MLB Offseason News: 1/12/2024

Soto sets arbitration record with $31M deal; Yankees reel in Stroman

Just because there are no games doesn’t mean there isn’t news. Pitcher List keeps you up to date with what is happening in the offseason with MLB Offseason News, which is published Fridays.

You know baseball season is getting closer when arbitration season hits. Thursday was a key day in that process as teams faced two deadlines: one to come to terms on a contract for 2024 and the other to exchange salary figures before a possible hearing. Teams and players can still hammer out a new deal before a hearing takes place, which usually happens at the beginning of spring training. In some cases, the two sides agree to a deal just before walking into the hearing room, where a three-person panel hears the case and decides which figure to award to the player. MLB Trade Rumors has evolved into a pre-eminent source when it comes to predicting arbitration salaries. MLBTR also has the details on deals cut Thursday in its arbitration tracker, which there were many, as well the figures exchanged for a hearing.

All contract and trade agreements are pending physicals before becoming official (i.e. when the team announces the move).


Soto’s $31M Sets Arbitration-Deal Record


What happened: New York Yankees outfielder Juan Soto agreed to a one-year, $31 million deal to avoid arbitration, the largest for an arbitration-eligible player in MLB history.

What it means: It was expected that Soto was going to beat Shohei Ohtani’s $30 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels for 2023 and was projected for a $33 million payday by MLB Trade Rumors. Soto, who came over from the San Diego Padres via a blockbuster trade this offseason, will be a free agent after the season. In his only full season with the Padres, Soto slashed .275/.410/.519 with 35 homers and 109 RBIs for an OPS+ of 158. One of the game’s better left-handed hitters who has a terrific eye, as evidenced by his MLB-leading 132 walks, Soto should excel with Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field. In his first four-plus MLB seasons with the Washington Nationals, Soto had .291/.427/.538 slash line with 160 homers and 483 RBIs. Soto, who recently turned 25, is primed to cash in with his next contract, especially if he thrives at Yankee Stadium.


Yankees Snag Stroman


What happened: Right-handed starter Marcus Stroman and the Yankees agreed to a two-year, $37 million contract.

What it means: Stroman, a native of Long Island, NY who has coveted wearing pinstripes, finally achieved his goal. The 32-year-old Stroman opted out of the final year at $21 million on his deal with the Cubs. That came after he had a strong first half of 2023 before slumping a bit in the second half, still finishing with a 3.95 ERA in 29 appearances (27 starts). He struck out 20.7% of batters faced and walked 9%. Stroman had a hip injury that marred his second half, then was diagnosed with fractured rib cartilage as he was rehabbing. Stroman should be an upgrade for a Yankees rotation led by reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole. Behind Cole are oft-injured left-hander Carlos Rodón, left-hander Nestor Cortes, coming off a rotator cuff injury, and unproven right-hander Clarke Schmidt, so another addition is possible for a Yankees team that finished last in the AL East in 2023.


Cubs Add Imanaga To Rotation


What happened: Japanese left-hander Shota Imanaga agreed to a four-year, $53 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.

What it means: In the team’s first major player move of the offseason, the Cubs landed Imanaga with a complex deal that could add a fifth year and bring the overall value to $80 million. The wrinkle in this contract is the Cubs hold an option they can exercise after the second or third years for that fifth year. If declined, the 30-year-old can become a free agent. Imanaga pitched the last eight seasons in the Nippon Professional Baseball for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, who will receive a $9.825 million posting fee by the Cubs. That number increases if the fifth-year option is exercised. He is the second significant Japanese signing by the Cubs in recent years after outfielder Seiya Suzuki was posted following the 2021 season. The 5-foot-10 Imanaga had a career record of 64-50 with a 3.18 ERA, striking out 25% of batters faced and walking 6.9%. Imanaga joins a Cubs rotation that needed reinforcement and includes Kyle Hendricks, Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon and Javier Assad.


Hernandez Latest Dodgers Addition


What happened: Outfielder Teoscar Hernández agreed with the Los Angeles Dodgers on a one-year, $23.5 million deal.

What it means: Not that the Dodgers needed any more offense, Hernandez adds a power bat that could be more effective in a part-time role in one of the corner outfield positions. In his one season with the Mariners following a trade from the Toronto Blue Jays, Hernandez slashed .258/.305/.435 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs for an OPS+ of 108. For his career, Hernandez’s numbers are .261./316/.486 with an OPS+ of 118. He has hit at least 22 homers in each of the five seasons he has played 125 games or more. He also hit 16 in 50 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. With Chris Taylor in left field and Jason Heyward in right, the Dodgers also added Manuel Margot to the outfield mix from the Rays in the Tyler Glasnow trade. Of course, all of the designated hitter at-bats in 2024 at this point belong to Shohei Ohtani as he recovers from Tommy John surgery and won’t pitch. While Hernandez’s numbers against right-handed and left-handed starters are fairly similar (.258/.307/.443 vs. RH, .256/.302/.415 vs. LH), he does much better against lefties overall (.287/.307/.443) than righties (.249/.305/.413).


Cubs Deal For Busch, Almonte


What happened: The Cubs picked up infielder Michael Busch and right-handed reliever Yency Almonte in a trade with the Dodgers, who received two prospects: left-handed starter Jackson Ferris and outfielder Zyhir Hope.

What it means: The Cubs are the beneficiary of the Dodgers’ offseason spending spree as L.A. needed to make room on its 40-man roster for Hernandez, with Busch being the sacrificial lamb. Busch, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, made his MLB debut in 2023, appearing in 27 games with a .167/.247/.292 slash line with two homers and seven RBIs in 81 plate appearances. The left-handed hitter has been productive in four minor-league seasons, producing a slash line of .283/.390/.529 with 79 homers and 267 RBIs. He immediately becomes a candidate to start Opening Day at first base for the Cubs. Almonte, after a stellar 2022 (1.02 ERA, 0.792 WHIP in 33 appearances) in his first season with the Dodgers, struggled in 2023, registering a 5.06 ERA and 1.396 WHIP in 49 appearances. For the Dodgers, Ferris was a second-round pick in the 2022 draft and made his pro debut in 2023, with a 3.54 ERA in 18 starts. Hope was taken in the 11th round in 2023.


Giants Get Ray From Mariners


What happened: Left-handed starter Robbie Ray was acquired by the San Francisco Giants from the Seattle Mariners for right-handed starter Anthony DeSclafani, outfielder Mitch Haniger and $6 million in cash.

What it means: Ray, the 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner with the Blue Jays, is expected to remain out until at least the All-Star break after having Tommy John surgery following his lone start of the season March 31. He still has $73 million left on the final three years of his contract, although he has an opt-out after 2024. DeSclafani had elbow, shoulder and toe injuries in 2023 that resulted in a 4.88 ERA in 19 games (18 starts). Haniger returns to Seattle after dealing with oblique, forearm and back injuries in 2023, limiting him to 61 games and a .209/.266/.365 slash line with six homers and 28 RBIs.


Mariners Acquire Raley From Rays


What happened: In their second trade of the day, the Mariners picked up outfielder-first baseman Luke Raley Jr. from the Tampa Bay Rays for infielder José Caballero.

What it means: This feels more like a depth move for both clubs. Raley is yet another corner outfielder to flank star center fielder Julio Rodríguez. Other corner options include Haniger, Dominic Canzone and Sam Haggerty. Raley slashed .249/.333/.490 with 19 homers and 49 RBIs as well as 14 steals with the Rays in 2023 in the most extensive MLB action of his brief career (357 at-bats). There won’t be much room for the odd man out to get time at designated hitter as the Mariners signed Mitch Garver this offseason to primarily hold down that role. Caballero could be in the mix as a replacement for shortstop Wander Franco, who is facing charges in the Dominican Republic of an inappropriate relationship with at least one minor. Caballero made his MLB debut with the Mariners in 2023, slashing .221/.343/.320 with four homers and 26 RBIs in 231 at-bats. Taylor Walls is a leading candidate to start at short for the Rays.


No Felony Charge For Urias


What happened: Free-agent left-handed starter Julio Urías will not be charged with a felony for a domestic violence incident involving his wife, according to a filing by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

What it means: Urias, a former Dodger who became a free agent after the 2023 season ended, could still be charged with a misdemeanor after the District Attorney’s Office handed the case off to the City Attorney’s Office. The 27-year-old is still likely facing punishment from MLB. Urias was suspended 20 games in 2019 for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy stemming from an incident in which he was not charged. In this incident, Urias was arrested following an MLS game between LAFC and Inter Miami. MLB placed Urias on administrative leave following the arrest.


Manaea Adds To Mets’ Pitching Depth


What happened: Left-handed starter Sean Manaea and the New York Mets agreed to a two-year, $28 million contract with the New York Mets.

What it means: Since being traded by the Oakland A’s to the San Diego Padres before the 2022 season, Manaea has struggled. The soon-to-be 32-year-old, who has an opt-out after 2024, had a 4.96 ERA for the Padres in 2022 and a 4,44 ERA for the Giants in mostly a relief role in 2023. So this is a bounce-back deal for Manaea, who posted a 3.91 ERA in 32 starts for the A’s in 2021. He figures to be in the back half of the Mets’ rotation, which includes Kodai Senga, Luis Severino, José Quintana, Adrian Houser and Tylor Megill.


Balkovec To Lead Marlins’ Minors


What happened: Rachel Balkovec, the first woman to manage in affiliated baseball, was named head of player development for the Miami Marlins.

What it means: The 36-year-old made history as the bench boss for the Tampa Bay Tarpons, the New York Yankees‘ low Class A team in the Florida State League. She joins a Marlins front office undergoing changes since the departure of general manager Kim Ng and the hiring of Peter Bendix as president of baseball operations. Balkovec will now oversee the Marlins’ minor leagues. Previously, Balkovec was hired in November 2019 as the Yankees’ minor-league hitting coach and worked in strength and conditioning for the Cardinals and Houston Astros.


Brantley Retires


What happened: Five-time All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley retired after 15 MLB seasons. Brantley is 36 years old.

What it means: A seventh-round selection of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005 out of Fort Pierce Central (Fla.) High School, Brantley was the player to be named in the C.C. Sabathia trade that sent the ace left-hander to Milwaukee while Cleveland also received first base prospect Matt LaPorta, left-hander Zach Jackson and right-hander Rob Bryson. Brantley would be the only player Cleveland received that would have any noteworthy impact — and it was a pretty good impact. The left-handed hitter finished with a career slash line of .298/.335/.439 with 129 homers and 720 RBIs for a career OPS+ of 117. Brantley made his MLB debut with Cleveland in 2009 and finished third in the AL MVP voting in 2017. He signed as a free agent with the Astros in 2019, but injuries limited Brantley to just 79 games the last two seasons, including just 15 in 2023. Brantley won a World Series ring with the Astros in 2022.


Rockies Sign Hudson, Stallings


What happened: Right-hander starter Dakota Hudson and catcher Jacob Stallings signed contracts with the Colorado Rockies.

What it means: Always in search of pitching, Hudson joins the Rockies after spending his first six MLB seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. Hudson is coming off a 2023 in which he started 12 of his 18 appearances, with a 4.98 ERA and 1.500 WHIP, striking out 12.7% of batters faced and walking 9.6%. Hudson had a stellar start to his MLB career, including a 16-7 record and 3.35 ERA in 2019 as a rookie, but injuries have hindered Hudson since. He had Tommy John surgery in 2020, then battled neck spasms the last two seasons. Stallings, who played the last two seasons for the Miami Marlins, is likely to be a backup to All-Star Game MVP Elias Díaz.


Around The Horn


Former Boston Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was hired as a front-office advisor by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Right-handed reliever Andrew Kittredge was acquired by the Cardinals from the Rays in exchange for outfielder Richie Palacios.

Four people with MLB ties were elected to the National Sports Media Association Hall of Fame: Joe Buck, Roger Kahn, Tim McCarver and Jayson Stark. Andrea Kremer is the fifth member of the 2023 Hall class.

A bankruptcy hearing regarding Diamond Sports Group, which runs various Bally Sports regional sports networks, was postponed until Jan. 19. MLB and Diamond Sports Group have been negotiating a possible solution.

Left-handed reliever Brent Suter, who pitched for the Rockies in 2023, agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

Right-hander Luke Weaver, who was with the Reds, Mariners and Yankees in 2023, is staying in New York after agreeing to 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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