Major League Baseball's 2022 regular season will kick off in 10 days. This is the opportune time, then, to apply the finishing touches to our offseason coverage. Take, for instance, our annual spring piece in which we highlight a handful of "under-the-radar" signings we feel deserved greater acclaim from us (among others) than they received when they were originally announced.
Before we get to the five signings in question, we want to define what we mean by "under-the-radar." To keep it short and simple, we're basically excluding any signing involving a player who ranked in CBS Sports' top 25 free agents. You don't need us to tell you that the Minnesota Twins' signing of Carlos Correa was savvy, or that the Atlanta Braves should benefit from adding Kenley Jansen on a one-year deal. What we're doing here, basically, is covering the album cuts instead of the radio singles.
We'll note that these are presented in no particular order, and that there are more than five moves that merit inclusion. In other words, don't take offense if a deal your team made isn't listed. Now, let's get to it.
CBS Sports HQ Newsletter
Your Ultimate Guide to Every Day in Sports
We bring sports news that matters to your inbox, to help you stay informed and get a winning edge.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
1. Rays sign LHP Brooks Raley (two years, $10 million)
Entering the offseason, CBS Sports ranked Raley as the 37th best free agent available. That didn't stop him from signing a cheap two-year pact with the Rays prior to the owner-imposed lockout. Raley will take home as much during the duration of his deal as Corey Knebel (ranked No. 34) will make in a single season. You might say life isn't always fair, but Raley has already learned that lesson. He's led the majors in average exit velocity in each of the past two seasons (thanks in large part to a cutter and a slider that features the third-most sweep among lefties), yet he has a 4.83 ERA to show for his efforts. We think Raley's surface-level statistics are due for a correction, and it shouldn't surprise anyone if he ends up being a high-leverage asset in St. Pete.
2. Braves sign RHP Collin McHugh (two years, $10 million)
There are a few differences between Raley and McHugh. One is right-handed; one didn't sign until after the lockout; and, while Raley is waiting on his traditional statistics to match his advanced metrics, McHugh is coming off a phenomenal year that saw him post a 1.55 ERA (256 ERA+) and a 6.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. They ended up in the same boat anyway, both making as much money over two seasons as Knebel (ranked one spot ahead of McHugh entering the winter) will make in one. Maybe there's some underlying medical explanation for why McHugh had to settle for this deal, but shy of that he looks like an excellent get for the defending champions.
3. Rangers sign OF Kole Calhoun (one year, $5.2 million)
The Rangers spent lavishly elsewhere, signing Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to transform the middle of their infield (and their lineup) and adding Jon Gray to their rotation. Calhoun, a veteran of the American League West, was an afterthought of an addition, but he could prove to be a good bounce-back candidate. As we noted back in November: "Calhoun's performance against righties the past three years puts him in the 61st percentile of wOBA, or ahead of Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, and David Peralta." For those wondering, Pederson signed for $6 million and Rosario for $18 million over two seasons. Calhoun may well outperform both.
4. Tigers sign RHP Michael Pineda (one year, $5.5 million)
Pineda has missed his share of time due to injury and suspension, but he's been a productive big-league starter when he's been available. To wit, over the last three seasons he's compiled a 3.80 ERA (116 ERA+) and a 4.52 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53 outings. It's anyone's guess as to how many turns Pineda will take in the rotation for the Tigers, but he should serve as a stabilizing force at the back end throughout. Considering his price, he won't have to make 30 starts to be worth it.
5. Giants sign RHP Jakob Junis (one year, $1.75 million)
The Giants have shown a knack for getting the most from low-cost pitching additions. We think they might have something brewing with Junis. As we explained in November: "Junis altered his slider last season, throwing it two miles per hour harder and reducing the active spin from 62 percent to 38 percent. That combination allowed him to miss a higher rate of bats (40 percent) and generate better in-play results. Junis was ineffective overall, however, because opponents hit .296 off his four-seam fastball and .370 against his cutter." A move to the bullpen and a shift to a sinker-slider approach could make his contract look like a bargain sooner than later.