Last week, Major League Baseball's 30 team owners voted unanimously to lock out the players. The MLB offseason has, as a result, come to a pause. Teams are not permitted to sign free agents, or to trade players who are part of the union during the work stoppage. (Minor-league players can still be traded.) It could be some time, then, until the fates of Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, and the other top remaining free agents are revealed -- to say nothing of the players, like Matt Olson and Sonny Gray, who could be traded before spring training.
While we wait for the return of the hot stove, we figured we'd mark the occasion by grading each team's offseason to date. You can find the full grades below, but please note that this report card (or is it more of a progress report?) is broken down division by division, and that this is mostly for entertainment purposes. (Hey, we could all use a distraction these days, right?)
Let's get to it.
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The Orioles under Mike Elias' guidance have approached their big-league roster with utter nihilism. Their priorities have been to amass high draft picks and avoid unnecessary expenditures, such as signing mid- to low-tier free agents to a roster that has won 34 percent of its games since 2019 began. Nevertheless, Elias did agree to terms with two free agents ahead of the lockout: infielder Rougned Odor and starter Jordan Lyles, whose $6 million salary will make him one of the the highest-paid Orioles.
Lyles, a career 5.21 ERA aside, is the more interesting of the two. He's coming off a rough two-year stint with the Rangers, but he's shown flashes before and seems like an obvious candidate to take a step forward if he can tweak his pitch mix.
Baltimore's projected Opening Day payroll remains around $40 million, so there's no justification for the Orioles sitting out free agency when the lockout ends. GRADE: D
You can take the executive out of Tampa Bay, but you can't take the Tampa Bay out of the executive. Chaim Bloom's third offseason as the Red Sox's point guard has been Raysian -- to the extent that he's even signed two former Rays pitchers. Bloom's haul to date includes veteran starters Rich Hill, James Paxton, and Michael Wacha, as well as outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and infield prospects David Hamilton and Alex Binelas. (Those last three were acquired from the Brewers for Hunter Renfroe).
You can make the case there's a risk-reward imbalance present in Boston's offseason. Hill's age, Paxton's health, and Wacha's track record make them all attrition candidates. Furthermore, Bradley Jr. is coming off an atrocious season that saw him post a 34 OPS+ over 428 trips to the plate. If those four players perform closer to their median expectations in 2022, the Red Sox will have gained three mid-to-back-end starters and a glove-first outfielder who can start most days in center. That's a solid haul. The problem is that it's easy to see two or three of them falling well short of their median expectations once again, leaving Boston in a tough spot.
The Red Sox, a financial behemoth, are coming off a surprising postseason appearance and have a projected payroll well beneath the $200-million mark. It would be nice to see them behave like it by shopping closer to the top of the market. GRADE: C
The Yankees might still make a splash, be it by signing Carlos Correa and/or trading for Matt Olson. As of the lockout, though, Brian Cashman has done almost nothing of note. That's disappointing given the Yankees' desire to upgrade at both the shortstop and catcher position, as well as their need in the rotation.
Perhaps it's unfair to judge a team so harshly when half an offseason remains, but the amount of pre-lockout activity means there aren't going to be as many top-end options available once the offseason returns. GRADE: F
Comparatively, the Rays have behaved more like the Yankees than the Yankees have. Erik Neander reached agreements with Corey Kluber and Brooks Raley, giving Tampa Bay a highly decorated mid-rotation starter and a sneaky-good left-handed reliever who should end up pitching in high-leverage situations.
We'd be remiss if we didn't note that the Rays also reached an agreement on a long-term extension with wunderkind Wander Franco. That alone would've earned the Rays an "A" grade, as its past time for the franchise to give its fans the ability to form a meaningful emotional attachment to the team's best players.
The Rays also cleared the brush from their 40-player roster by trading away Joey Wendle, Jordan Luplow, and others. Expect Tampa Bay to pursue trades for Tyler Glasnow and Kevin Kiermaier once the lockout lifts. GRADE: A
The Blue Jays have also been busy this winter. Ross Atkins has already successfully extended José Berríos and signed Kevin Gausman, thereby shaping Toronto's rotation for next season (and, really, for the next half-decade to come).
Don't be surprised if veteran right-hander Yimi García ends up being a better-than-expected addition in the bullpen, either. GRADE: A
Rick Hahn's offseason work so far has seen him sign reliever Kendall Graveman and utility player Leury García to three-year contracts. He also exercised the White Sox's club option on Craig Kimbrel, seemingly setting the stage for an offseason trade.
It's likely that neither Graveman nor García perform up to their 2021 standards, which means these moves might not have the impact that the White Sox hope. That isn't to suggest either is a bad addition (both made our free-agent top 50 list for a reason), but that should explain why we're giving the White Sox a "worse" grade than you might expect based on their contributions last season. GRADE: C
Well, at least the Guardians haven't traded away José Ramírez or Shane Bieber.
They've made no additions of note, however, and they have the lowest projected payroll in the majors as ownership continues to handcuff one of the game's savviest front offices. GRADE: F
The Tigers were expected to be active this offseason. Al Avila has delivered by signing Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Báez, as well as acquiring Tucker Barnhart from the Reds in a salary dump trade.
Rodriguez gives an otherwise young Tigers rotation a stabilizing force, as he's never had a below-average ERA+. Báez is one of the most exciting, instinctual players in the league and his defense ought to make him Casey Mize's best friend sooner than later, though it's fair to wonder how his swing-and-miss tendencies will age as he loses bat speed and barrel control. Barnhart, for his part, is a quality defender.
Those are all solid-to-good additions. We want to see the Tigers keep the pedal to the metal when the lockout ends; they'll need to in order to close the gap in the American League Central. GRADE: A
We think Taylor Clarke has the potential to become a useful middle reliever.
Still, that's the only move the Royals have made this winter and it's hard to give them a high grade as a result. GRADE: D
The Twins have done a little more than the Guardians and the Royals: they signed center fielder Byron Buxton to a long-term extension, squashing the possibility he would be traded this winter, and they added veteran starter Dylan Bundy ahead of the lockout.
Minnesota needs to do a lot more if the club is hoping to return to competitive status next season, but the strength of the Buxton extension goes a long way in our books. GRADE: B
James Click did well to keep manager Dusty Baker and right-handed starter Justin Verlander in town. Reliever Héctor Neris should prove to be a solid addition to a bullpen that could use more reliable arms, too.
The Astros will still have a Carlos Correa-sized hole at shortstop to address once the lockout ends. As a result, we don't feel comfortable giving them an "A" just yet. GRADE: B
For what seems like the upteenth consecutive offseason, the Angels are trying to assemble a starting rotation that can get them to October. Perry Minasian has landed some interesting pitchers in that pursuit, including Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen.
Syndergaard and Lorenzen are a pair of risky targets. Syndergaard has made two big-league appearances over the last two seasons, and he didn't so much as throw a breaking ball during either of them. Lorenzen, meanwhile, hasn't been a full-time starter since his rookie season, back in 2015. His 86 ERA+ and 1.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2021 do not scream "ask me to face a lineup multiple times per outing," but who knows, maybe he can make a successful transition back to the rotation.
The Angels also handed out multi-year contracts to closer Raisel Iglesias and to left-hander Aaron Loup, who has had a better two-year run than most realize.
We'd like to see Minasian land more of a "sure thing" whenever the lockout is lifted. Alas, that'll likely have to come through trade given the state of the free-agent market. GRADE: B
The Athletics, who have already allowed manager Bob Melvin to leave for San Diego, have signaled they're prepared to tear down their roster. Oakland hasn't done much positive this winter, and we're always sad when good teams intentionally take steps backward so that their owners can save coin.
The A's front office might end up salvaging the situation with good trades, but we have no choice but to flunk them right now. GRADE: F
Jerry Dipoto's offseason can be drilled down to three items. Foremost, he signed the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, Robbie Ray; secondly, he traded for utility player Adam Frazier; and lastly, he signed reliever Andrés Muñoz to an extension.
The effectiveness of Dipoto's offseason -- and we assume he's going to make a play for another bat when the lockout ends, thereby earning a higher grade when all is said and done -- hinges by and large on Ray. He had a breakout season last year, and it's clear the Mariners are convinced that he's here to stay as an elite-level pitcher. That may prove to be the case, but there's always the risk that he reverts to his old ways, when he was an inconsistent middle-of-the-rotation type who had trouble reliably finding the strike zone.
As for the Frazier and Muñoz moves. Frazier is a fine, low-wattage hitter with enough defensive versatility to bounce between the infield and outfield. Muñoz's extension is more difficult to explain, seeing as how he's made one big-league appearance since the end of the 2019 season. He does have a big arm, however, and it's a small enough gamble that it won't make much difference if he ascends like Seattle seems to expect. GRADE: B
We have a simple rule for grading offseasons: if you sign two of that winter's top four free agents, you get an "A". The Rangers, by virtue of signing Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, get an "A". (Texas also inked Jon Gray and Kole Calhoun.)
Seager and Semien should prove to be huge boons for a lineup that was one of the worst in baseball last season. That established, it's fair to have skepticism about the Rangers competing next season -- at least as currently constructed. The pitching staff remains a mess, and Texas could use another outfielder.
The Rangers would appear to have around $20 million more to spend this offseason, so they ought to be able to address some of those aspects between now and Opening Day. GRADE: A
The Braves have made plenty of sensible and likable moves to date: inking the best catcher on the free-agent market, Manny Piña, to serve as their backup; adding depth to their right-handed relief corps by signing Jay Jackson and Darren O'Day; and even making a smart gamble on former All-Star closer Kirby Yates' recovery from Tommy John surgery.
We're docking them a grade all the same because of the Freddie Freeman situation. Nobody expects him to leave (despite the Dodgers and other teams showing interest), which makes the prolonged nature of his free agency so odd. Freeman has been one of the faces of the franchise for more than a decade; he has a skill set that should age well; and his reported ask isn't unreasonable -- especially for a team that just won the World Series. Why risk squandering good will to save a trifling amount of cash?
We still expect the Braves to get a deal done, raising their grade. For now, though, we're not mad so much as we're disappointed. GRADE: C
Give the Marlins this much: they're trying.
Kim Ng's pre-lockout activity included signing Avisaíl García to a four-year pact; trading for Jacob Stallings, Joey Wendle, and Louis Head; and extending both Sandy Alcantara and Miguel Rojas; The Marlins should be better as a result -- and we assume they'll look to add another bat after the lockout ends -- but are they good enough to make a real run? We're not so sure.
It doesn't help that rival talent evaluators were perplexed by how much value the Marlins gave up in the Stallings and Wendle deals. That doesn't mean the Marlins should be crushed for their efforts -- again, it's great to see them take an aggressive approach toward adding talent, for once -- but it is worth noting.
Even with those reasons for concern, we have to give the Marlins a passing grade -- for the effort, yes, but also for the absurdly team-friendly Alcantara extension. GRADE: B
The Mets went hog wild right before the lockout, inking Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha, and Eduardo Escobar.
Scherzer could well form the best one-two punch in baseball with Jacob deGrom, provided both are healthy; Marte and Canha are underrated everyday players who should provide above-average production; and Escobar has his uses as a versatile platoon bat.
Don't overlook the Nick Plummer addition, either. The industry viewed him as the top minor-league free-agent, and it wasn't surprising that he landed a big-league contract after a breakout season on the Cardinals farm.
The Mets still have some more work to do post-lockout -- including finding a manager -- but they've already had the kind of splashy, quality offseason you want from big-market teams. GRADE: A
With the exception of adding Corey Knebel, the Phillies' offseason has been low on frills. Instead, Sam Fuld has mostly targeted depth additions in the bullpen -- be it Ryan Sherriff, Nick Nelson, or Yoan López.
That's necessary work, but we do wonder if and how the Phillies will address their shortstop position -- and whether they'll be able to land another big middle-of-the-order bat, the way Dave Dombrowski suggested they would. GRADE: D
The Nationals signed veteran infielder César Hernández right before the lockout commenced. That's a fine move. It's not a huge needle-mover, but it's fine. We'll see if Mike Rizzo has any big surprises in store the rest of the way.
For now, he gets a ho-hum grade for a ho-hum winter. GRADE: D
New Cubs general manager Carter Hawkins has already shaped the roster in his image by adding starters Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley, backup catcher Yan Gomes, and outfielder Clint Frazier to the fold. (Not to mention acquiring spare outfielders Michael Hermosillo and Harold Ramirez.)
Hawkins and company still need to address the shortstop position once the lockout is lifted, so we don't think they're done. So far, though, they've done enough to raise the Cubs' ceiling and earn a passing grade. GRADE: B
The Reds opened the offseason by salary-dumping Tucker Barnhart and Wade Miley.
They've given no indication that they intend to add quality pieces to a roster that has reeled off consecutive winning seasons. Instead, the Reds seem more likely to trade away veteran pieces, including, perhaps, a starter like Sonny Gray or Luis Castillo. That's a disappointing, if expected development. GRADE: F
David Stearns' biggest move came just before the lockout, when he shipped Jackie Bradley Jr. and two prospects to the Red Sox for Hunter Renfroe. That trade not only freed Milwaukee of its financial obligations to Bradley Jr., it landed them Renfroe, who should be able to replace Avisaíl García without much issue.
The Brewers also addressed their catching depth by signing ex-Orioles backstop Pedro Severino and former Rays farmhand Brett Sullivan. GRADE: B
The Pirates are never going to spend a lot of money, and for the time being it's a given that they're going to behave like your typical cellar dwellar. But part of this exercise is adjusting for expectations, and through that lens they've had a solid start to their offseason. Bringing back Yoshi Tsutsugo after his run last season is a smart idea, and it's fine to kick the tires on José; Quintana and Roberto Pérez to see if they have anything left to offer.
Talent evaluators with other teams were also impressed with Pittsburgh's return from the Marlins on catcher Jacob Stallings, as Ben Cherington landed right-handers Zach Thompson and Kyle Nicolas and outfielder Connor Scott. GRADE: A
The Cardinals signed Steven Matz to beef up the middle of their rotation, but that's been their only move of note to date. We expect Michael Girsch's club to pursue more rotation help once the lockout ends.
Until then, this is the best we can offer. GRADE: C
The Diamondbacks have made only two moves: 1) signing closer Mark Melancon to a two-year contract; and 2) acquiring platoon outfielder Jordan Luplow from the Rays.
Both will make the Diamondbacks a little better than they were last season. That's about the long and the short of it. GRADE: C
The Rockies' offseason has so far been composed of retentions. They've extended the contracts of Elias Díaz, C.J. Cron, and Antonio Senzatela. The Rockies have signaled that they'd like to compete next season; it seems unlikely that they'll accomplish that goal, but we'd prefer teams try than not.
Even so, it's hard to understand how the Rockies messed up the Jon Gray situation so bad: first by not extending the qualifying offer, and then by allowing him to walk to a better offer from the Rangers. Those are the kinds of mistakes the Rockies can't afford to make. GRADE: D
The Dodgers did well to retain Chris Taylor ahead of the lockout, and both the Andrew Heaney and Daniel Hudson signings could pay off; but there's no way to sugarcoat losing Corey Seager and Max Scherzer to free agency without so much as bringing back Clayton Kershaw or Kenley Jansen.
We're certain the Dodgers are in for a big second half -- be it through free agency or trades -- but we can't give them credit for something that hasn't happened. GRADE: D
With the exception of hiring Bob Melvin to manage the club, A.J. Preller is yet to demonstrate his flair for the dramatic this winter. He did agree to terms with three pitchers ahead of the lockout: starter Nick Martínez and relievers Robert Suarez and Luis García. Preller also traded Adam Frazier to the Mariners for a pair of prospects -- suggesting last summer's deal for Frazier was a misstep -- and acquired catcher Jorge Alfaro from the Marlins in an addition that's hard to figure at present.
Preller is almost certain to continue his efforts to move money so that he can upgrade his roster in other ways once the lockout ends. We're giving the Padres a generous grade because we do like the Melvin hire and we think some of the smaller additions will pay off, even if they lack Preller's signature style. GRADE: B
We thought there was a chance the Giants would take a big swing in free agency following their 107-win season. They haven't so far, instead settling for bringing back Brandon Belt, Anthony DeSclafani, as well as adding Alex Cobb from the outside. Maybe Farhan Zaidi has something big planned for after the lockout. We'll see.
For now, the Giants earn a passing grade, albeit not an A. GRADE: B