The winter months might seem like they are pretty chilly for baseball fans, considering the prospect of going to a game in sunny weather doesn’t exist for a little while. However, the MLB hot stove brings the warmth during this period, as big-name free agents look to remain with their incumbent clubs, or seek new homes. The entire landscape of baseball can change while fans are in their furry coats and cozy gloves.
It can be fun for fans to read the rumor mill to see where some of the game’s greatest stars will end up. Some of the astronomical contract offers are also enjoyable to keep track of.
Here are the three most impact free agent signings in Major League Baseball this winter.
New York Mets: Justin Verlander
While it is tempting to include the Texas Rangers’ signing of ace Jacob DeGrom on this list, there’s a really good chance that this acquisition may not actually transform their team. The Rangers finished 38 games back of first place in the American League West in 2022. And while DeGrom’s presence in the rotation should help Texas improve in 2023, it’s still unlikely that their baseball betting odds to make the postseason will increase all that much.
However, the New York Mets’ signing of Justin Verlander to replace DeGrom is going to make a big difference. If New York was unable to bring in someone who could at least approximate the supreme level of production DeGrom provides, their chances of winning the 2023 World Series would’ve dipped considerably. Instead, the Mets receive a player who just won the American League Cy Young award.
Verlander’s advanced age is a legitimate concern, and it will be interesting to see if manager Buck Showalter goes out of his way to keep his new ace fresh. With that said, reeling in the star veteran will go a long way in helping the Mets stay relevant in the NL East division. He’s also coming off of a World Series win with the Houston Astros, where he pitched well.
New York Yankees: Aaron Judge
Although there were some pretty big names available this winter, no player’s future home was under more of a microscope than Aaron Judge’s. Coming off of a historic 2022 campaign, which was perhaps the greatest contract year performance of all time, Judge all but secured a lucrative pay day.
While the San Francisco Giants were in the running to sign the star right fielder, the New York Yankees were able to keep Judge in the Bronx with a new nine-year deal worth $360 million. It’s a huge signing for the Yankees, who would’ve had a massive hole to fill in their lineup had Judge taken his talents elsewhere.
The organization took a big swing with their acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton in 2018, but the former Marlins slugger has not been able to stay healthy in New York. As a result, retaining Judge, who has been largely durable in his MLB career, was all but mandatory for a team chasing World Series titles year after year. Judge’s impact could potentially go beyond the box score as well, as he’s rumored to be in line to receive the captain’s title in the near future.
San Diego Padres: Xander Bogaerts
In recent years, the San Diego Padres have elected to open up their checkbooks in an aggressive way in order to compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Some of their moves have worked out, and others haven’t, but it finally seems like the Padres have established a winning culture. They made it to the National League Championship Series in 2022, and appear hungry for more in 2023.
The Padres signed former Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year pact worth $280 million. The four-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion has experience performing on the biggest stage, and should make San Diego a force to be reckoned with once again. The splurge in free agency was certainly interesting though, because it’ll have a lot of ripple effects on the diamond.
San Diego was thrilled to uncover talented shortstop Ha-Seong Kim last year, who played phenomenal defense, and is just 25 years old. It seemed like the Padres might want to let Kim continue to thrive at a position he was clearly comfortable in. With the signing of Bogaerts, there are a lot of question as to where Kim and Jake Cronenworth will eventually play.
Josh Bell will not be returning to San Diego, so the first base position has been vacated, perhaps for someone like Cronenworth to step in. The Padres are fortunate that baseball decided to implement the designated hitter in the National League, which will also give them more ways to get their stars into the lineup.