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The 5 best non-Shohei Ohtani moves of the MLB offseason — and 4 that should happen before Opening Day

Baseball has seen a little bit of everything this offseason. Following the Texas Rangers’ World Series victory, we had a stretch of relative quiet, with the occasional transaction sprinkled in every few weeks.

That was in part because we were waiting for arguably the most anticipated signing in the history of the game — until Shohei Ohtani inked a 10-year, $700 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers in December, shattering all kinds of records.

The two-way star got the bulk of the attention this winter (rightfully so), but there were several other moves that moved the needle and didn’t involve the two-time MVP. And yet, with winter now over and spring begun, with full-squad workouts underway and players getting ramped up for the 2024 season, we have a problem: Spring training games start this week, but there are several top free agents still on the market.

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Here’s a list of the five best non-Shohei moves of the offseason — and four more signings that should happen before Opening Day.

1. Aaron Nola re-signs with the Phillies

You might’ve forgotten that this deal was signed this offseason because it happened before Thanksgiving. Nola re-signed with the Phillies on a seven-year, $172 million contract that keeps the team’s longest-tenured player in the City of Brotherly Love until 2030.

This deal stands out for two reasons. For the Phillies, they were able to retain a starter they developed into one of the most consistent arms in the big leagues. For Nola, he was able to get both long-term security and cash out of what has been an extremely slow-moving market, not to mention stay in a place where he’s clearly comfortable and wanted. This was a win-win; Nola and the Phillies are better together than they would’ve been apart.

We have never seen a player who has never played in the big leagues command the kind of attention or dollars that Yoshinobu Yamamoto has coming into this season. After inking a 12-year, $325 million contract with the Dodgers, he now has an opportunity to immediately be one of the best pitchers in baseball. Those in Dodgers camp have already begun to rave about the elite stuff in Yamamoto’s arsenal.

What makes Yamamoto such an intriguing player is that he already has a high floor after competing well on the world stage in both Nippon Professional Baseball and the World Baseball Classic, but he also projects as a pitcher who will continue to get better. He’s only 25 years old, and when it’s all said and done, this deal could be a steal for the Dodgers.

3. Juan Soto finds a new home in the Bronx

It seems absolutely unbelievable that Juan Soto is only 25 years old, on the fast track to Cooperstown and on his third team in three seasons. And yet, one year ahead of free agency, Soto has made his way to the Bronx, where he’ll join forces with Yankees slugger Aaron Judge to form arguably the most fearsome duo in baseball.

After a down 2022, Soto bounced back with a big year in ‘23, finishing the season with a .930 OPS and a career-high 35 homers. Now in New York, with the bright lights, legendary brand and protection of Judge behind him, it wouldn’t be shocking if Soto has the most productive season of his career in 2024. If that’s the case, the $400 million payday he and agent Scott Boras are looking for will likely come to fruition.

4. Royals keep a young superstar in K.C.

There’s a running theme in baseball that small-market teams draft and develop young superstars, only for those superstars to find greener pastures in larger markets that can pay them more. But when it came to Bobby Witt Jr., the Royals weren’t going to let their prized possession walk out the door, instead signing him to an 11-year, $288.7 million extension.

The AL Central might be the weakest division in baseball, and the Royals seem to realize that, becoming more active this winter than in years prior. With a winnable division, signing a top-25 player to a long-term extension made almost too much sense for K.C. And who knows? Maybe it’ll help them get that new ballpark in downtown Kansas City built after all.

At the onset of the offseason, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Brewers pulled the plug on their ace and moved in a new direction. And that direction landed Corbin Burnes in Baltimore, where he is now the leader of a young staff that could use his dominance. Burnes, who won the 2021 NL Cy Young Award, is one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, and while trading for a player a year before free agency is always a risk, it was one the Orioles needed to make going into 2024 as the AL East favorites.

Even without any extenuating circumstances, acquiring one of the game’s best starters was going to be a good move for the O’s. But with right-hander Kyle Bradish, who finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting last season, already shut down due to a sprain in his right UCL and lefty John Means a month behind schedule due to elbow soreness, Baltimore’s trade to add Burnes looms even larger now.

The Royals signing Bobby Witt Jr. to an extension was one of the best moves of the offseason. (Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports)

FOUR MOVES THAT SHOULD STILL HAPPEN

After a few seasons of disappointment in L.A., Cody Bellinger found his old form in his first season in Chicago. He had his most productive season since he won the 2019 NL MVP Award, leading the Cubs in nearly every offensive category en route to winning NL Comeback Player of the Year. Entering free agency, Bellinger and the Cubs felt like a hand-in-glove fit. But as time has gone on, this pairing has felt less and less like a sure thing.

If the Cubs were to watch Bellinger join another team this spring, they’d lose their best position player (4.1 fWAR) from last season without replacing him. That certainly wouldn’t help them improve on their 83 wins from last season, and it would leave them with more questions than answers going forward.

Bellinger found a home on the North Side last year and looked as comfortable as he has in years. Both sides should find a way to make this work.

Tim Anderson finds his way to South Beach

For shortstop Tim Anderson, 2023 was a season to forget. For the second consecutive year, he dealt with an injury that lingered and saw a dip in his production that yielded an MLB-worst .582 OPS before the White Sox declined his option in November.

But prior to 2023, Anderson had four above-average seasons with an OPS above .800, including two All-Star appearances, a Silver Slugger Award and an AL batting title. Sources tell Yahoo Sports that the Giants, Angels and Marlins are the finalists for the three-time All-Star, and a decision could be made in the next week. Miami also checked on Anderson’s availability at last summer’s trade deadline.

While the Giants and Angels could offer Anderson an opportunity to play every day, the Marlins, who made the postseason last year, are the only team of the three with a legitimate chance to make a push for a playoff spot. After Anderson was part of winning seasons in just two of his seven years in Chicago, playing for a contender could be a factor in his decision.

Giants finally land a premium free agent in Matt Chapman

There might not be a bigger enigma on this year’s free-agent market than Matt Chapman. He has been one of the premier defensive third basemen of this generation, but his offense has been consistently inconsistent since his time in Oakland. Last season, Chapman came out of the gates blazing, with a 1.152 OPS in the first month. Then he fell into a season-long slump, with a .659 OPS after May 1.

In recent years, the Giants have struggled to bring in marquee free agents, missing out on the likes of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge and, most recently, Ohtani and Yamamoto. But after getting themselves on the offseason board with Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee and slugger Jorge Soler, the Giants have an opportunity to turn what could’ve been a disastrous offseason into a solid one with the addition of Chapman.

Is Chapman a perfect free agent? No, but with his Gold-Glove-caliber defense, he could be a risk worth taking for San Francisco.

Blake Snell and the Yankees find common ground

The Yankees’ biggest splash this offseason came at the winter meetings in the form of the Soto trade. But with spring training underway, the Yankees haven’t stopped in their quest to add starting pitching. Even with their signing of right-hander Marcus Stroman, Snell has been on the Yankees’ wish list, particularly once they missed out on Yamamoto. And while they have remained in conversations about White Sox starter Dylan Cease, according to sources, Snell might be more attainable at this point.

One thing that could work to the Yankees’ advantage here is the list of potential suitors for the 2023 NL Cy Young Award winner. Word around the industry is that offers haven’t been there for Snell, despite his remarkable season in ‘23. If teams are looking to wait him out, at some point, Snell will have a decision to make: Either take a one-year deal, which seems highly unlikely, or find the sweet spot with the right team. That team could be the Yankees.


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