2024 Top 50 MLB Free Agents

Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the offseason. As is customary, FanGraphs’ annual top 50 free agent rankings come out the week after the World Series. 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 Davy Andrews, Michael Baumann, Chris Gilligan, Jay Jaffe, Kyle Kishimoto, David Laurila, Eric Longenhagen, Leo Morgenstern, Dan Szymborski, and Esteban Rivera 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 here. Player opt outs are similarly not included. Unless otherwise noted, the projections below are Steamer 2024 projections, but use our Depth Chart playing time allocations. The listed ages indicate the age-season the player is about to play. Every player’s crowdsourced projection will appear alongside my projection, with the exception of Yariel Rodriguez, who we did not poll on due to a slip up on my and Meg’s part.

On Monday, teams extended qualifying offers to seven players: Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman, Sonny Gray, Josh Hader, Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, and Shohei Ohtani. The players have 10 days from their receipt of that offer to either accept or decline, though we expect all seven to decline given their prospective markets. 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 Agent Tracker.

Last year’s free agency period brought plenty of huge contracts. It was highlighted by longer-than-expected deals all around, from decade-long pacts at the top end of the market to Taijuan Walker and Jameson Taillon getting four-year deals where they might previously have gotten two-year contracts. Eight different deals with at least $150 million in guaranteed money were signed, from Brandon Nimmo all the way up to Aaron Judge. In other words, it was a banner market pretty much across the board, but particularly from a total years and dollars standpoint.

This year’s class doesn’t hold a candle to that one. Want the mathematical expression of that sentence? Try this: If you took the top 10 ZiPS projections from last year’s class and added them together, they came out to 46.2 WAR. This year’s top 10 projections add up to 32 WAR, though that’s admittedly weighed down by Shohei Ohtani projecting only as a hitter in 2024. Give him 3 WAR of credit for pitching, though, and it’s still a pretty big mismatch from one year to the next.

It’s not just a matter of less juice at the top, though. The top 50 free agents from last year, as measured by ZiPS, projected for 121.3 WAR in 2023. This year’s top 50 project for 90.5 WAR in 2024. Ohtani might be the most interesting free agent of all time, but after that, this year doesn’t hold a candle to last winter’s bonanza.

That’s not to say that this year’s class isn’t interesting. Ohtani, as I mentioned, is a singular case. Past that, the most intriguing group might be a quintet of international pros who made the list. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, perhaps the best pitcher in NPB, will be posted this winter. Shota Imanaga, who isn’t far behind, is headed to MLB as well. Yuki Matsui and Yariel Rodriguez, both phenomenal relievers, will be available as well. That’s a ton of good pitching, in addition to a ton of uncertainty when it comes to translating NPB performance to the domestic major leagues. Then there’s Jung-Hoo Lee, a standout KBO outfielder and one of the best hitters on the market.

“One of the best hitters on the market” is faint praise, though. Teams looking for offensive help in free agency will find this year’s market lacking. Aside from Ohtani – and brace yourself, you’re going to hear that sentence a lot this winter – there aren’t a lot of proven bats to be found. Bellinger is the top non-Ohtani name, and he’s only a year removed from being non-tendered by the Dodgers. Chapman is the next-best option, and he batted .205/.307/.357 in the second half of the season. Could I interest you in Jeimer Candelario or Lourdes Gurriel Jr.? Nimmo didn’t even crack the top five among hitters last year; he’d be number two on the list this year after Ohtani.

If your team is looking for an offensive jolt, they’ll need to pick a target early and hope they don’t finish in second place. But if they’re looking for solid pitching, things are decidedly more comfortable. There are 21 starting pitchers in the top 50 this year, and 14 in the top 30. There might have been more, too – Clayton Kershaw featured prominently on the top 50 before his surgery, and Charlie Morton would be here as well if the Braves hadn’t exercised their option. Lots of teams need to add a starter or two – that’s how you end up with all these great starters available in free agency – so pitchers should do a brisk business throughout the winter.

Another market to watch: relief pitchers. I ranked Hader quite highly; he’s the only reliever on the market who I trust to remain elite for the next half-decade or so, and I think he’ll be compensated accordingly. I have the rest of the relievers in this year’s class low on my list, lower than their contracts would imply, in fact. That’s because I just don’t trust these guys, or more accurately, I believe strongly that reliever performance has a ton of year-to-year variance. Take Jordan Hicks, who is likely the second-best reliever on most people’s boards (I have Matsui slightly ahead of him). He’s a fire breathing monster, someone everyone can picture as a closer. He’s also had one healthy and good season since 2018. To be clear, I agree that he’s going to get a good deal, because he was awesome this year and has the stuff to back it up. I’d just prefer to look elsewhere with my free agent dollars if I were a GM. That’s true of all the relievers in the top 50 other than Hader; I’d prefer to throw some darts at less in-demand options, or pony up for Hader. That’s the place where my order differs most significantly from an ordered ranking of projected contract sizes.

That’s a broad, top-level view of the market. If you’re wondering why one player is lower than you’d expect, or why a certain category of player is over- or under-represented, it’s probably due to how they fit into that picture. With those themes and caveats in mind, let’s get to the list.

1. Shohei Ohtani, DH/SP, Age 29
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 13 $40.5 M $527.0 M
Median Crowdsource 10.0 $45.0 M $450.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 10.04 $44.9 M $450.3 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
658 13.9% 24.7% .272 .378 .538 .380 142 33.9 -16.5 4.0

Ben’s Take
For most free agents, I construct a contract estimate based on projections, age, market conditions, and past contracts given to comparable players. That kind of analysis doesn’t really work with Ohtani, because there are no comparable players. He’s one of a kind, and his free agency is equally unprecedented.

One thing I’m confident about: Ohtani will get an absolute king’s ransom wherever he goes. If he’s looking to max out on dollars, his contract could eclipse $500 million in guaranteed money, even with his uncertain pitching future. He’s so talented that his performance merits a top-of-market deal, and he’s so marketable that owners will likely be willing to pay up beyond the fair value of his on-field production. He’ll sell tickets, drive fan interest, and produce a huge upswell in Japanese viewership and advertising.

That assumes that Ohtani just wants to sign for the highest amount of money. If he’s more interested in optionality and comfort, he might instead sign a deal that gives him huge upside but preserves the option to re-test the market in a few years. He might also opt for something more complicated, like Julio Rodríguez’s variable-size deal. Normally, players are limited by what kinds of deals teams want to offer. But with Ohtani’s free agency, just like with his playing career, the usual limits don’t apply.

Only one thing is certain: Every team with the capability to offer Ohtani a big contract will try to woo him. We don’t know enough about his preferences to know where he will or won’t play, but you’d be a fool not to throw your hat in the ring just in case. If there were other free agents of similar-but-lesser value, he might hold up their market. In this year’s class, though, he stands alone by so much that I think teams will treat him as independent from the rest of their plans.

Player Notes
Please, form an image in your mind of a man. A guy. He’s the best hitter on the free agent market by a huge margin, the defending American League home run leader who just hit .304/.412/.654 with 20 stolen bases. Bonkers athlete, gorgeous swing, the works. He’s also probably the best starting pitcher on the market — definitely on a per-inning basis. The one knock on him is that he hasn’t been that durable, at least as a pitcher, and he won’t throw at all in 2024.

This turducken of Corey Seager and Spencer Strider also happens to be the most marketable crossover star baseball has had in almost 30 years. He is probably the most famous athlete in the country, in any sport, without any doubters or detractors worth counting. What would you pay this man, if you were a major league owner? Surely half a billion dollars is the cost of getting your phone calls returned.

After posting rules denied us a true bidding war for Ohtani the first time around, and after Mike Trout signed his record extension to stay with the Angels, we are finally going to get to see the big kahuna: the upper limit of what a baseball player can get paid under our current financial system. Ohtani has done nothing but break precedent since he went pro a decade ago, and there’s no reason to expect any different from his contract this winter. – MB

2. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, SP, Age 25
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 7 $28.0 M $196.0 M
Median Crowdsource 7.0 $25.0 M $175.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 6.87 $25.1 M $172.6 M
2024 ZiPS Projections
IP BB K HR ERA ERA+ WAR
171.1 36 165 20 3.57 116 3.7

Ben’s Take
If I think it’s nerve-wracking projecting an NPB player as the second-best player on the free agent market, imagine how the teams offering him a contract will feel. The truth is that we don’t know how Yamamoto will fare in the majors – but we can make a pretty good guess that he’ll be excellent. He’s been laughably good on the Orix Buffaloes; he won his third straight Sawamura Award, given to the best pitcher in NPB, this year. He also won his third consecutive pitching triple crown by leading the league in wins, strikeouts, and ERA, and threw a no-hitter for the second consecutive season. He posted a 1.21 ERA, his third straight campaign with an ERA below 2.00. He turned 25 in August. We’re talking about one of the most decorated young pitchers in history, regardless of league.

Watch Yamamoto pitch, and you get it immediately. He has great stuff and pinpoint command, and he knows how to use that command to set batters up and then finish the job. Fastball command and a disappearing splitter don’t need league translation, and neither do the raw movement profiles of his pitches, which grade out well.

I expect teams to be somewhat concerned about his size; at 5-foot-10, he doesn’t have prototypical height for a starter. But that’s a small quibble, and probably not a major hangup given how well he’s pitched for years. At some point, preconceived notions of what a pitcher should look like are less important than the pitches they throw and the results they produce, and I think that Yamamoto has long since passed that point.

The team that signs Yamamoto will pay both him and the Buffaloes thanks to NPB’s posting system. In the new posting regime, the fee is a percentage of the total guarantee; it’s a piecewise function, but you can think of it as roughly 17% of the total outlay. That might slightly depress the amount of money Yamamoto receives directly, but teams will likely treat money paid to Yamamoto and to the Buffaloes as parts of the same total cost, and that total cost will be massive given his pedigree.

Player Notes
A mainstay at or near the very top of the International Players section of The Board since 2021, Yamamoto has been the best pitcher in Japan for the last several seasons and he’s a virtual lock to be an impact big league starter from the second he ties his spikes on our shores. In his walk year with Orix, he produced two more WAR than the next best NPB pitcher (phenom Roki Sasaki) even though Yamamoto threw 30 fewer innings (164) than he had in each of the last two seasons. He produced his third consecutive season with a sub-2.00 ERA (seriously), as well as a sterling 26.6% strikeout rate, a 4.4% walk rate, a 53% groundball rate, a microscopic 1% HR/FB% and a career-best 1.74 FIP. His season ended with a record-setting 14-strikeout complete game in the Japan Series.

A plus-plus on-mound athlete with mid-90s arm strength, Yamamoto locates virtually all of his pitches at will and walked just 28 batters across 164 innings in 2023. His mid-90s fastball (he averaged 95 mph but peaks in the 97-99 mph range) enjoys substantial in-zone whiff utility thanks to his velo, the rise/run shape and shallow angle of his heater, and Yamamoto’s feel for locating it in the top third of the zone and above. After several consecutive seasons of decline, Yamamoto showed an uptick in two-seamer usage in 2023, though his groundball rate dropped four percentage points compared to prior years. His four-seamer pairs nicely with a nasty, old school, upper-70s curveball, which Yamamoto uses both to get ahead of and finish hitters. A low-90s splitter is his best pitch and most-deployed secondary weapon. It has exceptional bat-missing drop and doesn’t need to be located precisely in order to play. A more pedestrian slider/cutter, which lives off of Yamamoto’s consistent glove-side command, rounds out his repertoire. Three plus or better pitches and plus-plus command put him in rarified scouting air.

Inextricably linked to Japanese pitching prospects are questions about how they’ll respond to a potential change in routine (a start once every five days instead of once a week) and how their breaking stuff will play upon transitioning to the lower-seamed MLB baseball. While these questions apply to Yamamoto, the entire package he presents is very reminiscent of peak Zack Greinke; Yamamoto’s frame, delivery, stuff quality and command are all of that ilk. Both Ben and I were comfortable ranking him all the way up here behind Ohtani, and I think not only will he be a Rookie of the Year favorite in his league, but he’s a potential Cy Young candidate as well. – EL

3. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Age 28
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 6 $25.0 M $150.0 M
Median Crowdsource 6.0 $24.0 M $144.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 5.73 $23.8 M $136.4 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
658 8.2% 20.9% .256 .321 .449 .330 108 7.0 -3.6 2.6

Ben’s Take
Would you be interested in signing a 28-year-old who has already won an MVP award? Of course you would. But what if I told you that he’s batted 1,700 times since then and has been worse than league average over that span? Doesn’t sound so good anymore, does it? But he hit really well this year – promising! He did so by exceeding his Statcast expected numbers – confusing! Truly, Bellinger’s resume is one of the strangest I’ve pondered in recent years.

In a year with more top hitters available, I don’t think Bellinger’s market would be quite so robust. The warning flags are simply too easy to see, and teams don’t need much excuse to not spend money. But if you’re looking for an impact hitter this offseason, where else can you turn? If you’re trying to find a new perennial All-Star, there simply aren’t many options, and Bellinger is the most defensively flexible in addition to being the youngest player with a big league track record.

The team that ends up signing Bellinger will likely see him as a long-term fit in center field, but having the fallback option of Gold Glove level defense at first base certainly doesn’t hurt. Good outfield defenders are in high demand, and when you compare him to the rest of this season’s options, Bellinger is by far the best hitter. In my eyes, that makes him the top hitter this fall. Not a bad turnaround for a guy who the Dodgers discarded only a year ago.

Player Notes
A change of scenery proved to be just what Bellinger needed after injuries — particularly a torn right shoulder labrum and a left fibula fracture — led to diminishing returns with the Dodgers. Cubs hitting coach Dustin Kelly and assistant Johnny Washington, both of whom had worked with Bellinger in the Dodgers system, focused on adjusting his mechanics, particularly with regards to his hand placement and back hip, allowing him to use his lower body better. Bellinger additionally adapted his approach, shortening his swing with two strikes to focus on contact. The result was his best season since 2019, as he hit .307/.356/.525 (134 wRC+) with 26 homers and 20 steals in 130 games. Coupled with solid defense in center field, his 4.1 WAR was the second-best showing of his career.

Bellinger’s intent is worth noting when digging into his underlying metrics, as he sacrificed some power in exchange for contact, while cutting his strikeout rate from 27.3% to 15.6%. His 87.9 mph average exit velo, 6.1% barrel rate, and 31.4% hard-hit rate ranged from just the 10th percentile to the 27th, and his xSLG was 88 points lower than his actual SLG. On the other hand, his two-strike .279 AVG and .312 wOBA ranked second and seventh in the majors respectively. While he may not light up Statcast or challenge for another MVP award, his power and athleticism in center make him the top pure position player in this year’s market. – JJ

4. Aaron Nola, SP, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 5 $28.0 M $140.0 M
Median Crowdsource 6.0 $25.0 M $150.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 5.65 $25.2 M $142.3 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
200.0 5.3% 25.3% 42.5% 3.71 3.66 3.65 4.3 4.1

Ben’s Take
I ranked Nola fourth, but he could slot in anywhere from third to ninth without much objection from me. The group of starters that begins here and ends with Shota Imanaga in 12th are all in a similar tier: You probably don’t have a dominant rotation if they’re your best starter, but they’re all excellent second options. Nola’s role on the Phillies the past few years is a good guide for how I see this shaking out.

As we see every October, starters who can take the ball twice in a short series and provide length and quality are tremendously valuable. There simply aren’t enough starters to go around, which means bullpens work hard when the bottom halves of rotations make playoff starts. In turn, that makes top starters who can lighten the relief load in their games more important.

I wouldn’t fault you for preferring any of the other pitchers in this group over Nola, but I’m not particularly worried by his 2023 season. I don’t see any long-term red flags in his peripherals, and I’m also betting on durability. Nola has made a full complement of starts in each of the last six seasons, and he’s a good bet to rack up 190 or so innings every year. Between that and his broad pitch mix, I’d feel comfortable writing his name in as part of my ideal playoff plans, and that’s the gold standard for pitchers in the modern game.

Player Notes
Nola is coming off a disappointing season, in which he struggled with big innings and home runs before righting the ship late in the year and pitching well in the playoffs. Nevertheless, Nola finished 10th in the league in innings, 15th in WAR (ahead of every other free agent starter apart from Jordan Montgomery), and ended with an ERA- of 101 despite playing most of the year in front of a dreadful defense.

The fact that this was a disappointing season tells you all you need to know about why Nola is the second-best full-time pitcher in this class. In an era when pitchers get multi-year deals worth $15 million a year or more for throwing 150 innings a year, Nola is a workhorse by the standards of a decade ago. Only two starting pitchers have qualified for the ERA title in each of the past seven seasons: Nola and Gerrit Cole.

And it’s not just filler; he’s finished in the top five in Cy Young voting twice in his career, and his command and excellent secondary pitches should sustain him well into his 30s. Nola would be an ideal no. 2 starter for a contender with a legitimate ace ahead of him, so it’d make sense for him to return to the Phillies. Or he could be absolutely transformative to an up-and-coming team in dire need of pitching, like the Orioles, should they choose to spend. – MB

5. Blake Snell, SP, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 5 $28.0 M $140.0 M
Median Crowdsource 5 $25.0 M $125.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 5.31 $25.8 M $137.0 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
171.0 10.9% 29.6% 41.2% 3.65 3.73 3.78 3.2 3.6

Ben’s Take
See above. Fine, I can write a little more. Snell and Nola have put up remarkably similar career rate statistics in wildly different ways. Snell nibbles around the edges and ends up with a pile of walks and strikeouts; Nola floods the zone and ends up with more balls in play. Snell hasn’t been quite as durable, and pitch count issues have prevented him from racking up big innings numbers, but he managed 180 innings in 2023 and looks likely to take home a Cy Young for his troubles.

Years ago, Snell was often overlooked as a guy who FIP liked too much relative to his on-field pitching talent. That’s no longer the popular view of him – posting a 2.25 ERA will go a long way towards changing that narrative. But it never really made sense. He came into this year with a career 3.41 ERA and 3.44 FIP. He’s just a good pitcher, period, no matter how you look at run prevention.

At the end of the day, who you prefer between Snell and Nola comes down to durability against top end, but I think that overstates the difference. I expect the two of them to get broadly similar contracts, with mid-$20-million AAVs over half a decade or so. I also think that the fact that so many equivalently talented pitchers are hitting the market all at once means they’re more likely to land in a place that values their particular strengths.

Player Notes
By ERA and innings pitched, Snell produced his best numbers since 2018, a season that earned him Cy Young honors and a $50 million extension – the largest guarantee the Rays have ever given a pitcher. He’s likely to take home another Cy Young next week, and he’s certain to command an even larger contract in free agency.

Teams are smart enough not to pay for past performance these days, and Snell’s low BABIP, high left on base percentage, and league-worst walk rate are strong indicators that his sparkling 2.25 ERA is unsustainable. Still, his 3.44 FIP and 3.62 xFIP are the marks of a quality starting pitcher. With a fastball that hits 99 mph and three whiff-tastic secondaries, he boasts some dominant strikeout stuff. What’s more, Snell made several promising developments this season. His 1.30 GB/FB ratio was the highest of his career, 2020 aside. He also switched up his pitch mix against opposite-handed hitters, moving away from his slider in favor of his changeup and curve, and he dominated righties more than ever, holding them to a .565 OPS. Finally, and most significantly, he stayed healthy all year, setting new career highs in starts (32) and batters faced (742).

To some, Snell was the best pitcher in baseball in 2023; even by the least charitable metrics, he was an above-average arm. His floor is low, his ceiling is high, and his career-average numbers (3.6 WAR per 32 starts) are those of a top-30 starting pitcher. – LM

6. Jordan Montgomery, SP, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 5 $28.0 M $140.0 M
Median Crowdsource 5.0 $21.0 M $105.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 4.82 $20.9 M $100.9 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
188.0 6.5% 21.6% 44.6% 3.93 4.01 4.07 3.2 3.3

Ben’s Take
Take Nola’s direct approach to the strike zone and Snell’s handedness, and you end up with Jordan Montgomery. He doesn’t have the same track record as the two pitchers ahead of him on this list, and he won’t walk away from 2023 with any hardware (well, other than a World Series ring), but he’s been trending better and better for three years, and ZiPS projects him to match Snell’s production going forward. Like those two, he’ll be 31 next season, so interested teams don’t have to worry about different aging curves between these three.

Montgomery’s standout skill is inducing grounders. Or maybe it’s avoiding walks. Or maybe it’s consistency – he’s barely missed a turn over the past four years, and his strike-happy nature means he’ll likely approach 200 innings across a healthy season. It might sound like I’m stressing durability and innings too much, but I think that teams are thinking the same way. Everyone has high-octane relievers these days. The bigger question is how long your starters can hold off the opposition before you’re forced to go to the ‘pen, particularly in the playoffs. Look no further than this year’s Rangers for how Montgomery fits into that equation; he’ll be handsomely compensated in the hopes that he can replicate his 2023 performance for years to come.

Player Notes
For the second year in a row, Montgomery was traded to a contender ahead of the deadline and helped a team’s playoff push, again causing observers — especially Yankees fans — to scratch their heads as to why Brian Cashman deemed him expendable. The 30-year-old southpaw set career bests in innings (188.2), ERA (3.20), FIP (3.56), HR/9 (0.86), and WAR (4.3), then turned in strong work during the Rangers’ postseason run, posting a 2.90 ERA and 3.90 FIP in 31 innings.

Montgomery doesn’t light up radar guns or miss a ton of bats; in fact, his 21.4% strikeout rate was a full-season low. That said, he does a lot of things pretty well, such as getting hitters to chase, limiting hard contact, and avoiding walks. His emergence has been aided by his adding 1.6 mph to his sinker since his 2017 rookie season. The pitch has become his go-to fastball, deceiving hitters thanks to its seam-shifted wake; it ranked among the game’s most valuable sinkers in both 2022 (seventh at 10 runs prevented) and 2023 (fifth at 16 runs prevented), and was 20th among all offerings this year.

Mentality aside, Montgomery may not be an ace or net a contract befitting one. That said, practically any rotation could benefit from his addition, and he should cross into nine-figure territory with his upcoming deal. – JJ

7. Matt Chapman, 3B, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 5 $24.0 M $120.0 M
Median Crowdsource 4.0 $20.0 M $80.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 4.22 $19.8 M $83.6 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
623 11.0% 28.9% .230 .322 .420 .323 103 1.8 3.6 2.7

Ben’s Take
Ah, a break in the pitching deluge. I had a hard time working out Chapman’s market, both because of his position and because his 2023 was such a roller coaster. Let’s start with the first concern: third base is absolutely stacked across baseball at the moment, and Chapman’s value depends heavily on his glove, which means that a lot of teams won’t have a place to put him. Among contenders, the Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Guardians, Mariners, Orioles, Padres, Rangers, and Red Sox are unlikely to be interested.

It only takes two teams to make a market, of course, so that’s not a disqualifying problem. But Chapman occupies that strange space between competence and stardom, particularly so if you’re worried about how his defense will age. He’s certainly an above-average hitter, but not necessarily by much; he needs to hit the ball hard to make up for his strikeout issues, a goal he generally accomplishes. That kind of production is streaky by its very nature, but he’s made the general skill set work for long enough that I think everyone is basically on board with Chapman as a bat that’s 10% above average or thereabouts.

The most logical landing spot to me would be a reunion with the Blue Jays. They’re firmly locked in win-now mode, they have a need at third base, and they’ve gotten a first-hand look at how Chapman fits into their plans. The Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Mets, and Yankees could all join the mix as well, but I don’t see Chapman as an exact fit for what those teams are looking for, which is why the Jays make the most sense to me.

Player Notes
Matt Chapman ran a 216 wRC+ in March and April, turned ice cold in May and June, ran a 154 wRC+ in July, then turned ice cold again. His season was also broken up by a sprained middle finger in August. He ran a 114 wRC+ before the injury and a 75 wRC+ after it, though it’s likely that Chapman’s BABIP was more to blame than the injury; he was at .335 before the sprain and .200 after.

Chapman’s season was uneven for other reasons as well. He absolutely crushed the ball, turning in a 93.5 mph average exit velocity, 17.1% barrel rate, and a career-best 56.1% hard-hit rate. However, because Chapman tended to hit the ball hardest when he was hitting it to the big part of the ballpark, he underperformed his xwOBA. Combine that with a 28.4% strikeout rate, and he somehow ranked first among all qualified players in hard-hit rate but 70th in wRC+.

While his 2023 season was packed with ups and downs, the 30-year-old third baseman has been a model of consistency ever since his debut in 2017. Chapman provides elite defense at third, and has never played fewer than 140 games or put up fewer than 3.5 WAR (excluding 2020 and his abbreviated rookie campaign). His 27.4 WAR are the fifth-most among all third basemen over the past seven years. Landing Chapman means signing on for his decline phase, but he’ll be starting out at a very high level. – DA

8. Sonny Gray, SP, Age 34
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $26.0 M $78.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $21.0 M $63.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 3.26 $21.4 M $69.7 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
181.0 7.7% 23.4% 46.3% 3.83 3.86 3.95 3.2 3.3

Ben’s Take
Like I said, there are a lot of solid pitchers available this year. Gray checks a lot of the same boxes that Nola and Montgomery do, but his age and injury history are undeniable risk factors that will likely result in him getting a smaller deal than those two. Performance-wise, there’s not much light between him and the rest of this tier of pitchers; it’s not a coincidence that Steamer projects him as Montgomery’s equal next year, and not far behind Snell and Nola. But it’s also not a coincidence that ZiPS projects him for fewer wins over a five-year horizon; pitchers don’t have predictable aging curves, but give me the 31-year-old over the 34-year-old in general.

That’s exacerbated by availability concerns. Gray made every turn in the rotation in 2023, but he missed time with hamstring and pectoral injuries in ‘22, and with groin and back injuries in ‘21. He hasn’t dealt with any major structural arm issues, but if you think he’s more of a 25-start guy than a 32-start one, it would be reasonable to incorporate that into your contract offer. That doesn’t remotely mean that teams will pass Gray over – good pitching really is hard to find – but it does mean that they’ll probably be less willing to get into a bidding war with other options available.

Player Notes
You couldn’t ask for a much better contract year from Gray. He posted the second-highest strikeout total of his career, the fewest home runs allowed, the highest WAR, and highest innings total since 2015. Across the board, it was probably the best he has ever pitched, and it came in his age-33 season. His age, and not his performance, will be the limiting factor in his contract size and list of potential suitors, but the shape of his aging curve could very well be different from other pitchers in his cohort. His reliance on spin, command, and deception make him a compelling candidate to have an above-average mid-30s run.

In terms of raw totals, Gray throws six pitches, with his changeup the least frequently used at just under 7%. However, six may understate the variety in his repertoire given his ability to manipulate and vary the shape of pitches like his sweeper, cutter, and two-seamer. No matter the handedness, Gray has pitches in his tool bag to attack his opponent’s weaknesses and stay unpredictable. If a team is looking for a pitcher with a high floor and an ability to limit contact, Gray is one of the best options available. – ER

9. Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 4 $23.0 M $92.0 M
Median Crowdsource 4 $19.0 M $76.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 4.23 $19.4 M $82.1 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
174.0 7.6% 22.7% 42.8% 3.97 4.08 4.16 2.8 3.0

Ben’s Take
Younger pitchers can be risky too, of course. Rodriguez is three years younger than Gray, and he’s coming off one of his best seasons, but before that he had an eminently forgettable tenure with the Tigers. At his best, he’s an innings eater who flashes strikeout upside; he does a lot of things competently and few things poorly. If you imagine 85% of a left-handed Aaron Nola, you won’t be far off; Rodriguez has a similarly voluminous array of pitches, though he’s less durable and less adept at attacking the strike zone.

In contract negotiations, more things than on-field play matter, and it’s hard to know how that will affect Rodriguez’s market. He had a wild run in Detroit. He was away from the team attending to a family matter for two months in 2022, though he ended up finishing roughly half a season’s worth of starts. The Tigers then thought they’d traded him to the Dodgers this year, only for Rodriguez to exercise a no-trade clause and stay in town. That doesn’t affect my evaluation of Rodriguez, but then again, I’m not asking my boss to write eight-figure checks to him annually. Front offices are sometimes overly cautious, and in projecting free agent contracts, it would be silly not to consider that tendency. There’s a chance that Rodriguez won’t quite get the deal of the guys around him – but I think he’ll deliver equivalent production anyway.

Player Notes
Last week, Rodriguez opted out of the final three years and $49 million of his last free agent contract, a five-year, $77 million pact with the Tigers. With his 31st birthday coming up in the opening weeks of the 2024 season, opting out now gives Rodriguez another chance at a longer-term contract before hitting the dreaded mid-30s. Let’s start with the bad news: He’s joined a starter-heavy free agent class. Injuries to his ribcage and finger held him to 43 starts in his two seasons with Detroit, and concerns about his health will only increase over the term of his next contract. That said, Rodriguez was quite effective in his 26 starts in 2023, including one of the stronger stretches of his career before the finger injury sidelined him in late May. When all was said and done, the left-hander had posted a 3.30 ERA, 3.66 FIP, and 4.06 xFIP in 152.2 innings.

Still featuring a pretty fastball-heavy mix, Rodriguez had his best season with his changeup since 2017, and his slider, which he still uses rather limitedly, was more effective than ever. Despite his hard-contact rates creeping up, he was in the top quartile of all pitchers in fastball run value, breaking ball run value, and offspeed run value, according to Statcast’s run value metrics. Over the course of his next contract, it will be interesting to see if he starts to tweak his mix to feature the changeup and particularly the slider more prominently. – CG

10. Josh Hader, RP, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $23.3 M $70.0 M
Median Crowdsource 4 $18.0 M $72.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 4.14 $17.8 M $73.5 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
61.0 10.6% 33.5% 33.7% 3.33 3.49 3.65 0.9 1.0

Ben’s Take
Last year, Edwin Díaz set a new standard for closer contracts at five years and roughly $100 million, with some deferrals and a team option to sweeten the pot for the Mets. A few years ago, Hader looked likely to match or exceed that number, but an up-and-down 2022 followed by a 2023 where he posted an excellent ERA but struggled with command has me thinking he’ll land in the next tier down.

That’s still a pretty good place to be; Hader is one of the best closers of our generation, and even if he’s a slightly diminished version of his prior form, every team in baseball could use someone like him in high-leverage situations. You can pencil him in for 50-60 innings, a huge pile of strikeouts, and a few homer-related blowups every year.

Because it’s bound to come up, I’ll quickly mention that I don’t think Hader’s stated desire to stick to one-inning outings affects his market very much. Teams would prefer to use him that way as well, at least until the playoffs, and he extended himself past an inning of work quite capably during the Padres’ 2022 playoff run. If your team wants a premium reliever this offseason, there’s Hader, then a giant gap, then a bunch of options that are clearly inferior. That will make him quite the prize.

Player Notes
Since his rookie season in 2017, Hader has pitched in 349 games, compiling 165 saves, 15.40 WPA, and an unbelievable 648 strikeouts. He is one of 103 relievers to have faced at least 1,000 batsmen in that time; none has a lower ERA than his 2.50 mark. His .244 wOBA is the best of the bunch, too, as are his strikeouts, both in terms of raw numbers and K/9. In fact, only two relievers in major league history have compiled more strikeouts in any 349-game span: Dick Radatz and John Hiller, a couple of multi-inning arms from the expansion era who took almost twice as many innings to accomplish the feat.

Hader made 61 appearances in 2023, collecting 33 saves on the back of a 1.28 ERA. His 2.36 xERA was tops among NL relievers, while his 1.7 WAR ranked sixth. Not all of his underlying numbers were quite as impressive; his 13% walk rate was a career-high, and his 3.52 xFIP was more good than great. That said, if the worst strike against him is an xFIP eight-tenths of a run better than league average, the southpaw is in pretty good shape.

Edwin Díaz signed a five-year, $102 million deal with the Mets last winter, the largest ever for a free-agent reliever. Hader likely won’t get quite as much – he is a year older, and his walk year wasn’t as dominant – but Díaz moved the needle for all closers, and Hader will reap the rewards. – LM

11. Marcus Stroman, SP, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $22.0 M $66.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $22.0 M $66.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 3.29 $22.4 M $73.7 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
186.0 7.7% 19.3% 51.6% 4.11 4.14 4.12 2.6 2.7

Ben’s Take
You’re probably getting tired of hearing that one of the top pitching free agents would look mighty nice as a number two starter on a playoff team. But what can I say? Stroman fits that bill too, and he’ll get compensated accordingly. That said, he has more warning signs than some other roughly equivalent options, so let’s take a quick run through those to assess how they might affect his value.

Stroman is on the older side for this group, so you might expect a slightly shorter contract. He’s coming off of two straight years of missing roughly a month with injury, though he hasn’t had any serious arm problems. He wasn’t as crisp as his first-half form when he returned post-injury this season. He doesn’t miss as many bats as he used to, and he posted a career-high walk rate in 2023. He’s not a few steps from being unplayable or anything, but he might already be right on that second starter/third starter fringe. That concern is undoubtedly greater after a rough September.

None of that is going to stop a team from offering him a multi-year contract, which is why he opted out of the last year of his current deal with the Cubs with one year and $21 million remaining. I think he was right to opt out, but I think it’ll be a near thing. I would’ve had him up closer to Gray earlier in the season, but fortunes can change quickly when pitchers get injured and come back looking worse.

Player Notes
This will actually be the first time Stroman has been able to seek free agency in a “normal” climate. After opting-out of the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Stroman accepted a qualifying offer from the Mets and stayed with them through 2021, only to hit the open market during the lockout winter. He signed a three-year deal with the Cubs right before the start of the lockout, with a two-year opt-out that he exercised after this season.

Stroman might not be an ace, but he’s long been one of the safest, most consistent pitchers in baseball, dependably finishing with an ERA and FIP in the mid-3.00s and between 2-4 WAR every year. His approach has the same lack of flash, with him relying on sinkers in one corner, slurves in the other, the occasional low-90s fastball high in the zone, and a sprinkling of cutters and splitters. But it works for him, resulting in the Platonic ideal of a no. 2 starter. That’s the sort of player most teams in baseball could use, especially a club with a solid enough infield to capitalize on Stroman’s ability to induce grounders. – DS

12. Shota Imanaga, SP, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 4 $22.0 M $88.0 M
Median Crowdsource 4.0 $17.0 M $66.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 4.03 $17.1 M $68.9 M
2024 ZiPS Projections
IP BB K HR ERA ERA+ WAR
138.2 40 151 15 3.44 121 3.1

Ben’s Take
This is the estimate I’m least certain of in the entire top 50. Imanaga has the statistical markers of a top-line pitcher, and the pitch mix to match. His NPB track record is impressive; for the past few years, when Dan Szymborski has sent me projections for NPB players who might come stateside, Imanaga has consistently been near the top of the list. If you’re looking for an easy comparison, think Kodai Senga, only with intermittent home run problems instead of intermittent command problems.

Imanaga has given up double digit home runs in each of his last four full seasons, and that’s in the relatively tame power environment of NPB. He didn’t exactly quell those fears in his WBC stint, where he surrendered two homers in six innings. That’s a tiny sample, but it serves to highlight my worries: His fastball is pretty hittable in the strike zone, and he likes to spin his loopy curveball for a strike, a dangerous proposition in the majors.

That’s the bad side, but the good side is that he strikes out a ton of hitters, doesn’t walk many, and does it in a way that ZiPS thinks is sustainable. He’s definitely a cut below Yamamoto, and I think the posting fee combined with the fact that he’s already on the wrong side of 30 will serve to cap his market somewhat, but with so many teams hunting for pitching, someone is going to take a shot on him as a mid-rotation arm.

Player Notes
Imanaga presents MLB clubs with the skill set of an ultra-stable no. 4 or 5 starter thanks largely to his exceptional command. He walked just 4% of opposing hitters in 2023, his third straight season with a BB% below than 6%. Imanaga has enjoyed a gradual velocity increase since entering pro ball in 2016, culminating in a strong 2023 walk year that saw him set a personal record for average fastball velo across an entire season (92 mph), as well as strikeout rate (29%) and xFIP (2.38) in his 148 IP. His fastballs play up a bit due to Imanaga’s command and his low release, which is mostly created by his powerful, flexible lower body and drop-and-drive style of delivery. His low-80s slider is his finishing secondary pitch; it has plus two-plane wipe and, like the rest of his repertoire, is aided by Imanaga’s ability to locate. His stuff is otherwise pretty pedestrian. His low-70s curveball may be too slow to play in MLB and his changeup is reliant upon location much more than stuff, though of course Imanaga’s command of it is exceptional — that pitch barely ever finishes in a vulnerable spot.

Imanaga has been slightly homer-prone in Japan, with a 8.3% HR/FB rate across the last three seasons combined; the NPB average is only 6%, half the MLB rate. Any pitcher who works at the top of the zone as often as Imanaga does is likely to have a high fly ball rate, but Imanaga’s 58% FB% (the NPB average is 45%) is astronomical and points to some risk that he gets shelled by stronger MLB hitters. Perhaps I’m underrating the impact Imanaga’s command will have on his overall performance, but I think most of his value will be in the volume of innings he works rather than his pound-for-pound impact, and he strikes me as the sort of talent who gets shifted into a long relief role during October crunch time. – EL

13. Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $15.0 M $45.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $12.0 M $36.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.96 $12.4 M $36.6 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
623 8.9% 22.7% .247 .323 .422 .323 103 1.3 -3.8 1.9

Ben’s Take
Here’s another tier gap in the free agent rankings. You can shuffle around the top 12 a bit, but I don’t think there’s much argument for putting Candelario ahead of any of them. Just as he was a big fish in a small pond at this year’s trade deadline, he’s going to benefit from the fact that there aren’t many good hitters on the market, but he’s pretty far behind Chapman in the third base hierarchy, and thus more of a consolation prize.

Personally, I’d be very interested in winning that prize. Candelario’s bat plays in pretty much any lineup, at least for the moment. Sure, there are concerns. He played so badly that the Tigers non-tendered him last winter, and his raw power is lacking. But the fact is, the hitters in this free agent class all have significant risk. I’d like to have a little upside potential from my free agents, and I think that Candelario accomplishes that. If he repeats his 2023 season, that’s an easy win. If he hits like he did in the first half, that’s a huge win. And if he reverts to his 2022 form, well, look, those are the breaks. As we move down the list, the players are only going to get riskier.

Player Notes
He did the bounce-back thing, so now it’s time to give him the money. That’s how this works. In 2022, a rough start and a June shoulder subluxation snuffed out Candelario’s production. After running a 124 wRC+ through 2020 and 2021, he finished at 78. Then the 2023 season went exactly as Ben Clemens predicted when Candelario signed with Washington in November. He burned brightly once again, running a 121 wRC+ with the Nationals through the trade deadline, then tapering off a bit with the Cubs during the stretch run. His chase rate dropped back down to his career average, and he ran a career-best contact rate. While Candelario’s 3.3-win season didn’t match the 3.8 WAR he put up in 2021, it was the return to form that he was looking for.

All the same, Candelario outperformed his peripherals in 2023, running a .346 wOBA off a .319 xwOBA. That’s significantly below the .356 xwOBA he put up in both 2020 and 2021. In fact, just about all of the underlying numbers Candelario put up in 2023 — his xwOBA, his 36.4% hard-hit rate, and his 88.3 mph exit velocity — fell right between the numbers he put up in 2021 and 2022. That’s probably the player we should expect him to be going forward. – DA

14. Jung-Hoo Lee, OF, Age 25
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 4 $15.0 M $60.0 M
Median Crowdsource 4.0 $13.0 M $52.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 4.39 $13.7 M $60.2 M
2024 Steamer Projections
AB BB K AVG OBP SLG OPS+ HR WAR
476 40 39 .282 .342 .412 108 9 2.2

Ben’s Take
Lee is my other candidate for best hitter consolation prize. He’s even more of a wild card than the NPB players; there’s much less data on players coming over from the KBO, so projections have a healthy uncertainty band. Scouting helps with that, and Lee looks the part, as Eric will describe below. Still, it’s hard to guarantee a huge sum of money to someone who will necessarily be learning on the job at the highest level.

If you’re looking for a contract comparison, consider Ha-Seong Kim. Kim posted top-shelf hitting numbers and played elite infield defense in his age-24 season before signing with the Padres for four years and $28 million. Lee performed better offensively in KBO, and like Kim he adds value on defense. But I’m worried about how his offense will translate. He gets to a lot of his value thanks to tremendous feel to hit, with mid-single-digit strikeout rates and doubles galore. He doesn’t hit for a ton of power, which puts a lot of pressure on his contact rate to stay high against major league pitching, and he just doesn’t have enough pop to accidentally run into homers very often.

All that said, I still think he’ll more than double Kim’s deal. That contract felt light even at the time, and the price of baseball has gone up since then. It’s also a thin market for bats, particularly young ones. I think that these factors are going to produce a solid contract for Lee, and I’m curious to see how his career develops.

Player Notes
Lee has been evaluated as a Top 100-quality prospect at FanGraphs since the 2020 KBO season. He is an incredibly skilled contact and defense-oriented outfielder with an important baseball lineage. His father, Jong Beom Lee, was a five-tool superstar ballplayer who stole as many as 84 bases in a single 124-game KBO season and had several 20-plus homer campaigns across a nearly 20-year (!) career in pro ball.

Jung-Hoo’s career began in precocious fashion, as he was the first player in KBO history to go straight from high school to their top level of play; he won Rookie of the Year as an 18-year-old in 2017. Since arriving in the league, Lee has a career .340/.407/.491 line, has made elite rates of contact (roughly 5.5% K% and 11% BB% combined the last two seasons), and has had a couple of years in which he also hit for meaningful power. He clubbed 23 homers and nearly 60 extra-base hits during his 2022 MVP campaign, but experienced a substantial downtick in power during an injury-shortened 2023, and he has hit double-digit home runs in just two of his seven KBO seasons. Lee’s career groundball rate, which has typically hovered around a whopping 60%, has been a lurking indicator of regression even during his best power-hitting seasons.

Lee’s carrying tool is his Jedi-esque bat control, which he uses to deflect pitches all over the strike zone to all fields. His swing is incredibly cool and fun to watch, as Lee’s open stance comes closed very early before he takes a huge stride back toward the pitcher and unwinds from the ground up. As fun as his swing is, it bears a resemblance to Zac Veen’s early-career swing both in terms of some of the stop-and-start nature of his footwork and the way his hands fire from a dead stop. His hand-eye coordination and ability to manipulate the barrel is amazing, however. Hitters in Asian pro leagues tend to face premium velocity less often than upper-level domestic prospects and it creates a wide error bar in projecting whether or not their hit tools will translate. Using Synergy to isolate Lee’s performance against fastballs at or above the MLB average (93 mph and up) yields just 154 pitches combined throughout the last two seasons; he slashed .268/.348/.415 against them. Bump the bottom boundary up to 94 mph and he slashed .276/.300/.379 across 96 pitches. Any higher a velocity bar and the sample is too small to glean anything. It might take a tweak to his swing, and ideally Lee will continue to get stronger as he matures into his late 20s, but his feel for contact is an exciting foundational skill on its own.

If Lee doesn’t end up hitting for power, his center field defense will help buoy his overall contribution to a team. He’s a plus runner with above-average range and ball skills, and a plus arm. Whether he’s retained that coming off a 2023 ankle injury that required surgery, teams can’t know for sure. Lee also had left labrum surgery in 2018. He is perhaps the highest-variance free agent on the market this offseason because there are outcomes where Lee gets stronger and does at least a little bit of everything on top of an elite hit tool, but there are also outcomes where his center field-worthy speed is diminished and his hit tool doesn’t play the same in MLB. The most likely forecast is somewhere in the middle, and here Lee projects as a table-setting center fielder without much pop, though whatever the case, teams should be prepared to make a multi-year project out of Lee so he has time to adjust in the same ways Ha-Seong Kim has. – EL

15. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., OF, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $15.0 M $45.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3.0 $12.0 M $36.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 3.05 $12.7 M $38.7 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
588 6.3% 17.9% .272 .323 .449 .331 109 4.4 -8.9 1.5

Ben’s Take
In my opinion, Gurriel is the best of a group of righty power hitters with limited defensive value hitting the market this winter. He checks a ton of boxes relative to the other options, who you’ll see in the next five names or so. He’s the youngest. He plays the best defense, thanks to a plus arm for left field. I can talk myself into his offense improving thanks to his contact skills.

To be clear, I don’t think he’s head and shoulders above the Hoskinses, Hernándezes, and Solers of the world. Steamer projects them all within a half of a win in 2024, and that makes sense to me as a median case. But I think they’ll all end up with similar deals, so given that, I put Gurriel a hair ahead of the rest. Plenty of teams will fill the righty-power-bat spot internally, but if you’re looking outside the organization, this is where I’d start.

Player Notes
The third guy in the Daulton VarshoGabriel Moreno trade, Gurriel got out to a hot start in his walk year, as a wRC+ of 200 in May got him his first All-Star nod. Gurriel slumped in midsummer (“wilted” might be more like it, given the Arizona heat), before rebounding late in the season.

Gurriel pays his mortgage with his bat, and a hitter who combines 20-homer, 30-doubles power with a below-average strikeout rate ought to do well in that respect. He’s not as much of a free swinger as he was in his youth; strikeouts were never a huge problem for Gurriel, given his high contact rates, but he has brought his K% and whiff rates into the teens.

It’s hardly a franchise bat, but you can live with the low walk rate and likely confinement to corner outfield. (With that said, he graded out pretty well there defensively this season, with a strong throwing arm.) I was tempted to call Gurriel a poor man’s Nick Castellanos, but he’s probably a better player and could well end up making less money. So let’s say: a value-conscious man’s Nick Castellanos. – MB

16. Lucas Giolito, SP, Age 29
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 4 $15.0 M $60.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2.0 $15.0 M $30.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.62 $14.7 M $38.6 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
164.0 8.6% 24.3% 37.5% 4.31 4.39 4.34 2.3 2.2

Ben’s Take
When I’m making these lists, people always suggest clustering similar players and ranking them in order, rather than mixing in pitchers outside of a clear tier. But I kept Giolito separate from other pitchers on purpose. I think he’s a step behind the big cluster of starters ahead of him on this list; if you end up with him as your no. 2 starter in a playoff game, you’ll surely be displeased. But I think he could fill that role in a pinch, and he’s not that far removed from an excellent three-year stretch where he flirted with Cy Young awards and was the clear best pitcher on a playoff team.

A team that thinks they can wake up the echoes of that version of Giolito will end up signing him this winter, because a team that doesn’t think that will almost certainly not be the high bidder. I expect Giolito to get a contract that treats him accordingly; he’ll get more money than a bunch of pitchers who outperformed him in 2023. Think of it as signing one of those guys plus paying a little extra for the chance at a bounce back to his previous heights. If he commands roughly this deal, I’d much prefer him to the next tier down. Sure, his 2023 was awful, but I’m a sucker for guys with a chance at being excellent, and I think he still fits that bill.

Player Notes
Giolito supplied a matter-of-fact and wholly accurate answer when I asked him in September how he’d describe his career progression. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t been going in a good direction recently,” the 29-year-old right-hander told me — this a day after he’d surrendered nine runs over three innings in his first of six starts with the Guardians. Selected off waivers from the Angels, who’d acquired him from the White Sox as part of a four-player trade in July, Giolito ultimately did little to aid Cleveland’s ill-fated playoff push. All told, the veteran of eight big league seasons finished the campaign with a 4.88 ERA and a 5.27 FIP over 184.1 innings.

His age and overall track record suggest he might be poised for a rebound. The 6-foot-6 hurler was a solid and dependable starter for Chicago’s South Side club from 2018-2022, posting a 4.38 ERA and a 4.11 FIP while taking the mound 30 times annually in non-COVID seasons. Moreover, his pitch metrics weren’t a red flag. His velocity was down for much of this year, but it climbed closer to career norms after he made a mechanical adjustment during his brief stint in Anaheim. The movement and velocity of his signature changeup were fine. His slider was more or less his normal slider.

According to Giolito, his career-worst year was mostly a matter of poor execution. At his best, he commands his fastball and changeup, whereas this year he too often didn’t. Getting back to his old self may be as simple as reining in his command. – DL

17. Mitch Garver, C, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $13.0 M $26.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2.0 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.99 $10.2 M $20.3 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
409 11.3% 25.3% .240 .333 .443 .335 112 4.7 1.2 1.9

Ben’s Take
I thought about lumping Garver in with my examples of righty bats with no defensive home, because he mostly filled that role this year, but it’s hard to know how much of that was Garver’s physical limitations and how much was Jonah Heim’s presence. Garver has never been particularly durable, and he’s never been an excellent defensive catcher, but he’s at least an emergency option back there. I doubt any team is considering him as anything other than a DH who can don the tools of ignorance from time to time, but that’s still more valuable than a DH who can occasionally stand in left field.

Why, then, isn’t Garver higher on this list? It’s not an issue of how well he hits, that’s for sure. He’s right at home in a righty DH role, at least for teams that are willing to set aside a roster spot for a full-time DH. But that’s a pretty small group of teams; even with a universal DH, plenty of squads prefer to rotate everyday players to give them rest. Even worse, Garver has missed plenty of time due to injury, so you can’t count on him giving you a full season’s worth of at-bats. Some of that is surely due to how tough catching is on the body, so you can expect a slight bounce back, but there’s a reason we’re projecting him for 400 or so plate appearances instead of 600. I think Garver will comfortably outperform his contract when he’s on the field, I just wouldn’t bet on that happening with too much regularity.

Player Notes
Mitch Garver spent much of the 2023 postseason showing just how valuable he can be to a contending club. There’s no such thing as a team that couldn’t use a backup catcher with a big bat, and Garver just might have the biggest bat around. In 2023, he put up 2.1 WAR and ran a 138 wRC+ with 19 homers in just 89 games. That made him the 13th-most valuable catcher in baseball, and most of the players ahead of him played in at least 20 more games. When starter Jonah Heim went down with a wrist injury from July 26 to August 13, Garver stepped right in — or squatted right in, I guess — and ran a 179 wRC+ while catching every day. When the playoffs rolled around, he stayed in the DH role and continued raking.

That said, Garver has never been able to produce consistently, because he’s never been able to stay on the field consistently. He had groin surgery in 2021, flexor tendon surgery in 2022, and sprained a knee in 2023. In the last five years, his wRC+ has porpoised: 155, 43, 139, 98, 138. It’s hard to imagine that there’s a team out there that wouldn’t take a chance on Garver’s health for one of those good seasons, but in order to make sure you get one, it might be smart to sign him for two years. – DA

18. Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Age 34
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 1.62 $10.7 M $17.4 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
420 7.2% 23.5% .244 .304 .385 .300 88 -6.3 3.3 1.1

Ben’s Take
Here’s another player who I’m separating out from similar options to point out my preferences. Kiermaier and Harrison Bader have a lot in common as tremendous center field defenders who fit best towards the bottom of a lineup. Defense is cheap in free agency these days – witness Kiermaier’s own deal last offseason, for one year and $9 million. But I think he took a discount because he had to prove he could stay on the field – he missed 100 games in 2022 – and now that he’s back to a strong-side platoon option, the bids should increase even as he’s a year older.

That’s because Kiermaier is more than just a great glove, though he’s still certainly that; Statcast thinks he’s still the best in the business, and DRS agrees wholeheartedly. He’s also a perfectly reasonable hitter against righties, which is the exact kind of platoon player you want; he can get natural and infrequent rest days against lefties, killing two birds with one stone.

There are certainly risks in Kiermaier’s profile. He’s entering his age-34 season, not exactly a prime age for speed-based defenders. His sprint speed and home-to-first splits both declined in 2023, and time only heads in one direction. There’s a risk that I’m wrong on the length of the deal here, and that teams are only going to offer him one-year contracts from here on out. But I think his skill set is hard enough to find that some team will go an extra year to secure his services.

Player Notes
After a decade with the Rays, Kiermaier signed a one-year, $9 million contract with the Blue Jays to be one-third of the team’s all-center-fielder outfield plan. The three-time (now four-time) Gold Glove winner was everything the Jays could have hoped he would be and more; his defense was still elite in his age-33 campaign, and he had his best season at the plate since 2017.

Kiermaier led AL outfielders in OAA and finished second only to teammate Daulton Varsho in DRS. On top of that, he posted a 104 wRC+ thanks to slightly above-average numbers in all three triple-slash categories. His 21.1% strikeout rate was his lowest in seven years, and he made the most of his speed, too, going 14-for-15 when swiping bases, the highest stolen base success rate of his career. Best of all, the oft-injured outfielder largely managed to avoid the IL, missing just 11 days in August with a deep cut in his elbow. He played 129 games and 981.1 innings in the outfield, his most since 2019 and only the third time in his career he has played so much in a single season.

Kiermaier is likely due for some regression at the plate, but he proved he can hit well enough (and stay on the field long enough) to be a team’s primary center fielder next season. He should earn a raise this winter, and perhaps even a multi-year deal. – LM

19. Jorge Soler, OF, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $15.0 M $45.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $16.0 M $48.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.56 $16.5 M $42.3 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
623 11.0% 25.2% .243 .333 .478 .346 119 12.2 -13.6 2.0

Ben’s Take
Now we’re into the big press of righty boppers. Soler launched 36 homers this year, and he’s not quite a one-dimensional slugger; he also takes plenty of walks and he cut down on his strikeouts en route to a near-career-best line. He’s always been tremendously powerful, so adding plate discipline to the mix was predictably effective. He also put the ball in the air more frequently than ever before, which makes it a lot easier to imagine his production continuing at his recent torrid pace. Elevating and celebrating is still a good plan even after pitchers have adjusted to it.

Get used to hearing this next part: He better hit, because Soler doesn’t have much defensive value. He made the transition to full-time DH this year, appearing in right less than 25% of the time. That’s fine as long as he keeps producing offensive numbers 20-30% better than average, but it means there’s less margin for error. True, every team needs a DH, but if Soler replicates his 2021 or 2022 seasons, he’s basically replacement level. That risk is going to keep him from getting a Bellinger- or Chapman-level contract, even if the offensive upside is there.

Player Notes
Soler’s offensive upside intrigued people even before the Cubs signed him to a nine-year, $30 million contract in 2012. His results in Chicago were decidedly mixed, thanks to a combination of poor plate discipline, indifferent defense, and a variety of injuries.

Despite potential that tantalized prospect watchers when he came over to the US, the flaws in his game kept him limited to interesting role player status. After a trade to the Royals, he finally had a healthy season in 2019, hitting 48 homers, playing in all 162 games, and putting up nearly 4 WAR. Soler was unable to sustain that breakout performance, however, plagued by oblique injuries in 2020 and back problems in 2022. If not for 55 stretch-run games with the Braves in 2021, during which he posted 1.1 WAR and hit .269/.358/.524 with 14 homers, he might have been on the non-roster invitee trajectory by the start of 2023.

Soler didn’t match his 2019 numbers this season, but he stayed (mostly) healthy, hitting 36 homers and posting a 126 wRC+, enough to tantalize teams that need another bat and don’t want to spend $150 million. Soler’s not heading to a big payday, but he should at least get a little more money and security than the one year and $9 million left on the Marlins deal he opted out of. His plate discipline has trended upwards in recent years, and with twice as many teams in need of DH at-bats as there were a few years ago, there are more potential homes for him. ZiPS anticipates a 2024 similar to Soler’s 2023, with a .242/.336/.481 neutral-park projection that’s good for 29 homers and 1.9 WAR. – DS

20. Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $15.0 M $45.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1.0 $14.0 M $14.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.93 $14.5 M $28.0 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
637 11.1% 25.1% .242 .332 .461 .342 116 10.0 -11.6 2.0

Ben’s Take
I feel like this bit is getting a little tired by now, but hey, it’s another righty power bat whose best defensive home is DH. In some ways, Hoskins is the safest of the group; he’s played six big league seasons, and his lowest seasonal wRC+ was 112. He’s very good at doing one particular thing, namely smacking baseballs to all parts of the ballpark. But he’s risky for a different reason: he missed all of 2023 after tearing his ACL this spring. He hasn’t taken a competitive at-bat since then, so the team that signs him will be taking a risk on his recovery going smoothly.

There will undoubtedly be a good amount of medical scrutiny before a deal is signed, and I’m fairly certain that it will all go well. Hoskins was reportedly close to returning to the field this postseason, so the Phillies medical staff certainly thought he was progressing well. But the bigger risk, to a team, is just not knowing. Michael Conforto didn’t exactly knock the cover off the ball in his first season back after missing a year. Rust is a real concern. Hoskins is already 30; giving up his age-31 season would leave the team he joined looking at his decline phase without capturing any of his best years. I think this deal will surprise people for how light it is – but I think that risk aversion is significant enough to explain it.

Player Notes
2023 didn’t really amount to anything for Hoskins, as his season ended before Opening Day thanks to a torn ACL. Hoskins did start taking live batting practice in Florida early in October, making at least plausible the idea that he could make his grand return in the NLCS. While that didn’t happen, there are still reasons to think that Hoskins ought to do at least a bit better than a one-year pillow contract with his next team. He’s hardly a player whose skill set is speed-based and after the disastrous 2017-18 experiment in the outfield, I doubt any team expected him to be anything but a first baseman or DH. If he’s healthy, he’s a 2-3 WAR first baseman and that has real value at a time when the position’s on the shallow side.

Sadly, it sounds like a Phillies return is pretty much off the table, as fun as that would be. Even before Bryce Harper’s injury, the Phillies had awkward defensive shuffling to do in order to get all their bats into the lineup. With Harper ticketed for first base going forward and both Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos on the team, Hoskins just doesn’t fit in the 2024 Phillies lineup. – DS

21. Teoscar Hernández, OF, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $15.0 M $45.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $15.0 M $45.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.64 $14.7 M $38.7 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
665 6.4% 28.5% .257 .310 .452 .326 105 2.7 -9.7 1.6

Ben’s Take
I’m not sure whether Teoscar Hernández should be last in this group of peers, but I’m confident that he’s in roughly the right part of this list. You’d need a fine-toothed comb to separate him from the similar options on the market, as I keep mentioning. I’m worried about the uptick in strikeout rate this year – he struck out nearly a third of the time with a career-high swinging strike rate. He can post excellent offensive numbers while striking out too much because of his phenomenal raw power – that’s basically the tradeoff he’s been making his whole career, in fact – but plate discipline this poor is right on the cusp of unplayable.

Those are the downsides, but there are plenty of silver linings. Hernández’s defense has improved throughout his time in the majors; the Mariners and Jays were each comfortable putting him in right field and giving him occasional rest days at DH. His power didn’t abandon him even in a down year; if his strikeout rate dips back down towards his career average, there’s no reason to think he won’t replicate his earlier form. He’s not a sure thing, and I think there are more warning signs here than for most of the similar hitters available this winter, but the upside is monstrous: an average-glove right fielder with offense 30% above league average on a $15 million a year contract is a huge steal in today’s game.

Player Notes
Hernández’s bat wasn’t the sure thing the Mariners hoped for when they traded for him a year ago. His 2023 season was up-and-down, with a slow start through May followed by alternating months of tremendous and then lackluster performance the rest of the way. His monthly wRC+ from June through the end of the season was mercurial: 160, 46, 191, 76. Hernández continued to crush the ball when he made contact – his xwOBACON has stayed right around a very solid .470 in each of the last three years – but a jump in his chase rate meant his strikeout and walk rates each moved in the wrong direction in 2023, leading to dips in his overall production. Regaining some of his plate discipline should be among his top priorities in 2024.

With that said, Hernández has spent enough time near the top of the exit velocity and barrel rate leaderboards over the last few seasons that at the age of 31, he’s a strong candidate for any club looking for a right-handed power bat in an outfield market that lacks any sure bets. If he can manage to be an average defender in an outfield corner – according to Statcast metrics, he made strides defensively with respect to both his range and his arm in 2023 – that wouldn’t hurt, either. – CG

22. Seth Lugo, SP, Age 34
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $13.0 M $39.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $13.0 M $26.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.42 $13.9 M $33.6 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
156.0 7.1% 21.5% 44.2% 4.23 4.25 4.19 2.2 2.2

Ben’s Take
Whether you think Lugo should be this high in the rankings depends almost exclusively on what position you think he plays. If he’s a reliever, eh, you could probably do better. Lugo was a perfectly good reliever with the Mets, a mid-3.00 ERA type with minimal platoon splits thanks to a nasty curveball. That’s perfectly fine, but hardly Haderian. But if you think Lugo’s a starter, as he was with the Padres, then things get interesting.

There were some growing pains in year one of Lugo’s re-conversion (he was a starter in the minors and when he debuted with the Mets). He didn’t go particularly deep into his starts, and at times he seemed to be unsure what his best pitches were. But those are minor flaws, and ones that might resolve themselves in a second year of starting. And despite those intermittent issues, he was really good: he posted a 3.57 ERA and 3.83 FIP, with his customary good command and an above-average strikeout rate for a starter. The explosive repertoire that made the Mets move him to the bullpen is still there; it’s just under wraps more frequently as he stretches out to full games.

I’d sign Lugo as a starter, and I assume that he’s only looking at teams that agree with me. And if you see it like that, Lugo might be a bargain: a mid-rotation starter who will get paid less because, three years ago, his old team had too many options in the rotation and not enough in the bullpen. I’m a Lugo believer – maybe I should have pushed his contract a little higher, even.

Player Notes
After a seven-year run with the Mets that saw his role evolve from starter to swingman to long reliever and finally to single-inning guy after a string of elbow and shoulder injuries (none of which required surgery), Lugo decided he wanted to move back to the rotation, inking a one-plus-one deal to start for the Padres. He fought off questions about both his health and effectiveness on the mound, contributing a near-full season where he averaged 5.6 innings per start (more than rotation-mate and likely Cy Young winner Blake Snell) and posted ERA and FIP numbers in line with his stats as a reliever. He did miss about a month of time with a calf injury, though it was unrelated to his previously barking elbow.

Lugo has a skill set that translates well to starting – he floods the zone with his deep arsenal, keeping batters guessing while limiting free passes. While he made a name for himself as an absurd breaking ball spinner at the dawn of the Statcast era, his fastballs were far more effective this season, especially the sinker, which earned called strikes at an excellent rate. Lugo rolled the dice on his abilities as a starter and won, setting career bests in WAR and innings pitched. His jackpot will likely be a substantially larger payday than the $7.5 million he earned in San Diego. – KK

23. Harrison Bader, OF, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $13.0 M $13.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2.0 $9.0 M $18.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.24 $9.4 M $21.1 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
455 6.2% 19.4% .251 .304 .406 .307 93 -3.2 4.4 1.7

Ben’s Take
Think righty Kevin Kiermaier, and you won’t be too far off. Bader is one of the few players with a claim at the title of best defensive center fielder; when he’s healthy, he marauds around the outfield making unlikely plays thanks to his speed and instincts. He’s either the best or second-best center field defender since his debut according to advanced defensive metrics, and he didn’t lose a step last year, posting numbers in line with his career average. He’s done it for so long that it’s clearly not a fluke; add Bader to your outfield, and he’ll save you 15 or so runs assuming he plays a full season.

That health assumption is one of two question marks with Bader. He’s no stranger to nagging injuries, though none seem to have kept him down for long. His offense is the bigger question mark. This past season represented a low-water mark there; he used to make up for an overly aggressive approach with sneaky power, but he’s swinging and chasing more than ever before while also making a good amount of poor contact. At this point in his career, it’s hard to imagine him getting back to above average on the offensive side.

That’s fine, to be honest. This year’s crop of playoff teams prioritized center field defense over good hitting – Johan Rojas, Alek Thomas, Leody Taveras, Michael A. Taylor, the list goes on. I think that’s always made sense when you consider how valuable good defense up the middle is, but it’s a lot easier to commit free agent dollars to a strategy when currently successful teams are already using it. I think that’ll help Bader’s market.

Player Notes
Heading into 2023, there was legitimate argument to be made that Bader’s plus defense, plus baserunning, and nearly average offense was worth a contract north of $50 million, but a 70 wRC+ in 2023 has complicated that possibility. Now the question is about whether Bader can garner a multi-year contract at all. He started the season on a high, but after returning from a hamstring injury in June, his offense disappeared. He struck out less, but his power evaporated. His increase in Swing% was driven by an increase in Chase% rather than Zone Swing%. His average Vertical Bat Angle is flat to begin with, but dipped three degrees from his offensive peak in 2020 and 2021. While there are some very good hitters with flat swings, Bader doesn’t have the raw power to swing that flat and get an above-average launch angle distribution.

Still, premium center field defense doesn’t grow on trees. Despite another injury-filled season and some meaningful offensive regression, there is no question Bader can help a contending team. In just 98 games, he accumulated +9 Outs Above Average, tied for sixth among all center fielders. If it wasn’t for missing significant time in each of the last three seasons, Bader would be regarded as one of the most valuable defenders in the entire sport. That elite defense leads his free agent resume. – ER

24. Michael Wacha, SP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $11.0 M $33.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $13.0 M $39.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.55 $13.1 M $33.4 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
153.0 6.9% 20.5% 39.2% 4.56 4.63 4.53 1.6 1.6

Ben’s Take
Wacha signed a fun contract last year that gave the Padres a team option at good third starter rates, and gave him a series of player options at fifth starter prices. Naturally, he posted a season that fell somewhere in between those two, so neither side exercised their option and he’s back on the open market. I’m projecting him to get a deal somewhere in between those two – obviously, otherwise one side or the other would have taken him off of this list.

Old contract aside, Wacha should be an interesting market bellwether. The pitchers above him on this list are all guys who you can imagine starting Game 2 of a playoff series, with the possible exception of Lugo. With the exception of some injury-plagued former aces, no one below Wacha really fits that bill. So I’m going to look at him as a good sign of what teams are willing to pay for starting pitching that won’t necessarily feature atop a playoff rotation. There’s real value in that skill set, and in a year where almost all of the impact free agents are starters, I’m curious to see what teams are willing to pay for it.

Player Notes
That Wacha is again headed to free agency after the season he had for the Padres says more about the newly-tightened purse strings in San Diego than it does about his performance. The team declined a two-year option for $32 million, and the player declined a one-year, $6.5 million option that can’t have tempted him much after the season he had. After a tough four-year stretch from 2018-2021, Wacha’s 2023 campaign was his second strong year in a row, giving him a more enticing profile than he had last winter, when he ranked 39th on this list. He’s coming off 134.1 innings with a 3.22 ERA, 3.89 FIP, and 4.47 xFIP, and while his fastball velocity has continued to tick down, he’s managed to limit barrels and hard contact well enough to be rather effective. A slower, dropping changeup was the star of his arsenal in 2023 – PitchingBot graded it as the best in baseball (min. 80 IP).

He’s still only 32, and while there may be some durability concerns after he’s battled shoulder fatigue the last two summers, he should be an attractive option for a team looking beyond the upper tier of this particularly deep starting pitching class for some rotation help. Depending on where the market settles, he may have a chance to out-earn the option the Padres declined. – CG

25. Kyle Gibson, SP, Age 36
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $11.0 M $11.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.47 $11.9 M $17.5 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
176.0 7.4% 19.0% 47.8% 4.34 4.43 4.34 2.1 2.2

Ben’s Take
Want a good representation of how much leaner this offseason’s free agent class is than last year’s? Gibson didn’t make last year’s top 50 list, though to be fair he didn’t miss by much. He signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Orioles, the 63rd-largest guarantee and 44th-largest AAV in the class. I’m projecting him for basically the same deal – and now he’s no. 25 on the list. Yikes.

That’s not to say that I don’t think Gibson is worth the money. A lot of teams are looking for what he provides: 150-200 innings of average-ish pitching. He’s not someone you’ll be excited to start in a short playoff series, or really any playoff series, but you also have to get to the playoffs, and I think he’s clearly good enough to figure somewhere on a postseason roster. The Orioles planned to use him as a fourth starter, then brought him in for emergency relief work while they were getting swept in three games, and I would expect his next team to value him similarly. I’m projecting another one-year deal – Gibson’s peripherals are not the kind that convince teams to extend multi-year offers – but so long as he continues to limit walks and keep the ball on the ground, teams will keep running him out there, and they’ll be happy about it. There are just so many innings to fill in a baseball season.

Player Notes
Many pitchers past their peak will enter an “innings eater” phase, no longer mowing down lineups but still getting deep into games with regularity. But Gibson’s run as an innings eater isn’t just a phase – it has defined his entire career, as the 36-year-old has been a model of availability and volume while never being a frontline, or even mid-rotation, starter. In the past decade, no one has made more starts than Gibson, and only Max Scherzer has faced more batters. He’s one of just nine starters in that timeframe to grade out below average by ERA-, but no pitcher has been a more consistent bet to take the bump every fifth day.

Last offseason, it made sense that the Orioles, a team without a returning starter who had reached 130 frames the year prior, splashed $10 million on Gibson to replace departed veteran Jordan Lyles. What was surprising was that he was their only pitching acquisition of the winter. Despite a 100-win season, their top three starters combined to allow 13 runs in eight postseason innings as Baltimore was swept out of the ALDS. Still, Gibson did his job; his 192 innings led the team and a 98 FIP- isn’t bad either. Even if his numbers on the stat sheet aren’t the most glamorous, his ability to reset a bullpen every time he makes a start will make teams interested in his services. – KK

26. Jack Flaherty, SP, Age 28
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2.0 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.95 $10.7 M $21.0 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
150.0 9.2% 22.3% 42.6% 4.39 4.50 4.45 1.6 1.8

Player Notes
What to make of Jack Flaherty? Flaherty cleared a big hurdle in 2023 by staying healthy for a full season, which he hadn’t really done since 2019, but his production was a far cry from the phenomenal start to his career in 2018-19. He ranked in the bottom 20% of the league in pitching run value, xERA, and xBA in 27 starts and two relief appearances between the Cardinals and Orioles, finishing with a 4.99 ERA and a 4.36 FIP and xFIP in 144.1 IP. He was on the unfortunate end of a .356 BABIP despite decent hard-contact rates, but his .344 xwOBA against isn’t much better than his .356 wOBA against. The four-seamer around which he built his early-career arsenal just isn’t what it once was, and he hasn’t yet found the adjustments necessary to compete in a world without it.

There’s a little bit of Cody Bellinger to Flaherty’s situation, though – he only just turned 28, and the stuff models aren’t exactly chasing him out of the league (PitchingBot, in fact, finds his new cutter intriguing). If his trade deadline yield is any indicator of his value – it took the Orioles three prospects, including a pair in their top 30, to land two months of Flaherty’s services on August 1 – there is still a belief that Flaherty has something to offer. He’s hit some low lows, but his high highs should entice a team to take a flyer. – CG

27. J.D. Martinez, DH, Age 36
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $14.0 M $14.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1.0 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.35 $12.8 M $17.2 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
546 8.2% 28.3% .248 .314 .450 .327 106 1.0 -13.6 0.6

Player Notes
While it’s difficult to envision Martinez wanting to go anywhere else after a fantastic season in Los Angeles, nothing is official until contracts are signed. The designated hitter has been as close to a guaranteed 125 wRC+ guy as you can get at the position in the last few years. On top of that, his positive influence on the hitters around him, from rookies to veterans, provides intangible value to his team. With Max Muncy returning and Michael Busch persistently knocking on the door, there is an argument to be made that having the DH spot open for flexibility could benefit a team like the Dodgers, but it’s better to retain good hitters and figure it out after.

Heading into Martinez’s age-36 season, teams will have to balance concern over his rising whiff rates with the fact that his batted ball profile continues to look outstanding. In terms of average exit velocity, SweetSpot%, Barrel%, HardHit%, and xwOBACON, Martinez is at worst in the 92nd percentile. Whiffs against breaking balls are a worry – especially with back, hamstring, and groin issues limiting his ability to adjust his body to different pitch heights – but he still hits rockets from foul pole to foul pole. – ER

28. Yuki Matsui, RP, Age 28
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $10.0 M $30.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3.0 $9.0 M $27.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.79 $9.7 M $26.9 M
2024 ZiPS Projections
IP BB K HR ERA ERA+ WAR
50.2 18 64 7 3.55 117 0.6

Player Notes
Matsui’s combination of splitter quality, fastball shape and angle, and excellent command make him a viable, platoon-neutral big league middle reliever. He first appeared on the International Players section of The Board last year when he posted the second-highest swinging strike rate in NPB behind Livan Moinelo (a name to stash away for next offseason). Despite sitting mostly 91-94 throughout the season, he ranked fourth in K% in 2023 among pitchers who threw at least 40 innings (32.4%) because his fastball misses a ton of bats at the letters thanks to its flat approach angle and vertical movement. The supremely athletic 5-foot-8 lefty has a due north arm slot that helps impart a nearly perfect backspinning axis on his fastball. Sometimes pitchers with this high a slot end up having a steep, downhill fastball angle, but Matsui’s lack of size helps counterbalance that, and his bouncy on-mound athleticism should enable him to hold up across a typical big league relief workload despite being so small. As pedestrian as Matsui’s fastball velocity is, his splitter is quite firm (usually 86-88 mph) and is his most-used secondary pitch. His usage of it has increased in each of the last several seasons and grew to a career-high 35% in 2023. Matsui also has a true two-plane mid-80s slider that is of big league quality, but his usage of it was cut nearly in half in 2023, way down to 10%. It’s a good looking pitch and probably deserves more air time. Despite lacking typical big league reliever arm strength, Matsui looks like a very stable and versatile big league middle reliever. – EL

29. Brandon Belt, 1B, Age 36
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $10.0 M $10.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $9.5 M $9.5 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.24 $9.4 M $11.6 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
427 13.0% 31.6% .225 .334 .413 .326 106 1.2 -9.8 0.6

Player Notes
In his first season away from San Francisco, many aspects of Belt’s profile became considerably more extreme. He swung at fewer bad pitches than before while also watching a ton of strikes go by, leading to strikeout and walk rates near Joey Gallo territory. While over half his plate appearances ended in a walk or strikeout, he certainly made the most of his balls in play, with 93rd-percentile results on contact. Belt’s increased selectivity at the plate allowed him to hit more balls on a line; his previously great launch angle tightness and line drive rates were nearly off the charts.

Belt’s primary strength has been mashing breaking balls, especially demonstrated in his career-best 2021 campaign where he slugged over .750 against them. Pitchers adjusted by throwing him far more fastballs; only three other hitters saw a higher percentage of them last season. His 2022 campaign, when he had a career worst -7 run value against heaters, could have been the end of his time as an everyday hitter. But he was able to adjust, holding his own against four-seamers while absolutely crushing sinkers that matched up with his swing plane. The market for aging designated hitters who require a platoon partner is often difficult, but it can be argued that Belt will hit better than any left-handed hitter signed this offseason, non-Ohtani division. – KK

30. Adam Duvall, OF, Age 35
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $10.0 M $10.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.27 $8.4 M $10.6 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
518 6.7% 31.6% .216 .277 .422 .299 87 -9.5 -4.5 0.4

Player Notes
Duvall has looked like he’s toast on multiple occasions over his 10-year career, but his ability to hit flurries of home runs and play pretty good defense in the outfield, including center field, keeps teams coming back with an ample supply of avocados. Now 35, Duvall’s career doesn’t have that many more comebacks left in it, but even a wRC+ of 100 — which would be worse than his actual numbers in four of his last five seasons — will still have some pull with teams that want a fourth outfielder with power who can cover center. I doubt he’ll do better than the $7 million he got from the Red Sox in 2023, but there are far worse ways to make a baseball living. – DS

31. Justin Turner, 1B, Age 39
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $10.0 M $10.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1.0 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.53 $12.2 M $18.7 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
665 8.5% 18.6% .260 .333 .413 .326 105 0.5 -12.7 1.0

Player Notes
After a nine-year run as a key cog on the perennially-contending Dodgers, Turner landed in Boston via a two-year, $22 million deal that included a player option for 2024 — which he declined, forgoing a $13.4 million guarantee in favor of a $6.7 million buyout. Despite a spring training beaning that required 16 stitches and a bruised right heel that hobbled him over the final two months, he played 146 games, mainly as a DH with occasional duty at first base (a career-high 41 games), second (10 games), and third (seven games). He hit a respectable .276/.345/.455 in a career-high 626 PA, but slumped to a 56 wRC+ in September, and finished with a 114 wRC+, his lowest mark since his days as a Mets scrub. His 5.7% barrel rate was his lowest since 2015.

Though his platoon splits had been relatively level in recent years, Turner slipped to a modest .273/.335/.430 (105 wRC+) against righties in 2023. Continuing trends that started in 2022, he was particularly vulnerable against four-seamers (.212 AVG/.295 SLG) from those righties, with those struggles increasing at higher velocities, and scuffled against same-side sliders as well (.222 AVG/.309 SLG). All of this points to a 39-year-old DH who still retains some positional utility — as well as an outstanding reputation for his clubhouse presence — but may need his playing time against righties dialed back. A return to Boston wouldn’t be a surprise, particularly as the man was recently spotted candlepin bowling. – JJ

32. Jordan Hicks, RP, Age 27
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $10.0 M $30.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3.0 $9.0 M $27.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.79 $8.9 M $24.7 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
66.0 11.2% 28.3% 51.6% 3.27 3.49 3.58 0.8 1.1

Player Notes
Possibly the best right-handed reliever on the market, Hicks’ sales pitch is simple: He might have the fastest fastball ever to reach free agency. But his case is further bolstered by his 2023 season, which might have been his most complete season yet statistically speaking. He made 65 regular season appearances between the Cardinals and Blue Jays with a 3.29 ERA, 3.22 FIP, and 3.36 xFIP, striking out a career-high 28.4% of batters faced. He allowed just nine barrels on 168 batted balls (5.4%) and an average exit velocity of just 86.7 mph – good for the 89th percentile league-wide. On those balls in play, 58.9% were on the ground, a 96th-percentile clip and yet somehow below his career average. As it turns out, strikeouts and soft groundballs are a potent combination.

Hicks is still allowing more baserunners than a potential employer would prefer, though inducing more chases helped curb his high walk rates a bit in 2023. And who’s to say how the health of a 27-year-old fireballer will hold up the closer he gets to 30 – there’s no such thing as a no-risk relief pitcher on the free agent market, or anywhere else for that matter. Hicks has had his own ups and downs, but he’s an undeniable weapon for the back end of any bullpen. – CG

33. Yariel Rodriguez, RP, Age 27
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $10.0 M $30.0 M
2024 ZiPS Projections
IP BB K HR ERA ERA+ WAR
51.2 20 54 5 3.83 113 0.4

Player Notes
Rodriguez’s fastball experienced a nearly three-tick velocity bump in 2022, going from sitting 92-93 mph to sitting 94-96 and touching 100 in a relief capacity for the Chunichi Dragons. The added velocity came with (and was likely because of) a full-time move to the bullpen, and Rodriguez posted a 1.15 ERA in his 54.2 innings. Then Rodriguez pitched for Cuba’s 2023 WBC team as a starter. After a rough-looking February tuneup before the actual competition began, he was nasty across 65-70 pitches in each of his two WBC starts, when Yariel sat 95, touched 98, and bent in a good vertical breaking ball in the 83-87 mph range. After his WBC performance, Rodriguez chose to opt out of the 2023 NPB season and focus on training to come to MLB the following year. Chunichi put him on the restricted list and Rodriguez wasn’t heard from until October, when he threw live BP for teams in the Dominican Republic and looked like his usual self.

There may be teams that view Rodriguez as a potential MLB starter because of his repertoire depth and brief success in the WBC, but hold your horses. He started across multiple seasons in Japan and wasn’t very good; a 2021 FIP near 5.00 prompted a bullpen move the following year. He only came into impact velocity once he moved to the ‘pen and there is little evidence that he’d be able to sustain it as a starter, in fact quite the contrary. As a relief candidate, Rodriguez is exciting and has the stuff to pitch in higher-leverage innings. His vertical fastball/breaking ball combo looks similar to Pete Fairbanks’ stuff (minus a few ticks of velo) and is on par with the second- or third-best reliever coming out of a contender’s bullpen. – EL

34. Michael A. Taylor, OF, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $9.0 M $9.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $7.0 M $14.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.67 $7.5 M $12.5 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
469 7.0% 29.5% .231 .290 .388 .294 84 -9.4 3.5 1.0

Player Notes
After 10 years in the big leagues, you know exactly what you’re getting with Michael A. Taylor: Gold Glove defense and a bat that ends up within shouting distance of league-average. Although the destination is predetermined, the journey is rewarding in its own right. On your way to somewhere between 1-2 WAR, you’ll see some thrilling home run robberies and outfield assists, a heaping helping of strikeouts, just enough glimpses of light-tower power to make you think that maybe Taylor has finally figured it all out, and then a bunch more strikeouts. Somewhere out there is another universe where there’s no such thing as histamine and Michael A. Taylor has plate discipline and ball-to-bat skills, making him a five-tool superstar. Unfortunately, we live in this universe, where Taylor has his ups and downs and everyone has an expired bottle of Benadryl in their medicine cabinet.

Now entering his age-33 season, and with so much of his value tied up in his athleticism, it’s fair to wonder how long Taylor can pull this off. However, his sprint speed, home-to-first time, and arm strength have all held steady for the last couple years. He can still be the starting center fielder for a non-contender, the role he played in Kansas City. He can also be a useful player as a defensive replacement-slash-solid backup option, the role he played in Minnesota. – DA

35. Gary Sánchez, C, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $10.0 M $10.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $5.0 M $5.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.46 $6.3 M $9.1 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
431 9.4% 27.5% .214 .298 .412 .308 93 -5.4 2.8 1.2

Player Notes
In a season full of disappointments in San Diego, Sánchez turned out to be a pleasant surprise. After going unsigned until April 1 and then passing through the hands of the Giants and Mets inside of two months — playing just three major league games along the way, all for the latter — he landed with the Padres via waivers on May 29. He proceeded to hit .218/.292/.500 (115 wRC+) with 19 homers in 260 PA for the Dads before fracturing his right wrist on a hit-by-pitch on September 6.

While his batting average and on-base percentage were subpar, Sánchez’s overall 111 wRC+ was his best mark since 2019, 22 points better than last year and tied for 10th among the 36 catchers who had at least 250 PA. Headlined by a 15.4% barrel rate, his Statcast numbers were typically strong, and he made more contact than usual given that his 25.1% strikeout rate was his lowest since 2018.

Defensively, Sánchez was average in framing by our numbers; two runs above average in both framing and throwing, and average in blocking according to Statcast; and slightly above average in all three areas according to Baseball Prospectus. In a thin market for free agent catchers, he might be the most capable two-way backstop given how rarely Mitch Garver dons the tools of ignorance. – JJ

36. Michael Brantley, OF, Age 37
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $10.0 M $10.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1.0 $9.0 M $9.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.07 $9.3 M $10.0 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
427 9.0% 11.6% .294 .362 .436 .347 120 8.3 -9.0 1.4

Player Notes
When healthy, Michael Brantley is one of the most reliable hitters in all of baseball. When healthy, you can pencil Brantley in for a wRC+ between 120 and 130 from the left side of the plate — the same as he’s put up in every healthy season since 2019 — along with adequate baserunning and perfectly acceptable defense in left field. When healthy, Brantley is a contact machine who chases infrequently and whiffs approximately never. When healthy, Brantley keeps your local broadcast team well-rested and fresh, as they will quickly learn that when he comes to the plate, the best policy is to say his name, solemnly intone the phrase “professional hitter,” then take a quick power nap.

Glibness aside, Brantley is approaching his age-37 season, and after getting into just 246 regular season games over the last four years, the baseball gods owe him a full, healthy campaign. Sadly, the baseball gods are notoriously fickle. An ideal landing spot would let him reprise the role he played in Houston: a bonus bat in an already reliable lineup. Nobody should let their season depend on getting 500 PA from Brantley, but he was healthy enough to suit up in the postseason in six of the last seven seasons. Even in an extremely limited sample, Brantley still made contact and hit the ball hard enough during the 2023 season. He can probably keep doing it in 2024, when healthy. – DA

37. Reynaldo López, RP, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 3 $9.0 M $27.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2.0 $6.0 M $12.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.98 $6.7 M $13.3 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
63.0 8.8% 27.2% 38.4% 3.68 3.77 3.97 0.7 0.7

Player Notes
Once a top 30 prospect by our rankings, López spent a half-decade struggling to put things together as a starter thanks to spotty command and ineffective secondary pitches. The White Sox converted him to relief in 2021, and the new look López was a near-instant success. He’s added velocity in each of the past three seasons, averaging a career high 98.3 mph while hitting triple digits with regularity in high leverage spots. While his slower offerings haven’t improved, his use in short bursts has let him shelve his changeup and curveball, bringing his heater usage to a career high. After a couple years where it seemed like he discovered great feel for command, in 2023 López pitched the way you’d expect from a one-pitch middle relief flamethrower, shattering his previous bests in strikeout rate but walking a batter every other inning, as his slider found the zone just a third of the time. López is entering free agency in a relatively shallow relief market – he’s the fourth-ranked reliever on this list and first among those without closer experience. Especially considering the uptick in strikeouts, it seems that he’s picked a good time to enter the open market and continue his second chapter as a high-octane middle reliever on a new club. – KK

38. Kenta Maeda, SP, Age 36
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $11.0 M $22.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2.0 $12.0 M $24.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.68 $11.8 M $19.8 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
132.0 6.8% 24.2% 37.7% 4.15 4.16 4.16 2.0 2.0

Player Notes
A total of 56 Japanese-born players have made at least one pitching appearance in MLB (54 if you don’t include Norichika Aoki and Ichiro Suzuki). Of them, only four have been credited with more wins and logged more strikeouts than Maeda. The 35-year-old right-hander has gone 65-49 with a 3.92 ERA and a 3.74 FIP since signing with the Dodgers in 2016 after eight seasons with NPB’s Hiroshima Carp. He’s spent the last four years with the Twins, one of which (2022) he missed after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

A comparably minor injury interrupted his 2023 season. Maeda went on the shelf with a right triceps strain after making four April starts and was out until late June. He was consistently solid after returning to the mound. Over 16 appearances, he went at least five innings while allowing two or fewer runs 11 times, logging a 3.36 ERA and a 3.94 FIP. Were it not for a shellacking in the start preceding his stint on the IL — 10 earned runs over three innings — his seasonal 4.23 ERA and 4.02 FIP would look much better. All told, he fanned 117 batters and allowed just 94 hits over 104.1 innings.

Maeda isn’t by definition a power pitcher, and he will turn 36 in April, so the degree to which he can continue to flummox hitters is a big question. Ditto how much gas he has left in the tank. That said, he has a plus splitter and knows how to procure outs. – DL

39. Wade Miley, SP, Age 37
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1.0 $8.0 M $7.8 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.16 $7.8 M $9.0 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
142.0 7.7% 16.3% 46.2% 4.54 4.73 4.77 1.3 1.4

Player Notes
Miley burst onto the scene in 2012 for the Diamondbacks, winning 16 games, making the All-Star team, and finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting behind Bryce Harper. A soft-tosser has a tiny margin for error in modern baseball, Miley faded slowly and steadily following that rookie season. By 2016, he had descended into journeyman territory. But he had a third act, thanks to the development of a cutter that relieved him of having to rely on his extremely hittable 91 mph fastball. Whereas lots of pitchers have stories about developing a new pitch at the behest of a coach or after thorough offseason testing, Miley’s adoption of the cutter was more abrupt: the Rays were kicking his butt in a game and he announced to catcher Welington Castillo that he was going to start throwing cutters in the next inning.

The pitch stuck and Miley improved enough to evolve into classic baseball archetype, albeit one that has largely disappeared in recent decades: the effective slop-tossing lefty veteran. And it’s worked; while he hasn’t always been healthy, he’s maintained a 3.43 ERA (4.24 FIP) since the start of 2018. One reason he’s beating his FIP is he’s consistently one of the most difficult pitchers to hit hard, with the 10th-lowest hard-hit percentage (of 217 qualifying pitchers) since the start of 2018.

No team’s looking to Miley to head their rotation, which is why he’s down here in the rankings. But if you need a quality third or fourth starter who can effectively eat innings without major disaster, he’s your guy. Given some of the pitchers the Reds used at the back end of their rotation in 2023, they might have made the playoffs if they had retained Miley. – DS

40. Tommy Pham, OF, Age 36
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $9.0 M $9.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1.0 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.31 $8.7 M $11.4 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
567 9.9% 24.0% .246 .326 .411 .321 102 1.8 -10.1 1.1

Player Notes
Pham, who lives with an eye condition called kerataconus, went into the 2023 season with a new set of contact lenses fine tuned to help address the issue, which he says allowed him to see the ball better. From a data perspective, the story tracks. Pham’s walks ticked up slightly, his strikeouts decreased significantly relative to previous years, and his in-zone whiff rate on fastballs decreased to the second-best mark of his career. The latter is a trend that is extremely atypical for a hitter in their age-35 season. On top of that, his performance in the postseason positively contributed to Arizona’s run. While players in this stage of their careers typically aren’t heavily sought after in free agency, Pham is the type of hitter who can be relied on to help raise a team’s floor if there are concerns about the club’s upper minors depth or if the team wants to bridge the gap to a prospect who is knocking on the door to the big leagues. – ER

41. Luis Severino, SP, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $10.0 M $10.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1.0 $10.0 M $10.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.35 $10.2 M $13.7 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
132.0 7.9% 21.4% 41.7% 4.42 4.51 4.42 1.5 1.5

Player Notes
Of the 172 pitchers who threw at least 80 innings in 2023, Severino was the fourth worst by WAR (-0.6). On the surface, it looked like a slew of injuries had caught up to the once-electric starting pitcher. But the story isn’t as simple as Severino having been compromised by injury. His average four-seamer settled in at 96.4 mph, which was good for the 88th percentile among all pitchers. In other words, rotational power wasn’t the issue. And while he experienced slight regressions in the movement department, they weren’t not enough to explain the jump from a 3.18 ERA in 2022 to a 6.65 in 2023.

In fact, Severino had a turnaround at the end of 2023 that was quite intriguing. In his final 21.2 IP before a season-ending oblique injury, he had a 2.49 ERA, .220 BAA, and .271 xwOBA against the heater. His fastball peaked in the triple digits and he was able to sustain that velocity deep into games. He even saw progress from his slider (.224 xwOBA against) after losing the pitch for almost the entire year. He was able to command it low and away off the plate to righties at a higher rate than he had all year. That pitch was the anchor of his arsenal during his peak in 2017 and 2018, and along with maintaining his fastball velocity, will be crucial to his success in 2024. – ER

42. James Paxton, SP, Age 35
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $10.0 M $10.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.28 $8.7 M $11.2 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
142.0 8.2% 24.5% 39.9% 4.01 4.15 4.16 2.3 2.4

Player Notes
Paxton came into the year having thrown just 21.2 innings over the past three seasons due to the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign and Tommy John surgery in April 2021. It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say that he didn’t miss a beat upon returning to action with the Red Sox, but the 35-year-old southpaw from suburban Vancouver did hold his own. At times he even resembled the pitcher who went 38-17 with a 3.54 ERA for the Mariners and Yankees from 2017-19. While he scuffled in his final three appearances and last toed the rubber on September 1, that was largely due to a since-resolved leg issue. All told, he finished with a 4.50 ERA and a 4.68 FIP with 101 strikeouts in 96 innings.

He fully expects to be better in 2024. When I talked to Paxton in late September, he spoke of how a pitcher’s stuff “isn’t really 100% back until the year after your first year back from Tommy John.” And while he admitted to having experienced a (re)learning curve, it’s not as though his pitch quality was poor. His fastball averaged 95.3 mph, and his cutter and curveball were both effective more often than not. All things considered, he had a successful comeback season.

Southpaws with solid track records are appealing, and much for that reason Paxton should draw serious interest this offseason. If he indeed is better the year after his first year back, Paxton will fit nicely into some team’s rotation. – DL

43. Brent Suter, RP, Age 34
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $9.0 M $18.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $4.7 M $4.7 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.27 $4.8 M $6.1 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
68.0 8.7% 18.8% 45.1% 4.24 4.52 4.65 0.1 0.2

Player Notes
A year ago, Suter got absolutely screwed. Then the longest-tenured member of the Milwaukee Brewers, the big left-hander was waived after the season, and left a contending team to play out his walk year in Coors Field. Suter responded with a monster season: a career-low 69 ERA- in 69 1/3 innings. Suter was arguably Colorado’s best pitcher; he was second in WAR (a fraction behind Jake Bird, who threw 20 more innings) and had the lowest ERA of any Rockies pitcher who threw more than one inning.

Altitude seemed not to bother Suter, who also set a new career low for home run rate and held opponents to a .341 SLG and .309 xSLG. A new sinker (or at least new-ish — he’d always thrown one, but it was more than a show-me offering for the first time in 2023) seems to have done him a world of good.

It’s nice to see Suter, 34, head into free agency on such a high note. He always seemed like an afterthought on a loaded Brewers staff, almost taken for granted. Over parts of seven seasons in Milwaukee he was a starter, situational reliever, bulk reliever, high- and low-leverage… he was whatever the Brewers required at any given moment. He’s adaptable, he has a rubber arm, and despite being a low-slot lefty has always been able to get batters out on both sides. There are two kinds of teams in this league: Those that will need a pitcher like Suter to make it through 2024, and those that will need a pitcher like Suter to make it through 2024, and just don’t know it yet. – MB

44. Sean Manaea, SP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2.0 $12.0 M $24.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.15 $12.3 M $26.5 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
134.0 8.0% 23.0% 40.5% 4.24 4.36 4.30 1.8 1.9

Player Notes
While many swingmen move between the starting rotation and traditional relief based on performance and the availability of the rest of the pitching staff, it seemed like Manaea lacked a clearly defined role throughout the 2023 season. In between stints as a starter at the beginning and end of the year, he spent most of the season making relief appearances anywhere between one and six innings – sometimes as a single-inning guy to build the bridge to closer Camilo Doval, sometimes as the bulk pitcher in one of the many bullpen games that defined this Giants team. Occasionally, even his own team didn’t know what to do with him; Manaea once pitched on just two days rest after an 83-pitch bulk appearance, but on a few occasions would go an entire week without entering a game. He experienced large fluctuations in performance during the year, with a two-run difference in ERA between his first and second halves despite similar numbers under the hood, resulting in league-average results in line with his career norms. His low-release fastball ran the best swinging strike rate of his career, but his slider took a step back, with career-worst results against it. Still, Manaea’s 2023 performance should inspire confidence in his ability to pitch in any role asked of him. – KK

45. Robert Stephenson, RP, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $10.0 M $10.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $5.0 M $10.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.75 $5.3 M $9.3 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
60.0 8.5% 28.2% 34.6% 3.79 3.85 3.99 0.6 0.7

Player Notes
Stephenson was one of the best relievers in baseball after being traded from the Pirates to the Rays in exchange for shortstop prospect Alika Williams in early June. The 30-year-old right-hander came out of the Tampa Bay bullpen 42 times and punched out 60 batters while allowing just eight walks and 18 hits in 38.1 innings. Moreover, he had a 42.9% strikeout rate to go with a 2.35 ERA and a 2.45 FIP. Counting the 14 innings he tossed with Pittsburgh, those numbers were 38.3%, 3.10, and 3.22 respectively.

That a pitcher improved after going to Tampa is hardly a surprise, and in Stephenson’s case it was a slider-to-cutter transformation that served as the turning point in what had been an underwhelming career. Cincinnati’s first-round pick in 2011 threw his revamped pitch 316 times and only eight times was the result a base hit. Opposing batters had a .101 BA, a .253 SLG, and a .151 wOBA against the offering. Add in a fastball that averaged 96.9 mph and it’s not surprising that Stephenson had the second-highest K-rate among AL relievers who threw at least 30 innings, behind Baltimore’s Félix Bautista.

Will the revitalized righty match or even approximate that level of overpowering success going forward, be it in a return to Tampa or in another team’s uniform? That’s a question yet to be answered, but one thing is certain: He picked a good time to break out and have a career-best season. – DL

46. Amed Rosario, SS, Age 28
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $9.0 M $18.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2.0 $9.0 M $17.3 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.26 $9.1 M $20.5 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
588 5.1% 17.7% .275 .316 .404 .312 96 -3.1 5.4 2.2

Player Notes
After two straight seasons as an above-average shortstop, Rosario certainly didn’t have the walk year he was hoping for. In 142 games, he posted a meager 88 wRC+. Combine that with uncharacteristically poor baserunning and characteristically poor defense, and you get 0.2 WAR, a replacement-level campaign.

Never a strong defensive player, Rosario has always been just capable enough to get by. The past season, however, his fielding numbers took another hit: -16 DRS, -14 OAA, and a career-low .964 fielding percentage at short. On the bright side, he looked better in a handful of games at second base for the Dodgers, perhaps an indication of where he should have been playing all along. Given the weak middle infield market, Rosario could end up playing shortstop again in 2024, but his long-term future almost surely lies a little closer to first base.

Despite his down year, Rosario has a few things working in his favor as he enters free agency. Not yet 28, he is one of the youngest players on the market. His youth should inspire confidence that he can bounce back in 2024. What’s more, he is young enough that he could sign a one-year prove-it deal without sacrificing his long-term earning potential; if he reaches free agency again next winter, he’ll still be one of the younger options available. In addition, Rosario should benefit from positional scarcity. As disappointing as his walk year was, he is still the top-ranked middle infielder on this list. – LM

47. Alex Wood, SP, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $8.0 M $16.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $7.0 M $7.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.26 $7.4 M $9.3 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
128.0 8.2% 18.3% 44.6% 4.63 4.77 4.74 1.0 1.2

Player Notes
The 2023 Giants blurred the lines between starters and relievers like never before. Six of their pitchers made eight or more starts while also coming out of the bullpen for at least half their appearances; only the 1935 St. Louis Browns could say the same. Some of those arms were merely openers, but Wood was a true hybrid, tossing 47.1 innings as a starter and 50.1 out of the ‘pen. On occasion, he pitched into the sixth inning. Some days, he was little more than an opener; other times, he was the beneficiary of an opener himself.

Unfortunately, the 2023 season was a step backward for the lefty. He was a solid mid-rotation starter from 2021-2022 (despite what his inflated ERA from last season would have you believe). In 52 starts, he posted a 3.62 FIP and 3.42 xFIP with 4.2 WAR. This past season, however, his average velocity dropped on multiple pitches; at the same time, his strikeout rate plummeted and his walk rate soared.

It’s hard to say how much of Wood’s struggles were related to his yo-yo-usage, but one would think he’s hoping to find a more regular starting role next season. Considering his long track record of success, the soon-to-be 33-year-old should be able to find a team willing to give him that chance. – LM

48. Joc Pederson, OF, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $12.0 M $24.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.67 $11.8 M $19.7 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
504 10.5% 22.5% .254 .342 .465 .345 118 10.1 -10.4 1.7

Player Notes
After accepting a qualifying offer from the Giants, Pederson couldn’t match the 146-wRC+ performance from his inaugural season with San Francisco. He hit .235/.348/.416 with 15 homers and a 111 wRC+, though he did post his best strikeout and walk rates in at least half a decade (13.4% and 20.9%, respectively).

Regression from a career-best .310 BABIP to a .268 mark — matching his career rate — accounted for a good bit of Pederson’s dropoff. He smoked the ball in both seasons, and his 2022 and ’23 xwOBAs were only a point apart (.367 and .368, respectively), but where he had slightly outdone his Statcast expected numbers last year, he fell 28 points short of his xBA, 67 points short of of his xSLG, and 31 points short of his xwOBA in ’23.

Pederson’s dreadful showing in the outfield in 2022 (-9.7 UZR was his best among the major metrics) led the Giants to limit him to 204 defensive innings; he was still small-sample bad, and his WAR plummeted from 2.1 to 0.6. Whoever signs him can probably expect some positive regression via his contact stats, but he looks increasingly more like a platoon DH than an outfield regular. – JJ

49. Tim Anderson, SS, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 1 $10.0 M $10.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1.0 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.33 $8.6 M $11.4 M
2024 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
525 4.8% 21.1% .279 .318 .386 .307 92 -3.9 -0.4 1.4

Player Notes
I have no idea what to make of Anderson, who turned 30 in June and is coming off a season that made Rey Ordonez look like Arky Vaughan: .245/.285/.296, for a wRC+ of 60. But the four seasons before that, from 2019 to 2022, went like this: batting title, top-10 MVP finish, All-Star, All-Star.

Anderson suffered a season-ending finger injury in August 2022 and a sprained knee in May 2023. I don’t know what role those ailments played in his bat up and vanishing, but everything went horribly for him this past season. Even his sprint speed dropped off noticeably. For years, Anderson flirted with certain limits. He hardly ever walked and he hit too many groundballs, but he got away with it because he made lots of hard contact. Was 2023 a momentary (and possibly injury-related) blip? Or was it the beginning of a tumble off a cliff?

We’ve seen free agent hitters recover from seasons like this; Cody Bellinger was worse for far longer, and he’s about to get paid. And there aren’t too many free agent position players who have been as impactful as Anderson, on and off the field, within the past 18 months. Wherever he goes, it’ll be fascinating to watch. But I don’t envy the GMs who have to make the actual decision. – MB

50. Nick Martinez, SP/RP, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Ben Clemens 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $9.0 M $18.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.02 $9.2 M $18.6 M
2024 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
123.0 8.9% 19.7% 47.5% 4.35 4.39 4.33 1.2 1.3

Player Notes
Starters have been turning into relievers for decades. That’s where you go when you’re not quite effective enough for the rotation. Swingmen have been around forever, too, providing long relief when the rotation doesn’t need an extra body and acceptable starting pitching when someone gets hurt. Martinez is a more recent hybrid; a one-inning reliever who can start in a pinch, and who might like to start more now that he’s back on the market after two years of solid work on the Padres.

There’s no question that he has a starter’s arsenal; he throws five pitches and his best might be a changeup. He’s not a huge strikeout guy, though he does get a lot of grounders; his changeup is one of the slow, dipping types that produces topped contact when opponents hit it, and he throws more sinkers than four-seamers. I’m not sure if he would hold up to a full season’s workload as a starter (he’s projected here like he’ll be in the rotation for the bulk of his innings), and I assume most teams that are interested in his services will pitch him on some type of bridge role, where he starts the season in the rotation, then cedes the spot later thanks either to someone returning from injury or a prospect coming up.

It might sound like I’m pretty confused about Martinez’s exact role. I am! But even if I’m not quite sure which innings he’ll pitch, or what role he’ll end up in, I think that he’s a good bet to limit opposing offenses when he’s on the mound. This isn’t last generation’s swingman; it’s a new and improved version. – BC





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

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Jimmember
3 months ago

Anyone who wants to watch the SABR interview of Meg Rowley can click on this:

https://sabr.org/ballpark-figures/meg-rowley/

It is quite interesting.