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MLB transactions resume: Kershaw, Rodon, Kikuchi, Kiner-Falefa, Simmons

Rounding up the early moves after the lockout ended

Texas Rangers v Minnesota Twins
Isiah Kiner-Falefa goes to the Twins
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Hold on to your hats, Athletics Nation. Things are about to get weird.

Since the lockout dragged on for over three months, with MLB transactions paused the entire time, the league must now get in most of an entire offseason in one week before spring training games begin on Thursday (or on Friday for the A’s). Now the frenzy has begun, not quite with a full explosion yet but still several significant moves in the first day-plus.

As a refresher, a few things did happen before the lockout began, back in November. The Rangers beefed up their middle infield by signing Marcus Semien and Corey Seager; the Mariners signed reigning Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and acquired All-Star infielder Adam Frazier; the Astros re-signed superstar pitcher Justin Verlander; the Angels re-signed closer Raisel Iglesias and grabbed some expensive rotation lotto tickets; and the A’s lost star outfielders Mark Canha and Starling Marte to the Mets in free agency, where they’ll join superstar pitcher Max Scherzer. Also the Giants lost ace starter Kevin Gausman to the Blue Jays.

Now the lockout is over, with a new labor deal signed and ratified on Thursday, and the transactions have resumed. Here are the highlights as of the middle of Saturday, with links to MLB Trade Rumors writeups:

  • Dodgers re-sign LHP Clayton Kershaw (1yr/$17m)
  • Giants sign LHP Carlos Rodon (2yr/$44m)
  • Blue Jays sign LHP Yusei Kikuchi (3yr/$36m)
  • Cardinals sign RHP Drew VerHagen (2yr/$6m)
  • Rangers sign LHP Martin Perez (1yr/$4m)
  • Cubs sign SS Andrelton Simmons (1yr/$4m)
  • Nationals sign RHP Steve Cishek (1yr/$2m)
  • TRADE: Twins acquire IF Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Rangers acquire C Mitch Garver

That list includes a superstar starter and a pair of All-Star arms, a few solid veterans, and a blockbuster trade that sends a quality MLB player in both directions.

It seems like Kershaw and the Dodgers flirt with a breakup nearly every winter these days, but they’re staying together for another year, his 15th in Los Angeles. He has declined from his three-time Cy Young peak, and he only made 22 starts last summer, but he was still productive and will only turn age 34 next weekend.

The Giants score a big splash with Rodon, who enjoyed a breakout 2021 that featured a no-hitter, an All-Star berth, and some Cy votes. They already re-signed Alex Wood and Anthony DeSclafani from last year’s division-winning rotation, but picking up Rodon helps make up for the departure of Gausman. The structure of the deal is also notable, with a short duration but high annual value.

The Blue Jays took some hits early in the offseason, losing Cy winner Ray and MVP candidate Semien in free agency, and also starter Steven Matz (to the Cardinals). But they’ve restocked their rotation at least, picking up Gausman before the lockout and Kikuchi today, and they still have stars Hyun-jin Ryu and Jose Berrios. That’s a formidable foursome to go with their hot young lineup.

The Cardinals, as noted, signed pitcher Matz before the lockout (4yr/$44m). Now they’ve also added VerHagen, who spent the last couple years in Japan. The righty previously spent six lackluster seasons with Detroit, but fared well enough in the NPB to not just return to the majors but earn a multi-year deal.

As for the Rangers, they picked up right where they left off with their dizzyingly busy winter. Now that their middle infield is packed with new superstars, they chose not to keep Kiner-Falefa, who won a Gold Glove at 3B in 2020 and then earned strong marks as a shortstop last season. Instead they’ll shift that surplus infield value to their catcher spot, where they got virtually no offensive production last year — Garver is one of the better hitting catchers in the majors and won a Silver Slugger in 2019.

Texas also brought back Perez. He was once a budding star in the Rangers rotation before injuries got in the way, and he bounced around to a couple other clubs the last few years with mediocre results. Their rotation still needs more work, but Perez and fellow newcomer Jon Gray (signed before the lockout, 4yr/$56m) are a start. They also picked up reliever Brandon Workman on a minor league deal, reported this morning.

For the Twins, Kiner-Falefa looks like a replacement for shortstop Simmons, who went to the Cubs. Minnesota has impact depth at the catcher spot, so their situation was the same as the Rangers but in reverse, dealing from a place of strength (catcher) to shore up a weakness (new hole at shortstop). The Twins also get a pitching prospect in the swap.

Takeaways

What does all this mean for the Oakland A’s?

One division rival continues to get stronger, as the Rangers lineup will be much tougher than it was the last few years. Elsewhere in the AL, the Blue Jays aren’t going away as legit contenders.

As for the A’s themselves, all is quiet so far. We’re all expecting to see multiple stars get traded, but we’re not sure exactly which ones, or exactly how many of them, or when it will happen. First baseman Freddie Freeman is still out there in free agency, which affects the market for Matt Olson, but several starting pitchers came off the board already this week so perhaps we’ll begin to see movement on Oakland’s rotation (Bassitt, Manaea, Montas).

Stay tuned, because more moves are sure to come quickly!