Updated MLB Free-Agency Big Board for 2022-23 Class
We released our first MLB free-agency rankings of the season on April 29, with Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner, New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and San Diego Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove claiming the top three spots.
It's time for an update.
These rankings will be tweaked regularly throughout the
season, and 2022 performance will become a bigger factor as sample sizes
grow. Past production, injury history and age all played a role in determining where players fell in the rankings.
Players with opt-outs and team, player or mutual options were not included, but the notable opt-outs are listed separately along with some honorable mentions.
Off we go.
Notable Opt-Outs and Honorable Mentions
RHP Trevor Bauer
SS Xander Bogaerts
SS Carlos Correa
RHP Jacob deGrom
1B Eric Hosmer
LHP Carlos Rodon
C: Tucker Barnhart, Omar Narvaez, Gary Sanchez, Christian Vazquez
IF: 1B Brandon Belt, UT Brandon Drury, 2B Matt Duffy, 1B/3B Wilmer Flores, 1B Yuli Gurriel, UT Jace Peterson
OF: Ben Gamel, Enrique Hernandez, Odubel Herrera, Tyler Naquin, David Peralta
SP: Chris Bassitt, Nathan Eovaldi, Kyle Gibson, Zack Greinke, Corey Kluber, Chad Kuhl, Michael Lorenzen, Jose Quintana, Adam Wainwright
RP: Daniel Bard, Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Kenley Jansen, Corey Knebel
25. RHP Rafael Montero (Age: 31)
Once a top prospect in the New York Mets system, Montero enjoyed a career renaissance during a shift to the bullpen in 2019. After struggling to a 6.39 ERA in 44 appearances last season, he's been lights out for the Houston Astros, posting a 1.99 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 in 25 games while tallying three wins, four saves and seven holds.
24. 1B Jose Abreu (Age: 35)
It's fair to wonder how much Abreu has left and whether he would consider playing for another team after nine seasons with the Chicago White Sox. He still has a 125 OPS+, seven home runs and 23 RBI, but he's likely limited to short-term deals.
23. OF Michael Brantley (Age: 35)
Age will also be a factor in Brantley's market, though he is still going strong as one of the best pure hitters in baseball. His 129 OPS+ is his best mark since 2015, and the Astros are keeping him fresh by shuffling him between left field and DH. He has received identical two-year, $32 million deals his last two trips to free agency.
22. OF Joc Pederson (Age: 30)
Pederson would rank higher if he weren't a strict platoon player. He has a terrific 158 OPS+ with 13 home runs and 30 RBI, but he's gone just 2-for-12 and struck out four times against left-handed pitching. Still, he'll have no trouble improving on the one-year, $6 million deal he signed last offseason.
21. LHP Tyler Anderson (Age: 32)
Anderson pitched to a 4.53 ERA in 167 innings last season, and the Dodgers signed him to a one-year, $8 million deal to serve as back-of-the-rotation depth. Instead, he's been one of their best starters, going 7-0 and posting a 2.59 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 55.2 innings. He's older than most of the other starting pitchers on this list and has a shorter track record of success, but a multiyear deal should be within reach.
20. OF Joey Gallo (Age: 28)
While his time with the Yankees has not gone as hoped, potential suitors will anticipate getting the Gallo who posted a 138 OPS+, 25 home runs and 4.2 WAR in 95 games with the Texas Rangers to start the 2021 season. Age, tools and track record are all still working in his favor.
19. RHP Michael Wacha (Age: 30)
After posting a 5.39 ERA in 158.2 innings during the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Wacha had to settle for a one-year, $7 million deal from the Boston Red Sox. The former All-Star has rewarded them with a 1.99 ERA and 0.91 WHIP through 49.2 innings, tossing his first shutout since 2017 during his last time out. His stock is up, but his 3.76 FIP and long injury history could limit the length of his next deal.
18. 1B Josh Bell (Age: 29)
Bell has a 37-homer, 116-RBI season on his resume, and he's hitting .296/.369/.417 for a 129 OPS+ with limited protection in a middling Washington Nationals lineup. A switch-hitter with strong contact skills and 30-homer power, he's a better target for a long-term deal than most of the other bat-first players on the market.
17. LHP Sean Manaea (Age: 30)
Manaea has been rock solid in his first and potentially only season with the San Diego Padres after heading over in an offseason trade with the Oakland Athletics. He has a 3.77 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 68 strikeouts in 62 innings, and with a solid history of middle-of-the-rotation production, he could be a candidate for a three- or four-year deal.
16. RHP Zach Eflin (Age: 28)
The fact that he won't turn 29 until next April is a major argument in Eflin's favor for landing a long-term contract. The 6'6" right-hander has been quietly effective with a 4.15 ERA and 103 ERA+ in 89 starts over the last five years, and he has a 3.88 ERA and 3.04 FIP in 51 innings this season.
15. RHP Noah Syndergaard (Age: 29)
Syndergaard signed a one-year, $21 million deal in hopes of rebuilding his stock after pitching two total innings in 2020 and 2021 combined. He has a 3.69 ERA in 46.1 innings, but his stuff is still not all the way back, as his fastball velocity is sitting at 94 mph compared to 97.8 mph pre-injury. The result is a middling 5.8 K/9 strikeout rate, and that will no doubt have an impact on his stock.
14. LHP Taylor Rogers (Age: 31)
Tied for the MLB lead with 18 saves in 21 opportunities, Rogers has been one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball for the past several seasons. He has been equally effective in a setup and closer role, and his slider stands as one of the best breaking pitches in baseball, inducing a 41.9 percent whiff rate this year.
13. RHP Edwin Diaz (Age: 28)
Diaz has some of the most electric stuff in baseball, as he sports a fastball that averages 98.7 mph and a lethal wipeout slider that sits 90.4 mph on the gun and has a 49.6 percent whiff rate this year. He has struck out 41 of the 91 batters he's faced this year while posting a 2.38 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 11 saves in 14 chances.
12. RHP Mike Clevinger (Age: 31)
After missing all of 2021 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and then suffering a knee sprain in April and a triceps strain in May, Clevinger is finally back healthy. He has a 3.18 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 20 strikeouts in 17 innings over four starts, and he has a 3.19 ERA and 10.0 K/9 in 559.1 career innings. If he can stay healthy the rest of the way, he'll climb into the top 10.
11. DH J.D. Martinez (Age: 34)
Martinez is hitting .359/.422/.552 with 25 extra-base hits and a 173 OPS+ that ranks seventh among all qualified hitters. He is also a 34-year-old designated hitter who is starting to see more home runs turn into doubles, and his days as a viable option in the outfield are likely over. A two-year deal might be his ceiling, but he can still flat-out hit.
10. LHP Clayton Kershaw (Age: 34)
Sidelined since early May with SI joint inflammation, Kershaw had a 1.80 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and a 32-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30 innings. His days of chewing through 200 frames are likely behind him, but he can still provide strong production. Expect a series of one-year deals with the Los Angeles Dodgers until he retires, similar to Adam Wainwright in St. Louis.
9. RHP Jameson Taillon (Age: 30)
Taillon is throwing his four-seam fastball less this year and is better utilizing his entire six-pitch arsenal. The result has been fewer strikeouts but a terrific 2.73 ERA (3.06 FIP) and 1.01 WHIP in 62.2 innings, and he has walked just six hitters for an AL-leading 0.9 BB/9 rate. He has some arm issues in his past, but he's peaking at the right time.
8. OF Brandon Nimmo (Age: 29)
An on-base machine throughout his career with a 14.5 percent walk rate and .390 on-base percentage in seven seasons, Nimmo has slumped a bit in June, but he's still hitting .266/.369/.402 for a 122 OPS+ on the year. His ability to play all three outfield spots adds to his appeal.
7. LHP Martin Perez (Age: 31)
Perez made his MLB debut shortly after his 21st birthday as one of the top prospects in baseball. A decade and two teams later, he has found his way back to the Texas Rangers and is looking like a bona fide Cy Young candidate. The left-hander has a 1.56 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 69.1 innings, and he's boosted his stock as much as anyone after signing a one-year, $4 million deal last winter.
6. OF Andrew Benintendi (Age: 27)
After a strong finish to the 2021 season, Benintendi is hitting .320/.382/.411 for a 130 OPS+ as one of the youngest players in the 2022-23 free-agent class. He also won a Gold Glove last season in left field, and he can handle center field if needed. The five-year, $80 million deal that Lorenzo Cain received from the Milwaukee Brewers might be his floor.
5. SS Dansby Swanson
After a slow start to the 2022 season, Dansby Swanson hit .304/.357/.490 with five home runs and 17 RBI in 28 games in May.
He's a quality two-way shortstop who won't turn 29 years old until next February, so a $100 million payday is not out of the question, especially if he continues to hit like he has over the past month.
His 112 OPS+ is the highest he's posted since his 38-game debut in 2016, and in part thanks to his strong defense, he's logged 2.1 WAR on the year, which trails only Jeremy Pena (2.8) and J.P. Crawford (2.5) among all shortstops.
4. C Willson Contreras
Willson Contreras picked the perfect time for a career year.
The Chicago Cubs catcher was already set to be the best backstop on the market this offseason in a class that includes Omar Narvaez, Christian Vazquez, Tucker Barnhart and Gary Sanchez, and his stock has steadily climbed all season.
The five-year, $115.5 million deal that J.T. Realmuto signed in January 2021 could be a target number.
3. RHP Joe Musgrove
The NL Cy Young front-runner, Joe Musgrove has gone 6-0 with a 1.64 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 64 strikeouts in 66 innings, including eight shutout frames of one-hit ball his last time out when he outdueled Milwaukee Brewers ace Corbin Burnes.
He leads the majors with 10 quality starts, and his strong performance this season is just a continuation of last year's breakout.
The right-hander tossed a career-high 181.1 innings in 2021, posting a 3.18 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 203 strikeouts, and he threw a pair of shutouts, including a no-hitter.
He should have no problem eclipsing the contracts given to Robbie Ray (five years, $115 million) and Kevin Gausman (five years, $110 million) this past offseason.
2. SS Trea Turner
Trea Turner is one of the most complete players in baseball.
He won a batting title while leading the NL in steals (32) and hitting a career-high 28 home runs last season, and he did it while seamlessly moving between shortstop and second base to accommodate Corey Seager.
Back to playing shortstop on an everyday basis, he's hitting .299/.354/.467 with 22 extra-base hits, 44 RBI and 12 steals, and he continues to be equally effective against right-handed and left-handed pitching.
He won't turn 29 years old until June 30, and as the top shortstop on the market, he has a good chance to surpass the 10-year, $325 million deal that Seager received from the Texas Rangers.
1. OF Aaron Judge
Slugger Aaron Judge bet on himself this offseason when he turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension offer from the New York Yankees just before Opening Day.
It looks like it was the right call.
With a .315/.385/.685 line that includes an MLB-leading 22 home runs and an absurd 204 OPS+, Judge is the AL MVP front-runner and has arguably been the best player in baseball through two-plus months.
His injury history and the fact that players with his physical profile don't always age particularly well will give teams some pause, but if he keeps playing like this all year, there's little question he'll join the $300 million club this winter.