Top 25 MLB free agents for 2022-23: Contract predictions, team fits for Judge, deGrom, more

MLB free agency is almost here so it’s time for my annual top 25 list with contract predictions and the best team fits for each player, based on what I’m hearing and thinking about this offseason’s standouts. Eligible players technically become free agents the day after the World Series ends but cannot sign with a new team until five days after the final out. The clock is ticking.

This year’s free-agent class is headlined by Aaron Judge, who is expected to be the American League’s Most Valuable Player, but it also will include three future Hall of Fame pitchers (Jacob deGrom, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander, the likely AL Cy Young Award winner) and four of the best shortstops in the game (Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson).

The industry has recovered well from the pandemic. Many clubs are ready to spend, and the Phillies’ postseason run has reminded them that even a team that wins 87 regular-season games can still reach the World Series. The major rule changes that will debut next season add new variables into the mix, and will impact players’ values and teams’ priorities.

It’s going to be a fun offseason to cover, so let’s kick things off: Here are the top 25 free agents for the 2022-23 offseason, with my thoughts on the players as well as information from my conversations with decision-makers across the game.

(WAR stats are according to Baseball Reference.)


1. Aaron Judge, RF


Aaron Judge (Rich Schultz / Getty Images)

Age: 30
B: R T: R HT: 6-7 WT: 280
2022 (Yankees): WAR: 10.6 OPS+: 211
Agent: PSI Sports Management 2022 salary: $19 million

Judge had arguably the most dominant offensive season in baseball history as he slashed .311/.425/.686, hit an AL record 62 home runs, scored 133 runs and drove in 131. He also stole 16 bases and had six outfield assists. I think he’ll end up re-signing with the Yankees, but it only takes one owner to step up and blow away the competition, like former Giants owner Peter Magowan did with Barry Bonds in 1992 when he gave him a then-record contract. No one knows how far Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner will go to re-sign Judge, or if he’ll even match the best offer the slugger receives in free agency. Judge and his agents have kept everything close to the vest, outside of Judge’s public comments that he’d like to remain a Yankee. One thing is for sure: Judge is going to make at least $100 million more than the seven-year, $213.5 million that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman offered him before the season. He will get at least eight years, perhaps even more.

So, other than a return to the Bronx, where could he end up? The Dodgers have enough money coming off the books to make a play, and they’d love to have Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Judge at the top of their lineup. Betts could either slide over to center field or move to second base, and they could then shift Gavin Lux to shortstop. The Giants will play the geography card since Judge grew up in Northern California. Mets owner Steve Cohen could be aggressive, and he has the resources to blow away the market. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf hasn’t made a big free-agent splash since he signed Albert Belle in 1996, but he could step up and do it now for his underperforming but talented team. Judge’s market will be fascinating to watch.

Best fits: Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Mets, White Sox
Contract prediction: 8 years, $330 million

2. Jacob deGrom, RHP

Age: 34
HT: 6-4 WT: 182
2022 (Mets): WAR: 1.4 ERA: 3.08 IP: 64 1/3
Agent: VC Sports Group 2022 salary: $35.5 million

When healthy, deGrom is the most dominant pitcher in the majors. If health weren’t a concern, we’d be talking about a record long-term contract for the two-time Cy Young winner. However, deGrom hasn’t made more than 15 starts in any of the past two seasons, so a two-year deal with a player opt out after Year 1 is probably the best type of short-term contract for both deGrom and the team that signs him. I think he’ll beat Max Scherzer’s $43.3 million annual salary.

Best fits: Mets, Braves, Dodgers, Yankees, Giants, Orioles
Contract prediction: 2 years, $90 million with an opt out after Year 1

3. Justin Verlander, RHP

Age: 39
HT: 6-5 WT: 235
2022 (Astros): WAR: 5.9 ERA: 1.75 IP: 175
Agent: ISE Baseball 2022 salary: $25 million

Verlander is the clear favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award, and after proving he’s all the way back after Tommy John surgery in 2020, he should be able to land a three-year contract despite being 39 years old. (He has a $25 million player option, but will hit the open market since he can do much better than that after his standout season.) Verlander led the AL in wins, ERA, WHIP and hits per nine innings. He ranked in the 90th percentile in fastball spin, the 80th percentile in K% and the 94th percentile in BB%. His stuff is still dominating.

Best fits: Astros, Yankees, Dodgers, Braves, Mets, Orioles
Contract prediction: 3 years, $135 million

4. Carlos Correa, SS

Age: 27
B: R T: R HT: 6-4 WT: 220
2022 (Twins): WAR: 5.4 OPS+: 140
Agent: Boras Corporation 2022 salary: $35.1 million

Correa will opt out of his deal with the Twins and be the top-rated shortstop in another strong free-agent class. He wants to find a long-term home. He wants a contract that’s similar in length and dollars to the 10-year, $325 million deal Corey Seager received from the Rangers last year, along with a full no-trade clause. Correa is a complete shortstop, defensively and offensively. He has valuable leadership skills and will do his part to help build a winning culture in the clubhouse, dugout, and on the field, as he proved in Houston and Minnesota. Correa’s willingness to sign with the Twins in March makes me think he’ll sign with the team that offers the most years and dollars, which really opens up the field for him.

Best fits: Giants, Twins, Braves, Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox, Cubs, Tigers, Angels, Orioles
Contract prediction: 10 years, $327 million

5. Trea Turner, SS


Trea Turner (Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)

Age: 29
B: R T: R HT: 6-2 WT: 185
2022 (Dodgers): WAR: 4.9 OPS+: 122
Agent: CAA Sports 2022 salary: $21 million

Turner will be interesting to watch in free agency because, like Correa, he’ll seek a Seager, Francisco Lindor type deal of 10 years, and based on his performance, Turner has a strong argument he deserves it. However, 30 of his 194 hits this season were of the infield variety, and that aspect might not age well in a long-term contract. Therefore, I project he’ll get eight years instead of 10. Turner is coming off another strong season in which he scored 101 runs, drove in 100 runs, hit 21 homers and stole 27 bases. He can play second base in addition to shortstop and that increases his value; a team such as the Mariners, who want to keep J.P. Crawford at shortstop, would love to land Turner to play second base.

Best fits: Braves, Mariners, Giants, Twins, Red Sox, Phillies, Cubs, Dodgers, Orioles
Contract prediction: 8 years, $264 million

6. Xander Bogaerts, SS

Age: 30
B: R T: R HT: 6-2 WT: 220
2022 (Red Sox): WAR: 5.7 OPS+: 131
Agent: Boras Corporation 2022 salary: $20 million

Bogaerts is expected to opt out of his contract with the Red Sox, who have been more aggressive in trying to re-sign third baseman Rafael Devers than him. (Devers is under team control through next season.) Bogaerts’ former teammate Mookie Betts would love to be reunited with his close friend in Los Angeles, and the Dodgers will have an opening at shortstop as they’re not expected to re-sign Turner. A four-time All-Star, Bogaerts batted .307, reached base at a 37 percent clip, and hit 37 doubles and 15 home runs this season. His strong makeup and leadership skills will help his market.

Best fits: Red Sox, Braves, Mariners, Dodgers, Phillies, Twins, Orioles
Contract prediction: 7 years, $196 million

7. Carlos Rodón, LHP

Age: 29
HT: 6-3 WT: 245
2022 (Giants): WAR: 5.4 ERA: 2.88 IP: 178
Agent: Boras Corporation 2022 salary: $21.5 million

Rodón is the best left-handed starter in free agency. He’s proven over the past couple of years that his health issues are behind him, starting 55 games with an ERA in the mid-2’s and 422 strikeouts over his past 310 2/3 innings. He’s 27-13 in that stretch. Rodón will attract robust interest because of his age and dominating stuff (95th percentile in K%). I expect him to sign a complex contract that includes opt outs for both the club and player, with significant incentives based on games started and/or innings pitched.

Best fits: Giants, Cardinals, Braves, Mets, Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Blue Jays
Contract prediction: 5 years, $144 million

8. Edwin Díaz, RHP


Edwin Díaz (Jessica Alcheh / USA Today)

Age: 28
HT: 6-3 WT: 170
2022 (Mets): WAR: 3.2 ERA: 1.31 IP: 62 SV: 32
Agent: Rep 1 Baseball 2022 salary: $10.2 million

Díaz was the best closer in the National League this year, converting 32 of 35 saves and posting a 1.31 ERA. According to Statcast, Díaz finished in the 100th percentile in xERA/xwOBA, K%, Whiff%, xSLG and xBA. He will soon be the highest paid closer in history. The Mets will make re-signing Díaz an offseason priority, but their crosstown rivals in the Bronx need him just as badly after moving on from Aroldis Chapman.

Best fits: Mets, Yankees
Contract prediction: 4 years, $65 million

9. Dansby Swanson, SS

Age: 28
B: R T: R HT: 6-1 WT: 190
2022 (Braves): WAR: 5.7 OPS+: 115
Agent: Excel Sports Management 2022 salary: $10 million

The Braves are interested in re-signing Swanson, but after arguably the best year of his career his market value has skyrocketed. It’s going to be intriguing to watch the game of musical chairs as the top four free-agent shortstops sort out where they’ll play in 2023. Swanson will probably have to wait until after Correa, Turner and Bogaerts sign to receive his best offer. He’s ranked fourth by most of the teams that will be in on shortstops.

Best fits: Braves, Mariners, Red Sox, Twins
Contract prediction: 6 years, $154 million

10. Kodai Senga, RHP

Age: 29
HT: 6-0 WT: 179
2022 (SoftBank Hawks): ERA: 1.89 IP: 148

Major-league teams are lining up for Senga, who is arguably the best pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball and will turn 30 in January. Senga has a fastball that sits 99 to 101 mph and a devastating split-finger. He’s allowed 6.3 hits per nine innings this year and struck out 10 per nine. Command and control are minor issues of note as he does walk too many hitters (50 in 148 innings) and often nibbles too much on the outskirts of the strike zone. Major-league teams have thoroughly scouted Senga over the past several years and my three-year, $72 million contract prediction reflects what I’m hearing from the teams that are interested in him.

Best fits: Angels, Orioles, Red Sox, Cubs, Twins, Rangers
Contract prediction: 3 years, $72 million

11. Clayton Kershaw, LHP

Age: 34
HT: 6-4 WT: 225
2022 (Dodgers): WAR: 3.8 ERA: 2.28 IP: 126 1/3
Agent: Excel Sports Management 2022 salary: $17 million

Kershaw is still performing at a high level (95th percentile xERA/xwOBA) and seems to be at a stage of his career where he’s willing to sign one-year contracts for as long as he wants to pitch, which bodes well for the Dodgers. They have done a great job of taking care of him physically, and Kershaw deserves credit for how hard he’s worked to keep his back, elbow and shoulder relatively healthy. The only other team I could see him signing with would be the Rangers, if he wanted to finish his career in his hometown. However, I can’t imagine him in another uniform or pitching for a team that isn’t ready to win a World Series.

Best fits: Dodgers, Rangers
Contract prediction: 1 year, $20 million

12. Willson Contreras, C

Age: 30
B: R T: R HT: 6-1 WT: 224
2022 (Cubs): WAR: 3.9 OPS+: 128
Agent: Octagon 2022 salary: $9.63 million

Contreras is the best free-agent catcher. He should be able to land a contract that’s between the four-year $73 million deal Yasmani Grandal signed with the White Sox in 2019 and the four-year, $82 million deal Salvador Perez signed with the Royals in 2021. Contreras batted .243/.349/.466 this season with 23 doubles, 22 home runs and 55 RBIs. He ranked in the 90th percentile in hard-hit rate.

Best fits: Cardinals, Cubs, Astros, Red Sox
Contract prediction: 4 years, $78 million

13. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP

Age: 32
HT: 6-2 WT: 220
2022 (Red Sox): WAR: 1.5 ERA: 3.87 IP: 109 1/3
Agent: Aces 2022 salary: $17 million

Eovaldi has posted an ERA of under 4.00 in each of the past three seasons (61 starts, 348 innings pitched). He is only one year removed from finishing top 4 in the AL Cy Young voting and top 15 in AL MVP voting, and leading the league with a 2.79 FIP. He spent time on the injured list this year with right shoulder inflammation, but by all indications he’s healthy and has no structural damage. He allowed two runs or fewer in four of his five final starts this season.

Best fits: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers, Angels, Mets, Cardinals, Giants
Contract prediction: 4 years, $90 million

14. Chris Bassitt, RHP


Chris Bassitt (Brad Mills / USA Today)

Age: 33
HT: 6-5 WT: 220
2022 (Mets): WAR: 3.2 ERA: 3.42 IP: 181 2/3
Agent: Meister Sports Management 2022 salary: $8.8 million

One of the most underrated pitchers in baseball, Bassitt has posted a 3.45 ERA in 737 1/3 innings over eight seasons. This year, he went 15-9 with a 3.42 ERA in 30 starts. Last year, he went 12-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 27 starts and finished top 10 in the AL Cy Young voting for the second consecutive season. I debated whether he and Eovaldi will get a fourth year in their respective deals, but because of the lack of supply and the strong demand for starting pitchers, I think someone will give it to them.

Best fits: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers, Angels, Mets, Cardinals, Giants, Twins
Contract prediction: 4 years, $74 million

15. Jameson Taillon, RHP

Age: 30
HT: 6-5 WT: 230
2022 (Yankees): WAR: 1.2 ERA: 3.91 IP: 177 1/3
Agent: Excel Sports Management 2022 salary: $5.8 million

Taillon had a solid, consistent season, posting a 3.86 ERA in 18 starts in the first half and a 3.97 ERA in 14 starts in the second half. He went 7-2 with a 3.47 ERA at Yankee Stadium and 7-3 with a 4.36 ERA on the road. His fastball spin rate ranked in the 85th percentile and his curveball spin was in the 88th percentile. Opposing batters hit just .168 against his curveball this year.

Best fits: Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers, Angels, Mets, Cardinals, Giants, Twins
Contract prediction: 4 years, $70 million

16. Brandon Nimmo, CF

Age: 29
B: L T: R HT: 6-3 WT: 210
2022 (Mets): WAR: 5.0 OPS+: 130
Agent: CAA Sports 2022 salary: $7 million

Nimmo is coming off a career-best year and he’ll get paid for it in free agency. He slashed .274/.367/.433 with 30 doubles, a league-leading seven triples, 16 home runs and 64 RBIs. He’s logged a career .385 on-base percentage over seven seasons. He played center field for the Mets but is also well-suited for left field, and his ability to play both positions will help his market. According to Statcast, he ranked in the 35th percentile in outfielder jump, but he was in the 91st percentile in outs above average, the 72nd percentile in arm strength and the 84th percentile in sprint speed.

Best fits: Mets, Blue Jays, Yankees, Padres, Rangers, Royals, Tigers
Contract prediction: 5 years, $80 million

17. Andrew Benintendi, LF

Age: 28
B: L T: L HT: 5-9 WT: 182
2022 (Royals/Yankees): WAR: 3.2 OPS+: 120
Agent: Excel Sports Management 2022 salary: $8.5 million

Benintendi figured out what type of hitter he was during his time with the Royals: a top-of-the order on-base table setter. He slashed .304/.373/.399 this season with 23 doubles. Benintendi was an All-Star and a Gold Glove finalist this year after winning the award for AL left fielders in 2021. He should attract the most interest from teams that need to improve their left-field defense, on-base percentage, and lineup balance — particularly those that already have a deep lineup.

Best fits: Yankees, Padres, Blue Jays, Rays
Contract prediction: 5 years, $75 million

18. José Abreu, 1B

Age: 35
B: R T: R HT: 6-3 WT: 235
2022 (White Sox): WAR: 4.2 OPS+: 133
Agent: ISE Baseball 2022 salary: $19.67 million

It’s hard to believe the Abreu era on the South Side of Chicago is over after a spectacular run with the White Sox that included six years of 25 or more home runs and 100 or more RBIs. This year, however, he hit a career-low 15 home runs with 75 RBIs in 601 at-bats, as his power and production declined. But he still slashed .304/.378/.446 and was worth 4.2 WAR. And he still ranked in the 97th percentile in hard-hit rate and the 93rd percentile in average exit velocity. It appears the White Sox want to move Andrew Vaughn to first base and open the designated hitter spot for Eloy Jiménez and others. The universal DH will help Abreu land with a contending team. His professional approach and leadership skills would be invaluable additions for a contending or developing team.

Best fits: Padres, Cubs, Rays, Rangers, White Sox
Contract prediction: 2 years, $34 million

19. Anthony Rizzo, 1B


Anthony Rizzo (Brad Penner / USA Today)

Age: 33
B: L T: L HT: 6-3 WT: 240
2022 (Yankees): WAR: 2.3 OPS+: 131
Agent: Sports One Athlete Management 2022 salary: $16 million

I’m hearing Rizzo will opt out of his contract with the Yankees but would like to return to the Bronx with a longer-term commitment. He still plays well-above-average defense at first base and, with half his games at Yankee Stadium, he can certainly match the 32 home runs he hit this season. In addition, the coming shift restrictions will really benefit him over the next couple of years. Rizzo hit just .223 this year, but without the shift his batting average would have been closer to .260. A return to the Yankees is likely, but he’d also fit nicely with the Padres, who have three first basemen (Josh Bell, Wil Myers, Brandon Drury) who will be free agents.

Best fits: Yankees, Padres
Contract prediction: 3 years, $54 million

20. Zach Eflin, RHP

Age: 28
HT: 6-6 WT: 220
2022 (Phillies) WAR: 0.9 ERA: 4.04 IP: 75 2/3
Agent: O’Connell Sports Management 2022 salary: $5.5 million

Eflin will probably sign with a team that wants him in the rotation, but he’s proven he can succeed at the back end of a bullpen as well, which could significantly increase the number of teams that make offers. Eflin posted a 4.04 ERA and a 3.56 FIP in 13 starts and seven relief appearances in the regular season. He missed months of this season on the IL, and his career has been filled with injuries, from shoulder strains to blisters to back tightness to multiple knee surgeries. However, at the tail end of this season he returned to the Phillies and reinvented himself in a relief role. He’s become one of their key bullpen arms during this postseason run. The Phillies will decline Eflin’s $15 million option, and it will be interesting to track his market in free agency.

Best fits: Phillies, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Mets, Orioles, Twins, Rangers, Blue Jays, Dodgers
Contract prediction: 3 years, $36 million

21. Michael Conforto, RF

Age: 29
B: L T: R HT: 6-1 WT: 215
Did not play in 2022
Agent: Boras Corporation

Conforto sat out the entire 2022 season after undergoing right shoulder surgery but was medically cleared this offseason by Dr. Neal ElAttrache and is expected to fully recover. Conforto turned down the Mets’ one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer last year. He hit between 27 and 33 home runs per year from 2017 to 2019. During his walk year of 2021, he reached base at a 34 percent clip while hitting 20 doubles and 14 home runs.

I’ve always loved Conforto’s talent and makeup, and his left-handed bat would fit nicely in a lot of lineups, including those of the Blue Jays, White Sox and Braves. But I had a difficult time coming up with a contract prediction for him. I started with an $8 million base plus incentives to get him to $18 million. I even considered a four-year, $60 million deal, but I think I found a good middle ground with a two-year deal: $16 million for the first year and $18 million for the second year, plus a player opt out after Year 1 to protect Conforto and allow him to re-enter free agency if he can put up 25-30 home runs again. When healthy, Conforto would be ranked above Nimmo and Benintendi on this list, but after sitting out 2022 with the injury, I pushed him down.

Best fits: Mets, Marlins, White Sox, Rays, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Padres, Braves
Contract prediction: 2 years, $34 million with an opt out after Year 1

22. Kenley Jansen, RHP

Age: 35
HT: 6-5 WT: 265
2022 (Braves) WAR: 0.9 ERA: 3.38 IP: 64 SV: 41
Agent: Wasserman 2022 salary: $16 million

Jansen is the best closer on the free-agent market after Díaz. He’s always reinventing himself and making adjustments to stay successful. He was brilliant for the Braves, converting 41 of 48 save opportunities, posting a 3.38 ERA and striking out 85 in 64 innings. He was able to maintain his fastball, cutter and slider average velocity from the prior year. He ranked in the 97th percentile in xERA/xwOBA, the 98th percentile in xBA, the 93rd percentile in xSLG and the 95th percentile in fastball spin.

Best fits: Braves, Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Rangers
Contract prediction: 2 years, $34 million

23. Martín Pérez, LHP


Martín Pérez (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)

Age: 31
HT: 6-0 WT: 202
2022 (Rangers) WAR: 5.0 ERA: 2.89 IP: 196 1/3
Agent: OL Baseball Group 2022 salary: $4 million

Pérez had a career-best year, and his one-year, $4 million contract made him the best value among starting pitchers signed last offseason. He posted a 12-8 record with a career-low 2.89 ERA, 169 strikeouts and 178 hits allowed in 196 1/3 innings. It was only the second time in Pérez’s 11-year career that he posted an ERA under 4.38. Interestingly, he didn’t have a velocity bump or make any changes to his pitch usage. He doesn’t have a special spin rate on any of his pitches, but he misses barrels (92nd percentile for Barrel%), which is his best trait. The sinker and changeup were his most improved pitches from the previous year. The question is, can he replicate his All-Star season? I think it’s extremely unlikely.

Best fits: Rangers, Cardinals, Angels, Mets, Rockies, Tigers
Contract prediction: 2 years, $24 million

24. Tyler Anderson, LHP

Age: 32
HT: 6-2 WT: 220
2022 (Dodgers): WAR: 4.3 ERA: 2.57 IP: 178 2/3
Agent: GSE Worldwide 2022 salary: $8 million

Anderson was one of the best value signings last offseason. The Dodgers’ analytics department revamped his pitch usage, and the results were staggering. After inking a one-year, $8 million deal in March, Anderson delivered a 4.3 WAR season, going 15-5 with a 2.57 ERA in 30 appearances (28 starts). The key change was increasing his changeup usage, from 24 percent to 31 percent of the time, while slightly reducing the pitch’s velocity. A return to the Dodgers would make sense after such a successful season, but he will have other suitors.

Best fits: Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals, Phillies, Royals, Tigers, Rangers, Angels
Contract prediction: 2 years, $24 million

25. Josh Bell, 1B/DH

Age: 30
B: B T: R HT: 6-2 WT: 222
2022 (Nationals/Padres): WAR: 3.0 OPS+: 128
Agent: Boras Corporation 2022 salary: $10 million

Bell slashed .266/.362/.422 with 29 doubles, 17 home runs and 71 RBIs combined for the Nationals and Padres. The switch-hitting slugger hit .262 with 10 home runs from the left side, and .276 with seven home runs from the right side. He’s a great teammate and positive influence in the clubhouse. Bell’s best year was 2019 when hit .277 with 37 home runs and 116 RBIs in an All-Star season. In 2021, he hit 27 home runs with 88 RBIs. Bell was on pace to repeat those numbers this year, as he was hitting .301 with 14 homers when the Nationals traded him to the Padres. But he had a difficult time adjusting to his new team, hitting .192 with only three homers in 53 games. Bell should be able to bounce back and be a 25-home run type power hitter next season.

Best fits: Padres, Rays, Tigers, Rangers
Contract prediction: 3 years, $39 million

(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic / Getty Images)

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