Baseball and glove

BTV 2023-24 Offseason Roundup

Welcome to the 2023-24 Offseason Roundup. Any additional trades will be added to this article as they are reported.

Cincinnati Reds acquire IF Santiago Espinal ($3.0M) from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for RHP Chris McElvain ($0.3M)

After spending all offseason with too many infielders and not enough positions to play them all, the Reds closed out camp with a gaping hole on their depth chart, caused by Noelvi Marte’s PED suspension and Matt McLain’s mid-spring shoulder injury. Espinal will factor into what should still be a very flexible defensive alignment for Cincinnati, with most of the team’s regulars capable of playing multiple positions.

The Blue Jays, on the other hand, faced a log jam of their own. Between projected starters Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Cavan Biggio, utility men Davis Schneider and Ernie Clement (the latter being out of options), non-roster invitees Dan Vogelbach, Joey Votto and Eduardo Escobar, and a slew of upper-minors infield prospects, Espinal was likely ticketed for Triple-A and wasn’t even guaranteed everyday playing time there in Buffalo. Instead, Toronto flipped him for McElvain, who looks like a depth arm at this point.

San Diego Padres acquire RHP Dylan Cease ($42.4M) from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for RHPs Drew Thorpe ($18.5M), Jairo Iriarte ($10.6M) and Steven Wilson ($4.4M) and OF Samuel Zavala ($11.0M).

Just days before the Padres opened their season in South Korea, A. J. Preller proved he had at least one more blockbuster in him this offseason, swinging a deal for the top remaining starting pitcher on the trade market in Cease. The fact that he was able to do so without moving any of San Diego’s top four prospects - Ethan Salas, Jackson Merrill, Robby Snelling and Dylan Lesko - is a testament to the amazing job Preller and co. have done scouting, drafting and developing players in recent years, allowing them to keep the team’s farm system well stocked despite regularly making all-in trades for players like Juan Soto.

That being said, it was the team’s subsequent decision to trade Soto away that allowed this deal to come to fruition. The headliner, Thorpe, was among the team’s return package from New York in the Soto deal, and the ~$36M saved in that deal enabled the team to add Cease’s $8M salary for 2024. Cease also comes with an additional year of team control, lining his timeline up with Michael King’s to form a strong rotation core with Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, at least for the next two seasons.

In addition to Thorpe (who is profiled in the Soto write-up later in this piece), the White Sox add a decent MLB arm with five years of control in Wilson, along with two fringe top 100 prospects in Iriarte and Zavala. The former is a projectable, hard-throwing righty with command issues; he has relief risk, but also substantial upside and could debut in 2024. Zavala is likely another year or two away and has some hit tool concerns, but also has big power and the possibility of sticking in center field.

This looks like a very fair trade on both sides. There’s risk all around - Cease had a down year in 2024, and none of the prospects headed to Chicago are surefire stars - but there is plenty of upside as well.

Chicago White Sox acquire LHP Bailey Horn ($2.3M) from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for RHP Matthew Thompson ($1.0M)

The Cubs needed to make room on their 40-man to re-sign Cody Bellinger, and Horn, an unspectacular relief prospect, fell victim to this roster crunch. Thompson is a former second-round pick who hasn’t developed and now looks like a depth starter.

Minnesota Twins acquire OF Manuel Margot ($1.5M), IF Rayne Doncon ($4.2M) and cash (reportedly $4.0M) from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for IF Noah Miller ($2.5M)

Given Byron Buxton’s extensive injury history, the Twins have a constant need for a quality back-up center fielder. In 2023 that was Michael A. Taylor, who did a good job for Minnesota. But when the team couldn’t come to a free agent agreement with Taylor, it pivoted to Margot to fill the role.

By our numbers, the Twins got a pretty good deal here. The Rays included $4.5M cash in the Tyler Glasnow trade, which originally sent Margot to Los Angeles. That $4.5M stays attached to Margot, and pushes his surplus value into positive territory. Then, the Dodgers kicked in an additional $4.0M cash, just to facilitate a prospect swap of Doncon for Miller.

As prospects, Doncon and Miller are almost complete opposites - Doncon has big power, but questionable plate discipline and defense, while Miller has a great glove but an uncertain offensive future, making him a likely utility man. A deal like this would make more sense on paper if the Dodgers, who are giving up a viable MLB player and cash, were swapping a high-floor prospect for higher upside; instead, it’s the other way around, with Doncon heading to Minnesota. Perhaps Los Angeles sees something particularly positive in Miller or negative in Doncon.

The larger motivation for the Dodgers’ side of this deal was opening up a roster spot for utility man Enrique Hernández. He looked like a better fit for their roster than Margot at the time, and after Gavin Lux’s defensive concerns forced Mookie Betts to shortstop and created significant questions for the team’s infield defense, the decision is looking even smarter now.

After accounting for the cash changing hands, this deal was technically accepted by the model as a major overpay by Los Angeles, but falls into the same category as the John Schreiber deal where the gap is significant enough to call it a miss.

Kansas City Royals acquire RHP John Schreiber ($9.7M) from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for RHP David Sandlin ($2.0M)

Given Boston’s deep pitching staff and financial constraints, rumors were swirling that the team could try to offload Kenley Jansen’s $16M contract. But they were reportedly unwilling to pay down his contract and thus couldn’t find a deal, so they instead moved their set-up man in Schreiber.

The 30-year-old was one of the best relievers in baseball in 2022, but dropped closer to replacement level in 2023 and missed time with a lat injury. Earning only $1.175M in his first year of arbitration (and with all three options remaining) he’s not necessarily a player the Red Sox needed to move, but one they could afford to trade if they found a return they couldn’t say no to.

The problem is, it’s tough to look at Sandlin and see a can’t-miss return. He has his fans in the prospect community, but our sources are a bit more tepid, seeing him as a possible reliever who could make strides and remain in the rotation should his secondaries improve. Even if you think the model was high on Schreiber, dealing a solid big league arm with the type of upside he showed in 2022 for a prospect of this caliber is at least a bit of a head-scratcher, and doesn’t reflect well on how Boston views its competitive chances.

This deal was technically accepted by the model as a major overpay by Boston. But that doesn’t feel right; in our opinion, a gap of $9.7M to $2.0M is too large to be considered a win. We’re looking into adjusting the parameters for “accepted.”

New York Yankees acquire LHP Clayton Andrews ($0.2M) from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for RHP Joshua Quezada (not yet in system)

Andrews is additional left-handed relief depth for a Yankees team that spent a good chunk of its offseason stockpiling in that area. He was DFA’d to make room for the Brewers’ return in the Corbin Burnes trade. Quezada is a 19-year-old international signee without much prospect hype, at least for now.

Minnesota Twins acquire LHP Steven Okert ($3.5M) from the Miami Marlins in exchange for UT Nick Gordon ($0.2M)

In hindsight, these two teams really matched up perfectly. The Twins have done an excellent job of developing hitters in recent years, but their pitching looks weaker this season after losing Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda to free agency. The Marlins are excellent at developing pitchers and have a deep stock of quality relievers, but have spent the last few years struggling to put a competent offense on the field.

Neither player in this deal will solve all of their team’s problems, but they’re both a step in the right direction. Okert has been quietly solid the last three seasons for Miami, though his ERA ticked up in 2023. He has three years of team control remaining. Gordon missed most of 2023 to injury, but enjoyed an offensive breakout in 2022 and can play all over the field. His value was limited due to his injury risk and lack of options remaining, but he could easily reestablish himself as a solid role player for the Marlins. He’s a Super Two player in his first of four years of arbitration.

New York Yankees acquire LHP Caleb Ferguson ($6.4M) from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for LHP Matt Gage ($0.0M) and RHP Christian Zazueta Jr. (not yet in system)

For the second time this offseason, the Dodgers’ 40-man crunch comes to benefit the Yankees, and once again it’s a deal involving a left-handed reliever. Ferguson is solid, but unspectacular, and is in his final year of arbitration; he’ll be a solid Wandy Peralta replacement for New York.

Gage also takes up a 40-man spot, but has an option remaining and is more likely to make it through waivers should the Dodgers need to do so. Zazueta is a teenager with a live arm; the Dodgers likely see potential here.

The deal was accepted by our model as a major overpay by Los Angeles, pending Zazueta’s addition.

Chicago White Sox acquire OF Dominic Fletcher ($1.9M) from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for RHP Cristian Mena ($5.7M)

Shortly after adding a lefty-hitting outfielder from Seattle, news broke that the White Sox picked up another from Arizona. But this deal is a tougher sell. The 26-year-old Fletcher is an interesting enough player, and one look at his Triple-A slash line from last year makes it clear why the White Sox were interested in him. His small frame may limit him (he’s listed at 5’ 9”, 185), but if a team like the Dodgers or Rays traded for him, it would be seen as a savvy decision to look past his build and focus on his production.

No, Fletcher himself isn’t the issue here. It’s the cost. It’s strange for a rebuilding team to give up a high-upside arm like Mena in exchange for a likely platoon corner outfielder. Mena reached Triple-A in 2023 as a 20-year-old. He’s far from a finished product, and may need to add velocity to find big league success, but he certainly has time to do so. One consideration working against Mena is that he was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, meaning he’ll start burning option years in 2024. But even so, he seems like a much more valuable player for a rebuilding club to have than Fletcher.

The deal was accepted by our model as a minor overpay by Chicago.

Seattle Mariners acquire RHP Gregory Santos ($7.8M) from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for OF Zack DeLoach ($4.5M), RHP Prelander Berroa ($3.3M) and a Comp B pick ($2.0M)

Seattle’s bullpen took a hit when it traded Justin Topa to Minnesota (and, to a lesser extent, Isaiah Campbell to Boston). So the team added reinforcements in Santos, a hard-throwing righthander who was very good for the White Sox in 2023. The 24-year-old has five years of cheap team control remaining and has one option left.

Regardless of whether any of the players in Chicago’s return amount to anything, this deal represents excellent process. The White Sox acquired Santos in a minor trade last winter after he was DFA’d by the Giants. They developed him into a late-inning arm and shipped him off for two interesting prospects and a draft pick. DeLoach is a power-over-hit corner outfielder whose outcomes range from MLB platoon hitter to minor league depth bat, while Berroa has big stuff but is limited by command issues; it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him turn into another Santos. Both will likely see big league time in 2024.

Oakland Athletics acquire RHP Ross Stripling (-$5.5M) and cash (reportedly $3.25M) from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for OF Jonah Cox (not yet in system)

The rebuilding A’s had a stock of young rotation arms but little in terms of veteran leadership, so they went out and signed Alex Wood and traded for his former rotation-mate in Stripling. Both are swingmen who can provide flexibility to a fluid roster and, if they pitch well, serve as trade bait at the deadline. Cox, a sixth-round pick in 2023, isn’t seen as a notable prospect, profiling as a fourth or fifth outfielder at best

Oakland didn’t get quite enough cash in this deal to bring Stripling (and his $12.5M contract) back to even value, but the team is running the lowest payroll in the league by far and needs to pay a few players to try and avoid a grievance from the union.

Baltimore Orioles acquire RHP Corbin Burnes ($33.3M) from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for LHP D.L. Hall ($18.9M), SS Joey Ortiz ($13.6M) and a Comp A pick ($4.0M)

Just 24 hours after reports that the Angelos family would finally be selling the Orioles, news broke that the team would be getting another shiny new toy in ace Corbin Burnes. The trade marks the first time in the current competitive cycle that the Orioles have really cashed in their prospect chips to make a significant addition to the roster, and it immediately made the team appear much more fearsome in what is expected to be a competitive AL East.

Burnes hasn’t been able to repeat his 2021 Cy Young season in which he posted a 2.43 ERA (2.00 FIP) and was worth 7.5 fWAR. It was also something of a down year for him in 2023, as he posted his lowest strikeout rate since his rookie year and was prone to the occasional blow-up start. But he’s still one of the best pitchers in baseball, and that’s reflected in his surplus value; despite being a rental set to earn $15.6M in his final year of arbitration, his $33.3M surplus still made him a very valuable trade commodity.

It cost the Orioles two talented young players (and a draft pick) to acquire Burnes, but given the depth of their system, the deal barely made a dent. There’s still more than enough firepower remaining to make another big win-now trade, let alone space in the budget for an impact free agent addition.

For Milwaukee, Hall and Ortiz are a pair of high-variance additions. The former is a lefty with a high-octane fastball and dominant secondaries. Concerns about his durability and command introduce significant relief risk, but even if he ends up in the bullpen, Hall could be a Hader-esque relief ace. And if he can stick in the rotation, the sky's the limit.

Ortiz never had quite the prospect pedigree of Hall, but he really turned a corner in 2023, improving his quality of contact drastically. He has a slick glove, and if the offensive improvements translate to the big league level, he could be an above average everyday middle infielder as soon as 2024, filling a significant need for the Brewers.

The Comp A pick is a nice throw-in, helping replace the pick Milwaukee would have received had it retained Burnes throughout the season and extended a Qualifying Offer next winter. It’s a solid return overall, and one that seems to suggest an intent for the team to take a step back in 2024 and set its sights on 2025. But some of the club’s other moves (primarily the Rhys Hoskins signing) seem to disagree. It also makes the Adrian Houser salary dump look even more baffling, given the team’s lack of reliable starting pitching in Burnes’ absence. 

Seattle Mariners acquire 2B Jorge Polanco ($9.4M) from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for OF Gabriel Gonzalez ($11.0M) and RHPs Justin Topa ($7.0M), Darren Bowen ($0.4M) and Anthony DeSclafani (-$1.1M) and cash (reportedly $8.0M)

Polanco is exactly the second baseman Seattle has been searching for the past few years. The switch-hitter has more than enough pop to put the ball out of the yard at T-Mobile park, and he’ll lengthen the lineup at a relatively affordable rate for the next two years.

But the price was much more steep than our model anticipated. Gonzalez is a divisive prospect, with some outlets seeing a top 100 candidate and others seeing a future bench bat. But the results, at least so far, have been undeniable - he obliterated A-ball in 2023 and earned a promotion to High-A as just a 19-year-old, where he was a slightly below average hitter. He’s a nice addition to a surprisingly deep Twins farm system, as is Bowen (to a lesser extent).

Topa is the prize of the deal for Minnesota, at least from a major league perspective. The 33-year-old’s career was slowed by injury in the early going; despite his age he’s in just his first year of arbitration. He broke out in 2023 as one of Seattle’s top relievers, though he perhaps didn’t miss as many bats as one might expect given his high-90s fastball. Even if he takes a step back from his 2023 success, he’s a solid middle reliever with three years of cheap team control.

DeSclafani’s inclusion makes sense on the surface, as the Mariners have had a very budget-conscious offseason and were already adding Polanco’s $10.5M in 2024 and $12M club option for 2025 in this deal. But they also sent $8.0M in cash to Minnesota, covering two thirds of DeSclafani’s contract. Projection systems see DeSclafani as somewhere around a 1.0-fWAR pitcher in a swingman role in 2024, and while that isn’t worth the entirety of his $12.0M contract, it’s certainly worth more than the $4.0M the Mariners are paying that contract down to - especially given a desperate market for pitching and the upside the right-hander showed as a 3-win pitcher as recently as 2021.

*Note - DeSclafani will begin the 2024 season on the Injured List with elbow inflammation; it's possible this was a concern at the time of the trade, but if so, it was unreported and our model has no insight into specific medicals.

It’s hard not to see this as an overpay by Seattle, and it was rejected by the model as such. Polanco is a good player, but he’s also an aging second baseman who has missed almost a full season’s worth of games due to various injuries over the last two years. One could argue the model is too high on Gonzalez (given his plate discipline concerns) as well as Topa and DeSclafani (given their injury histories). But even if you adjust all three down, when factoring in the cash headed to the Twins, it still looks lopsided.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad trade. The Mariners had a need, saw a player that could perfectly fill it and pounced. They dealt from positions of strength; they’re well stocked in young outfielders between Julio Rodríguez in the big leagues and Lazaro Montes and Jonatan Clase in the minors, and they’ve historically pumped out quality pitching as well as anyone. The cost was high, but they could afford it, and they improved their team as a result.

But the results look even better for the Twins, who leveraged their own position of strength (MLB infielders) and turned it into quality prospects, bullpen help and payroll flexibility.

Chicago Cubs acquire IF Michael Busch ($17.2M) and RHP Yency Almonte ($0.4M) from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for LHP Jackson Ferris ($5.2M) and OF Zyhir Hope (not yet in system)

Once again, the Dodgers’ offseason-long roster crunch costs them surplus value. This time, it comes in the form of Busch, an infield prospect who hasn’t gotten an extended big league opportunity but has mashed at every level of the minors. Defensive questions meant he didn’t have an obvious spot on a crowded Los Angeles roster, so instead he’ll likely split time between first base and designated hitter for the Cubs. Almonte is somewhat interesting in his own right, a hard-throwing reliever who throws more than 50% sliders. He’s out of options.

While the Dodgers didn’t receive fair value on paper (at least by our estimations) they did receive two talented prospects. Ferris was Chicago’s second-round pick in 2022, and he has his fans, though he carries significant relief risk. Hope is a toolsy outfielder who hit well in complex ball but is obviously very far from the majors.

St. Louis Cardinals acquire RHP Andrew Kittredge ($0.2M) from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for OF Richie Palacios ($3.9M)

Sending Luke Raley to Seattle left the Rays in need of a left-handed hitting outfielder, so they turned around and grabbed Palacios from St. Louis. The 26-year-old started the 2023 season in Cleveland’s system and struggled there before joining the Cardinals on a summer waiver claim. He hit the ground running with his new organization, tearing up Triple-A and earning a call-up to the big leagues, where he posted a 120 wRC+ in 32 games.

The Cardinals, crowded in the outfield, chose to cash in on their reclamation project and add a bullpen upgrade in Kittredge. As recently as 2021, Kittredge looked like one of the game’s best relievers. But he underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2022 and wasn’t quite dominant in his return in 2023. Many pitchers need some time to get their feet back under them after TJS, and it’s possible Kittredge returns to form in 2024. He’ll earn $2.3M in his final year of arbitration.

Seattle Mariners acquire 1B/OF Luke Raley ($10.1M) from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for IF Jose Caballero ($4.8M)

Immediately after the Robbie Ray deal, the Mariners went out and grabbed a left-handed slugger in Raley. The 29-year-old started the year as one of the best hitters in baseball before cooling off in the second half. Still, he finished the year with a 130 wRC+ and played all three outfield spots, even holding his own in center. With five years of team control, that’s a valuable player, even as projection systems rightfully bake in some regression.

In exchange, the Rays add a scrappy middle infielder in Caballero. The 26-year-old doesn’t have much pop, but he’s one of the toughest at-bats in the league and is a valuable baserunner and defender. He’ll help stabilize the shortstop position for Tampa Bay, which remains in limbo given the uncertainty surrounding Wander Franco’s future.

There’s a bit of a gap here, and the model saw this as a moderate overpay by the Rays. But we had Caballero modeled as a second baseman, and he received a positional penalty as a result; the Rays will play him at shortstop, and removing that adjustment makes this deal a lot closer.

San Francisco Giants acquire LHP Robbie Ray (-$43.2M) in exchange for OF Mitch Haniger (-$29.7M), RHP Anthony DeSclafani (-$1.1M) and cash (reportedly $6.0M)

After sending Evan White and Marco Gonzales to Atlanta, the Mariners managed to offload their final (and largest) underwater contract by sending Ray to San Francisco. Once expected to headline Seattle’s rotation, the 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner pitched more like a mid-rotation arm in 2022 and underwent Tommy John Surgery early in 2023. He’s owed $73M over the next three seasons, and though he does have an opt-out after 2024, he’d have to return fairly early in the season from his injury and pitch extremely well to pass up his remaining two years and $50M.

Ray looked like a possible midseason reinforcement for the Mariners, but given their immensely talented rotation, Haniger is a better fit for the roster - and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s a familiar face. He’s an injury-prone player coming off the worst season of his career, but at his best, he’s a reliable corner outfielder and a middle-of-the-order threat. Seattle won’t count on him to play 162 games, but there’s reason for optimism, perhaps in a platoon role. He’ll earn $33.5M over the next two years, including his 2025 player option and a trade assignment bonus.

DeSclafani rounds out the deal as another player whose injuries have put him underwater, though not by quite as much as Ray and Haniger. The model may be a bit high on him, but he was great in 2021, injured in 2022 and serviceable in 2023. He’ll make $12M in 2024 and should be at least a decent swingman when healthy.

The Giants’ side of this deal is puzzling. Ray is the best player in the deal, but he’s also the most expensive, and the only one who is currently injured. If he follows the usual Tommy John timeline, he can’t be expected to be at 100% when he returns to the field in 2024, so this is largely a move for 2025-26. But the Giants need pitching now, and plenty of free agent arms were still available at the time of this deal. When considering the extra $6M the Giants kicked in to facilitate the deal, it becomes even more of a head-scratcher. They must really believe in Ray.

The deal was rejected by our model as an overpay by the Giants, with -$43.2M in value heading their way compared to -$24.8M to Seattle. 

Milwaukee Brewers acquire LHP Bryan Hudson ($1.0M) from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for LHP Justin Chambers (not yet in system) and a PTBNL or cash

Hudson was another 40-man roster casualty for Los Angeles. He’s decent lefty relief depth. Chambers, 18, was Milwaukee’s 20th round pick in the 2023 draft. He hasn’t pitched yet in affiliated ball.

Atlanta Braves acquire LHP Chris Sale (-$5.7M) and cash (reportedly $17.0M) from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for IF Vaughn Grissom ($17.1M)

A day after signing Lucas Giolito to a two-year deal, the Red Sox made room in their rotation and in their budget by flipping their former ace to Atlanta. Though Sale was solid in 2023, he was far from the Cy Young candidate he once was, and his age (35 in 2024) and extensive injury history (especially in recent seasons) made a full bounceback unlikely.

At $27.5M, Sale was clearly underwater, and the Red Sox had to kick in a good amount of cash to get this deal done. But by doing so, they were able to add a talented young player in Grissom. He comfortably slots in as Boston’s starting second baseman for the next six years. Fans can dream of Grissom and top prospect Marcelo Mayer forming a formidable duo up the middle for years to come.

Grissom was clearly on the outs in Atlanta. The former top prospect couldn’t stick it at shortstop (at least not at a level the Braves could accept, given their World Series aspirations) and lost a Spring Training battle to veteran Orlando Arcia last year. Another strong season in Triple-A couldn’t earn him significant MLB playing time, and he was likely to platoon in left field with newly acquired Jarred Kelenic in 2024. Instead, the 23-year-old gets a change of scenery and a likely full-time role.

Sale slots comfortably into the middle of Atlanta’s rotation, where he won’t have to deal with expectations of being its ace. Shortly after the deal, the Braves reworked his deal, signing him to a two-year extension that will pay him $16M in 2024, $22M in 2025 and a $18M club option for 2026. This gives the team more certainty in its staff going forward, as Max Fried and Charlie Morton are set to hit free agency after the season.

This deal was accepted by the model as a major overpay by Atlanta. But we missed that $10M of Sale’s original deal with Boston was deferred, lowering its present value and increasing his surplus closer to zero. After that correction, the trade looks a lot closer.

New York Yankees acquire RHP Cody Morris ($1.2M) from the Cleveland Guardians in exchange for OF Estevan Florial ($0.0M)

Florial’s prospect shine has long worn off, as the 26-year-old has been unable to translate Triple-A success to the big leagues and is now out of options. But he’ll get a chance with the Guardians, who are always looking for outfield help and can pump out depth pitchers like Morris in their sleep.

New York Mets acquire RHP Adrian Houser ($5.9M) and OF Tyrone Taylor ($1.6M) from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for RHP Coleman Crow ($1.6M)

Even months later, with the benefit of hindsight and seeing the rest of the team’s offseason come to fruition, this move remains baffling for Milwaukee.

Houser is nothing special, but he’s established himself as a solid back-end starter and he was only projected to earn $5.6M in his final year of arbitration. He seemed like a pitcher the Brewers would want to keep around, especially after losing Brandon Woodruff to shoulder surgery and with rumors of a Corbin Burnes trade still swirling.

Instead, they traded him for Crow, a 23-year-old Double-A starter. Crow was part of New York’s return when it traded a sub-replacement Eduardo Escobar to the Angels. He didn’t throw a pitch in the Mets system after the trade, underwent Tommy John Surgery in August and went unprotected and unpicked in the Rule 5 draft. So, needless to say, not a stellar return for Milwaukee.

Taylor’s inclusion is inoffensive, as the Brewers have a pipeline of talented young outfielders and they were running out of room to carry a short-side platoon bat at the position. He’ll be a solid role player for the Mets, and could be flipped at the deadline to a contender if they’re out of the race.

This deal was weird at the time, and became even weirder when the Brewers later traded Burnes to the Orioles. They enter 2024 with the likes of Jakob Junis, Colin Rea, D.L. Hall and Joe Ross expected to cover three rotation spots. A guy like Houser would sure look nice right about now.

The trade was accepted by the model as a moderate overpay by the Brewers.

Baltimore Orioles acquire RHP Jonathan Heasley ($0.0M) from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RHP Cesar Espinal (not yet in system)

Heasley’s velo ticked up out of the bullpen in 2023, but he’s likely just depth until he proves otherwise. He was DFA’d by Kansas City prior to this trade. Espinal is a teenage lottery ticket.

Atlanta Braves acquire DH Matt Carpenter (-$4.7M), LHP Ray Kerr ($4.5M) and cash (reportedly $1.5M) from the San Diego Padres in exchange for OF Drew Campbell (not yet in system)

Alex Anthopoulos continued his offseason of dumpster diving by taking on the majority ($4.0M) of Carpenter’s $5.5M contract, allowing the Braves to add a hard-throwing left-handed reliever in Kerr at essentially zero prospect cost. They weren’t able to find a taker for Carpenter and ultimately cut him loose, but when St. Louis signed him to a deal at the league minimum, that saved Atlanta an extra $800k or so.

A 26-year-old outfielder without any standout tools, Campbell is likely organizational filler for San Diego. But the $4.0M in savings could go a long way for a team counting its pennies.

Pittsburgh Pirates acquire OF Edward Olivares ($0.8M) from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for IF Deivis Nadal (not yet in system)

Olivares probably shouldn’t be an everyday outfielder, but he’s been an above average hitter each of the last two seasons, and should make for a fine bench bat for Pittsburgh.

Los Angeles Dodgers acquire RHP Tyler Glasnow ($14.1M/$24.1M), OF Manuel Margot (-$2.5M) and cash ($4.5M) from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for RHP Ryan Pepiot ($19.0M*) and OF Jonny DeLuca ($4.8M)

This deal was contingent on Glasnow, who was set to earn $25M in his final year of team control, signing an extension with the Dodgers. That extension not only changed Glasnow’s surplus value considerably, but also introduced variability, as the outcome of his final year of the deal (either a $30M club option or, if declined, a $20M player option) looks like it could go either way.

We currently project Glasnow’s field value to be just over $30M in 2028, meaning we’d expect the Dodgers to exercise that option and that final season to provide very little surplus value. But it’s too close to call at this point and could really go either way; hence, the two options shown for Glasnow’s surplus, either $14.1M if the club option is exercised, or $24.1M if the club option is declined and player option is exercised.

This move was sandwiched between the Dodgers signing Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto to megadeals, and those three will likely headline a fearsome Los Angeles rotation for years to come. For Glasnow, the knock has always been health, as his 21 starts and 120 innings pitched in 2023 were each his highest marks since 2017. But with plenty of talent across the roster (including a stock of young pitching), the Dodgers aren’t too worried about 30 regular-season starts for Glasnow - they need high-level performance in October, and that’s exactly what he could provide.

Pepiot is a high price to pay for Glasnow, whether it’s as an expensive rental or on a five-year deal close to market value. Pepiot comes with prospect pedigree, five years of cheap team control and a solid MLB audition under his belt. DeLuca is a likely bench bat, but he’s also the exact type of player from which the Rays know how to extract maximum value. He’s a cheaper alternative to Margot, whose inclusion allowed Tampa Bay to save an additional $7.5M.

*Note - at the time of the trade, we incorrectly had Pepiot with six years of team control remaining instead of five, bumping his value to $25.3M. Adjusting to five years of control leaves him at $19.0M.

Milwaukee Brewers acquire RHP Taylor Clarke ($1.6M) from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RHP Ryan Brady (not yet in system) and IF Cam Devanney (not yet in system)

In one of many fringe pitching additions for the Brewers this offseason, the team added a swingman with an option remaining in exchange for two non-prospects.

New York Yankees acquire IF Jorbit Vivas ($8.9M) and LHP Victor González ($0.8M) from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for SS Trey Sweeney ($3.8M)

This was the first of a few Dodgers moves in which the team sacrificed surplus value to clear 40-man roster spots. Vivas is a legitimate prospect, but he’s a likely second baseman and he’s already on his final option year despite having only 26 career games at the Triple-A level. His clock is ticking, and as a result, his value has already dropped to $3.2M as of early March. González is a depth lefty reliever who is out of options himself.

Sweeney isn’t a bad pick-up for Los Angeles. The former first-round pick hasn’t moved as quickly through the minors as some expected, and he isn’t likely to stick at shortstop, but he was solid in Double-A in 2023 and he won’t need to be added to the 40-man until next offseason.

The model accepted this deal as a moderate overpay by Los Angeles, but after adjusting Vivas it looks much closer.

Atlanta Braves acquire C Max Stassi (-$4.8M) and IF David Fletcher (-$14.0M) from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for 1B Evan White (-$13.6M) and LHP Tyler Thomas (not yet in system)

The Braves continued to shuffle underwater contracts around, dumping White’s largely dead contract ($3.4M projected field value from 2023-24, which may be generous). In exchange, they added two players in Fletcher and Stassi who are owed more money combined over the next two seasons than White, but at least could see themselves become major league contributors.

Stassi was later dumped to the Chicago White Sox, the Braves paying his salary down to the league minimum in exchange for cash or a PTBNL. 

Boston Red Sox acquire OF Tyler O’Neill ($5.7M) from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for RHPs Nick Robertson ($1.6M) and Victor Santos ($0.4M)

Balancing the outfield was clearly a priority for the Red Sox, who dealt the left-handed hitting Verdugo for three arms and then swapped two different arms for the right-handed hitting O’Neill. The latter is a better fit for Boston’s roster as well as its ballpark, and presents more in terms of upside if he can stay on the field and return anywhere near his 2021 form.

The return looks a bit light for the Cardinals; Boston acquired Robertson from the Dodgers at the 2023 deadline as half of the return for a below-replacement level Enrique Hernández rental. But St. Louis has been publicly shopping O’Neill since the previous summer after spats with team management, and as a result, they didn’t have a whole lot of leverage remaining. He’s in his final year of arbitration.

New York Yankees acquire OFs Juan Soto ($23.8M) and Trent Grisham ($10.1M) from the San Diego Padres in exchange for RHPs Michael King ($33.4M), Drew Thorpe ($11.0M), Randy Vásquez ($5.9M) and Jhony Brito ($4.9M) and C Kyle Higashioka ($1.8M)

After weeks of extended (and largely public) negotiations, the Yankees finally got their man, adding a true superstar in Soto (along with a solid center field option in Grisham) in this blockbuster deal.

Soto - and, to a lesser extent, Grisham - are no-brainers for New York. The lineup was in desperate need of left-handed balance and the defense was lacking a real center fielder. With fans clamoring for a big splash after the team finished last in the division in 2023, Soto seemed like the obvious solution.

The cost to the Yankees extended beyond prospects. Soto and Grisham were projected to earn nearly $38M in arbitration, a lofty figure to fit into the budget (especially after adding Alex Verdugo’s $9.2M estimate and accounting for future additions). But New York is all-in and Soto is worth it, especially if the 2024 season convinces him to stay long-term, though the Boras client is unlikely to offer the Yankees any sort of discount. Grisham has an additional year of arbitration remaining and his plus defense and baserunning make him a clean fit on most rosters, but a return to at least a league-average batting line would certainly be welcome.

For the Padres, the July 2022 acquisition of Soto represented a shift to a bold, all-in approach, while his winter 2023 departure represents a change in the team’s short-term outlook. San Diego isn’t a market that can afford to run one of the top payrolls in the league and miss the playoffs, and that’s exactly what happened in 2023. With arguably the league’s top starting pitcher and top closer departing in Blake Snell and Josh Hader, the team desperately needed an infusion of pitching talent as well as substantial payroll space, and the easiest way to achieve both was by dealing Soto.

The return is significantly smaller than the package the Padres sent to Washington to acquire Soto, but that was a given; two and a half somewhat affordable years of Soto is much more valuable than one expensive year of him.

Still, the Padres added some real talent here. King is the headliner, a converted reliever who dominated in a starting role down the stretch in 2023. He likely can’t be counted on for 30 starts in 2024, but when he does pitch he looks like he’ll be a mid-rotation arm, and his history in relief means his remaining two years of arbitration will be very affordable. His $33.4M surplus may seem high, but in an offseason where Nick Martinez received a $26 million guarantee over two  years, the model’s ~$40M field value projection for King (a younger and better pitcher) seems very fair.

Thorpe was one of the best pitchers in the minors in 2023, and thus has some helium; his value has already jumped to $18.5M as of early March. Vázquez and Brito look more like back-end arms or swingmen, but with San Diego sorely lacking any kind of big league pitching depth, they’re both welcome additions. Higashioka will be a solid back-up for former top prospect Luis Campusano, who hasn’t been able to stay healthy in recent years.

The deal was rejected by the model as an overpay by New York, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad deal for the Yankees. If they wanted Soto, they weren’t going to let players like Vázquez or Brito hold up a deal; they were happy to overpay to make it happen. Plus, our values are context-neutral - Soto’s $33M salary projection isn’t as large of a deterrent to the Yankees as it would be to the Padres, let alone a team like the A’s. And finally, there’s The Preller Effect; that man breaks our model more than anyone else in baseball.

Pittsburgh Pirates acquire LHP Marco Gonzales (-$8.8M) and cash (reportedly $9.25M) from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for a PTBNL

The Braves found a suitor for Gonzales, and since he still had a bit of field value (around $3.4M), they didn’t have to eat his entire contract to do so. He’ll eat innings for Pittsburgh, and the $3M in cost savings for Atlanta likely outpaces the value of the eventual PTBNL by a wide margin.

Boston Red Sox acquire RHP Justin Slaten ($0.9M) from the New York Mets in exchange for LHP Ryan Ammons (not yet in system) and cash

Houston Astros acquire RHP Dylan Coleman ($0.0M) from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RHP Carlos Mateo (not yet in system)

A pair of Rule 5-related deals; Coleman was a 40-man casualty for Kansas City, which needed the spot available to allow it to select right-handed pitcher Matt Sauer from the Yankees, while Slaten was originally selected 8th in the draft by the Mets, and then flipped to the Red Sox (who weren’t sure he’d be available for their pick at 12).

Atlanta Braves acquire OF Jarred Kelenic ($19.4M), LHP Marco Gonzales (-$8.8M), 1B Evan White (-$13.6M) and cash ($4.5M) from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for RHPs Cole Phillips ($3.2M) and Jackson Kowar ($0.0M)

After sending Eugenio Suárez to Arizona, the Mariners continued to slash budget at the expense of their offense by tying Kelenic to a pair of underwater contracts in Gonzales and White. Once one of the game’s top prospects, Kelenic appeared to finally put it together at the big league level in 2023, though he cooled off considerably after a hot start. Even if he’s just an okay hitter and just a corner outfielder, his five cheap years of team control give him real value, especially considering his prospect pedigree.

The player return was underwhelming - a likely reliever in Kowar and a second-round pick in Phillips (both of whom have since undergone Tommy John Surgery) - but the larger benefit of the trade for Seattle was cash relief, amounting to $14.5M in 2024 and $24.5M overall. Essentially, Atlanta was able to buy five years of Kelenic for the cost of taking on Gonzales and White’s salaries, though neither player was ever likely to remain in the organization.

New York Yankees acquire OF Alex Verdugo ($4.8M) from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for RHPs Richard Fitts ($2.1M), Greg Weissert ($0.8M) and Nicholas Judice (not yet in system)

With rumors swirling about a much larger potential outfield acquisition, the Yankees chose to grab some insurance in Verdugo. While he hasn’t lived up to his lofty expectations as the headliner of the Mookie Betts trade, Verdugo checks off three important boxes for the Yankees as a left-handed hitter with on-base skills and solid corner outfield defense.

Projected to earn $9.2M in his final year of arbitration, Verdugo was on the outs in Boston given the team’s stock of young MLB-ready outfielders and potential budgetary constraints. Instead, they turned him into three viable depth arms, the best of whom (Fitts) could be a viable back-end starter in the next year or two.

Arizona Diamondbacks acquire 3B Eugenio Suárez ($8.2M) from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for RHP Carlos Vargas ($1.4M) and C Seby Zavala ($0.5M)

When the Mariners acquired Urías, it was assumed he would slot in at second base. Instead, they turned around and flipped one of their most productive hitters (and also a clubhouse favorite) in Suárez, seemingly to offload his $11M salary and $2M 2025 buyout.

The return was unspectacular. Vargas is a hard-throwing reliever, and it isn’t hard to imagine the Mariners turning him into a late-inning arm. But it’s still an odd choice for a pitching-heavy team with offensive weaknesses to trade one of its better hitters for a chance at a late-inning reliever. It becomes even more puzzling when considering Zavala, the second piece of the deal; he’s a backup catcher whom the Mariners could have picked up for free when the White Sox placed him on waivers a couple months prior.

Seattle’s loss is Arizona’s gain. The addition of Suárez stabilized what had been a weak third base position for the Diamondbacks. Even if his plus defensive ratings in 2023 were an aberration, and even if he’s closer to an average hitter than his 130 wRC+ peak, he represents a significant upgrade over Arizona’s in-house options, and at a very low cost.

This deal was accepted by our model as a major overpay by Seattle.

Seattle Mariners acquire IF Luis Urías ($1.2M) from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for RHP Isaiah Campbell ($1.9M)

The Red Sox picked up Urías in a buy-low deal at the 2023 deadline, and after an underwhelming couple of months in Boston, now it’s Seattle’s turn to roll the dice. Urías is only 26, he has an option remaining and there’s still hope he can return to his 2021-22 performance as a solid everyday player. However, he was due to earn $4.7M in arbitration and was a non-tender candidate for the Red Sox.

Instead, they turned him into an interesting young reliever in Campbell. He was effective in his 2023 debut, but the Mariners pump out relievers as well as any other team in the league, and they could afford to move him.

Kansas City Royals acquire RHP Kyle Wright ($3.5M) from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for RHP Jackson Kowar ($0.0M)

Once the fifth overall pick, Wright has weathered an up-and-down career. The former top prospect struggled in his first four big league seasons before breaking out in 2022, only to struggle in nine appearances in 2023 before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery.

Shoulders are scary, but given Wright’s prospect pedigree and strong 2022 season, he still has some value. With the Braves in win-now mode, they opted for a change of scenery candidate in Kowar. A former first-round pick himself, Kowar’s fastball velocity ticked up in 2023 and he may have a future out of the bullpen. But, thanks to a subsequent trade, that future won’t be with Atlanta.

Cleveland Guardians acquire RHP Scott Barlow ($4.6M) from the San Diego Padres in exchange for RHP Enyel de los Santos ($11.5M)

Between their record-high payroll in 2023, issues with their TV deal and the untimely passing of owner Peter Seidler, it became clear early in the offseason that the Padres would need to cut payroll. One of the easiest places to do so would be in the bullpen, where recent trade deadline acquisition Scott Barlow was projected to earn $7.1M in his final year of arbitration.

So the team shopped Barlow and found, by our approximation, a great deal. De los Santos has been just as valuable as Barlow the past two seasons, and comes with two additional years of cheaper team control. That makes this a curious move for the Guardians, who are also conscious of their payroll, but perhaps they are betting on Barlow’s upside; his standout 2021 season was more valuable (2.2 fWAR) than de los Santos has been over parts of five big league seasons combined (1.5 fWAR).

The model saw this deal as a major overpay by Cleveland.

Miami Marlins acquire RHP Calvin Faucher ($0.6M) and IF Vidal Bruján ($0.0M) from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for RHP Andrew Lindsey ($1.0M), IF Erick Lara (not yet in system) and a PTBNL or cash

The Marlins hired Peter Bendix away from the Rays to run their baseball ops department, and his first move with the team was to take a pair of fringe players with him. Bruján is the larger name of the two, a former top prospect who hasn’t found any big league success and is now out of options, while Faucher is a depth reliever.

The deal cleared two 40-man spots for Tampa Bay. It also netted the team a former 5th-round pick in Lindsey and a lottery ticket infielder in Lara.

Milwaukee Brewers acquire OF Jake Bauers (-$1.3M) from the New York Yankees in exchange for OFs Jace Avina (not yet in system) and Brian Sanchez (not yet in system)

Bauers was a 40-man roster casualty for New York after an okay season as a depth bat. He was a non-tender candidate, but instead Milwaukee flipped a pair of fringe prospects to add the left-handed hitter to their bench.

Colorado Rockies acquire RHP Cal Quantrill ($1.5M) from the Cleveland Guardians in exchange for C Kody Huff (not yet in system)

The Guardians made it clear early in the offseason that they would be cutting salary due to uncertainty with their TV deal, and Quantrill was number one on the chopping block. The 29-year-old struggled in 2023 and was projected to earn $6.6M in arbitration. Given their extensive history of developing young pitching, the Guardians could afford to lose Quantrill, and they DFA’d him as a result.

He landed with the pitching-starved Rockies in exchange for a middling catching prospect. Quantrill is unlikely to find much success in the thin air of Coors Field, but if he can eat a few innings without getting completely shelled, Colorado will be happy.

Atlanta Braves acquire LHP Aaron Bummer ($1.0M) from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for IFs Nicky Lopez ($5.1M) and Braden Shewmake ($2.0M), LHP Jared Shuster ($2.4M) and RHPs Michael Soroka (-$3.0M) and Riley Gowens (not yet in system)

In one move, the Braves turned most of their 40-man depth pieces into a solid left-handed reliever. While his ERA was bloated, Bummer’s peripherals were right in line with the rest of his career as a reliable set-up man, and for $5.5M (with a pair of affordable club options) he made for a more attractive option than most of what was available on a thin left-handed relief market.

The cost was low for Atlanta. Shewmake and Shuster come with first-round pedigree, but both profile as depth pieces at this point in their careers and didn’t project to have a spot on a loaded Braves roster. Lopez will provide solid infield defense, but little in terms of upside, and the model was too high on him as it sometimes is on similar glove-first infielders. Soroka was a non-tender candidate for Atlanta and is a huge question mark going forward after multiple significant injuries have derailed his career, and Gowens is a pure lottery ticket arm.

Still, that doesn’t make this a bad return for Chicago. The rebuilding team can afford to take a gamble on first-round talent in Shewmake, Shuster and Soroka, and a contender may flip a minor prospect for Lopez at the deadline. This group isn’t likely to amount to much, but it’s more upside than you’d expect a team to be able to collect in exchange for a reliever with a 6.79 ERA.

The model saw this deal as a moderate overpay by Atlanta; however, correcting for Lopez (he’s since been adjusted to $1.1M) brings the deal a lot closer.

Oakland Athletics acquire 1B/3B Abraham Toro (-$1.3M) from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for RHP Chad Patrick (not yet in system)

Toro was a non-tender candidate, but after getting virtually zero production out of the third base position in 2023, the A’s were willing to take a flier. The cost was a depth arm in Patrick, whom Oakland had acquired from the Diamondbacks in the Jace Peterson trade the previous trade deadline.

Philadelphia Phillies acquire OF Hendry Mendez ($2.5M) and IF Robert Moore ($3.3M) from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for IF Oliver Dunn (not yet in system)

This deal seemed odd at the time, the Brewers sacrificing two young players with real prospect value (neither of whom would need to be added to the 40-man until next offseason) in exchange for an unranked 25-year-old who spent all of 2023 in Double-A (and required 40-man protection).

But this was largely a case of our values lagging behind prospect evaluations. Both Mendez and Moore struggled in 2023, and as of early March their values have dipped to $1.6M and $0.9M respectively. Meanwhile, Dunn might just be a late bloomer, and he has a chance to factor into an unclear MLB infield picture in Milwaukee.

Philadelphia Phillies acquire RHP Michael Mercado ($1.6M) from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for RHP Adam Leverett (not yet in system) and cash

Seattle Mariners acquire C Blake Hunt ($2.3M) from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for C Tatem Levins (not yet in system)

As is a yearly tradition at this point, the Rays had a roster crunch heading into the 40-man protection deadline and needed to trim around the edges. They did so by sending Mercado and Hunt elsewhere in exchange for similar players who wouldn’t need roster protection.

On paper, the Mariners and Phillies benefit here, acquiring seemingly more valuable players. But knowing the Rays, it isn’t hard to imagine Levins or Leverett making a larger impact than expected.

Detroit Tigers acquire 1B/OF Mark Canha ($0.0M) from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for RHP Blake Holub (not yet in system)

The Tigers kicked off the offseason by picking up a solid veteran bat in Canha, who remains a tough at-bat and on-base threat despite a recent dip in power. He’ll likely get everyday playing time rotating between first base, corner outfield and DH.

We expected the small-market Brewers to decline Canha’s $11.5M club option, but instead they found a taker in Detroit. In exchange, they received a Double-A relief prospect without much prospect buzz. The cost savings (including the $2M buyout had they declined his club option) were likely the main incentive for Milwaukee.

About the Author

Joshua Iversen

Joshua Iversen

Joshua has been with BTV since it launched in 2019. Before that, he held various baseball writing jobs, including a stint at where he met BTV founder John Bitzer. He lives in Phoenix, AZ, where he works in consulting as a data analyst.