By Brady Kas, IUPUI Sport Management and Analytics Undergraduate Student
For this article, I’ll be talking about one free agent each team should sign this offseason. One unique aspect about the MLB compared to other professional leagues is that there is no salary cap in the sport. While there are penalties for going into the luxury tax, only a few teams actually went over the $238 million tax threshold last season. When looking at the graph below, each team is represented on the graph in their team color, and the white line going across represents the league average at just over $160 million.
I bring this up to show that every team really has an opportunity and the ability to get better this offseason. There are no excuses for not improving your roster, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the teams above the league average payroll made the playoffs last year. Now, before we begin, I want to state the one rule I followed in this article. Each player suggested can only be used once. For example, I think Aaron Judge would be a great fit for both the Yankees and Giants, but I only suggested him to one of these teams because of this rule. Without further delay, let’s start in the AL East.
New York Yankees: Aaron Judge
The Yankees have the easiest, yet hardest decision to make when it comes to their offseason. Priority 1,2, and 3 for this organization is to re-sign Judge. The only issue is he turned down a 7yr/$213.5 million offer before the 2022 season, and that price tag has only increased. Plenty of teams, such as the San Francisco Giants, will be all in on Judge, and it’ll take an offer over $300 million for the MVP to sign anywhere this offseason.
Toronto Blue Jays: Johnny Cueto
As I mentioned in the last article, the Blue Jays struggles this past season were a result of their pitching staff. Sure, they had good seasons from Kevin Gausman, Ross Stripling, and Alek Manoah, but the rest of the rotation was not good. Cueto, who’s coming off of his best season since 2018, should provide some stability at the back end of the rotation. He’s not the ace he once was, but Toronto needs another veteran arm, and Cueto can provide that next season.
Tampa Bay Rays: Joey Gallo
This would be a really interesting move for Tampa Bay, but it’s something I could totally see happening. We know the Rays will not try and sign any of the top free agents, and instead will look for bargains. That is why I think Gallo would be the perfect fit for the Rays. The Rays had a .630 OPS last year from left-handed hitters, and while Gallo’s wasn’t much better at .638, he has a career .794 OPS. Going down to Tampa could be the best thing for Gallo, and the Rays are desperate for runs and power from the left side of the plate.
Baltimore Orioles: Zack Greinke
It’s time to be aggressive this offseason in Baltimore, and I hope their management recognizes the talent they have. The O’s need to spend money this offseason, and I’d love for them to add some more depth to their starting rotation. They have some young guys coming up, including Grayson Rodrigues and DL Hall, but they need some veteran leadership. Greinke would provide just that for this young team, and he also had a quietly productive year last year in Kansas City. He’ll turn 40 years old next year, so I’m not sure if changing cities and teams is appealing to him at this stage in his career, but I think this could be a great match for both sides.
Boston Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts
This move needs to be made for not only baseball reasons on the field, but off the field as well. Chaim Bloom cannot allow Bogaerts to leave or else he would officially lose the trust and faith of fans across the world who love the Sox. It was a disappointing season in 2022 for Boston, but Bogaerts is not the reason why this team failed last year. Take a look at the resume he’s built over the last nine years in Boston: 4x All Star, 5x Silver Slugger, and 2x World Series Champion. This is someone who should have his number hanging up in Fenway one day, and for a big market team, there’s no excuse for not resigning him this offseason.
Cleveland Guardians: Austin Hedges
The Guardians are so young yet have so much chemistry on that team that you probably don’t want to change too much from last season. Hedges was the team’s catcher last year, and while he didn’t have a good year offensively, he’s undoubtedly a leader on that team. Sometimes teams have to look beyond the numbers, and realize that they’re dealing with people, and if Hedges is as well liked in that Cleveland locker room as it looks and sounds, I think Cleveland fans should be happy with resigning him to a one-year deal worth a couple million for the 2023 season.
Chicago White Sox: Carlos Rodon
This is a reunion that makes too much sense for the White Sox. Rodon, who pitched seven season on the south side of Chicago before making his way to San Francisco for the 2022 season, was fantastic last year for the Giants. Dylan Cease was an absolute stud this year for the White Sox, and while Johnny Cueto and Lance Lynn were decent, they were lacking that No. 2 behind Cease. The White Sox think they’re good enough to compete in the playoffs, but last year showed they weren’t. Signing Rodon this offseason would greatly improve their chances of making the postseason in 2023.
Minnesota Twins: Jean Segura
Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. That summed up this past season in Minnesota, and to make matters worse, they’re likely to lose their SS Carlos Correa in free agency this offseason. Segura is not the same player he was a few seasons ago, but he would provide much needed depth to that Twins team. Minnesota is in a weird place right now for a franchise; they’re good enough to win games, but not good enough to win their division or make the playoffs. Injuries have contributed to some of their struggles, and I think signing Segura would give them some depth on the infield this upcoming season.
Detroit Tigers: Jace Peterson
The Tigers need to solidify their 3B position, and while Peterson might not be the biggest name on the market, he could be the best option for Detroit. He’s a good utility player, so if Detroit wants to make a bigger move at the position, Peterson could play all over the field. Look, there’s no denying the Tigers struggles this past year stemmed from their offense, so any bats and improvements to this lineup would be much appreciated for Tigers fans.
Kansas City Royals: Corey Kluber
This is a very similar move to what Kansas City did last year in signing Zack Greinke, but this year I’m giving them a different veteran starting pitcher in Corey Kluber. Kluber is very familiar with Kansas City and the AL Central after winning 98 games and two Cy Young awards with Cleveland from 2011-2019. The staff for the Royals is still very young and needs more time to develop and grow. It’d be a smart move to bring Greinke back, but if Greinke decided to retire or play elsewhere, Kluber in my opinion would be a great move for Kansas City.
Houston Astros: Justin Verlander
Verlander will be a hot commodity for teams looking to contend this upcoming season, however, I truly believe he ends up back in Houston. He’s resurrected his career as an Astro, and I think he and the team would be foolish if they didn’t allow him to finish his career in Houston. Now, I will say that the baseball operations department in Houston is not as good as it seemed to be as the GM and assistant GM will not be returning to the team after winning it all in 2022, so that could be something to monitor. If he does leave Houston, look for Atlanta to make a run at him this offseason.
Seattle Mariners: Mitch Haniger
The Mariners finally made it back to the postseason for the first time since 2001, and the future appears to be bright in the Pacific Northwest. Similar to the Guardians, this team is built on team chemistry and relationships within the clubhouse, and Haniger is a leader on that team. Injuries have plagued the former all-star, but he’s proven to be a very productive player when on the field. He’s probably not the only player Seattle needs to sign, and they should not count on him to play 150 games in 2023, but there’s definitely a role for him I believe on next year’s team.
Los Angeles Angels: Jameson Taillon
It seems like we have the same conversation every offseason in regard to the Angels, but they need pitching. For this offseason, let’s give them Jameson Taillon. Taillon has pitched the last two seasons for the Yankees, and at this point the Angels are just looking for reliable arms. He’s thrown over a combined 320 innings in New York the last two years, and he should provide some stability to their rotation. Shohei Ohtani will be their ace, and Taillon could slide into that two or three spot in the rotation.
Texas Rangers: Chris Bassitt
The Rangers are going all in this offseason on pitching, and they’re going hard after the best arms available. Jacob deGrom, Clayton Kershaw, and Justin Verlander have all been rumored to be targets for Texas, however, I don’t think any of them will end up playing for the Rangers next season. After missing out on the top arms, I think Texas probably settles for Chris Bassitt. While Bassitt might not be the future Hall of Famer that deGrom, Kershaw, and Verlander are, he’s a very solid, and underrated pitcher. He won’t cost as much as the other guys but could be just as productive for the Rangers moving forward. I know the Mets would like to keep him, especially if they lose deGrom, but anyone who signs Bassitt this winter should be happy.
Oakland Athletics: Didi Gregorius
This is another signing that I think just makes too much sense for both sides. The A’s do not want to spend any money this offseason, and Gregorius is just looking to extend his career. Oakland could offer him a contract, and Gregorius should look at it as an opportunity to further his playing days, or else he could be out of the league for good. Now, there’s clearly benefits on Gregorius’s side, but why would Oakland do this? Well, if they sign him to a one-year deal worth the minimum, and he doesn’t play well, you can just release him. However, if he does play well, you can flip him at the trade deadline, and get some prospects in return that may help your team in the future.
Atlanta Braves: Dansby Swanson
This is a signing the Braves really don’t need to make, but I expect them to in the end. They have a promising prospect in Vaughn Grissom, but I think if you can resign Swanson on a decent deal, you should do it. Grissom, who’s only 21 years old, could potentially be a utility player this upcoming season, and a great insurance policy in case Swanson or Ozzie Albies gets hurt. If Atlanta does resign Swanson, I could see it being a very short deal so that Grissom can take over that SS position soon.
New York Mets: Jacob deGrom
For all the injuries deGrom has had in his career, when he’s healthy, there’s no denying who the best pitcher on this planet is, and that’s Jacob deGrom. The issue is, he’s 34 years old, and he hasn’t pitched a full season since 2019. Whoever signs deGrom is going to offer a short-term deal, worth a very high average annual value. I’m thinking 2-3 years for $40 million a year makes sense for both sides, and if you can add incentives for pitching a certain number of innings and staying healthy, maybe that’s the best way to get a deal done for the team and deGrom.
Philadelphia Phillies: Trea Turner
This is a signing that hadn’t been on my radar before the offseason, but it seems to be gaining momentum as the offseason goes on. The Phillies are in on shortstops, and of course, there’s four really good ones on the market this winter. Turner would bring a different aspect to that Philadelphia lineup which is largely built on power and home runs. While Turner can provide some pop, having hit 21 home runs last year, he’s more known for his speed, defense, and baserunning. He would be an ideal leadoff hitter for Philadelphia, and this is a move that I’m really hoping for this offseason.
Miami Marlins: J.D. Martinez
This would be an interesting move for a couple reasons, so I’ll list them out first before detailing why I think this makes sense. First, J.D. Martinez is an older player, and he’s looking to compete for championships. The Marlins are a smaller market team, who usually don’t spend too much money on free agents. So why does this make sense? Miami has a playoff caliber starting rotation, but a lineup that can’t seem to produce with any consistency. They ranked dead last in offense last season against left-handed pitching, and they need to address this issue. Martinez crushes left-handers and is also from the Miami area, which would be a great way to end his career with his hometown team. He would bring a championship mentality to Miami, but I don’t know if either side would be interested in making this deal.
Washington Nationals: Danny Duffy
This is another case of a team who’s young and will not be very good next year, but they still need to have some veterans around in the clubhouse. Duffy hasn’t been on the field much the last few years, but he could bring some of that veteran presence to the Nationals clubhouse. Again, this could be Duffy’s last shot in the majors, and if he does well, the Nats could flip him at the deadline for a prospect.
St. Louis Cardinals: Willson Contreras
As much as it hurts me to say this as a Cubs fan, this deal makes too much sense for both sides. The Cardinals need a catcher after Yadier Molina retired this offseason, and there’s no better catcher on the market than Willson Contreras. The Cardinals don’t have too many holes on their roster, and a catcher is the biggest need they have. The Cubs offered him a qualifying offer, but they really don’t have too much interest in resigning him this offseason. I 100% expect Contreras to be a Cardinal next season.
Milwaukee Brewers: Justin Turner
I think the Brewers want to compete next year, but they had a really bad second half of the 2022 season that’s giving me a little hesitation about their 2023 plans. After trading Josh Hader to the Padres, their season went downhill fast, and it just goes to show how valuable it is to have certain people in the locker room. I still think this team can compete for a playoff spot, even though I think the Cardinals will win the division next year, and the Cubbies should be much better. That’s why I have them signing the veteran 3B Justin Turner. Now, would Turner have any interest in leaving LA for Milwaukee, probably not, but on paper, this signing would make a lot of sense.
Chicago Cubs: Carlos Correa
Chicago has two priorities this offseason. They need to sign a big-time bat and a starting pitcher. I think the Cubs sign Kodai Senga, a pitcher from the Japanese Professional Baseball League (NPB), and that should solve one of their problems. Now, for their bat, I think they go with Carlos Correa. The Cubs don’t need a SS since they have Nico Hoerner, however, he can move over to second base, or Correa could maybe play third base in Chicago. Chicago will be aggressive this winter, and I do expect them to sign some big players this offseason.
Cincinnati Reds: Andrew Benintendi
The Reds are likely in the middle of a rebuild, but I don’t think that should stop them from going after Andrew Benintendi this offseason. Benintendi is still only 28 years old, and the outfield for the Reds last year had the third worst wRC+ in baseball meaning they need to get way better in order to compete anytime soon. I don’t think adding Benintendi will make this team a playoff contender next year, however, he’s a local player from Cincinnati, and would be a nice veteran to have when you’re ready to compete in a few years.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Kyle Gibson
As I’ve said before, when you’re as bad as the Pirates were last year, you’re not really looking to add any major talent to your roster, but rather add some pieces to compliment your younger players. Kyle Gibson would do just that for Pittsburgh next year. He’s a veteran pitcher who didn’t have a great year last year, but usually pitches a lot of innings in a season – which can be crucial for a younger pitching staff. Think about it, last year they signed Jose Quintana to be that veteran leader and flipped him to St. Louis at the deadline because he performed so well. Pittsburgh can try and do the same thing this offseason with Gibson.
Los Angelos Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw
There are reports out there that say this deal is already agreed upon, but Kershaw and the Dodgers should do everything they can to come to an official agreement. Kershaw’s best days are behind him, but he’s still a really affective pitcher in today’s game. Realistically, he’s probably only got a couple years left in the tank, and it’s hard to imagine seeing the future hall of famer in any other uniform.
San Diego Padres: Anthony Rizzo
Some people might not know this, but Rizzo actually made his MLB debut with the Padres back in 2011, appearing in 49 games for the team. Eventually, he was traded to the Cubs in 2012, and that’s when he blossomed into the Anthony Rizzo we all know today. Getting back to present time, the Padres are ready to win, but can’t seem to find the 1B who best fits their team. They tried Eric Hosmer and Josh Bell recently, and while they could resign Bell this winter, I like them going after Rizzo instead. He’s a clubhouse leader who holds players accountable and is a proven winner in the postseason. This would be a great signing if San Diego can land Rizzo this offseason.
San Francisco Giants: Kevin Kiermaier
We spent the last article talking about how bad the Giants offense was this season, but their defense may have been even worse. I think the big target for San Francisco this winter is Aaron Judge, and I think they have a legitimate shot to sign him. Regardless of if they sign Judge or not, I think Kiermaier would be a good fit for that outfield. He’s not too much of a threat with the bat, but his glove is spectacular in CF, and it would allow for some flexibility in terms of where other people can play. This isn’t the big-name Giants fans want, but I think he’d be a nice piece for that team.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Trey Mancini
Arizona had a really strong second half of last season, and I think they could be fighting for a playoff spot next year. I don’t think they’ll win the division but making it in as a Wild Card team is a real possibility I believe. You can look at any stat from any site you want, and every one of them will tell you that DH was Arizona’s weakness last year, and Mancini could slide right into that position for the team. The Diamondbacks could also go after another bat, but this lineup needs some improvement if they want to be playing in October next year.
Colorado Rockies: Brandon Nimmo
Colorado might be the hardest team to figure out in baseball right now. I personally think they need to rebuild, but they signed Kris Bryant last offseason which indicated they wanted to compete and win. Bryant was unable to stay healthy in 2022, and the team did not win. Brandon Nimmo is a name I’ve seen thrown around a lot with the Rockies, and while I like the fit, I’m nervous about his injury history. In his seven years in the majors, Nimmo has played over 100 games in a season just twice. Again, I like the fit here with the team, but only for the right price. They can’t afford to lock up another injury prone player on a long-term deal like they did last year with KB.
That wraps up my predictions for each team, and I hope you enjoyed the article. While the offseason isn’t filled with games, it’s filled with hundreds of decisions that impact your team for years to come. For example, the biggest move the Astros made last winter may have been not resigning one of their best players in Carlos Correa, and instead turning to a 24-year-old prospect named Jeremy Pena. Pena would go on to win a Gold Glove, ALCS MVP, World Series MVP, and of course the World Series in his first season as the Astros SS. So, what will your team do that leads to a championship in 2023?