MLB Free-Agency Big Board: Ranking Top 25 Remaining Players Ahead of Winter Meetings

Joel ReuterDecember 2, 2022

MLB Free-Agency Big Board: Ranking Top 25 Remaining Players Ahead of Winter Meetings

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    Aaron Judge
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Before the 2022 MLB winter meetings begin Sunday in San Diego, it's time for an updated look at our free-agency big board.

    A few of the top free-agent dominoes have already fallen, with Edwin Díaz, José Abreu and Tyler Anderson each agreeing to multiyear contracts. Left-hander Martín Pérez and outfielder Joc Pederson are also no longer available after accepting qualifying offers to remain with their respective clubs, while Clayton Kershaw rejoined the Los Angeles Dodgers on another one-year deal.

    However, that hardly puts a dent in the impressive collection of talent in this year's market, and the top-tier foursome of Aaron Judge, Trea Turner, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts are all still available, as are pitchers Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom and Carlos Rodón.

    Ahead we've assembled our updated rankings of the top 25 players available in the 2022-23 free-agent class, with players ranked based on their expected earning power and projected production.

Honorable Mentions

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    Noah Syndergaard
    Elsa/Getty Images

    These players didn't quite crack the top 25, but they still have a chance to make an impact in 2023:

    C: Omar Narváez, Gary Sanchez, Christian Vázquez, Mike Zunino

    1B: Brandon Belt, Yuli Gurriel, Trey Mancini, Luke Voit

    2B: Adam Frazier, Josh Harrison, Jean Segura

    SS: Elvis Andrus, José Iglesias

    3B: Brian Anderson, Jeimer Candelario, Evan Longoria, Jace Peterson, Justin Turner

    OF: Michael Conforto, Adam Duvall, Joey Gallo, Robbie Grossman, Kevin Kiermaier, Wil Myers, David Peralta, Tommy Pham, AJ Pollock

    DH: Michael Brantley, Matt Carpenter, Nelson Cruz, J.D. Martinez, Andrew McCutchen

    SP: Johnny Cueto, Shintaro Fujinami (Japan), Kyle Gibson, Rich Hill, Corey Kluber, Michael Lorenzen, Jordan Lyles, Sean Manaea, Wade Miley, Drew Rucinski (KBO), Drew Smyly, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Wacha

    RP: Andrew Chafin, Carlos Estévez, Michael Fulmer, Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, Seth Lugo, Chris Martin, Matt Moore, Adam Ottavino, Taylor Rogers, Matt Strahm

Nos. 25-21

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    Cody Bellinger
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    25. OF Cody Bellinger (Age: 27)

    Just three years removed from winning the NL MVP and still in the prime of his career from an age standpoint, Bellinger is the biggest boom-or-bust candidate to hit the open market in years. He hit just .193 with a 64 OPS+ in 900 plate appearances the past two seasons, but his center field defense gives him a strong enough floor to roll the dice on an offensive resurgence.

    24. RHP Taijuan Walker (Age: 30)

    Walker has done an admirable job of rebuilding his stock in recent years after injuries limited him to 14 combined innings in 2018 and 2019. The 6'4" right-hander went 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 132 strikeouts in 157.1 innings in 2022, and he slots in nicely as a No. 3/4 starter on a contender.

    23. RHP Ross Stripling (Age: 33)

    Stripling spent the first two months of the 2022 season in a swingman role before injuries forced him into the rotation full time in early June. From that point forward, he went 9-3 with a 2.64 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 102.1 innings over 19 starts, and his ability to fill a variety of roles on the staff makes him a potential fit on almost any roster.

    22. OF Masataka Yoshida (Age: 29)

    The Orix Buffaloes of the Japanese League are expected to post Yoshida later this offseason, and he has a chance to make a significant impact stateside. He's played seven seasons of pro ball in Japan, and in 2022 he hit .336/.449/.559 with 28 doubles, 21 home runs and almost twice as many walks (82) as strikeouts (42).

    21. OF Mitch Haniger (Age: 31)

    Haniger posted a 122 OPS+ with 39 home runs and 100 RBI in 2021 after missing most of the previous two seasons to injury, but he had a tough time staying on the field once again in 2022, playing just 57 games. The list of players on this year's market with legitimate 30-homer power is short, but there's some well-established injury risk.

Nos. 20-16

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    Koudai Senga
    Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

    20. LHP José Quintana (Age: 33)

    Quintana signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates last offseason after struggling to a 6.43 ERA in 63 innings in 2021. He pitched well enough in Pittsburgh (20 GS, 3.50 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 103.0 IP) to be a sought-after trade candidate at the deadline and then pitched even better in St. Louis (12 GS, 2.01 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 62.2 IP) after he was eventually dealt.

    19. OF Jurickson Profar (Age: 29)

    Once ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball, Profar never quite lived up to expectations, but he has developed into a solid everyday corner outfielder. He had a 111 OPS+ with 53 extra-base hits while mostly hitting leadoff for the San Diego Padres in 2022, and his 73 walks and .331 on-base percentage boosted his offensive value.

    18. LHP Andrew Heaney (Age: 31)

    Shoulder inflammation limited Heaney to 16 appearances in 2022, which raises some obvious red flags, but he was awfully good when healthy. The left-hander had a 3.10 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with a staggering 110-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 72.2 innings, and he has a strong history of missing bats with 9.7 K/9 in 707 career innings.

    17. IF Brandon Drury (Age: 30)

    A journeyman utility player who signed a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, Drury proved to be one of the best bargains of the offseason while playing on a one-year, $900,000 contract. He played his way into being a trade chip and finished the season with a 122 OPS+ while tallying 31 doubles, 28 home runs and 87 RBI in a career-high 568 plate appearances. His defensive versatility will make him a popular target.

    16. RHP Koudai Senga (Age: 29)

    One of the best pitchers in Japan for several years running, Senga had perhaps the best season of his pro career in 2022, going 11-6 with a 1.89 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 159 strikeouts in 148 innings. He will not be subject to the posting system, so he is free to sign with any team, and he has No. 2-starter upside if everything clicks stateside.

Nos. 15-11

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    Andrew Benintendi
    Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

    15. RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Age: 32)

    Fresh off a World Series title with the Boston Red Sox in 2018, Eovaldi secured a four-year, $68 million contract the last time he hit the open market. While that four-year stretch had its ups and downs, it was more good than bad, including a fourth-place finish in AL Cy Young voting in 2021 and a 3.87 ERA in 109.1 innings this past season.

    14. 1B Josh Bell (Age: 30)

    Bell struggled after he was traded to the San Diego Padres at the deadline, but prior to switching teams he was hitting .301/.384/.493 for a 153 OPS+ in 103 games with the Washington Nationals. The switch-hitter has a 37-homer season on his resume from his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he has been a 3-WAR player each of the past two seasons.

    13. RHP Chris Bassitt (Age: 33)

    Bassitt declined his end of a $19 million mutual option at the start of the offseason, so he'll be looking for multiple years and a bigger overall guarantee. A late-bloomer who didn't become a regular starter in the majors until his age-30 season, he has a 3.31 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 546 innings over the past four years, and he represents one of the best second-tier options on the market.

    12. RHP Jameson Taillon (Age: 31)

    Taillon was a rock-solid middle-of-the-rotation option for the Yankees in 2022, going 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 151 strikeouts in 177.1 innings. The 6'5", 230-pound right-hander had six quality starts in his final 11 appearances, and staying healthy enough to make 61 starts the last two years should also be a boon to his market after he dealt with a variety of health issues early in his career.

    11. OF Andrew Benintendi (Age: 28)

    The fact that Benintendi won't turn 29 years old until July 6 is a major point in his favor regarding a potential long-term deal. After failing to live up to the hype in Boston, he found new life in Kansas City in 2021, winning a Gold Glove in a 2.4-WAR season. In 2022, he hit .304 with a .373 on-base percentage and 120 OPS+ in 521 plate appearances, though he closed out the season on the injured list after being traded to the New York Yankees.

10. OF Brandon Nimmo

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - JUNE 26: Brandon Nimmo #9 of the New York Mets hits a double in the first inning against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot park on June 26, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
    Eric Espada/Getty Images

    A solid glove in center field and strong on-base skills help make Brandon Nimmo one of the best outfielders on the market this winter, and a nine-figure payday could be coming his way.

    The 29-year-old has a .385 on-base percentage and 13.6 percent walk rate in seven MLB seasons, and he tallied 30 doubles, seven triples, 16 home runs, 64 RBI and 102 runs scored serving largely as the New York Mets leadoff hitter in 2022.

    Playing in a career-high 151 games in his contract year—just the second time he's played in at least 100 games—likely did more to boost his stock than anything he did statistically, and a dearth of center field options will also work in his favor.

9. C Willson Contreras

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    CINCINNATI, OHIO - OCTOBER 04: Wilson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs hits a home run in the fourth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on October 04, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The list of impact players at catcher is a short one, and even with his defensive shortcomings, that's enough to make Willson Contreras one of the top players on the market this winter.

    An All-Star for the third time in 2022, Contreras posted a 128 OPS+ with 23 doubles, 22 home runs and 55 RBI in 113 games, and his 3.9 WAR marked the fifth time in the past six years that he's been a 3-WAR player, with the lone exception being the shortened 2020 campaign.

    The 30-year-old posted career highs in hard-hit rate (48.6 percent), and xwOBA (.364), ranking in the top 10 percent leaguewide in both categories, per Baseball Savant, so there's plenty of reason to believe he still has at least a few prime-level offensive seasons left.

8. LHP Carlos Rodón

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    PHOENIX, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 23: Starting pitcher Carlos Rodon #16 of the San Francisco Giants throws a pitch during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on September 23, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Giants beat the Diamondbacks 6-5. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
    Chris Coduto/Getty Images

    Left-hander Carlos Rodón turned in a long-awaited breakout season with the Chicago White Sox in 2021, but his lengthy injury history and the fact that he pitched just 43 innings after the All-Star break still limited his market.

    The San Francisco Giants ultimately signed him to a two-year, $44 million deal that included an opt-out after the first year, and exercising that opt-out became a no-brainer after he went 14-8 with a 2.88 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 237 strikeouts in 178 innings to finish sixth in the NL Cy Young voting.

    Looking beneath the surface of those impressive numbers, he also led all qualified starters with a 2.25 FIP and checked in eighth among all pitchers with 5.6 WAR, so there are no regression red flags. It's all about whether a team trusts him to stay healthy, and that will be a bit easier to do after his 2022 campaign.

7. SS Dansby Swanson

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    ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 30: Dansby Swanson #7 of the Atlanta Braves fields and throws to first during the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Truist Park on August 30, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
    Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

    Dansby Swanson picked a great time for the best season of his career, hitting .277/.329/.447 for a 115 OPS+ with 32 doubles, 25 home runs, 96 RBI, 99 runs scored and 18 steals while also winning his first Gold Glove.

    His 5.7 WAR trailed only Xander Bogaerts (5.8) among everyday shortstops, notably putting him ahead of fellow free agents Carlos Correa (5.4) and Trea Turner (4.9), so why doesn't he rank higher?

    There is some obvious risk of paying for a career year with Swanson, as he simply doesn't have the same track record of success as the market's three other top-tier shortstops. Even after his stellar 2022 campaign, he still has a middling 95 OPS+ for his career, and his 5.7 WAR was more than double his previous single-season high.

6. RHP Justin Verlander

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    HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28:  Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws a pitch in the top of the third inning during the MLB game between the Baltimore Orioles and Houston Astros on August 28, 2022 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Houston Astros took a chance on Justin Verlander as he attempted to return from Tommy John surgery for his age-39 season, and he rewarded them with one of the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career.

    In 28 starts, he went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 185 strikeouts in 175 innings, adding a third AL Cy Young Award to his trophy case as well as a second World Series ring.

    He's now well-positioned to sign something similar to the three-year, $130 million deal Max Scherzer signed with the New York Mets last offseason, and while it's fair to wonder how much he has left with his 40th birthday fast approaching, it's hard to argue with the numbers he put up in 2022.

5. RHP Jacob deGrom

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 08: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)  Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets in action against the San Diego Padres during game two of the NL Wild Card Series at Citi Field on October 08, 2022 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Padres 7-3. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    How much is the best pitcher in baseball worth?

    What about when that pitcher has only been healthy enough to make 26 starts the past two seasons?

    That's the question teams face regarding the free agency of Jacob deGrom. He remains the most overpowering starting pitcher in baseball when he's healthy but has missed significant time with arm and shoulder issues each of the past two years.

    He finally made his 2022 debut Aug. 2 and posted a 3.08 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and an absurd 102-to-eight strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64.1 innings. He also tossed six innings of five-hit, two-run ball to pick up a win against the San Diego Padres in the NL Wild Card Series.

    There's obvious risk, but there's also huge upside, and he could be the missing piece for a number of different clubs in their hunt for a World Series title.

4. SS Xander Bogaerts

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    BOSTON, MA - JUNE 17: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox hits a double during the fourth inning of a game against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 17, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
    Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    Last week, we did a deep dive into Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa and Trea Turner, comparing the market's three elite shortstops across a number of different categories. The verdict was that Bogaerts was a clear No. 3 in the group.

    That's not to take anything away from the player he is or the season he had in 2022. He hit .307/.377/.456 for a 131 OPS+ with 38 doubles, 15 home runs, 73 RBI, 84 runs scored and 5.8 WAR while logging the best defensive metrics of his career.

    However, he is the oldest of the trio by eight months over Turner and nearly two years over Correa; he's the least athletic of the three from a toolbox standpoint; and prior to the 2022 season, he was far and away the worst defender of the three.

    None of that is meant to be a knock on a legitimate star who is deserving of a huge payday this winter. It's simply an explanation of why he ranks lower than those other two guys on this list.

3. SS Trea Turner

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    LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 12: Trea Turner #6 of the Los Angeles Dodgers runs the bases after hitting a solo home run in the third inning in game two of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on October 12, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Few players in the game today possess the combination of power, speed and quality defense at a premium position that Trea Turner brings to the table.

    The 29-year-old hit .298/.343/.466 for a 121 OPS+ with 39 doubles, 21 home runs, 100 RBI, 101 runs scored and 27 steals in 30 attempts during the 2022 season, tallying 4.9 WAR for the fourth 4-WAR season of his career.

    His seamless transition to second base last season after he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers could also be a factor in widening his market. We've seen career shortstops like Marcus Semien and Trevor Story find a bigger payday with a willingness to shift positions.

    Not many players can be penciled into either middle infield position while also hitting leadoff or No. 3 in the lineup. His unique skill set makes him perhaps the safest of the top three shortstops on this year's market.

2. SS Carlos Correa

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    CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 30: Carlos Correa #4 of the Minnesota Twins runs out a ground ball during the eighth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field on June 30, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
    Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

    Carlos Correa claims the top spot in this year's elite shortstop class thanks in large part to the fact that he's one year and three months younger than Trea Turner, as he won't turn 29 years old until Sept. 22.

    He opted out of his three-year contract with the Minnesota Twins after just one season and will try to secure the lucrative long-term deal he couldn't find last winter after leading qualified shortstops with a 140 OPS+ while tallying 24 doubles, 22 home runs and 5.4 WAR in 136 games.

    Even if he loses a step and is forced to move off shortstop in the back half of his next contract, his strong arm and power production should play just fine at third base, and his age means he has multiple prime seasons ahead of him.

    The biggest question is whether he'll again hunt for the highest AAV possible or if he'll prioritize stability and the most total guaranteed money this time around.

1. OF Aaron Judge

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    HOUSTON, TEXAS - JUNE 30: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees at bat against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on June 30, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Aaron Judge was the best baseball player on the planet in 2022, and he has a chance to turn that into a record-breaking contract as he tests the free-agency waters for the first time.

    After playing in 148 games in 2021 and a career-high 157 games in 2022, he has successfully shaken the injury-prone label that hung over him early in his career, though it is still fair to wonder how a player his size will age.

    He also played a career-high 632.2 innings in center field this year. While he still fits best in right field, his ability to play up the middle adds value to his profile beyond his offensive production.

    The New York Yankees have made an offer in the eight-year, $300 million neighborhood, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN, but the San Francisco Giants are also hot on his trail. With no other comparable player on the market, he could be the first major domino to fall this winter.

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.