The Month That Was in Baseball: December 2023
Friday, December 1
If you can’t beat him, grab him. The New York Yankees claim 25-year-old outfielder Oscar Gonzalez after he was placed on waivers by Cleveland, one year after his turn as a clutch postseason hero with several walk-off hits for the Guardians—including a game-winning single against the Yankees in the ALDS. On a pop cultural level, Gonzalez is better known for using the theme to the children’s TV show SpongeBob SquarePants as his walk-up music. Gonzalez was lost at sea this past year, batting .214 with a pair of home runs and 12 RBIs over 173 at-bats.
The Miami Herald is reporting that the Marlins are ready to hire former San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler as one of four assistant general managers, operating under the team’s new president of baseball ops Peter Bendix. Kapler led the Giants for four seasons and won 2021 NL Manager of the Year honors after taking the team to an eye-popping 107-55 record.
Sunday, December 3
Former manager Jim Leyland is inducted into the Hall of Fame through a vote by the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee, a branch of the veterans’ committee which looks at managers, umpires and execs from 1980 to the present. Leyland is named on 15 of 16 ballots; those who come closest to the 12 needed for induction are Lou Piniella (11) and Bill White (10). Others on the ballot include recently retired umpire Joe West and executive Hank Peters. Leyland oversaw one contender built from scratch (the Pittsburgh Pirates of the early 1990s), another handed to him on a plate (the spare-no-expense 1997 Marlins, who won the World Series) and then two more pennants with the star-studded Detroit Tigers from 2006-13. He ranks 18th in career wins among major league managers with 1,769.
The Milwaukee Brewers are, to say the least, impressed with the evolution of Jackson Chourio. The 19-year-old Venezuelan-born outfielder is given an eight-year, $82 million contract—by far the largest deal given to any player who has yet to make his MLB debut. The total value of the deal could max out at $142.5 million with two team options and other incentive clauses. Between Double-A and a brief stay (six games) at Triple-A in 2023, Chourio batted .283 with 22 homers, 91 RBIs and 44 steals. He’s currently the #2 prospect in the MLB pipeline, after Baltimore’s Jackson Holliday, and is anticipated to make his debut with the parent club sometime in 2024.
The Seattle Mariners shed some decent talent—and a bit of payroll—by trading starting pitcher Marco Gonzales, outfielder Jarred Kelenic and first baseman Evan White to the Atlanta Braves for reliever Jackson Kowar and minor-leaguer pitcher Cole Phillips. Practically every player involved in this deal have been beset with caveats; Gonzales, once the rock of the Seattle rotation, has struggled and missed a majority of this past year due to arm surgery; Kelenic, once a top prospect, has not blossomed as the Mariners had hoped; White, who like Jackson Chourio above was handed an eight-figure deal prior to his first MLB at-bat, has been derailed by injuries and performed poorly when available; Phillips, the Braves’ second-round draft pick in 2022, is recovering from Tommy John surgery; and Kowar’s Atlanta tenure lasted barely two weeks, after having been traded from Kansas City in a recent offseason move.
Just two days later, the Braves will trade Gonzales to the Pirates for cash and the dreaded player to be named later.
Monday, December 4
The Philadelphia Phillies extend manager Rob Thomson’s contract one more year through the 2025 season, after leading the team to its second straight NLCS appearance. The 60-year-old Thomson, who turned the Phillies around after Joe Girardi’s firing early in the 2022 season, has a 155-118 record thus far in Philadelphia.
Pitcher Wade Miley is returning to Milwaukee for one year and $8.5 million after producing a solid 2023 effort with a 9-4 record and 3.14 ERA over 23 starts. The 37-year-old southpaw has a career 108-98 mark with a 4.06 ERA.
Tuesday, December 5
It’s a good day for Ohio’s two MLB teams as the Cleveland Guardians and Cincinnati Reds overcome slim odds and secure the top two draft picks in the 2024 MLB Amateur Draft via the draft lottery. For the Guardians, it will be their first-ever #1 pick since the start of the draft in 1965. Under the old rules in which teams picked in order of their record from worst to first, the Guardians and Reds would have had, respectively, the #9 and #13 picks—but in this, the second year of the lottery being used as a deterrence against tanking, they both managed to pull off upsets. The Oakland A’s, who had the majors’ worst mark at 50-112 and in earlier times would have been handed the #1 pick, has to settle for #4; Colorado and Kansas City, which had the same chances (18.3%) as the A’s, nab the #3 and #6 picks. Because the A’s continue to collect checks from revenue sharing, they’ll be ineligible for a top-six pick in 2025 after being eligible the two previous years. That’s a rule that also befalls the Washington Nationals—eligible for the past two years but not this year. Too bad; the first series of lotto balls fished out, determining the #1 selection, actually has the Nats’ number. A redo reveals the Guardians as the winner.
Will Erick Fedde follow in the footsteps of Miles Mikolas and Merrill Kelly and become the latest MLB wanderer-turned-borderline ace after a short stay in the Orient? The 30-year-old right-hander, who struggled for six years with the Nationals (21-33, 5.41 ERA), fled to Korea in 2023, put together a 20-6 record, 2.00 ERA and won the KBO MVP. As a result, Feede is returning to America thanks to a two-year, $15 million deal with the Chicago White Sox, who lost 101 games this past season and may lose top pitcher Dylan Cease to free agency.
Boston ships outfielder Alex Verdugo—the last man standing on the Red Sox’ side of the trade that sent Mookie Betts to the Dodgers—on his way to the New York Yankees in a rare deal between the two archrivals. Coming to Boston are reliever Greg Weissert and two minor league pitchers. An everyday starter for the Red Sox since 2021, Verdugo has been reliable but not entirely star-worthy—batting .264 with 37 doubles, 13 homers and 54 RBIs this past season.
Reliever Kirby Yates, who rebounded from Tommy John surgery and posted a solid 7-2 record, 3.28 ERA and five saves for Atlanta this past season, has inked for one year and $4.5 million with the world champion Texas Rangers.
Milwaukee fans can breathe a sigh of relief as Wisconsin state politicians agree to spend a half-billion dollars to fix up American Family Field, the Brewers’ home since 2001. Rumor had it that a failure to provide financial upkeep could have led to the team’s departure. The state will contribute $365 million, the City and County of Milwaukee will collectively add $135 million, and the Brewers will pony up $110 million for a final tab of $610 million—nearly twice what it cost to build the retractable-roofed ballpark.
Wednesday, December 6
A year and a half after landing Juan Soto, the San Diego Padres have sent him packing—to the Yankees. It’s part of a seven-player deal in which New York receives two (joining Soto is outfielder Trent Grisham) and gives away five, including reliever Michael King, pitchers Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez, catcher Kyle Higashioka and pitching prospect Drew Thorpe. Soto immediately joins Aaron Judge in New York as, arguably, baseball’s best double-barreled slugging combination. He’s also under Yankee control for one more season, becoming a free agent after next year—unless the Yankees can extend him.
The NL champion Arizona Diamondbacks add to an already solid rotation by inking Eduardo Rodriguez to a four-year, $80 million deal. The 30-year-old Venezuelan right-hander had a strong bounceback year with Detroit after off-field issues derailed his 2022 campaign; with the Tigers in 2023, Rodriguez finished 13-9 in 26 starts with a 3.30 ERA. Over eight years of play, he’s 82-53 with a 4.03 ERA.
The Orioles bring in veteran closer Craig Kimbrel on a one-year deal to make up for the loss of Felix Bautista, who will miss the 2024 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. The 35-year-old Kimbrel, eighth on the all-time saves list, saved 23 games in 71 appearances for the Phillies this past season while being named to his ninth All-Star team. The Orioles will be his eighth team—and fifth since 2021.
Outfielder of 16 years Vic Davalillo passes away after “emergency surgery” at the age of 84—or 87, according to some sources. The petite (5’7”, 150 lbs.) Davalillo was one of those pesky, reliable ballplayers who refused to vanish from the major league scene; he began his career with the 1963 Cleveland Indians and lasted through 1980, with a hit in six at-bats for the Dodgers. Along the way, he became the first Venezuelan-born player to win a Gold Glove (1964), earned his lone All-Star appearance in 1965, and played for three World Series champs (the 1971 Pirates and 1973-74 A’s) while also being on the Fall Classic roster for the 1977-78 Dodgers in their losses to the Yankees.
Thursday, December 7
Up-and-down third baseman Jeimer Candelario profits from a positive momentum swing this past year, signing a three-year contract worth $45 million with the Reds. The 30-year-old New York native set personal bests in 2023 with 22 homers and 70 RBIs, split between the Nationals and Cubs—but he’s also endured through a very inconsistent pattern of results, looking solid one year and off-kilter the next.
Faltering after a decent 2019 rookie campaign with the Reds, outfielder Nick Senzel has signed a one-year deal with Washington. Senzel stroked a career-best 13 homers with 42 RBIs in 2023, but also batted .236 with a .297 on-base percentage, leading to his recent release from Cincinnati.
Friday, December 8
While “Where in the World is Shohei Ohtani” reaches a fever pitch, a modest trade takes place with the Cardinals shipping two-time Gold Glove outfielder Tyler O’Neill to Boston for reliever Nick Robertson and minor-league pitcher Victor Santos. The 28-year-old O’Neill had a productive (.286 average, 34 home runs, 15 steals) 2021 season that got him enough votes to finish eighth in the NL MVP race, but has badly underwhelmed since; this past year, he batted only .231 with nine homers in 72 games.
Saturday, December 9
There’s elements of the expected and unexpected as Shohei Ohtani signs a new contract. The expected: He’s reeled in by the Dodgers, whom everyone thought had the upper hand from the start. The unexpected: Ohtani signs for 10 years and a stunning $700 million—nearly twice the value of Aaron Judge’s $360 million deal from last year, the previous high for a free-agent haul. Thus ends a whirlwind week in which Ohtani was rumored to be just about everywhere as MLB teams fiercely sought to sign the two-way superstar. But no one could match the Dodgers’ massive contract figure—one which was well above the projected $500 million, a figure few thought could be reached as Ohtani won’t be able to pitch in 2024. But with so little competition among elite hitters on the free agent market, everyone attempted to go all in on Ohtani.
While the Ohtani signing makes the Dodgers even stronger contenders for 2024, they’re not a lock to win the World Series; they desperately still need starting pitching, and even if all goes well in the regular season—as it often does for the Dodgers—they still have to avoid falling flat in the playoffs, as they have also continually done.
One of the more eye-opening aspects of Shohei Ohtani’s massive $700 million contract with the Dodgers is revealed as he’ll be deferring almost of all the contracted money—$680 million—after the playing portion of his deal is done. Which means he will earn, on average, only $2 million per year. This pay-now, pay-a-whole-lot-later approach will make it easier for the Dodgers to free up money in the short term for more players—starting pitchers, expectedly—to make them even stronger beyond the presence of Ohtani. Says Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler—or someone pretending to be him—on X: “Deferring that much money is so gangster.”
Sunday, December 10
Reliever Will Smith will suit up for his fourth team in three years as he signs a one-year, $5 million contract with Kansas City. The 34-year-old lefty struggled this past season in the closer role for Texas, saving 22 games but posting a 4.40 ERA as he was demoted from ninth-inning duties toward the end of the Rangers’ championship season. With the Royals, Smith will return to the ballclub for which he began his big-league career as a starter—going 6-9 with a 5.32 ERA in 2012.
Tuesday, December 12
After losing out on Shohei Ohtani, the San Francisco Giants reel in Korean star outfielder Jung-hoo Lee on a six-year, $113 million contract—the largest ever given to a hitter making his way across the Pacific. Because the Giants seem to like opt-outs, one is included after four years of the deal. The 25-year-old Lee is a veteran of seven full seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, owning an impressive career .340 batting average with fair power and a remarkable eye for the strike zone; over the last three seasons, he’s walked 177 times—and struck out just 92. He missed half of this past year with a broken ankle.
The Mets might want to consider banning all of their players from performing for teams outside of their organization. This past spring, New York lost closer Edwin Diaz for the full season after ripping his leg apart in a postgame celebration at the World Baseball Classic, setting off a firestorm of debate over the importance of the tournament relative to MLB regular season play. Now it’s been learned that infielder Ronny Mauricio, who arrived at the parent level this past season and batted .248 with two homers and seven steals in 26 games, has torn an ACL while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic and will miss a good chunk of the Mets’ coming season. It was Mauricio’s second—and, now, probably his last—year playing offseason ball in his native country.
Wednesday, December 13
Former Milwaukee favorite Rowdy Tellez has a new home as the free-agent slugger signs a one-year deal worth $3.2 million with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After smashing 35 home runs in 2022, the 28-year-old Sacramento native cooled off this past year with just 13 bombs over 105 games, batting a career-low .215 in the process. His one claim to fame in 2023 was pitching the final inning (not allowing a run) of a 16-1 victory at Miami on September 22 that clinched a postseason spot for the Brewers.
On his 100th birthday, the late Larry Doby receives the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal—considered the highest civilian award an American can receive. Doby is the second African-American ballplayer, after Jackie Robinson, to be given a roster spot on a modern-era MLB team when Cleveland brought him on late in the 1947 season. He was no token; Doby evolved into an eight-time All-Star (including an appearance in the 1946 Negro League game) and twice lead the AL in home runs. Doby is the third ballplayer to receive the award; the other two are Robinson and Roberto Clemente.
Thursday, December 14
In a trade most everyone saw coming, the Dodgers acquire pitcher Tyler Glasnow along with outfielder Manuel Margot from the Tampa Bay Rays, with pitcher Ryan Pepiot and reserve outfielder Jonny Deluca going the other way. The deal for Glasnow was highly rumored as the Dodgers are desperate for starting pitching to balance out a tremendous lineup recently bolstered with Shohei Ohtani—but Glasnow also comes with a delicate history of pitching health; he’s never thrown more than 120 innings in any of eight major league seasons, and he’s only made 37 starts over the past three years.
Pitcher Jack Flaherty, briefly considered the next best thing late in 2019 for St. Louis before things went somewhat sideways, nails down a one-year, $14 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. Between the Cardinals and Baltimore (after a trade deadline deal), Flaherty finished the 2023 season with an 8-9 record and 4.99 ERA, as he struggles to rediscover the ace-like magic that once so fleetingly propelled him.
The world champion Rangers slightly fortify their rotation by bringing on Tyler Mahle, late of the Minnesota Twins and Tommy John surgery—the latter of which will keep him from debuting for Texas until midway through the 2024 season. In five starts last year before going under the knife, Mahle was 1-2 with a 3.16 ERA.
Friday, December 15
It’s already known that the world champion Rangers will be without projected rotation starters Jacob deGrom and newly-signed Tyler Mahle through at least the first half of the 2024 season. You can now add Max Scherzer to that list. The 39-year-old ace has undergone back surgery that will keep him off the mound until around the All-Star Break; he is due $43 million in what will be the last year of a three-year contract.
The Kansas City Royals continue to bring on ex-Padres players. Several days after signing pitcher Seth Lugo to a three-year, $45 million contract, the Royals ink fellow former San Diego rotation guy Michael Wacha (14-4, 3.22 ERA in 2023) and outfielder Hunter Renfroe.
The deal with Wacha is for two years and $32 million—ironically, the same terms he was in line for with the Padres before they declined their team option on him. Renfroe, who’s played for five different teams since his early years in San Diego, will get two years and $13 million, with an opt-out after the first season; combined between the Angels and Reds this past season, he batted .233 with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs.
One more Padre is on the move, as veteran infielder/DH Matt Carpenter is shipped to Atlanta along with reliever Ray Kerr in exchange for minor-league outfielder Drew Campbell. After an astonishing but brief tenure with the 2022 Yankees—hitting .305 with 15 homers and 37 RBIs over just 128 at-bats—Carpenter struggled with the Padres this past year, batting just .176 with five homers in 76 games.
Some pundits believe that the Braves will flip Carpenter via another trade, as they have done recently with some other new (and brief) arrivals; three days later, the Braves will release him.
Saturday, December 16
The Dodgers are so bullish on Tyler Glasnow—or they simply have too much money to care—that they give the effective but oft-injured pitcher a five-year, $136.5 million extension with Los Angeles two days after being acquired by the team from Tampa Bay. Since 2019, Glasnow is 26-11, and only nine pitchers who have thrown more innings than his 332.2 has a better (3.03) ERA—but he’s only made 60 starts during that time, maxing out at 21 (120 innings) this past season.
In one more award presentation lacking no suspense whatsoever, 2023 MVPs Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna Jr. win the Hank Aaron Award for the year’s best offensive performer from each league.
Sunday, December 17
The Diamondbacks retain outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. for three years, $42 million and an opt-out after the second season. The 30-year-old Gurriel belted a career-high 24 home runs and knocked in 82 runs on a .261 batting average this past season for Arizona, earning his first All-Star roster spot; he’s further proof that the DBacks got the better of a deal in which he and rising catcher Gabriel Moreno were dealt to Arizona from Toronto for outfielder Daulton Varsho.
Monday, December 18
Veteran southpaw pitcher Martin Perez, off a couple of agreeable seasons with the Rangers, signs a one-year, $8 million deal with the Pirates in what can only be described as a bargain deal. The 32-year-old Venezuelan was 10-4 this past season with Texas, but his 4.45 ERA and demotion to the bullpen late in the year may have kept him from attracting a bigger contract. Still, he should be able to give the Pirates innings, not to mention some leadership potential.
Maryland state officials give the official okay on a 30-year lease extension for the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, ending a slightly uneasy year in which rumblings persisted of what the team might do if a deal fell through. Though the lease is for 30 years, it could be shortened to 15 if the Orioles are not allowed to develop the area around the 31-year-old ballpark.
Tuesday, December 19
Andrew McCutchen is coming back to the Pirates for one more year, signing a $5 million contract for 2024. The five-time All-Star and 2013 NL MVP, now 37, batted .256 with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs over 112 games in his return to Pittsburgh this past season, after spending the previous five years with a host of teams. Just one homer short of 300 for his career, McCutchen ranks in the Pirates’ modern-era top-10 lists for doubles, homers, RBIs, walks and stolen bases; he needs 76 hits to supplant Fred Clarke for #10 on the team’s hit list since 1900.
Wednesday, December 20
The Mets modestly bulk up, acquiring pitcher Adrian Houser and outfielder Tyrone Taylor from Milwaukee in exchange for minor league pitcher Coleman Crow. Houser was 8-5 with a 4.12 ERA over 23 appearances (21 starts) this past season for the Brewers, while Taylor walloped 10 home runs and 35 RBIs over 81 games, batting .234.
Thursday, December 21
The Dodgers strike it rich again, signing Japanese pitching wonder Yoshinobu Yamamoto to a 12-year, $325 million contract. It’s the largest contract ever handed out to a pitcher, and easily breaks the record payout to an America-bound major leaguer from the other side of the Pacific—nearly tripling the previous mark established just nine days earlier by Jung-hoo Lee. The 25-year-old Yamamoto had a brilliant seven-year career in Japan, where he posted a 75-30 record and eye-opening 1.72 ERA for the Orix Buffaloes.
The New York Mets reportedly offered the exact same contract as the Dodgers—but Yamamoto sided with Los Angeles, where he’ll have a teammate in fellow Japanese-born standout Shohei Ohtani.
Between the signings of Ohtani, Tyler Glasnow and now Yamamoto, the Dodgers have already spent over $1.1 billion on players this offseason. The other 29 MLB teams combined have spent less than $900 million to this moment.
Ohtani, meanwhile, has been named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year for the second time—having also won the honor in 2021. Placing second and third in the vote behind Ohtani, respectively, is soccer star Lionel Messi and tennis’ Novak Djokovic.
The average nine-inning major league game was shortened by 25 minutes this past season, but that’s not good enough for MLB—which rules to shorten the allotted time a pitcher has to make his delivery with runners on base, from 20 seconds to 18. The concern is that the average time of game was 2:37 in April—but by September, with players settling into a routine to maximized their time, it rose to 2:44. Worried that the creep in time would continue, MLB opted to quicken things a tad more. The time to throw a pitch with no one on base will remain at 15 seconds.
Other modifications are made to further quicken the pace. Mound visits are decreased from five to four; a pitcher no longer can delay the start of the pitch clock after receiving the ball and walking around the mound; and a pitcher who takes the mound to throw warm-up tosses before the start of an inning must face at least the first batter, except in case of injury.
Another rule alteration for 2024 that has nothing to do with pace is the widening of the runner’s lane to first base by six inches into fair territory, meaning they no longer have to run right on top of the foul line. There had been several recent instances where runners appeared to be on the right track toward first base, only to be called out for interference.
Friday, December 22
Ryan Minor, who passes away from cancer at the age of 49, did not have anything close to a remarkable major league career—batting a very unimpressive .177 in 142 games split between the Baltimore Orioles and the Montreal Expos from 1998-2001. But he will always be remembered for being the answer to one baseball’s oft-asked trivia questions: Who replaced Cal Ripken Jr. on the day he finally sat after playing in 2,632 straight games?
Minor got the unexpected call to take over on September 20, 1998, the day Ripken went up to Orioles manager Ray Miller and told him he was finally ready to take a day off. It would be only Minor’s third major league appearance and second start, collecting a single in four at-bats as the Orioles dropped a 5-4 decision to the visiting Yankees.
After being released by the Expos following the 2001 season, Minor returned full-time to the minors, hoping to return to The Show. But following four years stuck in the lower levels, he called it quits.
Saturday, December 23
We now officially know the price of the New York Mets finishing the 2023 season in fourth place of the NL East with a 75-87 record: $475.5 million. Payroll takes up $374.7 million, but luxury taxes add $100.8 million on top of that, in data obtained by the Associated Press. The Mets are just one of eight teams who will have to pay a luxury tax—and their levy is by far the largest of this past year, or any year for that matter. Also paying levies is San Diego ($39.7 million), the Yankees ($32.4 million), the Dodgers ($19.4 million), Philadelphia ($6.98 million), Toronto ($5.5 million), Atlanta ($3.2 million) and Texas ($1.8 million). In total, the $209.8 million in combined taxes are nearly triple that of 2022 ($78.5 million), which was the previous record.
The Padres poach from across the Pacific, signing Japanese reliever Yuki Matsui to a five-year deal worth $28 million. In 10 seasons with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, the 28-year-old Matsui appeared in 501 games, saving 236 of them with a 2.40 ERA. The deal is interesting not just in that Matsui has opt-outs after the third and fourth years, but that the Padres have their opt-out of sorts after the fourth year as well—but only if Matsui sustains a “serious elbow injury.”
Sunday, December 24
The Seattle Mariners hand Mitch Garver a nice Christmas Eve gift, signing the 32-year-old DH/catcher to a two-year, $24 million contract. Garver productively contributed to the Rangers’ 2023 championship season, pounding out 19 home runs with 50 RBIs on a .270 average over just 87 games; in the postseason, he belted three more homers with 14 RBIs in 14 games.
Tuesday, December 26
Catcher Martin Maldonado looks to be the new catcher for the Chicago White Sox, signing a one-year, $4 million deal with an additional vesting option of another $4 million for 2025, according to reports. At 37, Maldonado isn’t the defensive stalwart he once was, nor is he a big-time batter that ne never really was; his career batting average is .207, and he’s hit below the Mendoza Line each of the past three seasons. He’s expected to play part-time in 2024 alongside former Astros teammate Korey Lee.
Thursday, December 28
This is not a good day for Wander Franco if he’s truly looking to return to the good graces of MLB and the Tampa Bay Rays. The talented 22-year-old shortstop is asked to respond to a summons filed in his native Dominican Republic in regards to allegations of relationships with two minors. But he’s a no-show, with no word on his whereabouts except for a document viewed by the Associated Press stating that he’s “dismissed” his legal team. Franco, who hasn’t played since August 12—when he was placed on administrative leave while MLB checked out the accusations—may also be facing even more trouble as a third minor has emerged speaking of an inappropriate relationship, sources tell ESPN.
Note to Franco: You’d better come out of hiding soon and have a convincing story to tell. MLB always has its talons ultra-sharpened when going after players committing the kind of acts you’ve been accused of.
Veteran outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, fresh off his fourth Gold Glove award and a pretty decent offensive campaign by his standards, has agreed to return to the Toronto Blue Jays for one year and $10.5 million. Thee 33-year-old Kiermaier batted .265 with 21 doubles, six triples, eight home runs, 36 RBIs and 14 steals over 370 at-bats this past season.
Friday, December 29
Lucas Giolito, who endured through an up-and-down 2023 season split between three American League ballclubs, signs for two years and $38.5 million with the Boston Red Sox; the deal includes an opt-out after the first season. The 29-year-old right-hander, once considered a rising star ace, suffered through a 4.90 ERA in 2022—and pitched well with the Chicago White Sox through the first four months of 2023 (6-6 record, 3.79 ERA), before being dealt at the trade deadline to the Los Angeles Angels, and then to Cleveland when the Angels, after just one month, threw the towel in on the year just as the White Sox had done earlier. Giolito bombed with both the Angels and Guardians, going a combined 2-9 in 12 starts with an awful 6.96 ERA—allowing 21 home runs over just 63.1 innings. Overall for the year, Giolito conceded an AL-high 41 dingers.
The Blue Jays bring on infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa, whose once promising career has sputtered over the past couple of seasons with the Yankees after much better campaigns with the Texas Rangers. This past year, Kiner-Falefa batted .242 over 113 games with minute power and bad on-base efficiency (28 walks in 361 plate appearances), salvaged only by 14 steals and an ability to take on any position asked of him.
Sunday, December 30
The Red Sox send seven-time All-Star and (in recent years) injured-plagued ace Chris Sale to the Braves in exchange for promising shortstop Vaughn Grissom, whose progress was stalled by a crowded depth chart in Atlanta. Sale, who turns 35 at the end of March, will have $17 million of his $27.5 million salary paid for by Boston in what will be the last year of his eight-year contract; the Braves inherit a club option for 2025. In 2023, the lanky left-hander was 6-5 with a blasé 4.30 ERA, but the real victory is that he started 20 games after making just 11 over the previous three seasons. Grissom, meanwhile, impressed the Red Sox back on August 10, 2022 when he became the youngest player in modern MLB history to collect both a home run and stolen base in his first major league game at Fenway Park against Boston. This past season, Grissom was largely stuck at the Triple-A level, where he batted .330.
The Reds take a one-year, $16 million chance on pitcher Frankie Montas, the 30-year-old right-hander sidelined for all but one short (1.1 innings) start with a major shoulder injury in 2023 after a terrible (1-3, 6.35 ERA) second half with the Yankees the year before. Montas will be counted on to return to the form he showed in five-plus years at Oakland, where he was 35-30 with a 3.70 ERA.
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