Inside the Clubhouse: Power ranking the worst MLB offseason moves so far

Los Angeles Dodgers, MLB

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The MLB offseason was interrupted by a lockout which could drag on for some time. While we’re waiting we can assess some of the shakiest moves so far.

Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are finally talking about a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but there has been little progress in discussions and the lockout is likely to drag on for weeks.

We recently ranked four of the best offseason moves. Now, we’re ranking four of the worst offseason moves, including the Detroit Tigers signing Javier Baez to a six-year, $140 million contract.

Here are the four most questionable signings of the MLB offseason so far

4. Javier Baez, Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers had to add a shortstop. They weren’t going to pay Carlos Correa $300+ million despite his obvious connection to manager AJ Hinch.

But I thought they could have done better than Baez.

Baez, 29, is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball. Since 2018, he’s hitting .270/.311/.508 with 102 home runs and a 113 wRC+ in 1988 plate appearances. He ranks third with 52 Outs Above Average, according to Statcast (h/t MLB Trade Rumors), and his 44 Defensive Runs Saved rank ninth among 4053 defenders.

But Baez is among the streakiest hitters in baseball and swings and misses a lot. He struck out in 36.3 percent of plate appearances with the Cubs, cutting that number to 28.5 percent after a midseason trade to the Mets. He walked in seven percent of plate appearances with the Mets, which is worse than the 8.8 percent league average.

A National League executive thought that Baez made a lot of sense for the Mets, especially after they added Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha. But he was less sure how Baez would fit on the Tigers, where he will be the face of what the team hopes is the beginning of annual playoff contention.

“For me, he’s a piece of the puzzle but needs to be surrounded with the correct profiles or else the entire lineup will be streaky,” one National League executive said prior to the lockout. “Theo (Epstein) did a great job of keeping Baez around players like Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant and balancing that lineup out. If he is around other hackers one night they will score 12 runs and then for the next 3 nights they will get shut out.”

3. Yan Gomes, Chicago Cubs

I want to stress one thing: I like Yan Gomes. I just don’t like the fit with the Chicago Cubs.

Entering the offseason, the Cubs prioritized upgrading the backup catcher position. I thought Manny Piña would have made a lot of sense on a two-year, $8 million deal. Instead, they signed Gomes to a two-year, $13 million deal to back up Willson Contreras and speculation immediately followed that it could signal the end of Contreras’ time in Chicago.

But the Cubs have shown no inclination to trade Contreras. They now have two starting-caliber catchers on the roster and while it also gives them first base/designated hitter possibilities, it gives them less room to spend on other pitching upgrades besides Wade Miley and Marcus Stroman.

Perhaps the Cubs’ stance on a potential Contreras trade changes if they are unable to extend him. The Giants could use another catcher after Buster Posey retired and their general manager Scott Harris just so happened to work in the Cubs’ front office.

For now, however, the Cubs appear set to enter the season with Contreras and Gomes as their top two catchers — and it’s left me, and others in the industry, scratching their heads.

2. Avisail Garcia, Miami Marlins

Immediately after Avisail Garcia signed a four-year, $53 million deal with the Miami Marlins, I had multiple team executives say that it was the worst deal of the offseason.

Why?

There are concerns about how much Garcia “wants it.” While Garcia is 6-foot-4, 250 pounds and possesses all the tools needed to be an elite major-league hitter, he has hit over 20 home runs twice in his career (20 in 2019; 29 in 2021) and has averaged at least .282 twice since 2015.

Of course, Garcia has still been a productive player. He will be an upgrade in the Marlins’ outfield. But having the 30-year-old be the biggest offseason move of what is supposed to be the new era of Marlins baseball is … not a move other outside executives would have made, especially with Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber and Michael Conforto still unsigned.

1. Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Dodgers

There is no such thing as a bad one-year deal. I just didn’t agree with this one.

Heaney, 30, was traded to the New York Yankees in September. He made five total starts, was demoted to a low-leverage bullpen role and allowed 13 home runs in 35.2 innings. He was designated for assignment on Oct. 5 and became a free agent two days later.

Yet Heaney signed a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which is $1.75 million more than the $6.75 million salary he earned in 2021.

Why? His ERA in 129.2 innings last season was 5.83, the highest of his career, but some of the underlying numbers painted a different picture. He had an expected ERA of 4.03. His average exit velocity was 89 mph. He had a swinging strike percentage of 13.8. And on a one-year deal, the Dodgers could afford to take this risk — they have made similar deals in the past — and it plugged one of several holes in their pitching staff.

Maybe I’m wrong and Heaney and the Dodgers prove me wrong. After all, there were reportedly as many as a dozen teams pursuing the left-hander, so maybe I’m missing something. But I thought he would sign a cheap, incentive-laden deal, not get a raise and become the first player to sign a major-league deal this offseason.

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