Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me like. Find me an arm, catch me a bat…
Front office managers won’t be showering crazy potential customers with bad baseball songs sung to the classic “Fiddler on the Roof,” but they will all be trying to upgrade their rosters in the coming weeks and months.
With that in mind, it’s time for our annual workout in which we try to match free agents with new teams. This list is not meant as a prediction of what’s to come this winter, but rather an opportunity to play the role of a free agent.
We call it “30 Free Agents for 30 Teams.”
1. Each player must be from another team (no occupant).
2. Each player can only be on the list once.
The Blue Jays’ rotating 3.98 ERA ranks eighth in the AL, but José Berríos (5.23) and Yusei Kikuchi (5.19) have had terrible seasons, and Ross Stripling is a free agent. Taillon’s six starts against the Jays (4-2, 2.62 ERA) were more than he ever made against any team. He actually had better numbers against winning teams (3.74) than against losing teams (4.13).
The Orioles’ rotation ranked tenth in the AL with a 4.35 ERA, but Dean Kremer and Austin Voth were the only starters with an ERA under 4.00. Baltimore will have to look to spend money after its surprise season, and while the club may not be willing to go on a big game hunt for Jacob DeGrom or Carlos Rodon, a veteran like Ivaldi would be a fine mentor to some of the younger arms of the Orioles.
The Rays struggled against right-handed pitching last season, posting 678 OPS, ranking 11th in the AL. They could try to bring back David Peralta, but the 35-year-old Brantley — who has a 0.810 OPS in 189 games against right-handers — could be a affordable option after playing just 64 games in 2022.
Boston had a woeful 2022, ranking 14th in the AL with a 4.59 ERA while making 28 saves—third most in the league. No reliever had more than eight saves last season, so adding a closer should be a priority. The 37-year-old Robertson had a solid season with the Cubs and Phillies (2.40 ERA in 58 appearances) and shouldn’t require a long trade, making him an ideal addition to a Red Sox team that has plenty of other areas to contend with.
With Taillon as a free agent, the Yankees will have at least one hole to fill in the rotation. Why not go to the big game and sign Verlander to a Max Scherzer type contract? After all, the Yankees took a swing as the right-hander as a free agent last winter. AAV’s record-breaking two years would give the Yankees a 1-2 hit, and reunite former Astros teammates Verlander and Gerrit Cole.
The Guardians were the youngest team in the league in 2022, and although Josh Naylor and Owen Miller have held up offensively this season, Miller is best suited at second base and Naylor as a designated hitter. Not only will Mancini anchor Cleveland’s first base, he’ll bring some veteran leadership to the young club.
The Royals have seen some positive developments in 2022, but rotations haven’t been one of them. Kansas City’s 4.76 ERA ranks last among AL starting teams, with Brady Singer (3.23 in a team of 153 1/3 innings) and Zack Greinke (3.68) the only starters with ERAs under 4.00 (minimum 100 IP).
Cueto enjoyed a solid rebounding season in 2022, posting a 3.35 ERA in 158 1/3 innings — the most he’s thrown since 2016. The Tigers have a number of injury concerns in the rotation, so bring in a veteran player who can help eat innings will be useful.
As expected, Carlos Correa has opted out of his contract, leaving a gap at short notice until Royce Luis is ready to return from injury. It seems unlikely that Minnesota would invest huge bucks in the position, but Iglesias — who had a 1.0 fWAR in 2022 — would make a steady presence there, allowing the Twins to take their time with Lewis.
If the Phillies seek a shortstop position in free agency, they can allow Segura to walk and move Bryson Stott to second base. The White Sox had a paltry 0.629 OPS from second base in 2022, so adding an offensive upgrade there seems to be on their unofficial wish list.
The Angels’ never-ending search for rotational help is already underway after last week’s signing of Tyler Anderson to a three-year, $39 million deal. It seems unlikely that the club would spend big on someone like deGrum or Verlander, but the addition of Quintana — who posted a 2.93 ERA between Pittsburgh and St. Louis in 2022 after battling with the Angels in 2021 — should help end the rotation on that. Still need some help. Angels could also look up to someone like Mike Clevinger.
Yuli Gurriel experienced a significant drop in production in his 38-year-old season, making it unlikely that the Astros would bring him back. This leaves a huge hole at first base, a hole that Bill and his powerful batter could easily fill.
The A’s haven’t had an answer at first base since Matt Olson was traded, but they’re in rebuilding mode, so the temporary hiatus looks like the play this winter. Aguilar can still power through and can get into somewhere in the middle of a lineup that ranks last in the AL with a 0.627 OPS.
The Mariners left fielders ranked 12th in the AL with 658 OPS, with Jesse Winker getting the majority of those at bats. Seattle’s Mitch Hanegger could lose to free agency, opening up a cornerback spot. Benintende, who won a Gold Glove in 2021 and made the AL All-Star team in 2022, would give Seattle an option up front, allowing the Mariners to move Julio Rodriguez to the second or third spot in the lineup.
The Rangers plan to spend this off-season, starting with potential Focus pitching. Bassett is 15-32 with a 3.13 ERA in 68 starts since the start of 2020, striking out 181 2/3 innings pitched in 2022 for the Mets. The Texan is also quite familiar to Bassett from his years in Oakland. Right posted a 3.07 ERA against the Rangers in 13 career games.
The Braves have won five straight Premier League titles, but it took them four months to beat the Mets in 2022. What better way to poach Degrum than their division rival? With many of their homegrown stars signed to team-friendly contracts, the Braves could buy an expensive star this season.
The Marlins haven’t been able to build on the momentum of their 2020 playoff berth, averaging 94 losses over the past two seasons. Miami ranks last in the NL in scoring runs, and although the shortstop wasn’t the only hole in the lineup, the club’s .626 OPS ranked 12th, 60 points below the league average. Correa had a 0.833 OPS and 4.4 fWAR in 2022, which led him to withdraw from his deal with the Twins in search of a long-term contract.
The Mets’ rotation could undergo some drastic changes in the off-season as DeGrom, Bassett and Taijuan Walker could all leave as free agents. Rodon’s strong 2022 puts him on the shortlist for best rookies, so if the Mets lose any or all of his starts, the 30-year-old will fit in.
Washington ranks last in the NL in home runs, and while Gallo’s game certainly has its faults, there’s no questioning his strength. The past year and a half has been a struggle for the 29-year-old, so there could be a one-year deal in order to re-establish his value.
Philadelphia’s run to the World Series might indicate the club doesn’t have a lot of work to do this offseason, but shortstop is the immediate chief of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski’s numbers need to be addressed despite the team’s success. Segura is a free agent, which opens the possibility of Stott moving to second base. Turner leads a solid collection of free agent shortstops and reportedly favors the idea of returning to the East Coast. He would fit right on top of an already stacked Phillies lineup.
Utility man Jess Peterson is a free agent, so the Brewers may be in the market for a replacement. Frazier has struggled since being named to his first All-Star team in 2021, making him a strong candidate at the low price. Milwaukee is familiar with Frazier’s work from his days in Pittsburgh, so perhaps the versatile left-handed bat is an asset the Brewers have.
The retirement of Albert Pujols has created a need for a right-handed DH hitter, so why not bring in a veteran who can bring more depth to the bench? Santana still has solid on-base skills (. 376 OBP in 2022) and solid power (19 homers in each of the past two seasons), and with five postseason appearances on his resume, the 36-year-old could help replace some The experience that Pujols and Yadier Molina have taken to retirement.
The Cubs are believed to be one of the teams poised to pounce on this year’s talented free agent class, which includes Bogaerts, Correa, Turner and Dansby Swanson. Manager David Ross was Bogaerts’ teammate in Boston during Bogaerts’ first two years in the Majors, so there is familiarity on both sides.
Having ranked 14th in the Premier League in goals scored, the Buccaneers will be looking to bolster their squad this off-season. First base was a roundabout for Pittsburgh in 2022, and although Sanu appeared in just 20 games last season, he could be looking for a one-year deal to re-establish his value and test free agency again next winter.
Conforto had a mediocre 2021 season, then missed all of 2022 after shoulder surgery, so a one-year “cushion” contract may be his preferred way to rebuild his free agent value. The Reds’ offense has struggled to score points on a regular basis in 2022, and while they’re unlikely to hand out any multi-year free agent deals, a one-year contract with a player like Conforto could give them a valuable trading chip. in July.
It seems as if Arizona’s searches for a bullpen help each season, and this one will be no different. The bullpen’s 4.58 ERA was more than half a run higher than the NL average, as Mark Melancon, Ian Kennedy, and Noe Ramirez all struggled. Williams was a starter for most of his seven-year career, but the 30-year-old posted a 2.47 ERA in 21 relief appearances for the Mets in 2022, striking out more than a hit per inning in those 51 innings.
Los Angeles has plenty of free agents to deal with this offseason, but the idea of adding Judge to the lineup that led to major points in points scored seems unfair. The Dodgers have so much money coming off the books that they can make a big play for anyone they want. Judge can play right field or center, and Mookie Betts is open to the idea of moving to second base.
Brandon Crawford has had a lock on shortstop position in San Francisco for the past decade, but his lack of offensive production was evident in 2022 and he only signed for one season. Swanson has been a major cog in the Braves’ machine for the past two years, and Crawford could move to second base for 2023 to open up the spot.
The Padres’ turnover posted a 3.80 ERA, a quarter better-than-NL average. But Sean Manaea and Clevinger are free agents and Mackenzie Gore was dealt last summer in the Juan Soto trade, leaving San Diego looking for guns to fill the rotation. Senga, who posted a 1.94 ERA in Japan in 2022, is a true free agent, so the Padres won’t have to go through the posting process to secure the services of a powerful right hand.
The Rockies’ center fielders combined for a 0.632 OPS last season, with Yonathan Daza and Randal Grichuk — who had a cumulative 0.5 fWAR — starting 129 games. Nimmo’s 5.4 fWAR ranked 16th overall in the NL and was second only to Betts among NL players. Nemo’s above-average player will make a huge impact on a Colorado team that is looking for its first winning season since 2018.