2023 MLB Winter Meetings: Impacts for Fantasy Baseball

The fantasy impact of all the moves from the Winter Meetings.

Just as quickly as the offseason seemed to have started, the Winter Meetings are already in our rearview mirror. And while there wasn’t the type of activity level as there have been at past winter meetings, and perhaps what we’re used to from the Winter Meetings in general, there were plenty of fantasy-relevant moves to be had.

The big-name free-agent signings and trades were largely not a constant either. Still, there are plenty of moves to break down from the Winter Meetings, moves that could have just as much an impact on fantasy baseball playoff races next year as they do actual, real-life playoff races.

These are those moves.


Atlanta Acquires Jarred Kelenic


The trade: Atlanta acquired outfielder Jarred Kelenic, starting pitcher Marco Gonzales, first baseman Evan White, and cash considerations from the Seattle Mariners for right-handed pitchers Jackson Kowar and Cole Phillips.

This deal isn’t brimming with fantasy significance. Or rather, there isn’t potential fantasy significance across the deal with most of the players involved with the Mariners trading away Kelenic and cash considerations as part of a deal to move Gonzales and White’s respective contracts. Gonzales, it should be noted, has already been traded to a different team by Atlanta, but more on that later.

The real point of interest here is Kelenic joining Atlanta.

The 24-year-old enjoyed his best season in the Majors last year, batting .253 with a .327 on-base percentage, 11 home runs, and 13 stolen bases in 416 plate appearances with Seattle. He was admittedly more productive early in the season in March and April than he was at other points, logging seven of his home runs before May and posting a .982 OPS during the same time span. Still, there’s more than enough fantasy upside to like here based on the kind of contact Kelenic makes and his ability to log stolen bases. The outfielder registered a .457 xwOBAcon, a 45.5% hard-hit rate, and a 9.5% barrel rate last year. And while a 31.7% strikeout rate is hardly ideal, the now former Mariner should draw enough walks (he posted a 9.9% walk rate) and contribute enough homers and stolen bases to more than make up for the swings and misses.

What’s more, Kelenic is moving from a good-but-not-great Mariners lineup that logged 758 runs scored last season, the 12th most in the league, to an Atlanta club that scored more runs than any other team in 2023. Well, 947 to be exact. And even though that might mean plate appearances in the bottom half of a deep lineup, the outfielder has a chance to easily outpace his 49 RBI from last season, especially if he continues to make quality contact. Last year, eight Atlanta hitters logged at least 65 RRI, with two of them in Eddie Rosario (74 RBI, .320 xwOBA) and Orlando Arcia (65 RBI, .309 xwOBA) finishing with a lower xwOBA than Kelenic did (.333).


Atlanta Trades Marco Gonzales To Pittsburgh


The trade: Atlanta dealt starting pitcher Marco Gonzales and cash considerations to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named

Sticking with the National League East franchise, they made another move from Nashville, trading Gonzales to Pittsburgh.

The veteran left-hander has never been an elite bat-missing option. He’s yet to top 7.90 strikeouts per nine innings in a full season and has finished in the 11th percentile or lower in whiff rate in each of the last five seasons.

Still, he’s provided solid fantasy seasons in the past, with four double-digit pitcher-win seasons to his name, to mention four straight campaigns with an ERA at 4.00 or lower from 2018 through 2021.

All that being said, the 31-year-old has struggled in the last two campaigns, making 42 combined starts while pitching to a 4.36 ERA, a 4.89 FIP, and 5.29 strikeouts per nine frames in 233 innings of work to go along with 2.63 walks and 1.35 home runs surrendered per nine innings.

Now in Pittsburgh, Gonzales should benefit a bit from the ballpark. Per Statcast, PNC Park has the second-lowest park factor for home runs in the last three seasons. The left-hander, who has surrendered 35 home runs in the last two seasons combined, has an expected home run number of 28 at PNC Park in the last two seasons.

So that’s all well and good, but with diminishing strikeout numbers and a move to a Pittsburgh team that isn’t exactly fantasy-friendly in terms of pitcher wins, Gonzales might head into 2024 more as a streaming option in ideal matchups than a late-round selection.

Just last season, the Pirates finished with 44 pitcher wins as a team, a number bested by 18 different ballclubs. That’s not ideal in the first place, but it’s even less ideal when you consider that the

However, half of those 44 wins belonged to either Mitch Keller or Johan Oviedo.


The Yankees Acquire Alex Verdugo


The trade: New York acquired outfielder Alex Verdugo from the Boston Red Sox for right-handed pitchers Greg Weissert, Richard Fitts and Nicholas Judice

Verdugo has always logged rather high batting averages and expected batting averages, thanks in part to a strong ability to make contact at a high rate. The outfielder’s strikeout rate has never finished about 16% in a season in which he’s logged a minimum of 300 plate appearances. And he’s also finished in the 86th percentile or better in xBA in four of the last five years, with 2020 being the only year he didn’t. What’s more, the outfielder is a lifetime .281 hitter since making his Major League debut, tied for the 16th-best in that span among hitters with no fewer than 2,500 plate appearances. So all that is helpful. Verdugo will certainly help the Yankees from a real-life standpoint, but this very much feels like a step back from a fantasy upside and value standpoint. A lateral step at best.

Yankee Stadium could help him out a bit. In 2021 and 2022 his xHR numbers for the ballpark were markedly higher than his actual home run numbers, with respective home run outlays of 14 and 11 in those seasons compared to xHR metrics of 19 and 20. On the other hand, Verdugo finished with 13 home runs last season and an xHR number of 12 at Yankee Stadium. And for all his ability to hit for a high average, Verdugo has never been that much of a power threat, with a 7.1% barrel rate in 2021 representing the outfielder’s high water mark to date.

Furthermore, Verdugo saw the bulk of his plate appearances, and likely as a result a few more plate appearances because of it, batting leadoff last season, with 366 plate appearances from the first spot in the order. Much of that time was spent hitting in front of Rafael Devers, who no doubt helped Verdugo’s run-scored metrics.

Still, it seems unlikely that the Yankees will commit to batting Verdugo first with that much regularity. Of course, that’s all entirely speculative, but New York did have 14 different players occupy that lineup spot last season, including four who saw at least 25 appearances there.


Craig Kimbrel Signed with Baltimore


The move: Craig Kimbrel signs a one-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles

This one is a bit separate from the other bullpen moves from the Winter Meetings (more on them in a bit) due to a crucial piece of information from Wednesday afternoon.

MLB.com’s Jake Rill tweeted the following:

“Craig Kimbrel will be the #Orioles’ closer in 2024, per GM Mike Elias, who likes the better structure the veteran brings to the bullpen mix.”

The longtime closer enjoyed a quality season in 2023, and while his FIP (3.81) was the highest it’s ever been in a full season, it was still a quality showing for the 35-year-old, who posted a 3.26 ERA to go along with said FIP, not to mention registering 12.26 strikeouts per nine frames and giving up 3.65 walks and 1.30 home runs per nine innings. He turned in 23 saves in the process to go along with seven holds and seven pitcher wins in a decidedly fantasy-friendly stat line for managers in saves+holds leagues.

Now reportedly set to take over as the primary closer for a 101-team that logged the second-most victories in the sport last season, Kimbrel should rightfully vault up draft boards and should be one of the first closers off the board when fantasy managers convene for drafts in the coming months. If he’s still sitting on your roster in dynasty formats, he’s a potential league winner, though that’s true of any format really, given the potential opportunity in Baltimore.


Victor Caratini Reportedly Signed with Houston


The move: Victor Caratini reportedly signed with the Houston Astros on a two-year deal.

Per a tweet from The Athletic’s Chandler Rome on Tuesday, catcher Victor Caratini is reportedly “in agreement on a contract” with the Houston Astros. Rome tweeted the following: “The Astros are in agreement on a contract with free agent catcher Victor Caratini, sources tell @Ken_Rosental and I.”

MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand later reported in a tweet that Caratini is reportedly signing a two-year deal with the Astros worth $12 million.

After struggling in his first year in Milwaukee in 2022 with a .199 average, a .300 on-base percentage, an 84 wRC+, and nine home runs in 314 plate appearances, Caratini enjoyed a solid bounce-back year with the Brewers in 2023, logging a .259 batting average and a .327 on-base percentage to go along with a 94 wRC+, seven home runs, and a stolen base. It was arguably the veteran’s best season at the plate since his breakout campaign in 2019 with the Chicago Cubs.

Caratini’s success in 2023 was in part due to a return to form against fastballs. After finding plenty of success and fastballs early in his career, notably in 2019 when he logged a .361 xwOBA against them, the catcher’s xwOBA against fastballs dropped considerably in 2021 and 2022  at .308 and .312 respectively. This past year, it jumped drastically to .344, which was particularly encouraging when paired with the catcher’s continued ability to make hard contact on a regular basis. Caratini logged an overall hard-hit rate north of 43% for the third straight season.

He won’t be much of an option outside of streaming in fantasy leagues with 14 or fewer teams, but in two-catcher formats and deeper leagues where on-base percentage is part of the scoring, Caratini could provide some solid fantasy production playing in a Houston lineup that finished 2023 with the fifth-most runs scored in baseball.


Wade Miley Re-Signs with Milwaukee


The move: Miley re-signed with the Milwaukee Brewers on a one-year contract with a mutual option for the 2025 season.

Similar to Gonzales, Miley has long made up for (at least in part) low strikeout metrics by posting solid pitcher win and ERA totals to help boost his fantasy value and potential. In seasons in which the veteran has made at least 20 starts, he’s won a minimum of eight games per year. In fact, Miley has logged double-digit pitcher-win seasons five different times since making his Major League debut in 2011.

The veteran right-hander won nine of his 23 starts last year, pitching for a Brewers team that featured a very much middle-of-the-road lineup production-wise that outscored only 13 other teams.

If the Brewers lineup can improve a bit in 2024, something that’s entirely possible with Jake Bauers now in town via a trade with the Yankees and Jackson Chourio now signed to a long-term extension and a speculative candidate to spend most of, if not all of the season in Milwaukee, Miley should once again be able to approach double-digit wins, even his FIP continues to far outpace his actual ERA.

The 36-year-old has logged ERA metrics under the 4.00 mark  – 3.98, 3,37, and 3.14 – in his last three full seasons in 2019, 2021, and 2023 respectively despite logging much higher FIP metrics. In order, Miley finished with a 4.51 FIP in 2019, a 3.97 FIP in 2021, and a 4.69 FIP in 2023 last season.

The lower strikeouts and higher FIP metrics will keep him further down draft boards this spring, but he should make for a useful streaming option for fantasy managers in the right matchups next season.



Erick Fedde Reportedly Reaches Agreement with the Chicago White Sox


The move: Erick Fedde reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the Chicago White Sox


Sticking with starting pitching, per a tweet from ESPN’s Jeff Passasn, Erick Fedde is reportedly “in agreement” with the Chicago White Sox on a two-year, $15 million deal.

Fedde last pitched in the Majors with the Washington Nationals during the 2022 campaign, posting a 5.81 ERA and a 5.15 FIP in 27 starts spanning 127 innings of work while striking out 6.66 batters per nine frames and surrendering 4.11 walks and 1.49 home runs per nine innings.

The right-hander spent the 2023 season with the NC Dinos of the KBO League, and thrived there with a 2.00 ERA and a 2.38 FIP in 180.1 innings, logging 10.43 strikeouts per nine innings in the process. He also cut down on walks and homers considerably, giving up just 1.75 walks per nine frames and 0.45 homers per nine frames.

Similar to Gonzales in Pittsburgh, Fedde’s pitcher win upside is going to be capped considerably playing on a rebuilding White Sox team that traded away Jake Burger and a host of veterans on expiring contracts at the trade deadline and have already seen Yasmani Grandal, Tim Anderson, Liam Hendriks, Mike Clevinger, and Aaron Bummer depart this offseason.

However, there’s enough here to warrant fantasy intrigue heading into draft season next spring due to a change in the starter’s pitch arsenal. Per a tweet from White Sox Senior Pitching Advisor Brian Bannister on Tuesday, Bannister wrote that the right-hander “works out at the same facility as Logan Webb in the offseason.” and that Fedde “added the same sweeper+split-change to his arsenal as Webb. He did not use these pitches in Washington.”

With a steady stream of starts heading his way as a member of the White Sox’ rotation, Fedde should be a popular sleeper pick in the back half of drafts this spring with the upside and potential to easily outperform that kind of draft position, even if the pitcher wins might not be as plentiful.


Bullpen Moves Of Note


While there wasn’t a higher volume of marquee free-agent signings and trades than there have been in Winter Meetings of years past, there were a number of reliever signings that could be impactful in both standard-scoring leagues and saves+holds leagues. Among the moves of note:


Kirby Yates signs with the Texas Rangers

The right-hander might have the most fantasy upside of this group heading into next season, at least as things stand now. That’s true whether your league uses saves, holds, or both saves and holds as part of the scoring format.

Yates logged a 3.28 ERA and a 4.63 FIP in 60.1 innings for Atlanta last season and finished in the 82nd percentile in whiff rate (30.8%) and the 94th percentile in strikeout rate (31.5%). He’s joining a Texas bullpen that saw two of the team’s top three most used high-leverage relievers, Aroldis Chapman and Will Smith, become free agents. There’s still plenty of offseason to come, but the opportunity here is potentially significant for Yates, despite coming off an up-and-down season on the mound.


Chris Devenski Inks One-Year Deal with the Tampa Bay Rays


Devenski made nine appearances for the American League East club and allowed five hits and a pair of earned runs in 8.2 innings last season after being released by the Angels in late August. Tampa Bay hasn’t been shy about evenly distributing saves and holds across the bullpen in years past, and five of Devenski’s nine appearances were high-leverage outings, so he’s certainly someone to keep an eye on in deeper saves+holds leagues heading into Spring Training.


The Dodgers Reportedly Agree To Terms With Joe Kelly


Speaking of saves+holds leagues, Joe Kelly should once again be a quality option in said leagues heading into the 2023 campaign. According to a tweet from WEEI’s Rob Bradford, the Dodgers and Kelly have reportedly “agreed to terms, pending physical.” The veteran reliever logged a 1.74 ERA and a 1.32 FIP to go along with a pair of holds in 10.1 innings after rejoining the Dodgers in a mid-season trade. In his previous two full seasons in Los Angeles, Kelly finished third (in 2019) and fifth (in 2021) respectively in high-leverage appearances among relievers in the Dodgers bullpen.


Luis Garcia and Adam Cimber Reportedly Join the Angels


The Angels reportedly added a pair of relievers over the past few days, with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeting on Tuesday night that the club had reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with Garcia. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported in a tweet on Wednesday afternoon Cimber and the Angels were “in agreement” on a one-year deal.

Carlos Estévez still looks like the closer in Anaheim after logging 31 saves in his debut season with the Angels, but the former Rockies hurler did pitch to a 6.84 ERA and a 4.47 FIP in 26.1 innings from July 16 onwards. If those struggles continue in the new year, Garcia and Cimber could be players to watch in the late-inning mix for Ron Washington’s team. Garcia in particular, who owns a 3.28 FIP in 154 relief innings since the start of 2021, could be one of the better early-season stashes where saves are concerned.


Michael Tonkin Signing in New York with the Mets


Tonkin didn’t pitch much in the way of high-leverage innings in a deep Atlanta bullpen last season. The reliever made 45 appearances and logged 80 innings and turned in a 4.28 ERA and a 4.43 FIP, but registered just two holds and a save in the process. For fantasy purposes, he did supplement his overall numbers with seven pitcher wins, but just 12 of his 45 appearances were high-leverage outings.

Things could change, at least speculatively speaking, in that regard for Tonkin in a New York bullpen that is, for the moment, devoid of established setup options outside of Drew Smith and Brooks Raley.


The Astros Acquire Dylan Coleman


Coleman was acquired by the American League West club from the Royals for pitching prospect Carlos Mateo. Coleman struggled mightily in the Majors in 2023, with an 8.84 ERA, a 7.02 FIP, and 19 walks allowed compared to 21 strikeouts in 18.1 innings of work. He did log five holds for the Royals, but is unlikely to step into a high-leverage role in Houston right away. While that’s all entirely speculative, there is some fantasy upside here in saves+holds leagues considering the Astros saw Hector Neris and Ryne Stanek become free agents and had Rafael Montero and Kendall Graveman struggle mightily at times.


Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@justparadesigns on Twitter/X)

Ben Rosener

Ben Rosener is baseball and fantasy baseball writer whose work has previously appeared on the digital pages of Motor City Bengals, Bleacher Report, USA Today, FanSided.com and World Soccer Talk among others. He also writes about fantasy baseball for RotoBaller and the Detroit Tigers for his own Patreon page, Getting You Through the Tigers Rebuild (@Tigers_Rebuild on Twitter). He only refers to himself in the third person for bios.

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