This offseason has been loopy. We’ve seen almost $4 billion dedicated to free agents, with 9 gamers getting nine-figure offers and two getting 11-year pacts. It has been the most costly, expansive free company in MLB historical past.
Next offseason can be… completely different.
Don’t get me flawed: It will nonetheless be loopy. Primarily as a result of Shohei Ohtani is on monitor to not solely attain free company however redefine it. But subsequent 12 months’s class, on the entire, does not look as deep or dynamic, significantly on the position-player entrance.
With that as a warning — and with the overwhelming majority of free company completed for this winter — let’s take an early gander at among the extra interesting 2023-24 free agents, one per place.
(Note: We’re not together with gamers with choices or opt-outs or those that only in the near past signed one-year offers.)
Catcher: Mitch Garver, Rangers
What makes him interesting: He’s a catcher who hits (when wholesome)
Last season, catchers throughout MLB had a collective .663 OPS. That was the bottom since 1989 and the third-worst mark of all time. So a man like Garver, who has a profession .813 OPS, is enticing…when wholesome.
Alas, Garver was not wholesome final 12 months. Because of an elbow damage that required surgical procedure, he performed solely 54 video games (and solely 14 behind the plate) for the Rangers after they acquired him in a commerce with the Twins. And accidents are an enormous a part of his story. He’s performed 100 video games in a season simply as soon as. But Garver was a Silver Slugger winner in 2019, when he hit 31 homers with a .995 OPS. If he can get again to one thing resembling that stage (whereas sharing catching duties with Johan Heim), he’d be a beautiful free agent.
First base: Rhys Hoskins, Phillies
What makes him interesting: As Katy Perry would say, he is sizzling and he is chilly
We noticed final October what can occur when Hoskins will get sizzling. In a 10-game stretch from Game 3 of the NL Division Series by way of Game 3 of the World Series, he banged out six homers and had probably the greatest bat spikes we have ever seen.
Then, Hoskins went 0-for-13 with 5 strikeouts within the final three video games of the World Series as a result of that, too, is a part of the Hoskins expertise. Since his 2017 debut, when he hit 11 homers in his first 18 video games, Hoskins has been one of many streakiest gamers in MLB. He’s had six months wherein he posted an OPS above 1.000 (that is good) and 6 different months wherein he is had an OPS beneath .700 (that is unhealthy). It can be interesting to see how that is valued within the open market.
Second base: Jonathan Schoop, Tigers
What makes him interesting: He’s attempting to bounce again
We won’t be telling our grandchildren in regards to the 2023-24 free-agent class at second base. It’s skinny. So let’s simply talk about Schoop as a bounceback candidate.
From 2014-21, Schoop averaged greater than 20 homers and 23 doubles per 12 months, with an OPS+ nearly precisely league common (101). That’s good manufacturing from the second-base spot, particularly when paired with the nice protection that Schoop supplies. But he was terrible on the plate final 12 months, with a .202/.239/.322 slash line — his worst full season within the large leagues. If Schoop returns to his previous ranges, he might emerge as a beautiful commerce candidate and the most suitable choice in a weak free-agent class.
Shortstop: Amed Rosario, Guardians
What makes him interesting: He is perhaps one of the best shortstop accessible
After consecutive jaw-dropping free-agent shortstop courses, Rosario at present figures to be one of the best participant accessible on the place subsequent offseason. He’s actually not in the identical class as Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts or Carlos Correa, however Rosario is no less than a constant supplier of league-average offense.
FanGraphs had Rosario value precisely 2.4 WAR in every of the final two seasons. He’s an iffy defender, and he does not draw walks, however he’s a high-hustle participant who’s serviceable at a premium place the place groups will not have a bunch of superstars to parse by way of subsequent offseason.
Third base: Matt Chapman, Blue Jays
What makes him interesting: He may need extra within the tank offensively
In a lightweight free-agent class, Chapman seems to be the closest factor to an MVP-caliber participant this facet of Ohtani (until fellow third baseman Manny Machado opts out, which is a powerful chance). But to be that caliber of participant, Chapman should mix his all-world protection on the sizzling nook with a scorching season on the plate. We noticed indicators of that potential in 2018-19 with Oakland, when Chapman had a mixed .348 on-base share and .507 slugging share for the A’s. But whereas he hit 27 homers every of the final two seasons, his common and OBP cratered.
What’s encouraging about Chapman going into this season is that he truly had one of many highest hard-hit percentages in baseball final 12 months (51.2%), and his .275 batting common on balls in play over the past two years is indicative of some unhealthy luck. Chapman is a pleasure to look at on protection, and an offensive surge in his stroll 12 months would vault him into one other pay grade.
Left discipline: Ian Happ, Cubs
What makes him interesting: He’s a flexible switch-hitter who cuts down on his K’s
Quite quite a lot of groups had been taken with Happ finally 12 months’s Trade Deadline, however the Cubs opted to maintain the primary time All-Star. Whether or not he winds up on the buying and selling block this summer time, Happ figures to be a beautiful free agent subsequent offseason, when he’ll be 29 years previous.
Happ is a switch-hitter who spent final season squashing issues a few platoon break up wherein he had struggled towards left-handed pitching as a right-handed bat. In 2022, his OPS marks from each side of the plate had been nearly similar (.788 vs. lefties, .780 vs. righties). Happ additionally reduce his strikeout share by six factors, from 29.2% to 23.2%. And whereas he is settled in left discipline for the Cubbies, he is performed the opposite two outfield spots extensively, in addition to second and third base.
Center discipline: Harrison Bader, Yankees
What makes him interesting: He had an encouraging postseason energy surge
The speedy Bader is a game-changing defender in heart discipline, the place he received a Gold Glove with the Cardinals in 2021 and has posted an MLB-best 50 outs above common for the reason that begin of 2018. Defense is the first motive the Yankees acquired him finally 12 months’s Trade Deadline, despite the fact that he was on the shelf with plantar fasciitis in his proper foot on the time.
Upon his return, nevertheless, Bader was an enormous offensive spark. He went deep 5 occasions in 9 postseason video games — outhomering Aaron Judge! Perhaps it was an October mirage, however it was a superb signal that Bader can shake off a disappointing and injury-riddled 12 months and return to (or maybe exceed) the respectable 114 OPS+ he put up with St. Louis in 2021. An above-average bat, fleet ft and elite protection can be awfully invaluable in free company at a time when good center-field assist is difficult to search out.
Right discipline: Teoscar Hernández, Mariners
What makes him interesting: The rule adjustments might improve his worth
Coming off their first postseason look in a technology, the Mariners have finished nearly nothing in free company. But they did make Hernández their centerpiece acquisition by way of commerce. They obtained a 30-year-old nook outfielder who has posted a .283/.333/.519 slash with 73 homers and 71 doubles over the past three seasons whereas typically beating the hell out of the baseball (94th percentile in hard-hit charge final 12 months).
The rule adjustments make Hernández particularly interesting going into his stroll 12 months. Although he ranked within the 84th percentile in dash pace final 12 months, he is stolen solely 24 bases in 32 tries over the past three years. But the pickoff limits and greater bases in 2023 may compel him to amplify that specific a part of his sport.
Designated hitter: Shohei Ohtani, Angels
What makes him interesting: What does not?
We’ll let another person fill the beginning pitcher slot, however clearly Ohtani is probably the most interesting pending free agent at two positions, and that is what would make his free company not like something this sport — or any sport — has ever seen.
People within the trade are floating the chance (or chance) of Ohtani changing into baseball’s first $500 million man. The long-term damage dangers related to doing what Ohtani does are all the time going to be a serious query mark, however he is spent the final two years proving he can, certainly, fulfill each the beginning pitching and DH roles at a very excessive stage (the truth is, he is solely getting higher as a pitcher). And very quickly, he can be paid prefer it.
Starting pitcher: Jack Flaherty, Cardinals
What makes him interesting: He might vault to the highest of the (non-Ohtani) pitching class
Again, Ohtani is in a class all his personal. But amongst those that are solely beginning pitchers, Aaron Nola (who is perhaps on a sneaky Hall of Fame trajectory) at present profiles on the high of subsequent offseason’s free-agent class.
Don’t overlook about Flaherty, although. In the second half of 2019, he was an ace amongst aces, with a 0.91 ERA and .142 opponents’ common in 15 begins to cap simply his second full season within the large leagues. It seemed like the start of one thing particular. Unfortunately, a pandemic and accidents have since intervened, and Flaherty has made simply 32 whole begins over the past three years. But he is solely 27, and he is been efficient sufficient in sporadic obligation the final two years (3.54 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings) to ask the concept that a wholesome Flaherty in 2023 is able to a platform 12 months.
Relief pitcher: Josh Hader, Padres
What makes him interesting: He might problem Edwin Díaz’s report deal
The aid market — much more than another — is about timing. Díaz wasn’t only a nearer with a unprecedented latest monitor report; he was a better with a unprecedented latest monitor report … on Steve Cohen’s membership. It translated to a five-year, $102 million contract, the primary nine-figure deal ever given to a reliever.
Hader has a good higher — and longer — monitor report than Díaz, however we’ll see how he fares on the timing entrance. If his 2023 resembles his ’22, when his ERA inflated to five.22 because of some extraordinary struggles early in his Padres tenure following a midseason commerce, then it is truthful to recommend he will not be difficult the Díaz deal. But if his ’23 extra intently resembles his ’21, when he put up a 1.23 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP with 102 strikeouts in solely 58 2/3 innings, it may get interesting.