This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: November 2023

Texas Roadhouse Romp: The Rangers Finally Win it All
It’s Vegas, Baby for the A’s—But When?    A Very Predictable Awards Season

October 2023    Comebacker Index    December 2023

Wednesday, November 1

With their 11th road victory without a loss in the postseason, the Texas Rangers become world champions for the first time in their 63-year history, defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks at Phoenix, 5-0. No-hit by Arizona starter Zac Gallen through the first six innings, the Rangers break up a scoreless game in the seventh when the first three batters reach base—with Mitch Garver, the last of those three, singling home Corey Seager for the game’s first run. The 1-0 lead becomes 5-0 in the ninth as Texas executes a pair of knockout punches: Jonah Heim’s two-run single that rolls under the glove of DBacks center fielder Alek Thomas to the center-field wall and, three batters later, a two-run homer from Marcus Semien. Josh Sborz pitches a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to complete the shutout, striking out Ketel Marte for the final out and initiating a celebration on the field and in the stands with a somewhat sizeable contingent of Rangers fans.

The Rangers have numerous rabbit feet to rub through their victorious postseason run. Besides being undefeated on the road, they’re 11-0 when scoring first, and prevail in each of Nathan Eovaldi’s six starts. Eovaldi failed to gain credit only once, with the Rangers’ 6-5, 11-inning win over the Diamondbacks in World Series Game One. 

This is the fourth World Series title for first-year manager Bruce Bochy, having won three previous times with San Francisco; only three other managers—Joe McCarthy (seven), Casey Stengel (seven) and Connie Mack (five)—have won more. But here’s the odd part: Bochy is below .500 (2,093-2,101) for his career in regular season managing, but over the mark (2,050-2,138) when adding in his much tougher postseason competition. 

Winning the World Series MVP is Corey Seager, who’s 6-for-21 with three homers and a double; it’s his second such honor, having previously won it with the 2020 Dodgers, and he joins Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson as multiple MVPs in the Fall Classic. 

Texas rookie Evan Carter reaches base in all 17 postseason games; his nine doubles set a playoff record.

Marte finishes the night 0-for-2 with three walks, ending his MLB postseason-record 20-game hit streak. 

The Rangers are the third team to win a World Series just two years after losing 100-plus games; the other two are the 1914 Boston Braves and 1969 New York Mets, both of whom were tagged with the ‘miracle’ tag. They’re the first team to win it all a year after finishing 26 games or more below the .500 mark, having gone 68-94 in 2022. 

Thanks to the Rangers, road teams were 26-15 this postseason. 

The Rangers’ triumph leaves five MLB teams without ever having won a World Series: San Diego, Milwaukee, Seattle, Colorado and Tampa Bay. Only the Mariners have never reached a World Series.

Thursday, November 2

Fearful of losing its hallowed antitrust exemption it’s enjoyed for 101 years, MLB reaches an out-of-court settlement with four minor league ballclubs which were stripped of their affiliations with major league teams in 2020. That year, MLB took control of the minors and downsized membership from 160 teams to 120, leading to multiple lawsuits from teams that were cast out. Terms of the settlement are not made public, and MLB declines to comment.

Baseball fans, perhaps turned off by the absence of top teams eliminated early in the 2023 postseason, switched off Fox and watched something else as two lower-seeded wild card teams battled in the World Series. The five-game series between the Rangers and Diamondbacks averaged an all-time low 9.11 million viewers; the previous low was 9.79 million for the pandemic Fall Classic between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays.

Who knows; had the World Series matched up teams with far better regular season records, like Atlanta vs. Baltimore or a rematch between the Dodgers and Houston, maybe more viewers would have tuned in. As it was, a 90-win team facing off against an 84-win team just didn’t seem to generate the excitement, despite some intriguing storylines.

Max Muncy will remain a member of the Dodgers, as the pending free agent signs for two years and $24 million through 2025 with a $10 million club option for 2026. The payout seems surprisingly low for a player who, despite a career .227 batting average, wields a great deal of pop and patience, with 36 homers, 105 RBIs and 85 walks this past season.

Friday, November 3

A gathering estimated at over 500,000 crowds the streets and plazas of Arlington, Texas, to help celebrate the 2023 world champion Texas Rangers. The parade route, a two-mile loop encircles the Rangers’ former yard (Globe Life Park) and ends at their current ballpark (Globe Life Field) where players and manager Bruce Bochy speak to the fans. World Series MVP Corey Seager has one of the better lines when he tells the crowd, “Everyone was wondering what would happen if the Rangers didn’t win the World Series. I guess we’ll never know.” As for Bochy, who with the retirement of Houston’s Dusty Baker is, for the moment, MLB’s oldest active manager at age 68, he has no plans of stepping down and will seek more world titles for the Rangers. “(Winning it all) doesn’t get old, trust me,” Bochy says.

After a terrific comeback season (.306 average, 26 home runs, 97 RBIs), Cody Bellinger declines a 2024 player option with the Cubs and enters free agency. This is also the case in Boston, where fellow ex-Dodger Justin Turner says no to a second year with the Red Sox, as does pitcher Mike Clevinger with the Chicago White Sox. The Pale Hose also refuse to enact a $15 million team option on Liam Hendriks, which comes as no surprise as the veteran closer is not expected to pitch next year while recovering from Tommy John surgery. And in Toronto, the Blue Jays and second baseman Whit Merrifield agree to part ways, as they both decline an $18 million mutual option for next season.

Long-time Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, also a free agent, undergoes shoulder surgery and doesn’t anticipate a return to action until next summer. Though the future Hall of Famer had an overall strong campaign with a 13-5 record and 2.46 ERA over 24 starts, his throwing shoulder became more troublesome as the year wore on, missing six weeks in mid-summer; he was bombed in his one playoff start, allowing six runs on six hits while recording just one out in NLDS Game One against Arizona.

Saturday, November 4

The White Sox refuse Tim Anderson’s $14 million team option for 2024, paying him a $1 million buyout instead. The two-time All-Star and former batting champ struggled this past year, batting .245 with an MLB-low .582 OPS among among qualified batters; his contentious disposition also get the best of him as he engaged in a silly brawl with Cleveland star Jose Ramirez on August 5, resulting in him getting knocked on his butt.

If Joey Votto is to return to Cincinnati for an 18th season, he’ll have to sign a new deal with the Reds that will likely pay him less than the $20 million team option they otherwise would have exercised for next year. The 40-year-old former MVP and six-time All-Star, who batted .202 with 14 homers and 38 RBIs in 65 games this past season, gets a $7 million buyout and becomes a free agent.

Sunday, November 5

The 2023 Gold Gloves are handed out, with 13 first-timers—including two rookies in Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe and Colorado center fielder Brenton Doyle—among the recipients. (Volpe is the first Yankee rookie ever to win the honor.) Two members of the Toronto Blue Jays, center fielder Kevin Kiermaier and third baseman Matt Chapman, each win their fourth Glove, earning co-seniority rights over all other honorees; Pittsburgh’s Ke’Bryan Hayes gets the NL Glove at third base, snapping an 11-year streak run up by Nolan Arenado—who didn’t even make the cut as one of three finalists at the position. The most represented teams are the world champion Rangers and Chicago Cubs, each of whom have three winners. Being honored for Texas is first baseman Nathaniel Lowe, catcher Jonah Heim and right fielder Adolis Garcia; for the Cubs, it’s second baseman Nico Hoerner, shortstop Dansby Swanson and left fielder Ian Happ.

The Miami Marlins hire Tampa Bay GM Peter Bendix as their new head of baseball operations, effectively replacing former Marlins GM Kim Ng—who left when she learned that they were creating a new position, in this case the one Bendix is being appointed to, reducing her say on player transactions. The Marlins are just one of many teams hoping to emulate the Rays’ modus operandi of winning on a budget.

While some players will remain with their present teams with their 2024 options exercised, many others become free agents either by their own hand or by that of their teams. The Cubs will being back veteran pitcher Kyle Hendricks for $16.5 million, while the Marlins’ Josh Bell will return to Miami after activating his player option for a similar dollar figure. Jorge Soler, Bell’s brief teammate at the end of this past season, declines his option and chooses to become a free agent—as does Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman, San Francisco pitcher Sean Manaea and Milwaukee pitcher Wade Miley. Teams who have control of 2024 options say no to pitchers Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly with the Los Angeles Dodgers and pitcher Michael Wacha in San Diego.

Monday, November 6

It’s an active day on the managerial market, with the biggest news coming out of Chicago where the Cubs fire David Ross after four seasons and sign former Milwaukee skipper Craig Counsell to a record-shattering five-year, $40 million contract. Counsell’s $8 million per-year salary will be considerably higher than that of any manager this past season; the highest take-home for a skipper in 2023 was the $4.5 million earned by Cleveland’s Terry Francona, who retired at year’s end.

Speaking of the Guardians, they find a replacement for Francona in Stephen Vogt, the two-time All-Star catcher who played his final game in 2022. The 39-year-old Vogt will take over the majors’ youngest team, which stumbled to a 76-86, third-place finish after winning the AL Central a year earlier.

In New York, the Mets hire Yankee bench coach Carlos Mendoza as their new manager. As a player, the 49-year-old former outfielder had two small cameos at the major league level, for the 1997 Mets and 2000 Rockies; he otherwise was chained to the minors for nine seasons. Mendoza began his coaching career in the Yankee organization in 2009, and joined the parent team’s staff in 2017.

Finally, Arizona skipper Torey Lovullo has his contract extended through 2026 after taking the Diamondbacks to the World Series. Lovullo is already the longest-serving coach in DBacks franchise history; should he not get fired through the duration of the extension, he’ll have served as Arizona pilot for 10 seasons.

Domingo German, who pitched baseball’s first perfect game in 10 years for the Yankees this past season—then entered alcohol rehab a month later—refuses a demotion to the minors and is granted free agency. German started 19 games for New York this past season, going 5-7 with a 4.56 ERA.

The Atlanta Braves make a couple of noteworthy moves, refusing the 2024 option on 2021 postseason hero Eddie Rosario while picking up the option on veteran pitcher Charlie Morton, who turns 40 next week. The 32-year-old Rosario batted .255 with 21 homers and 74 RBIs in 2023, while Morton finished with a 14-12 record and 3.64 ERA.

Seven top players slated for free agency are given the qualifying offer from their incumbent teams to remain for one more year at a salary of $20.325 million. It’s not expected than any of them—Angels’ two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, San Diego closer Josh Hader and standout starter Blake Snell, Philadelphia ace Aaron Nola, Minnesota hurler Sonny Gray, Toronto third baseman Matt Chapman and Comeback Player of the Year candidate Cody Bellinger—will accept the offer. The teams making the offers likely know that the players won’t accept, but need to do so in order to be granted an additional selection in next year’s draft.

One of the top free agents this winter will be someone few have ever heard of—at least on this side of the Pacific. Yoshinobu Yamamoto of Japan’s Orix Buffaloes has been given the go-ahead to seek an MLB employer after seven eye-opening seasons in which he posted a 70-29 record, 1.82 ERA and 0.935 WHIP. This past season, the 25-year-old right-hander was 16-6 with an excellent 1.21 ERA and 0.884 WHIP.

The top three finalists for each major postseason award (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year) are revealed, with the only suspense regarding the MVP being which two players will be runner-up to likely winners Shohei Ohtani (AL) and Ronald Acuna Jr. (NL). Grouped with Ohtani are two Rangers stars, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien; in the mix with Acuna are Dodgers standouts Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. The AL Cy Young candidates include the favorite in the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole, along with Toronto’s Kevin Gausman and Minnesota’s Sonny Gray; in the NL, it’s the Padres’ Blake Snell, San Francisco’s Logan Webb and Arizona’s Zac Gallen. (Surprisingly, the Cubs’ Justin Steele—our pick for the NL’s best pitcher—didn’t make the final cut.) The awards will be announced next week.

Tuesday, November 7

A vote this month by MLB owners to approve the Oakland A’s move to Las Vegas remains on track after a Nevada judge throws out an attempt by the state’s teachers union to allow voters a say in approving the $380 million in public funds needed to build a new ballpark. The union, which complains that the money earmarked for the ballpark could be better spent—on schools, for instance—says it will appeal the judge’s decision with the hope that the case can be heard by the Nevada Supreme Court.

Back in Oakland, the A’s extend manager Mark Kotsay’s contract through 2025, even as he’s overseen a team that’s gone 110-212 over his first two years as team pilot. Management obviously realizes that he’s been given a bad hand with young, inexperienced—and inexpensive—rosters, but it has been impressed with his ability to connect with the young players and keep their spirits high during deeply discouraging times.

Aaron Boone still has a job as the Yankees’ manager, but he must have been sweating when he heard that owner Hal Steinbrenner was seeking opinion from players, coaches and even former Yankee players as to their feelings on the subject—in other words, a vote of confidence. Apparently, the majority seems to be good with Boone.

Yankee general manager Brian Cashman is more bullish—and a bit confrontational—on the future of the team as he meets (or clashes) with reporters as all 30 MLB GMs huddle together for three days of meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I’m proud of our people, and I’m proud of our process,” Cashman said. “Doesn’t mean we’re firing on all cylinders, doesn’t mean we’re the best in class, but I think we’re pretty f**king good, personally…I’m looking forward to ’24 being a better year than ’23.” Cashman had better be looking forward to some improvement; the Yankees finished the 2023 season with their worst record (82-80) in 31 years.

Wednesday, November 8

In a surprising move, the Los Angeles Angels hire 71-year-old Ron Washington to a two-year contract. The longtime baseball coach and two-time pennant-winning manager of the Rangers (2010-11) thus unseats current Texas skipper Bruce Bochy as the game’s oldest pilot, and will be encouraged to be as much a mentor as manager to a roster which may skew young with free agent superstar Shohei Ohtani likely to bolt to another team.

Thursday, November 9

The 2023 Silver Slugger awards are announced, honoring the best hitters at each position in each league; call it the offensive equivalent to the Gold Gloves. Seven first-time awardees are named, including AL batting champ Yandy Diaz (Tampa Bay), MLB home run leader Matt Olson (Atlanta) and AL Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson (Baltimore). Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts wins his sixth Slugger nod, the most among all recipients. Sluggers are also handed out to whole teams for the first time, with the Rangers and Braves taking AL and NL awards, respectively. Individually, the Braves have three winners, while the Rangers and Orioles net two each.

Sunday, November 12

The Houston Astros officially name Joe Espada as the team’s new manager, replacing retiring veteran Dusty Baker. The 48-year-old Espada has served as the Astros’ bench coach since 2018—so he doesn’t have the baggage of being either participant or witness to the team’s rampant cheating in 2017. Previous to his Houston tenure, the Puerto Rico native was third base coach for the Marlins (2010-13) and Yankees (2015-17).

Monday, November 13

Awards week begins with Arizona outfielder Corbin Carroll and Baltimore third baseman Gunnar Henderson being named Rookies of the Year in the NL and AL, respectively. Both players are unanimous picks, only the fifth time that has occurred in the 77-year history of the award. Carroll is the first Diamondbacks player to win the award; Henderson is the eighth member of the Browns/Orioles franchise to get the honor, and the first since reliever Gregg Olson in 1989. Finishing second to Carroll in NL voting is Mets pitcher Kodai Senga; Cleveland pitcher Tanner Bibee places second to Henderson in the AL.

Tuesday, November 14

Peter Seidler, majority owner of the San Diego Padres since 2020, passes away at the age of 63. Though no cause of death is revealed, it was known that Seidler had twice overcome cancer and was battling recent health issues. The grandson of legendary Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, Seidler was aggressive in building a championship-caliber roster in a mid-sized market—and even though the fans responded with over three million turning the turnstiles at Petco Park this past year, winning it all proved elusive as the Padres failed to even make the postseason despite MLB’s third-largest payroll. Seidler was well-loved by Padres fans, not just for trying to build a winner but for championing the community, becoming a driving force in the team’s involvement to curtail cancer and local homelessness, among other activities.

In the tightest result likely to be seen among the four major postseason awards being given out this week, Miami’s Skip Schumaker emerges as the NL Manager of the Year by a slim margin over second-place Craig Counsell of the Milwaukee Brewers. Six managers manage to get first-place votes; Atlanta’s Brian Snitker gets the same number of top votes (eight) as Schumaker, but finishes third by being named on only 12 of 30 ballots. Even Schumaker fails to place on six of the ballots. Schumaker is the fourth Marlins manager to be given the honor, and the ninth overall to win in his maiden year of managing.

This is the fourth time that Counsell, who recently signed with the Cubs, finishes second for the NL award. He has never won it.

In a far less tight vote, the AL Manager of the Year award goes to Baltimore’s Brandon Hyde, who guided the Orioles to their first 100-win season since 1980. Hyde, who finished runner-up for last year’s award, gets 27 of 30 first-place nods; Texas’ Bruce Bochy, who finishes second, gets the other three.

All seven players tempted with qualifying offers of $20.3 million to stay with their incumbent teams one extra year decline, officially making them free agents. Included among the seven is likely AL MVP Shohei Ohtani and likely NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell. It’s the first time since 2017 that no one has accepted the qualifying offer.

Wednesday, November 15

Free agent pitcher Blake Snell is awarded his second career Cy Young Award, gaining 28 of 30 first-place votes after an effective (and unique) season in which he led the NL in both ERA (2.25) and walks (99) for the Padres. He’s the fifth San Diego pitcher to win the award, and the seventh to win in both leagues—having previously been honored on the AL side while pitching for Tampa Bay in 2018.

The two other first-place nods are split between San Francisco’s Logan Webb (who finishes second overall in the vote) and Arizona’s Zac Gallen. The Cubs’ Justin Steele, who TGG named as NL Pitcher of the Year, finishes fifth in the vote.

The AL Cy, meanwhile, is bestowed upon the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole after an excellent campaign in which he finished 15-4 with AL highs in ERA (2.63), win percentage (.789), innings (209), shutouts (two) and WHIP (0.98). This is the first Cy for Cole, who receives all 30 first-place votes, after finishing runner-up twice—including a close second to then-Houston teammate Justin Verlander in 2019. Cole is the sixth Yankee to win the award, and the first since Roger Clemens in 2001.

Finishing second in the AL vote is Minnesota’s Sonny Gray, whose 2.79 ERA ranked second behind Cole despite an 8-8 record; Toronto’s Kevin Gausman finishes third.

MLB really, really doesn’t want to see the average game time start to tick back upward again. Although the average game lasted two hours and 40 minutes this past season—over 20 minutes quicker than 2022—it gradually went up from the first month (2:37 in April) to the last (2:44 in September) as pitchers and batters figured out how to maximize their allotted time. So, MLB is now looking to chip away at the late-season creep by reducing the amount of time pitchers have between pitches, from the current 20 seconds to 18, when there is a runner on base. But pitchers are concerned that speeding up the game any further could increase the potential for injuries, which rose in number this past year with the introduction of the pitch clock. While players have a say on any adjustments, they represent only four members of the 11-member competition committee, with MLB ownership reps holding the majority with six slots; a rep for the umpires holds the 11th.

Thursday, November 16

It’s official: MLB owners unanimously approve the moving of the A’s from Oakland to Las Vegas. It’s the second relocation by a major league team over the last half-century, the other being the 2005 move by the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C. to become the Washington Nationals. Quite graciously, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is waiving a $300 million relocation fee for the A’s. If all goes as planned, Las Vegas will be the fourth city that the A’s call home over their 123-year history. They began as the Philadelphia Athletics in 1901—winning five world titles amid several boom-and-bust periods under long-time manager Connie Mack—moved to Kansas City in 1955, where it failed to achieve a winning record in any of 13 seasons, then headed further west to Oakland in 1968, all but echoing the Philadelphia experience with extreme high times (three straight World Series triumphs from 1972-74) and low times (Charlie Finley’s final years in the late 1970s, and the last several under assailed Vegas-bound owner John Fisher).

Two questions remain: When do the A’s begin playing in Vegas, and where do they play before then? They’re contractually bound to the Oakland Coliseum for the 2024 season—making them awkward lame ducks, a la the 1965 Milwaukee Braves—while the proposed new ballpark on the Las Vegas Strip, though approved by Nevada state officials, is still in the early design stages and is threatened by a lawsuit from the state’s teachers union over the $380 million in allocated public funding, which at the very least could delay the $1.5 billion project.

Even if the A’s do get everything they want and begin play at the site currently being held warm by the famed Tropicana Hotel, will they get everything they want? The ballpark’s planned capacity is currently just over 30,000, meaning they can only max out at 2.5 million—a figure good for only 18th in MLB, per 2023 attendance. Furthermore, the compact acreage upon which the ballpark will be built makes it difficult to rig up a retractable roof apparatus, badly needed to keep spectators from overheating in the vicious Vegas summer climate.

The A’s move will be the death of pro sports in Oakland. Fifty years ago, the Coliseum complex (stadium and adjacent arena) was home to teams from all four major pro sports leagues. Once the A’s depart, they’ll be none left, following the recent exits of football’s Raiders (also to Vegas) and basketball’s Warriors (across the bay to San Francisco). Oakland mayor Sheng Thao, who’ll be unfairly tagged as the person ‘who let the A’s leave,’ appears committed to bringing baseball back to her city via the expansion route.

Some A’s fans haven’t given up the fight. Before the owners voted to approve the move, a trio of fans calling themselves the Oakland 68s traveled to Arlington, Texas—where all 30 MLB owners are currently assembled for annual meetings—and caught up to Fisher in the hotel bar. To the credit of Fisher, who’s constantly and physically stood in the shadows as A’s fans curse his name, he was bold enough not to run away and spend some “10-15 minutes” with the group for a civilized debate. While the fans pled their case for the team to stay in Oakland, Fisher said that he had tried for too long to get a new ballpark deal done in Oakland, and that any new facility there would be built much later than the proposed Vegas ballpark. His parting words to the three fans: “It’s been a lot worse for me than you.” 

The good news for Vegas baseball fans, besides the arrival of a team they can call their own: They’ll likely no longer have five other teams (Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Angels and Diamondbacks) blacked out on their app.

Shohei Ohtani wins his second MVP—unanimously, as he did the first time—in three years, taking AL honors after another superlative campaign with the Angels both at the plate (.302 batting average, 44 home runs) and on the mound (10-5 record, 3.14 ERA). He’s the second Angels player to win the award multiple times, after Mike Trout (2014, 2016, 2019). The Rangers’ Corey Seager finishes second in the vote, receiving 24 second-place nods; his second base teammate, Marcus Semien, places third, followed by Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez and Houston’s Kyle Tucker. AL Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson is eighth in the vote; AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole gets the most votes among pitchers, placing 11th.

Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. takes the NL MVP, also unanimously, as a nod to an eye-opening, highly productive season in which he batted .337, blasted 41 homers, stole 73 bases and scored 149 runs—the latter two figures breaking modern-era franchise records. He’s the seventh Braves player to win the MVP, and the first in a full season since Chipper Jones in 1999 (Freddie Freeman won the honor for Atlanta during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign). The Dodgers’ Mookie Betts, for whom some click-bated their case of having a better year than Acuna, finishes second with all 30 second-place votes. Teammate Freeman barely edges out Atlanta first baseman Matt Olson for third; NL Rookie of the Year Corbin Carroll places fifth.

The Brewers hire Craig Counsell’s replacement from within, naming Pat Murphy—their bench coach of the last eight years—as the team’s new manager. At 65, Murphy is not a young dude, and has limited major league managerial experience—guiding the 2015 Padres to a 42-54 record under his watch on an interim basis after Bud Black was fired. Murphy is not likely to be a choir boy in the Milwaukee dugout; in that one short tenure as San Diego skipper, he was ejected five times to lead the majors.

Atlanta is announced as host of the 2025 All-Star Game, to be held four years after the 2021 game was taken away from the city in protest over the curtailing of voting rights in the State of Georgia. Nothing has changed since then on the political front, but commissioner Manfred believes the Braves, who he calls “a great organization,” now deserves to host the event.

Friday, November 17

The non-tender deadline arrives as MLB teams release arbitration-eligible players, making familiar names free agents. Among them: Milwaukee pitcher Brandon Woodruff (who’s slated to miss all of next season as he recovers from shoulder surgery), Brewers first baseman Rowdy Tellez, St. Louis pitcher Dakota Hudson, Miami catcher Jacob Stallings, Toronto reliever Adam Cimber, Mets slugger Daniel Vogelbach, Cincinnati outfielder Nick Senzel, and Detroit outfielder Austin Meadows and pitcher Spencer Turnbull.

The Braves finish a curious trade in which they send five players—including infielder Nicky Lopez and once-promising yet oft-injured pitcher Mike Soroka—to the Chicago White Sox for southpaw reliever Aaron Bummer, who posted a 6.79 ERA over 61 appearances to go with a 5-5 record. Lopez and Soroka were likely to be non-tendered by the Braves, so they opt to get some value in Bummer by sending them to Chicago instead.

Pitcher Cal Quantrill, recently DFA’d by the Cleveland Guardians, is traded to Colorado for minor league catcher Kody Huff. After producing a solid 15-5 record and 3.38 ERA in 2022, Quantrill struggled this past season, registering a 4-7 mark with a 5.24 ERA and just 5.2 strikeouts per nine innings.

Saturday, November 18

The Braves give up on another top pitcher who’s fallen on hard times, as Kyle Wright—who led the majors with 21 wins in 2022—is dealt along with reliever Nick Anderson to Kansas City for pitcher Jackson Kowar.  Wright won’t do much for the Royals—nor anyone, for that matter—next year, as he’s due to miss the entire 2024 season recovering from shoulder surgery following a 1-3 record and 6.97 ERA over nine appearances in 2023.

Sunday, November 19

The off-season’s first major free-agent signing is done as Aaron Nola is returning to the Phillies for seven years and $172 million. The 30-year-old right-hander has spent the first nine years of his major league career in Philadelphia, and although he’s been somewhat inconsistent and made only one All-Star team to date, he also eats up innings and has a habit of picking up wins even in off-years, such as this past season when he finished 12-9 despite a 4.46 ERA. Nola, who’s already 10th in wins (90) and fifth in strikeouts (1,582) in Phillies modern-era history, has the opportunity to become one of the franchise’s all-time greats, barring major injury or trade.

Monday, November 20

The Hall of Fame releases its ballot for the 2023-24 general election, with 12 first-year candidates joining 14 returnees. Adrian Beltre is seen as the only one with a better-than-50% chance of getting in on the first ballot, after a 21-year career consisting of 3,166 career hits and 477 home runs. Other first-year candidates include players popular with their long-time teams—the Mets’ David Wright, Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer and Toronto slugger Jose Bautista—who may eventually reach 75% of the vote in future years, as well as 247-game winner Bartolo Colon, loved by practically everyone. Todd Helton returns to the ballot after missing induction by 2.8% last year, while Gary Sheffield (55%) is on his 10th and final ballot. Closer Billy Wagner, with 68.1% of the vote a year ago, is on his ninth ballot.

Lance Lynn, who served up an MLB-high 44 home runs this past season split between the White Sox and Dodgers, is returning to the St. Louis Cardinals—where he pitched from 2011-17—on a one-year deal valued at $10 million with incentives and a club option for 2025. Lynn started terribly for the White Sox in 2023—posting a 6-9 record and 6.47 ERA over 21 starts—and although he improved once dealt to Los Angeles with a 7-2 record and 4.36 ERA, he was shelled for four more homers in just 2.2 innings during his lone postseason appearance for the Dodgers, in the NLDS against Arizona.

Reliever Reynaldo Lopez finds a new home as he signs a three-year, $30 million contract with the Braves, in the midst of remaking their bullpen. The 29-year-old right-hander began his season, like Lynn above, with the White Sox, then was shipped away to the Angels, then was picked up by Cleveland after the Halos, failing to make a dent with an ambitious late-season run toward the playoffs, let him go. Overall, Lopez was 3-7 over 68 appearances with a 3.27 ERA and six saves.

Tuesday, November 21

Guillermo Hernandez—that was Willie Hernandez to us back in 1984, when he won the AL Cy Young and MVP awards for the world champion Detroit Tigers—passes away at the age of 69, according to a statement released by the Tigers. No cause of death is given. Outside of his other-worldly 1984 campaign in which he finished 9-3 with a 1.92 ERA and 32 saves over 140.1 innings and MLB-high 80 appearances, the Puerto Rico-born southpaw had a nice but mostly undistinguished career, posting a 70-63 record and 3.38 ERA over 744 appearances—all but 11 of them as reliever—through 13 seasons. He appeared in three All-Star Games, all consecutively from 1984-86, and in 10 postseason appearances authored a 1.32 ERA with no record.

Hernandez is the only full-time reliever to place #1 on any of our Leaders + Honors lists as a season’s best pitcher, doing so for the 1984 Tigers.

Mike Shildt, who managed the Cardinals for three-plus seasons without a losing record before being axed by the team due to irreconcilable differences, is being given a second chance at the helm by the Padres, for whom he’s served as a coach over the past two years. The 55-year-old Shildt won NL Manager of the Year honors with the Cardinals in 2019 and made the postseason in each of his three full-time campaigns at St. Louis; he replaces Bob Melvin, who’s moved on to San Francisco.

Speaking of the Cardinals, they ink pitcher Kyle Gibson for one year and $12 million. The 36-year-old right-hander led the Orioles in wins with 15, but also had the highest ERA among any of Baltimore’s rotation members with a 4.73 figure.

The Rangers will receive a near-record $506,000 per postseason share after winning their first world title. The 2022 Astros still hold the high-water mark with $516,000 per full share, likely because they played seven World Series games last year—while the Rangers played five.

Wednesday, November 22

The NL champion Diamondbacks fill a hole at third base left by free agent Evan Longoria, acquiring Eugenio Suarez from Seattle for reliever Carlos Vargas and catcher Seby Zavala. The 32-year-old Suarez belted 22 home runs with 96 RBIs for the Mariners in 2023, but also batted just .232 and struck out an MLB-high (and Mariners franchise-record) 214 times. Ironically, the third-base job at Seattle will likely be filled by Josh Rojas, who started this past season with Arizona before being dealt to the Mariners in the trade that sent closer Paul Sewald to the Diamondbacks.

Friday, November 24

Only life-long Mets fans may be familiar with the name of Ron Hodges, a back-up catcher who played a dozen seasons at New York spanning the team’s unlikely 1973 pennant to the onset of the Dwight Gooden/Darryl Strawberry era in the early 1980s. Hodges, whose passing is announced at the age of 74, amassed only 1,426 at-bats over his 12 seasons with the Mets, batting .240 with 19 home runs and 147 RBIs—but the fact that he stuck around that long was a testament to the team’s desire to keep him on the roster.

Sunday, November 26

Veteran pitcher Kenta Maeda moves from Minnesota to rising AL Central foe Detroit, signing a two-year, $24 million deal with the Tigers. After missing the 2022 season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, Maeda went 6-8 with a 4.23 ERA for the Twins this past season, and gave up three runs over four innings in two postseason appearances—both against Houston in the ALDS. The 35-year-old right-hander has a career 65-49 record over seven MLB seasons, on top of a 97-67 ledger and 2.39 ERA over eight previous campaigns in Japan.

Monday, November 27

Sonny Gray will be wearing Cardinal Red starting in 2024 as the AL Cy Young Award runner-up signs a three-year, $75 million deal with St. Louis. That’s a big payday for the 34-year-old right-hander, who’s never made more than $13 million in any of 10 previous seasons. Gray was only 8-8 this past season for Minnesota, but despite that average ledger managed to put together the AL’s second-best ERA (2.79) and the majors’ lowest home run allowed rate (0.4 per nine innings). He’s just two wins shy of 100 for his career.

After one of his better years in recent memory, veteran outfielder Jason Heyward is re-signing with the Dodgers on a one-year, $9 million pact. At age 34, Heyward batted .269 with 15 homers, 23 doubles and 40 RBIs over 334 at-bats for the Dodgers in 2023.

Tuesday, November 28

Cody Bellinger and closer Liam Hendriks win Comeback Player of the Year honors for the NL and AL, respectively. Bellinger’s honor certainly comes as no surprise, bouncing back from a string of awful years to re-approach his 2019 MVP form with the Cubs and become a hotly-sought free agent. The choice of Hendriks is apparently based on the fact that he was just able to make it back to the mound after a preseason skin cancer diagnosis—which he beat. Otherwise, Hendriks didn’t exactly scream ‘comeback’; he appeared in five games, managing two wins and a save while authoring a 5.40 ERA before breaking down and undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Wednesday, November 29

Pitcher Luis Severino, in search of rediscovery as he’s struggled since All-Star seasons with the Yankees from 2017-18, signs a one-year $13 million deal with the Mets. The 29-year-old right-hander has gone through major injury and inconsistency since those early years of success; he was particularly off in 2023, posting a 4-8 record and 6.65 ERA in 19 appearances (18 starts).

The 2023 Reliever of the Year awards are presented to Baltimore’s Felix Bautista (AL) and Milwaukee’s Devin Williams (NL). The honors, named after Hall-of-Fame closers Mariano Rivera (AL) and Trevor Hoffman (NL), are voted by a panel of former relief pitchers. It’s the second award for Williams, who was also honored in his rookie 2020 campaign.

Thursday, November 30

Pitcher Nick Martinez, who found a groove as a reliever/spot starter for the Padres over the past two seasons, signs a two-year, $26 million contract with the Reds that includes an opt-out after the first season. With the Padres, Martinez was 10-8 with a 3.45 ERA and nine saves over 110 appearances from 2022-23. It’s likely that the Reds will principally look at Martinez as a starter.

The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits  Take a look back at the daily doings of baseball with the TGG Comebacker archive.