The New York Yankees traded for Giancarlo Stanton; the Boston Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez; the Chicago Cubs signed Yu Darvish; the San Diego Padres signed Eric Hosmer; the St. Louis Cardinals traded for Marcell Ozuna; the Los Angeles Angels signed Shohei Ohtani; the Milwaukee Brewers added Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain; the San Francisco Giants traded for Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen; the Houston Astros traded for Gerrit Cole. But in the midst of those headline-grabing transactions, the Minnesota Twins and New York Mets stole the MLB offseason.
Sunday afternoon, Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi reported that the Twins and former Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Logan Morrison agreed to a one-year, $6.5 million deal. Coming off a year in which he hit a career-high 38 home runs and drove in 85 runs, the 30-year-old is a great get for Minnesota at that price. He can man first base from the get-go, allowing Joe Mauer to DH, or manager Paul Molitor can flip-flop the two over the duration of the season.
In addition to Morrison, the Twins also added another former Ray this offseason, right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi. While he had an underwhelming 4.14 ERA in 2017, Odorizzi has started 28-plus games in each of the last four seasons and has a 3.83 ERA in his six-year career. With Odorizzi only costing the Twins minor league infielder Jermaine Palacios, his addition will be welcome. He’ll be slotted into the middle of their rotation behind Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, adding more depth to their staff. The Twins also added Anibal Sanchez and Michael Pineda, who could both potentially crack their starting rotation.
The Twins have bolstered their bullpen, too. Adding backend relievers Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney, they’ve inserted some proven commodities into their bullpen. Reed is viewed as one of the better setup relievers in baseball, and Rodney, while maybe not as stellar as he once was, is still a veteran presence in the pen. Reed is a strikeout-savvy arm (at least 75 strikeouts in each of the last two seasons) and Rodney is accustomed to finishing off games in the ninth (39 saves last year and has 300 in his career).
Coming off an 85-win season and improving themselves in the offseason, the Twins are poised to be back in the AL Wild Card mix and cannot be ruled out to potentially chase the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central in 2018.
The Mets find themselves in a situation similar to the Twins. They didn’t bring in a big fish this offseason, instead opting to spend shrewdly. Their first order of business was signing reliever Anthony Swarzak — who had a career-low 2.33 ERA in 77.1 innings pitched last season — to a two-year deal. The righty will deepen a pen that already includes Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Jerry Blevins.
The arrival of lefty Jason Vargas will add depth to manager Mickey Callaway‘s rotation. Last season, Vargas had a 2.22 ERA going into July and earned a spot on the American League All-Star team. While he did fade late in 2017 and isn’t a strikeout pitcher, Vargas is still capable of being a middle- to top-of-the-rotation arm. And with the never-ending injuries that hit the Mets rotation, the lefty provides a safety net and much-needed depth.
In terms of addressing their everyday order, the Mets did well in free agency. Adding third baseman Todd Frazier, right fielder Jay Bruce, and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, they bargain-bought on the free agent market for players who might man starting roles.
While Frazier has hit below .230 in each of the last two seasons, he has still hit 102 home runs over the last three years and is one of the better fielding third basemen in the game. His two-year, $17 million deal is a compete steal for general manager Sandy Alderson.
After trading him away in August, the Mets brought back Bruce in free agency on a three-year, $39 million deal. While not known for his glove, the right fielder provides the Mets with a middle-of-the-order power bat, which certainly has value.
And for Gonzalez, he’ll compete with Dominic Smith to be the team’s starting first baseman. For the veteran’s minimum, Gonzalez is a no-risk signing that could pan out to be the Mets’ best offseason transaction.
While maybe not a big enough threat to dethrone the Washington Nationals in the NL East, the Mets, barring an insurmountable number of injuries, will certainly be a threat to snatch a Wild Card seed in the National League.
The Twins and Mets aren’t expected to win their respective divisions and neither team made a franchise-altering move in the offseason. But while the rest of MLB was monitoring and in awe of the remarkable silence concerning top-tier free agents, the Twins and Mets pounced on under-the-radar impact players and happened to sign them on team-friendly contracts. Both were able to improve their ballclubs without overpaying for anyone in free agency or via trade. That is how you quietly steal the offseason.