The Major League Baseball offseason hot stove is just beginning to warm up as the holiday season gets underway. Some early trades and free-agency transactions have happened, but many big-name players remain unsigned or on the trade block, paving the way for a potentially hectic next few weeks.
Three Early Eye-opening MLB Offseason Transactions
Phillies Retain Homegrown Ace
Drafted seventh overall by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2014 out of LSU, Aaron Nola quickly advanced through the team’s minor league system, making his Major League debut the following year. In 2017, Nola emerged as the team’s best pitcher and one of the best pitchers in the National League (NL). The durable and talented right-hander has started every opening-day game since 2018 and played a significant role in the team’s regular season and postseason success over the past two seasons. Realizing how valuable the 30-year-old is to their team’s success, the Phillies re-signed the first-time free agent to a seven-year $172 million contract. Thus, Nola will likely stay in The City of Brotherly Love for the rest of his career and continue teaming with co-ace Zack Wheeler atop the team’s rotation for the next few years.
Following Nola’s re-signing, the Phillies may let their longest-tenured position player, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, bounce back with another team. The free agent had some big moments in their 2022 run to the World Series but missed all of 2023 after suffering an ACL injury in spring training. The Phillies could seek bullpen reinforcements and some hitter depth but do not seem to have any glaring roster needs.
The Defending N.L. Champion Arizona Diamondbacks Fill Their Hole At Third Base
After sneaking into the playoffs in the final National League wild-card spot, the Arizona Diamondbacks made a memorable underdog run to the World Series. NL Rookie of the Year outfielder Corbin Carroll exhibited his dynamic all-around talent on the national stage for the first time. Talented second baseman Ketel Marte recorded a hit in a record-breaking 18 straight postseason games, helping Carroll power their team through the playoffs.
Although they came up short against the Texas Rangers, this team proved their postseason mettle. They should remain in postseason contention for the next few years, provided they improve their roster and prevent it from being overly weakened by players leaving in free agency. The Diamondbacks already started offseason shopping, trading backup catcher Seby Zavala and minor league relief pitcher Carlos Vargas to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for third baseman Eugenio Suarez.
Third base was a weak position for Arizona last year as neither free-agent Evan Longoria nor Emmanuel Rivera offered the offensive production contending teams now expect from players at that position. Suarez should step right in and improve this team’s lineup with his proven ability to hit home runs. After upgrading third base, the Diamondbacks now have to address left field. They can re-sign free agents Tommy Pham or Lourdes Gurriel Jr or go in a different direction. Lastly, they could upgrade their rotation beyond top three starters Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, and Brandon Pfaadt as they failed to find a dependable fourth starter during their playoff run, instead relying on bullpen games.
The St. Louis Cardinals Find Starting Pitching Reinforcements In Free Agency
Despite having two of the best players in the sport in first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arrenado, the St. Louis Cardinals finished 2023 with a 71-91 record, their first losing season since 2007 and only third since 1999. The team returned most of the squad that won the division in 2022 except for retired franchise legends Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols. The team’s longtime ace starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright, returned for one more season, but his season-long struggles symbolized the team’s overall inability to pitch well enough to win games. Wainwright and his fellow starting pitchers did not perform well, with one of a few bright spots being when Wainwright earned his 200th win on September 18.
Not accustomed to losing, the Cardinals quickly addressed their rotation on the free-agency market. First, they signed 36-year-old right-hander Lance Lynn to a one-year $10 million contract, reuniting him with the team where he began his professional baseball career a decade and a half ago. Lynn did not have a good season with the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers in 2023, going 13-11 with a 5.73 ERA and allowing too many home runs. While Lynn is not as good as when his career started in St. Louis, he is usually durable and has shown the ability to be an average starting pitcher. The team also signed Kyle Gibson to a one-year $12 million contract. Gibson is another veteran right-hander who fared slightly better than Lynn last year, going 15-9 with a 4.73 ERA in 33 starts for the American League East winners Baltimore Orioles.
After adding depth to the back of the rotation, the Cardinals signed 34-year-old Sonny Gray to a three-year, $75 million contract with a $30 million team option for 2027 to front their reshaped starting pitching group. The Minnesota Twins won their division this year in large part due to their excellent pitching. Gray came in second in AL Cy Young Award voting after finishing the season 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA. These three signings make sense and fill needs, but all three of these pitchers are past the age of thirty, causing one to wonder if they will be able to stay healthy and pitch well enough to help return this team to division contention.
The annual Winter Meetings always serve as an offseason launching pad as representatives from all 30 teams gather at one place to discuss potential free-agency signings, trades, and other business matters. This year’s event is from December 4-6 in Nashville, Tennessee. MLB fans can expect the offseason fireworks, such as which team wins the Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto sweepstakes, to start at or immediately following the multi-day conference.