1 Realistic Free-Agent Signing to Fix Every MLB Team's Biggest Roster HoleDecember 14, 2022
1 Realistic Free-Agent Signing to Fix Every MLB Team's Biggest Roster Hole
After a flurry of activity at the annual winter meetings, the MLB free-agent market has thinned out considerably, but there are still a number of impact players searching for new homes for the 2023 season.
At the same time, every team still has at least one hole to plug on its roster, whether it's a key spot in the starting rotation or middle of the lineup, or more of a depth role off the bench or in the middle innings out of the bullpen.
Ahead we've paired each MLB team with one remaining free agent who would address a need on its roster, with landing spots based on a combination of rumors, speculation and logical fit.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: RHP Nathan Eovaldi
The Orioles have already added one veteran arm to their young pitching staff, signing Kyle Gibson to a one-year, $10 million deal. However, the team is still lacking a proven ace-caliber starter to anchor its staff while it waits on the development of Grayson Rodriguez, and Eovaldi is capable of providing that front-line presence.
Boston Red Sox: C Omar Narváez
With Willson Contreras and Christian Vázquez both signed in free agency and Sean Murphy no longer available via trade, the list of available catching options is rapidly shrinking. With Reese McGuire and Connor Wong as the only catchers on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox are a safe bet to add someone. Narváez, an All-Star in 2021, is the best remaining option in free agency.
New York Yankees: LHP Carlos Rodón
The Yankees made the big move to bring back slugger Aaron Judge, but they have yet to do anything to improve on last year's roster. There are not many free agents left who truly move the needle, but Rodón is one of them. He would be a clear upgrade over Jameson Taillon while slotting in alongside Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino and Frankie Montas in the rotation, pushing Domingo Germán to a swingman role.
Tampa Bay Rays: 1B Brandon Belt
After trading Ji-Man Choi to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Rays are searching for a left-handed hitter who can fit at first base, designated hitter or in the outfield. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times identified Belt as one hypothetical fit, and while the 34-year-old had a down year in 2022, he logged a 160 OPS+ with a career-high 29 home runs in 2021.
Toronto Blue Jays: DH Matt Carpenter
The Blue Jays are another team searching for a left-handed bat, with infielder Cavan Biggio and recently signed outfielder Kevin Kiermaier the only lefty bats who are currently locks for a spot on the roster. Carpenter enjoyed a career renaissance in a part-time role with the Yankees last year, and he would give the team some power off the bench and another DH option.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: OF Michael Conforto
The White Sox have holes to fill in the outfield and at second base, and while Oscar Colas, one of their top prospects, could be an option before the 2023 season is over, adding another corner outfielder should still be a priority. Rolling the dice on Conforto could give the South Siders another middle-of-the-order run producer if he returns to his pre-injury form after he missed 2022 while recovering from shoulder surgery.
Cleveland Guardians: RHP Garrett Richards
The Guardians plugged a major roster hole Tuesday by signing catcher Mike Zunino to a one-year, $6 million deal. The biggest remaining need is depth behind the projected five-man staff, and Richards fits the swingman mold as a pitcher with ample experience in relief who can also step into the rotation if needed. His 5.27 ERA last season was accompanied by a far more promising 3.46 FIP, and he could prove to be a good buy-low bargain.
Detroit Tigers: 3B Brian Anderson
The Tigers cut ties with Jeimer Candelario with a non-tender at the start of the offseason, but they have yet to find a viable replacement at third base unless prospect Ryan Kreidler is the answer. Anderson, 29, was non-tendered himself by the Marlins, and he has some intriguing upside as a 3.0-plus WAR player in 2018 and 2019.
Kansas City Royals: LHP Taylor Rogers
The Royals ranked 27th in the majors with a 4.66 ERA from their relief corps in 2022, and while Dylan Coleman and Scott Barlow are a solid one-two punch in the late innings, another established reliever could go a long way. Rogers had 31 saves and 11.8 K/9 in 40 appearances in 2022, but he also had 10 blown saves and a 4.76 ERA, so this would be a high-risk, high-reward play.
Minnesota Twins: RHP Noah Syndergaard
A full season of Tyler Mahle and a healthy Kenta Maeda will go a long way in shoring up the Minnesota rotation, but the team could still use another established arm to round out the staff and improve its overall pitching depth. Syndergaard showed diminished stuff in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, but he still had a 3.94 ERA and 103 ERA+ in 134.2 innings.
American League West
Houston Astros: OF Jurickson Profar
If the season started today, the Astros would have arguably the most complete roster in baseball, but they could still stand to add another corner outfielder so Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers are not both counted on to start. Profar brings a good mix of power (53 XBH, 15 HR) and on-base ability (73 BB, 11.1 BB%) while also playing a solid defensive left field.
Los Angeles Angels: RHP Michael Fulmer
The Angels have already made one big addition to the bullpen, signing Carlos Estévez to a two-year, $13.5 million deal, but they could still stand to add another proven arm alongside Aaron Loup, Ryan Tepera and Jimmy Herget in the late innings. Fulmer, 29, had a 3.39 ERA with 25 holds in 67 appearances in 2022, and he has reinvented himself as a quality reliever after flaming out as a starter.
Oakland Athletics: RHP Seth Lugo
The A's are an intriguing landing spot for anyone looking for guaranteed playing time and an opportunity to leverage a strong 2023 season into a bigger payday next winter. Lugo is looking to make the full-time move to starting after pitching primarily out of the bullpen for the New York Mets over the past few seasons, and Oakland might be one of the few teams willing to guarantee him a starting role.
Seattle Mariners: LHP Andrew Chafin
The Mariners have cobbled together one of baseball's best bullpens, but their current projected relief corps doesn't feature a single lefty after Matthew Boyd walked in free agency. Chafin, 32, has a 2.29 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 9.4 K/9 with 41 holds in 135 appearances over the past two seasons, and he is one of the best relievers left on the free-agent market.
Texas Rangers: OF Joey Gallo
Could a Texas reunion help Gallo return to his All-Star form? The last time the slugger suited up for the Rangers, he had a 138 OPS+ with 25 home runs and 4.2 WAR in 95 games before he was traded to the Yankees at the 2021 deadline. The shift being banned should help him improve on a brutal .219 BABIP, and he has a chance to be one of the steals of the offseason in the right situation.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: SS Elvis Andrus
Hot take: The Braves should let someone else pay for Dansby Swanson's career year, instead opting for a stopgap while Vaughn Grissom continues to refine the defensive side of his game. Andrus had a 116 OPS+ and 1.8 WAR in 43 games after he joined the White Sox down the stretch last year, and rejoining the Braves would bring his career full circle after they signed him as an international free agent in 2005.
Miami Marlins: 3B Justin Turner
The Marlins have done nothing to upgrade an offense that ranked near the bottom of the league in OPS (.657, 27th), home runs (144, 24th) and runs scored (586, 28th). The club has reportedly made an offer to Turner, and while his days of being an everyday third baseman are behind him, he can still hit. The 38-year-old had a 116 OPS+ with 36 doubles, 13 home runs and 81 RBI in 2022, and he had an .889 OPS after the All-Star break.
New York Mets: DH Nelson Cruz
At this point, there's no reason to think the Mets are going to stop spending, and finding a right-handed bat to platoon with Daniel Vogelbach in the DH role could help further shore up the offense. Cruz, 42, had a down year in 2022, but he has a .939 OPS in his career against left-handed pitching and could be a great part-time platoon option.
Philadelphia Phillies: OF David Peralta
The Phillies have a stacked lineup, but their bench could still use some work. Matt Vierling (-0.6 WAR in 2022) is the leading candidate for the fourth outfielder role, and Peralta would serve as an upgrade offensively while also providing plus defense in the late innings and an experienced presence in the clubhouse.
Washington Nationals: DH Jesús Aguilar
Hunting for value and upside is the name of the game for a team in the early stages of rebuilding, and Aguilar is just a year removed from a 22-homer, 93-RBI season for the Marlins in 2021. The decision to non-tender Luke Voit has left a major void in the middle of the Nationals lineup, and Aguilar is a proven run producer who could play his way into being a viable trade candidate.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: SS Dansby Swanson
The Cubs were a popular projected landing spot for one of the market's top shortstops before the offseason even started, and now that the top-tier group has been narrowed to one, there's a lot hinging on whether the North Siders can reel in Swanson. The 28-year-old comes with some risk given how big of an outlier his 2022 season was relative to the rest of his career, but even with some regression, he's still a solid everyday shortstop.
Cincinnati Reds: DH Luke Voit
The Reds appear to be poised to go bargain hunting while cleaning up the scraps of the free-agent market, and Voit would slot nicely into the middle of a Cincinnati lineup that is sorely lacking in power production. The 31-year-old has a 124 OPS+ for his career, and he has averaged 32 home runs and 91 RBI per 162 games.
Milwaukee Brewers: 3B Evan Longoria
The Brewers have a hole to plug on the infield at either second base or third base, with Luis Urías capable of handling either position. They signed Andrew McCutchen to a one-year, $8.5 million deal to provide a veteran presence and some run production last year, and a similar deal with Longoria could shore up the lineup and the clubhouse.
Pittsburgh Pirates: C Tucker Barnhart
Prospect Endy Rodriguez is the only catcher on Pittsburgh's 40-man roster, and the 22-year-old is not a realistic candidate to start the year on the Opening Day roster. Adding a defensive-minded veteran to anchor the young pitching staff makes a ton of sense, and while Barnhart doesn't provide much offensively, he is a two-time Gold Glove winner and a well-respected clubhouse presence.
St. Louis Cardinals: 2B Jean Segura
The Cardinals could roll with some combination of Brendan Donovan, Tommy Edman, Paul DeJong and Nolan Gorman at the middle infield spots, but adding Segura to the mix would give them an everyday second baseman. That would in turn allow Donovan to remain in a super-utility role, where he is arguably more valuable than he would be tethered to one spot defensively.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Michael Lorenzen
The D-backs have a pair of promising young arms poised to compete for spots in the starting rotation in Drey Jameson (4 GS, 3-0, 1.48 ERA) and Ryne Nelson (3 GS, 1-1, 1.47 ERA), but relying on both to hold down rotation spots is risky considering they've pitched a combined 42.2 innings in the majors. Lorenzen spent 2022 pitching in the Angels' rotation after being used mostly in relief in Cincinnati, and his ability to fill multiple roles makes him a great fit.
Colorado Rockies: RHP Adam Ottavino
Ottavino spent seven seasons in the Colorado bullpen before joining the New York Yankees in free agency prior to the 2019 season. He had a 3.41 ERA and 10.4 K/9 in 361 appearances during his time with the Rockies and has a 3.34 ERA at Coors Field. The list of pitchers who have enjoyed that level of success at altitude is a short one. A reunion would be a major boon to a bullpen that ranked last in the majors with a 4.85 ERA in 2022.
Los Angeles Dodgers: IF Brandon Drury
The Dodgers still have holes to fill at second base and third base, and while they could give prospects Michael Busch and Miguel Vargas a shot to win those jobs, adding a versatile player like Drury would be the ideal depth move to back up those unproven options. The 30-year-old had a 122 OPS+ with 31 doubles, 28 home runs and 87 RBI in 138 games in 2022 while seeing regular action at first base, second base and third base.
San Diego Padres: OF Andrew Benintendi
Light-hitting José Azocar and non-roster invitee David Dahl are the leading in-house options to play left field for the Padres, at least until Fernando Tatis Jr. returns from his suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. Even then, this team could still use one more bat with the designated-hitter role also unsettled. Benintendi could replace Jurickson Profar as the leadoff hitter and table-setter ahead of all the impact middle-of-the-order bats.
San Francisco Giants: DH J.D. Martinez
The Giants finally made the splash many have been expecting, signing shortstop Carlos Correa to a 13-year, $350 million deal late Tuesday evening. Now what? Another bat should be at the top of the shopping list, and while signing Martinez would mean Joc Pederson has to regularly play left field, it would be a clear upgrade offensively over LaMonte Wade Jr. and Austin Slater, who are currently penciled in alongside him in the left field/DH role.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.