MLB Offseason News: 12/22/2023

Yamamoto picks Dodgers, gets 12 years, $325 million.

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.

If you thought last offseason’s spending was jaw-dropping, how about one team handing out more than $1 billion in contracts to just two players, one of whom has never pitched in MLB. That is exactly what the Los Angeles Dodgers have done, hoping to not be stuck in the same sentence as the Atlanta teams of the 1990s or the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, who lost four straight Super Bowls. The Dodgers have made the playoffs the last 11 seasons, but have won just one World Series. But even that one comes with a caveat. It happened during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. After losing back-to-back World Series in 2017 and 2018 — the 2017 Fall Classic being won by the Houston Astros, who were involved in a cheating scandal — the Dodgers have won 100 games or more in each of the following four full seasons, but appeared in just one National League Championship Series.

Meanwhile, other teams are still making moves to shape up their rosters. Catch up on what happened in the last week since we published the debut of MLB Offseason News.

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


Dodgers Land Yamamoto: 12 years, $325M


What happened: Japanese right-handed starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto agreed to a 12-year, $325 million contract with the Dodgers.

What it means: The Dodgers had already won the offseason with their addition of DH-pitcher Shohei Ohtani, a two-time unanimous American League MVP, and now they add the top pitcher from the free-agent market. All it cost them is more than $1 billion yes, a billion. Yamamoto’s contract includes a $50 million signing bonus, while the Dodgers are also on the hook for a posting fee north of $50 million. The posting fee is based on the value of the contract. Unlike the Ohtani’s record 10-year, $700 million pact, there are no deferrals in Yamamoto’s contract. However, Yamamoto’s deal does include a pair of opt-outs. Having turned 25 in August and with a weak free-agent pitching class, Yamamoto was the most sought-after arm outside of the two-way star Ohtani. The Yamamoto contract is the longest in MLB history given to a pitcher and the most lucrative.

Yamamoto won the last three Sawamura Awards (Japan’s version of the Cy Young Award) for the Orix Buffaloes in Nippon Professional Baseball and chose to be posted this offseason. In seven seasons in the NPB, Yamamoto was 70-25 with a 1.82 ERA, striking out 26.4% of batters faced and walking 5.9%. The one knock on Yamamoto is his height, as he stands just 5-foot-10. Still, that did not deter the Dodgers from matching an offer from the New York Mets, nor from handing out their third big contract in two weeks. In addition to the Ohtani and Yamamoto deals, the Dodgers signed right-hander Tyler Glasnow to a five-year, $136.5 million contract extension as part of acquiring him in a four-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Dodgers entered the season needing to address the starting rotation and have done so in a major way. Now, the starting five is comprised of, in an order to be determined, Yamamoto, Glasnow, right-handers Walker Buehler and Bobby Miller, and either Ryan Yarbrough and right-hander Emmet Sheehan. Buehler did not pitch in 2023 due to a second Tommy John surgery. Ohtani, of course, will not pitch in 2024 due to having a second Tommy John surgery but will join the rotation in 2025. Combine that and what had been MLB’s No. 2 offense and the Dodgers, on paper, will be the overwhelming favorite to win the World Series entering the 2024 season regardless of what any other team does this offseason. Yamamoto’s deal pushes the Dodgers past the third luxury-tax threshold of $277 million with a current projected Opening Day payroll of $288.4 million. The New York Yankees reportedly made an offer of 10 years for $300 million.


Rule Changes Target Pitchers


What happened: MLB’s competition committee approved a handful of rule changes, most of which affect pitchers.

What it means: The headliners are the pitch clock with runners on base being shortened from 20 to 18 seconds, an adjustment to the running lane to first base, reduction of mound visits from five to four, a pitcher having to face at least the first batter of the inning if they take the mound to warm up, regardless if the other team makes a lineup change. The MLB Players Association was not happy with the changes. The committee is made up of six owners, four players, and an umpire, giving ownership a majority on any decision. MLB said only 24 times in 2023, plus twice in the World Series, did a pitcher get replaced after warming up and not throwing a pitch to a hitter, adding three minutes to game times. The change regarding the running lane is a welcome one as batters will now be able to be on either side of the foul line between home and first base as long as they remain on the dirt. The previous runner’s lane will remain chalked. Also, when a reliever leaves the bullpen to enter a game, if there are less than two minutes on the clock for inning breaks, the clock will be reset to two minutes instead of two minutes and 15 seconds. One other adjustment: Following a dead ball (think foul ball), the pitch clock will start when the pitcher receives the ball, not when he steps back onto the mound. With rule changes introduced in 2023, including the pitch clock and reduced pickoff attempts, game times were down 24 minutes from 2022’s three hours, three minutes, and 44 seconds to two hours, 39 minutes, and 49 seconds.


Mets Acquire Houser, Taylor From Brewers


What happened: Right-handed starter Adrian Houser and outfielder Tyrone Taylor were traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the New York Mets in exchange for prospect right-handed starter Coleman Crow.

What it means: The Mets bolster the back end of the rotation with Houser and get outfield depth in Taylor, who can play all three spots and has some punch in his bat. In his first notable trade, new Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns made a deal with the team that has employed him since late 2015. In another quirky tie, Stearns was in the Houston Astros‘ front office when Houser was dealt to the Brewers in the Carlos Gomez trade at the 2015 deadline. Houser went to the Brewers along with left-hander Josh Hader and outfielders Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana. Houser is in his last season of team control and is projected to earn $5.6 million through arbitration in 2024. Taylor is in the first of three arb years and is projected to make $1.7 million, meaning the Brewers are saving $7.3 million with this move. Crow, who turns 23 on Dec 30, had Tommy John surgery after being acquired by the Mets from the Los Angeles Angels at the deadline. Crow pitched at Double-A in 2022 and 2023, making just four starts this past season.


Ohtani, Acuna Win Aaron Awards


What happened: Ohtani (AL) and Ronald Acuña Jr. (NL) were named winners of the Hank Aaron Award, which honors the best offensive performances in each league.

What it means: In the least surprising news of the offseason, the two unanimous MVPs captured another honor. But being named MVP doesn’t necessarily guarantee winning the Aaron Award. Only 26 of 50 MVPs have won this award in the same year since it began in 1999. Ohtani, the two-way Japanese superstar who recently signed a record-smashing 10-year, $700 deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, had a slash line of .304/.412/.654 with 44 homers and 95 RBIs for the Los Angeles Angels. His .654 slugging percentage, 1.066 OPS, and 184 OPS+ led MLB. Acuna became the first player in MLB history to reach 40 homers and 70 steals (also the first to hit 40-60) in a season. The Atlanta star slashed .337/.416/.596 with 41 homers and 106 RBIs. Acuna’s 149 runs scored, 73 steals and .416 on-base percentage led MLB.


Three From Atlanta On All-MLB Team


What happened: Three players from Atlanta, headlined by Acuna, were named to the All-MLB team.

What it means: Not much, apparently, as MLB.com didn’t have it on its top headlines less than 48 hours after announcing the honors. It is the fifth year in a row All-MLB teams have been selected. Voting was done by fans and a panel of experts, with each side’s balloting weighing 50%.


Scherzer Out Until Midseason


What happened: The Texas Rangers said right-handed starter Max Scherzer had surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back.

What it means: The defending World Series champions, who already knew that last season’s top offseason acquisition, right-hander Jacob deGrom, and recently signed right-hander Tyler Mahle were going to miss at least half the 2024 season, will lose a key starter for a similar time. Scherzer, who was taken off the World Series roster after leaving his Game 3 start with back spasms, also missed the final three weeks of the 2023 regular season due to a strained muscle in his right shoulder. That leaves the Rangers with a potential Opening Day rotation of right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, left-hander Andrew Heaney, right-hander Dane Dunning, right-hander Jon Gray and competition for the No. 5 spot. Adding another starter would seem to be on the checklist for the rest of the offseason.


Royals’ Spending Continues


What happened: Right-handed starter Michael Wacha agreed to a two-year, $32 million contract with the Kansas City Royals. Also, outfielder Hunter Renfroe agreed to a two-year, $13 million deal.

What it means: While their spending hasn’t been exorbitant, the Royals have been a surprise this offseason in adding salary, especially considering they had the second-worst record in MLB at 56-106. Perhaps it is because the AL Central is completely up for grabs. Wacha joins recent signee Seth Lugo in a revamped Royals rotation. Like Lugo, Wacha pitched for the San Diego Padres in 2023, with a 3.22 ERA and 1.161 WHIP in 24 starts covering 124⅓ innings, with a 22.4% strikeout rate and 7.8% walk rate. The Royals have handed out just over $100 million in contracts so far this offseason.


J-Rod Leads Pre-Arb Bonus Winners


What happened: Ten players were awarded more than $1 million as part of MLB’s pre-arbitration bonus pool.

What it means: In one of the key points of the collective bargaining agreement that went into effect before the 2022 season, players who have yet to hit arbitration (basically, any player with less than three years of service time), can earn extra pay based on how they finish in MLB awards voting. Topping the list was Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez with $1,865,349. Rodriguez finished fifth in the AL MVP race and first in joint WAR among pre-arb players. Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder and NL Rookie of the Year Corbin Carroll was second with $1,812,337, followed by Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman ($1,798,349), Atlanta pitcher Spencer Strider ($1,692,833) and Chicago Cubs pitcher Justin Steele ($1,673,331).


Gurriel Sticks With D’backs


What happened: Outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. agreed to a three-year, $42 million deal to remain with the World Series runner-up Arizona Diamondbacks.

What it means: Gurriel fit in well with the young D’backs nucleus following his trade a year ago this weekend from the Toronto Blue Jays, seemingly an afterthought in the Daulton VarshoGabriel Moreno deal. Playing primarily left field, Gurriel slashed .261/.309/.463. His 24 homers were tied for fourth-best on the team and his 82 RBIs tied for second-best on the D’backs. Arizona would have been in search of another good bat had Gurriel not opted for a reunion and still might add another offensive weapon to compete in the NL West.


Orioles Extend Lease At Camden Yards


What happened: The Orioles and the state of Maryland signed a 30-year lease for the team to remain at Camden Yards.

What it means: The move, made official with approval from the Maryland Stadium Authority and the state Board of Public Works, was a formality after the two sides agreed to the new deal near the end of the regular season. Nonetheless, it came two weeks from when the Orioles’ current lease at Camden Yards was set to expire. The new pact makes $600 million available for stadium improvements.


The Injured List


Oakland A’s left-hander Sean Newcomb, who already was recovering from left knee surgery, had a medial meniscectomy procedure on his right knee, according to a team press release. The A’s said Newcomb will be ready for spring training.


Around The Horn


Outfielder Andrew McCutchen is remaining with the Pittsburgh Pirates, agreeing to a one-year, $5 million contract. Also, former Rangers left-handed starter Martín Pérez agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract with the Pirates.

Atlanta acquired first baseman-DH Matt Carpenter, left-hander Ray Kerr, and cash considerations from the Padres for minor-league infielder Drew Campbell. Carpenter was released by Atlanta a few days later. The team had hoped to trade Carpenter, as it did after acquiring catcher left-hander Marco Gonzales and Max Stassi. If another team claims Carpenter, Atlanta will be on the hook for all but the MLB minimum. San Diego did send Atlanta $1.5 million.

Right-handed reliever Trevor Gott, who split 2023 between the Seattle Mariners and New York Mets, agreed to a one-year deal with the Oakland A’s.

The Orioles acquired right-hander Jonathan Heasley from the Royals for minor-league right-hander Cesar Espinal. Heasley appeared in 36 games, including 24 starts, for the Royals over the last three seasons with a 5.45 ERA.

Former Seattle Mariners catcher Tom Murphy and the San Francisco Giants have agreed to a two-year, $8 million contract. The Giants are likely to trade catcher Joey Bart, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

The New York Yankees claimed infielder Jeter Downs off waivers from the Washington Nationals.

Former Detroit Tigers catcher Eric Haase signed a one-year deal with the Brewers.

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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