Predicting Every $100 Million MLB Contract Signed During 2022-23 Offseason

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesFeatured Columnist IVNovember 8, 2022

Predicting Every $100 Million MLB Contract Signed During 2022-23 Offseason

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    Aaron Judge
    AP Photo/Eric Gay

    Aaron Judge is about to be a very rich man, but how rich exactly? And how many other Major League Baseball free agents are destined for contracts in excess of $100 million this winter?

    We've already seen Edwin Díaz get a five-year, $102 million deal to remain the Mets closer, but who's next?

    Not that long ago, nine-figure contracts awarded to MLB free agents were relatively rare. There were just four during the 2019-20 offseason (Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon and Zack Wheeler) and three the following year (George Springer, J.T. Realmuto and Trevor Bauer).

    But there were 11 handed out last offseason, and we could see even more than that this winter.

    While we don't know where each of this year's free agents will ultimately sign, we can reasonably guess the lengths and amounts of the contracts they'll get.

    Contracts are listed in ascending order of anticipated total value. That means a three-year, $130 million contract would appear before an eight-year, $260 million contract even though the former has an average salary about $11 million higher than the latter.

The Potential Pre-Free-Agency Megadeals

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    Juan Soto
    AP Photo/Matt Rourke

    The players in this section are still under team control for at least one more season and don't necessarily need to sign a major contract this offseason. But they are all candidates to sign a nine-figure contract soon, and it might be this winter.

    Players appear in alphabetical order by last name.

    Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets

    Randy Arozarena, LF, Tampa Bay Rays

    Shane Bieber, RHP, Cleveland Guardians

    Walker Buehler, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

    Corbin Burnes, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

    Jazz Chisholm Jr., 2B, Miami Marlins

    Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox

    Max Fried, LHP, Atlanta Braves

    Zac Gallen, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, Toronto Blue Jays

    Josh Hader, LHP, San Diego Padres

    Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Los Angeles Angels

    Jeremy Peña, SS, Houston Astros

    Juan Soto, RF, San Diego Padres

    Gleyber Torres, 2B, New York Yankees

    Kyle Tucker, RF, Houston Astros

    Julio Urías, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

    Framber Valdez, LHP, Houston Astros

    Logan Webb, RHP, San Francisco Giants

    Brandon Woodruff, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

The "Maybe Gets to Nine Figures on a Long-Enough Deal" Tier

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    Willson Contreras
    AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

    While Aaron Judge is surely going to be signing a contract worth a quarter of a billion dollars, 11 free agents can be counted in the "maybe on a long enough contract" $100 million club. In alphabetical order by last name, they are:

    Chris Bassitt, RHP, New York Mets: With a 3.13 ERA since the start of 2020, Bassitt should be headed for a deal in excess of $20 million per year. But he turns 34 in February, and 2022 was the first time in his career that he even reached 160 innings pitched in a season. A five-year deal for him would be mighty risky.

    Josh Bell, 1B, San Diego Padres: The 30-year-old had a rough second half of the season after getting traded from Washington to San Diego and is probably headed for a four-year, $75 million type of deal. But it's not a banner year for first baseman free agents, so maybe he gets a six-year, $102 million sort of contract.

    Andrew Benintendi, OF, New York Yankees: One of the hottest commodities at the trade deadline, Benintendi is a career .279 hitter with a fine outfield glove who is only 28 years old. He does have a nasty habit of missing at least 20 games seemingly every season, but he's young enough and good enough to get a six-year, $105 million type of deal.

    Michael Conforto, OF, "New York Mets": Conforto sat out the 2022 campaign after suffering an injury in January as a free agent. The expectation heading into last offseason was that he could get something in the vicinity of a six-year, $120 million deal. Could that still be the case after a year away from baseball?

    Willson Contreras, C, Chicago Cubs: With limited exceptions (Buster Posey and Joe Mauer are the two that spring to mind), catchers don't receive contracts for six or more years, simply because they tend to break down faster than other position players. However, Contreras could get a five-year or six-year, $100 million deal.

    Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers: We're not even sure yet if Kershaw wants to come back in 2023, let alone on a three- or four-year deal. But he has to be worth at least $30 million per year for however many years he and his potential new employer think are left in his left arm.

    Trey Mancini, 1B/RF, Houston Astros: Like Bell, Mancini laid a big egg after the trade deadline, batting just .176 in 51 regular-season games with the Astros. But since the start of 2017, the 30-year-old has batted .265 with 122 home runs despite missing all of 2020 while recovering from colon cancer. He might be worth close to $20 million per year, but would the number of years be enough to reach nine figures?

    Anthony Rizzo, 1B, New York Yankees: Rizzo has a $16 million player option for 2023, but he is expected to opt out for more years and a higher salary. It probably won't be a $25 million salary, though, and it probably won't be a five-year deal since he's already 33. But you never know.

    Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies: Thor signed a one-year, $21 million deal after missing all of 2020 and basically all of 2021 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he didn't have a single IL stint this season. He also wasn't particularly dominant, posting a 3.94 ERA and 6.3 K/9 for the season, but he's going to at least get a multiyear deal. Probably for less than $21 million annually, though.

    Justin Verlander, RHP, Houston Astros: The average annual salary will be quite high, but will anyone be willing to go three years on a pitcher who turns 40 in February? Maybe Verlander takes the place of Carlos Correa as Minnesota's $35 million man on a two-year deal with a club option for a third.

    Taijuan Walker, RHP, New York Mets: Walker was an All-Star in 2021 before imploding in the second half of that season. He was better in 2022, finishing the year with a 3.49 ERA. And he just turned 30 in August. Could be a sneaky candidate for a six-year, $100 million deal, though it would probably need to include some "must pitch X innings" incentives in order to protect the team a bit.

Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets

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    New York Mets' Brandon Nimmo runs the bases after hitting a home run during the fourth inning in the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
    AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

    2022 Stats: .274/.367/.433, 16 HR, 102 R, 64 RBI

    Projected Contract: Five years, $115 million

    A little over a week ago, rumors that the Colorado Rockies planned to offer Brandon Nimmo a five-year deal worth $115-120 million started spreading like wildfire.

    It all seemed to originate from a "Rockies Mailbag" question for the Denver Post's Patrick Saunders in which he explicitly said that estimate was total speculation.

    But when it comes to free-agency rumors, sometimes a little random speculation from a beat writer is all it takes to set the wheels in motion.

    Even before that "news" came out, though, a nine-figure deal made sense here. The 29-year-old outfielder just had the best season of his career, and this year's pool of free-agent centerfielders is about as deep as a thimble.

    Teams that don't land Nimmo will be left fighting over Kevin Kiermaier and Kevin Pillar, which isn't saying much.

    Because of that, the bidding war for this zero-time All-Star might get a little wild.

Carlos Rodón, LHP, San Francisco Giants

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    San Francisco Giants pitcher Carlos Rodon throws to an Arizona Diamondbacks batter during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
    AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

    2022 Stats: 14-8, 178.0 IP, 2.88 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 12.0 K/9, 2.25 FIP

    Projected Contract: Four years, $128 million

    Carlos Rodón bet on himself last offseason, and he sure did win.

    He probably could have gotten a four-year deal worth at least $60 million after a breakout 2021 campaign that included an All-Star Game appearance and a fifth-place finish in the AL Cy Young vote. However, he wanted to prove after an injury-plagued and often ineffective first six seasons that he deserves to be paid like an ace.

    He took a $21.5 million deal with a player option for a second year at $22.5 million.

    He will opt out of that second year and make way more money.

    Rodón turns 30 in December, fresh off leading the majors in K/9 and FIP.

    He should have plenty of good years left, though it's hard to imagine he'll get a David Price (seven years, $217 million) or Stephen Strasburg (seven years, $245 million) type of long-term deal, both because those turned into disasters and because Rodón hasn't been great for anywhere near as long as those two aces were when they inked their deals.

    It's also hard to imagine he'll get paid close to what Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander are going to get on an annual basis. But it's either Rodón or Clayton Kershaw as the third-most coveted starting pitcher on this year's market, so he is easily going to fetch $25 million per year; probably north of $30 million.

Jacob deGrom, RHP, New York Mets

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    New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) delivers against the San Diego Padres during the first inning of Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball playoff series, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
    AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

    2022 Stats: 5-4, 64.1 IP, 3.08 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 14.3 K/9, 2.13 FIP

    Projected Contract: Three years, $131 million

    Jacob deGrom missed more than a full year in between starts (July 7, 2021 to August 2, 2022) because of various injuries.

    But he sure did pick up right where he left off, throwing absolute gas against his overmatched NL East competition in the first few starts of 2022.

    Over the past two seasons, he made 26 starts with a 1.90 ERA, 0.63 WHIP (goodness gracious) and a 14.3 K/9.

    So, why $131 million?

    Because it's $1 million more than the Mets gave Max Scherzer last offseason and because there's no denying that deGrom has been the best pitcher in the majors when healthy.

    He has accumulated 25.6 FanGraphs WAR since the beginning of 2018, good for the highest mark among all pitchers. He's one of just five pitchers worth at least 20 WAR over the past half-decade, but the others (Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola) have each pitched at least 139 more innings than deGrom's 645.1.

    $43.7 million per year is an awful lot for one pitcher. But it will be so worth it if he stays even moderately healthy.

Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves

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    Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson chases a ball that went for a single by Washington Nationals' CJ Abrams during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
    AP Photo/Nick Wass

    2022 Stats: .277/.329/.447, 25 HR, 99 R, 96 RBI, 18 SB

    Projected Contract: Seven years, $162 million

    How many teams are willing to invest a boatload of money in a shortstop this offseason?

    If it's fewer than four, Dansby Swanson might end up going back to Atlanta on a one-year, $20-25 million deal in hopes of getting that long-term, mega payday next winter when he won't need to compete with Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa on various wish lists.

    But if it's four or more teams, well then Swanson picked a fantastic time to have a banner year, earning both the first Gold Glove and first All-Star appearance of his career.

    To that end, the Dodgers, Red Sox, Phillies, Cubs and Giants all figure to be in that market, as well as possibly the Braves and Yankees. So go get that bag, young man.

    $162 million feels like a fitting number for Swanson after three consecutive seasons in which he led the National League in games played. He's a durable player with a solid glove and a respectable bat, and after six seasons as a staple at shortstop in Atlanta, he could fill that role elsewhere for the next seven years.

Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox

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    Boston Red Sox's Xander Bogaerts watches his line out during the first inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
    AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

    2022 Stats: .307/.377/.456, 15 HR, 84 R, 73 RBI, 8 SB

    Projected Contract: Six years, $180 million

    Xander Bogaerts signed a six-year, $120 million extension with the Red Sox before the 2019 campaign, but with an opt-out available this offseason.

    And he would have to be out of his mind not to opt out, because he could go from $20 million per year for the next three seasons to $30 million per year for the next six seasons.

    Bogaerts turned 30 in October, making him the oldest of the four big-name shortstops in this cycle. While the 28-year-old Carlos Correa might mess around and get an eight- or 10-year deal, Bogaerts likely isn't sniffing that type of length on his big contract.

    But the four-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger and four-time recipient of votes for AL MVP will be very well paid for whatever number of years he gets.

    Bogaerts has triple-slashed .304/.376/.503 over the past four seasons. It's really just a question of whether his suitors believe he can keep it up (and for how long) now that he's transitioning into the second half of his career.

Trea Turner, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Los Angeles Dodgers' Trea Turner bats during the sixth inning in Game 1 of a baseball NL Division Series against the San Diego Padres Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
    AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

    2022 Stats: .298/.343/.466, 21 HR, 101 R, 100 RBI, 27 SB

    Projected Contract: Six years, $210 million

    Maybe you like Xander Bogaerts, but you're thinking, "You know, it sure would be nice if he were about a year younger and considerably more impactful on the basepaths."

    If that's the case, you'll be happy to know you can get Trea Turner...for about a 10-15 percent higher cost.

    We just noted Bogaerts has hit .304/.376/.503 since the beginning of 2019. During that same time, Turner is sitting at .311/.361/.509 with two fewer home runs (82 vs. 80) and 81 more stolen bases (106 vs. 25). And while Bogaerts turned 30 on October 1, Turner won't reach that milestone until the end of June 2023.

    Neither one has won a Gold Glove, but Baseball Reference and FanGraphs agree that Turner is the more valuable defender—another reason why he figures to sign a bigger contract than his Red Sox counterpart.

    While we've got Turner projected for a $35 million salary over six years, it wouldn't be all that shocking if he gets an eight-year deal for a slightly lower AAV. Maybe $33.125 million per year on a $265 million contract.

Carlos Correa, SS, Minnesota Twins

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    Minnesota Twins' Carlos Correa looks on during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Guardians, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Nick Cammett)
    AP Photo/Nick Cammett

    2022 Stats: .291/.366/.467, 22 HR, 70 R, 64 RBI

    Projected Contract: Eight years, $262 million

    After walking away from $35.1 million in 2023 and the option for another $35.1 million in 2024, what is Carlos Correa actually going to get in free agency?

    Most likely, he'll get a reduced salary but a much longer deal.

    Correa just turned 28 in September. That makes him about six months older than Corey Seager was when he signed his 10-year, $325 million deal with Texas last November.

    Maybe this former Astro and recent Twin will also get a decade-long contract, but an eight-year deal at a slightly higher annual rate than Seager ($32.75 million for Correa vs. $32.5 million for Seager) is a reasonable guess here.

    Aside from being the youngest of the four shortstops, Correa arguably offers the best defense, winning a Platinum Glove in 2021. He's also the most patient at the plate with a 10.7 percent walk rate and has the most home runs since the beginning of 2015 (155).

    Turner and Bogaerts each have much better career batting averages, but Correa might be the best all-around player of the bunch. If he ends up signing for a lower average salary than what Turner gets, it might go down as a bargain for whichever team gets Correa.

Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees

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    New York Yankees' Aaron Judge gestures as he rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run, his 62nd of the season, during the first inning in the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. With the home run, Judge set the AL record for home runs in a season, passing Roger Maris. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
    AP Photo/LM Otero

    2022 Stats: .311/.425/.686, 62 HR, 133 R, 131 RBI, 16 SB

    Projected Contract: Eight years, $320 million

    What's the market value for a player hitting free agency the offseason after mashing 62 taters?

    Because there's really no precedent here.

    Spotrac suggests $37.9 million per year but lists Nolan Arenado, Anthony Rendon, Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager as comparable players, none of which really make sense.

    Neither Rendon nor Seager even managed to hit 62 home runs in any two-year span, and when Lindor signed his contract, he was a 5'11", 27-year-old shortstop coming off a pandemic-truncated season in which he hit .258 and slugged .415. The only thing that player and the 6'7", 30-year-old Judge have in common is they'll both eventually be the proud owner of a nine-figure contract that begins with a three.

    Because of his age and injury history, even an eight-year deal might be a stretch here. But if it's fewer than eight, the salary probably goes up.

    Instead of eight years at $40 million a pop, maybe it's seven years for $42.86 million per year ($300 million total), six years at a $45 million annual rate ($270 million total) or maybe even five seasons for $50 million a year ($250 million total).

    Regardless, Judge is going to become the highest-salaried position player in baseball. Any team unwilling to go there and then some can just give up on getting him.