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OC Register: Hoornstra: Baseball’s Winter Meetings produced more winners than losers

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The 2022 Winter Meetings were a whirlwind. Before it could open its eyes and breathe, baseball’s annual off-season industry gathering produced a blockbuster free agent signing – Trea Turner’s 11-year, $300 million contract, with full no-trade protection from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Consider where the industry was a year ago. The MLB-imposed lockout forced the cancellation of the 2021 Winter Meetings. Now, the offseason is barely a month old and more than a billion dollars of guaranteed money has been spent. This must be what the end of Prohibition felt like.

In a few short days, the San Diego conclave produced more winners than losers, and enough of each to fill a column of modest length.


1. Yankees fans

For weeks if not months, we had been regaled about fan pressure being a driving force behind the New York Yankees’ need to re-sign American League MVP Aaron Judge. Before you could look up the German word for “anticipated schadenfreude,” Judge inked a nine-year, $360 million contract to return to The Bronx. It’s the largest average annual value for a position player contract in baseball history.

What the Yankees do the rest of this offseason matters – they’ve won the World Series only once this century, after all – but they can do so without the burden of having to replace the most productive season by a position player since Barry Bonds’ peak.

2. Perry Minasian

The Angels’ general manager left San Diego with a potential closer, Carlos Estevez, but Minasian did his best work before the Winter Meetings began. The three-year, $39 million contract for All-Star pitcher Tyler Anderson looks like a bargain in light of the contracts given to starting pitchers Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom and Taijuan Walker. The trade for Gio Urshela, a 3-WAR player last season, at the cost of a low-level infielder, could prove similarly wise. The cost to acquire Hunter Renfroe in a trade certainly would not go down in light of Judge’s contract.

The Angels have more work to do before they can start to talk about fielding a contending team in 2023. Still, they’ve addressed two major needs and should have wiggle room to bid on a free agent shortstop before worrying about incurring a luxury tax in 2023. That’s an awfully productive first month of the offseason.

3. The Philadelphia Phillies

After coming out of nowhere (OK, a 10-year playoff drought) to reach the World Series, the Phillies struck an 11-year contract with Turner, arguably the best available position player not named Judge.

The fact that Turner’s contract takes him through age 40 leaves room to speculate how valuable he and Bryce Harper will be in the 2030s(!). But their big moves – Turner, plus a four-year contract for Walker, a valuable mid-rotation starter – send a message to fans that the front office intends to contend beyond 2022.

4. Unsigned free agents

Spotrac lists more than 100 major league free agents still left for the taking. After seeing the oodles of dollars thrown around in San Diego, the money must be flowing more freely than any of them anticipated.

That’s why it’s still too soon to declare “winners” and “losers” of the entire offseason. There’s too much time left before spring training (67 days as of Thursday) and too much money available. For most teams, the best is yet to come.

That’s good news for …


1. The National League West

The Giants fell short in the race to lure Judge away from New York. The Dodgers lost Turner, Anderson, Cody Bellinger, Andrew Heaney and Chris Martin as free agents. The Padres were unsuccessful in their pursuits of Jose Abreu, Turner, and Judge, while first baseman Josh Bell and pitcher Mike Clevinger departed as free agents.

The Padres quickly pivoted to Xander Bogaerts, and reportedly issued an 11-year, $280 million contract of their own. In the case of the Giants, it stands to reason there is still money to spend. But what to make of the Dodgers?

Their executives are quick to tout the rising talent coming from Triple-A, and slower to outbid their rivals in free agency. Their most likely means for plugging their many roster holes could be the trade route, while re-setting under the luxury tax threshold and gearing up for the 2023 free agent class.

2. Tyler Anderson

How much money did Anderson leave on the table by rejecting the Dodgers’ qualifying offer (a $19.6 million guaranteed contract for 2023) and striking a three-year, $39 million deal with the Angels?

Consider that left-hander Jose Quintana – who is a year older than Anderson and less than two years removed from being waived by the Angels and designated for assignment by the Giants – will earn the same amount of money the next two seasons with the New York Mets. Anderson was an All-Star in 2022, a suitable fall-back for teams unwilling to meet the asking price for Carlos Rodon and others. This was a costly year to misread the market.

3. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Rafael Palmeiro

Fred McGriff was the lone Hall of Fame inductee introduced at the Winter Meetings, a unanimous selection by the 16-member Contemporary Era Committee. No other player up for election came close to being inducted, and that’s bad news for players previously rejected for their connection to performance-enhancing drugs.

The Hall’s stance toward these players has long been unfriendly. They saw their window for eligibility on the BBWAA ballot shrink from 15 years to 10 in 2014. The late Joe Morgan, in his capacity as the Hall’s vice chairman of the board, wrote a letter to voters urging against their induction in 2017.

This year, committee voters were limited to three votes – down from four a year ago – in Bonds, Clemens, and Palmeiro’s first year of eligibility. Could that possibly be a coincidence?

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