With the trade deadline in the rearview, the 30 MLB front offices can begin to focus on the offseason and another strong free-agent class. Teams’ scouts, evaluators and analytics departments can start to do deep dives on the players who will hit the market after the World Series.
Led by Jacob deGrom, perhaps the most dominant pitcher in the game, and Aaron Judge, the American League’s best position player, this year’s free-agent class is special. So how does the rest of the likely field stack up?
There is still time for contract extensions and retirements, of course, but here is my initial ranking of the 2022-23 offseason’s top 30 free agents based on their current value.
Listed ages reflect how old a player will be on Opening Day 2023. WAR numbers are according to Baseball-Reference.
1. Jacob deGrom, RHP, Mets
2022 stats: WAR: 0.3 ERA: 2.53 IP: 10 2/3
(Expected to opt out of $30.5 million player option for ’23)
DeGrom is healthy and thriving again, but he’s made only 29 starts over the last three seasons, a stretch that includes the shortened 2020 season. The two-time Cy Young Award winner has a chance to become the first $50-million-a-year pitcher this offseason, but probably on a shorter-term deal, like the three-year contract Max Scherzer signed last year with the Mets ($43.3 million for 2022, $43.3 million for ’23 and a $43.3 million player option for ’24).
2. Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees
B: R T: R
WAR: 6.7 OPS+: 200
Judge has been the most dominant offensive player in the AL and is on pace to surpass Roger Maris’ Yankees record of 61 home runs in a season. He bet on himself when he turned down the Yankees’ offer of a seven-year, $213.5 million extension before the season. Now, he’s on the cusp of blowing past that offer as a free agent.
3. Justin Verlander, RHP, Astros
WAR: 4.1 ERA: 1.73 IP: 130
(Expected to opt out of $25 million player option for ’23)
Verlander is a shoe-in to win Comeback Player of the Year and he is in strong position to win a third Cy Young Award. He leads the major leagues in wins (15), ERA (1.73) and ERA+ (224). He’s making $25 million this year and has been worth a lot more.
4. Carlos Correa, SS, Twins
B: R T: R
WAR: 2.8 OPS+: 124
(Expected to opt out of $35.1 million player option for ’23)
Correa has been a major force in helping the Twins go from last place in 2021 to first place this season. He’s brought some of Houston’s winning culture to Minnesota, along with his elite defense and clutch hitting. He should get his long-term deal from someone this offseason.
5. Trea Turner, SS, Dodgers
B: R T: R
WAR: 3.6 OPS+: 132
Turner has hit over .300 basically all season and entered Tuesday with 18 home runs, 27 doubles, 19 stolen bases and 219 total bases. Teams will be lining up for the two-time All-Star.
6. Carlos Rodón, LHP, Giants
WAR: 4.1 ERA: 2.95 IP: 128 1/3
(Expected to opt out of $22.5 million player option for ’23)
For the second consecutive season, Rodón has posted an ERA under 3.00 and made an All-Star team. He leads the National League with a 2.27 FIP. If he finishes the year well, a significant, long-term payday should await.
7. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox
B: R T: R
WAR: 3.7 OPS+: 131
(Expected to opt out of six-year, $120 million deal with three-plus years remaining)
Bogaerts has been the face of the Red Sox and a team leader for years, and he’s hoping to spend his entire career in Boston. But there’s been no traction on an extension, so he’s expected to opt out of his contract at season’s end and test the free-agent waters.
8. Dansby Swanson, SS, Braves
B: R T: R
WAR: 4.0 OPS+: 122
Swanson picked the best year to have arguably the best season of his career. Entering Tuesday, Swanson had slashed a career-best .292/.348/.461, and he was named to his first All-Star team last month. Get ready for a very interesting free-agent shortstop version of musical chairs with Correa, Turner, Bogaerts and Swanson.
9. Willson Contreras, C, Cubs
B: R T: R
WAR: 3.1 OPS+: 131
The Cubs’ failure to trade Contreras was the biggest surprise of the deadline. Contreras would like to remain a Cub, but there are no signs of an extension. The three-time All-Star will be the most sought-after catcher in free agency.
10. Edwin Díaz, RHP, Mets
WAR: 2.4 ERA: 1.39 IP: 45 1/3
Díaz is the most dominating closer in the NL. He leads the league with 38 games finished and has 26 saves in 29 opportunities. The two-time All-Star has a 0.82 FIP and a 288 ERA+.
11. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers
WAR: 1.8 ERA: 2.64 IP: 85 1/3
Kershaw is on the injured list again with back issues, which interrupted a strong season (7-3 with a 2.64 ERA in 15 starts). Even if he enters free agency, like he did last year, I expect him to re-sign with the Dodgers and finish his career with the franchise. Kershaw’s career marks are staggering: He’s gone 192-87 with a 2.49 ERA in his 15 years in Dodger blue.
12. Josh Bell, 1B, Padres
B: B T: R
WAR: 3.5 OPS+: 148
Bell put up terrific numbers this season with the Nationals, slashing .301/.384/.493 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs before the Juan Soto blockbuster trade sent him to San Diego. He hit 27 home runs in 2021 and has improved a lot defensively. Bell will generate a lot of interest in free agency because he’s a switch hitter who gets on base and hits for power. The Padres hope they can keep him beyond this season.
13. José Abreu, 1B, White Sox
B: R T: R
WAR: 3.3 OPS+: 141
Entering Tuesday, Abreu had posted the best on-base percentage of his career (.380), along with 14 home runs and an AL-leading 122 hits. The 2020 AL MVP is expected to re-sign with the White Sox in the offseason.
14. Chris Bassitt, RHP, Mets
WAR: 2.4 ERA: 3.39 IP: 130
(Expected to opt out of $19 million mutual option for ’23)
Bassitt has yielded two earned runs or fewer in 12 of his 21 starts. He ranks in the 96th percentile in average exit velocity and in the 88th percentile in hard-hit rate. His breaking balls have paved the way this season, as opposing batters have hit .216 against his slider and .159 against his curveball.
15. Adam Wainwright, RHP, Cardinals
WAR: 1.9 ERA: 3.42 IP: 134 1/3
Wainwright continues to deliver and defy Father Time, pitching to an ERA under 3.45 for a third consecutive season. He’s spent his entire 17-year career with the Cardinals and will probably sign another one-year deal with St. Louis after this season.
16. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Yankees
B: L T: L
WAR: 2.2 OPS+: 143
(Expected to opt out of $16 million player option for ’23)
Rizzo has thrived in Yankee Stadium and been a difference-maker for New York at the plate, at first base and in the clubhouse. He has hit 27 home runs and his OBP (.347) is his highest since 2019. Rizzo also leads the league in hit-by-pitches (17) for the fourth time in his career.
17. Luis Severino, RHP, Yankees
WAR: 1.1 ERA: 3.45 IP: 86
(Yankees expected to exercise $15 million club option for ’23 if he’s healthy)
The Yankees placed Severino (low grade right lat strain) on the IL in mid-July and later transferred him to the 60-day IL. He can’t be reinstated until mid-September. Severino is pitching in his first full season since 2020 Tommy John surgery, which certainly factored into the Yankees’ decision, but all signs point to him being able to help them as a starter or reliever in the playoffs. His 95 strikeouts in 86 innings have been encouraging.
18. Brandon Nimmo, CF, Mets
B: L T: R
WAR: 3.3 OPS+: 121
Nimmo has a career OBP of .385 and plays a solid center field. He hasn’t been charged with an error this season and ranks in the 91st percentile in Outs Above Average. However, he ranks in just the 43rd percentile in Outfielder Jump.
19. Trey Mancini, 1B/OF/DH, Astros
B: R T: R
WAR: 2.0 OPS+: 116
The trade deadline move to the Astros was the best thing that could have happened to Mancini. He now has a legitimate chance to win his first world championship and the smaller left field at Minute Maid Park will help his home run power. He hit 10 home runs in 92 games with the Orioles this season but had three in his first six games with Houston (two of those came in Cleveland).
20. Charlie Morton, RHP, Braves
War: 1.5 ERA: 4.26 IP: 122 2/3
(Braves will have a tough decision on $20 million club option for ’23)
Morton has been much better at home (3.41 ERA) than on the road (4.82) this season. He got off to a rough start, pitching to a 7.00 ERA in April and a 4.60 ERA in May. However, since then he’s posted a 3.52 ERA in five June starts, a 3.30 ERA in five July starts and a 3.55 ERA in two August starts.
21. Michael Conforto, OF, Free agent
B: L T: R
2021 WAR: 0.8 2021 OPS+: 100
Career WAR: 15.7 Career OPS+: 123
Conforto will miss all of this season after undergoing right shoulder surgery in April but teams will still pursue him in free agency. He had a down year in 2021 but owns a career slash line of .255/.356/.468 and, from 2017 to 2019, averaged 29 home runs and 80 RBIs per season. Conforto is a solid defensive right fielder. He plays with energy and enthusiasm. If the medicals check out, he could end up being one of the undervalued signings in this free-agent class.
22. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP, Red Sox
WAR: 0.7 ERA: 4.23 IP: 93 2/3
Eovaldi is having a down year after two solid seasons. In the shortened 2020 campaign, he went 4-2 with a 3.72 ERA in nine starts. Then in 2021, he went 11-9 with a 3.75 ERA in 32 starts with a league-leading 2.79 FIP as he made his first All-Star team and finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting. But it’s a different story this season, as the veteran righty has a 4.45 FIP and 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings, his lowest rate since 2018.
23. Kenley Jansen, RHP, Braves
WAR: 0.5 ERA: 3.48 IP: 41 1/3
Jansen has posted 24 saves and a 2.81 FIP, his best mark since 2017. He’s averaging 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings and has allowed just 6.5 hits per nine. He keeps trying to reinvent himself.
24. Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Yankees
WAR: negative-0.1 ERA: 4.28 IP: 27 1/3
It’s been an up-and-down season for Chapman, but he’s given up only three hits and no runs in his last seven appearances. The seven-time All-Star needs a strong finish to regain his value. He’s averaged more than six walks per nine innings the last two years and he has a career-low 9.9 strikeouts per nine this year.
25. Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Dodgers
WAR: negative-0.2 ERA: 4.15 IP: 39
Kimbrel has 20 saves in 23 opportunities this season, but you need a defibrillator to watch them. He has allowed at least one hit in eight of his last nine appearances. However, he’s also converted his last six save opportunities and hasn’t blown a save since July 3.
26. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Phillies
WAR: 1.2 ERA: 4.02 IP: 85
Syndergaard posted a 3.83 ERA in 15 starts with the Angels before being dealt to the Phillies at the trade deadline. He’s averaging 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings, the lowest rate of his career. Opposing batters have hit .299 against his four-seamer and .345 against his changeup. It will be interesting to see how Syndergaard pitches down the stretch, which will heavily determine his free-agent value. For now, it looks like he’ll have to sign another one-year deal, hope to improve next season and then go back into free agency.
27. J.D. Martinez, DH, Red Sox
B: R T: R
WAR: 0.8 OPS+: 118
Martinez hit 43 home runs in 2018, 36 in 2019 and 28 in 2021, but he has just nine this season, although he has smacked 34 doubles. His .281/.345/.447 slash line is his lowest since 2013. He made his second consecutive All-Star team this year, and the fifth of his career, but there’s no denying he’s in decline.
28. Mitch Haniger, OF, Mariners
B: R T: R
WAR: 0.4 OPS+: 153 (49 ABs)
Haniger has been limited to only 13 games this season but he’s finally back from a long stint on the IL due to a high-ankle sprain. Last year, he slashed .253/.318/.485 with 23 doubles, 39 home runs and 100 RBIs. How he performs the rest of the way will obviously be critical in determining his value in free agency.
29. Sean Manaea, LHP, Padres
WAR: negative-0.5 ERA: 4.74 IP: 114
Manaea is having a better year than some of the numbers indicate. He has a 4.26 FIP and is striking out a batter per inning. His walks per nine are up (3.4 versus 2.1 last year), but he still has a couple of months to turn things around. Oh, and Manaea will enter the offseason with by far the best hairdo of any free agent.
30. Joc Pederson, OF, Giants
B: L T: L
WAR: 0.3 OPS+: 126
Pederson made his second All-Star team this year and has hit 17 home runs with 44 RBIs in 295 plate appearances. He’s a platoon player who entered Tuesday hitting .255 with 15 homers against right-handed pitching and .194 with two longballs versus lefties.
Six more notable names who are unlikely to reach free agency
(Players listed in alphabetical order)
• Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox: Chicago is expected to exercise his $12.5 million club option for next year.
• Nolan Arenado, 3B, Cardinals: Arenado is not expected to opt out. He has five years, $144 million remaining on his deal.
• Sonny Gray, RHP, Twins: Minnesota is expected to exercise his $12 million club option for 2023.
• Max Muncy, 3B/2B, Dodgers: Los Angeles is expected to exercise his $13 club million option for 2023.
• Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies: Philadelphia is expected to exercise his $16 million club option for 2023.
• Chris Sale, LHP, Red Sox: Sale is not expected to opt out and stands to make $27.5 million with Boston in 2023.
(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic / Getty Images)