Predicting MLB Free Agent Contracts For Top Names of the 2022-23 Class

Joel ReuterJune 16, 2022

Predicting MLB Free Agent Contracts For Top Names of the 2022-23 Class

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 11: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees in action against the Chicago Cubs at Yankee Stadium on June 11, 2022 in New York City. New York Yankees defeated the Chicago Cubs 8-0. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    There were 11 different players who received a contract of $100 million or more in free agency last offseason, led by Corey Seager who signed a 10-year, $325 million deal with the Texas Rangers.

    That list will likely be shorter this offseason, but there are still a number of high-profile players set to hit the open market, including New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner and San Diego Padres budding ace Joe Musgrove.

    Ahead, we've taken a crack at predicting the top free-agent contracts that will be handed out during the upcoming offseason, with at least a handful of players in the running for a nine-figure payday.

    Included is a look at where each player ranked on our recently updated free agency big board for context, and players are listed in order of total projected contract value.

    Let's start with a quick rundown of some honorable mentions.

Other FA Contract Predictions

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    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 31: J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox at bat against the Cincinnati Reds  during the fourth inning at Fenway Park on May 31, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
    J.D. Martinez (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Hitters

    1B Jose Abreu: 1 year/$18M
    1B Josh Bell: 4 years/$60M
    OF Michael Brantley: 2 years/$32M
    OF Joey Gallo: 1 year/$20M
    DH J.D. Martinez: 2 years/$40M
    OF Joc Pederson: 3 years/$39M
    C Christian Vazquez: 2 years/$16M


    Pitchers

    LHP Tyler Anderson: 2 years/$22M
    LHP Aroldis Chapman: 1 year/$16M
    RHP Mike Clevinger: 3 years/$48M
    RHP Zach Eflin: 4 years/$48M
    RHP Kenley Jansen: 2 years/$30M
    LHP Clayton Kershaw: 1 year/$17M
    LHP Sean Manaea: 4 years/$60M
    RHP Rafael Montero: 3 years/$24M
    LHP Taylor Rogers: 3 years/$45M
    RHP Noah Syndergaard: 2 years/$32M
    RHP Michael Wacha: 2 years/$20M


    If They Opt-Out

    SS Xander Bogaerts: 8 years/$240M
    SS Carlos Correa: 3 years/$114M
    LHP Carlos Rodon: 3 years/$75M

LHP Martin Perez

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    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JUNE 11: Starting pitcher Martin Perez #54 of the Texas Rangers delivers the baseball in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 11, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
    Quinn Harris/Getty Images

    FA Big Board Rank: 7

    Contract Prediction: Four years, $64 million

    Regardless of what the final figure is, Martin Perez has put himself in position for a massive raise over the one-year, $4 million deal he signed with the Texas Rangers this past offseason.

    Despite breaking into the big leagues over a decade ago, Perez entered the 2022 season with a 4.71 ERA in 1,102.2 career innings. That will give some reason for pause when looking at his terrific 2.18 ERA through 74.1 innings this season.

    However, the 31-year-old's 2.72 FIP provides plenty of optimism that he can keep it going, and a reworked approach that includes more sinkers and fewer four-seam fastballs has been one of the keys to his success.

    Sean Manaea, Zach Eflin, Mike Clevinger, Michael Wacha, Noah Syndergaard and Tyler Anderson are also prime candidates for multiyear deals in the $12-18 million range annually based on how things play out in the second half.

RHP Jameson Taillon

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    NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 12: Jameson Taillon #50 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at Yankee Stadium on June 12, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
    Adam Hunger/Getty Images

    FA Big Board Rank: 9

    Contract Prediction: Four years, $72 million

    Jameson Taillon has pitched like a frontline starter in the past, posting a 3.20 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with 179 strikeouts in 191 innings during the 2018 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    The 30-year-old has a lengthy injury history, but he was healthy enough to make 29 starts last season for a 4.30 ERA in 144.1 innings, and he's off to a fantastic start in his second season in New York.

    Through 12 starts, he's gone 7-1 with a 2.93 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 67.2 innings, and he has yet to give up more than four earned runs in any start.

    Aaron Judge will dominate the headlines, but re-signing Taillon should also be a priority for the Yankees.

OF Brandon Nimmo

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 05: New York Mets center fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) waits for the pitch during a regular season game between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers on June 5, 2022, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    FA Big Board Rank: 8

    Contract Prediction: Five years, $85 million

    Brandon Nimmo has two major factors working in his favor in free agency.

    The 29-year-old can play all three outfield spots, and he has been an on-base machine throughout his career, which is a skill that generally doesn't erode as dramatically over time compared to power and speed.

    Staying healthy has been an issue, as he's only played more than 100 games once in the big leagues, but his .390 career on-base percentage and the fact that he won't turn 30 until next March should help negate those red flags.

    The big question is whether the Mets will make more of an effort to re-sign him than they did with Michael Conforto last offseason.

RHP Edwin Diaz

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    ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 12: New York Mets pitcher Edwin Diaz (39) throws a pitch during the MLB game between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on June 12, 2022 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    FA Big Board Rank: 13

    Contract Prediction: Five years, $90 million

    The largest contract ever given to a relief pitcher was the five-year, $86 million deal Aroldis Chapman signed with the New York Yankees prior to the 2017 season, and that's the mark Edwin Diaz will be aiming to beat in free agency.

    The 28-year-old has struck out 48 of the 100 batters he has faced on the year, posting a 2.13 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and a .180 opponents' batting average while converting 12 of 15 save chances.

    With an upper-90s fastball and a lethal wipeout slider, he has some of the most overpowering stuff in baseball, and his elite strikeout rate pushes him ahead of Taylor Rogers, Kenley Jansen, Rafael Montero, Daniel Bard and the other top relievers on the market.

OF Andrew Benintendi

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    CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 30: Andrew Benintendi #16 of the Kansas City Royals waits to bat against the Cleveland Guardians during the first inning at Progressive Field on May 30, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
    Ron Schwane/Getty Images

    FA Big Board Rank: 6

    Contract Prediction: Five years, $100 million

    Andrew Benintendi is one of the youngest players in the upcoming free agency class, as he won't turn 28 years old until July 6.

    Once the No. 1 prospect in baseball prior to the 2017 season, he finished runner-up in AL Rookie of the Year voting that year and followed it up with a 4.8-WAR season in 2018, but his development stalled. The Boston Red Sox ultimately decided to trade him to the Kansas City Royals prior to last season.

    After posting a 106 OPS+ with 17 home runs and 73 RBI last season, he's hitting .298/.365/.387 with 14 extra-base hits and 1.5 WAR in 60 games this year, and he's a safe candidate to be dealt ahead of the trade deadline.

    Along with his remaining offensive upside, he also won a Gold Glove in left field last year, and he's more than capable of handling center field if needed. All of that along with his age and contract-year production could be enough for him to match the five-year, $100 million deal Nick Castellanos signed last offseason.

SS Dansby Swanson

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    ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 12: Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson adjusts his helmet as he walks up to the batters box during the seventh inning of a MLB game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves on Sunday, June 12, 2022 at Truist Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    FA Big Board Rank: 5

    Contract Prediction: Six years, $108 million

    There might not be player in the 2022-23 free-agent class with a greater variance between his minimum and maximum earning power than Dansby Swanson.

    Assuming Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa both opt out of their contracts to join Trea Turner in free agency, he'll be the fourth-best shortstop on the market. That said, he's still a proven everyday player at a premium position.

    The 28-year-old got off to a slow start this year, but he's hitting .327/.387/.526 in 173 plate appearances since the beginning of May, and his 2.5 WAR through 63 games has already eclipsed the 1.9 WAR he posted all of last season.

    The six-year, $75 million extension Brandon Crawford signed with the San Francisco Giants back in 2015 is a good starting point in negotiations, and a $100 million payday is within reach if he keeps hitting.

C Willson Contreras

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 11: Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on June 11, 2022 in New York City. New York Yankees defeated the Chicago Cubs 8-0. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    FA Big Board Rank: 4

    Contract Prediction: Six years, $132 million

    The five-year, $115.5 million contract J.T. Realmuto signed with the Philadelphia Phillies made him the highest-paid catcher in MLB history based on annual value.

    Willson Contreras has picked the perfect time for the best season of his career, hitting .279/.403/.546 with 11 doubles and 12 home runs. His 2.9 WAR leads all catchers, and his 165 OPS+ ranks ninth among all qualified hitters.

    Will that be enough for him to make a run at a record deal?

    The fact that he has experience playing left field could make him a more attractive target for a long-term contract. He could conceivably move out from behind the plate late in his contract and still remain productive, though it would cut into his overall value.

    The 30-year-old should have a chance to further boost his profile playing for a contender in the second half as one of the most likely trade candidates of the summer.

RHP Joe Musgrove

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    SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 10: Joe Musgrove #44 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the first inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies at PETCO Park on June 10, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    FA Big Board Rank: 3

    Contract Prediction: Seven years, $200 million

    The list of pitchers to receive a deal of $200 million or more is a short oneβ€”Gerrit Cole (9/$324M), Stephen Strasburg (7/$245M), David Price (7/$217M), Clayton Kershaw (7/$215M), Max Scherzer (7/$210M) and Zack Greinke (6/$206.5M).

    Can Joe Musgrove join that exclusive group?

    At surface level, it might seem silly to suggest a pitcher who has never even been named to an All-Star team could receive one of the most lucrative deals in MLB history, but there is a lot working in his favor.

    The 29-year-old will be the top starter on the market, which should help drive a bidding war. He's also sitting in the driver's seat in the NL Cy Young race with a 1.50 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 72 strikeouts in 72 innings while recording a quality start in each of his first 11 outings.

    Considering how difficult it is to find elite-level starting pitching on the open market, an $28.5 million annual salary would be money well spent on a top-tier starting pitcher.

SS Trea Turner

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 05: Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner (6) fields the ball during a regular season game between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers on June 5, 2022, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    FA Big Board Rank: 2

    Contract Prediction: Eight years, $264 million

    Shortstop Trea Turner is roughly two years older than Corey Seager was when he hit the free-agent market for the first time last offseason, so he could have a tough time matching the 10-year contract Seager signed with the Texas Rangers.

    However, the $32.5 million annual value of Seager's deal will be very much on the table, and our eight-year, $264 million prediction would narrowly surpass that mark with a $33 million annual salary.

    Turner is undoubtedly one of the most complete players in the game today. He's coming off a season in which he won the NL batting title (.328), led the league in steals (32) and slugged a career-high 28 home runs while moving seamlessly between shortstop and second base defensively.

    The 28-year-old is hitting .297/.350/.460 for a 124 OPS+ with 23 extra-base hits, 13 steals and 1.7 WAR in 61 games this year, and even if Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa opt out he'll still be the top shortstop on the market thanks to his age and well-rounded skill set.

OF Aaron Judge

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 11: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees in action against the Chicago Cubs at Yankee Stadium on June 11, 2022 in New York City. New York Yankees defeated the Chicago Cubs 8-0. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    FA Big Board Rank: 1

    Contract Prediction: Eight years, $304 million

    Aaron Judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension offer from the New York Yankees just before Opening Day, and betting on himself appears to have been the right move.

    The 30-year-old is hitting .313/.385/.674 for a 199 OPS+ with an MLB-leading 24 home runs in 59 games, and he's holding his own defensively while seeing more action in center field than ever before.

    According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Judge was not seeking a contract beyond eight years during extension talks, and sticking to that number could help him maximize the annual value of his next contract.

    He is playing his way into the $300 million conversation, even with his injury history. It will be interesting to see how far the Yankees are willing to go to keep him in pinstripes.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Tuesday's games.

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