An Early Progress Report on the Free Agents from the 2022-23 MLB Offseason (Part II)

Anthony Rizzo of the New York Yankees

Last week, we took a look at how the highest-paid free agents from last season — from an AAV point of view — have done over the first two months of the regular season. With a third of 2023 in the books, let’s move on and tackle ten more free agents that received multi-year deals and their progress.

Related: An Early Progress Report on the Free Agents from the 2022-23 MLB Offseason (Part I)

Jose Abreu

  • Signed three-year, $58.5M deal in November 2022

The defending World Series champions Houston Astros didn’t have much in the way of holes on its roster come the start of the 2022-23 offseason. However, one hole that did need to be sorted out was at first. With Yuli Gurriel and Trey Mancini, Houston was associated with a number of first basemen available in free agency. The Astros settled on 2020 AL MVP Jose Abreu, a three-time Silver Slugger winner with a knack for pounding on baseballs.

The 36-year-old was signed with the intent to be an impactful hitter in the middle of the Astros lineup and support for the likes of Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker. That, however, was not worked out. Abreu entered play on May 30 batting just .216/.276/.266 with a home run and 19 runs batted in. Abreu’s .543 OPS would mark his lowest in his career by a healthy margin and that figure ranks worst among MLB first basemen (min. 150 PA). There’s still time for Abreu to get back on track — but this has been far from an ideal start.

Josh Bell

  • Signed two-year, $33M deal in December 2022

First baseman Josh Bell wrecked havoc on opposing pitchers in the first half of the 2022 campaign with the Nationals. But after Bell was packed along with Juan Soto in a megatrade last summer, the Texas native did not keep up his torrid pace in southern California. Bell did win the inaugural NL Silver Slugger award at the DH slot last season and parlayed what was a relatively good season into a two-year deal with the Guardians.

The signing of Bell made a lot of sense, as it gave the Guardians another power bat to pair alongside Jose Ramirez. Unfortunately, Bell’s season hasn’t gone to plan. While he’s made better contact since a brutal start in 2023. the 30-year-old owned the third-lowest OPS (.665) among first baseman as of this writing. He’s still getting on base at a good clip, but he has not been driving the ball at the rate we’ve been accustomed to.

Andrew Benintendi

  • Signed five-year, $75M deal in December 2022

With Jose Abreu no longer a White Sox and Andrew Vaughn slated to head back to first, it made sense for Chicago to target an outfielder to pair with of Luis Robert Jr. Chicago settled on Andrew Benintendi, a former All-Star and 2018 World Series champion. Benintendi’s proven to be an above-average hitter with some pop, although he did hit only five a year earlier.

Benintendi’s first two months have been interesting. The 28-year-old hit .270 and recorded a .330 OBP across his first 52 games. However, his power numbers have not benefited since the move to the south side of Chicago. Benintendi has 16 extra base hits but no home runs with the Sox thus far.

Nathan Eovaldi

  • Signed two-year, $34M deal in December 2022

Starter Nathan Eovaldi was one of several former Red Sox to depart via free agency, as the veteran righty inked a multi-year deal with the Rangers this past December. Texas already locked up Jacob deGrom and Andrew Heaney to join Martin Perez and Jon Gray earlier in the winter, and the signing of Eovaldi rounded out the Rangers’ top five for 2023. The 33-year-old proved to a highly-valuable arm in Boston thanks to a high-octane set of fastballs that paired well with his cutter, slider, and splitter.

Through two months, Eovaldi’s been one of the best pitchers in the league. The Rangers righty entered play on May 30 tied for second in wins alongside Zach Eflin and Joe Ryan. Eovaldi struck out 70 and walked only 14 across his first 74.1 innings in Texas, thanks in large part to great command.

Mitch Haniger

  • Signed three-year, $43.5M deal in December 2022

It would have been interesting see how Mitch Haniger would have done in free agency had he been able to enter the pool a year earlier. The 32-year-old belted a career-high 39 home runs for the Mariners in 2021, but injuries limited him to just 57 games last season. The Giants pivoted to Haniger after San Francisco lost out on Aaron Judge and signed the outfielder to a three-year deal this past winter.

Haniger missed the first month of 2023, but he’s looked more like the slugger of old recently. Haniger hit .255/.279/.425 across his first 28 games as Giant with four home runs and ten extra base hits.

Anthony Rizzo

  • Signed two-year, $40M deal in November 2022

There were rumors early in the offseason that the Astros were interested in acquiring Anthony Rizzo to fill its void at first base. But ultimately, the 2016 World Series champion chose to stick in The Bronx on a two-year deal. Rizzo’s left-handed bat fit well in his first season and a half with the Yankees, as he tied a career-high in home runs in 2022.

Rizzo’s been one of the more productive first basemen over the past three season, but he’s been on another level thus far in 2023. Through 53 games, Rizzo hit .304/.376/.505 with 11 home runs, 19 extra base hits and 32 runs batted in for the Yanks. Among first baseman, Rizzo’s .880 OPS is sixth among players at the position (min. 150 PA).

Kodai Senga

  • Signed five-year, $75M deal in December 2022

When free agency opened up this past fall, the two most notable international imports available were outfielder Masataka Yoshida and pitcher Kodai Senga. We’ll start off with Senga, a high-prized pitcher who first gained notoriety across the international baseball scene when he shut down Team USA in relief for Japan in the semifinals of the 2017 WBC. The 30-year-old showcased an elite fastball in Japan and a plus-plus “ghost” forkball that paired exceptionally well with the heat. The Mets needed to fill out its rotation after a series of defections via free agency, and Senga seemed to be a strong fit.

Senga’s first nine start as a Met have yielded mixed results. The 30-year-old’s been a strikeout machine, as he posted 61 punchouts over his first 48 innings as a Met. However, Senga has struggled with command. The righty’s walked at least three or more hitters in eight of his nine starts.

Jameson Taillon

  • Signed four-year, $68M deal in December 2022

Former Yankee RHP Jameson Taillon enjoyed a fair amount of success in The Bronx. The 30-year-old tied a career-high for wins (14) in 2022 and proved to be highly effective with his command and ability to generate grounders off his two-seamer. The Cubs, who inked Marcus Stroman a year earlier, added Taillon to its rotation on a four-deal in December.

Things, however, have gone south for Taillon in Chicago. Taillon’s command has been off, as he missed his spots far too often and his sinker has seen too much plate over the first two months. The Cubs righty’s GB% is down by 10% and he owned a 8.04 ERA through eight starts.

Taijuan Walker

  • Signed four-year, $72M deal in December 2022

Right-hander Taijuan Walker turned a strong final month of the 2020 season with Toronto into a multi-year deal with the New York Mets the following winter. Walker pitched well for most of his time in Queens, highlighted by a 12-win, 3.49 ERA campaign in 2022. The 30-year-old re-entered free agency after last season and signed a four-deal with rival Philadelphia this past offseason.

Walker, who’s been quite good in the first half of each of the last two seasons, struggled through his first two months as a Phillie. The 30-year-old sat in the bottom 20 of the league among starters in ERA (5.57), while his K% and BB% rates have both gone in the wrong direction.

Masataka Yoshida

  • Signed five-year, $90M deal in December 2022

Let’s circle back to Masataka Yoshida. Yoshida tore up the NPBL in Japan with Orix, as he hit .327/.421/.539 with 133 career home runs over seven seasons. The 29-year-old profiled as an above-average hitter with good power and an exceptional ability to put the ball in play. Thus far, Yoshida’s numbers have played up to expectations.

Through his first two months as a Major Leaguer, Yoshida hit six home runs, 17 extra base hits, and recorded a very respectable .853 OPS through 45 games. That OPS figure ranked 19th among outfielders, and oddly enough four points ahead of fellow Japanese star Seiya Suzuki. Also, we do need to point out that his 10.6% K% is best among outfielders.

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