2022 MLB Free Agents: Predictions for Top Pitchers Set to Hit Open Market

Erik BeastonOctober 2, 2022

2022 MLB Free Agents: Predictions for Top Pitchers Set to Hit Open Market

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    New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom ooks on in the dugout during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)
    AP Photo/Noah K. Murray

    The 2022-23 offseason will be dominated by discussion, speculation and, ultimately, historic contracts for some of baseball's best and most prominent pitchers.

    Mets star Jacob deGrom may be the most intriguing free agent-to-be, but veterans Chris Sale, David Price and Justin Verlander figure to have their names in the headlines as teams assess their needs and willingness to dedicate big-money deals to their rotations.

    Ahead of what figures to be a frantic stretch, find out which star pitchers may be looking for new homes this offseason.

David Price

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - AUGUST 29: David Price #33 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot park on August 29, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
    Eric Espada/Getty Images

    The 2022 season is the conclusion of the seven-year deal Price signed with Boston, and there is no guarantee he will play beyond it.

    Price has been far from healthy this season but still appeared in 40 games, earning two wins and producing an ERA of 2.45 and WHIP of 1.17. He added 37 strikeouts to go along with those stats, showing flashes of the dominant pitcher he once was.

    Healthy or not, it appears as though Price's days on the mound are numbered. The 37-year-old has been open about leaning toward retirement following the season, as he told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register as far back as July.

    In that discussion with Plunkett, he suggested his children's desire to have him home is likely to play a significant role in his decision but admitted that their answers change on a whim.

    If he does wrap up a stellar career, Price will have the opportunity to do so with a Dodgers team that has set the franchise record for wins in a season. They have as strong a chance of repeating as World Series champions.

    Win or lose, it feels more likely that Price steps away from the game following the season, leaving the Dodgers to seek out a veteran bullpen presence during the offseason.

    Prediction: Price retires

Chris Sale

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    Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Sunday, July 17, 2022, in New York. The Yankees won 13-2. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)
    AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson

    Chris Sale has pitched just 11 starts and 5.2 innings for the Red Sox since signing a massive $145 million extension with the team prior to the 2020 season, making him one of the most expensive nonfactors in the majors.

    That may sound harsh but he is very self-aware of the frustration and disappointment surrounding his lack of availability. He told reporters this past spring, "I have more teammates picking up my slack, doing my job, and I'm getting paid to do nothing. That sucks, and I'm not afraid to say it. That's who I am and that's what I believe," per John Tomase of NBC Sports.

    That leaves Sale in an interesting position. He has already addressed the fact that he has not lived up to expectations since extending his contract with Boston so there is really only one thing he can (and should) do: opt-out.

    Restructure a deal that has payments deferred through 2039, a contract only Bobby Bonilla could love. Come to an agreement with Boston that is more team-friendly and prove that he is not only a man of his word but that his greatest concern is winning.

    Baseball is a business though and considering he is still looking for a deal that is mutually beneficial, an opt-out could take him elsewhere. Perhaps to a team on the brink of greatness and looking for that one last piece of the puzzle to put them over the top.

    It remains to be seen if Sale can be that guy given the laundry list of injuries that have plagued him over the last three seasons (elbow surgery, neck strain, broken rib, broken pinky and a broken wrist).

    If he can recover, he still likely possesses the skills that led Boston to reward him with the massive extension in the first place and that could lead to the Red Sox working with their star to ensure he is tossing strikes in Fenway for the foreseeable future.

    Prediction: Sale opts out, restructures, stays in Boston

Jacob deGrom

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    ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 30: New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) delivers a pitch during the Friday evening MLB game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves on September 30, 2022 at Truist Park in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    DeGrom is going to make a significant amount of money this offseason when he opts out of his current deal with the New York Mets and renegotiates for a market-moving contract. Arguably the best pitcher in the game when healthy and on the mound for his team, deGrom is likely to get offers in the range of what teammate Max Scherzer did an offseason ago (three years, $130 million).

    Mets owner Steve Cohen has already expressed his desire to keep deGrom in the blue and orange as recently as a late-August appearance on The Show with Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman.

    Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts told Heyman that "no one compares" to the 34-year-old. An insider echoed those statements in a text to Heyman when asked what contract deGrom gets when all is said and done: "Whatever the best pitcher in baseball is worth."

    Of course, there are some that will question his health and ability to consistently contribute to the organization but he dominated the month of August (55 strikeouts and 1.98 ERA in 36.1 innings) and was one of the few bright spots in September for a Mets team that inexplicably slumped against teams they should have beaten.

    The Mets are the only team deGrom has ever known, and while there will be other clubs offering enormous contracts, one has to imagine that if New York comes back with comparable numbers, he will stay put and work toward the team's first World Series title since the infamous 1986 squad.

    Prediction: deGrom opts out, signs megadeal to return to New York

Justin Verlander

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    HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 28: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros reacts to striking out Pavin Smith #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks to get out of the seventh inning with two men on base at Minute Maid Park on September 28, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    The idea of a 39-year-old pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery and having a career year should be unfathomable. That career year coming in one as great as Verlander's has been should make it that much more so.

    Thankfully for Verlander and the Houston Astros, the AL Cy Young Award contender does not deal in shoulds.

    The best pitcher in, arguably, the best rotation in the league has amassed a 17-4 record while allowing the lowest ERA of his career (1.80) in 27 starts. He has been nothing short of phenomenal in 2022 and created an unprecedented question heading into the offseason: What exactly is the market for a player of his kind?

    It would be ridiculous to expect that Verlander will replicate this season again. It is already unheard of that he has managed to compile the sort of year he has at his age and considering the injury he is coming off. Continuing that into age 40 and beyond would be seemingly impossible.

    But so was everything he accomplished thus far in 2022.

    Traditional spenders like the Yankees, Mets and Dodgers will be eager to throw enormous offers his way. Ditto for the Mets, in particular, if they lose out on bringing deGrom back into the fold. The question is whether the Astros are willing to compete with those offers.

    The answer: probably not.

    The team has a solid bullpen full of pitchers ready to step into the starting rotation should Verlander head elsewhere. That he is likely looking for a short-term, astronomical (no pun intended) deal makes it even less likely that Houston ponies up the cash necessary to keep him around.

    Look for the Yankees to be a major player, especially if the season does not end with them celebrating a World Series win. The Phillies should not be out of the question, either, though the price will have to be right for that to happen.

    Verlander is a future Hall of Famer and should win his third Cy Young in the coming month. He may not be a long-term fix for a team in need of a starting pitcher but he is as good now as he has ever been and will benefit one of the perennial powerhouses chasing another Commissioner's Trophy.

    Prediction: Verlander wraps things up in New York as a Yankee on a one-year, $35-40 million deal


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