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MLB Roundtable: Dissecting biggest moves, best and worst offseasons

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With Major League Baseball's spring training in full swing, theScore's MLB editors Josh Goldberg, Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb, Tom Ruminski, Bryan Mcwilliam, and Brandon Wile answer some of the biggest questions of the offseason:

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Which addition - not named Ohtani - will make the biggest impact?

Corbin Burnes, Orioles: Baltimore finally landed a legitimate ace to bolster its rotation after acquiring Burnes in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers. Burnes' addition is even more necessary, with the injuries to Kyle Bradish and John Means leaving Baltimore thinner in the rotation to begin the season. Burnes remains one of baseball's best starting pitchers despite his ERA blooming in each of the last two seasons after he won the 2021 NL Cy Young. The 29-year-old has thrown 395 2/3 innings over the last two seasons and is a good bet to approach 200 innings with a strong ERA and strikeout numbers in 2024. This is exactly the type of move the Orioles and general manager Mike Elias needed to take the franchise to another level. - Goldberg

Juan Soto, Yankees: Brian Cashman promised there would be changes following a miserable 2023 campaign, and adding the best hitter available certainly helps in creating a more balanced lineup. Soto is a generational talent and checks off almost every box the Yankees needed. He gives the club a superstar bat from the left side, possesses an elite eye (18.6 BB%), and doesn't strike out a lot (18.2 K%). Last season, New York's left-handed hitters ranked 27th in OPS, while the club as a whole was 27th in OBP. While Soto's power plays to all fields, he should thrive hitting at AL East ballparks, especially Yankee Stadium. Whether he hits in front of or behind Aaron Judge, expect those two to see plenty of pitches and form arguably the most dangerous duo in the majors. - Wile

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Dodgers: By now, everyone's read about Yamamoto's utter dominance in Japan, but even that may have left some unprepared for seeing him live. He made one heck of a first impression during his Cactus League debut, displaying his full arsenal of pitches while tying the Rangers in knots. Shohei Ohtani's signing got more press, but Yamamoto could be an even more important get for the Dodgers, considering the state of their starting pitching. He has a chance to be the constant atop Los Angeles' rotation, something the club hasn't had in a while, and one of the majors' best pitchers from the get-go. If what we saw last week is even half of what he'll bring to the table every five days, the rest of the National League is in some serious trouble. - Sharkey-Gotlieb

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What's been the most head-scratching move?

Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Blue Jays: The glove-first utility man secured a two-year, $15-million deal after producing his worst season (0.2 fWAR) of his six-year career. Kiner-Falefa looks like Toronto's primary replacement for Matt Chapman at third base, which is a big downgrade for a team with World Series aspirations. The signing is perplexing because the Blue Jays already have a slew of versatile infielders, such as Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal, and Davis Schneider, as well as MLB-ready prospects Orelvis Martinez and Addison Barger. Considering Gio Urshela, Tim Anderson, Amed Rosario, and Enrique Hernández signed for a combined $16 million makes the Kiner-Falefa deal even more puzzling. - Ruminski

Jordan Hicks, Giants: Signing Hicks, a solid reliever with a blazing fastball, didn't have to be this head-scratching. But the Giants gave him a four-year, $44-million deal to be a starter, something he's had limited experience doing at the big-league level. Hicks was a starter in the minors, but outside of an ill-fated attempt with the Cardinals two years ago, he hasn't done it regularly since 2017. When he was briefly a starter again in St. Louis in 2023, the results were disastrous over his seven conventional starts before he was moved back to the bullpen. Recent injuries to Tristan Beck and Keaton Winn, along with Robbie Ray's absence to start the year, have only highlighted Hicks' importance to the Giants, and that's quite a lot to put on a player with such limited starting experience. It's fair to question why they did this instead of paying more for an established starter like Jordan Montgomery or Blake Snell - who are both still out there - to pair with Logan Webb. - Sharkey-Gotlieb

Rhys Hoskins, Brewers: At first, the Brewers inking Hoskins to a two-year, $34-million deal seemed like a wise move, as it brought added punch to a club aiming to defend its NL Central title. But then, Milwaukee traded Burnes to Baltimore, signaling that the front office might be more focused on the long term. Other veteran players like Willy Adames and Devin Williams have also had their names floated in trade rumors, making the Hoskins addition more puzzling. Even with Hoskins, who isn't guaranteed to be the same player he was before an ACL injury wiped out his entire 2023 campaign, the Brewers look more like a third-place team. - Mcwilliam

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Which team - not named the Dodgers - won the offseason?

Arizona Diamondbacks: It's hard to see a team in the same division as the vaunted Dodgers as a winner, but Arizona did a lot of good things in the offseason. The addition of a dependable starting pitcher like Eduardo Rodriguez gives manager Torey Lovullo a strong trio with Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. The continued development of Brandon Pfaadt could make Arizona home to one of baseball's best staffs in 2024. Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen also earns high marks for improving the lineup with veteran additions in Joc Pederson, Eugenio Suárez, and Randal Grichuk while also retaining Lourdes Gurriel Jr. The D-Backs have a ton of balance in the lineup and can play matchups to attack both right- and left-handed pitching. Arizona is the clear second-best team in the NL West and looks to be a strong postseason contender. - Goldberg

New York Yankees: Piggybacking off the Soto answer earlier, few teams were able to address their weaknesses as well as the Yankees. In addition to adding a much-needed bat to pair with Judge, the club also added strong complementary outfield pieces in Alex Verdugo and Trent Grisham. It's clear that Cashman believed the team needed more of an edge, and adding Verdugo and starting pitcher Marcus Stroman accomplishes that. The signing of Stroman also gives the team a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter who can keep the ball in the park. The additions of Caleb Ferguson and Victor González further deepen what was one of the best bullpens in the majors a season ago. While the team would benefit from adding another starter, the lineup is more balanced, and it upgraded defensively. Health is really the only thing that could prevent a rebound season. - Wile

Cincinnati Reds: The Reds look primed to do damage in the NL Central after opening up their wallets and spending the sixth-most money in free agency to improve a club that won 82 games last season. Cincinnati keyed in on veteran additions like Frankie Montas, Jeimer Candelario, Emilio Pagán, and Nick Martinez to surround its budding core of Elly De La Cruz, Spencer Steer, Matt McLain, and Hunter Greene. The Reds' plentiful offseason moves added leadership, experience, and depth to a club that second baseman Jonathan India predicts will win the wide-open division. - Mcwilliam

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Which team had the worst offseason?

Boston Red Sox: Had chairman Tom Werner not declared in November that the team was preparing to go "full throttle" to improve this winter, the answer might have been different. Despite Werner later walking those comments back, the damage had already been done, and the mixed messaging coming from ownership and the front office, combined with the inability to spend this winter, has created a lot of vitriol in New England. Boston's payroll currently sits $35 million under the luxury tax, and while it has the flexibility to still add, it's been reported that the team would need to move salary out to make another marquee addition. Rafael Devers has publicly asked for help, while Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy openly told reporters - for whatever reason - that Dustin Pedroia criticized the team for not signing free agents. The team hasn't spent, and there's no justification for that. Further compounding matters is the fact that manager Alex Cora enters the season without a contract extension. - Wile

Toronto Blue Jays: The team needed a strong winter after flaming out of the playoffs for a second straight year. However, bad decisions continue to be a theme for the franchise, as it's hard to imagine the acquisitions of Justin Turner, Yariel Rodriguez, and Kiner-Falefa, as well as the re-signing of Kevin Kiermaier, moving the needle in the loaded AL East. The additions feel even more underwhelming considering the Blue Jays made a big run at Ohtani before coming up empty. There should be a lot of pressure on Toronto's front office to win now, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette slated to hit free agency after the 2025 campaign. Yet, there was a lack of urgency this offseason. - Ruminski

Minnesota Twins: The Twins entered the offseason on a high after winning their first playoff series in 21 years. Yet instead of embracing the opportunity, they largely stood still. Minnesota's only major additions this winter were veteran first baseman Carlos Santana, back-end starter Anthony DeSclafani, and reserve outfielder Manuel Margot. They also made no attempt to re-sign Sonny Gray or Kenta Maeda. It was a bit strange to watch them not do all that much to build on last year's success and leave the rest of the mediocre AL Central in the dust for good. The Twins shelled out big bucks for Carlos Correa - who isn't getting any younger - last year and could've added even more talent around him and Royce Lewis this winter to push even higher. Some uncertainty surrounding their TV deal caused some issues with payroll, but it still feels as if they're content with just being the best of the worst division in baseball. - Sharkey-Gotlieb

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Which remaining FA would you most want to sign if you were a GM?

J.D. Martinez: Turner landed a $13-million guarantee after a productive season for the Red Sox in 2023. Martinez remains unsigned despite hitting more home runs, driving in more runs, and posting a higher wRC+. The veteran's lack of defensive versatility is likely a hindrance for teams interested in his services, as he's best utilized as a DH. Despite that, Martinez continues to fight Father Time and should be able to put up strong offensive numbers in 2024 at age 36. Any team looking for an infusion of offensive talent should look hard at signing Martinez in time for Opening Day. - Goldberg

Jordan Montgomery: The left-hander is getting lost in the market behind Snell. While he may not be a prototypical ace, he's a modern-day workhorse who stays healthy and was an important piece of the reigning World Series champion Rangers. Since 2021, Montgomery has quietly accrued more fWAR than Snell in almost 100 more innings, along with a 2.3 BB/9 rate that's miles ahead of the two-time Cy Young winner. Montgomery counters his lower strikeout totals with low home-run and high ground-ball rates. He may not be a prototypical ace, but Montgomery is the kind of quality pitcher that makes any contending rotation better in an instant. He also should cost less than Snell and doesn't come attached to draft-pick compensation. - Sharkey-Gotlieb

Blake Snell: There are five active pitchers with multiple Cy Young Awards. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Clayton Kershaw are all destined for the Hall of Fame, while Jacob deGrom would have a very solid case without all the injuries over the last few years. Snell, who's the last member of the group, somehow still hasn't found a new home for this season and beyond. The left-hander led all qualified starters with a 2.25 ERA in 2023 and has a career 11.7 K/9. The 31-year-old is right in the middle of his prime and is a bona fide ace who can slot in the No. 1 spot on almost any team in the majors. He could also be the final piece of the puzzle for a club eyeing a championship. - Ruminski

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Does MLB need a signing period?

Yes: Baseball is the only sport that has a trickle effect for transactions during the offseason. The NHL, NBA, and NFL all have a frenzy of signings and moves that take place over a short period of time before things quiet down, allowing teams to know where they stand well in advance of the beginning of the season. Most of the publicity surrounding the offseason has been negative this winter. The most exciting offseason in recent memory was in 2021 as teams frantically tried to make moves with the threat of a lockout looming. Baseball needs to harness more of that exciting energy moving forward. A more defined signing period would help accomplish that. - Goldberg

No: Selfishly, I enjoy that baseball news is spread across the winter months and transactions can happen on any random January night. But having players unsigned well into spring training - especially the marquee players on the market - certainly isn't ideal. The problem is I don't think adding a signing window would help, and I fully understand why the players are so against it. While creating a signing period would create urgency, it would also kill a lot of the leverage players have, and they deserve to not be pressured into signing a deal considering how long these players wait to reach free agency. Rather than create a cutoff date to sign, why not build a system that incentivizes teams to sign players before a certain date? For example, if a team signs Player X to a multi-year deal before Jan. 1, maybe they receive a compensation pick or some sort of luxury-tax saving. There are creative ways the league can implement incentives that benefit both players and teams to avoid a redo of this offseason. - Wile

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