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.
Today is Groundhog Day, which means only one thing: No matter whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, there are less than two weeks until spring training begins. The groundhog predicting how much longer winter will last is about as successful as baseball writers and their preseason prognostications — Punxsutawney Phil is only correct about 39% of the time.
With the way free agency is going this offseason, it seems like we are reliving 2019 when Bryce Harper and Manny Machado signed during spring training. As the countdown continues to the Los Angeles Dodgers having the first official reporting date for pitchers and catchers, a week from today (Feb. 9) as they prepare to open the regular season with the San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea, it will be interesting to see if players or clubs blink first. There is pressure on both sides, with players just wanting to get to camp and cash in while teams want to improve their roster and save money.
Of course, another way to improve a team at this stage of the offseason is through a trade — and there was a big one that went down Thursday.
All contract and trade agreements are pending physicals before becoming official (i.e. when the team announces the move).
Burnes Dealt to Orioles in Major Move
What it means: In a banner week for the Orioles (more on that in the following item), Burnes becomes an ace for a young team that surprisingly won the American League East in 2023, even if it is for just one season before the right-hander becomes a free agent next offseason. Burnes, who turned 29 in October, has been an elite starter for the last four seasons, winning the Cy Young in 2021. After posting walk rates of 5.2% and 6.4% in 2021 and 2022, Burnes walked 8.4% in 2023. His strikeout rate took a dip in 2023 to 25.5%. That follows 36.7%, 35.6%, and 30.5% from 2020-22. But Burnes is the ace the Orioles have been seeking all offseason. He joins right-hander Kyle Bradish, righty Grayson Rodriguez, left-hander John Means, and right-hander Dean Kremer in the rotation, with right-hander Tyler Wells and left-hander Cole Irvin as depth. Conversely, Burnes leaves a big hole atop the Brewers’ rotation. Combined with Brandon Woodruff’s shoulder surgery that will sideline him all of 2024 and forced the Brewers to non-tender him this offseason, that leaves right-hander Freddy Peralta as the presumed Opening Day starter, with lefty Wade Miley as the only other proven commodity. Right-handers Colin Rea and Joe Ross are also likely in the rotation with a battle for No. 5. Hall, 25, could be a candidate for the rotation, otherwise he will be in the bullpen. He has been a standout starter in the minors but made all but one of his 29 MLB appearances as a reliever. In 2023, Hall posted a 3.26 ERA and 1.190 WHIP, walking 6.2% of batters faced and striking out 28.4% in 18 relief appearances covering 19⅓ innings. Ortiz, who turns 25 in April, made his MLB late in 2023, getting into 15 games with 34 plate appearances, starting at shortstop, second base, and third base. In four minor-league seasons, Ortiz slashed .286/357/.449 with 33 homers and 177 RBIs in 316 games (1,373 plate appearances). He will be in the mix to start at third base or potentially at second or short if the Brewers trade Willy Adames, who will also be a free agent next offseason.
Orioles Complete Sale
What it means: Rubenstein would become the Orioles’ control person once the sale is approved by the other 29 owners, which is expected. A previously scheduled owners meeting is set for next week. Initially, the purchase is for 40% of the Orioles, with the remainder transferring once 94-year-old Peter Angelos, who has been severely ill in recent years, dies. Peter Angelos has been the owner since 1993, with son John Angelos taking the reins during his father’s illness. Rubenstein brings with him a star-studded ownership group that includes Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr., former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Basketball Hall of Famer Grant Hill, billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. With the Orioles an up-and-coming contender, the team could be a major factor in free agency with new ownership. The Angelos family has long been criticized for not investing in the team.
Twins Ship Polanco to Mariners
What happened: Second baseman Jorge Polanco was traded by the Minnesota Twins to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for right-handed starter Anthony DeSclafani, right-handed reliever Justin Topa, prospect outfielder Gabriel Gonzalez, and right-handed starter Darren Bowen as well as cash.
What it means: In a strange offseason for both teams, the Mariners improved their infield depth by acquiring a full-time second baseman. Polanco has spent his first 10 MLB seasons with the Twins, slashing .269/.334/.466, including .255/.335/.454 with 14 homers and 48 RBIs in 80 games in 2023. Knee and hamstring injuries hobbled Polanco last season. He had a breakout season power-wise in 2021 with 33 homers. Adding Polanco allows Josh Rojas, acquired at the trade deadline, to split time between second and third base. It is the second trade this offseason for DeSclafani, who was sent to Seattle by the San Francisco Giants. The Mariners are covering $8 million of DeSclafani’s $12.5 million contract for 2024 after getting $6 million from San Francisco in a trade that included Seattle receiving outfielder Mitch Haniger. Polanco is making $11.25 million in 2024. DeSclafani helps a Twins rotation that lost Sonny Gray (Cincinnati Reds), Kenta Maeda (Detroit Tiger), Tyler Mahle (Texas Rangers), and Dallas Keuchel (unsigned) to free agency. DeSclafani joins Pablo López, Joe Ryan, and Bailey Ober in the current rotation, while Topa adds to a formidable bullpen anchored by closer Jhoan Duran. To fill Polanco’s void at second, the Twins have Edouard Julien and prospect Brooks Lee.
Seager has Surgery, Hopes for Opening Day
What it means: Seager, who turns 30 in April, sustained the injury during the 2023 season and hoped offseason rest would improve the condition. But with spring training approaching, the call was made to have the procedure. Now, he will miss a majority of exhibition games, although Seager could be back in time for Opening Day if things go well. Runner-up to Shohei Ohtani in AL MVP voting, Seager had a .327/.390/.623 slash line, hitting 33 homers and driving in 96 runs in his second season with the Rangers. If Seager is unable to go, it is possible that second baseman Marcus Semien, a shortstop in his six seasons with the Oakland A’s, slides over temporarily.
Turner Joins Jays
What it means: Entering his age-39 season, Turner will likely be the Jays’ primary DH but could play third base, which is slated to be occupied by Isiah Kiner-Falefa, another offseason signee, on occasion. Turner has been a solid offensive contributor, hitting .275 or better every season since 2013. In 2023 during his only season with the Boston Red Sox, the right-handed hitter slashed .276/.345/.455 with 23 homers and 96 RBIs. Turner’s OPS+ was 114, which was his lowest since putting up a league-average 100 in 2013, his final season with the New York Mets. What Turner also brings is a leadership quality from his days with the Los Angeles Dodgers (2014-22), which could be a missing ingredient on a Jays team with a lot of talented younger players.
Robinson Statue Vandalized
What happened: A statue in Wichita, Kan., of Jackie Robinson was found burning in a trash can, five days after it was cut from its base and stolen from a park.
What it means: Police are investigating the theft of the statue, while fire officials are probing the arson aspect. The statue was at McAdams Park, where it was installed in 2021 by a youth league that honors the first Black player to break the color barrier in MLB, the League 42 Foundation. Police have not said whether there was a racial factor in the statue’s theft. Meanwhile, a GoFundMe has raised more than $180,000 to replace the statue. The goal is $200,000.
Tigers Lock Up Prospect Keith
What it means: In the second major extension given to a prospect this offseason, the Tigers showed their confidence in Keith by buying out all of his years of team control. The deal with Keith, MLB Pipeline’s No. 22 overall prospect, includes club options that could make the contract worth $82 million over nine years. Keith joins Brewers outfielder Jackson Chourio, MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 overall prospect, to sign an eight-year, $82 million contract this offseason. Neither Keith nor Chourio have played in the majors, but both are expected to debut in 2024. Keith, a fifth-round draft pick out of Biloxi (Miss.) High School in 2020, has a minor-league slash line of .300/.382/.512 with 38 homers and 164 RBIs in 1,063 plate appearances over three seasons. In 2023, Keith had a breakout season, slashing .306/.380/.552 with 27 homers and 101 RBIs over 577 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A. He has a shot at making the Opening Day roster.
Around The Horn
⚾ Jimy Williams, who managed the Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, and Astros, died at age 80. Williams was 910-790 during his managerial career. He also played in MLB during the 1966-67 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.
⚾ Former New York Yankees left-handed reliever Wandy Peralta and Padres agreed on a four-year, $16.5 million contract. There are opt-outs after each season. Peralta had a 2.83 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 61 games in 2023.
⚾ Former Houston Astros right-handed reliever Hector Neris came to terms on a one-year, $9 million pact with the Chicago Cubs. Neris spent the last two seasons with the Astros, compiling a 2.69 ERA in 141 games, after eight years with the Philadelphia Phillies. Neris will be a late-inning option for the Cubs.
⚾ Former San Francisco Giants left-handed starter Alex Wood is hopping to the other Bay Area team, joining the Oakland A’s on a one-year contract. Financial terms were not disclosed. Wood posted a 4.33 ERA and 1.433 WHIP in 29 appearances, including 12 starts, with the Giants in 2023.
⚾ Outfielder Aaron Hicks, still being paid by the Yankees through the 2025 season, agreed to a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the MLB minimum. Hicks will be paid just over $9 million by the Yankees in 2024 and is due $9.8 million in 2025. The Yankees released Hicks, who latched on with the Baltimore Orioles to end the season. In 312 plate appearances in 2023, he slashed .253/.353/.383 with eight homers and 36 RBIs.
⚾ Second baseman Adam Frazier agreed to a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $4.5 million with the Kansas City Royals. With the Orioles in 2023, Frazier had a slash line of .240/.300/.396 with 13 homers and 60 RBIs over 455 plate appearances.
⚾ Right-handed reliever Adam Ottavino returned to the New York Mets on a one-year, $4.5 million contract. In 2023 with the Mets, Ottavino had a 4.52 ERA and 1.216 WHIP in 66 appearances (61⅔ innings).