MLB Winter Meetings: Six takeaways as Aaron Judge stays put, Red Sox fall short, Phillies and Mets make noise

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The latest major checkpoint of the MLB offseason is freshly behind us. The Royal We speak of the recently concluded Winter Meetings in San Diego. Teams, agents, and some prominent players available for hire joined the annual hootenanny, and as is typically the case some major pairings came out of it. Yes, major free agents and rumored trade targets like Carlos Correa, Carlos Rodón and Sean Murphy remain available, but thanks to the Winter Meetings a number of notable names are now off the board. 

So as we prepare ourselves for the remainder of the 2022-23 MLB offseason, let's have a quick look back at what went down in San Diego with some Winter Meetings takeaways. You can find that below, where demons dwell. 

1. The Yankees got their man, but work remains

For a time it appeared that Aaron Judge was bound for his native Bay Area, but in the end he passed on the Giants' overtures and returned to the organization he's been a part of since signing with them out of Fresno State in 2013. Given the offensive struggles and inconsistencies of the non-Judge portions of the Yankee lineup this past season, this was all but an essential step for the Yanks. 

There's some risk here. The 2022 season – in which Judge clouted 62 home runs, authored an OPS+ of 211, and flirted with the Triple Crown – will probably stand as his career year. As well, we don't have many examples of how hitters of Judge's immense physical dimensions age as they move into their late thirties. That, however, is how superstar free-agent contracts go. Teams assume some risk on the back end in exchange for surplus value on the front end, and this one is no exception. Judge boasted a career OPS+ of 150 with top-of-the-scale batted-ball metrics before his legendary 2022 was even part of the calculus, so he's very likely going to remain an elite force at the plate for at least the front half of his new contract. This is to say nothing of the Yankees' effectively limitless revenues and capacity to absorb Judge's eventual decline phase without it even registering. 

Ponying up for Judge is praiseworthy, but the Yankees still have holes. They need additional depth and upside in the rotation, and to that end the Carlos Rodón rumors are encouraging from the Yanks' standpoint. They also need to accept the reality that Isiah Kiner-Falefa is not an acceptable solution at shortstop for a team with World Series aspirations. Whether that means swinging big in a free agent market flush with star-grade options at the position or giving the job to an internal candidate with more offensive upside than IKF has, something needs to happen on that front. Re-upping with the reigning AL MVP is an excellent start, but it's just that for the Yankees – a start. 

2. The Mets may have upgraded the front of their rotation

Outgoing ace and erstwhile Mets lifer Jacob deGrom inked a $185 million pact with the Rangers just prior to the start of the Winter Meetings, and the Mets swiftly responded by signing Justin Verlander to a two-year, $86.66 million deal with a vesting option for 2025. While it sounds strange to say the Mets may have improved their lot in the rotation, at least in the near-term, by signing a pitcher who's roughly five years older than deGrom and fetched $100 million less on the market, that's probably what they achieved. 

Mostly, this comes down to health and durability – reliability, if you will. Yes, Verlander is pushing 40 and has Tommy John surgery in his recent past, but he's coming off a 2022 season in which he made 28 starts and worked 175 innings en route to winning the AL Cy Young award. DeGrom, meantime, has a total of 156 1/3 innings over the last two seasons combined. That's thanks to shoulder, forearm, and back injuries – the types of injuries that can recur and raise concerns moving forward. Framed another way, which pitcher would you bet on working more innings and making more starts over the next two seasons, deGrom or Verlander? Throw in the similar upside in terms of performance, and the Mets can rightly argue they have more certainty in the rotation for the next two years for having, in essence, swapped out deGrom for Verlander.  

3. Turner landed in an ideal spot

Yes, Trea Turner reportedly could've fetched a substantially larger guarantee by signing with the Padres, but he still cracked $300 million with his Phillies contract. He also lands on the East Coast, which was his preference, and he reunites with his friend and former Nationals teammate Bryce Harper. As well, Turner gets to remain at his preferred position of shortstop for the foreseeable future, as Bryson Stott will shift to second base. Perhaps best of all from Turner's standpoint, he lands on a pennant-winner with a deep recent history of doing what it takes to field the best team possible. Buy-in from team ownership is all too rare in MLB these days, but the Phillies have been a pleasing exception over the last few years. And as our own Matt Snyder recently wrote, Turner will no doubt move the needle for the Phillies as they look to return to the World Series in 2023 and beyond. 

4. The Cardinals addressed the catcher position in a big way

The retirement of franchise legend Yadier Molina and the internal assessment that Andrew Knizner isn't a full-time solution left the Cardinals in need of a catcher this winter. To address that top offseason priority, they forged a five-year deal with Willson Contreras, late of the Cubs. It's close to an ideal fit for St. Louis. 

No, Contreras isn't the defender that Molina was, particularly when it comes to framing. However, Contreras' framing skills have improved over the last handful of seasons, and he's got an excellent arm. Most of all, Contreras directly addresses the galling lack of production the Cardinals' suffered last season. 

In 2022, St. Louis catchers – mostly Molina and Andrew Knizner – combined to "hit" .209/.261/.291, while the average MLB catcher last season had a slash line of .228/.295/.368 (and note that league-wide line is dragged down by the Cardinals). Contreras is a career .256/.349/.466 hitter with elite quality-of-contact numbers, especially by positional standards. He's also coming off a 2022 campaign in which he put up a career-best OPS+ of 128 and backed it up at the level of the batted ball. Contreras is going to be a massive upgrade over the status quo with the bat. 

As for the presumed framing drop-off, the likely arrival of automated ball-strike calls at the MLB level, possibly in time for the 2024 season, make that much less of a long-term worry. The presence of the universal DH also provides a way to keep Contreras' bat in the lineup while giving him some rest, and the DH is also a potential landing spot for him on the back half of this contract as he moves into his mid-thirties. 

5. The Red Sox came up short

Time was when the Red Sox had a committed ownership group and the product on the field that reflected said commitment. However, that hasn't been the case for some time, and in many ways it dates back to the disastrous-so-far Mookie Betts trade of early 2020. Despite tremendous revenues and a loyal fanbase, the Red Sox have ranked outside the top five in payroll in each of the last two seasons, and right now they rank outside the top 10 in MLB when it comes to 2023 salary commitments. Not surprisingly, the on-field results are also in a state of decline. Yes, they've signed closer Kenley Jansen and Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida, but they failed to retain Xander Bogaerts, as the All-Star shortstop ended up in San Diego.

A lack of effort on the part of ownership is sadly all too common in MLB these days, and in that sense the Red Sox are merely in thrall to a grim trend. What seems different, however, is the Red Sox' emerging strategy of saying "well, we tried" on, to be frank, C-grade free agents. Consider what's gone recently, including during the Winter Meetings: 

It would be one thing if, say, the Giants planted in the press their good-faith efforts to sign Judge, but it's something altogether different – and altogether lesser – to do what the Red Sox have done of late. If you're going to neglect the basic duties of team ownership to such an extent, then at least have the decency to do so quietly. Yes, the Red Sox on the final day of the Winter Meetings did more than they've done in some time, but that's too low a standard for one of the most well heeled franchises in the game. 

6. A number of big names remain on the board

Yes, the Winter Meetings are over, but, no, it's not time to tune out on the 2022-23 offseason. Survey our updated free-agent tracker, and you'll find that at this writing our No. 3 FA Carlos Correa is still looking for work. Overall, five of the top 10 and 10 of the top 25 are still available, and there's also A's catcher Sean Murphy, who's still likely to be traded before Opening Day. So if you're disaffected by your team's level of activity thus far, then please know that genuine needle-movers still abound. 


CBS Sports kept track of the Winter Meetings action and rumors throughout the week. You can find our live blog below.

Live updates
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Judge returns to Yankees

It is a massive nine-year, $360 million contract. The $40 million average annual value is the largest in history for a position player. For a while Tuesday it appeared Judge would sign with hometown-ish Giants, but he instead opted to stay with the Yankee. San Francisco will now pivot to other bats (Carlos Correa?) and the Yankees will begin filling out their roster around the AL MVP.

The Padres were reportedly also in the running for Judge, making a last-minute offer that was higher than New York's. Judge, however, chose to return to the Bronx.

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December 7, 2022, 1:32 PM
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Dodgers not in on Correa

The 111-win Dodgers do have some areas to address in free agency, but have been quiet so far. And the team appears reluctant to pursue Carlos Correa -- the top free agent remaining -- per The Athletic. From Ken Rosenthal:

The Dodgers are not pursuing shortstop Carlos Correa in part out of concern that a sizable portion of their fan base would not welcome the move. Correa was the most outspoken member of the 2017 Astros club that stole signs illegally during the postseason, and beat the Dodgers in a seven-game World Series.

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Mets make a trade

The Mets acquired left-handed reliever Brooks Raley from the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade on Wednesday.

It's the second left-handed pitching acquisition of the day for the Mets, who also signed José Quintana.

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Red Sox reunion?

There's been buzz today about Xander Bogaerts and the Red Sox. The Boston Globe says the sides are working on a deal.

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Cashman weighs in on Judge

The Yankees GM is addressing reporters at the Winter Meetings after Judge's deal, though it is not yet official.

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Contreras lands with Cardinals

The ex-Cubs catcher will indeed replace Yadier Molina behind the plate in St. Louis.

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Five years for Contreras?

The Cardinals continue to get close to a deal with Willson Contreras. JT Realmuto got a five-year, $115 million deal from the Phillies two years ago. How much can Contreras get for a five-year contract?

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Additional Bogaerts-Red Sox details

Sounds like Boston is set to meet with Bogaerts in San Diego today. Will we see a decision by the end of the Winter Meetings? The Padres and Giants have also been linked to him in free agency.

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Bogaerts, Red Sox in 'heavy' talks

A Xander Bogaerts reunion in Boston could be in the cards, per Jon Heyman, who says the two sides are in "heavy" talks. Bogaerts, a four-time All-Star, hit .307/.377/.456 with 15 homers last season and has spent his entire 10-year career so far with the Red Sox.

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Cardinals, Contreras close to deal

The Cardinals are close to a deal with catcher Willson Contreras, per The Athletic. The ex-Cubs star is set to take over for the retired Yadier Molina behind the plate in St. Louis. Read more on Contreras here.

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Mets not done adding to rotation?

The Mets have signed starters Justin Verlander and José Quintana this week (after losing Jacob deGrom and Taijuan Walker). But they could bolster their rotation even further. Jon Heyman reports the Mets are still interested in a deal with NPB star Kodai Senga after the Quintana deal.

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Where Padres stand

The Padres have had a tough week. They reportedly out-bid the Phillies for Trea Turner, but the All-Star shortstop decided to sign with Philadelphia. OK, it happens. So San Diego wanted Aaron Judge. They reportedly offered 10 years and $400 million. One year and $40 million more than the Yankees. And yet, Judge picked the Yankees.

Two star talents. Two highest bids. Zero marquee signings for AJ Preller and the Padres.

The Padres seem very comfortable throwing big money around this week, so where could they make their next offer? Jon Heyman reports that the Padres might not make any more gargantuan offers, but they are interested in shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

The Padres could also redirect funds for a contract extension offer to Juan Soto if they so choose.

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Jansen to the Red Sox

The Red Sox, who were quiet for most of the winter, have made a notable signing. All-Star closer Kenley Jansen is heading to Boston on a two-year, $32 million deal, per ESPN. Jansen, who spent last season with the Braves, will likely assume the ninth-inning duties in Boston.

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Mets make a move

The Mets have landed left-handed starter José Quintana, per The Athletic. It's a two-year, $26 million deal. Quintana had a strong 2022 and he was shipped from the Pirates to the Cardinals at the trade deadline.Quintana, who turns 34 in January, had a 2.93 ERA (137 ERA+) in 32 starts last year. That number dipped to 2.01 with the Cardinals, and he was the Game 1 Wild Card Series starter for the NL Central champs.

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Giants move on

The Giants missed out on Aaron Judge (despite looking like the favorites to land him for about 15 minutes on Tuesday, at least on Twitter). So what's next for a San Francisco team in need of offense? The logical choice wold be the free agent shortstop market, where Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts remain unsigned. The Giants are indeed targeting those players, as well as Dansby Swanson, per The Athletic. The Giants landed outfielder Mitch Haniger on Tuesday, but their fans will wake up Wednesday seeing Judge back in pinstripes.

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Yankees not done?

The Yankees will likely need more than re-signing Aaron Judge to improve their roster heading into the 2023 season. So where else could New York turn? Per The Athletic, the Yankees are targeting Carlos Rodón (the top free agent starter left on the market) and outfielders Andrew Benintendi (who the Yankees traded for last year) and Masataka Yoshida (who is joining MLB from Japan's NPB).

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Remaining top free agents ...

Based on our rankings entering the offseason, here are the top talents seeking new homes as we enter the final day of the Winter Meetings:

  • No. 3 Carlos Correa
  • No. 5 Xander Bogaerts
  • No. 7 Brandon Nimmo
  • No. 8 Carlos Rodón
  • No. 9 Dansby Swanson
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Three big questions following Judge's decision

1) Do the Yankees continue their pursuit of Carlos Rodón? They've been tied to him in recent days, but he's likely to demand a significant contract and it's reasonable to wonder if they have the stomach to hand out another this winter.
2) Who do the Giants pivot to, if anyone? Might they go hard after Carlos Correa or one of the other top shortstops?
3) How does this impact the Rule 5 draft? OK, we're kidding on this one.

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Cubs get Taillon

It's a four-year deal worth $68 million, according to ESPN. Taillon will join Marcus Stroman, Kyle Hendricks, and Justin Steele in Chicago's rotation. The fifth spot could go to a young pitcher (Hayden Wesneski?) or the Cubs could sign another free agent. They're expected to be very active this offseason and have Kodai Senga on the radar.

December 7, 2022, 6:07 AM
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Cubs pursuing Taillon

The Cubs are making a push to sign Jameson Taillon, reports The Athletic. Chicago signed Cody Bellinger to a one-year deal earlier Tuesday and they're still in the mix for the top free agent shortstops. Taillon, our No. 16 free agent, will improve a rotation that is a bit thin behind Kyle Hendricks and Marcus Stroman. He threw 177 1/3 innings with a 3.91 ERA for the Yankees in 2022.

December 7, 2022, 4:32 AM
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Mets in on Senga

The Mets are among the highest teams on Japanese righty Kodai Senga, reports MLB.com. He visited the team earlier this offseason. The Mets signed Justin Verlander earlier this week, but they still need rotation help behind him, Max Scherzer, and Carlos Carrasco. Senga is a true free agent who doesn't require any kind of posting fee. Here's what you need to know about the righty.

December 7, 2022, 4:16 AM
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Phillies strike again

This time they bring in lefty reliever Matt Strahm, according to The Athletic. ESPN says it's a two-year deal worth $15 million. Strahm, 31, had a solid season for the Red Sox in 2022, throwing 44 2/3 innings with a 3.83 ERA and 52 strikeouts. He was also better against righties than lefties, so he doesn't need to be sheltered in the three-batter minimum era. Strahm will be manager Rob Thomson's second lefty behind hard-throwing José Alvarado.

December 7, 2022, 3:22 AM
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Phillies reportedly add rotation depth

Free agent starter Taijuan Walker has agreed to sign with the Phillies, per multiple reports. It looks like a four-year deal (four years and $72 million, according to Jon Heyman on MLB Network).

Walker will slot fourth in the Phillies rotation behind Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suárez while youngster Andrew Painter isn't far off. That is to say, it looks like this will be the five-man rotation once the Phillies decide Painter is ready to join it full time. 

Walker, 30, was 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 132 strikeouts in 157 1/3 innings last season for the Mets. 

December 7, 2022, 2:10 AM
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Giants agree to deal with Mitch Haniger

The Giants have signed a free agent outfielder! It's not Aaron Judge (yet?), but it is Mitch Haniger on a three-year, $45.3 million deal, per ESPN. The report specifically mentions that the deal does not affect the Giants' pursuit of Judge at all. There was always room to add. Heading into today, the three outfield spots along with DH had Mike Yastrzemski, Luis Gonzalez, LaMonte Wade, Austin Slater and Joc Pederson from which to choose. 

Haniger is a big stick when healthy, but injuries have cost him major time in 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2022. The Giants would love to get those 39 home runs and 100 RBI from 2021. 

December 7, 2022, 1:37 AM
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Dodgers planning to add an outfielder

As expected, the Dodgers are planning to add an outfielder this offseason, manager Dave Roberts said during his Winter Meetings media availability Tuesday. The club needs someone capable of playing center field in particular, hence the recent rumors connecting them to Kevin Kiermaier.

Mookie Betts is the only established everyday outfielder on LA's roster right now, though Chris Taylor has played plenty of outfield in his career, and Gavin Lux some as well. Trayce Thomson, who fits best as a platoon bat, and prospect Josh Outman are other internal outfield candidates.

December 7, 2022, 12:24 AM
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Bellinger to the Cubs

Cody Bellinger is headed to a new team after being cut loose by the Dodgers earlier this offseason. Bellinger, the 2019 MVP, is heading to the Cubs on a one-year, $17.5M deal.

Bellinger has not been the same player since hurting his shoulder in the 2020 playoffs. He had a miserable 2021 season, and improved slightly in 2022, but his numbers (.210/.265/.389 with 19 homers in 144 games) were still way below his career norms.

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Still waiting on Judge

It's been about 45 minutes since a false Aaron Judge alarm. He remains a free agent, but the possibility of the Giants signing him has never felt closer. Unless something changes in a hurry, it's just Giants vs. Yankees for Judge. The incumbent Yankees, for what it's worth, are saying they have not yet heart any decsion.

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Latest on Aaron Judge

So the situation could be coming close to a conclusion... maybe? A recent report saying that it sounded like Judge was going to the Giants was walked back with the reporter apologizing for "jumping the gun." Susan Slusser, a Giants writer, did say there is buzz on Judge to the Giants and that it's possible a decision was reached in the last half hour. I wouldn't count the Yankees out just yet, as they've said they will not be outbid. It seems we're in a holding pattern but that it won't last very long. Stay tuned. 

December 6, 2022, 10:31 PM
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More Judge to Giants smoke 

December 6, 2022, 10:27 PM
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