MLB Offseason News: 1/5/2024

Franco set face judge in Dominican; Red Sox land Giolito, trade Sale

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 on Fridays.

With the number of big-name free agents still on the board, this is starting to feel a little bit like the offseason between the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Remember that one? Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were the two significant players entering free agency and didn’t sign until very late. Machado inked his 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres on Feb. 21, 2019, the same date as the first spring training game that year. Harper, meanwhile, remained unsigned for almost two more weeks before sealing his 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

But that is old news. All anyone wants to know now is which team will land centerfielder Cody Bellinger and left-handers Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, among others. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait until spring training games are underway for these players to sign.

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


Prosecutors Lay Out Allegations vs. Franco


What happened: Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco has been accused of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering by prosecutors in his native Dominican Republic regarding a relationship he had with a minor. The minor’s mother is also facing the same allegations.

What it means: A judge is set to make a ruling today on the prosecution’s request to ensure Franco appears for further proceedings. Prosecutors are asking to detain Franco on an $86,000 bond, prevent him from leaving the Dominican Republic, and place him under house arrest. The 22-year-old Franco has been in jail since Monday when he finally appeared for an interview with investigators after skipping a scheduled meeting last week. Franco in August was placed on administrative leave by MLB, which is conducting its own investigation.


Red Sox Add Giolito, Deal Sale To Atlanta


What happened: Right-handed starter Lucas Giolito agreed to a two-year, $38.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox, who then traded left-handed starter Chris Sale and cash to Atlanta for infielder Vaughn Grissom. Sale then signed a two-year, $38 million contract with Atlanta.

What it means: With a new front office, led by former player Craig Breslow, the Red Sox were hoping to be a significant player this offseason. That had not come to fruition until just before New Year’s, when the Red Sox landed Giolito, then the next day dealt Sale. At that point, Giolito would have been the favorite to be the Opening Day starter, with three young right-handers (Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, and Tanner Houck) the only other rotation members listed on the Red Sox’s MLB.com depth chart. Giolito, who started the season with the Chicago White Sox, then was dealt to the Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Guardians, is basically on a prove-it deal as he has an opt-out after the first season. The 29-year-old is coming off a rocky 2023 in which he made a career-best 33 starts (21 for the White Sox) and yielded a career-worst 41 homers, including 21 in 12 starts with the Angels and Guardians. He had a 4.88 ERA in 2023 after a career-worst 4.90 in 2022. But if he finds the form that earned him AL Cy Young Award votes in 2019, 2020 and 2021, the Red Sox at worst have a significant trade piece to deal at the deadline. In dealing Sale, the Red Sox are saving salary and banking that the left-hander’s 2023 health won’t repeat in 2024. Sale has a significant injury history over his last four MLB seasons, but he did make 20 starts in 2023 after a combined 11 in 2021 and 2022 after sitting out 2020 due to Tommy John surgery. Boston sent $17 million to Atlanta to help cover Sale’s salary, which before signing his new deal was going to be $27.5 million for 2024. The lefty got an extra year for a reduced 2024 figure. A seven-time All-Star who was once one of the most dominant pitchers in MLB, Sale won’t feel the pressure to lead the Atlanta rotation like he did in Boston. All Sale does is lengthen an already strong starting staff. Grissom, meanwhile, needed a change of scenery after not only not being named Atlanta’s Opening Day shortstop in 2023, but spending most of the season in the minors. The Red Sox are likely to play Grissom at second base.


Bauer Says He Was ‘Reckless,’ ‘Made Mistakes’


What happened: Right-handed pitcher Trevor Bauer, who hasn’t pitched in an MLB game since July 2021 following sexual assault allegations, appeared on a Fox News show as he tries to resurrect his career in the U.S.

What it means: The soon-to-be 33-year-old pitched in Japan in 2023 after no MLB team signed up following his release from the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I agreed to do things I shouldn’t have done,” Bauer said. “It was reckless. It hurt a lot of people along the way. It made things very difficult for Major League Baseball, for the Dodgers, my teammates, friends, family, people close to me. So, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on that and made a lot of changes in my life to address that.” Bauer served a 194-game suspension from MLB. He was never charged in the alleged sexual assault incidents. In Japan, Bauer pitched for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, going 10-4 with a 2.76 ERA and 1.130 WHIP in 156⅔ innings, striking out 24.3% of batters and walking 5.8%. “I think I’ve done a lot of damage, unfortunately, in the first half of my career, and I’d love a second opportunity to do things better,” Bauer said.


Montas Heads To Reds


What happened: Former New York Yankees right-handed starter Frankie Montas agreed to a one-year, $16 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

What it means: In a low-risk, high-reward deal for both sides, Montas is another experienced arm for a young rotation. Montas, who pitched in relief in the next-to-last game of 2023 after having arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in spring training, joins right-hander Nick Martinez as offseason rotation additions. The Reds entered the offseason with right-hander Hunter Greene, left-hander Nick Lodolo, righty Graham Ashcraft, and lefties Andrew Abbott and Brandon Williamson. Montas and Martinez figure to slot in in the back half of the Reds’ starters. Montas, who didn’t meet expectations after the Yankees acquired him from the Oakland A’s in 2022, has a career 3.90 ERA, striking out 24.2% and walking 7.8% of batters faced in eight major league seasons. Montas did earn AL Cy Young Award votes in 2021, posting a 3.37 ERA, striking out 26.6% and walking 7.3% of batters in 32 starts covering a career-high 187 innings. The Reds, who have a standout core of young position players, were looking to shore up the rotation this offseason.


South Korean Reliever Go Joins Padres


What happened: South Korean right-handed reliever Woo Suk Go agreed to a two-year, $4.5 million deal with the San Diego Padres.

What it means: The 25-year-old has pitched for the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization for seven seasons. He has a career 3.18 ERA with a 25.5% strikeout rate and a 10.4% walk rate. Go had 139 saves and a WHIP of 1.271. Go is the second Asian addition to the Padres’ bullpen this offseason after San Diego signed Japanese left-hander Yuki Matsui. Go is coming off a 2023 season in which he posted a 3.68 ERA and 1.364 WHIP with 15 saves in 44 games. That followed his best season of his career, 2022, when he had a 1.48 ERA and 0.956 WHIP with 42 saves in 61 games. Padres infielder Ha-Seong Kim is another former KBO player.


Bader Joins Mets’ Outfield Mix


What happened: Center fielder Harrison Bader agreed to a one-year, $10.5 million deal with the New York Mets.

What it means: New Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns has always valued up-the-middle players and Bader certainly fits that mold. In addition to returning starter Brandon Nimmo, Stearns has added Bader via free agency and Tyrone Taylor in a trade with his old team, the Milwaukee Brewers. Bader, a tremendous defender, was with the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds in 2023, slashing .243/.310/.396 with seven homers and 40 RBIs for an OPS+ of 69. The depth in center could allow new manager Carlos Mendoza to move Nimmo to a corner on occasion. Bader’s addition puts the Mets projected 2024 Opening Day salary into the third competitive balance tax threshold, which starts at $297 million. However, there is plenty of time before the end of the 2024 season for those salary figures to change.


Around The Horn


Right-handed starter Chris Flexen, who pitched for the Seattle Mariners and Colorado Rockies in 2023, agreed to a one-year, $1.75 million deal with the Chicago White Sox.

Former Cleveland Guardians right-hander Zach Plesac agreed to a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.

Left-handed reliever Bryan Hudson was acquired by the Brewers from the Dodgers for minor-league left-hander Justin Chambers and a player to be named. Hudson, who made his MLB debut in 2023, had been designated for assignment by the Dodgers.

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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