This offseason has been crazy. With nearly $4 billion in free agency, nine players signed his nine-figure contracts and two players signed his 11-year contracts. It was the most expensive and sprawling free agent in MLB history.
The next offseason is… different.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still crazy. The main reason is that Shohei Ohtani is on a trajectory to not only reach free agency, but redefine it. I can’t even see it.
With that as a warning – and since the majority of free agency ended this winter – let’s take a look at some of the more interesting 2023-24 free agents, one by position.
(Note: Players with options or opt-outs, or players who recently signed a one-year contract are not included.)
Catcher: Mitch Garber, Rangers
Interesting point: Catcher who can hit (when healthy)
Last season, the overall OPS for MLB catchers was .663. This was his lowest since 1989 and the third worst ever. So, like Gerber he’s an attractive guy with a career of .813 OPS… when healthy.
Unfortunately, Garber wasn’t in good health last year. Due to an elbow injury that required surgery, he only played 54 games for the Rangers after they acquired him in a trade with the Twins (and plate played only 14 games behind). And injuries are a big part of his story. He has played in 100 games only once in one season. But Garber said he was a Silver Slugger winner in 2019, with OPS. 995 he hit 31 homers. If he can return to something similar to that level (while sharing catching duties with Johann Haim), he’ll be an attractive free agent.
First baseman: Rhys Hoskins, Phillies
What makes him attractive: As Katy Perry likes to say, he’s hot and cold
Last October we saw what happens when Hoskins heats up. In his 10 games from Game 3 of his NL Division series to Game 3 of the World Series, he hit his six home runs, One of the best bat spikes we’ve ever seen.
Hoskins then went 13-0 with five strikeouts in the final three games of the World Series. Because this is also part of the Hoskins experience. Hoskins, who hit his 11th home run in his first 18 games since his debut in 2017, was one of the most streaks in MLB. He had 6 months where OPS was above his 1.000 (which is good) and 6 months where OPS was below .700 (bad). It will be interesting to see how it is valued on the open market.
Second baseman: Jonathan Scoop (Tigers)
Interesting about him: He’s trying to get back on his feet
I’m not going to tell my grandkids about the second base free agent class for the 2023-24 season. Thin. So let’s discuss him Schoop as a bounceback candidate.
Starting in 2014-21, Scoop has averaged over 20 homers and 23 doubles per year, and his OPS+ was near the league average (101). This is excellent production from the second base spot, especially when combined with the excellent defense that Scoop offers. 202/. 239/. 322 at bat last year in what was his worst full season in the big leagues. If Scoop returns to his previous level, he could emerge as an attractive trade candidate and be the best option in his class for a weak free agent.
Shortstop: Amed Rosario, Guardians
Interesting about him: He may be the best shortstop available
After a back-to-back streak of astounding free-agent shortstop classes, Rosario now considers himself the best player available for the position next offseason. He’s certainly not in the same class as Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Carlos Correa, but Rosario consistently delivers at least league-average offensive power.
On FanGraphs, Rosario’s WAR has been just 2.4 each of the last two seasons. He’s a freakish defender, doesn’t draw walks, but is a high-hustle player who can serve in premium positions where the team doesn’t have a lot of superstars to analyze next offseason.
Third Base: Matt Chapman, Blue Jays
Interesting about him: he may have more on the tank offensively
In the light free-agent class, Chapman looks the closest to an MVP-level player this side of Ohtani (unless fellow third baseman Manny Machado opts out, which is likely). But to be that kind of player, Chapman will need to combine his all-around defense in hot corners with a scorching season at the plate. 348 and .507 slugging percentage. But while he’s hit his 27 homers each in his last two seasons, his average and his OBP plummeted.
What’s encouraging about Chapman going into this season is that he actually had the highest slugging percentage in baseball last year (51.2%), and his . It shows some bad things. rack. Chapman is a fun player to watch on defense, and his offensive surge in walk-years would propel him to another pay grade.
Left Field: Ian Happ, Cubs
What’s interesting about him: He’s a versatile switch-hitter and reduces K.
Quite a few teams were interested in Happ at last year’s trade deadline, but the Cubs chose to keep their first-ever All-Star. Happ will be an attractive free agent next offseason when he turns 29.
Happ is a switch-hitter and spent last season clearing up concerns about a platoon split that suffered from left-handed pitching as a right-handed hitter. (.788 vs left-handed, .780 vs right-handed). Happ also reduced his strikeout rate from 29.2% to 23.2%, which he reduced by 6 points. And while he’s settled in left field for the Cubbies, he’s also played in his two other outfields, as well as second and third base.
Center Fielder: Harrison Bader (Yankees)
What makes him interesting: He had a promising postseason power surge.
The speedy Bader is a game-changing defender in center field who won a Gold Glove for the Cardinals in 2021 and has an above-average MLB Best 50 outs since early 2018. Defense is the main reason the Yankees acquired him. At the time, he was on the shelf with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, but at the trade deadline last year.
But when he returned, Bader was a huge offensive spark. Perhaps it was an October mirage, but it was a good sign that Vader could return (or surpass) the respectable 114 OPS+ he put up in St. Louis in 2021. An average bat, fleet foot, and elite defense are very valuable in free agency in a time when good center field help is hard to find.
Right Field: Teoscar Hernandez, Mariners
What’s interesting about him: A rule change could increase his value
After making the postseason for the first time in a generation, the Mariners have done very little in free agency. However, they featured the acquisition of Hernández through a trade. They received his 30-year-old corner outfielder. 519, hitting 73 home runs and his 71 doubles in the last three his seasons, but generally beating baseball outright (hard 94th percentile on his hits). last year).
The rule change makes Hernández especially interesting going into a year of walks. Last year’s sprint speed had him ranked in his 84th percentile, but over the past three years he has scored 32 tries and stolen bases only 24 times. However, with 2023 pickoff restrictions and a larger base, he may need to step up certain parts of his game.
Designated hitter: Shohei Ohtani, Angels
What’s interesting about him: What’s not?
Let someone else fill the starting pitching slot, but clearly Ohtani is the most interesting pending free agent at two positions, and that’s what makes his free agency different from this sport, or any other. It is what you do.
People in the industry are highlighting the potential (or potential) for Ohtani to become the first $500 million player in baseball history. The long-term injury risk that comes with what Ohtani does will always be a big question mark (in fact, he’s only getting better as a pitcher). And soon he will be paid that way.
Starting pitcher: Cardinals’ Jack Flaherty
What’s funny about him: He was able to jump to the top of his pitching class (other than Ohtani)
Again, Ohtani is in a category of its own. But among all-starters, Aaron Nola (who may be secretly a Hall of Famer) currently sits at the top of the free-agent class next offseason.
But let’s not forget Flaherty. In late 2019, he was an ace of aces, averaging a .91 ERA and a .142 average over 15 opponents to cap off his second full season in the big leagues. It looked like Unfortunately, a pandemic and injuries followed, with Flaherty making a total of 32 appearances over the past three years. But he’s still only 27 years old and has been effective enough in sporadic duties for the past two years (3.54 ERA, his 118 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings), and a healthy Flaherty 2023 starter. evokes the idea that could be the year of the platform.
Relief pitchers: Josh Hader, Padres
What’s Interesting About Him: He Could Challenge Edwin Diaz’s Record Deal
Timing is more important in the relief market than in any other market. Diaz wasn’t just a closer with an extraordinary track record these days. He was a closer with an exceptional recent record at Steve Cohen’s club. It was his first nine-figure contract given to a reliever, worth a $102 million contract in his five years.
Hader has a better and longer track record than Diaz, but we’ll see how he fares in terms of timing. It’s fair to suggest that he wouldn’t object to a deal with Diaz if his ERA has ballooned to 5.22 in 2022, thanks to an exceptional early struggle on the inside. But if his ’23 were more like ’21, it would be interesting when he had a 1.23 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP, and 102 strikeouts in just 58 2/3 innings.