With the Hot Stove turned on, I’m jumping right into my team and contract predictions for the top free agents on the MLB market. I did intentionally rank these players but their number ranking isn’t worth obsessing over; like, I don’t know if I would pay Taijuan Walker over Josh Bell. There is more intention behind the tiers of these players, all of whom I deemed worthy of inclusion either because they are obvious cases for a Top 30 list or because they are interesting enough to merit input. 30 is somewhat of an arbitrary number for this list, but with this being baseball I’ll aim to accurately guess the destinations of 9+ of these players and bat .300 in the process. To make this exercise harder on myself, I excluded these softball qualifiers:
- Already accepted offers: Edwin Diaz (NYM), Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
- Qualifying Offer recipients who might accept it: Tyler Anderson (LAD), Martin Perez (TEX), Nathan Eovaldi (BOS), Joc Pederson (SFG)
I’m also doing myself a favor by skipping mid-inning relievers altogether and fringe guys with some of the more boring or weirder profiles on the market (i.e. Joey Gallo, Andrew Heaney). We’ll kick it off with the same guy who’d be in the top spot if this was listed by height and weight…
(Not predicting option years in contracts to avoid over-complicating this.)
THE CROWN JEWEL
- Aaron Judge
Prediction: San Francisco Giants, 9yr/$360mil
I went into greater detail on this outcome in my recent blog on the Yankees offseason, but in short it boils down to a combination of… 1) Judge harboring animosity towards the Yankees for “low-balling” him before the season and essentially bragging about the offer and 2) the Giants being at an organizational crossroads with a largely anonymous roster, an agitated fan base and the power gap between them and the archrival Dodgers growing exponentially. I expect Judge to head home and I think the contract predictions that I’ve read are too low; he’s going to net a stunning amount with likely MVP-esque production in the short term (11.4 WAR in 2022 was the highest since Barry Bonds) coupled with his massive presence on and off the field.
- Trea Turner
Prediction: Chicago Cubs, 8yr/$280mil
Turner, unlike his two fellow shortstops listed behind him, has a good chance to finish his impending mega-deal while still manning the shortstop position. He’s smooth, durable and flat-out one of the best athletes in the sport. I figure the Dodgers will make at least a decent push to retain Turner’s services, but the time has come for Trea to become the guy on his team after sharing a dugout with Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, Mookie Betts, etc. over the first half of his career. The Cubs, following two mediocre seasons, should be ready to cast their line for a big fish after multiple offseasons of mid-tier moves and bargain hunting. Nico Hoerner has developed into a really fine player, but he can easily slide over to 2B and form one of the league’s elite double-play combos with Turner. The all-time list of MLB players with 2,500 hits and 500 steals is a short one and Turner has the potential to join that club.
- Xander Bogaerts
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies, 7yr/$210mil
When the Red Sox opted against trading away Bogaerts midway through a lost season in 2022, it seemed as if he was destined to become a lifer in Boston. However, it sounds like that is no longer the case as the Red Sox prioritize ironing out a long-term extension with Rafael Devers before he heads into his contract year. (If Boston insists that they have to pick between the two, then they are making the right decision.) Bogaerts is a curious case in that he is on the wrong side of 30 and has seen his power dip over four consecutive seasons, but he also just posted the highest WAR of his career in 2022 and turned back the clock with his defense at shortstop. He might no longer bat .300 with his BABIP likely falling south of .340 without assistance from the Green Monster, but this is still one of the best pure hitters in the game who you can set-and-forget in the 2 hole in your lineup. For the Phillies, Dave Dombrowski knows first-hand what Bogaerts can do to propel a team to a championship – imagine Bogaerts in that Philly lineup instead of Jean Segura. Bogaerts would only need to stay at shortstop for a year or two before sliding to 2B or 3B when Alec Bohm is inevitably moved off the hot corner.
- Carlos Correa
Prediction: Minnesota Twins, 3yr/$120mil
Not long before this I wrote that I wouldn’t clarify option years in this exercise, though in this case it feels worthwhile to note that this contract would include player opt-outs after each season. It’s essentially the deal that Correa signed with the Twins last year all over again, just this time with a $5mil raise after he posted a strong season of .291/.366/.467 across nearly 600 plate appearances. It’s evident that Correa is anxious for his version of the Corey Seager contract that I also projected for Trea Turner above, but he’ll have to keep waiting. One, this free agent shortstop class is probably even better than the Class of 2022 that Correa chose to avoid, and with the Cubs and Phillies choosing other options here I’m not positive what other clubs are open to long-term shortstop deals this offseason. Two, I’m just not sure that Correa is a true superstar – hence his No. 4 ranking. He’s not a model of durability, his career high for homers is 26, and his defense isn’t consistently great. There is little doubt that he’s a great player though and to Minnesota he probably is that superstar, so I’m calling for him to stay in the Twin Cities – which he reportedly loves – for at least one more season. Fortunately for Correa, the free agent shortstop Class of 2024 looks TERRIBLE.
- Jacob deGrom
Prediction: New York Yankees, 2yr/$100mil
I covered this prediction in my recent Yankees blog as well, so I’ll only elaborate briefly with a couple of thoughts. It seems like a foregone conclusion that Jacob deGrom will leave Queens; that was probably settled once the Mets guaranteed Max Scherzer $130mil in deGrom’s opt-out year. I also think the ‘Steve Cohen vs. Hal Steinbrenner’ spending battle is a fake narrative spun by the Jon Heyman types of the baseball media, but the Yankees are one of the select few teams that can afford deGrom’s price tag and I do think they would take some pleasure in relocating deGrom to the Bronx.
- Justin Verlander
Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers, 3yr/$105mil
I’m unsure if Dodgers fans have stopped whining about the new playoff format that they blame for the team’s NLDS exit despite winning 111 games in the regular season, but once they do they might start to realize it had more to do with Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson starting games for them with the season on the line. Gonsolin and Anderson are solid pitchers, but this is a juggernaut team in need of another dominant presence atop the rotation. Enter Verlander, who at 40 years old will likely ink the final contract of his career this offseason. He’s about to win the Cy Young Award, though Verlander isn’t exactly at the same level as his 2011 form or even 2018 form. Still, he’s throwing with as much velocity as ever and can be counted on to lead a staff from wire-to-wire across the season. He wouldn’t be my first pick to start a Game 7, but Verlander remains one of the five best starters in the league and the Dodgers can add him for only money.
- Carlos Rodon
Prediction: San Francisco Giants, 5yr/$150mil
Carlos Rodon is an awesome story, going from a guy who was 98% on his way to becoming a castoff and all-time MLB Draft bust to a guy who is now instead a top-shelf starter in line for a nine-figure deal in his near future. Rodon was spectacular in his lone season with the Giants, finishing third in MLB with 237 K’s to go along with a 2.88 ERA – with even better underlying stats. Perhaps more importantly, Rodon started 31 games across 178 innings. He’s not totally out of the woods with injury concerns so no 7-year offers should be anticipated despite Rodon’s recent dominance, but he’ll have multiple teams offering him big money. I’m calling for San Fran and their clean payroll books to pony up to continue their work with Rodon as he gets closer to becoming one of the game’s truly elite pitchers.
ALL STAR BATS
- Dansby Swanson
Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 5yr/$130mil
The Braves have done an unbelievable job of locking up their young talent to build a core that will remain in place for 5+ years, but the writing is on the wall that Swanson is the odd man out despite being the hometown kid and a key member of their 2021 championship team. Aside from Austin Riley, Atlanta has specialized in getting players to agree to long-term deals early in their careers, yet Swanson is closer to the mold of Freddie Freeman in that he is entering his Age 29 season and peaked in a major way in his contract year. His 2022 WAR of 6.4 was nearly double his previous career high and it was largely buoyed by his defensive performance, which especially at shortstop is subject to year-to-year volatility. There is a bit of buyer beware here given that Swanson’s power is good (52 homers over 2021-2022) but not great enough to ignore that he strikes out more than average with pedestrian on-base percentages. I still expect him to land a deal in the range of Javy Baez and Trevor Story from last offseason, and the Cardinals feel like the right fit to buy into his charismatic, plays-the-game-the-right-way persona.
- Willson Contreras
Prediction: Boston Red Sox, 4yr/$80mil
Contreras is a unique case in that he’s essentially a catcher/DH hybrid at this stage of his career and he’ll likely only consider playing for contenders. That only leaves a couple of teams – the Astros and Padres would qualify – but I think Contreras meshes best with the Red Sox. They don’t have much behind the plate on the depth chart beyond a potential platoon option in Reese McGuire and Contreras could fill the role of a fastball-mashing DH vacated by JD Martinez. Contreras hits the ball as hard as anyone in the game, and in 2022 he cut way down on his strikeouts while pulling the ball more than ever in his career. The Green Monster could quickly become Contreras’ best friend.
- Brandon Nimmo
Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 6yr/$120mil
Jerry Dipoto has built quite the foundation in Seattle and it makes sense for him to make one more big move this offseason as a potential final piece to their puzzle. The Mariners’ core might not rival what Alex Anthopoulos has assembled in Atlanta, but Seattle has about a dozen key players locked down for 5+ years. Nimmo could step right into the centerfield job for the Mariners; Julio Rodriguez held his own there last season but better fits the profile of a rightfielder and the Mariners need to do everything they can to protect their best asset. I wouldn’t necessarily want my team to be on the giving end of this contract from either a length or value standpoint, but Nimmo does one thing extremely well: he gets on base. Nimmo’s OBP of .387 since his first full season in 2017 ranks *seventh* in MLB, ahead of names like Paul Goldschmidt and Mookie Betts. That remarkable plate discipline mixed with good athleticism makes Nimmo one of the better leadoff men in the game right now. His 102 runs were good for sixth in MLB in 2022, and the Mariners would be making an understandable bet that he can repeat that feat for a few more years while batting in front of Rodriguez and Ty France.
- Anthony Rizzo
Prediction: New York Yankees, 3yr/$60mil
Yet another item I covered in my recent Yankees blog, it feels like a foregone conclusion that Rizzo will return but I wouldn’t put the odds at 100%. Rizzo made a good bet on himself last offseason by posting a 132 wRC+ and tying his career-high with 32 homers. Somehow still only 33 years old, he’ll top his 2yr/$32mil contract from one year ago and there should be multiple suitors – especially with the impending shift ban that will be a godsend for Rizzo’s profile as a lefty pull hitter. Maybe the Cubs will make a play to bring back Rizzo too, but at the end of the day I still think he irons out a reunion with the Yankees.
SOLID MID-ROTATION STARTERS
- Chris Bassitt
Prediction: New York Mets, 3yr/$60mil
The Mets come into this offseason with somewhere in between millions and billions of roster holes. Perhaps that’s a tad of an exaggeration – particularly with plenty of those holes in the bullpen – but the Mets will surely make free agent additions all over the roster. They have an ace in Max Scherzer, a wild card in Tylor Megill and two good depth guys in Carlos Corrasco and David Peterson, but they are missing their hypothetical Game 2 starter. They shouldn’t need to look too far past their No. 3 starter from a year ago, as Bassitt was one of the best No. 3 arms in the league. He continued exactly what he had done in Oakland for the Mets, eating a bunch of innings with an ERA closer to 3.00 than 4.00. He’s not exactly a doppelganger for deGrom, but Bassitt’s velocity has remained consistent and he actually set a career-high for groundball rate in 2022. There will be a ton of interest in him and it would behoove the Mets to scoop Bassitt up quickly.
- Jameson Taillon
Prediction: Texas Rangers, 4yr/$70mil
Taillon is good – covered in more statistical detail here. It came as a bit of a shock to me that Taillon didn’t receive the $19.5mil qualifying offer from the Yankees. Given that his multi-year AAV will likely fall in the $15-20mil range, it’s now evident that the Yankees won’t be among the top bidders for Taillon’s services. Texas, despite committing half a billion dollars to Corey Seager and Marcus Semien last offseason, isn’t close to completing their rebuild. They’ll likely proceed with multiple mid-tier signings instead of more splash moves, and Taillon – a Texas native – fits that bill. The Rangers, despite their recent struggles, have excelled at getting the most out of their starting pitchers, particularly those with good fastballs like Taillon. This is close to the same deal that Texas gave to Jon Gray one year ago, another former high draft pick that flashed his talent but also struggled with injuries and inconsistency upon his time of signing.
- Taijuan Walker
Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks, 4yr/$60mil
These contract predictions for Taillon and now Walker might come as a shock, but that’s likely what it will take to acquire a good, reliable pitcher without giving up anything in return. Walker, like Taillon, was not given a qualifying offer, so teams will aggressively court him without fear of losing a draft pick for signing him. The Mets bought fairly low on Walker with a 2yr/$20mil contract and he outperformed that, declining his player option to become a free agent. He wasn’t spectacular or anything, but Walker will give your rotation 150+ innings with a mid-3’s ERA. Walker does have talent and improved in 2022 at keeping the ball on the ground and inside the ballpark, so that’s not to say that he comes without upside. That, in combination with his age of 30 and being years removed from Tommy John surgery, should set up Walker for a long-term offer. Arizona makes sense as the team to do so, given that they have an exciting young core in place that should be a contender towards the end of a four-year pact for Walker. Walker’s best season prior to 2022 was also in 2017 for the…Diamondbacks.
- Josh Bell
Prediction: Cleveland Guardians, 4yr/$50mil
It might be strange to find the Guardians on this list that is based on spending, let alone in the middle of it, but I think Bell’s free agency is a fortuitous combination of timing and need for Cleveland. The Guardians enjoyed a Cinderella 2022 season that ended in Game 5 of the ALDS, but that performance should be attributed less to good luck and more to that this is a supremely well-built team with a clear identity and a Hall of Fame manager who holds it all together. Still, they were undone at the end of the day for the primary reason that people doubted this team in the first place: a weak lineup. Outside of Jose Ramirez, this team didn’t have one batter who hit over 20 homers; only 3 hit 12! This is a good team desperately in need of a middle-of-the-lineup presence within their price range. Bell, despite his enormous stature, isn’t one of the top power sources in the league but he’d come to Cleveland with more than enough pop for them. The Guardians damn near refuse to strike out as a team, and Bell is one of the dozen hitters across the league with 40+ homers from 2021-2022 to strike out as seldom as he does. This move would only require Cleveland to spend more like the 25th highest payroll in the league instead of the 30th.
- Jose Abreu
Prediction: Houston Astros, 2yr/$40mil
A move that would terrify fans of other AL teams that also feels more probable than possible, Abreu would fit like a glove in the Astros lineup and into the role that Yuli Gurriel has filled for years. Gurriel, also a free agent, has been an incredibly reliable and clutch player for Houston during this pseudo dynasty of theirs, but his age has started to show and the time has come for an upgrade. Abreu, while 36 himself, has yet to show his age. His power did dip in 2022 with only 15 homers across a full season, but he batted .304 with batted ball data that backs up that number. Abreu will almost surely leave the South Side and seek out a contender; he shouldn’t have to look far beyond the reigning champs for a fair deal.
- Andrew Benintendi
Prediction: Texas Rangers, 6yr/$90mil
This is a bit of a gut call but I think Benintendi will land one of the most head-turning deals of the offseason. He’s still only 28 years old, so a long-term deal should be in play, and he’s coming off his best season since he played a key role on the World Series winning 2018 Red Sox. There aren’t many players who bat .300 anymore and even fewer of them have a good ability to draw walks too, but Benintendi fits that mold. He’s also one of maybe ten everyday leftfielders in the game and many teams are in the market for one, including some contenders like Houston, Atlanta and the Yankees. This is a player who has hit 35 home runs combined since 2019 though, and he’s more of a reliable fielder and baserunner than a good one. I would be terrified to invest in a guy who’s already slugging under .400 but someone will do it for Benintendi’s pedigree, and the Rangers could very well be that team. They have absolutely nobody on the roster equipped to handle LF right now and they could use another veteran bat in front of Semien & Seager too.
- Mitch Haniger
Prediction: New York Mets, 3yr/$45mil
Another prediction here that could be described as bold…I think Haniger lands a deal beyond his expected price. His perceived market is driven down by his long stints on the injured list in recent years, but his last two periods away from the Mariners were due to a sprained ankle and a ruptured testicle. I don’t think suitors should be too afraid of recurrence with those. You aren’t betting on better health with Haniger though; you are buying into the power. Haniger finished 22nd out of 100 qualifiers for at bats per home run in 2021, and it’s a real who’s who of hitters in front of him on that list. There is obviously some baked-in risk, but bats with this much pop don’t hit the open market too often. The Mets went 2-for-2 in mid-tier outfielder signings last offseason with Starling Marte and Mark Canha, so why not try to keep that streak alive with Haniger?
- JD Martinez
Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 3yr/$40mil
We’re probably still a year removed from Baltimore officially shedding its “rebuilding” label and spending closer to the middle of the pack than the bottom of it, but the O’s were too solid in 2022 and have way too much young talent on the major league roster for them to sit out yet another offseason. Baltimore is one of only a few teams, especially among postseason hopefuls, that has a true hole at DH, and that is JD Martinez’s only market at this point of his career. It could make more sense and would certainly be more fun for the Orioles to pursue team legend Trey Mancini for that role instead – more on him soon below – but Martinez is just the better hitter. His power is starting to wane but JD still hit for a 119 wRC+ in 2022 and his batted ball data corroborates that solid offensive output. Martinez is one of the smarter and more innovative hitters in the league, so the relocation from the Green Monster to Camden Yards’ newly cavernous leftfield dimensions could actually help in his transformation from a pull power hitter to an all-fields line drive hitter.
- Michael Brantley
Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays, 2yr/$35mil
The “professional hitter” of all professional hitters, Houston has swiped Brantley on 2yr/$32mil deals TWICE over the last five years and he has proceeded to remain a firmly above-average hitter for every single season with the Astros. The league isn’t going to sit idly by for a third time and let him go back to Texas without a fight. Brantley did injure his shoulder and missed a long period of time due to injury for his first time since 2017, but he was still so damn good with the bat in 2022 that I don’t think some teams will be scared away. Toronto, coming off a disappointing season relative to expectations, could desperately use Brantley in their lineup. Their current projected order is ENTIRELY right-handed and they have DH flexibility. It’s such a perfect fit that they should really up their offer to whatever it monetarily takes.
- Brandon Drury
Prediction: San Diego Padres, 3yr/$30mil
Drury was one of the better surprises of the 2022 season, coming out of nowhere to hit 28 homers with a .812 OPS across a full season with the Reds and Padres. He doesn’t have the best eye at the plate and there has to be some concern that his 2022 performance was a one-year wonder, but Drury is a veteran who chooses his spots to take hacks wisely and barrels the ball with good regularity. He doesn’t necessarily have a true defensive position either, but in the case of the Padres that could be a blessing in disguise. Sure, he could slot in as their primary first baseman, but he’s probably more valuable as a chess piece that can hold his own at 2B or 3B too. On a team with Juan Soto, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis, San Diego needs one or two more guys like Drury too.
- Trey Mancini
Prediction: Tampa Bay Rays, 2yr/$20mil
Midway through the season it appeared that Mancini could have been batting cleanup for the Orioles in an October baseball game with a big contract coming his way in free agency shortly afterward. Well, that’s not how it went. Baltimore chose to trust the process over the goodwill of their 2022 club and dealt Mancini to the Astros, where he proceeded to bat just .176 and lose his DH job in the postseason. Still, I expect Mancini to have a decent market. Players slump after midseason trades every year and Mancini, at only 31 years old, should be in the prime of his career. He’s still pummeling the ball and can play a little first base if needed. The Camden Yards expansion depressed his home run total to 18 when it likely should have fallen more in the 25-30 range, and sharp teams – like Houston did – will surely take notice of that. The Rays are a sharp team. Shouldn’t take too much convincing to sell Mancini, a Central Florida native, on calling The Trop his new home.
EITHER A NO. 2 OR NO. 5 PITCHER
- Kodai Senga
Prediction: San Diego Padres, 4yr/$45mil
I won’t pretend to know much about Senga, one of the better pitchers in Japan. I haven’t seen him pitch, but I’ll rely on the scouting community in that he’s got a high-velocity arm with some risk in how it translates to the MLB. I do have a good idea which MLB teams are shopping in this general price range for a back-end starter with upside though, and the Padres fit that description. Darvish/Musgrove/Snell is a terrific Top 3 but there isn’t much in place for San Diego after that with Mike Clevinger and Sean Manaea hitting free agency and none of their other internal options stepping up in 2022. The Padres are also one of the more active teams in signing pro players from the Asian leagues, so this makes enough sense for me.
- Sean Manaea
Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 2yr/$30mil
Speaking of Manaea, he isn’t hitting free agency at the best point of his career. Things generally went well for the 2022 Padres but Manaea bombed in his lone season in San Diego. He pitched to a 4.96 ERA across 28 regular season starts and then was skipped over for postseason starts. Not good. Still, he’s only 30 and one year removed from his 2021 season where he sported a much better 3.91 ERA and above-average strikeout and walk rates. Manaea has never had overpowering stuff, but he gets better extension than any pitcher in the game with his massive frame and can get whiffs at the top of the zone when he’s on. He should seek out a pitcher’s park on a deal that will allow him to reset then retest the market in a year or two. Baltimore, who has a bunch of young talented pitchers but nobody resembling an Opening Day starter for 2023, should be interested in that arrangement.
A GOOD CLOSER
- Kenley Jansen
Prediction: Boston Red Sox, 2yr/$30mil
With Edwin Diaz, Rafael Montero and Robert Suarez all returning to their teams before bidding even opened, this is shaping up as one of the weakest classes of free agent relievers in recent memory. Jansen is practically the only true closer option too, unless you’re interested in Craig Kimbrel – who posted a 4.04 xFIP and lost the closer job for the Dodgers heading into October. It was a mistake for the Dodgers to let Jansen walk, as he had 41 saves for the Braves (2nd in MLB). Jansen’s ERA did rise a bit to 3.38, but his control improved and his underlying stats were as good as they’ve been since he was the best closer in baseball during the mid-2010s. Jansen is closer to the 10th best closer than the best closer heading into 2023, but that position has been a mess for Boston for years so they’d be more than fine with that. Given the aforementioned lack of bullpen talent in the market, Jansen shouldn’t have an issue getting a two-year commitment.
A GOOD CATCHER
- Christian Vazquez
Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates, 3yr/$30mil
In a vacuum, Vazquez might be my personal favorite value on the free agent market this offseason. Catchers who can hit are valued at a premium and yet it sounds like Vasquez might not be too hot of a commodity this offseason. Looking around, most sites have him ranked near the bottom of their Top 50 Free Agents lists or off those lists altogether. Vazquez, like what I wrote about Trey Mancini earlier, struggled offensively following a midseason trade to Houston. Before that trade though, he had a .282 average and 109 OPS+ for Boston, in line with his positive offensive production for the Sox from 2019-2020. He’s excellent defensively too; the eye test backs up his 11 defensive runs saved that tied for 4th in MLB among all catchers. At only 32 years old, there SHOULD be a bidding war for Vazquez but that might not be the case. The Pirates surely aren’t the typical player in free agency, but Ben Cherington knows Vazquez well from Boston and should get the ownership approval on a $10mil AAV for a good catcher. Pittsburgh has two elite catching prospects in Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez, but Davis isn’t that close yet and Rodriguez is a catching prospect in the same way that Kyle Schwarber was. Vazquez would have a clear path to the primary catcher job for at least two years in Pittsburgh.
- Noah Syndergaard
Prediction: Houston Astros, 1yr/$15mil
This final tier is dedicated to big names who should sign boom-or-bust one-year contracts. In the case of the other players, they will likely only get offered one-year deals, but my opinion is that Syndergaard should seek one out. Syndergaard has long been a misunderstood pitcher; he was a flamethrower deserving of the “Thor” moniker when he broke onto the MLB scene, but even when he was still a good pitcher for the Mets from 2018-2019 he wasn’t tallying too many strikeouts. He was still throwing gas then, sure, but he was pounding the zone for routinely weak contact. His fastball looks much weaker now post-Tommy John surgery – very few starting pitchers had a worse strikeout rate than Syndergaard in 2022 – but he still had a decent season with a 3.94 ERA in 135 innings. Syndergaard still knows how to get outs on his own, but the Astros pitching factory could do him some good – especially if he gains another tick or two on his fastball further removed from surgery. He could cash in for 2024 with a better year in Houston.
- Corey Kluber
Prediction: Cleveland Guardians, 1yr/$10mil
I wouldn’t blame you for missing that Corey Kluber stayed healthy for the 2022 Rays and pitched a 3.0 WAR season, because I missed it myself! Kluber’s command was as immaculate as ever, walking only 21 batters in 164 innings, and he notched an adequate strikeout total too. Still, those strikeouts were down compared to even his 2021 season with the Yankees, and Kluber’s average fastball now sits below 90 MPH. The end is near for the two-time Cy Young Award winner, but he could still have one more respectable season in that right arm. It would be really cool for Kluber to spend his final season back in Cleveland as the elder statesman of that young staff.
- Mike Clevinger
Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 1yr/$10mil
I don’t have too much to write about Clevinger mostly because he was mediocre for the Padres in 2022 and admittedly just isn’t someone I like. It’s unclear whether or not he’s still got it and comes along with injury and off-field question marks too, but he’s a well-known commodity with data that doesn’t lie about how flat-out good he was not too long ago. Clevinger threw 200 innings for Cleveland in 2018 and then looked even more dominant in 2019 before arm injuries began to set in. I’m skeptical if that version of Clevinger is ever coming back, but the Angels can afford the risk/reward game of any one-year deal with Shohei Ohtani entering his final year in Anaheim.
- Michael Conforto
Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 1yr/$15mil
I meant it when I said ANY one-year deal for the Angels. Michael Conforto makes Clevinger look like a run-of-the-mill free agent. At one point not too long ago, Conforto was a 27 year old former All Star coming off a (shortened) 2020 season where he hit .322/.412/.515 for the Mets. He turned down a nine-figure offer from the team and, while that is painful on his behalf to look back on now, it was an understandable decision at the time. Conforto then proceeded to have a disappointing 2021 season, received and rejected the qualifying offer from the Mets, then suspiciously opted to have shoulder surgery just around the same time as no market materialized for him with the draft pick compensation attached to his free agency. Now that Conforto is finally free and reportedly healthy, he can sign anywhere he wants. The question is…who will want Conforto now? Unless he had the greatest shoulder surgery in the history of orthopedics, he probably isn’t going to hit for much power and I’m not sure if any team would feel good about penciling him in as their Opening Day rightfielder. That brings us back to the Angels, who currently have Mickey Moniak atop the depth chart in LF. At that point, why not?
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