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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Will Laws and Nick Selbe

MLB’s Top 25 Free Agents Still Available, With Signing Predictions

Well that was an eventful month, wasn’t it? Since the original posting of our annual top 50 free agents list, MLB teams have spent a combined $2 billion in guaranteed contracts. Just over half the free agents included on our initial rankings have signed with teams (Sean Manaea’s Sunday-night agreement with the Giants made it 26 out of 50), including seven of the top 10 and 17 of the top 25. Which makes this as good a time as ever to check back in with the best players available.

Given the activity in the market, the outlook for some players has shifted in just a few weeks. We’ll take a look at how the best names still on the board have been impacted by any deals made so far, plus update predictions on where players will eventually end up. Like anybody who still has a holiday gift list a mile long, there’s still time for teams to get what they need. But as the past month has shown, the clock is ticking fast.

A few notes: Each player’s listed age reflects how old he will be during the 2023 season, and we’re using FanGraphs’ version of wins above replacement. This page will be updated throughout the offseason as players sign with teams. 

25. Matt Carpenter, 1B/DH

Age: 37 | Former Team: Yankees | Updated Prediction: Diamondbacks

Carpenter provided a huge spark for the Yankees’ lineup after signing with them in late May, posting a ridiculous .305/.412/.727 line to bounce back from three increasingly substandard seasons to finish his tenure in St. Louis. He ended up playing only 47 games after breaking his foot in August, though, plus he benefited from Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch, so teams should be skeptical at his odds of repeating such a campaign. Likely confined to a first base or designated hitter role at this point in his career, Carpenter may not be able to catch on with a contender in free agency, but he could snag a starting job with a team in need of some pop and veteran leadership.

24. David Peralta, LF

Age: 35 | Former Team: Rays | Updated Prediction: Rangers

Peralta’s 2022 campaign was a tale of two seasons in a pretty bizarre manner. After slashing .248/.316/.460 with 12 homers in 87 games for the Diamondbacks, Arizona traded him to the Rays. The ’18 Silver Slugger winner maintained virtually the same batting average and on-base percentage for Tampa Bay, but his slugging percentage dropped 125 points after he didn’t muster a single homer in 47 games. The one thing that stayed constant for Peralta was an inability to produce against left-handed pitchers, but the ’19 Gold Glove is still regarded by Statcast as an elite defender on the grass, so he could function well as the heavy part of a platoon against righthanders.

23. Brandon Belt, 1B

Age: 35 | Former Team: Giants | Updated Prediction: Marlins

It’s been a quietly active first base market so far, and one that should bode well for Belt to get a chance to start somewhere else. Injuries have prevented him from appearing in 100 games in either of the past two seasons, though 2022 was the first year when health hindered his production. Belt put up a .285/.393/.595 slash line with 38 home runs in 560 plate appearances across ’20 and ’21, but looked a shell of himself in ’22. Carlos Santana didn’t exactly set the world on fire last year, and he still received a one-year, $6.73 million deal from Pittsburgh for his age-37 season. Perhaps Belt can get something similar and have a better run of health in ’23.

Nicknamed “Dirty Craig,” the former Dodgers pitcher has seen his ERA steadily increase, ranging from 0.44 in his first season to 6.53 in 2019, the worst mark of his career. 

22. Craig Kimbrel, RP

Age: 35 | Former Team: Dodgers | Updated Prediction: Diamondbacks

Kimbrel appeared a natural fit for California culture after adopting a ponytail during the 2021 season, but MLB’s active saves leader (394, seventh all-time) had a rather disastrous sojourn in Los Angeles. He was demoted from closer in September after converting just 22 of 27 saves (in addition to taking three losses after entering a tied game) and was then left off the team’s postseason roster. What’s more concerning for Kimbrel’s future: He lost another tick on his fastball velocity, and his strikeout rate cratered 15 percentage points down to 27.7%, a rather pedestrian mark for a modern closer and far off from what had been the best career mark in MLB history entering last season. There are probably a few teams out there who’d be willing to give the dominant reliever of his era one last shot at being the ninth-inning guy, perhaps in hopes of flipping him at next summer’s trade deadline, but there are plenty of warning signs to indicate his days of jogging out of the bullpen to “Welcome to the Jungle” (or “Let It Go”) are behind him.

21. Joey Gallo, RF

Age: 29 | Former Team: Dodgers | Updated Prediction: Rockies

Will any team view Gallo as a reclamation project worthy of regular playing time? The jury is still out on that one. If you squint, you could make a case for Gallo as an off-brand Cody Bellinger. He’s just a year removed from posting a 4.2 fWAR in 2021, and his sub-.200 batting average should get a bump from the league restricting the shift in ’23.

20. Michael Wacha, SP

Age: 31 | Former Team: Red Sox | Updated Prediction: Padres

Wacha is a good bit younger than some of the other starting pitchers on this list, but ranks below them because of a downturn in his ability to miss bats (a career-worst 7.35 K/9 rate) and some mediocre-at-best underlying metrics (a 4.56 xERA). Still, he earned a one-year, $7 million deal after putting up a 5.11 ERA from 2019 to ’21, so he should do well in this latest go at free agency.

19. Justin Turner, 3B

Age: 38 | Former Team: Dodgers | Updated Prediction: Dodgers

Few baseball pairings are a more perfect match than Turner’s fire-red hair and beard with that Dodger blue. Though it’s a little surprising Los Angeles has yet to re-sign its longtime third baseman, given the lack of quality potential replacements in free agency, we don’t expect to see him playing anywhere else in 2023. His 123 wRC+ in ‘22 was tied for his worst since arriving in Los Angeles in ’14, a testament to just how consistently excellent of a hitter he’s been. A gradual decline is likely to continue for Turner—either in terms of production or ability to play every day (or both)—but he’s still worthy of a role on a contending team.

18. Michael Brantley, LF/DH

Age: 36 | Former Team: Astros | Updated Prediction: Red Sox

Brantley has earned himself a reputation as one of the league’s most consistent, dependable bats. The issue now, though, is how often he’s able to keep his name in the lineup. He put up a .288/.370/.416 slash line in 277 plate appearances in 2022 and would be among the toughest outs on a contending team that can give him regular at-bats as a DH.

17. Johnny Cueto, SP

Age: 37 | Former Team: White Sox | Updated Prediction: Blue Jays

Cueto was the White Sox’ second-best starter this year (behind AL Cy Young finalist Dylan Cease) despite abysmal whiff and strikeout rates. He did, however, excel at producing soft contact and swings on pitches out of the zone. That helped him average more than six innings in 24 starts, 18 of which qualified as quality starts, two more than Cease and the same amount as reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and Dodgers All-Star Tyler Anderson. He should be able to eat some innings for a team near the contention cut line next year.

16. Corey Kluber, SP

Age: 37 | Former Team: Rays | Updated Prediction: Dodgers

Here we arrive at a new tier of available starting pitching: mid-rotation caliber players in their late 30s. Kluber proved to be more than capable with diminished stuff, as he made it through 2022 fully healthy, hammering the strike zone to the tune of a minuscule 1.2 BB/9 walk rate. He’d make a good depth addition for a contending team looking for one more serviceable starter on a short-term deal.

15. Brandon Drury, INF

Age: 30 | Former Team: Padres | Updated Prediction: Giants

Drury predictably regressed a bit as a Padre after his unexpected breakout with Cincinnati in the first half, but the batted-ball metrics indicate he didn’t just luck into a 3.0 WAR season. Teams won’t be jumping to commit to him as their third baseman of the future, but after hitting more home runs (28) than Rafael Devers and Alex Bregman, he’s suddenly the best corner infield bat left on the market following Cleveland’s signing of Josh Bell—though the switch-hitting Bell’s two-year, $33 million deal suggests the less accomplished, righthanded hitting Drury may not even secure an eight-figure salary. Our favorite stat about Drury: He managed just 13 hits against 211 offspeed pitches this year, but they all went for extra bases (eight home runs, five doubles).

14. Elvis Andrus, SS

Age: 34 | Former Team: White Sox | Updated Prediction: Twins

Andrus is our top-rated shortstop outside the big four. After years of below-average offensive production, he enjoyed a resurgent year maintaining his high-contact approach with the A’s and White Sox. The two-year, $14.5 million deal that Aledmys Díaz got from Oakland is probably a good comp, though Andrus will be aiming higher.

Segura posted seven RBIs, 12 hits and 14 total bases in 17 postseason games for the Phillies this year. 

Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

13. Jean Segura, 2B

Age: 33 | Former Team: Phillies | Updated Prediction: Red Sox

Segura had his $17 million club option for 2023 declined by the Phillies last month, making him the only notable second baseman on the market following Milwaukee’s decision to exercise Kolten Wong’s $12 million option and trade him to the Mariners. Segura excels at making contact and can hit 10 to 15 home runs despite a downturn in power this year. The well-traveled middle infielder is overmatched at shortstop at this point in his career, but Statcast has graded him as an elite defender at the keystone since he moved there in ’20. He has enough left in the tank to be a capable starter for the next couple of years, and should fittingly get a two-year contract, though Seattle’s preference to trade for Wong suggests Segura may not attain an eight-figure salary.

12. Gary Sánchez, C

Age: 30 | Former Team: Twins | Updated Prediction: Tigers

Sánchez struggled a ton offensively in 2022, his first season outside of New York. He still does damage when he’s able to make contact, but he has not been able to do so consistently (particularly against nonfastballs), plus remains a liability defensively. There’s a big drop-off from Willson Contreras—who agreed to a five-year, $87.5 million deal with St. Louis—and the rest of the free-agent catchers, so it seems likely Sánchez would sign a short-term deal.

11. Christian Vázquez, C

Age: 32 | Former Team: Astros | Updated Prediction: Guardians

Vázquez is the top free-agent catcher still available after the Cardinals signed Contreras. Though Vázquez couldn’t unseat Martín Maldonado in Houston after the Astros acquired him from Boston at the trade deadline, his playoff experience as a two-time World Series champion (and a solid all-around game at a position scarce of such options) will help him nab a starting job somewhere, with teams such as the Twins, Guardians, Giants and Diamondbacks looking like potential fits.

10. Ross Stripling, SP

Age: 33 | Former Team: Blue Jays | Updated Prediction: Royals

To date, 14 starting pitchers have agreed to contracts worth at least $10 million per year. After spending time shuffling between the rotation and bullpen, Stripling has shown enough to join that group. He posted career bests across the board (3.01 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 1.02 WHIP) over 134⅓ innings in 2022, with a career-low 3.7% walk rate.

9. Noah Syndergaard, SP

Age: 30 | Former Team: Phillies | Updated Prediction: Red Sox

For a guy who’s lost five ticks off his fastball since Tommy John surgery, Syndergaard acquitted himself pretty well this year; He at least proved he isn’t as powerless without his heater as Marvel’s Thor is without his hammer. Syndergaard essentially had to relearn how to pitch as someone with the arsenal of a mere mortal—and he posted a better ERA (3.94) than he did in his final presurgery season (4.28), even while spending the second half of the year with Philadelphia’s bandbox as his home park. The lack of swing and miss in his game will keep some teams away, though: Syndergaard’s 6.35 K/9 rate ranked 96th out of 105 pitchers with at least 120 IP. Given how strong the market has been for starting pitchers, Syndergaard should garner a multiyear deal, though certainly not at the $21 million rate he earned on the one-year deal for ’22.

8. Michael Conforto, OF

Age: 30 | Former Team: Unsigned | Updated Prediction: Rays

Finding a good comp for Conforto is difficult, considering he missed all of 2022 and had the worst season of his career in ’21. But his worst (a 106 wRC+ and .344 on-base percentage in 125 games) wasn’t even that bad, and his .265/.369/.495 slash line from ’17 to ’20 represents a high-caliber, impact bat that rarely hits the open market at such a relatively young age. Bellinger’s one-year, $17.5 million deal from the Cubs could be an interesting parallel, and the same goes for Mitch Haniger’s two-year, $43.5 million contract from San Francisco.

During the Padres’ 2022 postseason run, Profar slammed the first playoff home run of his career, in addition to 11 hits and five RBIs across 12 games.

Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports

7. Jurickson Profar, UT

Age: 30 | Former Team: Padres | Updated Prediction: White Sox

Once upon a time, Profar was the game’s top prospect. But injuries derailed his fast track to stardom and kept him out of the majors for the entirety of the 2014 and ’15 seasons. Profar has played for three teams in the past five seasons, demonstrating defensive versatility and a solid enough bat (101 wRC+ since ’18) to warrant everyday playing time. After playing five different positions in ’21, he found a permanent home in left field for San Diego last year. He declined his $8.3 million player option for ’23 and should easily fetch more than that across multiple seasons, given how many positions he can capably fill.

6. Nathan Eovaldi, SP

Age: 33 | Former Team: Red Sox | Updated Prediction: Orioles

Eovaldi is in a similar boat as Bassitt, though he is coming off a worse season. Given the two-year, $25 million guarantee that Andrew Heaney (who’s a year younger and also coming off an injured year) got from the Rangers, Eovaldi should be in line for a nice contract wherever he signs. It will be interesting to see whether he opts for a one-year deal to reestablish his value at what it was in 2021, when he made 32 starts with a 3.75 ERA and 2.79 FIP.

5. Andrew Benintendi, LF

Age: 28 | Former Team: Yankees | Updated Prediction: Orioles

Benintendi may not have reached the superstar status he appeared destined for back in his early 20s, but he’s certainly an above-average starting outfielder. His elite contact skills and control of the strike zone give him an elevated offensive floor, even if his ceiling is stunted by his waning power. Given that he won’t turn 28 until July, expect Benintendi to get a multiyear deal comfortably worth eight figures annually—though it’d be wildly optimistic to expect him to end up with something approaching the eight-year, $162 million deal handed to Brandon Nimmo by the free-spending Mets.

4. Chris Bassitt, SP

Age: 34 | Former Team: Mets | Updated Prediction: Cardinals

Update: Bassitt agreed to a three-year, $63 million deal with the Blue Jays.

There’s been quite a bit of movement in the starting pitching market so far this offseason. At the top end, Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom each fetched sky-high average annual values, while mid-tier rotation arms like Taijuan Walker (four years, $72 million from Philadelphia) and Jameson Taillon (four years, $68 million from the Cubs) also got big paydays. Bassitt ranked higher than the latter two in our original top 50 rankings, and even if his deal is for less in total guarantees, he’ll likely at least secure a similar AAV from whichever club signs him.

3. Carlos Rodón, SP

Age: 30 | Former Team: Giants | Updated Prediction: Yankees

Rodón reenters free agency for the second straight year as an All-Star and top-six Cy Young vote recipient—and this time, he comes without the late-season elbow soreness that limited his price tag last winter (though that led him to bet on himself, which worked). He was MLB’s second-most valuable pitcher this year by fWAR (6.2) after leading the majors with 12 strikeouts per 9 IP and a 2.25 FIP. We’re thinking the former No. 3 pick will draw the largest total contract of any free-agent pitcher this year, topping even Jacob deGrom’s $185 million contract with the Rangers.

VERDUCCI: What We’re Hearing About Rodón at Winter Meetings. 

Some of the teams that have been rumored to be interested in Swanson include the Cubs, Dodgers and Phillies, among others. 

Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

2. Dansby Swanson, SS

Age: 29 | Former Team: Braves | Updated Prediction: Dodgers

Given the 11-year deals that Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts received, what kind of deal will Swanson get? He’s younger and better defensively than both, and though he doesn’t possess the same offensive track record, he’s coming off a career year in which he set a new high in average exit velocity (90.2 mph) and reached the 25-homer mark for the second straight season. Also adding to his value is the fact that he’s missed just two games over the past three years.

1. Carlos Correa, SS

Age: 28 | Former Team: Twins | Updated Prediction: Giants

Correa, initially ranked by us as the No. 3 free agent this offseason, is the top prize left for bidding. And after having to settle for a three-year, $105 million contract last offseason—which he opted out of after one year—he must be licking his chops after seeing the deals handed out so far this offseason, as he could very well triple the total salary guarantee he received from Minnesota in March. Correa was once again an all-around force at the plate this year, plus he received plaudits from Twins teammates for his leadership skills amid the club’s bounce back to playoff contention (or its attempt at such, even if it ultimately collapsed in September). A fairly drastic drop-off on defense this year, however, could indicate an eventual move to third base will come sooner than expected and sap some of his value.

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