With the winter meetings underway, free agency is heating up. Here are some of the biggest free agents this offseason and some thoughts on where they’ll end up.
Judge is, without a doubt, the most sought-after name in free agency this year. The 30-year-old had an insane 2022, hitting 62 homers and posting a 1.111 OPS. The Yankees are obviously considering re-signing him, and for a time, they looked like the clear frontrunners. But after Judge was booed by his own fans during the postseason, he might have second thoughts about returning to the Bronx. The Giants, Judge’s hometown team, have to be considered his most likely destination outside of New York, with the ownership claiming recently that they won’t be outbid. The Dodgers and Mets are also candidates for no other reason than their penchant for precipitously high spending, but right now, the Yankees and the Giants are the top contenders.
The biggest move of the offseason so far happened on Friday night, when the Rangers signed deGrom to a five year, $185 million contract. Rumors of mutual interest surfaced several weeks ago, when the two-time Cy Young winner told Texas he’d consider signing. The Mets were reportedly interested in re-signing him, but with other key pieces Brandon Nimmo, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker also hitting free agency, they were understandably reluctant to get into a bidding war over the ace pitcher. Besides, deGrom’s health is still a question mark, as he missed time in both 2021 and 2022 due to injuries. Signing deGrom is a risk, but one the Rangers are clearly willing to take.
In a free agent class stacked with shortstops, Turner might be the best one on the market. A career .302 hitter, the 29-year-old is among the fastest players in baseball. That speed translates into 230 career stolen bases with an 84.6% success rate. Back in September, the Cubs emerged as an early contender for him after a report of mutual interest, but those rumors have since simmered. The Dodgers are still in the mix, but with their payroll, a long-term extension seems unlikely. The top contenders now seem to be the Phillies, as Turner would be a huge upgrade over their current shortstop, Bryson Stott, and the Padres, who Turner recently met twice with.
Correa made a big bet on himself after opting out of the last two years of a 3 year, $105 million contract with the Twins. He’ll be searching for a long-term deal this offseason. The 28-year-old has already accumulated 39.5 career wins above replacement, so he’ll be a hot commodity. There’s a good chance he goes back to Minnesota — after all, the Twins are coming off a disappointing 78–84 season and could use a guy to build around going forward. The Cubs are a big contender for Correa, too, as they’ve been active in the shortstop market this offseason. For a team rebuilding, Correa would be an attractive name to headline a new generation of players. The Red Sox, who are set to lose star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and the Dodgers, who likely won’t bring back Trea Turner, are also potential destinations.
At age 39, Verlander had possibly his best career season in 2022, posting a 1.75 ERA, 0.829 WHIP and a 6.38 strikeout to walk ratio en route to his third career American League Cy Young award. He declined his one-year, $25 million option with the Astros, becoming a free agent. Verlander is reportedly seeking a multiyear deal, which the Astros seem reluctant to give him. The other potential suitors all have steep pockets, since a short-term deal worth upwards of $35 million for a starter pushing 40 isn’t a good move for small-market teams. Verlander has already talked with the Yankees, Dodgers and Mets. The Phillies and the Giants are also possibilities, since their respective pitching staffs weren’t great this year.