With the Major League Baseball trade deadline passing last week, we've refreshed our look at some of the top potential names that could reach the open market this offseason.
Before we get to that, here are a couple disclaimers about how this article was constructed:
- To create a list like this, you have to consider both past production and what a given player is doing in the 2022 season as you attempt to quantify future value.
- Aaron Nola and Sonny Gray are among those who could become free agents after the 2022 season, but they weren't considered for this list because their current employers are overwhelmingly likely to exercise their team-friendly club options for 2023.
With all that acknowledged, here's the 15 best potential MLB free agents for the 2022-23 offseason:
1. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
While it was quite the risk for Judge to turn down a seven-year/$230.5 million offer from the Yankees before the 2022 season, his bet on himself is paying off. Judge currently leads baseball with 43 home runs, 97 RBIs and a 1.058 OPS. Judge will turn 31 early in the 2023 season, but he's been a Hall of Famer-caliber player when he's stayed healthy in his career.
2. Trea Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
One of the most complete players in baseball, Turner finished third among all position players with a 6.8 fWAR a year ago, during a season that he split between the Washington Nationals and Dodgers. It's possible that Turner is even better at second base than shortstop, but there's no reason to think he won't want to continue playing his natural position moving forward. One would think the Dodgers will make an aggressive play to keep Turner in their uniform, but they have let Manny Machado and Corey Seager depart in free agency in recent years, so who knows. There has been some flirtation from former teammate Bryce Harper, with the Philadelphia Phillies seen as a potential suitor if Turner leaves LA.
3. Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals
Outside of a World Series trophy, the only thing missing from Arenado's resume is an MVP, and he currently leads the National League with a 5.8 fWAR, so he's definitely a leading candidate. The nine-time Gold Glove Award winner declined to opt out of his deal with the Cardinals last offseason, but will have the opportunity to do so once again this offseason. Arenado can opt into five years and $144 million after the 2022 season, but Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors wondered earlier this year if he'll chase a longer deal on the free-agent market.
4. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
Bogaerts has three years and $60 million guaranteed after the 2022 season, so he appears likely to exercise his opt out this winter if a long-term deal isn't reached in the interim. The Red Sox offered to add another year at $30 million onto his current deal, but the 29-year-old understandably expects to get much more than that. A friend of the four-time Silver Slugger Award winner predicted that Bogaerts will leave the Red Sox this offseason when speaking anonymously to Jon Heyman for The New York Post. Chaim Bloom and company elected not to trade Bogaerts before the deadline, but it's unclear how serious of an effort they'll make to re-sign him if he does indeed opt out this offseason.
5. Carlos Correa, Minnesota Twins
Correa perhaps overplayed his hand last offseason, declining to pounce on a 10-year/$275 million offer early in the offseason from the Detroit Tigers. The good news is that Correa is still only 27, and the three-year/$105.3 million deal he signed with the Twins will allow him to opt out after the 2022 season if he chooses to do so. It's possible that Correa doesn't opt out after 2022 because while he's having a very nice season, he hasn't replicated his production from his final season in Houston. Correa's deal also contains a player opt out after 2023.
6. Justin Verlander, Houston Astros
Despite missing the better part of the last two seasons as he recovered from Tommy John Surgery, Verlander secured a two-year/$50 million deal from the Astros this past offseason. The future Hall of Famer has a 1.73 ERA, 2.98 FIP and 3.8 fWAR across 130 innings, the exact threshold he needed to hit to trigger the ability to opt out this offseason. The guess here is that the 39-year-old will opt out and secure a multi-year deal, whether it's with the Astros or someone else.
7. Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
If you could guarantee the health of deGrom, he'd likely be at No. 1 on this list. In his first two starts of the 2022 season, deGrom has already struck out 18 batters, flashing perhaps the greatest pitch repertoire in MLB history. There's a very real chance that deGrom will decline the $30.5 million option that he has for 2023 and see what's out there on the open market.
8. Carlos Rodón, San Francisco Giants
Farhan Zaidi and the Giants probably erred in allowing Kevin Gasman to leave and sign a free-agent contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, but scooped up Rodón when his market didn't develop how he anticipated it would. After a career-year with the Chicago White Sox in 2021, Rodón is a Cy Young contender with the Giants in 2022, as he has a 2.95 ERA and 2.27 FIP over 128 1/3 innings pitched. Still only 29, Rodón seems likely to decline his $22.5 million option for 2023.
9. Edwin Díaz, New York Mets
Sound the trumpets, Díaz may be putting together the greatest contract year that a closer has ever had. In 45 games, Díaz has a 1.39 ERA and 0.82 FIP, while having converted 26 of 29 save attempts. Díaz figures to set a new high water mark for relievers this offseason.
10. Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves
Swanson was an All-Star for the first time in 2022, and is putting together the finest season of his career right before he reaches the open market. The 28-year-old is slashing .292/.348/.461 with 16 home runs, 12 outs above average and a 4.8 fWAR. It would be a great story if the Georgia native spends his entire career in Atlanta, but if he holds out for the most money possible, there's a very real chance that Swanson will be playing for someone other than the Braves in 2023.
11. Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets
In a league without a ton of impact center fielders or players capable of hitting consistently out of the leadoff spot, Nimmo will draw quite a bit of interest if he reaches free agency next offseason. The 29-year-old is an on-base machine (.385 career on-base percentage) who has eight outs above average in center field since the start of the 2021 season. The most likely scenario seems to be that the Mets will re-sign Nimmo, a first-round pick of the team in 2011. But if the Mets pivot to Starling Marte in center field, Audacy Sports MLB Insider Jon Heyman has already mentioned the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers as potential suitors for Nimmo in free agency.
12. Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
Contreras is one of the best catchers in baseball, and helped the Cubs to snap a 108-year World Series drought back in 2016. However, he'll turn 31 during the 2023 season and already doesn't have very good defensive metrics. So if Contreras is looking for a deal longer than two or three seasons, the three-time All-Star may not have a ton of teams willing to give him what he wants.
13. Josh Bell, San Diego Padres
He may have been a relative afterthought in the Juan Soto trade, but Bell is a tremendous player in his own right. The switch-hitting first baseman is slashing .297/.383/.482 with an .865 OPS in 2022. He should be able to secure a pretty lucrative three-year deal this offseason.
14. J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox
Martinez is in the final year of a five-year/$110 million contract, and remains a very effective offensive player, as evidenced by his .281/.347/.449 slash line in 2022. While Martinez is capable of playing in left or right field on occasion, the DH becoming universal should mean he has a ton of teams interested in his services this winter.
15. Nathan Eovaldi, Boston Red Sox
If Eovaldi had become a free agent after the 2022 season -- one where he finished fourth in American League Cy Young Award voting -- he would have been in demand. However, he has struggled to stay healthy throughout the course of his career, and the 32-year-old has a 4.23 ERA and 4.45 FIP in 2022. At his best, Eovaldi is one of the most electric pitchers in the game. But anyone signing him would be taking on quite the risk, as the Red Sox have found out during the lifetime of his four-year/$68 million deal.