5 Big Under-the-Radar Acquisitions This MLB Offseason (2023)

Every fan wants their team to sign the best free agent this winter, but there's only one Aaron Judge. The fact is, there are any number of low-key players who can help a team win, too, and while they don't make the headlines for the New York Yankees retaining their record-breaking slugger, they could still play a significant role in runs. of flags to play.

Let's take a look at five big new additions this offseason:

JD Martinez, Dodgers

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Martinez doesn't seem like a guy who should be on a hidden list, but the Los Angeles Dodgers signed the 35-year-old to a sneakily staggering $10 million, one-year deal.

The Dodgers are having an unusually quiet winter and seem to be trying to cut their luxury tax. So it's also a bit surprising that for a team known for consistently landing big stars, this is their new big signing. With that being said, there are plenty of reasons to love this step.

First, Martinez is still a very good hitter, hitting 44 home runs in 287 games over the past two seasons with a .484 SLG. At this point in his career, he almost certainly should stick with purposeful hitting duties, and the Dodgers have the flexibility in other parts of the lineup to easily accommodate that. Just last year, he ranked in the 87th percentile in barrels and the 84th percentile in wOBA expected, slightly higher than Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Matt Olson, to name a few.

Second, the five-time All-Star reunites with Mookie Betts and his former hitting coach, Robert Van Scoyoc. While it doesn't actually make him play better, it will certainly help Martinez adjust to his new surroundings smoothly.

Finally, Martinez seems to measure up when playing for a successful club. When he traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Arizona Diamondbacks midway through the 2017 season, he hit 29 home runs in the last 62 games of the year and was suddenly in a pennant race. Playing for the 108-win Boston Red Sox the following year, he enjoyed his best season yet, hitting a .629 SLG and belting 43 home runs en route to a World Series championship. And when the Red Sox didn't play well, neither did he.

Most of the talk in Los Angeles revolves around the club losing Trea Turner, Justin Turner, Tyler Anderson and a few others. But don't let that distract you from the fact that Martinez can still be an impactful player at the heart of an opposing team's roster.

Erik Swanson, Blue Jays

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At the start of the offseason, the Blue Jays answered their greatest need, sending hitter Teoscar Hernández to the Seattle Mariners for right-handed assistant Swanson and would-be pitcher Adam Macko. However, here we focus only on Swanson.

The 29-year-old made a breakthrough last season, posting a commanding 1.68 ERA and 1.85 FIP in 53 2/3 innings and increasing his strikeout rate to a whopping 34%. Combined with his 5% walk rate, only four qualified rescuers were K-BB% better than Swanson; Edwin Díaz, Andrés Muñoz, Ryan Helsley and Chris Martin (more on him later).

In a loaded Mariners bullpen, Swanson didn't see much high-leverage time. And in those high-pressure moments, Swanson wasn't quite as sharp, allowing a .707 OPS against him. So it's hard to know if he was a one-season appearance or if he made permanent changes that will continue to work.

One indication that he won't back down, however, is how well his material has performed. There are countless ways to collect Strikeouts. Blue Jays fans will remember that by expanding the zone, Robbie Ray racked up a ton of K's. However, while working in the Zone, his tendency to cough on Homer came back to bite him. This is the case with many pitchers.

Conversely, however, Swanson dominated while also living in the Zone. 42.7% of his pitches were in the strike zone, about the league average for qualified relievers, and he swung and missed those pitches better than anyone except Diaz, Munoz and Josh Hader. He was sensational tricking the rackets on courses that should be passable. It's a great indication of past dominance and should be a good predictor.

Joey Gallo, Zwillinge

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Based on recent performance alone, a one-year, $11 million contract seems a bit high. However, there are no bad one-year deals and Gallo's ceiling remains extremely high.

Although both 2020 and 2022 were dismal seasons for him, as of early 2017 he had a .475 SLG that bests AJ Pollock, Joey Votto and Michael Conforto. He also has the 12th most home runs in that span, ahead of Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor and George Springer.

The concern for Gallo is quite clear. The ball looks dull and unless he's throwing fly balls over the wall, he just isn't getting balls in play with good enough velocity to make up for his brutal strikeout rate. If the deal goes bad, his respiratory rate will surely be the main culprit, and Target Field certainly isn't an easy ballfield to hit home runs on. Those are the concerns that prevented 29 other teams from surpassing the Twins for an outfielder who hit as many home runs as Giancarlo Stanton over the past six seasons.

The hope, however, is that his elite barrel rate and keen acumen will transform him back into the prolific hitter he was in 2021. The most notable change in Savant de Gallo's profile between his strong 2021 and dismal 2022 was that his Hunting course plummeted. Gallo always hit a lot, but between 2019-21 he only left the zone on 22.8% of the pitches. However, last year he zoomed in 31.5% of the time. If he again shows patience in court and is selective about the offers he tries to push, it could be quite the discovery for the twins. And he, too, wouldn't hurt if he recaptured the defensive form that made him a surprisingly good defensive outfielder in 2021.

Chris Martin, Medias Rojas

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Martin was never considered an elite support worker, either as a turnkey or senior firefighter. However, it's possible he took such a turn last year that he'll see him take on that role when he joins the Red Sox.

It's a two-year, $13.5 million contract for a 36-year-old assistant, so there's some risk here, but there's also the potential for considerable reward if the changes he made midway through last year turn out to be sustainable.

After joining the Los Angeles Dodgers at the close of the trade, the right-hander posted an incredible 1.46 ERA and 1.13 FIP in 24 2/3 innings. The Dodgers are known for weaponizing data to put their players in better positions for success, but it's not like Martin is forgetting those lessons in Boston.

From the Chicago Cubs to the Dodgers, he jumped from very good to great, improving control and command while working inside the zone much more often. With the Cubs, 45.9% of Martin's offers ended up in the zone. But in Los Angeles he improved to 51.2%. This also led to other successes. With more final pitches than strikes, opposing hitters also began making offers out of the zone at a much higher rate: from 30.8% for the Cubs to 43.7% for the Dodgers. This is a massive jump in tone that turns into grunts or just outs.

He did amazingly without admitting puffs at zone points. As a pitcher begins to work more inside the zone, you'll probably suspect a higher contact rate on those pitches. But no, Martin has kept his zone contact rate at a very good, if not great, 80.6% all year, which has changed little between teams.

The most worrying change is Homer's rate, which could be flagged as unsustainable. From a problematically high 1.44 HR/9 in the first half to 0.36 in the second half, one should probably expect something in between going forward. But if Martin really made command and control changes that helped him limit walks while he generated a small increase in strikeouts, then balancing that will also be at least a little more difficult. The Red Sox could have found a great one.

Michael Confort, Giants

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Admittedly, it's pretty brutal for Giants fans to think they signed Judge, then thought they signed Carlos Correa, and then had to settle for Conforto on a two-year, $36 million deal. But there is a lot to like.

Comfort is the best candidate to recover. The former All-Star hasn't played in an MLB game since Oct. 2, 2021 after a series of poor decisions led him to turn down the qualifying offer and wallow in a free hand before undergoing shoulder surgery.

The optimist would surmise that the shoulder ailments he suffered from likely played a role in his poor platforming season in 2021, when he posted a career-low wRC+ since his first full season long ago in 2016, finishing 14th among the best. qualified outfield players. . However, in 2021 he took a big hit, scoring just above league average and looking pretty bad defensively as well.

Furthermore, the optimist would probably point out that while shoulder ailments make it difficult for hitters to rebuild their hitting power (see: Cody Bellinger), after Conforto's year-long hiatus, presumably without the repetitive swing every day that it's an MLB season, he should be very willing to rake. There may be some timing issues he needs to work out to get back on track, but that's what spring training is for.

The deal carries significant risk, and growth potential is limited by the fact that the Giants continue to offer favorable opt-out options for players. In this particular deal, Conforto is eligible to return to free agency next winter if he reaches the record 350 appearances next season. If the 29-year-old manages to play a full season even at his 2021 rates, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't rather go out on the open market one more time to see if he can do better than the one-year guarantee he has. stay with the Giants. So, in all likelihood, this deal either goes bad or it's going to be a great one-year game for San Francisco. We will see.

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