MLB

MLB Free Agency: The Top 10 Free Agents on the Market This Winter

Nov 10, 2022, 6:30 AM
Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees looks on during the sixth inning against the Houston Astros...
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Only five days since the Houston Astros lifted another Word Series title, the 2022 offseason is officially underway.

Kicking off the new league year is the start of free agency, opening Thursday, Nov. 10, at 2 p.m. PST. This year’s market will include some big names, including San Francisco Giants ace Carlos Rodón, opting out of this deal over the weekend.

The biggest name of course is slugger Aaron Judge, looking set to accumulate one of the biggest contacts in pro baseball history regardless fo the team he choses. But with star players available at every position, the 2022-23 winter is sure to be a wild one.

Before we get there, let’s take a look at the top free agents going on the open market today.

Aaron Judge

Team: New York Yankees

Position: Right Field

Wins-Above-Replacement (WAR): 16.9

The cream of the crop this offseason, all-world slugger Aaron Judge should be on every team’s radar right now.

Coming off a historic season with the Yankees, Judge broke Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs in a single season, now holding the home runs title in the American League at 62 homers. Judge is more than a home run hitter though, sporting a .311 batting average and a ridiculous 1.111 OPS in 2022.

Unfortunately his production cooled off dramatically in the postseason, going a combined .139 BA across two series in the American League playoffs.

Regardless, the Linden native should command an enormous contract that could reach the historic numbers of Mike Trout in 2019 (12-year, $426.5 million extension with the Angels). And one of those teams prepared to give him that kind of money is the San Francisco Giants.

Using 2022 as a budget reset, the Giants have flexibility and money to not only lure in Judge, but also other big fish as well.

“The Giants are ready to write checks. I think they’re going to go after some big boys,” one MLB agent told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Could we have seen the last of “All Rise” in the Bronx? The next few days/weeks we’ll find out.

Carlos Rodón

Team: San Francisco Giants

Position: Starting Pitcher

WAR: 11.1

While the Giants are hunting big fish, they should look to nail down their ace pitcher, Carlos Rodón, to a massive extension as well.

Signing a two-year, $44 million deal with the Giants last year, the pitcher was smart to include an opt-out clause if he hit 110 inning pitched this season. Despite injuries keeping him out for parts of the season, he still recorded the most strikeouts of his career in a single season (237). He finished with a record of 14-8, pitching a stellar 2.88 ERA in 2022.

“Obviously we expect Carlos to opt out and that’ll create an opening in our rotation,” Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said last month. “He’s going to have plenty of suitors…I’m sure we’re going to be talking to [his agent] Scott Boras about bringing him back and the feedback from Carlos and from Scott is that he enjoyed being here, he enjoyed pitching in our park, and I would say there’s mutual interest and we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”

Taking a team-friendly deal last year, expect a much higher salary for the 30-year-old ace in 2023.

Clayton Kershaw

Team: Los Angeles Dodgers

Position: Starting Pitcher

WAR: 7.2

At the ripe age of 34, Kershaw is still one of the best pitchers in all of major league baseball.

Pitching an ERA of 2.28 to go along with a 12-3 record, the Dodgers ace made his first All-Star appearance since 2019.  He also had his highest WAR number since 2017 this season.

Despite the numbers, Kershaw has shown some signs of age, dropping down to his lowest strikeout total since his rookie season. Durability is also an issue for the Texas native, dealing with both pelvis and back issues through the 2022 season.

Regardless, a hall-of-fame pitcher is still hard to come by on the free agent market, so expect a line of suitors if he decides to leave LA.

Jacob deGrom

Team: New York Mets

Position: Starting Pitcher

WAR: 7.1

A similar situation to Kershaw, when Jacob deGrom is healthy, he’s arguably the best pitcher in the league.

The problem is health, only making 38 starts in the past three seasons combined. Last season, he finished 5-4 with his highest ERA since 2018 (3.08). Dealing with a shoulder injury throughout the 2022 season, the Mets ace never came back to his true form, producing the least amount of strikeouts (102) in his entire career.

However, he was excellent in his lone start in the postseason, producing eight K’s in six innings pitched. The Mets went on to win the game, but lost the Wild Card series to the San Diego Padres.

Already locking down closer Edwin Diaz to a big extension, New York should bring back their best pitcher, hoping to get him at a more team-friendly rate.

Trea Turner

Team: Los Angeles Dodgers

Position: Shortstop

WAR: 13.1

At 29 years old, Turner will have a horde of potential buyers Thursday, simply because of the position he plays.

Shortstop is possibly the hardest infield position in baseball, and Turner makes it look easy. Coming over from the Nationals in 2021 via trade, the Dodgers’ talent has allowed the Florida native to seamlessly fit in to the lineup.

Since the trade, Turner has been everything the Dodgers have asked, hitting .298 at the top of the lineup in 2022. He also made his second consecutive All-Star appearance, hitting a single-season record in RBIs at 100.

His value could be diminished slightly by the sheer abundance of quality infielders in the market, but Turner should still command a pretty penny this winter.

Brandon Nimmo

Team: New York Mets

Position: Center Field

WAR: 8.7

An elite defensive player in the middle of the park, Brandon Nimmo will get a big-time offer based on his fielding abilities.

On 308 fielding chances this season, Nimmo had 304 putouts. An absurd number, especially consisting the difficult of playing center field. Offensively his numbers are consistent, producing 16 homers on a .274 BA in 2022. A wins-above-replacement number so impressive, he outranks the next positional free agent by five whole points.

Hitting age 30 at the start of next season, the Wyoming native should be highly sought after by teams in dire need of defensive help in the outfield. Maybe the Giants come a knocking, who knows.

Carlos Correa

Team: Minnesota Twins

Position: Shortstop

WAR: 10.5

The second best shortstop on the market, Carlos Correa should be in line for a long-term contract this winter.

Signing a three-year, $105 million deal with the Twins last offseason, it felt like a foregone conclusion that the former Houston Astro would opt out as soon as possible. He did so the weekend before free agency opened.

Correa made good on his one year in the midwest, producing a .291 BA, the best of his career since 2017. He added 152 hits and 22 home runs to go along with a .366 on-base percentage in 2022.

Now back on the market with more teams having the funds to make deals, the World Series champ should command a much larger contract than he saw a season ago.

Xander Bogaerts

Team: Boston Red Sox

Position: Shortstop

WAR: 10.4

The third elite shortstop on the market, Bogaerts is destined for arbitration with the Red Sox. But you never know, anything can happen with the Boston franchise.

Bogaerts certainly made a case to be paid in 2022, making his fourth All-Star team in his career. The Aruban notched a .307 BA, 171 hits and a 74 RBIs in 150 games. His highest OBP since 2019 (.377), the shortstop was one of the lone sparks for a chaotic Red Sox season.

Because of that, Boston likely won’t let him walk, eventual reaching a deal at the beginning of next year. But if “The Olde Towne Team” lets him hit the open market, he’ll have a few suitors blowing up the phones.

José Abreu

Team: Chicago White Sox 

Position: First Base

WAR: 6.5

At almost 36-years-old, Abreu is still one of the best hitters in baseball.

Sporting an OPS of .824, the first baseman registered 183 hits in 2022, tied for most in his illustrious career. He also produced his second-best batting average of his career at .304, a personal best since 2020. Some regression has occurred though, hitting his lowest slugging percentage of his career (.446) and lowest HR total as well (15).

With the White Sox at a crossroads heading into 2023, now may be the time to look for a contending destination if the Cuban wants to win a ring in the near future.

Willson Contreras

Team: Chicago Cubs

Position: Catcher

WAR: 5.5

After a year on an arbitrary deal, one of the best catchers in the MLB is set to hit the market Thursday.

Contreras has been one of the best dual-threat catchers since entering the league in 2016, able to make plays on both offense and defense. Offensively, the Venezuelan produced 101 hits in 2022, the most since 2019. He also added a 22 homers on a .815 OPS, fourth-highest of his career.

Making an All-Star appearance for the first time in three years, Contreras proved to the masses that he deserves a long-term extension. Any team in need of a catcher (i.e. the San Francisco Giants), should be looking into acquiring his services, despite the hefty price-tag the 30-year-old will cost.

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