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UPDATED: Nov. 4

Major League Baseball’s free agent class this winter is much, much weaker than last year’s in just about every way. There’s one global superstar at the top, and a few other guys who have some hardware or could challenge for some soon, but it tails off very quickly, especially on the position-player side. I count just 11 potential free-agent hitters whose 2023 production was worth at least 2 Wins Above Replacement by Fangraphs’ method, one of whom agreed to an extension with his team (Max Muncy) and another of whom seems likely to retire (Brandon Belt). Only four of those hitters reached even 3 fWAR in 2023, one of whom was in the negative the year before. If you’re looking for a potential franchise-changing shortstop, well, you’re a year late and a few hundred million dollars short, my friend.

This is my ranking of the top 50 free agents on the market, given what we know now and what seems most likely to happen in the next week or so. I ranked them according to how much I might commit to each of them if I were a GM with a need for that player and no particular payroll constraints – not necessarily what they will get, but what I think they’re likely to be worth, considering their likely future production, playing time, and growth or regression over the life of such a contract. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

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This also represents my best guesses on some club and player options where neither side has indicated their intentions. For example, I am assuming the teams involved will exercise their options on Jorge Polanco, Alex Cobb, and José Leclerc; and that Marcus Stroman, Michael Conforto, Josh Bell and Justin Turner won’t opt out. I’ll update this list accordingly if one of those players ends up a free agent, or if someone on this list (such as Kyle Hendricks and Andrew Heaney) has an option exercised before free agency begins.

Note: Age refers to the player’s seasonal age in 2024, meaning his age on June 30 of that year. I used data from Baseball-ReferenceFanGraphs and MLB’s Baseball Savant to write this article.

Seasonal age in 2024: 29
Bats: L | Throws: R
2023 team: Angels
Stats: .304/.412/.654, 3.14 ERA, 132 IP, 55 BB, 167 K, 18 HR, 10.0 bWAR/9.0 fWAR

Who else could it be? He was worth 6 WAR this past year just as a position player, 10 WAR in total between his bat and his arm, and 6.2 rWAR in 2022 as a pitcher, so in theory, he could post a 12 WAR season and be the most valuable player ever if he comes back healthy from elbow surgery. He doesn’t have to come close to that to be the top free agent this winter, but it’s at least within the realm of possibility. Ohtani is still in his offensive peak years, leading the American League in homers, on-base percentage and slugging this past season while posting career bests in walk and strikeout rates. That last one is the most impressive and the best sign going forward. Just two years ago Ohtani punched out nearly 30 percent of the time, but he cut that down to 23.9 percent this year. He just doesn’t have a weakness. He’s worse against left-handed pitching, sure, but he still hit .245/.365/.532 off them in 2023.

The question about Ohtani, of course, is whether and when he’s going to pitch again after that elbow surgery in September, the second major one he’s had, having undergone Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2018 season. He suffered a second torn UCL, and he won’t pitch again until 2025, at the earliest. We have seen pitchers return to starting after two major UCL operations, but it’s not a guarantee, and because Ohtani appears to have had a repair rather than a full Tommy John surgery, there’s some risk that he fully tears the ligament after returning to pitching and ends up needing the reconstructive surgery at a later date. The success rate of first Tommy John surgeries is 80-90 percent, but second ones appear to have a lower success rate and the restored ligament may not last as long. It’s a lot of unknowns, and if Ohtani was only a pitcher, his free-agent case would be severely affected.

I don’t think that’s the case here, though. He’s an elite offensive player who’s been worth 4-6 wins a year as a DH, even taking the value hit from never taking the field (a little over a win a year), and one of the most marketable players in the sport, if not the most. The Angels made a mint off having Ohtani on the roster between corporate sponsorships, stadium signage, and merchandise, all of which will still be true for Ohtani’s next employers even if he’s just a hitter. In the best-case scenario, where he returns to pitch as a starter by 2025, he’d project to some 8-10 WAR seasons, and that’s a $50 million player just on the baseball merits, probably twice that if you factor in the ancillary revenue he generates for the team. He’s not getting that, but he should break the $50 million barrier, and given his age he shouldn’t settle for any less than the 10-year deals that have become the norm for the top free agents.

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2. Cody Bellinger, CF/1B

Seasonal age in 2024: 28
Bats: L | Throws: L
2023 team: Cubs
Stats: .307/.356/.525, 4.4 bWAR/4.1 fWAR


Cody Bellinger has the second-highest fWAR of any free-agent hitter this year. (John Fisher / Getty Images)

Bellinger had the highest 2023 fWAR of any free-agent hitter outside of Shohei Ohtani, which is rather incredible given how bad he was just two years ago — in 2021 he was a win below replacement level, and then rallied for 1.8 fWAR in 2022. (His bWAR figures for those years were -1.7 and 1.2, respectively.) Bellinger left his strikeouts in LA, going from a career-worst rate of 27.3 percent in 2022 to a career-best of 15.6 percent in 2023. The move to the Cubs brought him back to two hitting coaches he knew from the Dodgers’ system, Dustin Kelly and Johnny Washington, and they made some modest adjustments that added up to a big change in his output. He’s more upright now through contact, staying back on the ball better, and better able to pick up pitch types — he went from negative run values in 2022 on curves, sliders, and changeups, to positive ones on all three pitch types in 2023, improving by 17 runs year-over-year against changeups alone.

He has retained his defensive value, as he’s an above-average defender in center who’d easily be plus in a corner and is also a plus defender at first base, which I know might seem like a waste given his outfield chops but does expand the universe of teams that could find a place for him. He’s had some significant injuries, notably the dislocated right shoulder (from bashing arms with teammate Kiké Hernández) that required surgery after 2020 and may have triggered his offensive death spiral, but he’s bounced back to play 274 games the past two seasons with just one IL stint for a knee contusion. He’s also one of the youngest free agents in the class, meaning whoever signs him gets two to four more years of his offensive peak, while his defensive value and general athleticism point to a gentler decline. There’s certainly risk here given how recently he was borderline unplayable, but the free agent market runs on recency bias and I think he’ll get six- and seven-year offers approaching $200 million.

Seasonal age in 2024: 31
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Phillies
Stats: 4.46 ERA, 193 2/3 IP, 45 BB, 202 K, 32 HR, 2.1 bWAR/3.9 fWAR

Nola didn’t have the best platform year of any free-agent pitcher, but he’s the one I’d pay the most right now, given his track record, stuff, and the mechanical tweaks he made in mid-September that turned him back into an ace. He’s a command guy who’s had a plus curveball for years and works with both a four- and a two-seamer, getting added deception from how he mixes the two, with a changeup that might be plus as well and a slider/cutter that’s a fifth pitch but works in part because he doesn’t use it too often.

His command seemed to abandon him in the first half of 2023, and he was awful with men on base all season — especially with runners in scoring position. The Phillies worked with him to get him more online to the plate and keep his shoulders square when working from the stretch, as well as incorporating a slide-step to help him control the running game. In his first six starts after the change, two in the regular season and four in the playoffs, hitters went 8-for-37 off him with men on base, a whole lot better than the .303 average he’d given up with men on base before then, although minuscule sample size caveats apply. He’s said that he felt like he regained command to his glove side and didn’t yank the fastball and changeup as much, which is generally what happens when pitchers get or stay online to the plate — they can work better to both sides, maybe at the cost of some deception.

He’s been on the injured list once in the past six seasons, missing a single start in July 2022 with an elbow strain, although he also missed a spring training start in 2020 with “the flu” a few days before the world ended; before that, his last injury of any sort was a UCL sprain in 2017 that was treated with a PRP injection. I think he’s a hidden ace, someone who’ll take off for whoever signs him — and shame on the Phillies if they don’t — even though he might end up more in the $25 million a year range than the $30 million-plus he’s likely to be worth.

Seasonal age in 2024: 25
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Orix Buffaloes
Stats: 1.21 ERA, 164 IP, 28 BB, 169 K, 2 HR

Yamamoto might be the best pitcher in NPB right now, and his stuff should certainly allow him to be an above-average starter here — maybe an ace. He’ll sit 94-96 mph with an out pitch in his splitter along with a cutter and a very high-spin curveball, the last of which is somewhat rare for pitchers from Japan. He’s coming off a year when he posted the lowest walk rate (4.4 percent) and ERA (1.21) of his NPB career, missing a start in May due to illness and coming in at 164 innings, his lowest total since the pandemic.

It’s a very unusual delivery, with nothing resembling a windup, but he’s extremely athletic and makes it work for plus command and so far durability; I’d call it “tall and fall,” but nothing about the 5-foot-10 (at most) Yamamoto is “tall.” He does take an enormous stride toward the plate, which should help him generate more power from his lower half and maybe boost his extension to mitigate some of the disadvantages of his lack of height. We’ve seen starters his size have success even in today’s game, including free agents Sonny Gray and Marcus Stroman, both listed at 5-foot-10 and maybe an inch or so shorter. Both of those guys became All-Stars by learning to sink the ball to avoid the lack of fastball plane that comes with being short, while Yamamoto works more with a four-seamer that has ride up in the zone and uses a splitter as his primary out pitch.

Yamamoto has avoided major injury, with two oblique muscle strains the most significant ones I could find, so while there’s injury risk with any starter he at least comes in with a fairly clean track record. He has the stuff and the command to be an All-Star here, and the main factor I see in determining if he can be a true ace is if he’ll continue to keep the ball in the park as he has in Japan.

5. Sonny Gray, RHP

Seasonal age in 2024: 33
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Twins
Stats: 2.79 ERA, 184 IP, 55 BB, 183 K, 8 HR, 5.3 bWAR/5.3 fWAR

Gray is listed at a generous 5-foot-10, but height doesn’t measure heart — or effectiveness, as Gray led the American League in FIP this year and finished second in both bWAR and fWAR thanks to a combination of some of the best control of his career and the lowest home run rate of any starter in baseball. Gray’s been a good starter for a decade now, with some ups and downs, but part of his success in 2023 was the introduction of a different slider, tagged a sweeper by Statcast, that was the most effective pitch of its type in 2023, worth 19 runs above average thanks to huge vertical break and above-average horizontal break as well. He gets good ride on a high-spin four-seamer and pounds the zone with it, with only 31.6 percent of four-seamers he threw in 2023 going for balls.

He didn’t miss a start in 2023, missing eight starts the year before due to hamstring and pectoral strains, with no history of any significant arm problems. The extremely low home-run rate is probably not sustainable — his 5.2 percent home runs per fly ball rate is the lowest for any qualifying starter in a full season since 2014, but he does keep the ball in the park more than the average pitcher because he’s a slight ground-ball guy and limits hard contact. His age might limit the length of contracts teams are willing to offer him, but he should do no worse than three years and $20 million AAV, and probably better given his combination of durability of effectiveness.

6. Jordan Montgomery, LHP

Seasonal age in 2024: 31
Bats: L | Throws: L
2023 team: Cardinals and Rangers
Stats: 3.20 ERA, 188 2/3 IP, 48 BB, 166 K, 18 HR, 4.1 bWAR/4.3 fWAR

I wrote about Montgomery at some length in early October, as he has gone way beyond my original projections for him to become a back-end starter. He’s a strike thrower who gets substantial deception from the difference in movement between his sinker and four-seamer, while his stuff across the board has improved by 2-3 mph over the past four seasons. Montgomery leads with the sinker, throwing it for more than half of his pitches, but has a real four-pitch mix with the four-seamer, changeup, and curveball, dominating left-handed batters across the board — he’s allowed just two homers to lefties in the past two seasons combined and held them to a .251 OBP. He’s effective enough against right-handers, limiting them to a .295 OBP over that same span, but they’ve tagged him for 37 homers since the start of 2022, a function of his arm slot and the fact that most of the pitches he throws move in towards a righty’s bat.

He did undergo Tommy John surgery in 2018 but hasn’t missed a start since the beginning of the 2020 season, including 32 starts each of the past two years. Montgomery is definitely at his peak right now, with his best velocity and results, but I like this formula — strikes, deception, changing speeds, without reliance on huge velocity — to age well, so he’s one of the few starting pitchers on this market I’d be willing to go four years for, and I think he’ll probably end up with five-year offers.

7. Blake Snell, LHP

Seasonal age in 2024: 31
Bats: L | Throws: L
2023 team: Padres
Stats: 2.25 ERA, 180 IP, 99 BB, 234 K, 15 HR, 6.0 bWAR/4.1 fWAR


Blake Snell went 8-2 with a 1.54 ERA after the All-Star break. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

Snell might win the NL Cy Young Award this year despite a career-high walk rate of 13.3 percent, which I believe would be the highest ever for a Cy winner in either league, and I think that one figure, in particular, has to loom large for teams considering investing in him long-term. He’s led his league in ERA twice, 2023 and 2018 (when he also won the Cy), but those are also the only two seasons when he’s thrown more than 130 innings, and a big part of his performance this year was unusual success in stranding runners on base — his LOB percent was 86.7 percent, the highest in baseball by more than six points. That’s not sustainable, and when you’re walking as many guys as he does and you aren’t stranding runners at league-leading rates, you’re going to give up more runs, which is what his FIP of 3.44 indicates.

He’s a good pitcher, just not a No. 1 starter or someone who projects to sub-3 ERAs, and he hasn’t been very durable in his career; if someone’s paying him to be a mid-rotation guy, they’ll capture some upside in his healthy years to make up for the years when he can’t pitch as much, but if he gets paid like a No. 2 or better, he probably won’t produce up to the level of the contract.

Seasonal age in 2024: 31
Bats: L | Throws: L
2023 team: Tigers
Stats: 3.30 ERA, 152 2/3 IP, 48 BB, 143 K, 15 HR, 3.5 bWAR/3.0 fWAR

Rodriguez made 26 starts in 2023, most of a full season, missing all of June with a finger injury, but after missing the 2020 season with COVID-19-induced myocarditis and only making 17 starts in 2022, it’s enough for him to walk away from three years and $49 million guaranteed. He struggled for years to find a real breaking pitch but eventually landed on a cutter, relegating his inconsistent slider to fourth in the arsenal, with the fastball/changeup always his bread and butter, and he’s had years when he’s limited hard contact enough to be an above-average starter. The slider may even have been better in 2023 because he used it more sparingly and threw it almost 2 mph harder, although I doubt it’s going to be a real weapon given his chronic inability to spin anything.

He’s more of a mid-rotation guy, a No. 3 or a No. 4 for a contender because he walks a few more guys than you’d like (never below 7 percent) and since he returned from the heart scare he’s been more prone to allowing hard contact. He hasn’t had a significant arm injury in the big leagues, missing time with for the reasons above, a ribcage strain, knee surgery back in 2018, and taking time for personal reasons in 2022, enough that I’d view him as a 25-start guy on average, but one who pitches at a league-average or better level, which gets you $20 million-plus in recent winters.

9. Matt Chapman, 3B

Seasonal age in 2024: 31
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Blue Jays
Stats: .240/.330/.424, 4.4 bWAR/3.5 fWAR

Chapman was an elite defender at third as recently as two years ago when he led all third basemen with 17 Outs Above Average, but he’s dropped towards average since then, with five this past year and just one the year prior, as the former Oakland A’s star seems to have lost some first-step quickness, now gaining most of his defensive value from his reliability on balls hit closer to him and his grade-80 arm.

Never a great hitter for average or on-base ability, he lost something at the plate as well, struggling more than ever with velocity — he whiffed 17.9 percent of the time on pitches 95-plus, up from just 13.2 percent over the 2021-22 period, and had more of his batted balls go to the opposite field than in any prior season in his career. In fact, all eight extra-base hits he had that left the infield on pitches 95-plus mph went the other way. He hasn’t lost strength, certainly, with extremely strong exit velocity and hard-hit rates, but he’s lost some bat speed, and while he’s young for that to be happening it’s at least a cause for concern going forward. It’s always possible it’s a one-year blip, and the 5-WAR version is still in here, but I’d price in some of this early decline risk into any offer, as he was a 3.5 fWAR player last year and is probably going to average 2.5 to 3 fWAR over a four-year deal.

10. Lee Jung-hoo, OF

Seasonal age in 2024: 25
Bats: L | Throws: R
2023 team: Kiwoom Heroes
Stats: .318/.406/.455

Lee has exceptional hand-eye coordination that has made him one of the best pure hitters in the KBO over the past few seasons, including his MVP-winning campaign in 2022 when he led the league with a 5.1 percent strikeout rate and no one else was below 8 percent. He was in the middle of another strong season, albeit not quite at the 2022 level, when he broke his ankle in July and underwent season-ending surgery, although his team, the Kiwoom Heroes, appears likely to post him this winter regardless.

He’s a contact hitter with fringy power, reaching double-digit homers in the hitter-friendly KBO just twice in seven seasons, with 23 in 2022 as his high mark. He’s strong enough for doubles power but has to muscle up so much to get to over-the-fence power that it takes him out of his usual swing and approach. He’s a capable defender in centerfield but isn’t a burner and doesn’t have huge range, so he may end up in a corner in MLB. He’s the best hitter in Korea right now, and while the pitching he’s faced isn’t at the level of MLB pitching, he’s done everything you might reasonably ask a hitter to do in that environment, making a lot of hard contact and rarely swinging and missing, with some platoon split and not a ton of power.

11. Marcus Stroman, RHP

Seasonal age in 2024: 33
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Chicago Cubs
Stats: 3.95 ERA, 136.2 IP, 52 BB, 119 K, 6 HR, 1.6 bWAR/2.7 fWAR

Stroman had a 2.47 ERA and 3.34 FIP on July 1, but his performance cratered starting in late June, through his trip to the injured list in early August for hip inflammation, which Stroman said at the time was affecting his ability to use his lower half and driving his poor results. You can see some of this in the pitch data, as his fastball spin rate dropped about 100 rpms after that date, and he threw fewer strikes across all his stuff. He did return in September after his IL stint was extended for a rib cage fracture, making four relief appearances, but the pitch quality and results weren’t really better. I didn’t think he’d opt out given the injuries and poor showing in the second half, with $21 million guaranteed in the last year of his deal with the Cubs and some quality starting pitching on the market this winter. If you know you’re getting the first-half version of Stroman, he’s easily a $25 million a year pitcher, and someone who should hold his level of performance because he’s a strong groundball guy who keeps the ball in the park, rather than a pitcher who relies on bigger velocity and missing more bats. He made 50 starts in two years for the Cubs, with 275 innings total in those seasons, after a full and very effective year for the Mets in 2021, so I’d expect the market to discount him a little for the lower workloads, which I think puts him right around that same salary he walked away from by opting out – just perhaps for another three-year deal rather than one.

Seasonal age in 2024: 30
Bats: L | Throws: L
2023 team: Yokohama Bay Stars
Stats: 2.80 ERA, 148 IP, 24 BB, 174 K, 17 HR

Imanaga had a coming-out party of sorts when he started the WBC Championship game this past March against the United States, throwing just two innings but showing good command of a four-pitch mix that helps him project as a mid-rotation starter if he does come to MLB. Imanaga works at 91-94 mph with very high spin rates that help generate both ride and run on the pitch, while he has a potential out pitch for guys on both sides with his splitter, a slow but huge-breaking curveball, and a slider that’ll probably be his primary breaking ball against big-league hitters.

He’s coming off his best year in NPB where he struck out 29.4 percent of batters he faced and walked just 3.4 percent, both career bests, with that walk rate about a third below his previous career low. He allowed 13 of his 17 homers last year to right-handed batters, however, as he cuts himself off slightly in his landing and spins off his front heel, all of which might need some adjustment to face MLB right-handers multiple times. There’s No. 3 starter potential here, especially if this new level of control holds, and he should aim for more than Kodai Senga’s five-year, $75 million deal, which was a screaming bargain for the Mets in year one.

13. Kyle Hendricks, RHP

Seasonal age in 2024: 34
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Cubs
Stats: 3.74 ERA, 137 IP, 27 BB, 93 K, 13 HR, 1.5 bWAR/2.8 fWAR

Hendricks started the season on the injured list while recovering from a capsular tear in his right shoulder that did not require surgery, but quietly had his best season since the truncated 2020 campaign as he largely resumed doing the things that made him so effective through 2020. He had his lowest walk rate and highest groundball rate in three seasons, and it was also his best campaign in that span by just about every measure of hard contact allowed. That’s Hendricks’ game, and it’s a formula that allows him to succeed even with one of the slowest four-seamers in the game, averaging just 87.8 mph last year (but up from 86.9 the year before). He would have ranked in the top 10 among MLB starters for lowest walk rate and Barrel rate if he’d qualified and had the second-lowest hard-hit rate if you drop the threshold to 120 innings, behind Wade Miley.

If Hendricks loses any more velocity, this one incredible trick probably won’t work anymore, and any pitcher who’s had a serious shoulder injury is at risk for further problems, but I also think he’ll get a little more command/control back with another year between him and the knife. He could be a 3-win starter for a few more years, maybe into his late 30s, until the gas runs out.

Seasonal age in 2024: 30
Bats: B | Throws: R
2023 team: Nationals and Cubs
Stats: .251/.336/.471, 3.1 bWAR/3.3 fWAR

The Tigers non-tendered Candelario last November after he slumped to a .217/.272/.361 line, allowing the Nationals to sign him to a one-year, $5 million deal for the bounceback, as Candelario set a career high with 22 homers and a 117 wRC+, enough for the Cubs to trade a pair of prospects for him at the deadline. That said, his stat line was a lot better than his underlying batted ball data would imply, as he didn’t do anything like create more hard contact or barrel the ball more often to make you think the power spike was sustainable, and his improved defense with the Nats turned around completely after the trade by Outs Above Average, which makes me think he’s probably the same average-ish defender at third he’s always been. There’s value in a guy who’s good for about 40 doubles and 15-20 homers with a league-average OBP and the aforementioned defense at third, probably 2.5-3 WAR a year, and since he’s been that guy in the past two seasons when fully healthy he should get three or four years and $18-22 million per.

Seasonal age in 2024: 31
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Phillies
Stats (2022): .246/.332/.462, 2.9 bWAR/2.3 fWAR

Hoskins was a fixture in the Phillies’ lineup and a fan favorite since his incredible 50-game debut in 2017 when he hit .259/.396/.618 with 18 homers, but he tore his ACL in spring training and missed the entire 2023 season, a terrible break for a player heading into free agency for the first time. Since that rookie year, he’s settled in as more of a solid regular who really hits lefties with plenty of power against righties but is a below-average defender at first and can’t play anywhere else.

In his four full seasons since his debut, he was worth between 2.0 and 2.4 fWAR every year, although Baseball Reference is much harsher on his defense and had him as low as 1.1 rWAR back in 2018, a year when Statcast had him at a stunning -18 runs. He’s not good at first, but he hits enough to be someone’s DH, and he hits enough to be someone’s first baseman, just perhaps not a contender’s. His 2022 wRC+ of 122 would have tied him for fifth among qualifying first basemen in baseball last year with Paul Goldschmidt, and the potential for that should at least get him some high-value one-year offers in the $20 million range, although he should be looking at three-year deals at a similar AAV.

16. Jorge Soler, OF

Seasonal age in 2024: 32
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Marlins
Stats: .250/.341/.512, 1.8 bWAR/1.9 fWAR

Only one thing is consistent about Soler — he’s bad on defense, especially in right, which has masked the fact that in some years he’s been a credible hitter. His oWAR is 11.3 for his career, but his dWAR is at -10.2 (both include a positional adjustment, so you can’t just add them together). He led the AL in homers in 2019, whacked 14 in 55 games for Atlanta in 2021 (plus a huge one in the playoffs), and hit 36 for Miami last year because when he hits the ball, he hits it very hard. His maximum exit velocities have ranked in the top 6 percent every year, and he’s always way above the median in anything that measures hard contact in years when he plays enough to qualify.

His approach has improved as well over time, so while he’s not disciplined, he chases a little less and makes contact more often when he does go beyond the zone. His best years have seen him post OBPs in the .340-.355 range, with big power, and if he were just a DH he’d probably have a couple more WAR on his stat sheet. His last deal guaranteed him $13.5 million per year over two years; I think he gets closer to $20 million on a three-year deal, coming off the second-best season of his career. I’d just prefer to ask him to leave his glove at home.

Seasonal age in 2024: 34
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Padres
Stats: 3.57 ERA, 146 1/3 IP, 36 BB, 140 K, 19 HR, 1.8 bWAR/2.8 fWAR

Lugo was one of the first darlings of the Statcast era because he has one of the highest-spin curveballs we’ve ever seen, averaging 3240 RPMs last year with huge vertical break, but it’s not the wipeout pitch you might expect. He wasn’t great when the Mets tried to start him in 2017 but moved to the bullpen and had two strong years as a bulk reliever, racking up 4.2 bWAR, then became more of a one-inning reliever and remained effective if less valuable overall.

The Padres gave him a one-year, $7.5 million deal with a player option, and put him in their Opening Day rotation, where he thrived primarily as a four-seamer/curveball guy and made 26 starts, generating 1.8 rWAR/2.8 fWAR while setting a career high in innings with 146. He plays those two pitches well off each other, as they appear to the hitter to break in opposite directions, and will mix in a sinker, slider, change, and even an occasional sweeper, which I think bodes well for his ability to keep his value even if his velocity tapers off now that he’s in his mid-30s. There isn’t a lot of mileage on his arm, which might balance out concerns about his age, and I think he did enough last year to get some three-year deals in the $30-36 million (total) range.

18. Mike Clevinger, RHP

Seasonal age in 2024: 33
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: White Sox
Stats: 3.77 ERA, 131 1/3 IP, 40 BB, 110 K, 16 HR, 3.3 bWAR/2.2 fWAR

Clevinger missed all of 2021 while recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, and was limited to 47 starts over the past two years by several less serious injuries, including two to his upper arm (triceps in 2022, biceps in 2023). So his durability is a question mark, both for 2024 and for the long term, but he showed he could be productive in limited work. His 2023 line was worth 3.3 bWAR/2.2 fWAR, although fWAR and FIP (4.28) may undersell him a little because he has had high strand rates his whole career — his left-on-base percentage of 77.2 was actually a tick below his career average because he doesn’t change his unique delivery much when men are on base.

He’s primarily a three-pitch guy, fastball-slider-changeup, although his slider hasn’t come all the way back post-TJ. The pitch has changed shape almost completely, so perhaps it’s unfair to say it hasn’t come back, more that it’s a different pitch now, above-average but not a wipeout pitch like it once was. He’s probably a $25 million per year guy, even at 24 or so starts a year, but I’d be wary of going more than two years for a guy with two Tommy Johns and several other arm injuries on his medicals.

Seasonal age in 2024: 34
Bats: L | Throws: R
2023 team: Blue Jays
Stats: .265/.322/.419, 3.9 bWAR/2.2 fWAR

Kiermaier is still one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball, ranking second at the position in Outs Above Average last year behind Colorado’s Brenton Doyle at 13, and when he gets his OBP over .300 he’s good enough to be a regular for most teams, worth 3-4 wins in those years, although about half the time he falls short of that OBP mark. He covers a ton of ground in center with great jumps in both directions, which could give a team some flexibility in who they play in the corners, while at the plate he’s got some pull power but is mostly just a dead fastball hitter who’s vulnerable to anything with a wrinkle. Great defense like this isn’t boring, but he’s so consistently great in the outfield that we may be taking his career — 35.5 bWAR, 25.7 fWAR — for granted, and any contender without a real centerfielder should go after him on a two- or three-year deal.

Seasonal age in 2024: 32
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Padres
Stats: 3.22 ERA, 134 1/3 IP, 43 BB, 124 K, 15 HR, 2.4 bWAR/2.6 fWAR

Wacha has turned in two very solid seasons over the past two years, even though he’s missed about a quarter of each season, because he throws a ton of strikes, has no platoon split, and has been unusually good from the stretch. He’s been a fastball/changeup guy since the Cardinals took him in the first round in 2012, reaching the majors the next year and looking like he’d be a long-time, mid-rotation starter shortly thereafter. His shoulder started giving him trouble in 2014, though, and he’s never quite reached the same peak he did in 2015. He’s only reached 140 innings once in the past seven seasons, back in 2016, and was on the IL again this past year with shoulder inflammation.

He was very good in 2023 though, with his four-seamer and changeup both worth 12 runs above average per Statcast data, even though he sits at 91-93 mph and doesn’t have exceptional movement or life on the pitch. His changeup is just that deceptive, and it’s been a plus pitch for him even in his worst years. I imagine he’ll be limited to one-year offers or conditional ones that vest option years based on health and games started, which is reasonable. Even if you assume he’s a 22-24 starts a year guy, he’s shown he can be worth over 2 WAR in that role, and most teams are set up to handle one starter like that in their rotation.

Seasonal age in 2024: 36
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Twins
Stats: 4.23 ERA, 104 1/3 IP, 28 BB, 117 K, 17 HR, 1.1 bWAR/1.5 fWAR


Kenta Maeda allowed three earned runs over four innings in the ALDS. (Adam Bettcher / Getty Images)

Maeda missed 2022 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, returned this April to make four starts, then went back on the injured list with a triceps strain after he got lit up for 10 runs in three innings on April 26. After he returned, he made 16 starts, posting a 3.36 ERA/3.94 FIP over 88 1/3 innings with 103 strikeouts and 25 walks, which is a half-season of an above-average starter. He still has the out-pitch splitter that’s been his main weapon since he first came from NPB in 2016, but his slider wasn’t as good or effective in 2023 as it had been before the elbow surgery; its shape was different and hitters hit it hard 37.1 percent of the time they put it in play, well above his previous worst (27.9 percent) for that pitch.

He may regain some feel for it now that he’s further from the surgery, but plenty of pitchers have struggled to get a breaking ball — more commonly a curveball — back after Tommy John. He’s also somewhat homer-prone between the lack of life on the four-seamer and the occasional hanging slider, mitigating that with a low walk rate and, before 2023, low hard-hit rates. You can’t pay him on the expectations of plenty of innings, but he looks like a pretty solid twice-through-the-order starter for the right team who might surprise and give you 25 starts of above-average work.

Seasonal age in 2024: 34
Bats: L | Throws: L
2023 team: Dodgers
Stats: .269/.340/.463, 1.9 bWAR/2.2 fWAR

Heyward found some new life last year in Los Angeles thanks to an offseason swing overhaul and some extreme platooning. He posted a .276/.347/.471 line against right-handers and had just 28 plate appearances all year against lefties, while his defense remained strong, with 6 runs saved per Statcast data. He’s loading his hands a little deeper and finishing with a little more loft, leading to a career-high average launch angle and career-low ground-ball rate — without any loss of contact. He’d be just another platoon bat if not for the plus defense, which means you can pinch hit him late in games with a righty on the mound and lose nothing or even gain something on defense. Heyward’s career has seemed like a disappointment after he started so strongly, so it would be great to see him have a second act as an $8-10 million per year platoon outfielder, if not a little more.

Seasonal age in 2024: 30
Bats: L | Throws: L
2023 team: Padres
Stats: 1.28 ERA, 56 1/3 IP, 30 BB, 85 K, 3 HR, 2.4 bWAR/1.7 fWAR

Hader bounced back somewhat from a career-worst season in 2022, but still walked 12.2 percent of batters faced last year, second only to his 2020 season, and saw less movement on both his fastball and slider than he’d had in the previous few years. He traded some of those whiffs for less hard contact, posting both the lowest hard-hit rate of his career and one of the lowest in baseball, ranking 12th among qualifiers in hard-hit and Barrel rates allowed. He may not be the shutdown, 3-WAR reliever he was several years ago, but he’s an above-average left-handed reliever who gets hitters on both sides out well enough for high-leverage work, and he has that scarlet C on the uniform for managers who like that sort of thing. I expect he’ll get four-year offers, although I wouldn’t go over two years for any free-agent reliever because their value that far out is too hard to predict.

Seasonal age in 2024: 36
Bats: L | Throws: L
2023 team: Dodgers
Stats: 2.46 ERA, 131 2/3 IP, 40 BB, 137 K, 19 HR, 3.7 bWAR/2.3 fWAR

Kershaw’s a free agent in name only, really, as he’s probably deciding between the Dodgers and retirement, and possibly a hometown team like the Rangers. He was among the best pitchers in baseball in the first half of 2023, with a 2.55 ERA, 27.8 percent strikeout rate and 6.3 percent walk rate in the first half, but his shoulder flared up in his June 27 start and he missed six weeks. After he returned, he was still effective, but the Dodgers gave him extra rest several times and limited him to five innings in seven of his eight starts, while his fastball was down about 2 mph from before the injured list stint (89.3 versus 91.2).

He hasn’t thrown 140 innings or made 25 starts in any season since 2019, but he’s been anywhere from good to excellent when he has pitched, and his slider was still the most valuable one in baseball last year by Statcast’s metric, plus-18 runs better than average, even though eight other pitchers threw more sliders than he did. I can’t predict health but I feel pretty good predicting that Kershaw will be good for whatever portion of 2024 he’s healthy, and worth another $20 million (or more) on a one-year contract like the one that just finished.

Kershaw undergoes shoulder surgery

Seasonal age in 2024: 29
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: White Sox, Angels and Guardians
Stats: 4.88 ERA, 184 1/3 IP, 73 BB, 204 K, 41 HR, 1.6 bWAR/1.0 fWAR

Giolito’s platform year started innocuously enough; he made 21 starts for the White Sox before they traded him to Anaheim, with a 3.79 ERA/4.43 FIP, struggling with the longball (20 homers in 121 innings) but missing bats and limiting walks enough, and seemed likely to get a long-term deal at No. 3 starter money or better. After the trade, however, he posted a 6.96 ERA/6.87 FIP, giving up 21 more homers in just 63 1/3 innings, throwing fewer strikes, and giving up more hard contact overall. He seemed to lose his release point on his slider later in the year, and his fastball command was probably the worst it’s been since he revamped his arm action before the 2019 season. His slider has fallen off by every metric over the past two seasons, going from 5.3 inches of total movement and 28 percent active spin two years ago to just 3.3 inches and 17 percent this past season, while his arm slot and thus the observed movement on the pitch have drifted upwards. His fastball is as hard as ever, but it’s down 200 RPMs from 2021 (as is the slider) and has lost almost an inch of horizontal break … which might be part of why he allowed 19 homers on the pitch last year, along with hard contact half the time hitters put it in play.

It all screams for a new approach, assuming there’s no physical explanation behind these changes. He still has the velocity and the durability, but several things are moving the wrong way here, from his ability to spin the baseball to his release point. He might get some multi-year offers, but he seems like the perfect “pillow contract” guy to take a one-year, make-good deal and go back out next winter if he regains his 2021 form.

26. Michael Lorenzen, RHP

Seasonal age in 2024: 32
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Tigers and Phillies
Stats: 4.18 ERA, 153 IP, 47 BB, 111 K, 20 HR, 2.0 bWAR/1.7 fWAR


Michael Lorenzen celebrates with J.T. Realmuto after throwing a no-hitter against the Washington Nationals on Aug. 9. (Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)

Lorenzen moved to the rotation in 2022, making 18 starts for the Angels, and was well on his way to making 30 starts and qualifying for the ERA title when the worst possible thing happened: He threw a no-hitter. He gave up 26 runs in 26 innings across his next five starts, allowing eight homers, then lost his rotation spot and threw just four innings in the season’s final three weeks. It’s also possible this was just fatigue setting in for a guy who had tied his career high in innings before the no-hitter began, but whatever the cause, he wasn’t the same guy afterward and could end up underpriced in free agency as a result.

For four months, he looked like he was developing into a solid fourth starter who threw strikes (6.2 percent walk rate before the no-hitter) and could handle some innings, lacking a real out pitch but with a 55 changeup that has helped him have virtually no platoon split in his two years as a starter. He’s also a plus defender in center and has a little pop, although he’s had just one at-bat in the last four seasons, so he might be rusty with the stick. He should be a three-year, $30 million or so guy for a team looking for some dependable innings toward the back of a rotation, as long as teams aren’t too scared off by his August/September struggles.

27. Tommy Pham, OF

Seasonal age in 2024: 36
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Mets and Diamondbacks
Stats: .256/.328/.446, 1.5 bWAR/1.9 fWAR

Pham has mashed left-handed pitching in his career and does enough against right-handers that you can sort of play him every day, although you have to live with some iffy defense in either outfield corner, and that’s only likely to decline as he enters his late 30s. He’s still an above-average runner and seems to have benefited from the rule changes this year, stealing 22 bags in 25 attempts, his most in a season since 2019. I’d be glad to sign him on a similar deal to the one that just ended, a year and $6 million, as long as his walk-up song is Puig Destroyer’s “No One Cares About Your Fantasy Team.”

Seasonal age in 2024: 35
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Mets and Brewers
Stats: .262/.355/.400, 2.2 bWAR/1.6 fWAR


Mark Canha got hit by 17 pitches in 2023, down from 28 in 2022 and 27 in 2021. (Patrick McDermott / Getty Images)

Canha gave the Mets about three and a half wins of production on the two-year deal he signed before 2022 before they traded him to Milwaukee for a fringe pitching prospect in Justin Jarvis, after which he ran his two-year total to 4.6 rWAR — a screaming bargain for the $24 million total he earned in the period. He became a very strong on-base guy at age 30, and last year’s OBP of .355 was his lowest since 2018, maybe because he failed to lead the league in times hit by a pitch for the first time in three years.

He doesn’t have enough power to be a regular in a corner, but he doesn’t show much platoon split and could overcome the lack of power if he gets his OBPs back up to the .370-plus range. If you’re a glass-half-full person, you see Canha’s .373 OBP in Milwaukee after the trade and hope there’s another year or two of that production in here, in which case he ought to get another two-year deal for something more like $28-30 million.

Seasonal age in 2024: 31
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Rays
Stats: 2.35 ERA, 38 1/3 IP, 8 BB, 60 K, 5 HR, 1.1 bWAR/0.9 fWAR

Stephenson was a four-time top-100 prospect for me, three of those years in the top 50, as the 2011 first-rounder had size, velocity, and what seemed like two above-average secondary pitches, but he started to struggle with command and control in Triple A in 2015 and never put it together as a big-league starter. He started 2023 with the Pirates and went to the Rays in a trade on June 2 for Alika Williams, after which he became a completely different guy.

Tampa’s pitching coach Kyle Snyder had him tweak his hand position on his slider to get more velocity on the pitch and change its movement, after which the slider — which you’ll see as a cutter on Baseball Savant, which treats it as a distinct pitch from the one he threw in Pittsburgh — became unhittable, with a 60 percent whiff rate and 12 runs saved above average. He even improved as the season went on, walking two of the last 73 hitters he faced in 2023. The one knock on him is that he’s nowhere near as effective against left-handed batters, mostly in terms of power, although he has a decent splitter and was better with Tampa in that department as well. That slider’s going to make him a fair bit of money, and I’m sure plenty of teams see what I’m seeing and will look at him as a less expensive option than more established closers because of his very short track record of pitching at this level.

Seasonal age in 2024: 28
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Cardinals and Orioles
Stats: 4.99 ERA, 144 1/3 IP, 66 BB, 148 K, 17 HR, 0.8 bWAR/1.8 fWAR

Flaherty was solid for St. Louis before the trade deadline but atrocious after he went to Baltimore, losing his spot in the Orioles’ rotation and working in mop-up duty in their Wild Card Series with Texas, where he walked three guys in two innings. Flaherty was an ace for a brief moment, but he’s had multiple shoulder issues as well as a significant oblique strain that may have contributed to the bursitis that wiped out most of his 2022 season, and he’s lost the curveball he had as a prospect and had to replace it with a slider that was wildly ineffective last year. Flaherty’s slider generated whiff rates of 45 percent in 2018-19, but in 2023 that fell to 15 percent, the third straight year it had dropped, and hitters hit it hard 44 percent of the time. It has more break now than it did when it was an out pitch for him, but hitters say it’s a worse pitch overall, and they have the final say on such matters.

He did stay healthy all year, making 27 starts and pitching 144 innings, both highs since the 2019 season, and his velocity is close to its peak, down 1.2 mph from 2019 even with some significant shoulder stuff. He looks like a reclamation project for a team with the right pitching resources to help him rediscover either breaking ball or even find a new one, on a one-year deal where he’d also hope to stay healthy to re-enter the market next offseason.

Seasonal age in 2024: 40
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Atlanta
Stats: 3.64 ERA, 163 1/3 IP, 83 BB, 183 K, 14 HR, 3.1 bWAR/ 2.7 fWAR

Morton showed some signs of decline in 2023, but his curveball was the most valuable one in baseball by Statcast’s metric, plus-25 runs, making it the fifth-most valuable pitch of any type in the majors last year. His season ended prematurely with a sprain in the index finger on his right hand, but prior to that he made 30 starts and qualified for the ERA title for the fifth straight year (outside the truncated 2020 season), so even with his age his durability isn’t a big question. It’s really the command and control, as he posted the highest walk rate of his career at 11.6 percent and had more trouble locating his four-seamer than he had since before his 2017 breakout season, throwing it in the zone barely half of the time. In three-ball counts, he was just as likely to throw his curveball as his four-seamer, a change from 2022 and a sign that he’d lost some of that fastball command. Even with the elevated walk rate he was still worth 3.1 rWAR/2.7 fWAR, worth more than the $20 million Atlanta paid him last season. But with his age and the drop in command, I’d be wary of guaranteeing that much salary again.

Seasonal age in 2024: 27
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Cardinals and Blue Jays
Stats: 3.29 ERA, 65 2/3 IP, 32 BB, 81 K, 4 HR, 0.8 bWAR/1.1 fWAR

Hicks has just 243 big-league innings as he enters free agency, having undergone Tommy John surgery in 2019, opted out in 2020 after he experienced inflammation during his rehab, then threw just 10 innings in 2021 before the elbow flared up again, costing him the last five months of that season. He missed about five weeks in 2022 with a forearm flexor strain but did return to pitch for about three months before the Cardinals shut him down due to fatigue, and stayed healthy through all of 2023. This all matters as much as what he can do while on the mound since his value is about how often he’s available as well as whether he throws strikes.

Hicks is the hardest thrower in the game right now, averaging 100.3 mph last year on the four-seamer, and 100.1 on the sinker, and after struggling a little with his slider in the first two weeks of 2023, he tightened it up and started getting the big sweeping horizontal break the pitch had in 2022 again. He walks more guys than you’d like for a high-leverage reliever, 11.2 percent last year and 12.8 percent for his career, but huge ground-ball rates have helped him get around that to some degree. He’s so tempting with the sinker/slider combination and record velocity, but emblematic of the risk inherent in going long-term on relievers.

Seasonal age in 2024: 30
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Diamondbacks
Stats: .250/.341/.512, 3.0 bWAR/2.1 fWAR

Gurriel finally found a defensive home in left field, where he’s maybe average and probably going to be below average sooner rather than later, and comes to free agency off a career year that was boosted by Arizona’s hitter-friendly home park, where he hit .261/.315/.515 with 15 of his career-best 24 homers. He’s shown flashes of power before but has generally been a high-contact guy with doubles power and fringy OBPs because he has never posted a walk rate above 6.3 percent. He’s stretched as a regular but doesn’t have a huge platoon split where he might have more value as a lefty-masher who only plays occasionally against righties, so I guess he’ll end up playing every day for a second-division club that hopes he shows enough power to return a little something at the trade deadline.

Seasonal age in 2024: 33
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Rangers
Stats: .270/.370/.500, 2.1 bWAR/2.1 fWAR


Mitch Garver hit 19 home runs in 87 games for the Rangers. (Cole Burston / Getty Images)

Garver’s a great part-time player, quite literally — he’s never had more than 311 at-bats or played more than 103 games in any major-league season, but he’s got 82 homers in 451 career games, 29 per 162 games played, 25 homers per 500 PA. It’s a little facile to just assume he’ll do that over a full season of playing time, but he’s been consistently productive when healthy and hits right-handed pitching reasonably well. My larger concern is how much he can catch after spending only 354 innings behind the plate over the past two seasons; signing him to be an everyday catcher feels like irrational exuberance, but for a team with some flexibility, perhaps a younger catcher who they want to play half-time, Garver offers something unusual and quite valuable.

He’s been a 2-WAR guy twice in the last three seasons, falling short in 2022 when he had season-ending elbow surgery in July, and in theory that would make him a $14-15 million a year player. I don’t see anyone paying a part-time player that kind of money, but two years and $20 million might be more equitable given his durability questions.

Seasonal age in 2024: 32
Bats: R | Throws: L
2023 team: Giants
Stats: 4.44 ERA, 117 2/3 IP, 42 BB, 128 K, 14 HR, 0.3 bWAR/1.1 fWAR

Manaea saw his stuff tick back up in 2024, regaining nearly 2.5 mph on his fastball with boosts to his slider and changeup, as well. He saw results somewhere in between his 3-WAR season for Oakland in 2021 and his disappointing year in San Diego in 2022. There are some red flags here – he fared much better in San Francisco’s expansive home park, he still has trouble with right-handed batters, and at least some of the improvement was good fortune in a lower strand rate – but the more promising news is that the first time facing hitters, whether Manaea started or relieved, he held them to a .210/.289/.289 line, pointing to value in a swingman or spot-starter role. I don’t think he’ll return to full-time starter duty again, between his platoon splits and history of arm trouble. The “bulk” role that’s come back into vogue is perfect for him, as he can make a handful of starts where he goes no more than 4-5 innings and otherwise provide length out of the bullpen.

36. J.D. Martinez, DH

Seasonal age in 2024: 36
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Dodgers
Stats: .271/.321/.572, 1.9 bWAR/2.2 fWAR

Martinez benefited from some of that Dodgers Devil Magic, boosting his launch angle and his average exit velocity to end up with 33 homers, his highest total since 2019. He traded some weak contact, including groundballs, for more strikeouts, with a career-worst K rate of 31.1 percent, and that is not a good harbinger for the sustainability of this approach. He makes enough hard contact to keep his average and slugging up for now, but even a tiny loss of bat speed is going to spell disaster and leave someone with the next José Abreu on their hands. The good news, at least, is that Martinez showed no signs of that in 2023, hammering fastballs with no real falloff in his performance even against better velocity. The Dodgers gave him a year and $10 million, which he more than justified with his production, but because all of his value is in his bat, I’d look for a little discount on that going forward.

Seasonal age in 2024: 31
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Mets and Padres
Stats: .218/.292/.500, 2.4 bWAR/1.7 fWAR


Gary Sánchez hit 19 home runs for the Padres in 72 games. (John Fisher / Getty Images)

Yes, I know, Sánchez was eight kinds of awful in 2022 and the early part of 2023, but before a fractured wrist ended his season, he hit pretty well for a catcher, with a 111 wRC+ that was his highest since 2019 and was well above the median for regular catchers last year; only five catchers who had at least 400 plate appearances had a higher wRC+, although Sánchez had just 260 PA and played a bit more than the average against LHP (against whom he slugged .680).

He’s not really a regular, less because of his defense, which is below-average but I think has always been a little overblown, than because he doesn’t do enough damage against right-handed pitchers to be a true everyday guy. I’m also a little concerned that the broken wrist will sap his power for part of the 2024 season, which would erase most of his value as a hitter. That said, there’s so little catching in this winter’s market that Sánchez should get one-year offers as a catcher/DH/pinch hitting option who might be good for 300-400 PA, especially for a team with a lineup that skews left-handed.

Seasonal age in 2024: 38
Bats: B | Throws: R
2023 team: Pirates and Brewers
Stats: .240/.318/.429, 2.7 bWAR/1.7 fWAR

A switch-hitting first baseman who can field reasonably well and still has above-average power and plate discipline, Santana was valuable enough last year to be traded for the fifth time in his career, 15 years and one day after his first trade, when the Dodgers and GM Ned Colletti gave him away for two months of Casey Blake. Santana’s still a solid hitter because he doesn’t chase and tries to get a fastball in the zone he can jump on, with 15 of his 23 homers last year coming on fastballs. Eventually the bat speed will go, but last year it was enough for him to be a 1.7 fWAR/2.7 rWAR guy, with the systems differing on his defense … but that’s not really why you sign a guy like Santana anyway. He’s ideal on a one-year deal for a non-contender.

Seasonal age in 2024: 30
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Yankees
Stats: 6.65 ERA, 89 1/3 IP, 34 BB, 79 K, 23 HR, -1.5 bWAR/-0.6 fWAR

Severino finished third in the Cy Young Award voting in 2017 and was off to an even better start in 2018, with a 2.31 in 128 1/3 innings at the break, but since then it’s all gone to pieces. He had a 5.57 ERA in the second half of that year, then suffered a series of injuries including two to his shoulder, a UCL tear and a lat strain, so he’s thrown 209 1/3 innings in the past five seasons. Since that 2018 midpoint, he’s got a 4.73 ERA and bottomed out this past year where even his premium fastball couldn’t miss enough bats or limit hard contact.

Between his arm trouble and a delivery that’s always made it hard for him to repeat, he seems like an ideal candidate to move to the bullpen, where he can air it out for an inning or two, and maybe regain some of the bite on his slider — actually on his four-seamer too, as neither pitch had as much vertical movement in 2023 as they had in the previous few seasons. He had huge issues with lefties in 2023, and he hasn’t regained the changeup he flashed before the arm trouble, but might need to try a new approach to the pitch or try a splitter or cutter, given how long it’s been since his changeup was a weapon for him. Someone may try him as a starter, but I think they’re tilting at windmills with his track record, and I would love to see what he looks like in a short relief role, where I think he’ll miss a lot more bats. He could extend his career and maybe even become an elite late-game option, as we’ve seen with a lot of former starters who couldn’t hold up under the workload.

Seasonal age in 2024: 33
Bats: L | Throws: R
2023 team: Padres
Stats: 3.43 ERA, 110 1/3 IP, 40 BB, 106 K, 12 HR, 1.4 bWAR/1.4 fWAR

Martinez has been remarkably consistent moving between the rotation and bullpen over the past two seasons, allowing a .232/.319/.344 line as a starter and a .245/.307/.331 line as a reliever, which points to his ultimate value – his flexibility. He can be a five-and-dive starter or a bulk reliever or even work some in short relief, although I think that last role miscasts him since he’s not a big strikeout guy in either role. Martinez works heavily off his plus changeup, which helped him limit hard contact more than ever last year (although that might be a sample-size fluke), and as a result he doesn’t show a large platoon split. He’s a great fit for a team that’s flexible about pitcher usage, like the Rays, or a team that has some maybes at the back of its rotation and needs a depth option.

Seasonal age in 2024: 36
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Royals and Rangers
Stats: 3.09 ERA, 58 1/3 IP, 36 BB, 103 K, 4 HR, 1.4 bWAR/1.8 fWAR

I wouldn’t want Chapman on my team for character reasons, but he did have a credible year as the velocity on his four-seamer was the hardest it’s been since 2017, averaging 99.0 mph, and as a result, he generated a higher whiff rate on the fastball than he had in any full season since 2015. His slider jumped in velocity as well but lost a decent amount of break along both axes; it was more effective overall, however, preventing 4 runs by Statcast’s metric after several years where it ranged from dead average to minus-4 runs. He walks way too many guys and relies on getting chases more and more out of the zone, which is courting disaster in a way, although when you sit 99 with an above-average slider that flashes plus, you have some margin for error. Chapman signed with the Royals last winter for one year and $3.7 million, but he’s likely to get three times that salary after a big bounceback in his stuff, a 41 percent strikeout rate, and some decent showings in the playoffs.

Seasonal age in 2024: 30
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Yankees and Reds
Stats: .232/.274/.348, 0.6 bWAR/1.1 fWAR

Bader cratered in 2023, to the point that the Yankees were haters and put him on waivers. (You can get a scoop … later.) He’s still a plus-plus defender in the outfield, worth +9 Outs Above Average in centerfield in just 95 games last year, and he can at least hit left-handed pitching, but he has a career .237/.304/.364 line against righties and over the past two seasons it’s .233/.267/.320, which is unplayable. There is value in an elite centerfielder who can play all three spots, platoon with a left-handed batter, and pinch-hit against southpaws, although it’s probably on a one-year deal for something like $5-6 million from a contender.

Seasonal age in 2024: 36
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Orioles
Stats: 4.73 ERA, 192 IP, 55 BB, 157 K, 23 HR, 0.9 bWAR/2.6 fWAR

Gibson is the classic innings-eating fourth or fifth starter, making 30 or more starts and throwing at least 167 2/3 innings in each of the past five full seasons; only five pitchers have thrown more innings than Gibson in the past six years, and only eight have thrown more in the past three years. He’s durable and throws strikes, with the lowest walk rates of his career coming in 2022 and 2023, but also led the American League in hits allowed because he doesn’t miss a ton of bats. The Orioles did have him ramp up his use of a sweeper, which was his most effective pitch by a mile and helped make his sinker more effective because they move in more or less opposite directions as they approach the plate. Almost every team needs some innings from the back of their rotation and the sweeper might make Gibson a solid 1-WAR guy for a few more years.

44. Andrew Heaney, LHP

Seasonal age in 2024: 33
Bats: L | Throws: L
2023 team: Rangers
Stats: 4.15 ERA, 147 1/3 IP, 60 BB, 151 K, 23 HR, 1.4 bWAR/1.3 fWAR

Heaney fell just short of 150 innings pitched in 2023, which would have bumped his player option for 2024 from $13 million to $20 million and made it an easy call to pick it up. He held up for his biggest workload since 2018 and second-biggest ever, although every one of his pitches declined in whiff rate from the previous few years. The homers are a problem, as he’s allowed 35 to right-handed batters in the last two years and just two to lefties, so teams are going to stack their lineups as much as possible. If he doesn’t lose any more on his stuff he can be a fourth starter again, but I wonder if using him a little less lets him regain a tick of lost velocity and sees him become more effective overall.

Seasonal age in 2024: 27
Bats: L | Throws: L
2023 team: Tohoku Rakuten
Stats: 1.57 ERA, 57 1/3 IP, 13 BB, 72 K, 3 HR

Matsui has a basket of 55s, including a low-90s fastball that has touched 96 mph and a splitter that might be plus, working from a low approach angle because he’s listed at 5-foot-8 but might not even be that tall. He’s small, but because he’s been a one-inning reliever for three years now that’s not a huge concern. He throws enough strikes and can miss bats with the splitter and to a lesser extent the slider, although I worry that the fastball will be too homer-prone here against better hitters. Someone might sign him to close, with a setup or other lower-leverage role a better bet.

Seasonal age in 2024: 31
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Mariners
Stats: .258/.305/.435, 2.1 bWAR/1.8 fWAR

Hernández comes to free agency off his worst offensive showing since 2019, as he slid from a 130 wRC+ in 2022 to 105 last season, which could be an opportunity to buy low and hope he regains the form he showed from 2020-22. He was, oddly, far worse at home in 2023, hitting .295/.344/.486 away from T-Mobile Park. His batted-ball data points to at least some bounceback, as his expected wOBA, based on the quality of contact he made, was .336 while his actual wOBA was .319 (that’s a decent amount). He also struck out at a much higher rate than the previous few seasons, and had more trouble with velocity than usual — on fastballs 95-plus mph, he whiffed over 18 percent of the time, but was under 12 percent on pitches 94 mph and below. On the plus side, he had a positive Outs Above Average fielding result for the first time, plus-3 in right field, so perhaps that’s something to build on. I like him as a medium-risk, medium-reward guy – there’s power, and hard enough contact to fade the higher strikeout rate, but I don’t think this is a matter of changing the venue or resetting the counter and getting better results without further adjustments.

47. Michael A. Taylor, OF

Seasonal age in 2024: 33
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Twins
Stats: .220/.278/.442, 1.9 bWAR/1.7 fWAR

Taylor is still an elite defensive center fielder, plus-9 by Outs Above Average last year in about two-thirds of a season’s worth of innings. And after the Twins helped him add a slight leg kick to get his lower half more involved, he hit a career-high 21 homers – but saw his strikeout rate jump to 33.5 percent, a career worst. His OBP also dropped to .278 because he was making so much less contact, but the net result was positive because of the additional homers – his overall batting line was his best since 2017, when he hit 19 homers and had a .320 OBP for the Nationals. He did a ton of damage against lefties, with a .252/.313/.602 line and nine homers in just 112 plate appearances, but was close to an automatic out against righties with a .264 OBP. At his age, it’s unlikely that he’ll see another step forward where he regains some contact or on-base ability while retaining the power, but he could produce another 1.5 WAR or so if he plays every day against lefties and gets enough innings in center on other days to add value in the field.

48. Adam Duvall, OF

Seasonal age in 2024: 35
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Red Sox
Stats: .247/.303/.531, 1.5 bWAR/1.9 fWAR

Duvall plays solid defense and hits bombs. He did bounce back from an awful 2022 season to hit .247/.303/.531 for Boston in 92 games, with 21 homers in that span, playing about a third of his time in the field in center. He’s been plus in the corners for years and was good in center before last year but Outs Above Average had him at negative-3 runs after he’d been positive in center the prior two seasons. That could be age, the randomness of a one-year sample, the challenge of playing center in Fenway in half your games, or some combination of all three. The safe move is to sign him to play in a corner and take the plus defense and power, knowing you can slide him to center if the need arises and, at worse, he won’t hurt you out there.

Seasonal age in 2024: 37
Bats: R | Throws: R
2023 team: Pirates
Stats: .256/.378/.397, 1.5 bWAR/1.2 fWAR

I can be sentimental with this one, can’t I? Cutch has to come back if only to get one more homer to reach 300, and to allow us a final memory of him in uniform beyond the partial tear to his Achilles’ tendon that ended what might otherwise have been his swan song. He was still productive last year, producing 1.2 fWAR/1.5 rWAR in 112 games, and he would have ranked 12th in the majors in OBP at .378 if he’d qualified (he fell 30 plate appearances short). I assume he’s going back to Pittsburgh, making him a free agent in name only, but there are a lot of teams that could and will do worse with their DH spot in 2023.

50. Eddie Rosario, OF

Seasonal age in 2024: 32
Bats: L | Throws: R
2023 team: Atlanta
Stats: .255/.305/.450, 1.1 bWAR/1.4 fWAR

Rosario can be the heavy side of a platoon in a corner outfield spot, which is pretty much how Atlanta used him last year, with 87 percent of his plate appearances coming against right-handed pitchers. He’s played almost exclusively left field the last few years, ranging from a tick above average last year to “maybe he should DH” in 2022 and 2019, but he has at least flashed the arm strength for right if needed.  The bigger concern is that he’s lost some bat speed, with right-handers able to get him more often on fastballs than in prior years, which would make me very wary of going beyond one year with him. On a one-year, $5-6 million deal, though, he’s probably a 1 to 1.5 WAR player who can pair with a right-handed hitter, preferably one who offers some more value on defense.

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MLB’s all-playoffs team: The hitters and pitchers who dominated in the 2023 postseason

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Rosenthal: ‘He’s made for this’ — Rangers manager Bruce Bochy wins fourth World Series

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Nathan Eovaldi’s resilient Game 5 embodies Rangers’ championship run

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Sad, but not somber: Diamondbacks pained by World Series defeat, take pride in epic run

(Illustration: Samuel Richardson / The Athletic; Steph Chambers, David Berding and David Berding / Getty Images)



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Golam Muktadir is the chief editor of Surprise Sports and the Proges News. He checks all the sports content and craft it to make it more digesting for the readers.