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2023-24 MLB free agency and trade grades: Cubs bring back Bellinger, Dodgers sign Hernandez

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The 2023-24 MLB offseason has begun, and we have you covered with grades and analysis for every major signing and trade this winter.

Whether it's a nine-figure free agent deal that changes the course of your team's future or a blockbuster trade that has all of baseball buzzing, we'll weigh in with what it all means, for next season and beyond.

Follow along as our experts evaluate each move. This article will continue to be updated, so check back in for the freshest analysis from the beginning of the hot stove season through the start of spring training.

Key links: MLB free agency tracker


Dodgers deal Margot, sign Hernandez

The deals: Dodgers trade OF Manuel Margot, IF Rayne Doncon and cash to Twins for IF Noah Miller; Dodgers sign IF/OF Enrique Hernandez to one-year, $4 million contract

Dodgers grade: B
Twins grade: B

For the Dodgers, this is a luxurious bit of roster fine-tuning, and their grade here reflects both moves: the trade and the subsequent signing of Hernandez. After a winter spending spree that is measured in billions, every addition they make to this year's club is going to have to be considered through the prism of luxury tax consequences. L.A. is reportedly sending enough cash to the Twins to offset all but $4 million of Margot's remaining contract. Well, what do you know: That's just how much the Dodgers will be paying to re-up with familiar face Hernandez.

Hernandez will give L.A. another year as the ideal embodiment of roster glue. In essence, Hernandez offers all of Margot's qualities with the added benefit of more positional versatility. Thus the Dodgers improve their roster without making their tax situation worse. Not a bad afternoon. That said, the fact that they had to clear a $4 million slot just to bring back a player who probably really wanted to stay put just tells you how little wriggle room L.A. has to work with right now.

Over the past three years, Hernandez's OPS (.695) is a dead ringer for that of Margot (.694), though Margot gets a little extra boost from playing in lesser run environments. He's a different kind of hitter than Hernandez -- more average, fewer walks -- but their platoon usage and performance against lefties are roughly the same. Thus, money considerations aside, it comes down to roster fit. Both players would have taken some at-bats against lefties from the outfield slots held by James Outman and Jason Heyward. But Hernandez does that and provides an extra layer of depth at shortstop behind Gavin Lux, who is coming off a missed 2023 season due to an ACL tear.

The prospects in the Twins-Dodgers trade are both infielders in the lower minors who rate as 40 FV hopefuls by ESPN's Kiley McDaniel. Miller was a first-round pick in 2021 (No. 36 overall) by Minnesota. His first three pro seasons have seen lots of walks, some steals, too many whiffs and minuscule batting averages. He also won a minor league Gold Glove for his defensive work a year ago. Doncon appears to be more of a corner prospect than a middle infielder, though he has moved around. He has struggled after spending a little more than a season at the low-A level. For now, we can consider the prospect part of this a wash, and we'll see if we hear anything from these guys in a couple of years.

The grade for Minnesota says two things. First, the Twins probably win the valuation aspect of the deal -- similar prospect value and they get Margot at a reduced payroll obligation, though that will depend on the eventual outcomes of the prospects. The grade isn't higher because maybe they could have just spent a few million and ably filled the role Margot will play without rolling the dice by trading Miller. Minnesota certainly needed a righty hitter given an outfield mix that includes lefty-swinging Max Kepler, Matt Wallner, Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach. Only oft-injured Byron Buxton is around as a righty, while utility player Willi Castro provides a switch-hitting option.

Thus, Margot will fill a specific role on a healthy version of the Twins' roster. But there are some decent options left on the market to do that job, including Michael A. Taylor, who played for Minnesota last year. Also available are Adam Duvall, Tommy Pham and Kyle Lewis. (They might have also signed Hernandez for the job, if he was amenable.) It feels like the Twins might have plucked one of those players for what they will be on the hook for with Margot while getting similar production. Plus, if the Dodgers work their magic with Miller, this deal will look lopsided. But maybe the Twins will turn the development tables and make L.A. fans rue losing Doncon. -- Bradford Doolittle