2023 Top 50 Free Agents

© Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the offseason. As is customary, the end of the playoffs means the release of FanGraphs’ annual top 50 free agent rankings. In recent years, we’ve rotated through the writers principally responsible for the list – first Dave Cameron, then Kiley McDaniel, Craig Edwards, and, more recently, me. I’m back this year and I’ve brought help: the FanGraphs staff contributed mightily to this piece.

Below, I’ve provided contract estimates and rankings of the winter’s top free agents, along with market-focused breakdowns for the top 25 players. That could be a quick discussion of where a player might sign, what a team might look for, or even just statistical analysis masquerading as market analysis – I’m an analyst at heart and never stray far from my roots. Meanwhile, a combination of Michael Baumann, Justin Choi, Jay Jaffe, David Laurila, Eric Longenhagen, Dan Szymborski, and Jon Tayler supplied player-focused breakdowns, which are designed to provide some context for each player at this moment in his career. Special thanks to David Appelman, Sean Dolinar, Jason Martinez, and Meg Rowley for their help behind the scenes.

The players are ranked in the order in which I prefer them. That’s often the same as ranking them in contract order, but not always. In some cases, I prefer a player I expect will get less money over one who stands to make more. I’ll generally make note of that in the accompanying comment, but just to reiterate, this list isn’t exclusively sorted by descending average annual value or anything like that. All of the dollar amounts are estimated guarantees. Plenty of contracts will include team options or player incentives, but those aren’t included in these estimates. Player opt outs are similarly not included. All of the projections are Steamer 2023 projections, but use our Depth Chart playing time allocations. The lone exception is Kodai Senga, whose projection comes courtesy of ZiPS. The listed ages indicate the age-season the player is about to play.

Teams have five days after the World Series to make qualifying offers (this year worth $19.65 million), after which time players have 10 days to accept or decline. We’ll update this post to reflect any qualifying offers extended after publication time. As a refresher, if a player receives and declines a qualifying offer, the team that eventually signs them forfeits a draft pick, while the team that made the offer gains one. Which draft picks change hands depends on the circumstances of both teams, as well as the total dollar value of the contract signed.

For a comprehensive list of this year’s free agents, which will be updated to include signings as they occur and crowdsource results for players whose future deals we polled on, please consult our Free Agency Tracker.

After last year’s collective bargaining saga, this year’s free agent market feels downright predictable. Do I know exactly what deal any given player will sign? Absolutely not. But the landscape is fixed, which means teams and players can negotiate at their own pace without a signing freeze or the risk of suddenly changing economic incentives.

Last year’s lockout-driven transaction freeze led to a rush of November signings. I don’t expect that to happen to the same extent this year, but I do expect more early signings than was common before 2021. From what I can tell, both players and teams that agreed to deals last November were generally happy with them, and it never hurts to have extra time to acclimate to new circumstances.

Of course, when players sign is less important than where they sign and for how much. This year’s free agent class is full of marquee names at the top. The best hitter and pitcher in New York are both on the market. Indeed, it’s a very New York-centric list; there are four players from the Mets and Yankees in the top 15, headlined by Aaron Judge and Jacob deGrom. That doesn’t even include Edwin Díaz, who was headed for free agency before re-upping with the Mets yesterday; he signed the largest ever contract for a relief pitcher.

Outside of the five boroughs, it’s yet another Year of the Shortstop. Carlos Correa’s short-term deal last offseason has only added to that crush; he, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson give teams on the hunt for strong bats at premium defensive positions a wide array of options.

But there’s more to the market than those headliners. This is a deep class of free agents; the crowd projects our 25th-ranked player to get two years at $12 million per year, for example. Last year’s class was similarly deep, but in previous offseasons, we’d be well into one-year lottery ticket territory by that point on the list.

If your favorite team is looking for starting pitching, the offseason should be good to them. There are 20 starting pitchers in the top 50 this year, and even if your team is frozen out at the top of the market, the depth options are nothing to sneeze at. An enterprising club could completely rebuild its rotation this winter without much difficulty. Have a young ace and a promising sidekick? Your three through five spots could be filled with above-average veterans in no time.

One part of the market I’m extremely interested in is what happens with older players who experienced a resurgence this year. Matt Carpenter was a revelation for the Yankees. Johnny Cueto was spectacular for the White Sox. José Quintana went from afterthought to the best starting pitcher on a playoff team. I couldn’t tell you which of those three is most likely to repeat their performance, but I can tell you that plenty of teams are crunching the numbers right now to try to find out.

This list could have been even better than it is. Díaz would have been the best reliever on the market. Nolan Arenado declined to opt out of his deal, though he would have been justified in doing so. He would have been among the very best players available this year. Adam Wainwright offered yet another solid pitching option, but he too will remain in St. Louis. As of publication, there are 10 players with pending options or opt outs. How likely I thought those players were to become free agents factored into my rankings, but a few of them are bound to stay with their current team. We’ll update the list to reflect those decisions as they come in.

Now without further ado, let’s get to the rankings.

Editor’s note: Following the publication of this piece, it was announced that Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Jacob deGrom, Jurickson Profar, and Taijuan Walker had resolved the option decisions in their contracts and become free agents. Carlos Rodón, whose decision to opt out was reported on Sunday, is also now officially a free agent.

A ballot processing error caused crowdsourced forecasts for previous offseasons to be included in this year’s crowdsource projections for players who had previously reached free agency. Those projections have been updated. We apologize for the confusion.

1. Aaron Judge, OF, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 9 $35.0 M $315.0 M
Median Crowdsource 8 $37.5 M $300.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 7.9 $37.2 M $294.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
665 13.9% 24.8% .275 .381 .547 .392 157 43.7 -2.1 6.7

Ben’s Take
Aaron Judge just put up the best season of the 21st century, non-Barry-Bonds division. He was so good offensively that his 62 home runs weren’t even his most impressive statistic, at least to me; his 207 wRC+ and .311/.425/.686 slash line in a down year for offense are simply outrageous. He also played a solid center field. It will go down as one of the great seasons in baseball history.

You don’t get to sign people to provide last year’s statistics, and Judge will be 31 next year; the team that signs him isn’t assured he’ll be good forever. But he’s so good right now, and has been so good when healthy his entire career, that it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to predict future success. He has the highest projected WAR among free agent hitters, and one of the highest marks in the game, period. He’s the kind of free agent who immediately becomes his new team’s best player – or perhaps his current team’s, if he stays in New York as many expect.

Judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension (the $17 million he was offered for the 2022 season brought the total to $230.5 million) in April; I think his deal will beat that. The biggest question, for me, is how many years he’ll get; I settled on nine, but gave some consideration to shorter contracts with higher annual salaries. There’s really just not much else to say. Judge’s dominance was one of the defining stories of baseball this year, and where he lands will be one of the defining stories of the offseason.

Player Notes
After rejecting a massive deal prior to Opening Day, Judge put together perhaps the greatest walk year of all time. Carrying the Yankees offense on his back, he hit an ungodly .311/.425/.686 with 62 homers and 131 RBI, missing the traditional and slash-stat Triple Crowns by about five points of batting average. He set an American League record for homers, and both his 207 wRC+ and his 11.4 WAR were the majors’ highest since Barry Bonds in 2004. As ever, he annihilated the baseball via the majors’ highest average exit velocity (95.9 mph), barrel rate (26.5%), and hard-hit rate (61.8%) — his second Statcast Triple Crown, if you will. Defensively, he more than held his own in 74 starts in center field, with another 54 starts in right.

Now Judge’s professed desire to be “a Yankee for life” will be put to the test. His value has skyrocketed since the spring; his ZiPS projection for 2023-29 shot up from 18.1 WAR to 34.1 WAR. The question is how high the Yankees will go, presumably while retaining a face-of-the-franchise premium from their preseason offer. Working against Judge is his age (he turns 31 on April 26 next year), position, and fragility, though he just played a career-high 157 games and is fresh off his best two-year total (305). From a projection standpoint, a Brinks truck for Carlos Correa may make more sense, but belief in shortstop prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza has led the Yankees to eschew the high-end infielder market. That questionable decision may keep Judge in pinstripes, though it’s not implausible that the Mets, Giants, or even the Dodgers successfully woo him, perhaps capitalizing on Judge’s wounded pride (he disliked the Yankees publicizing their negotiations, and heard boos during a rough postseason) and/or his desire to return to his home state of California. – JJ

2. Trea Turner, SS, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 9 $32.0 M $288.0 M
Median Crowdsource 7 $30.0 M $210.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 7.28 $29.8 M $217.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
679 6.9% 17.4% .285 .338 .446 .340 122 19.8 2.6 4.7

Ben’s Take
If it weren’t for that pesky behemoth at no. 1, this might be yet another year where a shortstop claims the top spot. Turner has always been a star, but he’s reached another level offensively in the last three seasons. He’s also been remarkably durable, which wasn’t a given earlier in his career. He trails only Judge in WAR among position players over the past three seasons; as it turns out, a great-hitting, average-fielding shortstop with top-end baserunning value is a great player.

The downsides? A lot of vague worries about the aging curves of speed-first players, Turner’s early-career injury issues, a potential eventual move to second and not much else. The natural fit for Turner is the Dodgers, but I expect plenty of big-market teams to come calling. The Red Sox will likely be looking for a shortstop. The Braves have enough financial flexibility to sign another star and love signing players born in the southeast – though to be fair Turner isn’t from Georgia. The Cardinals have the right payroll space and roster construction, though they don’t usually splash around in these waters. The Giants are in the market for a big name. If you’re tired of seeing a team in the playoffs, there’s a good chance that team is calling Turner’s agent.

Player Notes
One of the most electric and well-rounded players in all of baseball, Turner is coming off his second consecutive 6-WAR season, and his fourth consecutive full season of at least 4 WAR. Turner may have been even more productive if not for several injuries, which have mostly been to his wrists and fingers. A hamstring strain and wrist fracture cost him a huge chunk of 2017, and he has opted to play through maladies in more recent seasons: He fractured multiple fingers in 2019 and needed offseason surgery, then played through a jammed finger during this year’s playoffs. He is comfortably the WAR leader among shortstops since 2020, amassing 3 WAR more than the next most-productive player (Francisco Lindor) while posting a .316/.364/.516 line during that span.

Known primarily for his speed and contact skills, Turner is second only to Freddie Freeman in batting average and trails only Starling Marte in steals over the last three seasons. But where he has separated himself as an elite player is with his surprising pull power. He leads the majors in doubles over that three-year stretch and is just three homers off Corey Seager’s pace at the position. And with shifting now banned, his elite speed makes him a surer bet to stay at short for the long haul than at least a couple of the other prominent shortstops in this free agent class. Aside from his below-average plate discipline, Turner is a complete player, a superstar in his prime poised to land one of the offseason’s biggest deals. – EL

3. Carlos Correa, SS, Age 28
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 10 $30.0 M $300.0 M
Median Crowdsource 8 $32.0 M $256.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 7.78 $32.2 M $250.8 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
637 10.3% 19.0% .273 .352 .462 .353 131 21.4 5.2 5.0

Ben’s Take
Good news! If your favorite team misses out on Turner, there’s a phenomenal consolation prize. Correa got my vote for the top free agent on last year’s market, and he’s hitting the market again after a customarily excellent year. At this point in his career, you mostly know what you’re getting with Correa offensively: he’ll walk a lot, rarely strike out, and hit for both power and average. His consistency is enviable; as far as I can tell, teams care more about expected level of production than expected variance, but it certainly can’t hurt to have a sure-ish thing.

If you’re looking for a reason to doubt Correa, you’d have to look at his defense. But he’s a good defender, even if his Statcast numbers took a dip this year. Defensive metrics are noisy, and if you didn’t believe he was one of the best defenders in baseball last year (I didn’t), you probably shouldn’t believe he’s below average this year.

One major question I don’t have much insight into is whether Correa will want to take another short-term deal with opt outs to test the market. The answer could vastly change his potential landing spots. The Twins are a great example; I didn’t think they were in the running for Correa last year because I didn’t think they’d offer a contract with a total dollar outlay that could tempt him, but a short deal with a high annual number opens up tons of new options. Plenty of borderline playoff contenders have nice players at shortstop and constrained budgets; might they upset that apple cart for a few years to add an MVP candidate? It would surely be tempting, and could lead to some interesting short-term power shifts.

Player Notes
Last winter, Correa pulled off a major surprise when rather than holding out for the maximum-value, long-term pact you might expect for a player of his caliber, he signed a three-year, $105.3 million agreement with the Minnesota Twins that allows him to opt out this offseason. Unlike a lot of stars who sign deals like this, Correa wasn’t trying to prove himself after a lousy season. Instead, he was waiting for a more favorable environment to land an even bigger deal.

This year, the top shortstops available are Correa, Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson, and Xander Bogaerts, with a massive drop-off to the rest of the field. Correa’s the youngest of the four, even Swanson, who was still playing college ball when Correa became a star in the majors. He pretty much lived up to the market’s lofty expectations for him while with the Twins and, almost as importantly, he was once again mostly healthy. After being plagued by injury from 2017-19, Correa has now been essentially healthy in each of the three most recent seasons, which ought to alleviate most of the lingering fears about his durability. I think there’s more to recommend Correa this winter than Corey Seager at this time last year, and I suspect someone will pay him accordingly. – DS

4. Jacob deGrom, SP, Age 35
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $47.0 M $141.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $40.0 M $120.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 3.49 $38.7 M $135.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
168.0 5.3% 34.6% 40.9% 2.62 2.33 2.42 5.5 5.2

Ben’s Take
What would teams pay for a guaranteed full season of deGrom starts? No one will say, obviously, but my estimation is that several playoff locks would pay an astronomical sum. There’s no better bet to deliver a Cy Young caliber season, and his talent is magnified in the postseason; if you’re a team on the cusp of getting a playoff bye, a healthy deGrom is legitimately the best player in baseball you could add. Two deGrom starts in a Division Series if necessary? That’s a dream scenario for any contender.

Of course, you can’t guarantee health for deGrom, and that’s kind of the point. Two straight years of scary-sounding injuries and limited availability have put a damper on the prospects of the best inning-for-inning pitcher since Pedro Martinez. Can he keep throwing this hard and stay on the field? Can he even dial it back? There are no answers to these questions; teams will have to weigh them on their own. I think that gives the Mets a bit of an advantage when it comes to bringing him back, as they have more data than anyone else.

Even accounting for that risk, I think deGrom will set a record for average annual value. The top end is just so high; deGrom is better than any other pitcher in baseball, as you can see from his rate statistics up above. The combination of adding a pitcher of deGrom’s caliber for the playoffs and preventing your well-heeled opponents from doing the same is worth a fortune; baseball doesn’t always come down to the best two teams clashing, but when it does, you can bet the Dodgers would be willing to write a novelty-sized check to have deGrom on their side of the matchup. Are there risks? Absolutely. But in my eyes, teams will stomach them.

Player Notes
The interesting thing about deGrom as a free agency case is that he defies comparison on multiple fronts. On the one hand, how much would you want to invest in a pitcher who’s made just 26 starts over the past two seasons, and will probably be asking for a commitment into his late 30s? A pitcher, it bears mentioning, who has suffered significant injuries to two different parts of his throwing arm in that time?

On the other hand, across 2021-22, deGrom has not just been the best pitcher in the league, he’s been the best at most individual aspects of pitching: He’s struck out 44% of opponents and walked just 3.4%, both best in the majors among starters with at least 100 IP in that span by a comfortable margin. He shares the highest average fastball velocity with Hunter Greene. He has the lowest FIP – only four other pitchers are within a run of him – and the second-lowest ERA.

Justin Verlander commanded his current one-and-one deal at $25 million per year when he was four years older than deGrom is now and basically hadn’t pitched in 30 months. Even with the injury question, what should deGrom ask for? $35 million a year? $40 million? His salary might end up looking as fake as his rate stats. – MB

5. Justin Verlander, SP, Age 40
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $40.0 M $80.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $35.0 M $70.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.02 $34.0 M $69.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
182.0 5.1% 26.6% 35.5% 3.50 3.42 3.46 4.0 3.6

Ben’s Take
Last year, Verlander hit free agency shrouded in uncertainty, returning from Tommy John surgery at an advanced age. This year, he’s hitting free agency at the top of his game. He picked up right where he left off pre-injury, posting a 6-WAR season and cruising to an all-but-assured third Cy Young. Did he wear down as the season went on? Hardly: he halved his FIP in the second half thanks to more strikeouts, fewer walks, and even fewer homers. He’s throwing as hard as ever, too. Surely the ride has to end sometime, but this year is a reminder that not every player declines linearly with age.

Verlander has stated that he wants to pitch until age 45, but I don’t think he’ll get there on one contract. In fact, he might go a similar route to last year at a higher dollar value; a short-term deal that he can make even shorter if he pitches a full year. He could also set a new precedent with a novel contract structure, perhaps with some kind of escalating or performance-based options. This is uncharted territory; you can’t find a comp for a 40-year-old pitcher with surgery in his recent past but also a 1.75 ERA in his most recent season.

My best guess is that he settles on a two-year deal that pays him like Max Scherzer, only for fewer years. That structure works from both sides: it gets Verlander towards his goal at a handsome rate, while also ending reasonably soon if age finally vanquishes him. Duration will be the big question for teams in the hunt, and two years seems like a number both sides could be happy with.

Player Notes
After missing nearly all of two seasons due to injuries that culminated in Tommy John surgery, Verlander made a comeback that not only may garner him his third Cy Young award but that already made history, as no other Tommy John recipient in the back half of his 30s has ever thrown so many innings in a season (175), let alone dominated. Despite missing 18 days late in the year due to a right calf injury, the 39-year-old Verlander led the AL with a 1.75 ERA, 2.66 xERA, and 6.4 WAR, while his 2.49 FIP ranked third and his 23.4% strikeout-to-walk differential fifth. Though he didn’t miss as many bats as in his pre-surgery heyday, he held batters to a .285 SLG or lower on all four of his offerings; his four-seam fastball’s Statcast run value of -24 runs (24 runs prevented) was the majors’ best, and he was able to dial it up to 98 mph when needed. He was hell on left-handed hitters, holding them to a .201 wOBA, compared to a .243 against right-handers.

By reaching 130 innings, Verlander triggered a $25 million player option, but his strong comeback increases the likelihood he can find something along the lines of his two-year, $66 million deal for 2020-21. If he leaves Houston, he won’t lack for suitors. – JJ

6. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 7 $31.0 M $217.0 M
Median Crowdsource 6 $28.0 M $168.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 6.26 $27.6 M $172.8 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
644 9.5% 18.9% .271 .346 .432 .340 122 16.2 4.9 4.4

Ben’s Take
I solicited feedback from FanGraphs writers on these rankings, and no one was quite sure what to make of Bogaerts. His bat is unquestionably excellent; he’s a great example of how having no weaknesses can be a strength in and of itself. He doesn’t chase too much, or miss too much when he does swing, and he hits fastballs, breaking balls, and changeups with equal aplomb. Put it all together, and you get a bat that’s been 30% better than average, more or less, in each of the past five years. That’s a line that works out to roughly the 30th-best hitter in baseball, which is a phenomenal outcome for someone who plays shortstop.

Yeah, about that. Opinions vary on whether Bogaerts can, in fact, play shortstop. He’s been a bat-first guy his entire career and just turned 30; a move to third base is likely forthcoming, but he doesn’t have a huge throwing arm, so he might be below average there too. None of that stops him from being a star, and he’d be a good bat even at DH, but the further he falls on the defensive spectrum, the less special his skill set is. I think he’ll be able to hack it at short for a year or two more before declining to a Justin Turner-esque third base defense: good actions but light arm.

Maybe Turner is an optimistic comp, but he’s a good reminder that excellent hitters don’t need to be elite defenders to add value; if you can play a passable third base, that counts for a lot. I think teams will be comfortable giving Bogaerts a long-term deal with a ton of zeroes. I just think they’ll do it knowing he won’t be a shortstop two or three years from now.

Player Notes
Dependability and durability are the hallmarks of Bogaerts’ game. Among the Big Four shortstops available this winter, he’s tops in games played (over 100 ahead of Dansby Swanson) and the leader in WAR since the start of the 2016 season. In fact, he’s second among all shortstops in WAR in that time period; only Francisco Lindor has him beat. You know what you’re getting in Bogaerts: elite contact skills, plus power from the right side, above-average baserunning, and defense that’s held steady even if it’s unspectacular (it graded out as good this season for the first time). And you’ll get that night in and night out; he’s played 136 or more games every single year since his first full season in the majors.

The flip side is that all those games come at a cost, which is to say that Bogaerts is the oldest of the offseason quartet, having turned 30 in October. His days of being a franchise shortstop are, by extension, going to end sooner than the rest, though his below-average arm might make him stretched at third base and could eventually necessitate a shift to left field or perhaps over to second, à la Trevor Story. Still, even if you only get two or three more years of Bogaerts at shortstop, they’re going to be two or three very good years. His consistent excellence makes him a fine choice for any contender that needs reliable up-the-middle performance. – JT

7. Carlos Rodón, SP, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 5 $24.0 M $120.0 M
Median Crowdsource 5 $27.0 M $135.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 4.87 $27.2 M $132.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
175.0 7.1% 31.2% 36.3% 3.18 2.99 3.12 4.5 4.1

Ben’s Take
Remember last year when the White Sox didn’t give Rodón a qualifying offer? Their loss is the Giants’ gain, in multiple ways; Rodón was their best pitcher this year, and now he’ll either return to the team on a big deal or net them a shiny draft pick. Rodón is a great pitcher, and in a hit-you-over-the-head way: he throws hard, throws harder as the game goes on, and commands his slider as if it were an extension of his arm. The combination is lethal, as Rodón’s opponents over the past two years can attest.

Why two years? That’s the length of time he’s shown this newfound form; he amassed 11.1 WAR in those two seasons, and a combined 7.0 in the previous six. The question that teams ask themselves about every free agent pitcher – will he be healthy enough to be effective? – is an even greater unknown in Rodón’s case. There’s plenty of evidence that he’s a great pitcher right now; whoever signs him will simply have to weight that more than those earlier years in the wilderness.

I don’t think that will stop teams from giving him a handsome contract, as you can see from my estimate. I do think that it will lower teams’ offers ever so slightly, however. At their core, most front offices are risk averse. As an old boss of mine once said, no one’s ever been fired for small steady profits. Making deals that go wrong is a job security killer. I think that’ll hurt Rodón somewhat, but that he’ll still get a nine-figure deal. He’s just that good.

Player Notes
While wielding one of the nastiest sliders anyone has ever seen, it took Rodón a half decade of big league experience before he honed his command enough to become the top-of-the-rotation starter the industry largely thought he would when he was at NC State. Drafted in 2014, Rodón made his big league debut the following year, but was plagued by many elbow and (mostly) shoulder ailments in the five years that followed. When healthy, he would often struggle with command and efficiency, and his fastball velocity slowly bled away. Then in 2021, things seemed to click for Rodón; he enjoyed a nearly three-tick velocity rebound, his fastball’s swinging strike rate exploded, and he posted the lowest walk rate of his career and his most robust innings total since 2016. He left the White Sox for the Giants last offseason and had another great year, this time setting a career mark for innings and WAR at 6.2, second-most among pitchers in 2022. While with San Francisco, Rodón de-emphasized his changeup and increased his curveball usage while also adding velocity to the pitch. He opted out of the second year of his deal the day after the World Series concluded, and may end up netting a long-term contract now that he’s had two consecutive (mostly) healthy seasons and looked like a front-end starter in both. – EL

8. Dansby Swanson, SS, Age 29
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 6 $24.0 M $144.0 M
Median Crowdsource 6 $23.5 M $141.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 6.03 $23.1 M $139.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
679 7.7% 25.2% .246 .309 .412 .315 104 4.5 4.9 3.3

Ben’s Take
Swanson put together his best season by a mile this year, combining his best league-adjusted batting line with a phenomenal defensive performance, at least according to Statcast. He compiled more Outs Above Average this year than in his entire previous career, going from plus defender to elite if you put a ton of stock in single season defensive estimators. Even if you don’t – and I don’t, to be clear – it’s fair to say that Swanson combines solid hitting with solid fielding, and will likely do so for years to come. Call him a sometime All-Star; I don’t think he’ll replicate 2022 every year, but he’s clearly capable of some great seasons.

One potential hiccup in Swanson’s market? I’m not sure how many teams are shopping for shortstops. The Dodgers, Giants, Braves, and Red Sox are all clearly in the mix. The Twins will likely want to replace Correa, though not necessarily with a shortstop; they could give Royce Lewis a shot and allocate money earmarked for Correa elsewhere. Maybe the Cubs and Orioles would want to jump start a rebuild with an exciting player, but that’s idle speculation.

Those teams will all be scrabbling over Turner, Correa, and Bogaerts. The ones who miss might be interested in Swanson, but they could also rely on internal options; Swanson doesn’t quite move the needle like that top trio. In my opinion, he’s more at risk of a frozen-out market than anyone else in the top 10. Maybe that will result in an early return to Atlanta. Maybe I’m completely wrong. I’m just less clear on how Swanson’s market will shake out than I would be for most players with his résumé, thanks to the particulars of which teams both need shortstops and plan on spending this year.

Player Notes
It’s tough to peg just how valuable Swanson will be in the future. A career-best season evokes the image of a hitter who has come into his own, fulfilling a decade’s worth of expectations attached to being a first overall draft pick. But break it down further and complications emerge. Behind that 116 wRC+ is a first-half BABIP of .377, which eased to .314 in the second half – a less outrageous mark supported by a track record stretching back to 2016. The regression appears like a potential red flag, but let’s ask ourselves: Had Swanson arrived at a similar offensive output without a dramatic BABIP split, would this be a point of discussion? In any case, his Statcast vital signs are normal, and in certain regards better than those from the previous season. Also worth considering is the consensus among defensive metrics that Swanson’s glove has progressed from good to elite. Such an agreement is rare and therefore relatively trustworthy, but even so, runs saved from defense can swing like a pendulum, from one extreme to the other. This winter, prospective teams will need to estimate which aspects of Swanson’s 6.4 WAR are replicable – and which aren’t. – JC

9. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 5 $22.0 M $110.0 M
Median Crowdsource 5 $20.0 M $100.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 4.82 $20.7 M $100.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
658 11.8% 17.5% .270 .369 .434 .354 131 23.0 -2.2 4.4

Ben’s Take
Nimmo isn’t the best power hitter on the market. He isn’t the best defensive center fielder in baseball; it’s fair to call him above average these days, but he’s hardly Byron Buxton out there. He hasn’t been above average on the basepaths since 2019. It’s not hard to name downsides.

But oh, that glorious on-base percentage. Nimmo posted a .367 mark this year, good for 16th in the majors – and also the lowest full-season mark of his career. He takes walks by the bushelful. He rarely strikes out. He gets hit by more than his fair share of pitches. These are all stable skills from one year to the next. In plain English: Nimmo is going to get on base at a ludicrous clip, year after year.

He might not do it in center field forever, but who cares? He can play there now, and he’ll rack up gaudy offensive numbers while doing so. He even demonstrated some power upside this year, cranking 16 homers and posting the highest exit velocity of his career (111.9 mph). It’s not the most traditional profile, but Nimmo will deliver star-level value if he keeps up his current pace.

Player Notes
Since his breakout 2017 season, Nimmo has posted a .268/.387/.446 line, good for a 136 wRC+ and 17.8 WAR over that span. If there’s a concern as he enters free agency, it’s the fact that he’s never been particularly durable. His performance merits a contract that at least approaches nine figures, but teams can’t ignore the fact that 2022 was only the second time he played at least 100 games in the majors (Nimmo did play 55 games during 2020’s shortened slate). Still, that he played 151 games this season (with only a minor wrist injury) and didn’t show any signs of fatigue at the end should increase the confidence teams have in his durability.

While just being healthy would have been enough to give a boost to his offseason prospects, Nimmo has also shored up some of the weaker parts of his game. Generally one of the more passive hitters in baseball, he’s been more aggressive at the plate, managing to simultaneously improve his contact rate without eviscerating the quality of that contact, a difficult balance for any hitter. Once believed to be a tweener outfielder who would have trouble staying in center, he’s improved there as well, with positive Statcast metrics the last two seasons. Even UZR, long a skeptic of his defense, has come around: From 2016-20, it pegged him for -13 runs per 150 games, but over the last two seasons, which make up two-thirds of his center field experience in the majors, the system has him a few runs in the black. At the very least, Nimmo is likely to be able to handle center for most of his upcoming contract.

There were rumors recently that the Rockies wanted to sign Nimmo to a $120 million contract. Those rumblings were mostly due to a misreading of Denver Post reporter Patrick Saunders’ description of an estimate of Nimmo’s value, but that figure isn’t a preposterous one. ZiPS thinks Nimmo will still be an above-average player in the fifth year of his next contract, and while it never projects the playing time over/under to be above 135 games, it’s still good enough for a five-year estimate of $117.5 million. Given Nimmo’s status as the clear second-best outfielder available in free agency — I’ll let you guess who the top one is — I think he’ll make out well. – DS

10. Willson Contreras, C, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 4 $20.0 M $80.0 M
Median Crowdsource 4 $17.7 M $70.6 M
Avg Crowdsource 3.84 $17.4 M $66.8 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
535 9.3% 23.9% .239 .333 .429 .335 118 9.4 5.4 3.1

Ben’s Take
The book on Contreras has always been simple: He’s a great offensive catcher who needs to be to make up for his defensive shortcomings. Not much changed this year. Contreras had his best offensive season, but continued to sacrifice value behind the plate. The Cubs played him at DH 39 times to keep him fresh and maximize his talents, which raises an interesting question: Will teams bidding for Conteras’ services want him behind the plate?

I think many won’t, but I’m not sure it matters. His bat comfortably plays at DH, and he’s spry enough even after years of squatting that I bet he could play a credible outfield corner if necessary. He could also continue to catch. While he’s not a great receiver, he’s always controlled the running game well, which will be important next year given the new pickoff rules. I’m not sure how suitors will deploy Contreras, but maybe it doesn’t matter. He’s going to hit a lot. Where he ends up defensively is far less important than all that offensive value he’ll create.

Player Notes
Hitting a baseball is hard. Catching at the big league level is even harder. Not a lot of guys can do both. So whichever teams miss on Contreras are going to have a hard time finding another backstop like him. He’s never had fewer than 400 plate appearances in a full season. He’s hit 20 home runs four times, and he’s coming off the best offensive season of his productive career, with a 132 wRC+. In seven big league seasons, he’s never had a wRC+ below 101, and his 118 career mark is the highest among active catchers with at least 2,000 career PA. Only seven others with that many PA and plans to play in 2022 even have a career wRC+ above 85.

Now, defensively Contreras has his drawbacks. This year, he was just 27th in framing runs out of 40 catchers with at least 500 innings at the position. That’s not great. But hey, we’ll probably have robot umps in the next few years, right? And if not, Contreras’ arm and athleticism should stand him in good stead in an outfield corner. To say nothing of, again, the bat. If you want a catcher who can really hit, there aren’t any other options on the market. – MB

11. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Age 35
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $20.0 M $20.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $20.0 M $20.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.55 $20.6 M $32.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
157.0 5.5% 25.0% 45.6% 3.34 3.28 3.23 3.3 3.3

Ben’s Take
Some year, in some distant future, our mental model for Kershaw will match reality. He’ll be an average pitcher, a shell of his former self playing out the string on a Hall of Fame career. Despite seemingly everyone in baseball making that assumption, though, Kershaw continues to be excellent.

Over the past five years, he’s posted a 2.83 ERA. He’s not as durable as he used to be, but he’s pitched 646 innings in those years, 26th in all of baseball. All three of his pitches still hum; his fastball continues to befuddle hitters even as it loses raw speed, and both of his breaking pitches remain dominant. He’s leaning on his slider more than ever, and why shouldn’t he? It’s one of the best sliders in history.

He’ll probably return to the Dodgers on a one-year deal. He did just that last year, and the arrangement worked out well for both sides. The Dodgers will let him do what he wants; they chose not to extend a qualifying offer last year not for economic reasons but because the return seemed small in exchange for the cost of inconveniencing a franchise legend. Kershaw feels like part of the fabric of baseball at this point, and I expect that he will for years to come, all while our brains keep thinking he’s washed up.

Player Notes
Slowly walking the back nine of his career, Kershaw has begun to morph into the Super Deluxe version of Rich Hill: you won’t get many innings out of him, but you’re going to love the ones you do. A year after an elbow injury limited him to 121.2 innings, the three-time Cy Young winner chalked up another 120-plus but once again spent a good chunk of time on the injured list. This time, it was his perpetually balky back, which twice sidelined him for a month, though he recovered in time to pitch in the postseason and look like himself in the process.

When healthy, Kershaw is still Kershaw: precision fastballs, wipeout sliders, loopy curves, lots of quick at-bats and surgical dispatches of overwhelmed hitters. But his days of being a 200-inning horse are long gone; he’ll be 35 in March, and even if his arm and back hold up, he has to be managed carefully to get through a season with enough in the tank to perform in October. He’s not quite at full Hill status yet — Kershaw isn’t a five-and-fly junkballer getting by on grit and gunk. But he is slowing down, and discussions about retirement now come up more freely, suggesting that he can see the end of the road coming at him. Bet on another short-term deal, likely to keep him in Los Angeles, as he makes his way through the twilight years. – JT

12. José Abreu, 1B, Age 36
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $18.0 M $36.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $16.0 M $32.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.23 $17.0 M $38.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
672 8.4% 18.7% .276 .348 .448 .347 126 18.4 -15.5 2.6

Ben’s Take
“Professional hitter” is a nonsense term that baseball analysts love to apply to Michael Brantley and other Brantley-esque players. Maybe they should broaden their horizons, though, because Abreu also fits the bill. All he’s done since debuting in the majors in 2014 is hit; his career wRC+ is a robust 133, and he’s been at least 10% above-average offensively in every season.

Each of those seasons has been with the White Sox, and when it last looked like he might leave in free agency, the team signed him to an above-market deal to keep him in the fold. To hear the organization tell it, Abreu is a key part of what they’ve assembled in recent years, equal parts recruiter, teacher, and clubhouse leader. How many good years does Abreu have left? I’d bet on at least a few, and I’d bet on them happening in Chicago. Like Kershaw, he’s technically a free agent, but I don’t buy it: I don’t think he’ll play for another team before he retires.

Player Notes
It would have been nice to see the White Sox have greater success in what might have been Abreu’s final season in Chicago. But even though he’s obviously older, I actually think there are more reasons for the Sox to ink him to an extension now than there were when he signed the three-year, $50 million deal that just wrapped up. Back in 2019, Abreu looked like a traditional aging slugger well into his decline years, but he’s shown an impressive second wind that’s been basically as good as his first one. A repeat of the season that netted him the 2020 AL MVP trophy was always pretty unlikely, but he didn’t show many clear signs of an imminent decline in ‘21’s full-season follow-up.

And where a lot of sluggers struggled with this year’s less lively ball, Abreu suffered few ill effects, and even remade his offensive game somewhat, an unusual feat for a mid-30s slugger. Abreu punished baseballs with the usual vigor, but he did it in a more controlled fashion than he ever has before. He had the best plate discipline numbers of his career across the board, resulting in a career-best ratio of walks to strikeouts. Despite hitting just 15 home runs, easily the least impressive total he’s ever put up, his wRC+ was still an excellent 137 thanks to his reconfigured profile.

Abreu turns 36 before Opening Day, so he’s not likely to land a massive contract. But there are more DH jobs in the majors now than there were a few years ago, and if I were a contending team, I’d be very comfortable signing Abreu to a pact similar to his last one. If the White Sox don’t close a deal with him, it will be a real shame, as the team could use the bat, and beyond that, he’s been a big part of the team’s turnaround. – DS

13. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $16.0 M $32.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $18.0 M $54.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.45 $17.9 M $44.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
567 10.1% 17.7% .241 .339 .441 .340 121 11.2 -9.7 2.1

Ben’s Take
If your team is interested in a first baseman who might actually sign with them, might I recommend Rizzo? Like Abreu, all he’s done for his entire career is hit (and be hit by pitches). This season was his 11th consecutive year of above-average offense, and his underlying batted ball data suggests that he still has plenty of thunder in his bat. He was bogged down by an atrocious BABIP this year, and while I’m somewhat skeptical that the upcoming shift restrictions will suddenly turn him into Willie Keeler, I do expect some improvement on that front, as defenses routinely overshifted against Rizzo this year.

At 33, he’s likely not looking at a long-term deal, but I expect that plenty of teams will kick the tires on what it would take to secure his services. I count eight legitimate playoff contenders that received below-average production from first base last year. Add in the Yankees and a few teams that believe in themselves more than I believe in them, and you’re looking at more than a third of the league. That’s a lot of possible landing spots, enough that Rizzo might be able to wrangle a longer contract than I’ve projected. That’s the chief uncertainty here; there’s little question that he’ll find a robust market and then hit for whichever team he lands on.

Player Notes
After a solid late-season showing with the Yankees in 2021, Rizzo re-upped via a two-year, $32 million deal that allowed him to opt out after this season. As of this writing, that decision is pending, but such a move seems likely given that he put together his best season since 2019 in terms of wRC+ (132, via a .224/.338/.480 line) and WAR (2.4). He also gave the Yankees something that they’d missed dearly, as his 32 homers were the most by a pinstriped lefty since 2012 and matched his career high, last reached in ’17. Some of that owed to Yankee Stadium, where he hit 19 homers, 16 in the direction of the short porch in right field. He wasn’t just a product of home cooking, however, as Rizzo set a Statcast-era high in barrel rate (10.9%) and finished within an eyelash of doing so with his hard-hit rate (40.7%) as well. As for that low batting average, it owed a lot to infield shifts, which cut into his BABIP; his .216 mark was the AL’s second-lowest, but fortunately that won’t be a problem in 2023.

Rizzo is a good fit for the Yankees, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he returns, though a couple things might give them pause. First, the metrics (including -3 DRS and -2 RAA) don’t support him being a Gold Glove finalist, and second, he was limited to 130 games by multiple bouts of back spasms, including one that required an epidural in September. He’s no spring chicken. – JJ

14. Chris Bassitt, SP, Age 34
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $17.0 M $51.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $16.0 M $48.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.6 $16.1 M $42.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
192.0 6.8% 21.0% 44.1% 4.03 3.96 3.93 2.5 2.4

Ben’s Take
In recent years, the start of free agency often coincides with a discussion about baseball’s shrinking middle class. The stars get theirs, young players sign extensions, and the solid veterans who fit in between those two groups see smaller and smaller shares of the pie. That’s a true story in the aggregate, but it’s easy to over-generalize. Bassitt, for example, likely won’t fall victim to it.

Everyone always needs more pitching. There’s no rotation in all of baseball where Bassitt wouldn’t fit. He won’t be an ace. He might not be a no. 2 starter. But those are just labels, and no team goes into the offseason saying “no. 2 starter or bust.” Bassitt will give whichever team signs him a bunch of innings, and above average ones at that. That might sound like the middle class that’s been getting squeezed, but bankable starting pitching is exempt from the crush. It’s at a premium every single year. I don’t know where Bassitt will end up, but a staggering number of teams could use his services.

Player Notes
Bassitt did an about-face in 2022. Talented but injury-prone, the righty stepped up and anchored a Mets rotation beset by other maladies. Now on the verge of turning 34, Bassitt is likely to pursue the first multi-year contract of his career. He’s worth the investment, but there are a few caveats. Bassitt collects outs via weak contact, not whiffs. His ability to do so is genuine, but over the course of his career, it has been aided by two phenomenal environments: the cavernous Oakland Coliseum and Citi Field. For reasons not yet known (but often speculated about), the latter suppresses exit velocity better than any other big-league park. In this context, Bassitt’s career home/away ERA split of 2.68/4.26 makes sense – and merits pause. Moreover – and this is purely speculative – his delicate six-pitch mix could discourage or intrigue potential suitors, depending on how confident they are in their pitching development. The best possible outcome for Bassitt, then, seems like a stint with a progressive organization based in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. That doesn’t mean he can’t thrive in, say, Yankee pinstripes. But if Bassitt is looking to maximize a one-time opportunity, his winning ticket likely lies elsewhere. – JC

15. Nathan Eovaldi, SP, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $17.0 M $51.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $15.0 M $30.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.12 $15.5 M $32.9 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
155.0 5.4% 21.5% 43.5% 3.89 3.83 3.71 2.4 2.1

Ben’s Take
In some ways, Eovaldi is just like Bassitt. They’re nearly equal in WAR over the last three years. Both possess sterling command and sneaky strikeout stuff. Eovaldi throws harder, but Bassitt has a wider array of good secondaries. Eovaldi is almost exactly a year younger than Bassitt, but has more injury mileage on his arm. It won’t surprise you, then, to hear that I think they’ll get similar contracts.

But despite that bundle of similarities, the two feel very different. Eovaldi is only a season removed from a 5.7-WAR 2021, a height Bassitt has never approached. He also missed time in 2022 with back and shoulder injuries en route to 109.1 innings pitched across 20 starts. Both pitchers will be in demand, but I suspect Eovaldi’s market might be narrower. Teams with plenty of bulk starter types but few top end guys seem like a good fit for me. Maybe you’ll get 2021 Eovaldi, a great triumph. Maybe you’ll get an innings eater, totally acceptable. And if you get 2022 Eovaldi, or any of the previous Eovaldi years where he made 20-25 starts? That’s where the depth comes in. The Cardinals are the first name that pops into my head, but plenty of teams fit that bill closely enough to be in on him.

Player Notes
The second tier of starting pitcher free agents begins with Eovaldi and Bassit (who, fittingly, is right above him on our list). It’s easy to see why; for all his stuff, the hard-throwing right-hander struggled with injuries and home runs during his four-year stay with Boston. Those two issues derailed most of his 2022, and in his lackadaisical final month, he was hit hard while throwing at below-average velocities, with his fastball sitting in the 92–94 mph range instead of its usual 95 and above. Eovaldi’s success is dependent on forcing batters to be ready for high heat to set up the rest of his arsenal, and without being able to reach back for 96 mph on the regular, he’s vulnerable to batters simply spitting on his breaking balls and offspeed offerings while waiting for a hittable four-seamer. And they hit a lot of four-seamers last season, posting a .385 wOBA against them.

The good news is that Eovaldi’s secondaries — his splitter and curve — remain above-average pitches; less so his slider and cutter, which leaked into the strike zone far too often. He also still gets plenty of whiffs. It’s keeping his pitches away from barrels that was an issue last year, and with better health and velocity, that should be more doable. Any team that signs Eovaldi expecting no. 1 starter-type production likely won’t get it, but he has the stuff and track record to make him a viable mid-rotation starter for a contending team, assuming he can stay off the injured list. – JT

16. Tyler Anderson, SP, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $15.0 M $30.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $14.5 M $43.5 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.42 $14.5 M $35.1 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
177.0 6.0% 18.4% 37.4% 4.30 4.35 4.40 1.7 1.7

Ben’s Take
This seems like as good a place as any to talk about a new pipeline that’s shaping the free agency market: pitchers going to the Dodgers to unlock their potential. Anderson signed a one-year, $8 million deal with Los Angeles after a solid-but-unexciting 2021 and promptly turned into a star. He missed more bats, drew more chases, and induced a boatload of pop ups and overall soft contact en route to a 2.57 ERA and 4.0 WAR.

The key driver of Andreson’s success is a reworked changeup. He’s throwing it slower and with less induced vertical movement now, which allows it to drop like a stone while fading arm side against opposing righties. He also doubled down on a wrinkle from last year: a drop-down sinker that he throws exclusively to lefties. He releases it roughly a foot lower than the rest of his arsenal, turning into a sidearmer. It creates a nasty angle for same-handed hitters, who pick up the ball while it’s headed for their hip. He now also spins cutters from both arm slots to further confuse the opposition.

I have no idea what the long-term prospects are for a pitcher who changes his release point that dramatically. Anderson is essentially a sidearm specialist against lefties and an over-the-top changeup type against righties, which seems great to me offhand. He’ll be a great test case in how much non-Dodgers teams buy into the sustainability of Dodgers-driven improvements.

Player Notes
Entering the year as the owner of a career 4.62 ERA and 4.34 FIP — though to be fair, he did spend 2016-19 with the Rockies — Anderson was merely an insurance policy for the Dodgers; we projected him for fewer than 100 innings as a starter at the outset of the season. Injuries opened a spot in the rotation, and Anderson made the most of it. Sporting a revamped changeup (he threw it two ticks slower, with different spin and more movement) that helped his four-seamer and cutter play up, he did a tremendous job of limiting hard contact, finishing in the 98th percentile in terms of exit velocity (85.0 mph) and hard-hit rate (28.5%), and in the 86th percentile in barrel rate (4.9%). His 4.8% walk rate testified to the precision of his command, and even with a modest 19.5% strikeout rate, he placed fifth in the NL in ERA (2.57), seventh in xERA (3.10, and ninth in FIP (3.31) in a career-high 178.2 innings. His 4.0 WAR placed 12th in the circuit, and he made his first All-Star team.

For a pitcher who has only had two other seasons of at least 2.0 WAR, all that could look like a fluke, but Anderson has become yet another data point in the Dodgers’ ability to identify traits that can help unlock stardom. He should be able to parlay his gains into a multi-year deal in Los Angeles or elsewhere. – JJ

17. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Age 28
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 4 $14.0 M $56.0 M
Median Crowdsource 4 $14.0 M $56.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 3.67 $14.1 M $52.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
560 9.1% 17.2% .267 .338 .408 .328 113 8.0 -4.6 2.3

Ben’s Take
I struggled with placing Benintendi on this list, and I’m still not happy with where he landed. There’s a ton going on here, both good and bad, and figuring out which side teams will care more about gave me fits. I settled on a lengthy but relatively low-dollar deal, but it’s a low-confidence forecast.

If you’re a glass half full type, Benintendi just turned 28 and is an on-base machine, a younger version of Brandon Nimmo. He has a line drive-oriented swing that won’t produce much power without a heavily juiced baseball, but that supports a ton of doubles and singles. He also rarely strikes out and draws walks at an elite clip. That’s a player you can slot at the top of your lineup for the next four years and feel happy about.

If you’re a downer, though, the warning lights are glaring. Only a year ago, Benintendi hardly walked at all and struck out more often. He’s an average corner outfielder who doesn’t add value on the basepaths anymore. He has no power to speak of. If his OBP ticks down, there aren’t many tools to replace it. Walk rates generally feel less stable for hitters who can’t punish opposing pitchers if they flood the zone. If Benintendi is a 100 wRC+ bat in two years, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Where will that land him? I have no idea. I think he’s a cut above that dreaded middle class of hitters, the guys who get one-year deals and bop from team to team, but it’s a near thing. If I were Benintendi, I’d prioritize getting a deal done early in the offseason; there’s been a musical chairs feeling to the second half of the offseason in recent years, and he risks not finding a seat thanks to his mid-tier skill set.

Player Notes
Trading Benintendi prior to the 2021 season hasn’t worked out for the Red Sox. Franchy Cordero and Josh Winckowski, who Boston acquired in exchange for the now-28-year-old outfielder, have combined for -1.0 WAR. Meanwhile, Benintendi has put up 4.5 WAR while winning a Gold Glove and earning an All-Star berth. The 2015 first-round pick out of the University of Arkansas isn’t an elite player, but as his track record suggests, he’s a good one. Swinging from the left side, he has a 111 wRC+ over the past five seasons.

Benintendi changed teams for a second time shortly before this summer’s trade deadline, going from the Kansas City Royals to the New York Yankees. A broken hamate bone subsequently ended his season in early September after he’d played just 33 games in pinstripes. Benintendi has reportedly expressed an interest in returning to New York, although the Cincinnati native may ultimately find a better fit elsewhere. A Red Sox reunion seems unlikely — this despite Boston’s need to upgrade their outfield — but numerous other clubs should be kicking the tires. His hometown team could very well be one of them if they’re willing to spend some money. Reds outfielders combined for 5.2 WAR in 2022, the second-lowest total in the majors. – DL

18. Kodai Senga, SP, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 4 $14.0 M $56.0 M
Median Crowdsource 4 $15.0 M $60.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 3.99 $14.9 M $59.4 M
2023 ZiPS Projections
IP BB K GS ERA+ ERA WAR
140.0 54 166 22 118 3.54 2.9

Ben’s Take
I consider myself a solid major league talent evaluator. When it comes to projecting Senga in the majors, though, I’m relying on the expertise (and models) of others. Those others are mostly bullish on him, and why wouldn’t they be? He boasts four pitches, including a wipeout splitter and a fastball that touches the upper 90s. He’s also capable of taking a little bit off of his slider and giving it curveball shape to steal strikes.

While his raw stuff is impressive, there are also reasons for concern. His two-plane fastball doesn’t overpower hitters up in the zone. His feel for breaking pitches comes and goes, which puts a lot of pressure on his splitter in starts where nothing else is landing. As Eric Longenhagen noted to me, there’s some Eovaldi to him; the stuff can look overpowering one day and the repertoire reliever-ish the next.

ZiPS buys what Senga is selling – the system thinks he’ll be in the 3-WAR range next year. That’s a solid projection – and gives more substance to the Eovaldi comp – but I think teams might discount Senga somewhat thanks to uncertainty about his pitch mix and fastball shape. On the other hand, teams won’t have to pay a posting fee, as he’s a true free agent. I think there’s a chance that Senga ends up returning to NPB, but I hope I’m wrong; I’d love to see that splitter in action next year.

Player Notes
After starting his career as a reliever, Senga moved into the Fukuoka Hawks rotation in 2017 and has spent the last half decade as one of the better starters and hardest-throwing pitchers in all of NPB. While the 29-year-old righty struggled with walks early in his tenure as a starter (he walked 75 hitters in 180 innings in 2019, and 57 hitters in 121 innings in ‘20), that has become less of an issue during the last two seasons. Senga’s walk rate has fallen from the 10-11% range to the 8-8.5% range; his WHIP was a measly 1.05 during that stretch.

Senga has added four ticks to his fastball since debuting in NPB. This wasn’t a gradual increase, either – it happened all at once in 2019. He now sits 96 mph and will touch as high as 102, though he typically tops out at 99 in any given start. Even though premium velocity is rare in Japan, Senga’s fastball doesn’t play like a premium pitch due to its shape and angle. In fact, his dastardly mid-80s splitter, which falls off the table and finishes below the strike zone, is easily his best offering, garnering twice as many swings and misses as his fastball in 2022, and about as many whiffs as the rest of his many pitches combined. Those pitches (in order of usage) are a cutter, slider, and the occasional curveball, all bending in anywhere between 94 and 75 mph, with the slider’s shape and velo sometimes bleeding into the other two. While his breaking ball command is inconsistent, Senga’s velocity, splitter, repertoire depth, and demonstrated durability make him a fit as no. 3 or 4 starter on a contender. – EL

19. Taylor Rogers, RP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $10.0 M $30.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $7.5 M $15.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.97 $7.6 M $15.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
62.0 7.0% 27.5% 44.5% 3.26 3.20 3.24 0.2 0.2

Ben’s Take
I’m not convinced Rogers will get the 19th-biggest contract this offseason. He’ll be 32 next year, he’s a reliever, and he just posted negative WAR with the Brewers after coming over in a big deadline trade. It’s not the kind of profile that commands a top-dollar contract. I’m putting Rogers here because I think he’ll be a bargain acquisition, and turn some team’s bullpen into a late-inning nightmare for opponents, a model that has paid dividends in the playoffs in recent years.

I’m inclined to give Rogers a mulligan for his struggles in Milwaukee. Everything he threw turned into a home run; a 27.3% HR/FB mark is hard to recover from regardless of what else you do well. That led to some nibbling, which led to some walks, which led to the homers hurting more… it was a vicious cycle that scuttled his season. I just don’t see much reason to think that will persist into next year. Teams that already have a few solid bullpen arms could kick their unit up to the next level by adding Rogers, and the price won’t be unthinkable.

Player Notes
Trading Rogers, Dinelson Lamet, Esteury Ruiz, and Robert Gasser to Milwaukee in exchange for Josh Hader at the August deadline proved to be a boon for the San Diego Padres (his struggles and their puzzling postseason usage of the long-haired closer notwithstanding). For the Brewers and their fanbase, it was a different story entirely. Not only was Hader a fan favorite, Rogers had multiple bad outings as Milwaukee faded down the stretch and fell short of the postseason berth that many expected. Rogers had a 5.48 ERA, a 5.07 FIP and just three saves in his 24 appearances out of the Brewers bullpen.

His track record is that of a much better pitcher. Over seven big-league seasons, the first six of which he spent in a Minnesota Twins uniform, the 31-year-old southpaw has a 3.42 ERA, a 3.06 FIP and 445 strikeouts in 379 innings. He had 30 saves in 2019, nine in the COVID-shortened ‘20 campaign, and 31 this season. Moreover, he’s been especially effective against same-sided batters. Lefties have slashed a woeful .196/.260/.276 with a .239 wOBA against Rogers since he broke into the big leagues; this year, they posted a .167/.261/.250 line and .235 wOBA. Despite an inauspicious two-month tenure in Milwaukee, he projects as a valuable late-inning bullpen piece going forward. – DL

20. Martín Pérez, SP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $15.0 M $30.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $13.0 M $39.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.61 $13.6 M $35.5 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
191.0 8.1% 19.1% 47.6% 4.18 4.15 4.10 1.9 2.0

Ben’s Take
As we go down this list, you’re going to see a lot of pitchers like Pérez. He’ll take the ball every fifth day and give you league-average innings. There’s upside there if you’re looking for it; Pérez had a career year in 2022 in pretty much every statistical category. He finished the year strong, too, which had been a sticking point in previous seasons for him. If you’re looking for a pitcher who will be good tomorrow, your best bet is to find one who’s good today, and Pérez fits that bill.

Pérez’s career prior to 2022 shows what teams often get when they sign a free agent in this tier. You can’t count on above-average performance; if you could, you’d have to pay him more. But I like Pérez’s odds of putting together another good season. He’s one of many pitchers who benefitted from throwing fewer four-seam fastballs, and his current sinker/cutter/changeup pitch mix suits him well. He’s durable, which is a huge selling point when you’re signing pitchers who are more notable for the innings they’ll fill than their likelihood of winning the Cy Young. His cutter looks as good as it ever has. Truthfully, I think Pérez will be a bargain. I just think that his track record and age will hold him back from getting a bigger deal.

Player Notes
Pérez’s second act in Texas turned him into a first-time All-Star at age 31. He’d traveled the road from hot teenage prospect to Tommy John surgery recipient to wandering journeyman; from 2019-21, he pitched to a 4.88 ERA (106 ERA-) and 4.75 FIP (107 FIP-) with 2.8 WAR for the Twins and Red Sox. In the post-lockout frenzy, he returned to the Rangers on a $4 million deal, as much to mentor a young staff as to eat innings. By backing off his four-seamer in favor of his sinker and doing a better job of painting the corners, he generated his highest groundball rate since 2016 (51.4%), cut his barrel rate from 9.3% to 4.3%, and put together a career year. Via a full complement of 32 starts, he placed fifth in the AL in innings (196.1); eighth in ERA (2.89), FIP (3.27), and WAR (3.8); and 11th in xERA (3.59).

The Rangers bypassed the chance to trade Pérez at the deadline, as he told them he wanted to stick around long-term. Given the need to overhaul a rotation that ranked 13th in the AL in ERA (4.63) and 12th in WAR (5.8, meaning that the other starters besides Pérez netted 2.0), it makes sense for the two sides to renew their vows. – JJ

21. Jameson Taillon, SP, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $14.0 M $42.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $12.0 M $36.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.88 $12.5 M $36.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
170.0 5.8% 20.2% 39.2% 4.33 4.20 4.10 1.9 1.5

Ben’s Take
Ah, another solid starter for the collection. Taillon was the model of consistency with the Yankees. He struck out his fair share of batters, didn’t walk many, and reliably went five innings. By using his four-seamer more, he’s completely changed his profile; ignore his numbers in Pittsburgh, because he was a completely different pitcher then.

That four-seamer and a new cutter augment what he’s always done well: spin the ball. His slider and curve are both excellent, and the slider is particularly nasty against opposing righties. Yankee Stadium’s cozy dimensions may even have been holding him back; he’s squarely a fly ball pitcher now, and opposing teams packed their lineup with lefties against him, a bad combination in the Bronx. Moving to a park with spacious dimensions would likely suit him well.

That’s a lot of praise, but I still think he’ll sign a cookie-cutter contract because the raw results haven’t been overpowering even with his new pitch mix. It sure feels to me like there could be more in the tank, but “could be more in the tank” is the kind of description that gets you a short deal with a good team. I think Taillon will do a bit better than that, but for the most part, I just wish he’d left the Pirates and figured out his repertoire a few years sooner.

Player Notes
Taillon might not end up being a high priority for teams as free agency unfolds, but that doesn’t mean he won’t end up being one of the better lower-profile signings. When fully healthy, the soon-to-turn-31-year-old right-hander has been a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. The second overall pick in the 2010 draft went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018, and this past season he went 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA with the New York Yankees. He battled testicular cancer in 2017, and has twice undergone Tommy John surgery, first in ‘14 and again in ‘19.

When he was interviewed here at FanGraphs this past August, Taillon spoke of how he is foundationally the same pitcher he’s always been, but has cleaned up his mechanics, improved some of his pitch profiles, and tweaked his usage. No longer just a hard-thrower with a plus curveball, he’s now more of a tactician, albeit one who has largely retained his younger-self velocity. Attacking the zone is a big part of his M.O. Taillon has averaged just 2.2 walks per nine innings over the course of his career, and this year that number was an exemplary 1.6. The quietly effective righty throws strikes. – DL

22. Taijuan Walker, SP, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $14.0 M $42.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $13.0 M $39.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.86 $14.3 M $40.9 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
152.0 7.4% 18.9% 42.5% 4.39 4.38 4.26 1.4 1.2

Ben’s Take
I’d try to sneak in the section on Pérez or Taillon here if I didn’t know I’d get caught. Walker is fine! He’s good! He threw his splitter more this season and profited. He used it quite a lot against both lefties and righties, cutting down on sinkers to fit it into his pitch mix. That’s a great change, because Walker’s sinker is uninspiring while his splitter is excellent. He even improved the pitch this year: He throws it with almost no induced vertical movement now, and it simply falls off the table while fading to his arm side.

If I were Walker, I’d consider taking a one-year deal somewhere to act as a platform season. The form he showed this year was appreciably better than his career before 2022. Teams might not totally buy into that, but a second straight year of good results changes the calculus considerably. I still have him projected for a three-year contract with modest annual value, but I think he’s the player in this section of the list most likely to bet on himself by taking a short-term deal.

Player Notes
To the extent that it’s possible to fly under the radar while playing in New York, Walker did just that with the Mets. Pitching in a rotation that includes Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom (when healthy), not to mention 15-game winners Chris Bassitt and Carlos Carrasco, it can be easy to get overlooked. That’s not to suggest teams hoping to land a quality starter in this winter’s free agent market weren’t paying close attention. Moreover, they had to have liked what they saw. Walker won 12 of 17 decisions while taking the mound 29 times and putting up a 3.49 ERA and a 3.65 FIP over 157.1 innings.

Nearly a decade after being ranked as the top prospect in the Seattle Mariners system — before that he excelled on the hardwood as a rim-rattling forward at Yucaipa High School in California — the 6-foot-5 right-hander presents as a solid mid-rotation option for teams that could use another established arm. (That’s all of them, folks.) Health will be the primary knock against Walker, as his injury history includes both shoulder and elbow woes — he had Tommy John surgery in 2018, and threw just 67.1 innings from 2018-20. – DL

23. J.D. Martinez, DH, Age 35
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $15.0 M $15.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $12.5 M $12.5 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.56 $12.9 M $20.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
609 8.5% 24.9% .250 .318 .421 .322 109 3.4 -14.7 0.9

Ben’s Take
There’s a reasonable chance that Martinez is washed. He’s always been an aggressive swinger, too aggressive for my taste, but he made up for it with gaudy production on contact. In his last three years, including an injury-marred 2020, he’s posted his three lowest wOBACON and xwOBACON marks in the Statcast era. Other statistics mostly agree; he’s hitting the ball hard less frequently, barreling the ball less often, and posting lower maximum exit velocities. All of these metrics are still above average, to be fair, but when he was at his best, they were elite, not acceptable.

I don’t think that’ll stop someone from betting on Martinez, lack of positional versatility and all. All those factors I mentioned are scary, but none of them are definitive, and the allure of recapturing peak Martinez on a bargain deal will be strong. I don’t think he’s in the top tier of hitters anymore, but he won’t be seeking that type of contract.

As a late-career turnaround bet, signing Martinez makes a lot more sense. If I were a GM, I don’t think I’d try it; the signals I trust most don’t feel particularly encouraging. But they’re plenty noisy, Martinez isn’t that far removed from being great, and it’s not like he’s been bad in the last two years; an aggregate 123 wRC+ and 3.8 WAR at DH is just fine. Some team with space at DH is going to land him and hope he returns to his 2019 form. They just might be right.

Player Notes
Calcified and rusted, Martinez just didn’t look right all season. Gone was his usual all-fields approach and oppo power; just four of his 16 home runs went out to center or right. Sliders bedeviled him, as he posted a .269 wOBA against them, and he struggled to do his usual damage on fastballs. All of that is part of a three-year trend, beginning with the shortened 2020 season in which he looked half a corpse and the ‘21 campaign that represented a bounce back but still had some worrying signs buried in the peripherals. His wRC+ has now declined in each of the last four full seasons, and though his 117 mark in 2022 was far from bad — Corey Seager, Matt Chapman and Dansby Swanson all finished in that general area — it came with nothing to boost it.

The irony of the adoption of the universal DH is that it came far too late to buoy Martinez’s value as a free agent. While there are now twice as many landing spots for him this offseason compared to his last foray into the market, it’s unlikely that many of those teams are eager to spend on a 35-year-old with more red flags than a minefield. An abjectly terrible defender and someone who runs the bases like he’s wearing ankle weights, Martinez will sink or swim on the strength of his bat. And while he hit enough to end up on the positive side of the ledger stats-wise, the overall package is decidedly one-note. – JT

24. Justin Turner, 3B, Age 38
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $14.0 M $14.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.31 $11.9 M $16.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
560 9.1% 17.5% .263 .339 .410 .330 114 6.9 -6.6 2.0

Ben’s Take
For the sake of this exercise, we pretend that free agents might sign anywhere. Like Kershaw earlier on this list, though, Turner feels like a Dodger for life, or at least the post-Mets part. He had his worst season in a Dodger uniform in 2022, but it was still a perfectly solid effort overall; he hit a ton, missed a bit of time with injury, and played average third base defense when in the field. That’s a valuable player, albeit one who requires a team with some flexibility defensively; he played half of his games at DH to better withstand the rigors of the season.

You could do a lot worse than Turner even if your only slot for him was as a full-time DH. But that’s more or less theoretical. It’s like saying that Old Faithful would look nice if it abandoned Yellowstone and declared National Park free agency. That might be true – personally, I think it would look spectacular in the Great Smoky Mountains – but it’s not happening. That’s how I feel about Turner’s “free agency.” Fun in concept, but only that.

Player Notes
Now 37 years old, Turner remains a productive player even though there are some underlying indicators that Father Time is on his tail. He’s still an above-average contact hitter relative to the big league average in many facets, both visual and statistical, but he is declining in those areas relative to his personal peak. His lovely all-fields approach once again helped Turner swat 50 extra-base hits, 36 of them doubles, though his 13 homers were his fewest in a full season since 2014. His xStats based on contact quality were close to his actual line (.278/.350/.438), and his swinging strike rate (8.8%) and most of his other rate contact metrics remain comfortably superior to the major league average. But 2022 Turner slid in these areas compared to past years and seems to have aged into a role-playing level of play rather than one of stardom. Perhaps a lack of defensive versatility hurts him in this regard, but contending teams like to spackle over short-term holes with bankable bats like Turner, who has also demonstrated that he’s a cool customer under the bright lights of the postseason. – EL

25. Jean Segura, 2B, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $13.0 M $26.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $12.0 M $24.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.24 $12.3 M $28.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
560 6.7% 15.4% .273 .330 .395 .318 106 4.7 1.4 2.6

Ben’s Take
I don’t actually think Segura will reach free agency. The Phillies hold a team option for the 2023 season, and while $16 million is higher than the average annual value I’m projecting for Segura, he’s such a good fit for the rest of the Philadelphia roster that they’d be remiss to let him go. Where else are they going to get premium defense and league-average hitting at an up-the-middle position?

Maybe you’d quibble with premium defense, but Statcast thinks he’s been the third-best second base defender over the past three years despite missing time with injury. Maybe you’d quibble with league-average bat, but you shouldn’t. He’s been 9% better than league average over the past seven seasons, and with little volatility; his worst year still worked out to a 91 wRC+. It’s an OBP-heavy offensive line driven by an elite contact rate, but it’s good nonetheless, and the Phillies could always use more runners on base for their sluggers to drive home.

Given the rest of their roster, second base and starting pitcher are the two positions that the Phillies are most likely to look for in free agency. Segura is the best second baseman on the market. He’s good at the things they’re bad at, and keyed an improved infield defense this year. Not all free agency decisions need to be difficult. This one just makes too much sense not to happen.

Player Notes
Still a great bad-ball hitter, Segura’s bat control and all-fields spray enable his free-swinging approach. For the eighth consecutive season, his actual batting average in 2022 was comfortably better than what Statcast’s algorithm expected based on the quality of his contact. Segura is extremely difficult to make swing and miss in the zone but his power production took a dip this season, with his extra-base hit total halved compared to his 2021 output. That might be due to a finger fracture, which not only cost Segura about two months of games but may have impacted his ability to punish the baseball when he returned, as hand injuries often do. His average exit velocity (85.6 mph vs. 89.8), barrel rate (3.2% vs. 5.7%), and hard hit rate (33% vs. 44%) all fell compared to his pre-injury performance once he returned. While his lower half has thickened and his range at second base is only fair, Segura’s hands and actions around the bag on double plays remain excellent. He last played another infield position in 2020, when he spent half the shortened slate at third base. He could conceivably be someone’s everyday second baseman in 2023 if his pre-injury pop comes back. Otherwise, he may end up playing a multi-positional infield role as the weak side of a platoon. – EL

26. José Quintana, SP, Age 34
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $12.0 M $24.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $12.0 M $24.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.09 $11.6 M $24.3 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
164.0 7.7% 20.7% 45.1% 3.99 3.98 3.95 2.0 2.1

Player Notes
Last offseason, Quintana barely extended his career by joining the Pirates on a one-year, $2 million deal. Fast forward a year, and he’s coming off a 4-WAR season. My, how the turn tables. His reward is a probable multi-year deal, but considering how shrewd teams are these days, it likely won’t be for much. That’s for a good reason, though. Nothing about Quintana suggests he’s a different pitcher than before. And yet he somehow stopped allowing home runs, then went to a defensively dominant club at the trade deadline. Counting on home run luck and the fielders behind a pitcher is a bold strategy, one that falls apart more often than not. It worked in 2022, but what about next season and beyond? If all this sounds too pessimistic, well, it kind of is meant to. But credit where it’s due: Quintana turned the clock back on his command. And at the end of the day, he’s a lefty who can eat innings, meaning whichever team signs him won’t completely regret its decision. Just don’t tell that to the Angels. – JC

27. Noah Syndergaard, SP, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $12.0 M $24.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $14.0 M $28.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.16 $14.2 M $30.7 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
153.0 6.0% 16.9% 43.3% 4.62 4.37 4.30 1.4 0.8

Player Notes
The God of Thunder turned into the God of Overcast Skies With Isolated Drizzle last season. First with the Angels and then the Phillies as both a starter and reliever, Syndergaard struggled to put hitters away with a fastball that averaged just 94.5 mph, a drop of over three ticks from his Queens-era peak. Concurrently, his strikeout rate dropped from the heights of Olympus to a Stygian 16.8% in 2022, eighth-worst among all starters with 130 or more innings and alongside punching bags like Madison Bumgarner and Dylan Bundy. Thor’s good control kept things from getting ugly, but he isn’t a lightning-armed ace any more, and it’d be foolish to expect otherwise.

Does that make him unemployable? That depends on what you want out of him. He smartly abandoned his diminished four-seamer as the year went on in favor of a sinker that didn’t produce any extra whiffs but was hard to hit, with a .284 wOBA and run value of -10, per Statcast. His slider boasts more dip than run now, too; Syndergaard seems to have embraced fishing for weak contact instead of hunting for swings and misses. Still broken is his once-vaunted changeup, which now has very little separation from his fastball, but a clever, enterprising team may be able to build a new version of Thor that can at least get by. The old Noah Syndergaard is gone for good, but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute useful innings in the middle of a rotation. – JT

28. Sean Manaea, SP, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $12.0 M $24.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.16 $11.0 M $23.8 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
154.0 6.6% 22.3% 40.6% 4.05 4.00 3.86 1.9 2.0

Player Notes
Since his return from a torn labrum in late 2019, the big left-hander has been about a league-average pitcher in the aggregate, but he struggled in 2022. Coming off a 3.2 WAR season, Manaea saw his strikeout rate drop, his walk rate rise from 5.4% to 7.5%, and his FIP jump by almost a run. The last impression he left on potential suitors wasn’t much better, as he maintained only tenuous contact with his rotation spot in September and got shelled in his only postseason appearance.

Now, pitchers who are left-handed, can make 30 starts a year, and have any track record of success whatsoever tend to get a lot of rope. See: Steven Matz, who boomed and busted throughout his 20s and still got four years and $44 million from the Cardinals. But surely Manaea would’ve wanted to head into free agency selling himself as a potential no. 2 starter rather than the buy-low candidate he’s become. – MB

29. Corey Kluber, SP, Age 37
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $11.0 M $11.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.28 $11.4 M $14.6 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
159.0 5.5% 18.7% 39.1% 4.45 4.35 4.26 1.7 1.3

Player Notes
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you might be able to remind him that strike-throwing is a virtue. Pitching for the Rays in 2022, Kluber walked a career-low rate of batters. No reinvention was necessary. Instead, he filled the zone with all of his offerings, fishing for weak contact rather than whiffs. But while that style of pitching isn’t associated with strikeout stuff, hitters didn’t stop chasing Kluber’s signature breaking ball, which could have benefited from less exposure outside the zone. The result: a 3-WAR season, authored by a 37-year-old veteran who managed to stay healthy throughout. It helps that the Rays employed a short leash, but it’s no issue – the point of present-day Kluber is that he’s a good sometimes great five-and-dive starter. This offseason, he’ll likely have the luxury of deciding between multiple one-year deals. – JC

30. Michael Conforto, OF, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.66 $12.0 M $20.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
567 11.1% 21.7% .244 .340 .418 .333 117 10.3 -10.7 1.9

Player Notes
If former teammate Brandon Nimmo is hitting free agency at the best possible time, Conforto may have hit the market at the worst. One of the unsigned players heading into last winter’s long lockout, Conforto was already heading towards a “prove it” deal after a miserable .232/.344/.384 2021 line, and that was before he injured his shoulder in a January workout, leading to April shoulder surgery that eliminated any chance of him signing a mid-season deal. Conforto’s market wasn’t likely to be particularly aggressive without those nasty surprises, and missing a season in his prime due to injury isn’t exactly going to enhance his marketability.

Still, there are a few factors that work in Conforto’s favor, resulting in his healthy ranking on this list. The market for outfielders this winter is paper-thin, and assuming we don’t pretend that J.D. Martinez is anything other than a DH, you can make a strong case that Conforto is the fourth- or fifth-best outfielder available. He also no longer comes saddled with a qualifying offer, which would have been a rich price to pay for a team wanting to sign him to an incentive-laden one- or two-year contract. I still think Conforto will sign a fairly short-term deal, leaving him the chance to hit free agency again in a year or two, but there’s enough upside here that I think he’ll be able to make a real choice when picking his next employer. – DS

31. Trey Mancini, 1B, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $8.0 M $16.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.05 $8.9 M $18.2 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
595 9.0% 23.4% .244 .321 .409 .319 107 3.6 -11.4 1.2

Player Notes
Mancini was a fan favorite in Baltimore, and quite a hitter besides. In 2019, he hit .291/.364/.535, while making a majority of his starts in right field. That’s a 3.4 WAR season, and if he’d hit free agency then, he’d have been a hot commodity. After missing all of 2020 while being treated for colon cancer, Mancini bounced back from his illness and a full year of inaction by posting a 105 wRC+ in ‘21 and a 104 wRC+ this season, though after his deadline trade to Houston, the Notre Dame grad hit just .176 and went 1-for-21 in the playoffs.

Mancini will turn 31 before Opening Day 2023, and even when he was hitting at an All-Star clip, he never contributed much with the glove. (His defense at first base is fine, and he plays the outfield like an average defensive first baseman.) Older corner guys in his position frequently have a second life as a platoon bat, but Mancini’s lack of a weak side might paradoxically make him less employable. Or at least a lack of an easily identifiable weak side; Mancini has even platoon splits for his career, but posted a huge split this year and a huge reverse split last year.

For a rebuilding team with a need for at-bats at first or DH, Mancini makes sense. Maybe he’ll tap into his 2019 potential and be flippable at the deadline. At the very least, he’ll set a good example for the kids. But contenders will probably be able to find better options. – MB

32. Johnny Cueto, SP, Age 37
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.2 $8.9 M $10.8 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
152.0 6.2% 16.1% 41.7% 4.68 4.62 4.50 0.9 0.7

Player Notes
Cueto’s 15th big league campaign was his most productive season since 2016, the first of his long-term contract with San Francisco. He signed a one-year pact with the White Sox in April and was part of Chicago’s rotation for the final two thirds of the year, peaking in August, when Cueto worked eight or more innings in three out of four starts to begin the month. In total, the 36-year-old pitched 158 healthy innings across 25 outings after requiring three IL stints in 2021. While his velocity held in the 90-93 mph range, Cueto’s strikeout rate tumbled to a career-low 15.7% in 2022, as his changeup missed fewer bats than usual and was closer to an average pitch in that regard. Increased cutter usage is another indication that Cueto has entered the twilight, pitch-to-contact phase of his incredible career. He still throws a ton of strikes (he tied a career-low in walk rate) and a ton of different pitches, eight if you count the rare low-slot sliders and slow eephus curveballs that Cueto occasionally manifests. Combine that with all the disruptive shimmies and slide steps, as well as Cueto’s trademark cool, and he’s a good veteran backend starter option on a one-year deal. – EL

33. Andrew Heaney, SP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.91 $10.5 M $20.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
140.0 6.7% 28.1% 37.2% 3.59 3.53 3.42 2.6 2.6

Player Notes
Depending on the week or even the inning, Heaney is either a strikeout artist or a home run factory. Oh, and he can both at the same time, too. It’s a maddening rollercoaster ride that teams just can’t resist – a version of Heaney without his major flaws seems so close, and yet remains far away. The Dodgers became the latest team to take a chance on the volatile lefty. They helped Heaney refurbish his breaking ball, resulting in a strikeout rate that was second-best among all pitchers with 70 or more innings. But even Los Angeles couldn’t stop Heaney’s pitches from leaving the ballpark, or at least keep him healthy for an entire season. Despite his unpredictability, Heaney is worth another shot. It’s just that whoever signs him shouldn’t expect to radically change who he is. Heaney likely isn’t a pitcher who will last too many innings or necessarily stay put in a rotation, but he is a pitcher who can rack up whiffs in a potential long-relief role if need be. – JC

34. Ross Stripling, SP, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $10.0 M $30.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $11.0 M $22.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.3 $10.6 M $24.3 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
147.0 5.7% 19.3% 40.9% 4.31 4.24 4.08 1.5 1.3

Player Notes
Stripling picked a good time to have a career-best year. The soon-to-turn-33-year-old right-hander heads into free agency having been on the winning end of 10 of 14 decisions while logging a 3.01 ERA and a 3.11 FIP over 134.1 innings. Stripling put up those numbers in his second full year with the Toronto Blue Jays after spending his first four-plus seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. All told, he has 204 regular-season games on his ledger, 104 as a starter and 100 as a reliever.

Stripling would presumably prefer a spot in a team’s rotation over a bullpen role, and his 2022 splits suggest that he’ll get that opportunity. The Texas A&M product made 24 of his 32 appearances as a starter, and he did so to the tune of a 2.92 ERA and .229 batting average against. Improved command and increased changeup usage played heavily into that success. Among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings, only Corey Kluber (1.16) and Aaron Nola (1.27) walked fewer batters per nine innings than Stripling (1.34) did. Meanwhile, his changeup, which he threw 27.3% of the time — nearly double his career average — yielded a 203 BAA and a .241 wOBA. – DL

35. Michael Brantley, OF, Age 36
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $10.0 M $10.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.42 $12.4 M $17.7 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
469 8.3% 12.3% .283 .347 .416 .334 117 7.8 -9.1 1.5

Player Notes
At age 35, Brantley’s days of going 20-20 and getting mid-ballot MVP votes are probably behind him. A shoulder injury limited him to just 64 games this year, but look at how acutely the Astros missed him down the stretch and in the playoffs and you’ll understand why he’s still valuable. Brantley is a hitter’s hitter, with great plate discipline and one of the best contact rates in the game. Leaving aside his injury-plagued 11-game cameo in 2016, Brantley has had an OBP of .357 or better every year since 2014, and a wRC+ of 120 or better every year since ‘18. Someone else can do the running, throwing, and catching.

He’s like one of those aging NBA forwards whose knees went south ages ago, but who can still lean through gaps in the defense, pick out a pass, and bury uncontested jumpers all the livelong day. Those guys, like Brantley, can help a contender until they’re walking with a cane. If not Houston, Brantley will be at the top of some team’s batting order next spring. – MB

36. Jurickson Profar, OF, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $10.0 M $30.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.88 $10.8 M $31.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
581 10.3% 16.0% .241 .326 .389 .316 105 3.1 -7.9 1.5

Player Notes
Nine years after he was deemed the game’s top prospect, Profar produced the best season of his career. Mind you, it wasn’t a season where the numbers jumped off the page, as none of his slash stats (.243/.331/.391) set a career high, nor did his 110 wRC+ or his 15 homers. His 87.5 mph average exit velocity, 4.0% barrel rate, and 34.3% hard-hit rate all placed in the 22nd percentile or lower. However, he parlayed excellent plate discipline — chasing just 27% of pitches out of the zone and walking 11.1% of the time while striking out just 15.7% — and moderate power (.148 ISO) into a wRC+ four points above the league average for left fielders (note that he didn’t play an inning on the infield). Even with unexceptional baserunning and defense (-4 DRS, -2 OAA), that above-average offense across a career-high 658 PA was good for 2.5 WAR, also a career high.

As to whether he can do it again, it’s worth noting that Profar has alternated solid seasons and subpar ones for the past half-decade, with a 107 wRC+ in 2018 and a 113 mark in ’20, but an 86 in ’19 and a 90 in ’21; he was 0.7 wins below replacement in 412 PA just last year. Such ups and downs could limit his payday, and if he opts out of his $7.5 million salary for 2022 (and therefore a $10 million mutual option for ’23), the Padres may wind up stashing Fernando Tatis Jr. in left field. – JJ

37. Brandon Drury, IF, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $9.0 M $18.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $10.0 M $30.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.74 $10.4 M $29.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
567 6.4% 21.5% .247 .302 .426 .317 105 2.0 -4.7 1.7

Player Notes
Unspectacular righty bat signs a bare-bones one-year deal with a rebuilding team. Said righty bat proceeds to… put up the best season of his career? It’s neat how baseball works like that. Drury’s mashing landed him in San Diego, where he slumped initially but recovered in time to stave off a second-half crash. The odds that he replicates his 2022 campaign are slim, but he doesn’t need to. As long as Drury retains some of the improvements to his batted ball metrics and continues to ambush lefty pitching, his services should be in demand. For example, the Brewers, who suffered from a dearth of right-handed pop, would be a great fit. – JC

38. Josh Bell, 1B, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $9.0 M $18.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $13.0 M $39.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 3 $14.2 M $43.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
616 11.6% 17.6% .256 .347 .439 .342 123 13.8 -14.4 2.1

Player Notes
It was a story of two seasons for Bell, who hit .301/.384/.493 with a strikeout rate of just 14.0% in 437 plate appearances for Washington. When he got tied into the Juan Soto trade in early August, it seemed like the Padres had acquired not one but two impact hitters for their playoff run. But as one third of a three-man first base/DH rotation with Wil Myers and Brandon Drury, Bell disappointed, hitting .192/.316/.271 in 210 plate appearances, good for just a 79 wRC+.

Quips about free agents making or losing money with a hot pennant race or postseason are usually nothing more than idle chatter, but Bell’s inconsistency is nothing new. He followed up a 37-homer, 135 wRC+ All-Star campaign in 2019 with a .226/.305/.364 line in ‘20. The upside with Bell, who just turned 30 in August, is tremendous: 30-homer power from a switch hitter with only trivial platoon splits, enough walks to provide offensive value even if the power sags a little, and startlingly few strikeouts for a hitter of his size and strength. He could be the bargain of the offseason if he finds the right situation.

Or he could be the biggest player in the league with a SLG below .300. Which I guess is why he’s only no. 38 on this list. – MB

39. Michael Wacha, SP, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.99 $9.9 M $19.8 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
150.0 6.5% 19.7% 41.6% 4.43 4.36 4.11 1.5 1.2

Player Notes
Wacha was coming off three straight lackluster seasons when he signed a modest one-year, $7 million deal with the Red Sox last November. The contract he’ll ink this winter will be far more lucrative, both in terms of dollars and years. Reestablishing himself as a quality big-league starter, the 30-year-old right-hander fashioned a 3.32 ERA while winning 11 of 13 decisions for a Boston club whose rotation was otherwise patched together with tape and twine. Wacha worked 127.1 innings over his 27 starts and (hide your eyes, traditionalists) was responsible for one of just 16 complete-game shutouts thrown in the majors this season.

Wacha was a workhorse by today’s standards when he had his career-best year in 2015. Pitching for a St. Louis Cardinals team that played October baseball for the third straight season, he went 17-7 with a 3.38 ERA over 181.1 innings. That he’s unlikely to approach that number of innings going forward won’t concern teams if he can approximate what he did in this year’s return to form. The Red Sox would like to bring him back, but competition for his services will be plentiful. Established pitchers with Wacha’s 2022 numbers — even ones who rely more on guile than raw stuff — don’t exactly grow on trees. – DL

40. Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $8.0 M $16.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.64 $8.9 M $15.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
434 6.8% 25.5% .230 .288 .363 .286 84 -7.2 3.8 1.1

Player Notes
Given his numbers, Kiermaier likely wasn’t headed to a big payday even before shoulder surgery ended his 2022 season a few months early. But he has a leg up on other players with average overall projections: A healthy Kiermaier is a fabulous defensive center fielder, even as he pushes into his 30s. For a team with the personnel to leverage his glove, he’s far more interesting than some generic two-to-three win player. There’s a reason the Rays, who always look to shed talent when it starts getting expensive, never traded Kiermaier like they have with, well, almost everyone else in a similar position.

Kiermaier is a fit for a lot of teams. Given their adventure-prone corner outfielders, his glove would make having a sub-.300 OBP in the lineup worth it for the Phillies. He would represent a significant upgrade for the Cardinals, who have leaned on Dylan Carlson and Tyler O’Neill to play the majority of center field innings since the team traded Harrison Bader to land Jordan Montgomery. His presence would allow the Giants to move Mike Yastrzemski back to a corner in their cavernous outfield. And the Cubs are tiptoeing into contention without a true center field option. The list goes on. Kiermaier’s not going to get even a $50 million contract, but he’ll get more attention than most average players coming off an injury. – DS

41. Chad Green, RP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $7.0 M $14.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $5.0 M $5.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.55 $5.5 M $8.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
32.0 7.0% 26.1% 33.4% 3.69 3.68 3.77 0.1 0.1

Player Notes
Traditionally, the market for a reliever rehabbing from Tommy John surgery has been nonexistent. But in recent years, we’ve seen teams mitigate the uncertainty by offering two-year deals – and that’s good news for Green. His fastball-slider combo is still deadly, and unlike other relief arms with zero command, he’s not chaos incarnate. Just as former teammate Tommy Kahnle signed with the Dodgers in 2020, Green could find himself in demand despite a precarious situation. – JC

42. Mike Clevinger, SP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $9.0 M $9.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.57 $9.1 M $14.3 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
151.0 7.0% 20.1% 37.2% 4.44 4.40 4.33 1.4 1.2

Player Notes
I liked the Padres’ side of the 2020 trade that brought Mike Clevinger to San Diego. With the benefit of hindsight, however, just hanging on to Cal Quantrill — nevermind the rest of the players who went to Cleveland — would have turned out better for the team. Clevinger only made four starts for the Padres before requiring Tommy John surgery.

He returned in May 2022, but as a much less effective pitcher than he was before the procedure. His fastball was down a couple of ticks; if that had been the only issue, he might have adjusted, but his return also came with a less effective slider, costing him his big swing-and-miss pitch. Of the 105 pitchers to face at least 100 batters in 2019, Clevinger’s slider had the eighth-best whiff rate; this year, it ranked 99th. He started throwing a cutter, but he mostly put it over the plate rather than tempting hitters on the edge of the zone, giving it the character of a slider that failed to slide. He largely abandoned his 12-6 curve and his changeup still looks like an afterthought. Clevinger was left without a dependable pitch to punch out batters, as his disappointing numbers attest. Lots of players come back from major surgery, but fewer survive losing 40% of their whiffs.

His two brutal playoff appearances didn’t exactly enhance his value, and I expect that teams will approach him less as a plug-and-play talent than as a reclamation project. I’m not going to shovel dirt on Clevinger’s career, but if a front office thinks they expect him to throw 170 innings as their no. 2 starter, I suspect they’ll see the folly of their calculations before too long. – DS

43. Matt Carpenter, IF, Age 37
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $9.0 M $9.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $6.0 M $6.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.18 $6.6 M $7.7 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
469 11.4% 26.7% .221 .322 .406 .321 108 2.6 -9.6 0.9

Player Notes
As someone who is supposed to predict the future with some semblance of accuracy, I can confidently say that I didn’t see this one coming. Thankfully, nobody else really did either, and misery loves company. Thanks to his age and his dreadful showing in 2020 and ‘21, Carpenter didn’t even land a major league job entering this season. He spent the late spring as the starting first baseman for Triple-A Round Rock, and though he hit well, the Rangers released him rather than add him to their roster.

An injury-plagued Yankees team scooped him up, and to everyone’s surprise, Carpenter was an offensive machine for New York in the second half of the season. In just 154 plate appearances, he hit 15 home runs to go with a .305 batting average. That’s better than Aaron Judge’s PA/HR rate, and the Yankees didn’t even protect Carpenter against southpaws, something the Cardinals tried to do in his final seasons in St. Louis to maximize his value as a role player. Carpenter hit five homers against lefties, a mark he’s only bested twice in his career, and it only took him 38 plate appearances to do it.

I was too dismissive of Carpenter’s performance with Round Rock, a mistake that other analysts and certainly the Texas Rangers were also guilty of. Yes, it was a small sample, but ZiPS translated his Triple-A line at .236/.323/.494. Even if that is well below the video game numbers he put up with the Yankees, that line would have been an upgrade at first base or designated hitter for a lot of teams. If Carpenter had ended up a Brewer, for instance, Milwaukee would likely have made the playoffs while the Phillies spent the month watching baseball from home.

Now, teams shouldn’t make drastic changes to their plans to accommodate a 37-year-old coming off what might have been his last hurrah. But Carpenter did enough in 2022 that he should at least be back in the free agent picture. To my mind, the ideal destination for him would be a contender with a real need at 1B/DH. – DS

44. Kenley Jansen, RP, Age 35
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $10.0 M $10.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.42 $12.0 M $17.1 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
63.0 9.3% 26.9% 33.4% 3.91 3.84 3.94 0.5 0.5

Player Notes
The Dodgers slow-walking a potential Jansen return in the wake of the Freddie Freeman signing led their longtime closer to choose the reigning world champions instead on a one-year, $16 million deal. The move worked out better for Jansen than for the Dodgers given the struggles of replacement Craig Kimbrel. Though not as dominant as in his heyday, the big righty led the NL with 41 saves (in 48 attempts) while pitching to a 3.38 ERA and 3.21 FIP. Building on his 2021 resurgence, he again mixed sinkers (22.5%) and sliders (13.1%) with his signature cutter (64.4%). The result was a 32.7% strikeout rate, his highest since 2017, and an 8.5% walk rate, down 4.4 points from ‘21. His 1.13 homers per nine more than doubled his 2021 rate, but while his 7.3% barrel, 87.1 mph average exit velocity and 32.5% hard-hit rate set or approached his Statcast-era highs, his 2.34 xERA speaks to the balance of his contact vs. non-contact abilities.

Even with Raisel Iglesias under contract, the Braves have indicated a desire to retain Jansen. We’ll see if that outweighs the pull of a potential return to “California Love.” – JJ

45. Omar Narváez, C, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $8.0 M $16.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $7.0 M $14.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.98 $7.6 M $15.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
426 9.2% 19.6% .239 .316 .359 .300 93 -4.4 5.0 2.2

Player Notes
Once a bat-first catcher, Narváez’s offensive output declined this year, though the improvement to his receiving and framing that he began to show in 2020 has sustained itself. He frames well around the bottom edge of the zone, doing a blend of on-knee and traditional crouch catching, mixing things up even when runners are on base (the crouch may be reserved for fast baserunners). His arm is below-average, but his pop times tend to hover just north of 2.0 seconds, which is an acceptable area so long as Narváez is accurate. There are times when he has a chance to hose a runner but fumbles the exchange. In all, he’s a capable if flawed defensive catcher.

Is there reason to believe the offense will bounce back? During Narváez’s productive 2021 season, his expected stats (.304 xwOBA) were actually a tad worse than his surface-level line (.322 wOBA), so this season may be part of a broader decline rather than a blip. The all-fields contact ability that propelled Narváez to his All-Star peak still enabled him to slash a handful of opposite-field doubles in 2022, but at this stage, he’s a backup catcher best paired with a righty-hitting starter, which might relieve some of the physical burden of catching from both parties and create more overall production at the position. – EL

46. Christian Vázquez, C, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $8.0 M $16.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $8.0 M $16.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.09 $8.7 M $18.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
410 6.0% 17.3% .254 .303 .377 .299 92 -5.8 8.8 2.1

Player Notes
Quality catchers are at a premium in today’s game, and while no one is going to confuse Vázquez with either of the Pudges — Fisk or Rodriguez — the 32-year-old veteran of eight big-league seasons would be an upgrade for many clubs. Vázquez had a 99 wRC+ this season, 13th best among the 29 catchers who logged at least 300 plate appearances, and his 11 Defensive Runs Saved tied him with J.T. Realmuto for fourth-most in the majors. His offensive output, which followed abysmal production in 2021 (a 76 wRC+), was similar to that of his ‘19-20 seasons when he had a cumulative 105 wRC+.

Drafted by Boston in 2008 out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Vázquez remained in the Red Sox organization until he was dealt to Houston at this year’s trade deadline. Martín Maldonado’s anemic bat was likely the primary motivation, but the Astros presumably also had playoff experience — an attribute that adds to his free-agency appeal — in mind when they acquired Vázquez in exchange for a pair of prospects. Lauded for his ability to work with a pitching staff, the strong-armed catcher came into October with 25 postseason games under his belt, including five in the Fall Classic. He added a second World Series ring to his collection with Houston’s victory Saturday. – DL

47. Mitch Haniger, OF, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $8.0 M $24.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $12.0 M $24.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.26 $12.6 M $28.4 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
609 8.6% 23.3% .250 .323 .448 .334 117 10.6 -10.6 2.1

Player Notes
It’s not hard to diagnose what has happened to Haniger: he swings more, and he misses more. While his 25.8% strikeout rate over the last four seasons — well, three; he didn’t play in 2020 — isn’t egregious, it’s in line with one-dimensional hackers like Paul DeJong and Ryan Mountcastle. All those swings have also come with a fall in walk rate that’s left him dependent on the vagaries of batted ball luck and made him a power-first hitter who doesn’t bring much else to the table. Guys like this aren’t exactly a dime a dozen in free agency, but they’re not impossible to find, either, and most of them come with better injury histories than Haniger, who’s spent about as much time in the operating room as on the field since the start of 2019.

And injuries once again held Haniger back in 2022, as he missed three months due to a high ankle sprain; between that absence and his defensive struggles, he finished the year with just 0.8 WAR. Optimists can point to his 2021 as a sign of what he can do when everything clicks; even with the strikeouts, he finished with the 18th-best wRC+ (121) among qualified outfielders that season. That seems like the ceiling, though, and the floor is a fine if unexceptional hitter whose defense undermines it all. Haniger’s reputation as a clubhouse leader par excellence will paper over some of that worry, making him a strong option for mid-tier contenders who need cheap thump in the middle of the lineup. – JT

48. Joc Pederson, OF, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $9.0 M $18.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.08 $11.0 M $23.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
532 9.0% 23.6% .243 .322 .459 .337 119 11.4 -9.8 2.0

Player Notes
In the 1990s, I cut my teeth as a baseball analyst on Usenet, along with familiar names like Dave Cameron, Voros McCracken, Keith Law, and Sean Forman. Back then, we used the term “Endless September” to refer to when ISPs started carrying Usenet; before that, it was purely an academic feature, so every September there would be an influx of new users going to college. Well, Joc Pederson may have found his Endless Joctober with a team that finally made use of his strengths.

Unlike some of his prior orgs, the Giants didn’t succumb to any fever dreams that Pederson would start to hit lefties, or pretend that he could cosplay as a competent center fielder. Manager Gabe Kapler did the Earl Weaver thing, focusing on Pederson’s strengths, putting him in the best position to leverage those abilities and finding other dudes to do the stuff that Pederson can’t. Just letting Joc go out there and crush northpaws allowed him to put up a career-best 144 wRC+ in 433 plate appearances, earning him his second All-Star appearance.

I think Pederson’s 2.1 WAR for 2022 underrates him. The only reason it’s that low is that the Giants had other stone-gloved or injured players who also needed some time at designated hitter, leaving Pederson to still play the outfield more than was advisable. The ideal home for him going forward is a team that wants a designated hitter who can crush two-thirds of the pitchers in the league and has a right-handed partner for him to handle the others. In that role, Pederson is a borderline star. – DS

49. Zach Eflin, SP/RP, Age 29
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $9.0 M $9.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $10.0 M $30.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.54 $10.1 M $25.8 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
146.0 5.6% 19.6% 42.7% 4.19 4.07 3.98 1.7 1.6

Player Notes
Is Eflin a short-stint starter? A multi-inning reliever? A closer? Teams will be pitching him on becoming each of those three this offseason after he found success in Philadelphia’s postseason bullpen. After returning from a knee injury that cost him two months of starts, he worked short relief stints the balance of the year and looked phenomenal. His sinker plays much better with a bullpen velocity boost, and his streamlined repertoire (he didn’t throw a single changeup as a reliever, and all but abandoned his four-seamer as well) is a great fit for short bursts.

That’s not the only reason I’m expecting him to end up relieving. A string of injuries sustained as a starter makes me think teams will pitch Eflin on a bullpen role, and I expect him to take a short deal to establish himself before hitting the market again soon. That doesn’t mean some team won’t fall in love with him as a starter and treat him accordingly, but if I were a GM, I know how I’d lean. – BC

50. Craig Kimbrel, RP, Age 35
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $10.0 M $10.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $9.0 M $9.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.19 $9.1 M $11.0 M
2023 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
61.0 10.1% 28.2% 36.3% 3.74 3.72 3.78 0.5 0.4

Player Notes
Most people pack up and head west to California looking to reinvent themselves; poor Craig Kimbrel found only the worst parts of himself out there. His one-year sojourn in Los Angeles was a disaster, with the hirsute closer losing strikeouts by the bushel and regularly fighting his command and control; he was left off the Dodgers’ playoff roster entirely after a season spent wobbling through more traffic than your average Angeleno driver. Especially worrisome: a continuing downward turn in fastball velocity and the lowest swinging-strike rate of his career. Batters no longer have to respect his heater, in turn nullifying the impact of his big curveball; Kimbrel had a terrible time trying to goad them into chasing it and was instead forced to try to fill the strike zone, with unhappy results.

The peripherals think that, to a certain degree, Kimbrel ran into bad luck, at least with regards to that fastball, which carried an expected batting average of .199 and xwOBA of .294, both of which he underperformed by about 50 points. But without the same oomph to it, how will he step back from the brink? It’s a question with no easy answer; when our Justin Choi looked into Kimbrel’s struggles, he couldn’t pinpoint anything mechanical or otherwise to suggest a path forward. If you’re the gambling sort, maybe you chalk it up to the small sample variance that all relievers run into and hope for better luck with your spin of the wheel. – JT





Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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Austinmember
19 days ago

I’ve got to believe that Philly will be in on a SS this winter as well. They’ve got a lot of money coming off the books and a lot of revenue that just came in from a deep playoff run.

sadtrombonemember
19 days ago
Reply to  Austin

They have to be in on infielders. Jean Segura is the only guy who can actually defend his position and also hit, and even if Bryson Stott is a keeper they still need someone else. And they might decline Segura’s option anyway.

frangipard
17 days ago
Reply to  Austin

IMO, Bogaerts would be a good fit. I keep hearing he needs to move to 3B, but I don’t see why 2B wouldn’t be a better fit. He’d slot in as a leadoff hitter, with Harper, Hoskins and Schwarber following.

proiste
17 days ago
Reply to  frangipard

Bogaerts had one of the weakest arms by Statcast among starting shortstops last year. Second definitely seems like a better spot to move to

Shirtless George Brett
15 days ago
Reply to  proiste

To be fair a “weak” arm among SS is probably still good enough to play 3B. A guy like Bregman has never had a big arm (actually weaker than Bogaerts this year) and its never stopped him from being very good defensively. Same with a guy like Jose Ramirez in Cleveland. On the flip side there are 3B with huge arms who arent great defensively. Alcantara has a freaking cannon but is only meh at 3B.

And if you look at the numbers Bogaerts is actually better coming in on the ball than moving laterally which suggests 3B is probably a better fit than 2B.

Honestly he is probably just fine at either position though coming from SS.

Last edited 15 days ago by Shirtless George Brett