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MLB free agency is almost here so it’s time for my annual ranking of the top free agents with contract predictions and the best team fits for each player. 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.

This year’s free-agent class is headlined by Shohei Ohtani, whom many expect to sign a record contract. It features a top five with four front-of-the-rotation pitchers including Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a devastating righty from Japan, and strong arms such as Jordan Montgomery, Aaron Nola and Blake Snell. In terms of position players, this class doesn’t have the starpower of last year’s contingent, but it does include names such as Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman.

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Along with my colleagues at The Athletic, I will be actively covering free agency and trade season from start to finish, so let’s kick things off. Here is my ranking of the top 40 free agents for the 2023-24 offseason, with my thoughts on the players as well as information from my conversations with decision-makers across the game.

Note: Julio Urías was not included in this ranking because he is on administrative leave and under investigation by MLB and law enforcement for alleged domestic violence.

(WAR stats are according to Baseball Reference. MLB advanced stats and percentiles are according to Statcast.)


1. Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH


Which team’s fans will be smiling after signing Shohei Ohtani? (Kiyoshi Mio / USA Today)

Age: 29
B: L T: R HT: 6-4 WT: 210
2023 (Angels): 10.0 WAR
Career: 34.7 WAR
Agent: CAA Sports 2023 salary: $30 million

Shohei Ohtani just completed arguably the best single season of any player in MLB history. As a hitter, he slashed .304/.412/.654 and led the American League with 44 home runs while scoring 102 runs, driving in 95 and stealing 20 bases. He led the majors in slugging percentage and OPS. As a pitcher, he went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 23 starts, striking out 167 and walking 55 in 132 innings. When he hits free agency, the industry expects the payday to be somewhere between $400 million and $600 million. Ohtani, of course, is a middle-of-the-order impact bat and a top-of-the-rotation ace, when healthy. His offseason right elbow surgery will prevent him from pitching in 2024 but he’s expected to be ready to DH by Opening Day, according to his agent, Nez Balelo of CAA. Ohtani’s injury status will lead to teams proposing complicated contracts with incentives, salary escalators and opt outs to protect themselves should he not return to full health as a pitcher. But make no mistake, he’s a unicorn and soon will be the highest-paid player in the history of the sport.

Best fits: Dodgers, Rangers, Mariners, Mets, Red Sox, Padres, Giants, Cubs, Phillies, Blue Jays
Contract prediction: Ten years, $477 million with incentives and escalators that take the deal to more than half a billion dollars

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

With free agency underway, how would Shohei Ohtani fit 12 potential suitors?

2. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP

Age: 25
HT: 5-10 WT: 175
2023 (Orix Buffaloes, Japan Pacific League): Stats
Agent: Wasserman

Yoshinobu Yamamoto certainly raised eyebrows in the World Baseball Classic in March, but since then his value has skyrocketed; teams now view him as a No. 1 or No. 2 starter, someone who could step into any rotation and record double-digit wins and an ERA below 3.00. He really knows how to pitch by adding and subtracting and he has special command in and out of the strike zone. He’s a competitor with savvy, feel and poise. His fastball lives in the mid-to-high 90s with a wipeout split-finger and a plus curveball as part of his five-pitch mix. He moves the ball west to east and north to south extremely well, too. Yamamoto won the pitching triple crown (ERA, strikeouts and wins) in Japan in each of the past two seasons. This year for Orix, he went 16-6 in 23 starts with a 1.21 ERA, the lowest ERA of his career in a full season. He’s special and going to be paid like it.

Best fits: Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, Phillies, Rangers, Cardinals, Giants, Red Sox, Cubs
Contract prediction: Seven years, $211 million

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Mets and the factors that could impact a potential pursuit

3. Jordan Montgomery, LHP

Age: 30
HT: 6-6 WT: 228
2023 (Rangers/Cardinals): 4.1 WAR
Career: 12.5 WAR
Agent: Boras Corporation 2023 salary: $10 million

Jordan Montgomery has posted an ERA under 4.00 in each of the past three seasons and over his career is 38-34 with a respectable 3.68 ERA. He made 32 starts this year and posted a 3.20 ERA. The Rangers acquired him at the trade deadline from the Cardinals and he delivered for Texas, going 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts. For the season, opposing batters hit .239 against his changeup and .191 against his curveball. He significantly increased his free-agent value by dominating in the American League Championship Series, going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA over two starts and one relief appearance. Most teams I’ve talked with rank Montgomery above Blake Snell even though the Padres lefty is expected to win the National League Cy Young Award this year; that tells you how much Montgomery’s value has risen.

Best fits: Rangers, Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Phillies, Orioles
Contract prediction: Five years, $127 million

4. Aaron Nola, RHP

Age: 30
HT: 6-2 WT: 200
2023 (Phillies): 2.1 WAR
Career: 31.7 WAR
Agent: Paragon Sports International 2023 salary: $16 million

Aaron Nola had an inconsistent year, going 12-9 with a 4.46 ERA and allowing 32 home runs. However, he finished strong, yielding two earned runs or fewer in his last three regular-season starts and going 3-1 in the postseason with a 2.35 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 23 innings. In nine seasons with the Phillies, he’s been reliable and durable, going 90-71 with a 3.72 ERA in 235 starts. He’s finished top seven in the NL Cy Young Award voting three times. Most importantly, Nola has provided at least 180 innings in each of the past five full seasons. He also recorded more than 200 strikeouts in all five of those seasons.

Best fits: Phillies, Red Sox, Orioles, Giants, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cubs
Contract prediction: Five years, $125 million

5. Blake Snell, LHP

Age: 30
HT: 6-4 WT: 225
2023 (Padres): 6.0 WAR
Career: 21.1 WAR
Agent: Boras Corporation 2023 salary: $16.6 million

Blake Snell is the front-runner to win the NL Cy Young Award after a special season in which he went 14-9 with a 2.25 ERA and 234 strikeouts over 32 starts. He didn’t allow a run in five of his last six starts. Snell ranked in the 100th percentile in pitching run value and breaking run value. Opposing batters hit just .079 against his curveball, .185 against his changeup and .123 against his slider. I ranked Snell behind Montgomery and Nola based on the feedback I’ve heard from teams and because he’s pitched 180 innings only twice in his eight-year career and pitched fewer than 130 innings in the other six seasons.

Best fits: Cardinals, Red Sox, Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Padres
Contract prediction: Five years, $122 million

6. Cody Bellinger, CF/1B

Age: 28
B: L T: L HT: 6-4 WT: 203
2023 (Cubs): 4.4 WAR
Career: 22.1 WAR
Agent: Boras Corporation 2023 salary: $17.5 million

This year, Cody Bellinger was the perfect example of what a change of scenery can do for a player. He slashed .307/.356/.525 with 29 doubles, 26 home runs, 95 runs scored and 97 RBIs while stealing 20 bases in 26 attempts. He’s the front-runner for NL Comeback Player of the Year and his value has spiked to the highest it’s been since he was the NL MVP in 2019, so it’s the ideal time for him to enter free agency. Beyond his bat, Bellinger provides terrific versatility, as he can play first base and all three outfield positions at an above-average level. After years of struggles at the plate, he’s figured it out and now ranks as the best position player not named Ohtani in this free-agent class.

Best fits: Cubs, Giants, Angels, Mariners, Guardians, Blue Jays, Yankees
Contract prediction: Six years, $144 million

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MLB scouts discuss the Cubs’ pursuit of Cody Bellinger in free agency

7. Matt Chapman, 3B


Matt Chapman will be among the best position players available in this free-agent class. (John E. Sokolowski / USA Today)

Age: 30
B: R T: R HT: 6-0 WT: 215
2023 (Blue Jays): 4.4 WAR
Career: 31.2 WAR
Agent: Boras Corporation 2023 salary: $12.5 million

Matt Chapman remains one of the best defensive third basemen in the game. The three-time Gold Glove Award winner has tremendous range to all sides and is a proven power hitter, with 155 home runs over his seven-year career. His career slash line of .240/.320/.461 is representative of what to expect from him. He hit 27 home runs in 2021 and 2022 but only 17 in 2023 with 54 RBIs. However, he had 39 doubles and scored 66 runs in 140 games. Chapman has 92 Defensive Runs Saved in his career, including 12 DRS this year with Toronto. He finished the season in the 98th percentile in both average exit velocity and barrel percentage and in the 100th percentile in hard-hit percentage. His range (outs above average) was in the 87th percentile. With several big-market teams needing a third baseman, he’s expected to have a strong free-agent market.

Best fits: Blue Jays, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Cubs, Tigers
Contract prediction: Six years, $127 million

8. Josh Hader, LHP

Age: 29
HT: 5-11 WT: 180
2023 (Padres): 2.4 WAR
Career: 11.7 WAR
Agent: CAA Sports 2023 salary: $14.1 million

One of the game’s most dominant closers, Josh Hader put together a strong free-agent walk year, recording a 1.28 ERA and 33 saves with 85 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings. He wants to be the highest-paid closer in the sport and I think he will be, by average annual value, when he signs his next contract this winter. He ranked in the 100th percentile in xBA and in the 99th percentile in both xERA and strikeout percentage. Opposing batters hit just .190 against his two-seam fastball and .100 against his slider.

Best fits: Yankees, Phillies, Padres, Angels, Rangers
Contract prediction: Three years, $67 million

9. Clayton Kershaw, LHP

Age: 35
HT: 6-4 WT: 225
2023 (Dodgers): 3.7 WAR
Career: 79.9 WAR
Agent: Excel Sports Management 2023 salary: $20 million

The future Hall of Famer continues to deliver whenever he’s on the active roster. The problem is over the past three years, Clayton Kershaw has been limited to 120 to 130 innings per season because of injuries. His health and availability are big question marks. However, when he does pitch, he continues to be solid and at times dominant — at least in the regular season. This year he went 13-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 24 starts but got lit up in the playoffs, lasting just one-third of an inning in his only start of the NLDS, when he allowed six runs against the Diamondbacks. It was the worst postseason start of his career. However, he should be judged on his regular-season performance, not just that playoff start. Kershaw will have to decide between three options: He can re-sign with the Dodgers on a one-year contract and finish his career where it started; sign with his hometown team, the Texas Rangers; or retire and wait five years for the call to Cooperstown. I hope he keeps pitching.

Best fits: Dodgers, Rangers, or retirement
Contract prediction: One year, $22 million

10. Sonny Gray, RHP

Age: 33
HT: 5-10 WT: 195
2023 (Twins): 5.3 WAR
Career: 30.0 WAR
Agent: Bo McKinnis 2023 salary: $12.7 million

Sonny Gray had an excellent platform year and is expected to at least finish in the top five in the AL Cy Young Award voting. He went 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA over 32 starts, striking out 183 in 184 innings. That was the most innings Gray has thrown since 2015. He finished in the 99th percentile in both pitching run value and breaking run value as opposing batters hit just .097 against his newfound sweeper, which was a difference-maker.

Best fits: Twins, Rockies, Giants, Cardinals, Orioles, Angels, Braves
Contract prediction: Three years, $64 million

11. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP (opt-out clause)

Age: 30
HT: 6-2 WT: 231
2023 (Tigers): 2.5 WAR
Career: 16.7 WAR
Agent: Mato Sports Management 2023 salary: $15 million

Eduardo Rodriguez signed a five-year, $77 million contract with Detroit before the 2022 season and it included a player opt-out clause after this year so he could assess where the Tigers were in their rebuilding plan. This year he went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.153 WHIP over 26 starts. The Tigers tried to trade Rodriguez to the Dodgers at the deadline, but he invoked his no-trade clause. I expect he’ll opt out of his contract but won’t be surprised if he re-signs with the Tigers for a bigger deal.

Best fits: Tigers, Orioles, Cardinals, Reds
Contract prediction: Five years, $90 million

12. Michael Wacha, RHP

Age: 32
HT: 6-6 WT: 215
2023 (Padres): 2.4 WAR
Career: 13.0 WAR
Agent: CAA Sports 2023 salary: $7.5 million

Michael Wacha went 14-4 with a 3.22 ERA over 134 1/3 innings while allowing just 113 hits and striking out 124 batters. In 2022, he went 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA, so he has been consistently solid the past two years when healthy. The Padres have a $16 million team option for 2024 and a $16 million team option for 2025 that must be exercised or declined at the same time. If the team options are declined, Wacha will have player options for 2024 ($6.5 million), 2025 ($6 million) and 2026 ($6 million). But I would guess the Padres will exercise the team options, so he likely won’t even reach free agency.

Best fits: Padres, Giants, Cardinals, Cubs
Contract prediction: Two years, $32 million (Padres exercise their team options)

13. Lucas Giolito, RHP


Lucas Giolito had a subpar year. Will he get back to his past highs? (Eric Hartline / USA Today)

Age: 29
HT: 6-6 WT: 245
2023 (Guardians/Angels/White Sox): 1.6 WAR
Career: 12.4 WAR
Agent: CAA Sports 2023 salary: $10.4 million

Lucas Giolito was traded from the White Sox to the Angels at the deadline and was later claimed on waivers by the Guardians. He went 8-15 this season with a 4.88 ERA over 33 starts (184 1/3 innings). He allowed a league-leading 41 home runs but struck out 10.0 batters per nine innings and walked 3.6 batters per nine. His best seasons were from 2019 to 2021, when he finished in the top 11 of the AL Cy Young Award voting all three seasons. He needs to sign with a team with a strong pitching coach and analytics staff that will treat him as a reclamation project. With the right pitching plan, Giolito could rediscover what he had during his prime years of production.

Best fits: Rays, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Giants, Orioles, Cardinals, Red Sox, Braves
Contract prediction: Two years, $24 million (with an opt out after the first year)

14. Marcus Stroman, RHP (opt-out clause)

Age: 32
HT: 5-7 WT: 180
2023 (Cubs): 1.8 WAR
Career: 21.7 WAR
Agent: Klutch Sports 2023 salary: $25 million

Marcus Stroman signed a two-year, $50 million contract before the 2022 season that included a $21 million player option for 2024. The two-time All-Star endured a rib cartilage fracture this season and he was hit hard when he returned to the active roster in mid-September, yielding 11 hits and eight runs in eight innings of sporadic work. The injury could lead to Stroman opting into the player option and returning to the Cubs instead of testing free agency, with hopes of hitting free agency next year after a healthy season. Stroman went 10-9 this year with a 3.95 ERA over 25 starts and two relief appearances, but all of his numbers suffered during his injury-shortened second half (8.63 ERA, .327 batting average against).

Best fits: Cubs
Contract prediction: Opts into his player option (one year, $21 million)

15. Seth Lugo, RHP

Age: 33
HT: 6-4 WT: 225
2023 (Padres): 1.8 WAR
Career: 10.5 WAR
Agent: Ballengee Group 2023 salary: $7.5 million

Seth Lugo has a player option at $7.5 million for 2024 but he is not expected to exercise it. He went 8-7 this year with a 3.57 ERA over 26 starts and 146 1/3 innings. It was the first time Lugo was a full-time starter since 2017 and he relished the role. He has now kept his season ERA between 3.50 and 3.60 for three consecutive years, although his strikeouts per nine innings have trended down — from 10.7 to 9.6 to 8.6 — over that span.

Best fits: Padres, Cardinals, Angels, Tigers, Royals
Contract prediction: Two years, $20 million

16. J.D. Martinez, DH

Age: 36
B: R T: R HT: 6-3 WT: 230
2023 (Dodgers): 1.9 WAR
Career: 30.0 WAR
Agent: Boras Corporation 2023 salary: $10 million

J.D. Martinez found new life with the Dodgers as he thrived hitting in a lineup behind Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Will Smith. The 36-year-old was one of the best designated hitters in the league, belting 33 home runs, driving in 103 runs and posting a 134 OPS+. He has been to three consecutive All-Star games and continues to be a leader and mentor in the clubhouse. Martinez fit in well in the Dodgers’ clubhouse and if they don’t sign Ohtani, he would be welcomed back.

Best fits: Dodgers, Padres, Marlins, Mariners, Guardians
Contract prediction: One year, $12 million

17. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (opt-out clause)

Age: 30
B: R T: R HT: 6-4 WT: 215
2023 (Diamondbacks): 3.0 WAR
Career: 10.8 WAR
Agent: Wasserman 2023 salary: $5.83 million

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had arguably the best year of his career, and it couldn’t come at a better time. In 2016, Gurriel signed a seven-year, $22 million contract with the Blue Jays that covered 2017 through 2023 and included a player opt-out clause after this season; the opt out overrides his service time, which would have given his organization, now the Diamondbacks, another year of control. Gurriel slashed .261/.309/.463 this season with 35 doubles, 24 home runs and 82 RBIs. He also had 14 Defensive Runs Saved, the best mark of his career by far.

Best fits: Diamondbacks, Braves, Mariners
Contract prediction: Three years, $36 million

18. Teoscar Hernández, RF

Age: 31
B: R T: R HT: 6-2 WT: 215
2023 (Mariners): 2.1 WAR
Career: 12.8 WAR
Agent: Republik Sports 2023 salary: $14 million

Teoscar Hernández has hit 25 or more home runs in four of the past five years, including 26 this past season to go along with 29 doubles and 93 RBIs. The two-time Silver Slugger Award winner was again among the league leaders in strikeouts (211) and he had only 38 walks and a .305 on-base percentage. Hernández is a below-average defender in right field, finishing with 1 DRS, three errors, and in the 61st percentile in outs above average. (He was in the 78th percentile in arm strength and in the 82nd percentile in sprint speed.) However, he delivers consistent right-handed power and, should he reach free agency, teams will pursue him because of it.

Best fits: Mariners, Marlins, Padres, Guardians
Contract prediction: The Mariners extend, and he accepts, the qualifying offer (one year, approximately $20.5 million).

19. Jorge Soler, RF/DH (opt-out clause)


Jorge Soler posted a 1.080 OPS against lefties and a .788 OPS versus righties. (Orlando Ramirez / USA Today)

Age: 31
B: R T: R HT: 6-4 WT: 235
2023 (Marlins): 1.8 WAR
Career: 5.9 WAR
Agent: MVP Sports Group 2023 salary: $15 million

Jorge Soler made his first All-Star team, hitting 36 home runs, reaching base at a 34 percent clip, and logging a 128 OPS+. He ranked in the 94th percentile in xwOBA and xSLG, and in the 91st percentile in Barrel%. His best season was in 2019 when he led the AL with 48 home runs and drove in 117 runs for the Royals. He is expected to opt out of his contract and should be able to land a multi-year deal to be some team’s designated hitter.

Best fits: Marlins, Mariners, Padres, Guardians
Contract prediction: Two years, $32 million

20. Whit Merrifield, 2B/OF (mutual option)

Age: 34
B: R T: R HT: 6-1 WT: 195
2023 (Blue Jays): 0.8 WAR
Career: 18.0 WAR
Agent: Warner Sports Management 2023 salary: $7.25 million

Whit Merrifield made his third All-Star team this year, slashing .272/.318/.382 with 27 doubles, 11 home runs and 26 stolen bases. His versatility — he can play both second base and the outfield — increases his free-agent value. In his career, Merrifield has led the league in doubles, triples, sacrifice flies, and in hits twice and stolen bases three times. He’s a leader in the clubhouse and at this point in his career would be most valuable on a contending team that could use him as its 10th player. He has an $18 million mutual option with a $500,000 buyout.

Best fits: Blue Jays, Rays, Twins, Marlins
Contract prediction: Two years, $16 million

21. Rhys Hoskins, 1B

Age: 30
B: R T: R HT: 6-4 WT: 245
2023 (Phillies): 0.0 WAR
Career: 11.1 WAR
Agent: 2023 salary: $12 million

Rhys Hoskins was an integral part of the Phillies winning the NL championship last year, as he hit 30 home runs and posted a .794 OPS. He’s improved a lot defensively at first base but is still a below-average defender. He missed the 2023 season after tearing his left ACL in spring training and was working his way back with hopes of a comeback if the Phillies advanced to the World Series; alas, it wasn’t to be. However, his 25- to 30-home run power and on-base skills will make Hoskins a marketable free agent.

Best fits: Giants, Padres, Marlins, Phillies
Contract prediction: One year, $12 million

22. Shota Imanaga, LHP

Age: 30
HT: 5-10 WT: 180
2023 (Yokohama DeNa BayStars, Japan Central League): Stats
Agent: Octagon

Shota Imanaga was the starting pitcher in the gold medal game of the World Baseball Classic against Team USA and has been one of the top starters in Japan for the past several years. Imanaga spent eight seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball and posted a 3.18 ERA over 165 career starts. However, he logged a 2.26 ERA in 2022 and a 2.80 ERA this year. He struck out about 30 percent of the batters he faced this year while walking just 4 percent. According to scouts from several teams, Imanaga profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter. His repertoire includes a low-90s fastball, along with a curveball, slider and changeup. The club that signs Imanaga must pay a posting fee that will be determined by the size of his new contract.

Best fits: Rangers, Padres, Mariners, Dodgers, Angels
Contract prediction: No estimate at this time.

23. Aroldis Chapman, LHP

Age: 35
HT: 6-4 WT: 235
2023 (Rangers/Royals): 1.4 WAR
Career: 20.4 WAR
Agent: Wasserman 2023 salary: $3.75 million

Aroldis Chapman rebuilt his free-agent value this year, posting a 3.09 ERA in 61 appearances. He struck out 103 and allowed just 37 hits in 58 1/3 innings. His fastball is back in the triple digits. His slider is back to being nasty, and it’s harder than it’s been since 2014. However, he’s still too wild, walking batters at a rate of 5.6 per nine innings. His best role at this stage of his career is to enter games with the bases empty in the seventh or eighth inning.

Best fits: Rangers, Astros
Contract prediction: Two years, $12 million with incentives

24. Mitch Garver, C/DH

Age: 32
B: R T: R HT: 6-1 WT: 220
2023 (Rangers): 2.1 WAR
Career: 9.8 WAR
Agent: ISE Baseball 2023 salary: $3.9 million

Mitch Garver had a terrific year for the Rangers, slashing .270/.370/.500 with 11 doubles, 19 home runs and 50 RBIs in 344 plate appearances. He was so consistent at the plate that manager Bruce Bochy had Garver hit third during some of Texas’ playoff games, which tells you how much he trusts him, especially against left-handed pitching. Garver is a solid backup catcher and platoon DH who provides legitimate slugging. Additionally, he ranked in 98th percentile in Chase%, the 90th percentile in BB% and the 97th percentile in xwOBA.

Best fits: Rangers, Marlins, Padres, Guardians, Rays, Tigers
Contract prediction: Two years, $16 million

25. Carlos Santana, 1B/DH


Carlos Santana was so smooth for the Brewers after coming over in a trade deadline deal. (Dale Zanine / USA Today)

Age: 37
B: B T: R HT: 5-11 WT: 210
2023 (Brewers/Pirates): 2.7 WAR
Career: 35.5 WAR
Agent: Octagon 2023 salary: $6.75 million

The Brewers acquired Carlos Santana at the trade deadline from the Pirates and he was a key cog for them the rest of the way, working counts and driving the ball (116 OPS+ in the second half) and serving as a positive influence on their young players. On the season, Santana slashed .240/.318/.429 with 23 home runs and 86 RBIs.

Best fits: Brewers, Marlins
Contract prediction: One year, $7.5 million

26. Justin Turner, 1B/3B/DH

Age: 38
B: R T: R HT: 5-11 WT: 208
2023 (Red Sox): 2.1 WAR
Career: 36.5 WAR
Agent: Vayner Sports 2023 salary: $8.3 million

Justin Turner has a choice between exercising his $13.4 million player option or taking a $6.7 million buyout, which would be the best business decision for him considering his base salary for 2023 was $8.3 million. Turner had a nice year, slashing .276/.345/.455 with 31 doubles, 23 home runs and 96 RBIs. Beyond his production, he provided important leadership for Boston. Several contenders in need of a DH and corner infielder would love to have him in their clubhouse in 2024.

Best fits: Red Sox, Padres, Dodgers, Mariners, Twins, Guardians
Contract prediction: One year, $12 million

27. Jeimer Candelario, 1B/3B

Age: 29
B:T: R HT: 6-2 WT: 222
2023 (Cubs/Nationals): 3.1 WAR
Career: 10.4 WAR
Agent: Paul Kinzer 2023 salary: $5 million

Jeimer Candelario batted .251/.336/.471 (119 OPS+) with 39 doubles, 22 home runs and 70 RBIs. He can play both infield corners, and that versatility will make him more attractive to teams. This was the fifth year since 2018 that Candelario has produced between 13 and 22 home runs.

Best fits: Cubs, Nationals, Yankees, Blue Jays, Pirates, Marlins
Contract prediction: Two years, $15 million

28. Tommy Pham, LF/DH

Age: 35
B: R T: R HT: 6-1 WT: 223
2023 (Diamondbacks/Mets): 1.5 WAR
Career: 17.9 WAR
Agent: Vayner Sports 2023 salary: $7.5 million

The Diamondbacks acquired Tommy Pham from the Mets at the trade deadline and he’s given them a significant lift. He slashed .256/.328/.446 overall this year with 16 home runs and 22 stolen bases in 25 attempts. He’s hit three home runs this postseason and over his career has posted an .871 OPS in the playoffs in 112 plate appearances. His ideal fit is as a fourth outfielder for a contending team.

Best fits: Diamondbacks, Twins, Guardians
Contract prediction: One year, $7 million

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Beyond the slap: ‘Whatever you think you know about Tommy Pham, you don’t’

29. Kyle Hendricks, RHP

Age: 33
HT: 6-3 WT: 190
2023 (Cubs): 1.5 WAR
Career: 23.0 WAR
Agent: Wasserman 2023 salary: $14 million

Kyle Hendricks had a solid bounce-back year, posting a 3.74 ERA over 24 starts and yielding 138 hits in 137 innings. Opponents hit just .189 against his changeup, his best pitch. The pitch is so good that his offspeed run value ranked in the 98th percentile. His ground-ball rate of 46.3 percent was his best in three years. He pitched well away from Wrigley Field, posting a 3.29 ERA in 11 road starts. The Cubs hold a $16.5 million team option for 2024.

Best fits: Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants
Contract prediction: Two years, $25 million

30. Jordan Hicks, RHP


Jordan Hicks is one of the hardest throwers in baseball. (Dan Hamilton / USA Today)

Age: 27
HT: 6-2 WT: 220
2023 (Blue Jays/Cardinals): 0.8 WAR
Career: 1.6 WAR
Agent: Ballengee Group 2023 salary: $1.84 million

Jordan Hicks was finally healthy this season and back to throwing in the triple digits. The Blue Jays acquired him from the Cardinals at the trade deadline and he pitched well for them, posting a 2.63 ERA over 25 appearances including four saves. Overall, he made 66 appearances and registered 12 saves, putting up a 3.29 ERA with 81 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings.

Best fits: Astros, Rangers, Blue Jays, Yankees, Braves, Padres, Dodgers
Contract prediction: Three years, $30 million

31. Wade Miley, LHP (mutual option)

Age: 36
HT: 6-1 WT: 220
2023 (Brewers): 2.5 WAR
Career: 18.7 WAR
Agent: O’Connell Sports Management 2023 salary: $4.5 million

Wade Miley went 9-4 with a 3.14 ERA over 23 starts (120 1/3 innings), although his FIP was 4.69. However, it was the third consecutive year in which he posted an ERA under 3.40. He ranked in the 93rd percentile in hard-hit rate and in the 80th percentile in pitching run value. Opposing batters hit .232 against his cutter, .219 against his changeup, .198 against his four-seam fastball and .200 against his slider. Miley is a solid back-of-the-rotation starter, especially when sandwiched between two flame throwers. He has a $10 million mutual option with a $1 million buyout.

Best fits: Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Pirates
Contract prediction: One year, $13.5 million

32. Andrew Heaney, LHP

Age: 32
HT: 6-2 WT: 200
2023 (Rangers): 1.4 WAR
Career: 8.0 WAR
Agent: Icon Sports Management 2023 salary: $12 million

Andrew Heaney has a $13 million player option, which he is expected to decline so that he can attempt to land a multiyear contract, which is reasonable based on his performance this season. Heaney went 10-6 with a 4.15 ERA over 28 starts and six relief appearances. He finished in the 71st percentile in chase rate and opposing batters hit just .236 against his four-seam fastball and .259 against his slider. He was finally healthy and should be ready to pitch 160 to 180 innings in 2024 after going from 72 2/3 innings in 2022 to 147 1/3 this year.

Best fits: Rangers, Orioles, Pirates, Marlins, Rockies, Tigers, Cardinals
Contract prediction: Two years, $25 million

33. Jack Flaherty, RHP

Age: 28
HT: 6-4 WT: 225
2023 (Orioles/Cardinals): 0.8 WAR
Career: 10.1 WAR
Agent: CAA Sports 2023 salary: $5.4 million

Jack Flaherty finished an uneven season with an 8-9 record and a 4.99 ERA over 27 starts and two relief appearances. It was his first year with more than 15 starts since 2019, when he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting. The Orioles acquired Flaherty from the Cardinals at the trade deadline, but he was hit hard with Baltimore, going 1-3 with a. 6.75 ERA and 1.673 WHIP. He’ll probably have to sign a one-year “pillow contract” with incentives and hope he can rediscover his old form, then go back on the free-agent market next offseason.

Best fits: Dodgers, Nationals, Royals, Pirates, Tigers
Contract prediction: One year, $10 million with incentives

34. Kenta Maeda, RHP

Age: 35
HT: 6-1 WT: 185
2023 (Twins): 1.1 WAR
Career: 8.6 WAR
Agent: Wasserman 2023 salary: $3.125 million

Kenta Maeda returned from Tommy John surgery and pitched effectively this year, posting a 4.23 ERA over 20 starts, with 117 strikeouts in 104 1/3 innings. From June 23 to the end of the season he made 17 starts and yielded three earned runs or fewer in all but one of them, and he allowed two runs or fewer in each of his final four starts. Teams could be hesitant to give Maeda a multiyear deal based on his injury history, so he might have to sign a one-year contract and go back on the market next offseason if he can replicate this season over another 25 to 30 starts next year.

Best fits: Twins, Giants, Angels, Cardinals
Contract prediction: One year, $10 million with incentives

35. Hyun Jin Ryu, LHP

Age: 36
HT: 6-3 WT: 250
2023 (Blue Jays): 0.4 WAR
Career: 20.1 WAR
Agent: Boras Corporation 2023 salary: $20 million

Hyun Jin Ryu returned on Aug. 1 from Tommy John surgery and was impressive the rest of the way, making a total of 11 starts and allowing three runs or fewer in nine of them. He pitched five innings in six of those starts and a season-high six innings in one start. Overall, he logged a 3.46 ERA and 1.288 WHIP. His fastball was mostly 87 to 89 mph. Opponents hit .276 against his changeup and .238 against his cutter. He should show improvement in 2024 but is probably looking at a one-year pillow-type deal with a low base and incentives.

Best fits: Blue Jays, Twins, Tigers
Contract prediction: One year, $8 million with incentives

36. Michael Conforto, RF (opt-out clause)

Age: 30
B: L T: R HT: 6-1 WT: 215
2023 (Giants): 0.7 WAR
Career: 16.3 WAR
Agent: Boras Corporation Salary: $18 million

Michael Conforto signed a two-year, $36 million deal with San Francisco in January after sitting out the entire 2022 season following shoulder surgery. His contract includes an opt-out clause after this season that would allow him to re-enter free agency and try to get a longer-term contract, but I see Conforto staying put. He had a decent bounce-back year, slashing .239/.334/.384 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs while playing average defense in right field.

Best fits: Giants
Contract prediction: He doesn’t opt out and plays one more year at $18 million.

37. Jung-hoo Lee, CF


How will Jung-hoo Lee fare in MLB? (Yuichi Yamazaki / AFP via Getty Images)

Age: 25
B: L T: R HT: 6-1 WT: 172
2023 (Kiwoom Heroes, KBO): Stats
Agent: Boras Corporation

Major-league scouts are split on Jung-hoo Lee’s hit tool: Some believe he’ll hit right out of the gate; others think he’ll have more of a learning curve and could take a year or two to adjust to MLB pitching. Some believe he’ll be a .270 type hitter; others envision a .300 hitter. The best part of Lee’s hit tool is his contact rate and ability to draw walks. (He had more walks than strikeouts over seven seasons in the KBO.) He’s a plus center fielder with plus range and a strong arm. He gets good jumps on balls and takes good routes. He’s an above-average runner with long strides but is not a base-stealing threat. He doesn’t have a lot of power. He fractured his ankle in July and missed the rest of the season, apart from one at-bat in his farewell to Heroes fans.

Best fits: Giants, Guardians, Blue Jays, Tigers
Contract prediction: No estimate at this time.

38. Harrison Bader, CF

Age: 29
B: R T: R HT: 6-0 WT: 210
2023 (Reds/Yankees): 0.6 WAR
Career: 12.1 WAR
Agent: Vayner Sports 2023 salary: $5.2 million

Harrison Bader continues to suffer injuries year after year, but when healthy he is an above-average defender in center field and a plus base runner. This season, he slashed a dismal .232/.274/.348 in 98 games, with seven home runs and 20 stolen bases in 23 attempts. Bader has never had 450 plate appearances nor 380 at-bats in a season. He’ll probably need to sign a one-year contract and try to rebuild his value; he can look to compete for an everyday center-field job or a platoon job at the very least and hope to stay healthy for a full season, then go back on the free-agent market next offseason in search for a multiyear deal.

Best fits: Reds, Royals, Nationals, Yankees
Contract prediction: One year, $8 million

39. James Paxton, LHP

Age: 34
HT: 6-4 WT: 212
2023 (Red Sox): 1.1 WAR
Career: 13.6 WAR
Agent: Boras Corporation 2023 salary: $4 million

James Paxton made five starts in 2020, one start in 2021 and no starts in 2022, but he took the mound for 19 starts this year for Boston, going 7-5 with a 4.50 ERA. He struck out 101 in 96 innings and allowed 93 hits. From 2017 through 2019, he averaged 27 starts a season with an ERA well under 4.00. In the first half of this season, Paxton went 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA, but he was hit hard in the second half (2-4, 6.98 ERA) and many GMs were surprised the Red Sox didn’t trade him at the deadline, when he had solid value. Paxton was shut down for the remainder of the season in September because of right knee inflammation.

Best fits: Dodgers, Rays, Twins, Cardinals, Angels
Contract prediction: One year, $8 million with incentives

40. Kyle Gibson, RHP

Age: 36
HT: 6-6 WT: 200
2023 (Orioles): 0.9 WAR
Career: 15.0 WAR
Agent: Rowley Sports Management 2023 salary: $10 million

Kyle Gibson went 15-9 in 33 starts with a 4.73 ERA and a 4.13 FIP. He gave the first-place Orioles 192 innings, which ranked sixth in the AL. Gibson is a back-of-the-rotation innings-eater type who could help several teams that are so dependent on relievers.

Best fits: Giants, Rockies, Pirates, Tigers, Orioles
Contract prediction: One year, $8 million with incentives

(Top image: Eamonn Dalton / The Athletic; Photos: Shohei Ohtani: Ron Jenkins / Getty Images; Cody Bellinger: Joe Sargent / Getty Images; Yoshinobu Yamamoto: Yuki Taguchi / WBCI / MLB Photos via 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.