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This winter’s free agent class has turned out to be a strong one, thanks in no small part to the return of last year’s No. 1 free agent, Carlos Correa, who heads up another very enticing group of shortstops in a class that also includes the likely AL MVP and Cy Young Award winners. It’s much stronger in position players than pitchers, while the catching group and the high-end reliever class are both fairly weak.

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.

Because this is running before the World Series ends, this also represents my best guesses on some club and player options (like Jurickson Profar’s) where neither side has indicated their intentions. For example, I am assuming the teams involved will exercise their options on Tim Anderson, Aaron Nola, Carlos Carrasco, Luis Severino, and Sonny Gray. I’ll update this list accordingly if one of those players ends up a free agent anyway.

Note: Age refers to the player’s seasonal age in 2023, meaning his age on June 30 of that year. I used data from Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs and MLB’s Baseball Savant to write this article.


1. Carlos Correa, SS, age 28  

2022 (Minnesota Twins): .291/.366/.467, 5.4 rWAR/4.4 fWAR

Correa returns to free agency after a successful year with the Twins where he played 136 games and was worth about 5 WAR, hitting better after a slow April while playing close to average defense at short. He represents – again – a rare chance to get a superstar who plays a skill position and is still in his peak years. He has excellent plate discipline and pitch recognition, hitting just about all pitch types, murdering fastballs, and making very hard contact. His batted-ball data for 2022 was better than his actual triple-slash line, which might indicate an uptick is coming in 2023, especially in the power department. Correa’s main drawback as a candidate for a long-term contract is his lack of durability; he’s played 148 and 136 games in the last two seasons, but prior to that played in more than 110 games just once, and hit the injured list in 2022 with an injured finger. I think it’s also fair to question whether he’s a long-term shortstop at this point, given his age and size, although he was an above-average defender until 2022, when his metrics took a huge hit. He should be getting $30 million-plus a year on a long-term deal that runs to his mid-30s. In a great shortstop class, his age and track record set him apart.

2022 (Los Angeles Dodgers): .298/.343/.466, 4.9 rWAR/6.3 fWAR

Turner was fifth in the NL in rWAR in 2021, setting a career high with 28 homers and a non-pandemic-year high in OBP at .375 while also leading the NL in stolen bases. He comes to free agency now after a platform year that still marks him as one of the best players on the market, but is a step down from the superstar level he showed in 2021. Turner changed his approach this year, chasing out of the zone more often than he had in any previous season, going after pitches below the zone and down and away while whiffing on them over 70 percent of the time he offered. It’s a shocking switch from someone who didn’t chase much in previous years, and while it’s probably not a permanent issue, it’s also not something you’d want to see when you’re about to give a player eight years and nine figures. He’s still an 80 runner and a solid-average defender at shortstop, and he was a plus defender at second in his brief time there after the midseason trade that sent him to L.A. a year ago, so there’s every reason to think he’ll stay at short for at least another 4-5 years. I think some of his overzealousness at the plate this year was him trying to repeat his huge power numbers from the prior season, but that’s probably not who he is as a hitter long term. He’s a high-average/high-OBP guy who should hit 35-40 doubles and triples with double-digit homers, and that alone would make him a 5+ WAR player and worth an AAV in the low $30 million range on a 6-8 year deal.

2022 (Atlanta): .277/.329/.447, 5.7 rWAR/6.4 fWAR

Swanson’s walk year didn’t look like any season he’d had before, as he played elite defense at short for the first time ever, made more hard contact than ever, and posted the worst walk rate of his career. By OAA, Swanson was the second-most valuable fielder in all of baseball, preventing 20 outs and 15 runs above average, behind only Detroit second baseman Jonathan Schoop (a former shortstop), an incredible showing that was at least two grades better than Swanson’s previously established level.

At the plate, he continued what has been a career-long trend of getting more aggressive in the zone, yet did so without expanding, posting a below-average chase rate again this year. You might get him to chase off-speed stuff down and over the plate, but otherwise, you have to come into or close to the zone, which seems to explain the boost in his contact quality. He might never be a strong on-base guy, but a plus defensive shortstop, which would still be a step down from his 2022 showing, who can hit 30 doubles and 25 homers a year is a very valuable player, and he should be looking for similar deals to Turner and Bogaerts, 6-8 years and $30 million-plus per year.

2022 (New York Yankees): .311/.425/.686/holy/s–t, 10.6 rWAR/11.5 fWAR

Judge just put up a season for the ages. As I wrote in my hypothetical awards ballot column, his rWAR of 10.6 ranks 27th all-time for a single-season; since MLB integrated, it ranks 14th. Nobody has hit 11 rWAR since Barry Bonds in 2002, and before that, no one had done it since Cal Ripken in 1991. FanGraphs has him even higher, at 11.2 fWAR, the fourth-highest figure this century and seventh-best since integration, behind six seasons from three guys named Bonds, Williams, and Mantle. He played more center field than right field this year, and played both at least at a solid-average level. He also had two full, healthy seasons in a row for the first time in his career; he missed big chunks of 2018 and 2019, and then half of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He barrels the ball more often than anyone in baseball, and hits the ball harder than anyone in baseball, and yet also shows an outstanding approach at the plate. For someone his size to not lead the majors in strikeouts is in itself an achievement, and he was just seventh in the majors in strikeouts this past year, even with 696 PA, while ranking 20th the year before, because he doesn’t chase, ranking in the 83rd percentile in chase rate this season.

There’s no easy way to get him out, obviously, and there’s nothing here to say he can’t be an MVP-level player again in 2023. But there’s a catch: Judge is going to be 31 in the first year of his contract, and the history of position players 6-foot-7 or taller as they age into their 30s is not promising. Only three players that height have even had 100 AB in a season at 31 or older – Frank Howard, Richie Sexson, and Tony Clark – and the three accounted for just six seasons worth 1 WAR or more, four from Howard and one each from the other two. All were effectively done by age 35, with Sexson done after age 31. Judge is a better athlete than any of those guys, and still plays in the middle of the field, while none of those three did, so he might have a different future.

But a big part of the problem for position players that tall is that they seem to get hurt more often, and that has been part of Judge’s history. So if you’re wondering why the AL MVP, coming off a truly historic season, isn’t the No. 1 free agent on these rankings, that’s the reason, and it’s why I’d give him $35-40 million a year but would be wary of anything past four years guaranteed.

2022 (Red Sox): .307/.377/.456, 5.7 rWAR/6.1 fWAR

Bogaerts comes to free agency off a platform year that’s a bit different from his norms, as he failed to hit 20 homers for the first time in a full season since 2017 but played his best-ever defense at shortstop. He used to destroy fastballs, but has drifted downward since 2019 and now is merely above-average against them, while against all pitches this year he swung and missed more and barreled the ball less, even in-zone. Bogaerts had his best defensive season by advanced metrics – it was just his second year with a positive Outs Above Average figure, at +5, with UZR and dRS both also showing career-best marks. The boost in his defensive production offsets the loss in his hard contact, but the likely trend for all players in their 30s is for defensive value to slip and for them to move down the defensive spectrum. He might be a $30-35 million player in the first year or two of a long-term deal, but without a return to his hard-hitting ways of 2018-19, he’s likely to underperform that over a 5-6 year deal.

2022 (Chicago Cubs): .243/.349/.466, 3.9 rWAR/3.3 fWAR

Contreras is the only surefire everyday catcher available as a free agent this winter, considering both performance and durability; only J.T. Realmuto has caught more games since the start of 2018, when Contreras became a regular. He’s an athletic catcher with a strong arm, but is a below-average framer and always has been, which is still sort of a thing in the short term (although we can always hope for change). At the plate, he makes extremely hard contact with a very aggressive approach that brings a lot of swing and miss, even in the zone in the upper third along with a propensity to chase down and away. His OBPs have stayed above-average thanks to his apparent desire to stand in the way of the pitch, with 24 HBPs in 2022 (which, somehow, did not lead the league?) and more than one HBP every 10 games in his career, so I guess we could call it a skill at this point. There may be some teams scared off by the framing, but Contreras provides plenty of value with his bat and even his arm, and it’s a big dropoff from him to the next-best catcher in this free agent class.

2022 (New York Mets): .274/.367/.463, 5.0 rWAR/5.4 fWAR

Nimmo heads out into free agency off his best season, where he played in a career-high 151 games, got on base at a solid clip with average power, and played plus defense in center, without spending most of his time just facing right-handers (with the platoon advantage). He’s a disciplined hitter who rarely chases and doesn’t swing and miss much, allowing him to post above-average OBPs even in down BABIP years. Nimmo has answered one of the two big questions that faced him earlier in his career: his ability to hit left-handed pitching. The Mets protected him for his first four years, only letting him face lefties regularly in 2018, but in the last two seasons he’s both played regularly against southpaws and hit them well, with a .278/.382/.418 line against them since the start of 2021 that represents a boost in his OBP and SLG even with him facing tougher pitchers. The other big question is his durability, a concern since high school when he tore the ACL in one of his knees, which was still slowing his running in his draft year. This year was just the second time Nimmo played in 100 major-league games in a season, and just the third time he played in at least 60 percent of the Mets’ games (including 2020). He’s been injury-prone, which isn’t likely to go away in his 30s; even this year he had a quad strain that didn’t put him on the IL, and has a history of hamstring, knee, neck, finger, and other injuries. He’s a $25 million a year player if he’s healthy, but a five-year deal should factor in the likelihood that he’ll miss 20-25 percent of his games due to injuries, too.

2022 (New York Mets): 3.08 ERA, 64.1 IP, 8 BB, 102 K, 9 HR, 1.4 rWAR/2.2 fWAR

deGrom has signaled since March that he would opt out of his deal, forgoing the guaranteed $32.5 million he’d be due for 2023 to try to get a larger deal in free agency, although he’s doing so after year another year where he pitched like an ace in less than half a season of work. After four seasons interrupted only by the pandemic, he’s made 26 starts in total in 2021-22, throwing 156.1 innings with 248 strikeouts, 19 walks, and a 1.90 ERA/1.60 FIP in that span. If you get that guy for even 25 starts, he’s worth $40-50 million. In 2018, he was worth 9+ wins above replacement just by himself. By fWAR, he’s been worth over 7 WAR in just the last two years, and that’s pitching around injuries. He’s the ultimate high-risk, high-reward free agent. Pitchers who’ve had injury issues usually don’t stop getting hurt suddenly at age 36 and then stay healthy for several years until they ride off into the sunset, but isn’t it tempting to think deGrom will be the exception? I think someone offers him $40 million a year on a short-term deal, no more than three years, and then white-knuckles through every morning’s medical reports until he’s through.

2022 (San Francisco Giants): 2.88 ERA, 178 IP, 52 BB, 237 K, 12 HR, 5.4 rWAR/6.2 fWAR

The Carlos Rodón comeback story culminated in him having his best-ever season after leaving the team that drafted him third back in 2014, behind two players who never reached the majors and are both out of baseball. Rodón signed a one-year deal with the Giants in March, right after the lockout ended, and finished second in the NL in strikeouts, sixth in ERA, and first in FIP, while boosting his career WAR total by 50 percent. His slider was one of the best ever for an amateur pitcher, while now it’s merely plus, supplanted by a four-seamer that was the third-most valuable such pitch in baseball last year, a high-spin offering he throws in the upper third of the zone. The four-seamer and slider play off each other, appearing to the hitter to move in opposite directions, and as a result he’s been able to excel as mostly a two-pitch guy, showing no platoon split and thus no need for a changeup or split.

This past season marked the first time Rodón ever made 30 starts in one year, and just the second time he pitched enough to qualify for the ERA title. He missed most of 2017 with a shoulder injury that required surgery, and threw just 42 innings between 2019-20 around Tommy John surgery. He was worked very hard at NC State as an amateur, and has always had a high-effort delivery, so forecasting future health is dicey, to put it mildly. He has age on his side, at least, and perhaps the two major surgeries have bought him a few more years of health. If you believe he’s going to hold up, he’s the best pitcher on the market and worth the biggest investment, a $30 million-a-year arm for however many years you can stomach.

2022 (New York Yankees): 3.91 ERA, 177.1 IP, 32 BB, 151 K, 26 HR, 1.2 rWAR/2.3 fWAR

The three players taken in the top three picks of the 2011 draft all played in the LCS this year – Bryce Harper (No. 1), Taillon (No. 2), and Manny Machado (No. 3). Anyway, Taillon has had a much longer road to free agency than the other two players on the list, including two Tommy John surgeries, testicular cancer, a significant ankle injury, and hernia surgery, missing all of 2014, 2015, and 2020, plus most of 2019 along the way. Once a giant fireballer out of a Texas high school in the classic “the next Nolan Ryan!” mode, Taillon now works with average velocity on a high-spin four-seamer, a plus curveball, a 55 slider, and a cutter. He’s never used his changeup much, although it remains the one pitch he throws well down and in to right-handers, as his delivery takes him to his glove side. He’s now a control guy who mixes four pitches, with the occasional fifth, but whose command wobbles enough that he ends up homer-prone, missing spots with the four-seamer and slider in particular – and it wasn’t a function of Yankee Stadium, as he gave up more homers on the road, with three of his five multi-homer games coming at Boston, Pittsburgh, and Seattle. The good news here is that everything is trending up, as his walk rate went way down in 2022, his second year back from the second TJ, as did his fly-ball rate, bringing the homers down with it. He’s such a different pitcher now than he was even in 2018 that I see further growth in his command coming, and would be willing to bet on some upside here that isn’t present (or likely) with most free agent pitchers. It’s more about his health, so I might go four years to try to capture more of the development, but with a lower AAV, more like $15 million a year, perhaps with escalators for innings pitched.

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Jurickson Profar warms up before an NLCS game, after putting together a career season in 2022. (Kyle Ross / USA Today)

2022 (San Diego Padres): .243/.331/.391, 3.1 rWAR/2.5 fWAR

Profar hits the market off his career year, having declined his $8.33 million player option and hit free agency for the first time a decade after he was the No. 1 prospect in baseball. He lost 2014 and 2015 to a shoulder injury and only showed flashes of the hitter he’d been before that until getting to play regularly at one position for the Padres this year. He’s never regained all the power he showed when younger, and still doesn’t make a lot of hard contact, but has become an extremely disciplined hitter, making a lot of contact and rarely chasing or whiffing, making him an above-average hitter (110 wRC+) despite just a .243 batting average. He still has two areas where he could improve, although I’m not sure either is that likely given his age: He was a well below-average defender in left this year, which makes no sense for a former shortstop who projected to stay there pre-injury; and he could continue to improve his contact quality. He had the highest hard-hit rate of his career in 2022, which seemed well overdue, and he did so despite playing more than he ever had before in the majors. He’s a 3-4 year, $15-18 million a year guy if you believe you can extract some improvements in just one of those areas – especially defense.

2022 (New York Mets): 3.49 ERA, 157.1 IP, 45 BB, 132 K, 15 HR, 2.6 rWAR/2.5 fWAR

It’s hard to believe that Walker is just 30 years old. He was drafted back in 2010, by Seattle, who got three years of roughly league-average starter work from him before trading him to Arizona, where someone changed his delivery to shorten his stride and, perhaps not coincidentally, he got hurt, missing almost all of 2018 and 2019. Three stops later, he enters free agency having remade himself as a strike-thrower with an out pitch in his splitter, a pitch he barely used prior to Tommy John surgery. Hitters have an extremely hard time elevating the ball against him; the average launch angle on the pitch when hitters do make contact is -1 degree. Of balls hit in play off Walker’s splitter, 55 percent where at 0 degrees or less, meaning parallel to or towards the ground, and only 6 percent were hit in the 26-30 degree launch angle range where balls hit 95 mph or harder are considered Barrels by Statcast, which means they’re really likely to be extra-base hits. You can go a long way with a pitch like that, and Walker throws it almost as often as he throws his four-seamer. He gives up too much hard contact on other pitches to project or pay him as more than a fourth starter but I could see him being that for a long time. I’d give him 3 years and $14-15 million per, and he should probably get four-year offers given his age.

13. Justin Verlander, RHP, age: Nothin’ but a number

2022 (Houston Astros): 1.75 ERA, 175 IP, 29 BB, 185 K, 12 HR, 5.9 rWAR/6.1 fWAR

Verlander will turn 40 in February, but you wouldn’t know it from watching him pitch, as he looks as good as ever, 18-plus years after the Tigers made him the second pick in the 2004 draft. Verlander returned this season from Tommy John surgery, the first significant injury of his career, and his stuff was almost as good as before; his velocity was intact, although his spin rates and thus movement was down slightly across the board, from elite to just really good. The unbelievable part of his season, which might win him his third Cy Young Award, is that he posted the lowest walk rate of his career. He reinvented himself, at least in part, while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, at an age when most pitchers have long since hung them up. Verlander has said he wants to chase 300 wins, and who can blame him? At 244, he’s at least got enough of a chance to try it. He might get multi-year offers, but if that’s his goal, he should look for a series of one-year deals to try to pitch for teams most likely to give him a ton of run support.

2022 (Texas Rangers): 2.89 ERA, 196 1/3 IP, 69 BB, 169 K, 11 HR, 5.0 rWAR/3.8 fWAR

Pérez turned in an All-Star season pitching in the Rangers rotation, just as we’d all predicted for him back in 2011-12, when he was the best pitching prospect in baseball … we’ll just skip over everything that happened in between. Pérez first added a cutter to his repertoire while with the Twins in 2019, and the pitch has improved gradually since then, while the Rangers had him go sinker-heavy, almost ditching his four-seamer completely. His changeup was once his out pitch and remains his best option for a swing and miss, but the cutter gets him a lot of weak contact, especially since he keeps it out of the heart of the zone. His batted-ball data and peripherals don’t point to a sub-3 ERA, in part because he had such a high strand rate (77 percent), but he looks like he could have a second act here as a ground-ball-inducing, mid-rotation starter.

2022 (Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees):  .304/.373/.399, 3.2 rWAR/2.8 fWAR

I’m curious what the largest free agent contract ever given to an outfielder who didn’t hit 10 homers or steal 10 bases in his walk year is, as Benintendi seems sure to beat it after a three-win season that featured just 5 homers and 8 steals. This isn’t the player Benintendi was supposed to be, or used to be, as he hit 20 homers and stole 20 bases as a rookie for Boston in 2017, but he’s become too much of an opposite-field hitter, often sacrificing power in favor of softer contact the other way. The power potential is still in there, as he hits the ball hard some of the time, but makes too much soft or weak contact on stuff out over the plate, often on belt-high pitches he should be able to drive. There’s more value in here, but this isn’t just a matter of, say, stop swinging at pitchers over your head. He’s an average defender in left who was average-ish in center when he last played it in 2019, so he’s probably going to be below-average there now but able to play it in a pinch. He’s got enough value as a regular to merit a three-year, $15 million AAV sort of deal, especially if some team thinks they can figure out why he’s not hitting the easy stuff harder.

2022 (Washington Nationals, San Diego Padres): .266/.362/.422, 3.0 rWAR/2.0 fWAR

If you ignore the truncated 2020 season, Bell has hit .268/.358/.488 over his last three (full) years, averaging 30 doubles, 27 homers, and 72 walks per 600 PA in that span. You’d think that player would get more attention, since he was worth about 9.5 rWAR in that period, but he’s been underrated for much of his career. That’s probably in large part because he is a poor defensive first baseman, although he’s probably no worse than Pete Alonso or Rhys Hoskins, to name a couple of guys who don’t take the same heat for their gloves. He’s a true switch-hitter who’s shown no platoon split over the last two years, and might be getting penalized for making too much contact — he puts a lot of pitches in play, especially when pitchers go down and away, that he doesn’t hit hard, bringing down his performance stats and some of his batted-ball metrics. It’s paradoxical, but it looks like an opportunity to me, not least because he still ranked in the top third of baseball in total Barrels, just faring worse on a rate basis because he doesn’t whiff. Someone should give him three years to be their DH and occasional first baseman and be happy with the power and OBP he provides.

2022 (Los Angeles Dodgers): 2.57 ERA, 178 2/3 IP, 34 BB, 138 K, 14 HR, 4.3 rWAR/4 fWAR

Anderson posted his best performance this year at age 32, the first time he was worth even 2 rWAR since 2018, after which he had surgery on his left knee that effectively ended his time with the team that drafted him, the Rockies. He did so by employing just one simple trick that you won’t believe: He stopped giving up hard contact! More pitchers should try this. Anderson appealed to the Rockies way back in the 2011 draft because he had a plus changeup and showed above-average control, a formula that should work better for altitude than an approach that depends more on spin and/or movement, and he did give them two good years in the rotation before his knee gave out. In 2022, though, he changed the changeup, working with a new grip that dropped its velocity slightly but gave it more vertical movement, creating more separation from his other pitches and making it harder for batters to hit even if they guessed correctly. It’s the sort of transition many pitchers need to make in their 30s when they lose their fastballs, but it’s also a formula that we’ve seen work for guys, especially lefties, forever. Maybe he’s the new Jamie Moyer. I wouldn’t give him a 15-year deal to find out, but I’d give him three years and $35-40 million even with just the one year of performance at this level.

18. Kodai Senga, RHP, age 30

2022 (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, NPB): 1.94 ERA, 144 IP, 49 BB, 156 K, 7 HR

Senga finished second in Japan’s Pacific League in ERA, behind only Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the best pitcher in Japan right now, and third in strikeouts, with an 8.6 percent walk rate that’s probably the worst indicator in his stat line from this past season. He throws 100 mph with a plus splitter, while opinions on his slider vary from below-average to just slightly above. He does have a true curveball that looks like it would be at least an average pitch as well. The bigger differences in opinions vary around whether he can start in MLB – his command is below-average, and there are questions over whether he has the kind of feel for working with his stuff that he’d need to turn a lineup over three times here – but between the clear out pitch and his ability to hold velocity deeper into games, I think he’ll at least begin his MLB tenure as a starter. He did miss about half of the 2021 season due to a severe ankle sprain, but returned to pitch for Japan in the Olympics that summer, including throwing three shutout innings against the U.S. team in the final game. He’s an unrestricted free agent and I’d be surprised if someone didn’t give him four years and $80 million-plus because they see an above-average starter, with wide variance in either direction around that outcome.

2022 (Philadelphia Phillies): 4.04 ERA, 75.2 IP, 15 BB, 65 K, 8 HR, 0.9 rWAR/1.4 fWAR

Eflin hurt his knee midway through 2022 and returned as a reliever in September, but should be able to go back to starting for someone in 2023 after showing once again that he can handle the role and provide league-average work there. Eflin’s pitch mix has been in flux at least since he got to the Phillies, but the search for a consistent breaking ball goes back to high school, where his two best pitchers were a four-seamer and a changeup. In 2021, he was a sinker/slider guy, but in 2022 he used the curveball as his primary off-speed pitch and threw his slider less than any other offering, and the changeup has never been a significant weapon for him in any role. Regardless of how he uses his pitches, nothing is plus, but he throws a ton of strikes and has a long history of generating weaker contact than the average, enough to see him as a reliable fourth option in a good rotation. He was also effective enough in relief that someone could decide to move him there permanently, although I think that both wastes his bulk innings potential and also ignores the fact that he might have some improvement left as a starter. He’s still pretty young for a free agent, and there’s been so much tinkering here that he still looks like a work in progress. Maybe simplifying the repertoire would help, or bringing back the slider or changeup would make either more effective. Without that kind of upside in the projection, he’s still a three-year, $35-45 million guy for me because of his track record.

2022 (New York Mets): 1.31 ERA, 62 IP, 118 K, 3.2 rWAR/3.0 fWAR

Díaz, Correa, and José Berríos, who would have been in this free agent class if he hadn’t signed a huge extension with Toronto, were all in the same draft back in 2012, which is now the third-best Puerto Rican draft since MLB annexed it into the draft pool in 1990. That group has produced 60.7 rWAR already, behind just 1995 (Carlos Beltrán, worth 70.1 all by himself) and 2000 (Yadier Molina and Edwin Encarnación, who combined for 77.7 WAR), so there’s a great chance this will end up the best Puerto Rican draft class ever. Díaz is hitting his peak just as he gets to free agency, as his miserable first year in New York looks more and more like a fluke. His slider prevented more runs in 2022 than any other except those of Dylan Cease and Shohei Ohtani, two starters who faced more than twice as many batters as Díaz. He’s improved his command substantially in the last few years, keeping both pitches out of the middle of the zone, as opposed to that 2019 season when he left a lot of sliders out over the middle of the plate. (I’ll forever believe that MLB tinkering with the baseball could have been a big part of why Díaz lost feel for his slider that year and then got it back a year later.) Very few relievers sustain this level of performance for more than a year or two, and the history of four-year deals for relievers is dismal. Any contract for Díaz should be built around the assumption that he’ll provide the most value in year one, and that beyond two years he’ll probably lose value or pitch less.

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Clayton Kershaw put up another remarkable season, but as has been the case for years, he missed significant time due to injuries. (Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today)

2022 (Los Angeles Dodgers): 2.28 ERA, 126 1/3 IP, 23 BB, 137 K, 10 HR, 3.8 rWAR/3.8 fWAR

Kershaw ranks second in this century in pitcher WAR, behind only fellow free agent Justin Verlander, making it all the more remarkable that both of these guys head into the winter coming off of very strong seasons. Kershaw pitched about as well as ever when he did take the ball in 2022, but as has been the story for him since his incredible run from 2011-15 ended, he missed more time due to injury and didn’t work as much in each start as he used to. Kershaw hasn’t made 30 starts since 2015, and didn’t reach 130 innings in either of the last two years. He’s missed time due to back injuries in six of the last nine seasons, including 2022, and missed about a third of the 2021 season with a forearm injury.

When he did take the mound, Kershaw exhibited what might be the best command of any pitcher in baseball last year, which has been more than enough to make up for the loss of his velocity – his fastball only averages 90-91 mph and barely misses any bats, but he puts both his slider and curveball exactly where he wants them so often, very rarely giving hitters much of a shot to square them up, that they’re both swing-and-miss offerings that also generate weak contact when a hitter does connect. He actually posted the highest BABIP since his rookie year in 2021 at .289 (still well below the MLB average), and brought it down to his career level at .268 last year; few pitchers have consistently shown the ability to limit hits on balls in play in the last twenty years as Kershaw has. His fastball still has enough spin for him to work with it middle-up, letting him work vertically between that and the curveball, while he can run his slider down and away from lefties or in under a righty’s hands. And he does so while throwing strikes, 68 percent last year, with a 4.7 percent walk rate, the seventh time in eight seasons he’s been under 5 percent. He’s delivered elite performance in about 2/3 of a season’s worth of starts and innings in each of the last two years. I’d give him a year and $25 million, or maybe something with a vesting option if he gets to 120 innings again for a second year at the same value.

2022 (Los Angeles Angels/Philadelphia Phillies): 3.94 ERA, 134.2 IP, 31 BB, 95 K, 14 HR, 1.8 rWAR/

Syndergaard is now two full calendar years off Tommy John surgery, so while there could still be more improvement coming, there’s also a very good chance this is where his velocity is going to sit post-op. Syndergaard averaged 97-98 mph on his four-seamer until he got hurt, and just 94.1 last year; his slider peaked at 91-92 in his last couple of years before the injury, and averaged 84.8 last year. The one bit of good news in his pitch data is that his slider picked up velocity later in the season, averaging 86.5 mph after his trade to the Phillies, so of course he used the pitch more and it was more effective. His control was back at its pre-surgery levels, and the old scouts’ tale is that command and control are the last things to return, so I think you have to value him like this is the new Thor, even if we’re all probably hoping he gets back closer to the guy he was before. This version is a league-average starter, still worth $15-20 million a year, although he could get more from someone willing to bet on another step forward.

2022 (Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals): 2.93 ERA, 165 2/3 IP, 47 BB, 137 K, 8 HR, 3.5 rWAR/4 fWAR

Quintana was a surprise All-Star for the White Sox, who signed him out of the Yankees’ system as a minor-league free agent, then got over 1,000 above-average innings from him over about six years before trading him to the Cubs … right on schedule, as it turned out. He’d already showed some signs he was trending down before the deal, but produced 0.0 rWAR across four different seasons for the Cubs, then had a 6.43 ERA in 2021 between the Angels and Giants. The biggest change he made in 2022 was going to his changeup more than he had in any prior season, whether we go by total pitches thrown or percent of the total, and as a result his four-seamer became one of the most effective pitches in all of baseball, saving 22 runs above the average according to Statcast. His curveball still generates some swings and misses, although I don’t think anything in his arsenal is truly plus, and part of his success last year was a massive drop in his home run rate that probably isn’t anything more than good fortune. He’s a solid fourth starter candidate with some variance around that, worth a two-year deal at $12-14 million per year but not longer given his age and long time in the wilderness.

2022 (New York Mets): 3.42 ERA, 181.2 IP, 49 BB, 167 K, 19 HR, 3.2 rWAR/2.7 fWAR

Bassitt didn’t establish himself as a major-league starter until age 30, getting to do so in possibly the best environment for it, Oakland, where the foul ground goes on forever and the team has a history of giving opportunities to pitchers like him. He doesn’t throw hard, but limits hard contact, gets ground balls, and doesn’t walk too many guys. His sinker was one of the most valuable in baseball in the last two years, with 62 percent of balls in play off the pitch hit on the ground. He doesn’t have a real out pitch and lives a bit on the knife’s edge, with above-average but not elite command or even control, and when anything he throws gets too close to the heart of the zone, he’s homer-prone. The 2022 season was also his first making 30 starts, and only his second time qualifying for the ERA title, with the other coming in the 60-game 2020 season. He’s a fourth starter, with more risk that he’s a five or less than that he becomes a three, worth two years and $24-28 based on what he’s done over the last three seasons but factoring in risk of durability or the tiny margins with which he works.

2022 (Minnesota Twins): .205/.282/.377, 0.9 rWAR/1.3 fWAR

We’re a long way away from Sánchez’s days as a top-tier prospect, as even a trade away from the Bronx didn’t ignite his bat, leaving him heading into free agency. Sánchez hits the ball hard when he hits it at all, remaining among the best in baseball in hard-hit rate and max exit velocity, but has devolved into just a fastball hitter, with miserable results against anything else in 2022 — he hit just .156 and slugged .286 off non-fastballs. A ton of his swing and miss came on pitches in the zone. He still has a 70 arm and is still a fringe-average defender, albeit nowhere near as bad as his reputation from his time with the Yankees might have you believe. He seems like a reclamation project, but for a team that can live with his iffy receiving and just wants to bet on the upside in his bat.

2022 (Seattle Mariners): .246/.308/.429, 1.4 rWAR/0.8 fWAR

Haniger probably missed his chance for a big payday, as injuries kept him from reaching the majors until he was 25 and he’s been dogged by them since his career year in 2018, when he was worth over 6 rWAR at age 27. He’s played in 100 or more games just twice, in that breakout year and in 2021, with just 57 games played in 2022, missing three months with an ankle sprain. He’s also had multiple surgeries on his back and suffered a ruptured testicle — ouch — in 2019. He’s become a dead-fastball hitter now, doing a ton of damage on heaters and far, far less on anything else, hitting 79 percent of his extra-base hits in 2022 on fastballs, up from 64 percent in his 2021 season, when he hit 39 homers and was just generally less vulnerable to soft stuff. It’s also quite possible that his 2022 stats were deflated by the injury, that he didn’t have all his strength back in his legs when he returned in early August, and that he’ll see better results if he’s fully healthy in 2023. He’s a below-average defender in right, probably a 45, so playable but not an asset. The value is in his bat, and if the market doesn’t offer him several years, he’d be an ideal candidate to take a one-year deal, go play 150 games, and put up something more like his 2021 stat line to return to free agency next winter.

2022 (Boston Red Sox/Houston Astros): .274/.315/.399, 2.1 rWAR/1.6 fWAR

As a prospect, Vázquez was always seen as a strong defensive catcher with contact skills who probably wouldn’t hit enough to be a regular, but across parts of eight seasons he has hit just enough, with a little doubles power, to project an everyday guy on a second-division club. He rarely swings and misses and rarely strikes out, which sort of mitigates his general lack of hard contact – his hard-hit rate was only in the 29th percentile last year, and his Barrel rate even lower at the 25th percentile. He did have one outlier year with 23 homers, in 2019, and slugged over .450 in both that season and the truncated 2020 one, but he’s settled back in as more of a 6-10 homers, 20-25 doubles sort of hitter. He’s a solid defensive catcher but not a strong one, with a plus arm and good receiving skills, but he’s just an average framer and there are mixed reviews on his game-calling. He’s a solid everyday choice for a non-contender, and probably gets three-year offers because of the paucity of catching on the market, but I do think contenders need to aim for more.

2022 (Toronto Blue Jays): 3.01 ERA, 134.1 IP, 20 BB, 111 K, 10 HR, 2.7 rWAR/3.1 fWAR

When Stripling isn’t precise with his four-seamer, he becomes very homer-prone; in 2022, he was precise. He went from giving up 29 homers on his four-seam fastball in 2020-21 combined to just four in 2022, allowing more homers on another pitch (changeup) for the first time in his career. He doesn’t have a plus pitch, with the changeup his best offering, instead working by throwing a ton of strikes. Among pitchers with at least 100 innings in 2022, he had the fourth-lowest walk rate, behind Corey Kluber, Aaron Nola, and Lance Lynn. He’s been underpaid for years while he was stuck in the arbitration process, which doesn’t do any favors to pitchers who’ve bounced between starting and relieving, but that’s part of his value to another club – he’s a perfect fifth starter/swingman, especially for a club that believes it has a pitching prospect who might break in during the season. I wouldn’t go over two years but I’d give him $12 million or so per.

2022 (Houston Astros): .288/.370/.416, 1.3 rWAR/1.2 fWAR

Before a season-ending shoulder injury, Brantley was one of the toughest hitters in the majors to strike out – he would have had the 5th­­­­-lowest strikeout rate among all MLB players had he played enough to qualify – and was among its most patient, with a walk rate that would have ranked in the top 20. As long as he can still hit a fastball, he’ll have a role in MLB as a potential regular at DH, although I think his days of playing the field are coming to a close. At best, he’s limited to left, but he’s not even an average defender there and limiting his time in the field might help keep him healthy. He doesn’t have the power typical for a DH, but he hits the ball hard enough to keep his average up and gets on base at a high clip. I’d give him a year and $16 million – his annual salary from the four-year deal that just ended – to be a DH and see if he can hold up for a full season in 2023.

2022 (Boston Red Sox): 3.87 ERA, 109.1 IP, 20 BB, 103 K, 21 HR, 1.5 rWAR/1.0 fWAR

Eovaldi was a 4.5/5.7 WAR pitcher in 2021, but back and shoulder injuries limited him to about 60 percent of the workload in 2022 and shaved a mile an hour off his fastball while costing him some command too. At his best, he can sit 96-97 with a curve and splitter that might both be plus, and he’s stingy with the walks. His walk rate of 4.3 percent would have been the fourth-lowest in baseball, just a shade better than Justin Verlander’s, had he qualified. If healthy, Eovaldi is at least a No. 2 starter for someone, and if he’d been a free agent last winter he would probably have seen $100 million-plus deals over five years. This winter, he might be looking for a one-year make-good deal, and I’m sure he’d have teams lined up around the block for that. I couldn’t go for a four- or five-year deal for him with the uncertainty around his shoulder and his stuff.

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Rizzo’s excellent bounce-back season was more than just a Yankee Stadium creation, but teams might still have some concerns. (Dustin Satloff / Getty Images)

2022 (New York Yankees): .224/.338/.480, 2.4 fWAR

Rizzo had a tremendous bounce-back year after a couple of seasons where it looked like the end might be nigh, tying a career high with 32 homers and hitting fastballs, even good fastballs (95+), better than he had in several years. He even posted his highest Barrel rate since MLB started measuring it in 2015. Some of the power spike was the ballpark, as Yankee Stadium is somewhat helpful for left-handed hitters, as you might have heard, but that only explains part of his resurgence. That said, there are some signs here that should worry teams considering a multi-year deal. He swung and missed at the highest rate of his career, almost 10 percent more often than in 2021, which had itself been a career worst rate. He’s less able than ever to cover pitches outside the zone, but hasn’t stopped swinging at them. But the biggest concern is that he’s changed his swing to more of an all-or-nothing style, hitting far more fly balls than ever – which explains the home run spike more than the ballpark – but at the cost of more whiffs and fewer singles and doubles. He’s kind of a three true outcomes guy, if you also mix in some times hit by pitch, who’s a reliable receiver at first but doesn’t have the range he used to have. If I sound pessimistic, well, I am. Rizzo has always been someone to root for, but Father Time is ruthless. Rizzo walked away from $16 million guaranteed by opting out of the last year of his deal, but I think that’s more than he’s likely to be worth in this upcoming season.

2022 (Philadelphia Phillies): 5.05 ERA, 167.2 IP, 48 BB, 144 K, 24 HR, 0.6 rWAR/1.8 fWAR

Gibson would be an above-average starter if he just weren’t so homer-prone, which is a bit like saying I’d be tall if I weren’t 5-foot-6, although I think Gibson has a better chance to remedy his situation than I do mine. But that’s really it for him – he throws strikes, gets some deception from his delivery, and has a slider that’s at least a 55, close to an out pitch. In years when he’s not excessively homer-prone, like 2021, he’s an All-Star, and the Phillies gave up a decent amount to acquire him and Ian Kennedy in a deadline deal. He just doesn’t have the pure stuff to live in the middle of the zone; he left too many pitches belt-high and over the plate this year, and got punished. It’s not just one pitch type, either, so it’s more command and approach. At his age, that’s probably just who he is, although I’m always a little more optimistic that a pitcher can change his pitching plan or locate slightly better in his 30s than I would be if he needed more velocity or a new pitch. I’d give him two years and $15 million to be a fourth/fifth starter if I needed innings, but probably not if I were contending and looking for league-average or better run prevention.

33. Drew Rucinski, RHP, age 34

2022 (NC Dinos, KBO): 2.97 ERA, 193.2 IP, 34 BB, 194 K, 14 HR

Rucinski kicked around the majors for a few years, appearing with the Angels, Twins, and Marlins between 2014-18, which in and of itself is a great outcome for an undrafted free agent (out of an Ohio State University of some sort). He went to Korea after that season, however, and has reinvented himself, getting stronger, throwing harder, and adding a splitter, to the point where he might be able to come back to MLB as a starter. Rucinski was at 92-94 mph in relief before going to Korea, but over there has been more 94-96, with a cutter in the low 90s that’s probably his best pitch and an above-average curveball that might also miss some bats here. He’s coming off his best season to date, where he walked just 4.1 percent of batters and struck out almost a quarter, and in four years in the KBO he hasn’t missed a start, taking the ball 121 times in total and never throwing less than 177 innings in any season. This at least looks and sounds like a potential league-average starter here, but there’s risk involved in any starter coming from the KBO to MLB because the quality of hitters is much higher here. I could see two years and $16-18 million-ish, or maybe three years and $20-22 million, for a team that believes he has an excellent chance to remain a starter.

2022 (Chicago White Sox): .304/.378/.446, 4.2 rWAR/3.9 fWAR

Abreu was extremely productive for a 35-year-old who probably should be a DH at this point, making consistent, hard contact at an age when most hitters are starting to taper off. He ranked in the top 5 perent of hitters in hard-hit rate, top 10 percent in average exit velocity, and just outside the top 10 percent in max exit velocity, all while cutting his strikeout rate to a career-best 16.2 percent. That said, there are some signs of trouble here, as Abreu has had more trouble with velocity the last two years than he did before, with a whiff rate on fastballs 95-plus mph of 11 percent through the 2020 season to nearly 16 percent in the last two years. It’s surprising when a hitter, especially one without any speed or fielding ability, doesn’t lose bat speed as he ages, and we can see that in his performance on fastballs and the huge drop in his power in 2022, as he went from 30 homers in 2021 to a career-low 15 in 2022, fewer than he hit in the shortened pandemic season. He’s already aged better than most players with no speed or defensive value do, so I’d love him on a one-year, $20 million-ish deal, but anything over two years is asking to pay to drive him over the cliff.

2022 (Tampa Bay Rays): .228/.281/.369, 1.1 rWAR/1.1 fWAR

Kiermaier’s last year in Tampa Bay was marred by injury and a sudden drop in his defensive performance; it will be up to buyers to decide if that was a fluke, given how good he was in centerfield in 2021, or a harbinger of what’s to come. He’s always depended on his glove to provide his value, as he’s a chronic low-OBP guy whose strikeout rate hit a career-worst 27.6 percent last year. The injury that ended his 2022 season was a hip labrum issue that required surgery, but that could also be the explanation for the drop in his range last year. I don’t think the Rays will pick up his $13 million option – nor should they – but I could see another team paying him $10 million a year and hope he becomes a +10 runs prevented guy for a few more years.

2022 (Boston Red Sox): 3.32 ERA, 127.1 IP, 31 BB, 104 K, 18 HR, 3.3 rWAR/1.5 fWAR

Wacha had a solid year for the Red Sox, but he was homer-prone, and lucky as hell – he limited hitters to a .189/.238/.311 line when there were runners in scoring position, way better than how hitters fared in other situations. He does still have a plus changeup that helps him be more effective against left-handed batters, and still lacks an average breaking pitch for right-handers. The good news here is that he gave up far less hard contact in 2022 than 2021; the bad news is that hitters still feast on his fastball, especially right-handers. He’s likely to have better results going forward than he did in his 5.05 ERA season in 2021, but worse than last year, which would still be an $18-20 million a year starter if he had any history of durability. At 125 innings a season, he’s more like a $10-13 million guy.

2022 (Oakland A’s/Chicago White Sox): .249/.303/.404, 3.0 rWAR/3.5 fWAR

Andrus’ 43-game stint with the White Sox after Oakland released him in August may end up making him a good bit of money, as he showed power he hadn’t shown since 2017 while continuing to play above-average defense at short. In most situations, I’d say this was just a fluke in a tiny sample, but Andrus started hitting the ball harder after the move, although he’s still too much of a dead-pull guy for someone whose contact skill is better than his power. He’s never been very patient and became even less after switching teams last year, making contact quality even more critical for him. A 55 defender at short who can hit .270ish with 30-35 doubles and 15 or so homers, even with a low OBP, could start for about a dozen teams. The track record is erratic enough that I’d prefer a one-year challenge deal that could reward him for carrying the last six weeks of 2022 forward into a full season, maybe $10-12 million guaranteed with a vesting or club option.

2022 (Los Angeles Dodgers): .278/.350/.438, 1.9 rWAR/2.4 fWAR

I have to hand it to Turner – I didn’t think he’d age anywhere near this well, but even in his age-37 season, the final year of a four-year contract he signed with the Dodgers, he remained an above-average hitter with a hard-hit rate just slightly above the league average. Everything’s trending down at this point, from his overall output to his contact quality, but because he doesn’t whiff or chase that much, he’s still reasonably productive, and he’s still able to catch up to good velocity. He’s definitely lost a step in the field and on the bases, so there’s more concern about his defense at third going forward than his bat. As a DH who can play 30-40 games in the field, he could be a nice 2-win investment for someone on a one-year, $10-12 million deal.

2022 (New York Yankees/Los Angeles Dodgers): .160/.280/.357, 0.2 rWAR/0.6 fWAR

I know Yankee fans are throwing up just reading this, but Gallo is young enough that, even off a year when he was barely worth more than replacement level, he’s still worth a flier. As an amateur, Gallo had more power than I’ve ever seen on another high schooler. The last two years have dragged his career batting average down to .199, which means that at the moment he holds the dubious distinction of being the only player in MLB history to hit 100 career homers (he’s at 177) with a sub-.200 average. Gallo’s power is still as good as it gets, and when he makes contact it’s very loud, but his approach went to pot in the last year and a half. He can succeed when he doesn’t chase, but his chase rate went from 19 percent in 2021 to 27.5 percent last year. On pitches that Statcast defines as in the “shadow” of the zone, those just inside or outside of it, he whiffed 48 percent of the time he swung, up from 43 percent, but the bigger issue is that he went after those pitches more often, swinging at pitches in the Shadow areas 25 percent more often than he did in 2021. So more swings, plus a higher whiff rate, and then more chasing … it’s a recipe for failure. Someone has to see this and think they can help him regain the patience that made him a unicorn among hitters, and hope they can find the 2.5-4 WAR player that he was in every full season from 2017 through 2021.

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Rafael Montero could be an appealing option for teams looking for a relatively inexpensive closer next season. (Troy Taormina / USA Today)

2022 (Houston Astros): 2.37 ERA, 68.1 IP, 23 BB, 73 K, 3 HR, 1.3 rWAR/1.5 fWAR

Montero has bounced around a ton, even going from Seattle to Houston in a trade last August, but finally had a breakout season in the Astros’ pen in his walk year in 2022. Montero is unusual among relievers in that he uses three pitches extensively, with a plus changeup that helps him neutralize left-handed batters. He could be a budget closer to a lot of teams, worth $7-8 million a year but probably getting more than that and more years than I’d give him.

2022 (Arizona Diamondbacks/Tampa Bay Rays): .251/.316/.415, 0.7 rWAR/1.7 fWAR

I’ll just say that Peralta’s rWAR is an outlier – dRS, the defensive metric using in rWAR, had him at -15 runs in the field this past year. Outs Above Average, derived from Statcast data and in my opinion more reliable, had him at +5. This matters, since, as you can see, he doesn’t provide a whole lot with the stick, even in a year when he posted the highest Barrel rate of his career. Always a strong fastball hitter, Peralta has slipped against offspeed stuff, and he’s never been particularly patient, with a career high of 44 unintentional walks in a season. He hit 30 homers in 2018, and hasn’t hit 20 in any other season, so that seems like a wild fluke. He can be the strong half of a platoon, as he doesn’t hit lefties at all (a .154/.247/.215 line in 2022), and provides value on defense. A year and $10 million would be a reasonable ask.

2022 (Philadelphia Phillies): .277/.336/.387, 1.8 rWAR/1.7 fWAR

“Clutch Jean” did come through with some big hits in October for the Phillies, especially by going the other way with two strikes, but he had probably his worst year at the plate in 2022. His struggles against fastballs continued to accelerate, and he saw his hard contact rates fall as well; he hit just 9 doubles in 98 games, and his .110 ISO was his lowest since he was a Brewer in 2015. He’s held steady on defense, a little above average at second and capable of playing shortstop in an emergency. He probably has another year or two left as a regular, but I wouldn’t bet on anything beyond that.

43. Corey Kluber, RHP, age 37

2022 (Tampa Bay Rays): 4.34 ERA, 164 IP, 21 BB, 139 K, 20 HR, 0.6 rWAR/3.0 fWAR

Kluber had his first full, healthy season since 2018, making 31 starts and qualifying for the ERA title, succeeding despite the loss of his fastball by throwing strikes as well as anyone in baseball. Among all pitchers with at least 100 IP in 2022, he had the lowest walk rate at just 3 percent. He’s mostly ditched the four-seamer and works with a cutter, sinker, and curveball to right-handed batters, mixing in a changeup just for lefties. He’s the ultimate in a finesse or command right-hander – nothing plus, good deception, throws strikes, when he stays out of the middle he gets whiffs or weak contact, but when he leaves anything up and over the plate he gets hit hard. FIP has a hard time with these guys, and I think his rWAR is more reflective of his future value. Given his age and injury history, he should be limited to one-year deals, but he’s a solid fifth starter candidate on a one-year and $7-8 million deal.

2022 (Houston Astros/Atlanta): 4.40 ERA, 106.1 IP, 35 BB, 86 K, 14 HR, -0.1 rWAR/1.3 fWAR

Odorizzi was awful for Atlanta after a deadline trade sent him there from Houston, although it looks like some bad luck, especially on the longball; he is who he’s been for the last few years, a perfectly cromulent fifth starter. Odorizzi keeps most of his stuff out of the heart of the zone and limits hard contact, although he’s a little short of the true formula for success for a guy with fringy velocity: He doesn’t have elite fastball command, and he walks a few too many guys each year. He did miss time in 2022 with a freakish leg injury, but there isn’t any obvious reason why he couldn’t make 25-plus starts next year. There’s no ceiling here, just some reliability, with the risk that he loses more fastball velocity and ends up unable to limit the homers. I’d give him a year or two at $5-8 million per.

2022 (Milwaukee Brewers): .251/.339/.430, 3.2 rWAR/2.5 fWAR

Wong’s $10 million option should have been an easy call for the Brewers, but he’s coming off an aberrant year in the field where he was the second-worst defensive second baseman in baseball by Outs Above Average, -9 runs, with trouble on balls in or when he had to move to his right. On the one hand, it was just the second negative OAA of his career, after he was at zero (average) in 2020 and 2021. On the other hand, he’s 32 now, in the age range when defensive ability usually declines, and he’s gone from a 60-65 runner a few years ago to a 40-45 runner now. He did have his best year at the plate by total production and his hard-hit rate, but it was all off right-handers, as he hit just .138/.266/.175 off lefties, by far the worst platoon split he’s had in his career. As a platoon second baseman/DH, he still has value, but it’s quite possible that 2022 was the beginning of the end of his time as a regular, and even a harbinger of future decline. He’s a one-year, $5-8 million guy for me, which feels very surprising given the player he was just a year ago.

2022 (Milwaukee Brewers): .236/.316/.382, 2.3 rWAR/2.2 fWAR

Peterson had produced only about a win above replacement in his career before 2022, but both WAR methods show him at 2+ for last year because he played plus defense at third base, a position he’d played in just 75 games total through 2021. He more than doubled that with 86 games at the hot corner, and the former shortstop was worth 7 Outs Above Average there, while also bouncing around to second, right field, short, and left. He’s only a regular if you believe in the one-year defensive spike, although every major public defensive metric shows it. He’s never figured out offspeed stuff; he can hit fastballs reasonably well but nothing else, and has below-average power. I like him more as a utility player for a team that anticipates more need at third base, for a year and $8 million or maybe 2/$15 million, but even that is probably an aggressive bet on his glove.

2022 (Los Angeles Dodgers): 3.10 ERA, 72.2 IP, 19 BB, 110 K, 14 HR, 0.7 rWAR/1.1 fWAR

Heaney had a strange year around a long stay on the injured list: He punched out 35 percent of batters he faced, but also gave up a homer every 5 innings and ranked in the bottom percentile of pitchers for hard-hit rate (that is, 99 percent of pitchers had a lower hard-hit rate allowed than he did). He has a high-spin four-seamer and a high-spin slider, with the two pitches moving in roughly opposite directions due to their spin, but he barely used his changeup (just 5 percent of his pitches thrown) and right-handed batters got him for 13 of those 14 homers he allowed. The pitch mix is confusing, because he has a decent changeup, and it’s been fairly effective for him, although he’s always had a platoon split when it comes to power. He’s dominant enough against left-handed batters to pitch until he’s 40 in relief, but I don’t know if he can be more than a fifth starter if he’s going to give up homers to right-handers at this rate.

2022 (Miami Marlins): .259/.297/.360, 2.5 rWAR/1.0 fWAR

Wendle fell off badly at the plate in 2022, which is unfortunate since it was also his walk year. He makes a lot of medium- or low-quality contact, doesn’t walk a ton, and can play at least five spots on the diamond. Advanced metrics have him plus at shortstop, which I always thought was more about Tampa Bay’s positioning than anything innate to him, but he’s no longer with the Rays so that just doesn’t hold water. He’s probably better cast in a super-utility role, with the ability to play shortstop a big selling point. But I expect someone will try to make him a regular given his defensive numbers, especially at shortstop last year, where OAA had him at +5 runs.

2022 (Cincinnati Reds/San Diego Padres): .263/.320/.492, 2.6 rWAR/2.9 fWAR

Drury was part of the 2013 trade that sent Justin Upton to Atlanta, as the corner infielder headed back to Arizona along with Martin Prado, Nick Ahmed, Randall Delgado, and Zeke Spruill, with only Drury and Ahmed still playing at this point. Drury was the fifth of five in most folks’ eyes at the time, mine included, but he did enough with the Reds in the first half of 2022, boosted a little by a friendly home park, to find himself traded to San Diego for a legitimate prospect (middle infielder Victor Acosta), even as a rental. Drury is a perfect platoon guy at third or first, hitting very well against lefties and with enough power against right-handers that he can also be a backup at either corner or second, although he’s overtaxed playing every day due to low OBPs and the aforementioned platoon split. Because of his versatility, he might be worth a two-year deal at a modest base salary of $5-6 million a year.

50. Michael Conforto, OF, age 30

2022: did not play (injury/unsigned)

Conforto’s decision to decline the Mets’ qualifying offer, which would have been a one-year, $18 million-plus deal, looks disastrous in hindsight —  he hurt his shoulder in January, and had to have surgery in April that ended his season before it began. It was a questionable decision at the time, as he was coming off the worst year of his career, a sub-2 WAR season where he didn’t make enough hard contact for a corner bat and got way too pull-conscious. He’s a high-OBP guy who should show average power, and profiles fine defensively in either corner. At this point, he’s probably looking at one-year deals to prove he’s healthy and that the 2021 performance wasn’t a sign of decline.


Honorable mention

RHP Shintaro Fujinami, 29 (NPB); OF Joc Pederson, 31; SP Zack Greinke, 39; UT Josh Harrison, 35; 3B Evan Longoria, 37; SP Sean Manaea, 31; RP Kenley Jansen, 35; RP Taylor Rogers, 32; 2B Adam Frazier, 31; 1B/OF Trey Mancini, 31.

(Top image: Sean Reilly / The Athletic; Photos: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images; Elsa/Getty Images; Michael Reaves/Getty Images; Megan Briggs / Getty Images)



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