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Fair or Foul: Grading the first post-lockout moves

After 99 days, the MLB lockout finally ended last week. That opened the floodgates for free agent signings and trades across the league as everyone scrambles to finalize rosters before spring training and the April 7 season opener. Here’s a letter grade for seven of the biggest post-lockout transactions.

Carlos Rodon two-year, $44 Million deal with SF Giants: B-

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Other than Clayton Kershaw, Rodon was the best starting pitcher available post-lockout. Rodon was a stud in 2021, posting a 2.37 ERA with almost 13 strikeouts per nine innings. Those numbers should excite any team. However, Rodon only made 24 starts, only threw 132.2 innings, and has no track record of dominating like he has recently. For a Giants team trying to remain relevant in 2022 after losing Kevin Gausman, this is the best step they could take.

Rangers acquire C Mitch Garver from Twins: B

The Rangers clearly want to contend in 2022. Spending over $500 million before the lockout is a clear demonstration of that. Improving their battery with Garver is another great step. The catcher hit over 30 home runs for the Twins three seasons ago, and by all accounts can repeat that performance with his new team. Losing Isiah Kiner-Falefa was not ideal, but it sure helped the Twins later on (more on that soon).

Mets acquire SP Chris Bassitt from Oakland: A

Steve Cohen showed Mets fans that he will spend millions of dollars and spare no expense to make the team better. Now, his general manager, Billy Eppler, is showing that he will do the same on the trade market. Bassitt finished tenth in A.L. Cy Young voting and made his first All-Star Game last season. He would have done even better had he not suffered a head injury late in the season. Bassitt will be a cost-effective, high-ceiling starter for the Mets.

Red Sox sign LHPs Jake Diekman and Matt Strahm: B-

Bringing in two cost-effective, veteran lefties will be a huge help for the Red Sox in 2022. They no longer need Josh Taylor, Austin Davis and Darwinzon Hernandez to be the first options to face left-handed hitters. Diekman was solid for Oakland last season and always picks up strikeouts with his funky pitching motion. Strahm was injured for most of last season, and terrible when active, but has a history of strong relief. These two can bolster the bullpen, but might also be duds, hence the decent, but not great, grade of B-.

Yankees acquire IFs Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa and C Ben Rortvedt from Twins: B+ 

Kiner-Falefa pops up again, this time heading to the Bronx to be the stopgap shortstop for the Yankees for the next two seasons. Both Donaldson and Kiner-Falefa had wins above replacements (WARs) above 3.0 in 2021 (3.7 for Kiner-Falefa, 3.2 for Donaldson). That would rank either player in the top-five on the 2021 Yankees, so their roster has definitely improved.

However, fan-favorite Gio Urshela and catcher Gary Sanchez are both on the way out. Rortvedt is a huge defensive improvement over Sanchez, but a major downgrade at the plate. Rortvedt and Kyle Higashioka, assuming that is the Yankees’ battery in 2022, could be the worst offensive duo at the position in the league. This is a solid move by the Yankees, hence the solid B+ grade, but it cannot be their last.

Mariners acquire 3B Eugenio Suarez and OF Jesse Winker from Cincinnati: A-

Winker is an elite hitter. With a 128 OPS+ for his career, and a .949 OPS in his first All-Star season in 2021, he continues to rake whenever he is healthy. But health is the issue. Winker’s career-high for games played is 113, and he has to prove he can play a truly full season. Seattle deemed this risk worth it, so long as they also took on Suarez.

Suarez had averaged an OPS over .900, averaged 42 home runs per year and finished top-20 in N.L. M.V.P. voting from 2018 to 2019. His fall from grace has been very steep. He’s hit near .200 with just an OPS just over .700 in the two seasons since and is owed over $30 million for the remainder of his seven-year, $66 million extension.

Braves acquire and extend 1B Matt Olson, send four top prospects to Oakland: A+

Freddie Freeman was the face of the Braves at first base for over a decade. He led the team to a World Championship in 2021, but the Braves are ready to bring in a Georgia-native who is just as talented and much younger. Olson inked an eight-year, $168 million extension less than a day after getting traded to Atlanta.

Now, he’ll anchor first base until 2030. Atlanta did not want to give the 32 year-old Freeman a lengthy deal, so they did better with the 28 year-old Olson. With an .859 career-OPS, two Gold Gloves, and a top-10 MVP finish in 2021, Olson’s career continues to soar, and the Braves snatched a very popular trade target away from other contenders.

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