Fresh Predictions for Top 2022-23 MLB Free Agents with Offseason Approaching | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors
Fresh Predictions for Top 2022-23 MLB Free Agents with Offseason Approaching
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For MLB fans of teams that have fallen out of the postseason race, the focus has already turned into the rapidly approaching offseason and what promises to be another exciting free-agency circus headlined by Aaron Judge and Trea Turner.
As the regular season winds to a close and before the playoffs begin, it’s time for another quick round of free-agency predictions for the offseason ahead.
It’s a mix of projected landing spots, contract estimates, opt-out decisions and even an international target to know.
Opt-Out/Player Option Predictions
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Expect to see Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Jacob deGrom, Carlos Rodon and Justin Verlander All exercise their opt-out clauses or decline their player options to become part of the 2022-23 free-agent class.
From that group, only Bogaerts (four years, $80 million) and Correa (two years, $70.2 million) are leaving multiple years’ worth of guaranteed money on the table. Verlander has a $25 million player option for 2023, while Rodon has a $22.5 million salary with an opt-out that vested when he reached 110 innings pitched.
The most complicated situation is deGrom’s, as he has a $30.5 million player option for 2023 and a $32.5 million club option for 2024. And while there were some questions as to how his market would look given his recent injury issues, those have largely been answered with his fantastic return.
Digging a bit deeper, Mets starter Taijuan Walker ($6 million) also looks like a good bet to decline his player option and test the market.
So who does that leave to decide against opting out?
The big one is Nolan Arenado, who did not exercise his opt-out a year ago but has another one this winter. He is owed $144 million over the final five years of his contract, and with no indication that he is anything but happy in St. Louis, a reworked deal seems more likely than a straight opt-out.
Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale is also a lock to opt into the final three years and $75 million on his deal given his recent injury woes.
Bidding War Between Cubs, Phillies Drives Trea Turner’s Price North of $300 Million
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According to Bob Nightengale of USA Todaythe Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies are both expected to walk away with one of the market’s top free-agent shortstops this winter.
The Phillies can decline a $17 million club option on Jean Segura and shift Bryson Stott to second base to clear a path, while slick-fielding Nico Hoerner can easily move to the other side of the second base to accommodate a major shortstop signing.
With all due respect to Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa, who are both elite-level players, Trea Turner is the best shortstop on the market this winter with contact ability (.304 BA, 18.0 K%), power (125 OPS+, 38 2B). , 20 HR), speed (25 SB, 93 R) and defense (3.9 DEF) in the midst of a 4.8-WAR season.
The 29-year-old might not be able to match the 10-year deal that a 27-year-old Corey Seager landed last winter, but he could make a run at becoming the next $300 million player with an AAV exceeding the $35.1 million figure that Correa secured last offseason, especially if the Cubs and Phillies both pencil him into the No. 1 spot on their wish list.
Rafael Montero Gets the Surprise Deal of the Winter
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Rafael Montero has been a revelation in the Houston Astros bullpen this season, posting a 2.34 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 9.6 K/9 while tallying 13 saves and 20 holds in 64 appearances.
Once a top prospect in the New York Mets farm system, he reinvented himself as a reliever after flaming out as a starter, but after struggling to a 6.39 ERA in 44 appearances last season, his MLB future was cloudy at best.
His 96.4 mph fastball velocity is a career high, and he has generated a 34.7 percent whiff rate with the pitch. For analytically driven teams, he also has some of the best batted-ball data of any pitcher in baseball this year.
There regularly seems to be pitchers who land a contract well beyond expectations.
Jon Gray (4/$56M) with the Texas Rangers last year. Drew Pomeranz (4/$34M) with the San Diego Padres a few years ago. Tyler Chatwood (3/$38M) with the Chicago Cubs during the 2017-18 offseason.
Don’t be surprised if Montero lands a deal well beyond any first-blush expectations this winter.
Japanese League Star Koudai Senga Shakes Up the Pitching Market
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It will likely still be a few years before we see budding Japanese League superstars Roki Sasaki (20 years old) and Munetaka Murakami (22 years old) as potential options to make their way stateside, but there is at least one star poised to make the jump from Japan.
Right-hander Koudai Senga has been one of Japan’s top pitchers for the better part of a decade, going 103-51 with a 2.43 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 1,472 strikeouts in 1,327.2 innings with the Softbank Hawks. This season, the 29-year-old has gone 10-6 with a 2.00 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 145 strikeouts in 135 innings.
He has an opt-out in his current contract with the Hawks following the 2022 season, and Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported in August that he is expected to exercise that opt-out to explore MLB opportunities.
With a plus fastball and a lethal splitter, he has a chance to shake up the pitching market this winter if he opts out as expected.
Atlanta Braves Extend Dansby Swanson Before He Hits the Open Market
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Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported in mid-August that the Atlanta Braves have opened extension talks with shortstop Dansby Swanson.
The 28-year-old is enjoying the best season of his career, hitting .280/.335/.443 for a 115 OPS+ with 30 doubles, 20 home runs, 88 RBI, 93 runs scored and 17 steals in a 4.9-WAR season that has nearly eclipsed the past three years combined.
Rookie Vaughn Grissom played primarily shortstop in the minors, and he’s currently keeping second base warm for Ozzie Albies. However, most expected him to move off of shortstop in the majors, and his long-term home could be in left field with Austin Riley and Matt Olson locked in at the corners. With that in mind, there is not an immediate in-house replacement for Swanson at shortstop if he were to depart.
The six-year, $140 million deals that Trevor Story and Javier Baez signed last winter are a reasonable starting point in negotiations. However, both of those players had a longer track record of success, so something closer to six years and $100-120 million might be agreeable to both sides.
Similar to when the San Francisco Giants locked up Hunter Pence in late September 2013 before he had a chance to hit the open market, expect the Braves and Swanson to hammer out a new deal before free agency starts.
Edwin Díaz Becomes Baseball’s First $100 Million Reliever
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The five-year, $86 million deal that Aroldis Chapman signed with the New York Yankees prior to the 2017 season still stands as the largest contract ever given to a relief pitcher, but not for much longer.
Edwin Díaz figures to eclipse that mark this offseason on the heels of a truly dominant 2022 campaign, and given his age and track record of success, a $100 million deal is very much in the realm of possibility.
The 28-year-old has a 1.40 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 17.1 K/9 with 31 saves in 34 chances this year, and he has struck out an absurd 107 of the 218 batters he has faced thanks to his lethal fastball-slider combination .
With 204 career saves and a rock-solid 2.96 ERA and 14.8 K/9 in 400 appearances, the reputation, stuff and recent performance are all in place for him to become baseball’s first $100 million bullpen arm.
Will it be the Mets who cut the check?
Aaron Judge Gets $40 Million AAV to Stay with Yankees
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Aaron Judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension offer just before Opening Day, and now the question is not whether he will match that offer, but just how far beyond it his asking price will climb.
The 30-year-old is putting together one of the greatest contract years in MLB history as he looks to etch his name in the New York Yankees’ single-season record books while leading the majors in a number of offensive categories.
After playing in 148 games last season, he has been healthy once again this year, and that will have as big of an impact as anything on his bargaining power after he played in just 63 percent of the team’s games during the three-year stretch from 2018 through 2020.
Those injury concerns could keep offers from going any higher than the seven years that the Yankees initially offered, but the annual value of that deal is going to climb significantly thanks to his MVP-caliber performance.
A seven-year, $280 million deal would make him just the second player in MLB history with an AAV of $40 million, joining Max Scherzer, whose deal was only a three-year pact with the New York Mets.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Tuesday’s games.