an OPS over .800. He’ll give the Mariners more power in the outfield and will be the perfect replacement for Mitch Haniger. Hernandez had 32 home runs and 116 RBI in 2021. If he puts up 30 and 100 for the Mariners that’ll go a long way. Putting him out there with Julio Rodriguez could be deadly. Ty France, Eugenio Suarez, and Cal Raleigh provide strong bats in the middle of the lineup. If Jesse Winker and Jarred Kelenic rebound, the Mariners could have one of the best lineups in the league.
Hunter Renfroe will be a nice addition to the Angels. His solid defense will help Trout in the outfield, His 29 home runs and OPS over 800 will help provide more balance in the middle of their lineup.
Starting pitching market
Tyler Anderson and Zach Eflin both received deals for around three years and $40 million. In Anderson’s case, it was deserved, but I question if his career year was an aberration. He had an ERA of 2.57 with 138 strikeouts in 178 innings. He’s not a high strikeout guy and things will be tougher with the Angels. The lefty is 32 years old and has posted a 4.16 ERA during his time in MLB.
Eflin has a career ERA of 4.49 he’s started 115 games and the Rays will put him into their rotation. This is a Rays-type move since he’s just 28 and has good analytical data. It’s the biggest free-agent contract they’ve ever signed. Hard to say I love it, but the Rays are smart. This is just the beginning of a long offseason. Let’s see what happens next.