After a busy morning on the hot stove, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:
1. Gray, Maeda finalizing deals:
It was reported earlier this morning that the Cardinals are finalizing a deal with veteran right-hander Sonny Gray worth a reported $75MM over three years. That leaves Gray poised to become the second free agent who placed in the top 10 of MLBTR’s Top 50 free agents list to sign this offseason following righty Aaron Nola, who re-upped with the Phillies earlier in the month. Gray isn’t the only free agent starter in the process of finalizing a deal, however. Per reports last night, the Tigers inking veteran right-hander Kenta Maeda to a two-year deal worth $24MM. That contract is pending a physical, which is expected to happen later today. Both Gray and Maeda will require 40-man roster spots upon their deals with St. Louis and Detroit becoming official, though both clubs have spots available meaning no corresponding transaction will be necessary to finalize either pact.
2. How will the Twins address their rotation?
Both Gray and Maeda pitched for the Twins in 2023. Maeda provided the club with 104 1/3 innings of back-of-the-rotation production following his return from Tommy John surgery this year, posting a 4.23 ERA and 4.02 FIP over 21 appearances (20 starts). Gray, meanwhile, had a career year with Minnesota and posted a 2.79 ERA across 32 starts. The return of right-hander Chris Paddack to the rotation in 2024 should help alleviate the losses, though 25-year-old youngster Louie Varland, who posted a 4.63 ERA and 5.02 FIP in 68 major league innings this year, likely represents the club’s internal fifth starter.
Given that, an external addition who can join Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, and Paddack in the rotation could make plenty of sense. While the club is expected to reduce payroll this offseason, the club’s interest in a reunion with Maeda prior to the righty signing in Detroit suggests Minnesota can afford to add a mid-tier free agent arm this offseason. There’s plenty such starters available, with Michael Wacha, Nick Martinez, and Mike Clevinger among the names expected to fall in a similar tier to Maeda this winter.
3. When will the hitting, relief markets start heating up?
As the hot stove has begun to heat up, the focus has largely been on starting pitching. Maeda and Gray join Nola, Kyle Gibson, and Lance Lynn as free agent rotation arms who have signed big league deals this month. Meanwhile, right-hander Reynaldo Lopez inked a three-year deal with an Atlanta club who intends to stretch the reliever out for a rotation audition of his own come Spring Training.
All of that buzz on the rotation market stands in sharp contrast to the position player and relief markets, which have been relatively quiet in the offseason’s first month. Joe Jimenez’s three-year deal with the Braves on the first day of free agency still represents the most significant relief contract of the offseason, while infielder Paul DeJong’s one-year agreement with the White Sox represents the lone positional signing of significance of the winter to this point.