Freddie Freeman signs with the Dodgers
Wednesday was a wild day for transactions around the league, but we start with the last bit of news of the day as the biggest. That would be Freddie Freeman, one of the two or three biggest free agents on the market for this winter. The former Braves first baseman wasn’t going to return to Atlanta after they traded for Athletics star Matt Olson, and it turns out he’s heading west. Freeman reportedly agreed to a six-year deal worth $162 million on Wednesday night.
Freeman is, simply put, one of the very best hitters in all of baseball and gives yet another star to a Dodgers lineup that is filled with them. He is coming off a season in which he hit .300/.393/.503 for a 135 wRC+, and he hasn’t finished with a wRC+ below 130 since 2012. In other words, he’s been at least 30 percent better than league average every single season for a decade. The Dodgers now have a top three in their lineup of Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, and Freeman, and it doesn’t really slow down after that, all for a contract that, while certainly not small, seems pretty reasonable from where I’m sitting.
Why Red Sox fans should care: According to reports leading up to this signing the Red Sox right in the mix for Freeman. I’m not really sure I buy that as it immediately felt like driving up the price with their three biggest rivals already reportedly in the mix, but this is certainly a contract I’d be okay with handing out to an elite hitter. That said, if they are to make a big move — less certain now, to say the least — first base never really seemed like the spot to do it.
Cubs sign Seiya Suzuki to a five-year deal
At the other end of the timeline, Seiya Suzuki was one of the first players to sign on Wednesday, and he’s heading to the Windy City. The former NPB star outfielder had a ton of suitors this winter but ultimately landed on the Cubs, signing a five-year deal worth $85 million.
This is surprising on a few different fronts. For one thing, some reports indicated that Suzuki preferred a West Coast destination and one with warm weather. Chicago does not check either of those boxes. On top of that, the Cubs appeared to be in a rebuild, though at 27 years old he fits a longer timeline better than most free agents. He’ll slot right into the top third of their lineup, presumably, giving Chicago good defense in the outfield along with solid pop and a strong approach at the plate.
Why Red Sox fans should care: They should care because he was the best fit for the Red Sox this winter and would have solved so many issues with their lineup. He’d have given them a good bat, and a right-handed one at that, while also playing good enough defense to play every day in Fenway’s big right field. The price is a little steeper than I thought he’d get, but eventually if you decide every free agent costs too much the problem is you, not the market.
Blue Jays trade for Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman
Wednesday was mostly a day about free agency around the league, but there was one major trade made as well in the morning with the Athletics continuing their firesale. Unfortunately for us, it was a division rival making the move, with the Blue Jays acquiring third baseman Matt Chapman for prospects Gunnar Hoglund, Kevin Smith, Zach Logue, and Kirby Snead.
On the Toronto side of the deal, this trade makes all the sense in the world. Before the deal, they had Cavan Biggio at second base and Santiago Espinal at third, and it was expected they’d displace at least one of them. Chapman slides in at third leaving the other two to split time at second (if they don’t make a move there, too.) While he had a bit of a down year last season at the plate, finishing with basically a league-average line, Chapman remains the best defensive third baseman in baseball and he has the potential to be a much better hitter than he was in 2021, too. He’s also under team control for two more seasons.
On the other side of the deal, the Athletics are trading an entire playoff core in one offseason, which is really just shameful. This prospect package has some interesting names, with Hoglund being the biggest. He was Toronto’s first round pick last summer — we’re seeing a lot of those guys traded this winter, so perhaps draft picks should be able to be traded — but hasn’t pitched as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. The A’s are not going to be a good team in 2022, especially with more trades expected to come.
Why Red Sox fans should care: Chapman was never going to be on the Red Sox radar with a change of position not coming for Devers quite yet. But the Blue Jays are a problem, and I have issues calling anyone else the best team in the division. And that’s without considering that anyone who plays them in Toronto could be missing players due to the vaccination laws north of the border.
Phillies sign Kyle Schwarber
All of these moves have been frustrating for Red Sox fans so far, and we continue here with a 2021 fan favorite with whom there were some rumors he’d be coming back to the Red Sox this winter with Kyle Schwarber. The slugger signed a four-year deal with the Phillies worth $79 million.
This is a big contract for a guy who doesn’t really provide much defensive value, but we saw first hand last year the way that he can transform a lineup. Schwarber will strike out, but he has big power and a tremendous approach that rubbed off on some Red Sox players last season. He joins a Phillies lineup that features some terrifying power now in the middle of the lineup with Schwarber, Bryce Harper, and Rhys Hoskins.
Why Red Sox fans should care: As mentioned, there were plenty of rumors suggesting a reunion could be possible, so this has to hurt a little. Still, the fit was never really clear to me with J.D. Martinez still in town. Boston clearly needs to add another big bat, but Schwarber never felt like the best fit to me, without even considering the price.
Rockies sign Kris Bryant to a mega deal
The Rockies are the strangest team in baseball. There are more frustrating teams. There are certainly better organizations. There might be worse ones too. But none are more confounding than the Rockies. Just a year after they paid a ton of money for the pleasure of trading away star third baseman Nolan Arenado, they have signed Kris Bryant to a massive seven-year deal worth $182 million.
I don’t think this is the smartest contract I have ever seen, and I’m not sure how Bryant fits the Rockies timeline, but I find it really hard these days to clown on a team for actually making an effort. And it’s not as though Bryant is some dud. The only season he’s finished with a wRC+ below 123 was in 2020, and I’m comfortable throwing out any 2020 season that is even remotely an outlier. He instantly becomes the biggest name in that Rockies lineup and at least gives fans something to be excited about.
Why Red Sox fans should care: Like I said, they need a bat for their outfield and he was one of the options. At this contract I’m okay with passing in a vacuum, but like I said above if you’re saying that about everyone then it’s you misreading the market. If you don’t like any contract, then you settle for Jackie Bradley Jr. as a starting outfielder, and that can’t happen for a contending team.