MLB offseason awards: Best free agent signing, top trade, most disappointing team and more

Spring training has arrived. Pitchers and catchers reported to spring camps across Arizona and Florida last week, and the rest of the position players arrived this week. In a few days Cactus League and Grapefruit League games will begin. Real live baseball is only a few days away. I can’t wait.

The start of spring training means the end of the offseason. This offseason was much more active than last winter, thankfully, and it’ll take weeks (years even) before we know how the various winter transactions pan out. Some moves look great in December but blow up in June. Other moves appear questionable at first, then pay huge dividends.

Because exercising patience before analyzing an offseason is no fun, our five CBS Sports MLB scribes — Katherine Acquavella, R.J. Anderson, Mike Axisa, Dayn Perry, and Matt Snyder — have banded together to create offseason awards. Six categories with five responses per category. Here are our 2019-20 MLB offseason awards.

Best free agent signing (more than $50 million)


Yasmani Grandal was one of the biggest upgrades made by any team this offseason.

Katherine Acquavella: The Angels might have missed out in the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes, but they did manage to sign the best position player on the market this offseason in Anthony Rendon. Rendon, 29, is a huge upgrade for the Angels lineup. Even moreso when considering the fact that Angels third basemen last season finished with the worst OPS (.651) in the entire league.

R.J. Anderson: You have to go with one of the blockbuster signings at the top of the market. There’s a case to be made for basically any of the top five. I’ll go with Yasmani Grandal, just because it’s nice to see the White Sox do something after talking a big game and failing to deliver last winter.

Mike Axisa: Yasmani Grandal. The Yankees didn’t really need Gerrit Cole to be World Series contenders and I’m not sure Anthony Rendon is enough to get the Angels into the postseason. Grandal, meanwhile, is an enormous upgrade at catcher for the White Sox. He’s one of the top hitting catchers in the game and Chicago’s backstops were among the worst pitch-framers in the game last year. Grandal is an elite framer. He’ll help their offense as well as their pitching staff quite a bit. Also, shoutout to the Phillies for getting Zack Wheeler when they did in early December. Had they waited even one more week, the Cole and Stephen Strasburg deals may have bumped up Wheeler’s asking price considerably.

Dayn Perry: While Hyun-Jin Ryu’s health issues are duly noted, getting him for $80 million, as the Blue Jays did, feels like a steal. On a rate basis, he’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last two seasons. 

Matt Snyder: I’m gonna go with Gerrit Cole. I don’t care about the money. The Yankees haven’t been to the World Series since 2009 and that’s quite a while for that franchise. He gives them a titan atop their rotation. This was a big win. 

Best free agent signing ($50 million or less)

Katherine Acquavella: Dallas Keuchel to the White Sox is just above the $50 million mark, so I’ll go with another big White Sox signing in the club’s three-year, $50 million contract for first baseman Jose Abreu. While Abreu is certainly at the backend of his career, the veteran slugger was still one of the premier first baseman on the market this offseason, and he’ll be a solid clubhouse leader for Chicago’s core group of young players next season. I’d also shout out Will Smith’s deal with the Braves and Tanner Roark’s with the Blue Jays. 

R.J. Anderson: I’m still not sure how the Braves landed Marcell Ozuna on a one-year deal. He deserved multiple years, and my understanding is that he had multi-year offers in hand, but chose Atlanta. He’ll help replace Josh Donaldson, and should set himself up nicely for a bigger payday.

Mike Axisa: Wade Miley at two years and $15 million total seems pretty great to me considering Michael Pineda got two years and $20 million while suspended, and Kyle Gibson got three years and $30 million. There’s risk because Miley was so bad in September (21 runs in 11 1/3 innings!), but he was excellent the first five months of the season (3.06 ERA), and he was very good in 2018 as well. Two years and $7.5 million per year equals quite a bit of upside and not a ton of downside.

Dayn Perry: I like Didi Gregorius’ $14 million pillow contract with the Phillies, at least from the team standpoint. Now that he’s fully removed from Tommy John surgery, I expect a rebound at the plate and in the field. 

Matt Snyder: Compare the Marcell Ozuna deal with what Nick Castellanos got from the Reds and that’s an utter coup for the Braves, especially with Josh Donaldson heading out the door. 

Most confusing free agent signing

Katherine Acquavella: The Padres signing Drew Pomeranz to a four-year deal. It just seems like San Diego could have jumped all in a little bit too early. Pomeranz, 31, was solid for the Brewers last season, but it was just for 26 1/3 innings of bullpen work. The only other notable relievers this offseason to come close to signing a deal as long as Pomeranz’s were Will Smith, who ended up agreeing to three years with the Braves, and Will Harris, who agreed to three years with the Nationals. Who knows though, Pomeranz could return to All-Star form. After all, he did get his first and only ASG nod when he was with the Padres back in 2016.  

R.J. Anderson: Avisail Garcia was essentially the same player he’s been for years now, and the Brewers made shedding salary a priority. Why, then, they chose to make a relatively large investment (two years, $20 million) in him is beyond me. Milwaukee’s front office is pretty savvy, and it’s possible they’re the ones who help him unlock his full potential. But, jeez, there’s a chance they have serious buyer’s remorse.

Mike Axisa: The Jose Abreu extension, which I guess technically is an extension and not a free agent signing, but the point stands. He’d already accepted the $17.8 million qualifying offer, so the White Sox had him under contract for 2020. They then ripped that up and gave him a three-year deal worth $50 million. That’s awfully rich for a 33-year-old one-dimensional first baseman these days. I know Abreu is a Grade A clubhouse guy and a mentor for the young players. That’s a very valuable skill. I also feel like the White Sox bid against themselves here, especially since they already had him under contract for 2020.

Dayn Perry: I’ll cheat a bit and say Jake Odorizzi’s decision to accept the Twins’ qualifying offer and thus guarantee himself just $17.8 million caught me off guard. He’s been solid to very good for a long time and doesn’t turn 30 until around Opening Day. I thought he could’ve done much better on the open market. 

Matt Snyder: The chances of it working out are probably decent, but I wouldn’t have pegged Mike Moustakas to the Reds heading into the offseason at all. He seems an odd fit in their lineup and the signing makes him a full time second baseman. 

Best trade


The Rangers made a nifty trade getting two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.

Katherine Acquavella: Aside from the Dodgers’ big get of Mookie Betts from the Red Sox, the best trade this offseason has to be the Rangers acquiring Corey Kluber from the Indians. It goes without saying that the Indians are the losers of this deal. The club lost a two-time Cy Young winner who was guaranteed to help the club compete in a relatively weak AL Central. The Rangers, meanwhile, add Kluber to their rotation and didn’t give up too much (outfielder Delino DeShields and pitching prospect Emmanuel Clase) in the process. 

R.J. Anderson: On the high end, it’s the Dodgers getting Mookie Betts without giving up anything they’ll miss. On the lower end, it’s the Rangers getting Corey Kluber without giving up anything they’ll miss (though Emmanuel Clase is going to be quite good).

Mike Axisa: It’s the Dodgers getting Mookie Betts (and David Price!) without subtracting Gavin Lux, Dustin May, or anything they’ll miss from their MLB roster. For the sake of variety, I’ll go with the Brewers picking up Luis Urias. Getting Urias for Trent Grisham would’ve been unthinkable a year ago. Milwaukee bought low on a talented young middle infielder who was among the game’s top prospects a year ago. Nice little trade for the Brew Crew.

Dayn Perry: While I don’t think it really moves the needle for them when it comes to contention, the Rangers got Corey Kluber for very little. Nice addition to what was already a strong front of the rotation.

Matt Snyder: Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers. No reason to overthink this one. 

Most improved team

Katherine Acquavella: The Yankees got a serious rotation upgrade with Gerrit Cole and the Angels got a serious lineup upgrade with Anthony Rendon, but there were plenty of smaller-market teams that also made some big improvements this offseason: the Reds, White Sox, Twins. But I’ll choose to highlight Minnesota as the most improved team this winter. The Twins added top free agent Josh Donaldson to their already loaded offense, one that set a single-season home run record last year. Along with the Donaldson addition, Minnesota will bring back Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda to their rotation which will also include 2019-20 offseason signings of Homer Bailey and Rich Hill. 

R.J. Anderson: There are a lot of fair choices here. I’ll give some love to Cincinnati. Adding Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos to the middle of that lineup, plus Shogo Akiyama to the top, should lead to a much-improved offense. They also signed Wade Miley and Pedro Strop, each of whom has the potential to give them a little boost on the pitching side of things. I don’t know if they’ll win the division, but it was nice to see one National League Central team lean in to trying.

Mike Axisa: The White Sox. Grandal is a huge upgrade behind the plate, Edwin Encarnacion is a huge upgrade at DH (their DHs hit .205/.285/.356 in 2019), and Nomar Mazara is a sizable upgrade in right field even if he doesn’t take that long-awaited step forward (their right fielders hit .220/.277/.288 in 2019). Add in Dallas Keuchel and the Luis Robert extension (meaning he’ll be in MLB on Opening Day), and you’ve got a team that improved at many spots in one offseason. I don’t know if the White Sox are good enough to make the postseason, but they should at least make noise in the race.

Dayn Perry: I’m not sure I see them as legit contenders yet, but I really like the aggressiveness of the White Sox this offseason. Grandal was one of the best free agents available, the rotation got some badly needed stabilizers in Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez, Encarnacion addresses a major weak spot at DH, and Mazara is an interesting young-ish platoon bat. Throw in the extension for Luis Robert, which ensures he’ll be in the lineup from the start, and they’ve improved quite a bit. 

Matt Snyder: I think it’s probably the Reds. I’ll even cheat and say if we go back to last offseason, they’ve been very aggressive in looking to get back into contention. The roster still has plenty of questions and, as noted earlier, some fits seem weird, but they are trying hard to win and that’s always deserving of love. 

Most disappointing team

Katherine Acquavella: St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards aren’t in a terrible spot from their moves this offseason, but you figured they would try to do more since they’re competing in an NL Central where the Reds are getting better and the Cubs and Brewers still possess strong lineups. St. Louis added a lefty in Kwang-Hyun Kim, which they desperately needed, but they lost Marcell Ozuna and Jose Martinez this winter and didn’t add an impact bat(s) to replace their spots in the roster. Plus, the Cards parted ways with a pair of prospects, Randy Arozarena and Adolis Garcia. While they were rumored to be connected to Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, it doesn’t appear that deal is going to get done. Instead, it appears the Cardinals are just going to hope for bounce back seasons from their key players. 

R.J. Anderson: Cleveland. Adding Cesar Hernandez was a smart move. After that? Nada. Maybe one of their outfielders emerges, but right now you have to wonder why they passed on adding a Corey Dickerson, a Kole Calhoun, or even a Matt Joyce, among others.

Mike Axisa: In the non-Astros/Red Sox division, it’s the Cardinals. I am intrigued by Kwang-Hyun Kim, but he was their only notable offseason addition. They traded away Jose Martinez and let Marcell Ozuna walk as a free agent, and replaced them with no one in particular despite ranking 19th in runs per game a year ago. The Cardinals won the NL Central last year and the division looks to be wide open in 2020. Instead of going out and getting more help, they talked about not having much spending room. Underwhelming.

Dayn Perry: The Red Sox. They traded their best homegrown position player since Carl Yastrzemski and an important rotation piece even though they have — or had — a championship-caliber core. It’s a complete dereliction of duties on the part of team ownership. 

Matt Snyder: Lots of choices here like the Indians, Cubs, Red Sox and Cardinals among teams that have been contending for years and didn’t really try to do much to improve the big-league roster. I’ll ultimately give the prize to the Red Sox who traded one of the best players in baseball one year removed from a World Series title.

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