MLB Offseason News: 12/29/2023

Rays' Franco doesn't appear for interview with Dominican authorities.

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.

Did your favorite team get what you wanted them to get for Christmas? Only a few teams have been able to check off all of the big needs on their offseason shopping list. But don’t worry, there are still a few big names out there on the free agent market — not to mention trade candidates — that could help with any resolutions you might be preparing to make for 2024. More deals should be consummated soon. After all, the first spring training game is in less than two months.

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


Franco Doesn’t Appear For Questioning


What happened: Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco did not show up Thursday for a scheduled questioning session by authorities in the Dominican Republic. Franco has been accused of having multiple inappropriate relationships with minors.

What it means: The director of the office investigating Franco did not disclose what were the next steps. Franco was summoned to appear before prosecutors regarding the allegations in his native country. No charges have been filed against Franco, a 22-year-old who was placed on administrative leave by MLB in August. MLB is conducting its own investigation. At least two people have brought legal action against Franco. A third case is also being investigated although a formal complaint has not been lodged. One possible reason for Franco’s no-show could be that he recently changed his legal team. Franco, who signed an 11-year, $182 million deal in 2021, was a first-time All-Star in 2023 and had a slash line of .281/.344/.475 with career bests in homers (17), RBIs (58) and steals (30).


Padres Nab Japanese Closer Matsui


What happened: Japanese left-handed reliever Yuki Matsui signed a five-year contract with the San Diego Padres worth $28 million.

What it means: A less-than-imposing figure at just 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, the 28-year-old nonetheless posted a 2.40 ERA in 10 seasons and 236 saves with Nippon Professional Baseball’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, including a 1.42 mark the last three years in a one-inning role. During those three seasons, Matsui struck out 214 in 152 innings. The Padres needed bullpen help with left-handed closer Josh Hader still a free agent and other losses including Tim Hill, Ray Kerr, and Drew Pomeranz. Matsui fits into a back-end role along with right-hander Robert Suarez. Matsui had a career-best 39 saves in 59 appearances in 2023.


Garver Heads To Mariners


What happened: Catcher-designated hitter Mitch Garver agreed to a two-year, $24 million contract with the Seattle Mariners.

What it means: The oft-injured Garver figures to be a little bit of catching insurance, but more likely the DH for the Mariners. When healthy Garver, who missed two months in 2023 with a sprained left knee, can mash. He slashed .270/.370/.500 with the World Series champion Texas Rangers, with 19 homers an 50 RBIs in 344 plate appearances. Only 28 of 87 games played came at catcher, with 57 at DH. Garver added three homers and 14 RBIs in the postseason. The Mariners are looking to replace the power lost with free-agent outfielder Teoscar Hernández remaining unsigned. Of course, the M’s are set with Cal Raleigh as their starting catcher and another offseason acquisition, Seby Zavala, as the backup.


Kiner-Falefa Joins Jays, Who Keep Kiermaier


What happened: Infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Also, center fielder Kevin Kiermaier and the Jays agreed on a one-year, $10.5 million contract.

What it means: After two subpar seasons with the New York Yankees, Kiner-Falefa jumps to another AL East team and could be the Opening Day third baseman. A former shortstop who can also play the outfield, Kiner-Falefa has a career slash line of .261/.346/.361 with just 26 homers in six seasons. Kiner-Falefa was involved in trades on back-to-back days following the end of the lockout in 2021, being dealt from the Texas Rangers to the Minnesota Twins for Mitch Garver and, on the next day, to the Yankees in the Josh Donaldson deal. Third base had been vacant with Matt Chapman becoming a free agent. One of the top outfield defenders throughout his career, Kiermaier is staying in Toronto after signing with the Jays last offseason. The left-handed hitter had a bounce-back season with the Jays, slashing .265/.322/.419 with eight homers, 36 RBIs, and 14 steals in 129 games. Kiermaier, who turns 34 on April 22, shored up the Toronto outfield defense last season. The Jays were thought to be in contention for free-agent center fielder-first baseman Cody Bellinger and this move doesn’t discount that addition, but might signal Bellinger is headed elsewhere.


Fourth-Place Mets Taxed Nearly $101M


What happened: The New York Mets were slapped with a record $100,781,932 luxury tax following the finalization of 2023 payroll figures. A record eight teams were taxed.

What it means: Despite having the highest payroll in MLB history at $374.7 million, the Mets went 75-87 and finished fourth in the NL East. The 2023 Mets easily surpassed the 2015 Los Angeles Dodgers‘ $291.1 million for the top payroll. Don’t forget that the Mets traded right-handed starter Justin Verlander ($43.3 million), right-handed starter Max Scherzer ($43.3 million), right-handed reliever David Robertson ($10 million) and outfielder Mark Canha ($11.5 million) at the deadline. Also taxed were the San Diego Padres ($39.7 million), Yankees ($32.4 million), Dodgers ($19.4 million), Philadelphia Phillies ($6.98 million), Blue Jays ($5.5 million), Atlanta ($3.2 million) and World Series-winning Texas Rangers ($1.8 million). The Mets and Yankees were the only teams to exceed the highest threshold, the fourth level, of $293 million. Toronto, Atlanta, and Texas are first-time payors. The previous high number of taxed teams was six in 2016 and 2022.


White Sox Add Maldonado, Hill


What happened: Catcher Martín Maldonado and the Chicago White Sox agreed to a one-year, $4 million contract. Also, left-handed reliever Tim Hill agreed to a one-year, $1.8 million deal with the White Sox.

What it means: The White Sox don’t figure to be very good in 2024, but adding the 37-year-old Maldonado bolsters the defense and can help groom a young pitching staff. Maldonado had been with the Houston Astros since coming over from the Chicago Cubs in a deadline deal in 2019. While he has excelled at cutting down the running game — throwing out 31% of runners attempting to steal, but just 14% in 2023 — Maldonado has a black hole offensively. In his 13-year career, Maldonado has a .207/.282/.349 slash line and a 72 OPS+. Hill, meanwhile, has had mixed results in his six seasons with the Padres and Kansas City Royals. In 320 appearances covering 255⅓ innings, Hill has struck out 23.7% of batters and walked 9.5% with an ERA of 4.16. He provides experience in what is likely to be a young bullpen. Both could be trade candidates if they perform well.


Around The Horn


Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who played for Atlanta, the Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins, and Chicago Cubs during an 11-year MLB career, announced his retirement. Known as a defense-first player, the 34-year-old Simmons won four Gold Gloves while compiling a slash line of .263/.312/.366 with 70 home runs and 444 RBIs. He last played in MLB in July 2022.

Right-hander Shelby Miller, who had a terrific season out of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 2023, signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Detroit Tigers.

The Cleveland Guardians acquired outfielder Estevan Florial from the Yankees in exchange for right-hander Cody Morris.

Former Royals right-handed reliever Josh Staumont agreed to a one-year, $1 million deal with the Minnesota Twins. Staumont had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in July.

Infielder Buck Farmer is remaining with the Cincinnati Reds, agreeing to a one-year, $2.25 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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