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Ranking the 10 best players hitting free agency after the 2023 MLB season

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With numerous teams underachieving in 2023, plenty of front offices are under pressure to make a big splash. Many fans turned their attention to the upcoming free agents in 2023 long ago. One name stands well above the rest, but there are lots of other useful players hitting the market.

Best players hitting MLB free agency after 2023

Despite a lockout, and complaints about how teams spend, the list of the biggest contracts in free agency history has needed updating on an annual basis over the last half-decade. Aaron Judge pocketed a monster deal from the Yankees last offseason, just as Carlos Correa did from the Twins. We are bound to see further megadeals handed out this winter, too.

Some teams have ignored the luxury tax. Others treat it more like a hard cap. Whether your team is counting the pennies or ready for a win-now move, the best players hitting free agency are bound to be of interest.

Here are the 10 top free agents this winter…

10. Eduardo Rodriguez

It’s been an up-and-down few years for Eduardo Rodriguez. He’s expected to opt out of his contract with the Tigers and test free agency again after posting a 3.30 ERA in over 150 innings.


Rodriguez found some more velocity on his fastball and focused on a three-pitch mix to put together the best season of his career. His final year in Boston and first in Detroit were disappointing, but Rodriguez has reestablished himself as a good number two or three starter on a contending team.

Going into his age-31 season, it’s unclear what the length of the deal will be, but win-now teams will certainly consider a move for the Venezuelan.

9. Jung Hoo Lee

An ankle fracture cut short Jung Hoo Lee’s season, yet that should not have too much impact on his free agency. Lee has elite contact skills – he struck out just 32 times in 142 regular season games in 2022, when he also enjoyed a career-year from a power perspective with 23 homers.

In his shortened 2023, Lee’s power returned to his career average, with only six homers in 86 games. His batting average is .340 in 884 career KBO games, and the defense is reportedly well above-average in center field.

The results with KBO hitters in MLB are mixed to say the least. Maybe Ha-Seong Kim’s success gives front offices more confidence in Lee.


8. Jordan Montgomery

Few players have seen their stock rise in a walk year quite like Jordan Montgomery. Again traded midseason, the left-hander was immense for the Texas Rangers, and starred throughout the American League Playoffs.

Across 188.2 regular-season innings, Montgomery had a 3.20 ERA with a 3.56 FIP. This is by far the best year of his career, but teams should be cautious.

The southpaw posted very similar underlying metrics to each of the last two years. His xERA was once again around 4.00. Montgomery is a slightly above-average starter with the ability to give you 150+ innings. That has meaningful value, however, and he can’t be held down by a qualifying offer.

7. Josh Hader

Edwin Diaz broke the $100 million barrier last winter. Josh Hader will be eyeing a contract of at least that size. Hader’s season might have ended in controversy, but the former Brewer is still going to have a huge market.

He’s not just the best reliever among players hitting free agency – Hader is arguably the best relief arm in the sport. He was in the 100th percentile in expected batting average allowed, he struck out almost 37% of hitters, and ranked in the 97th percentile by hard-hit rate.

There is always risk giving big money to relievers (just ask the Giants how the Mark Melancon contract worked out). Hader, though, is as electric as ever and will be looking at least five years.

6. Aaron Nola

Being able to pitch 180+ regular-season innings still has value. Potential suitors are not just getting quantity with Aaron Nola either – the right-hander has posted exceptional expected metrics over the last three seasons, with a poor Phillies defense doing him no favours.

The Phils are naturally one of the favorites to land Nola. He might not be the best pitcher among upcoming MLB free agents in 2023, but the veteran was fourth in Cy Young voting just last year and had a 3.77 xERA in 2023.

Nola’s ability to carry a heavy burden for the Phillies can also be a concern in free agency. In every non-pandemic season since 2017, he has pitched at least 180 innings. The fastball velocity has not declined yet, but we saw with Madison Bumgarner that high-innings pitchers can hit a wall.

5. Matt Chapman

On paper, Matt Chapman seems like he should have a huge market. The defense remains elite, as reflected by his two Platinum Gloves. The power fluctuates from above-average to great, and his OBP is generally solid thanks to his good discipline.

There’s a tonne of swing-and-miss, though, which contributes to very streaky results at the plate. He hasn’t posted a season-long OPS above .757 in any of the last three seasons.

He’s also already 30 years old. If you’re giving him big contract for the glove, how much longer is he elite at the position? Someone will hand Chapman five-plus years, but the dollar number will be fascinating.

4. Cody Bellinger

What a rollercoaster it has been for Cody Bellinger. From MVP in 2019 to being quite literally one of the worst hitters in the sport in 2021 and 2022, Bellinger signed with the Cubs last offseason and put together a bounce back campaign for the ages.

His numbers were not quite as gaudy as his MVP campaign, but Bellinger still posted his second-best OPS+. His profile altered, with the strikeouts cut down massively. The defense remains good at first base and excellent in the outfield.

A 28-year-old former MVP coming off a 4.4 bWAR season should be heading for a contract in the $200 million range over six or seven years. Maybe a team gives Bellinger that kind of deal. This is far from a straight-forward free agency situation, though, and it will be fascinating to see how front offices project the former Dodger.

3. Yoshinobu Yamamoto

Aged just 25 and coming off a 1.21 in the Pacific League, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is set for a massive contract this summer. Yamamoto might be yet to make his Major League debut, but he’s still looking at a six or seven-year commitment.

The accolades are already piling up for Yamamoto, with a pair of MVPs, a gold medal at the World Baseball Classic and three consecutive Triple Crowns.

While his stature (slight and 5’10) is a concern for many big-league pitchers, Yamamoto’s electric four-pitch arsenal combined with excellent command is more than enough to compensate. Some might place him in the two spot on this list, but it’s a toss-up between the two.

2. Blake Snell

Is this a spot too high for a pitch with control issues? Is Blake Snell consistent enough to land a $200 million contract?

Perhaps Yamamoto gets a bigger deal than Snell, but part of that will be down to age. Snell couldn’t have had a better walk year (pardon the pun), as he aims to join a select group to win the Cy Young in both leagues.

There is a world where Snell ages poorly as his stuff wanes. Since his last Cy Young year, he’s also been closer to good than elite. Still, the probable National Cy Young winner is going to have a significant market this offseason and there is true ace upside for any team who takes the gamble.

1. Shohei Ohtani

Even with an arm injury truncating another MVP season, there was no question about Ohtani taking top spot. Uncertainty over his future and durability as a pitcher likely removes the possibility of a $700 million deal, which briefly looked possible during the season.

The biggest contract of all-time is still heading Ohtani’s way this winter if he opts for the long-term super-contract. Alternatively, he could look for the maximum short-term AAV in the hope of re-entering free agency in the next year or two after proving his worth once again as a pitcher.

That, of course, is a risk, but everything is on the table at the moment. The Yankees, Dodgers, Giants and Mariners are four of the teams most often linked to the two-way phenom.

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