Everything You Missed at the 2023 MLB Winter Meetings

Soto dealt to Yankees in seven-player blockbuster with Padres.

If you were hoping for a lot of action at MLB’s Winter Meetings, sorry. It was a relative snoozefest. Yes, stuff did happen, with the two biggest moves happening after most executives had already left town. But it was mostly rumors flying around the massive Opryland hotel in Nashville, Tenn., not actual news.

Not surprisingly, most of the chatter surrounded the top prize, free agent pitcher-designated hitter Shohei Ohtani. It had to do with the Toronto Blue Jays reportedly having a meeting with him and Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirming that the team did meet with him, sending folks into a tizzy that Roberts might have violated Ohtani’s terms of engagement.

Wednesday was the final day of the Winter Meetings and most teams left without doing much that was newsworthy, but that didn’t mean teams didn’t accomplish anything. Often, the Winter Meetings can set a base for transactions that will happen in the next few days and weeks. And with the logjam created by everyone waiting on a winner in the Ohtani sweepstakes, that was even more the case this week.

As for Ohtani, he is expected to decide by Sunday, with the Dodgers, Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants, and Los Angeles Angels as the top-known destinations.

News items are listed in order of their happening. All contract and trade agreements are pending physicals (in case you forgot about what happened last offseason) and an announcement by the team(s) involved.

Note: All prospect rankings are by MLB Pipeline unless otherwise specified.

If you want to know the fantasy baseball impact of these moves, check out Ben Rosener’s piece.



Leyland Elected to Hall of Fame


What happened: Former Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers, and Colorado Rockies manager Jim Leyland was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee.

Analysis: Having won three pennants, the 1997 World Series with the Marlins, and a three-time Manager of the Year, Leyland was a near-unanimous selection, garnering 15 of the 16 votes from the committee. Leyland won 1,769 games across 22 seasons, capturing six division titles. Former manager Lou Piniella fell one vote shy, being named on 11 ballots, while ex-National League President Bill White had 10 votes. The Contemporary committee considers managers, executives, and umpires.


Atlanta Adds Kelenic


What happened: Atlanta acquired OF Jarred Kelenic, LHP Marco Gonzales, 1B Evan White, and cash from the Seattle Mariners for RHP Cole Phillips and RHP Jackson Kowar.

Analysis: Kelenic can take over in left field with Marcell Ozuna moving to a full-time DH role as Atlanta takes on the salaries of Gonzales ($12.5 million in 2024) and White ($17 million over the next two years). It bolsters Atlanta’s defense and adds a bat that made strides in 2023, while Gonzales and White provide bullpen and bench depth. Meanwhile, Kowar, once a top Kansas City prospect, has struggled in 39 MLB appearances, all with the Royals before being acquired by Atlanta at the trade deadline and staying in the minors. Phillips, a second-round draft pick in 2022 after having Tommy John surgery, was Atlanta’s No. 7 prospect and a potential high-impact starter. Atlanta is expected to spin off Gonzales to another team.



Brewers Ink Chourio 8-year, $82M Deal


What happened: CF Jackson Chourio officially signed an eight-year, $82 million contract. The deal includes two team options that could bring the financial value to $142 million.

Analysis: In a record deal for a player who has yet to play in the majors, the 19-year-old Chourio secured his financial future with this lucrative deal while the Brewers locked up a player who figures to be a centerpiece of their lineup. Chourio, who has played just six games above the Double-A level and is considered one of the top two prospects in all of baseball, not only had his six club-control years bought out, but also two and as many as four free-agent seasons. For comparison, Juan Soto has earned almost $50 million in six years and is projected to be paid $33 million through his final year of arbitration in 2024, making it $83 million in seven years. This move virtually ensures Chourio makes the Opening Day roster, but the Brewers’ outfield is already packed with Christian Yelich, Sal Frelick, Garrett Mitchell, Joey Wiemer, and Tyrone Taylor. A trade of at least one of those appears to be necessary.


Monday’s Other Noteworthy News


Two key South Korean players, outfielder Jung Hoo Lee and right-handed closer Woo Suk Go were posted by their respective KBO teams, opening a 30-day negotiating window.

Chris Archer, who didn’t pitch in 2023, has been hired by the Dodgers as a special assistant in the baseball operations department.

The Milwaukee Brewers officially re-signed left-hander Wade Miley for one year at a reported $7 million with a $12 million mutual option for 2025 that has a $1.5 million buyout. The Brewers also reportedly have an agreement to sign right-hander Joe Ross to a one-year, $1.75 million deal. Ross had Tommy John surgery in May 2022 and signed a minor-league contract with the San Francisco Giants this year, not pitching until a rehab stint that began in August.

The Philadelphia Phillies extended the contract of manager Rob Thomson through the 2025 season.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Mookie Betts is going to be the everyday second baseman in 2024.

Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch signed a contract extension shortly after the season ended. Terms were not disclosed. Hinch’s previous deal was through 2025.

Retired catcher Yadier Molina will return to the St. Louis Cardinals in an unspecified role. It will not be on the MLB coaching staff. (The Cardinals on Wednesday announced it was as special assistant to the president of baseball operations.)



GM: Trout Not Going Anywhere


What happened: Angels general manager Perry Minasian said superstar outfielder Mike Trout “will not be getting traded.”

Analysis: Minasian added a “100 percent” to that statement. Does that change if Ohtani does not return to the Angels? The Angels would need to find a big-money team willing to take on Trout’s $37.1 million annual salary on a contract that runs through 2030, so while unlikely it isn’t impossible. While Trout is a three-time American League MVP and four-time runner-up, he does have a bit of an injury history that figures to be more prominent during the remainder of his career. For instance, Trout played in just one game after fracturing his left hamate bone on July 3. He was still a 2.9 bWAR player in 82 games. He was limited to just 36 games in 2021 due to a calf strain.


Guardians Land No. 1 Pick in Draft


What happened: The Cleveland Guardians won the second annual draft lottery that determined the order for the 2024 MLB Draft.

Analysis: For the first time in franchise history, the Guardians will have the No. 1 overall pick. Entering the lottery with just a 2% chance at the top spot (the ninth-best odds), the Guardians had the right combination of ping pong balls pop up to get to No. 1. The Cincinnati Reds, at just 0.9%, moved up 12 spots and will pick No. 2. The Oakland A’s, who had the worst record in 2023, the Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies each had an 18.3% chance to select first, but only the Rockies at No. 3 stayed in the top three. The A’s will pick fourth and the Royals sixth. The Washington Nationals were ineligible for the No. 1 pick due to being a revenue-sharing payee (as explained in the link above). Three teams — the New York Mets, San Diego Padres, and New York Yankees — were ineligible for the lottery because they surpassed the second surcharge level of the competitive balance tax. Their top picks were dropped 10 spots.


Verdugo to N.Y. In Rare Yankees-Red Sox Deal


What happened: The New York Yankees acquired outfielder Alex Verdugo from the Boston Red Sox for three right-handed pitching prospects: Greg Weissert, Richard Fitts, and Nicolas Judice.

Analysis: In just the eighth trade between the AL East rivals since 1969, the Yankees addressed multiple needs by adding Verdugo. The 27-year-old, entering his last year of arbitration, is a left-handed bat who is a good defender. The Yankees’ lineup was very right-handed and the outfield defense was extremely poor. Verdugo played the last four seasons with the Boston Red Sox, where he was sent as part of the Mookie Betts deal with the Dodgers. Weissert has made 29 relief appearances in the majors, while Fitts was the Yankees’ No. 12 prospect, and Judice an eighth-round pick this year who has yet to make his pro debut.


Gonzales Flipped To Pirates


What happened: The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired left-hander Marco Gonzales from Atlanta in exchange for cash and a player to be named later.

Analysis: Gonzales’ stint on the Atlanta roster lasted about 48 hours following his trade from the Mariners. Gonzales missed most of 2023 due to a forearm strain, making 10 starts for Seattle and posting a 5.22 ERA, and due $12 million in 2024. In three of the previous four 162-game seasons, Gonzales made 29 or more starts, with the 25 in 2021 the exception. If healthy, Gonzales figures to be another veteran presence on a young Pirates team. His worst ERA over the last five seasons was 4.13 in 2022.


Tuesday’s Other Noteworthy News


Former Atlanta reliever Kirby Yates agreed to a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers. Financial terms were not disclosed. The right-hander figures to slot in as another late-inning option for the reigning World Series champs, who need to not only replenish the bullpen due to free agency but also improve the quality that hurt that team during the regular season.

Right-handed reliever Chris Devenski is returning to the Tampa Bay Rays on a one-year contract. Devenski pitched most of 2023 with the Angels before being released in their great salary purge in late August and immediately signing with the Rays.

Right-handed starter Erick Fedde, the KBO MVP this season, is returning from South Korea on a two-year, $15 million contract with the Chicago White Sox. Fedde signed with the NC Dinos last offseason after being non-tendered by the Washington Nationals and posted a 2.00 ERA in 180⅓ innings. Fedde struggled in his last two seasons with the Nats, with an ERA of 5.47 in 2021 and 5.81 in 2022, making 27 starts each of those seasons.

Former Padres right-handed reliever Luis Garcia is staying in Southern California after agreeing to a one-year, $4.25 million deal with the Angels. Garcia also pitched for the Angels in 2019.

Catcher Victor Caratini, non-tendered by the Brewers, has agreed to a contract with the Houston Astros. Caratini, who got two years, $12 million from the Astros, offers more offense while still providing decent defense than Martín Maldonado, who is a free agent.

Right-handed reliever Michael Tonkin has reached a one-year, $1 million agreement with the Mets.



Two Yankees Pitchers At Top Of Rule 5 Draft


What happened: The A’s selected right-handed starter Mitch Spence with the No. 1 pick in the annual Rule 5 Draft.

Analysis: The Rule 5 Draft is a crapshoot where teams gamble on the potential of a player who is not on a 40-man roster and must remain in the majors for the entire next season. With the A’s running a barebones operation until they move to Las Vegas, taking a chance on Spence is not a huge reach. Spence had a 4.47 ERA over 27 starts and 163 innings for the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate. The Yankees lost another player with the next selection as the Royals took right-handed starter Matt Sauer, who posted a 3.41 ERA in 68⅓ innings over 17 appearances (16 starts) in Rookie-level Gulf Coast League (two starts), High A (one start) and Double-A. In all, there were 10 players selected, with eight being pitchers. The Yankees lost a third pitcher in right-handed starter Carson Coleman, who didn’t pitch in 2023 due to elbow surgery.


Kimbrel Solidifies Orioles’ Bullpen


What happened: Right-handed reliever Craig Kimbrel has agreed to a one-year, $13 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

Analysis: With closer Félix Bautista expected to miss the entire 2024 season following Tommy John surgery, the Orioles needed to bolster the back end of their bullpen and Kimbrel fits that mold. Kimbrel, who will turn 36 in May, converted 23 of 28 save opportunities with a 3.28 ERA, 94 strikeouts, and 28 walks in 68 innings. Right-hander Yennier Cano emerged as a potential closer last season, so there could be a potential job share there.


E-Rod Heads To D’Backs


What happened: Left-handed starter Eduardo Rodriguez agreed to a four-year, $80 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Analysis: The defending NL champions were short on starting pitching in the postseason, so adding a veteran starter made sense. Rodriguez, the biggest reported signing during the Winter Meetings, fits in near the top of the D’backs’ rotation with right-handers Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, while rookie Brandon Pfaadt stepped up in the postseason. E-Rod, who opted out of the final three years and $49 million of his contract with the Detroit Tigers, posted a 3.30 in 26 starts covering 152⅔ innings. He walked 48 and struck out 143 and had an ERA+ of 134. The knock on Rodriguez, who turns 31 on April 7, has been his ability to stay healthy.


Soto Joins Yankees In Blockbuster


What happened: The Yankees acquired outfielder Juan Soto and center fielder Trent Grisham from the Padres for four right-handed pitchers Michael King, Drew Thorpe, Jhony Brito and Randy Vásquez — and catcher Kyle Higashioka.

Analysis: In what is sure to be the biggest trade of the offseason, the Yankees’ dogged pursuit of Soto paid off — and the price was high for a potential one-year rental. Of course, if the Yankees can sign Soto long-term, the price will be worth it. Soto, who turned 25 at the end of October and is expected to earn $33 million in his final year of arbitration before hitting free agency, is coming off his only full season with the Padres in which he slashed .275/.410/.519 for an OPS+ of 158, which included leading MLB for the third straight season with 132. His addition will upgrade a Yankees offense that ranked 25th in runs scored, especially with Soto hitting in front of outfielder Aaron Judge, who hit an AL-record 62 homers in 2022 and followed that up with 37 in 106 games in 2023.

Soto’s defense is not that good, as he had minus-6 defensive runs saved and minus-9 outs above average after shifting from right to left field in 2023. The Yankees’ outfield defense was among the worst in MLB in 2023 but received an upgrade this week when New York acquired Alex Verdugo from the Red Sox. But the Soto and Verdugo trades cut into the Yankees’ pitching depth, with seven pitchers exiting the system (plus three more in the Rule 5 draft). Grisham figures to be a fourth outfielder for the Yankees as he struggles offensively but is an excellent defender. King is the headliner for the Padres. The 28-year-old appeared in 49 games for the Yankees, including nine of the last 11 as a starter. He had a 2.75 ERA in 104⅔ innings, walking 32 and striking out 127. Thorpe, the Yankees’ No. 5 prospect and No. 99 overall, is a 23-year-old who had a 2.52 ERA in 23 starts over 139⅓ innings at Double-A in his first pro season. He walked 38 and struck out 182. Vasquez was the Yankees’ No. 13 prospect, while Brito appeared in 25 MLB games, including 13 starts. Higashioka figures to be a backup to Luis Campusano.


Reds Bring Candelario To Crowded Infield 


What happened: Corner infielder Jeimer Candelario agreed to a three-year, $45 million contract with the Reds.

Analysis: In a surprising move — and one that may precede a trade — the Reds are adding a veteran to what is a very young infield mix. The switch-hitter is likely to bounce between first and third base as the Reds look to exploit matchups and get the most playing time for youngsters Elly De La Cruz, Noelvi Marte, Matt McLain, Spencer Steer, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and veteran Jonathan India. Candelario slashed .251/.336/.471 with 22 homers for the Nationals and Chicago Cubs, the best season of his career.


Wednesday’s Other Noteworthy News


Red Sox radio announcer Joe Castiglione was named the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award, an annual award for broadcasting excellence given out by the Hall of Fame.

Bryce Harper is open to a contract extension that would keep him with the Philadelphia Phillies for the rest of his career, according to agent Scott Boras.

Right-handed reliever Adam Cimber agreed to a one-year, $1.65 million contract with the Angels. Cimber had been non-tendered by the Blue Jays.

Former Reds outfielder Nick Senzel is heading to the Nationals on a one-year, $2 million deal.

Steve Drumwright

Steve Drumwright is a lifelong baseball fan who retired as a player before he had the chance to be cut from the freshman team in high school. He recovered to become a sportswriter and have a successful journalism career at newspapers in Wisconsin and California. Follow him on Twitter and Threads @DrummerWrites.

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