The Hot Stove will simmer all winter as free agents trade in one uniform for another, but a number of these players will decide that their best move is not to make one at all.
Which players might decide to give it another run with their current clubs? And which clubs will view their free-agent players as their best options going forward? Here’s a look at all 30 clubs and which incumbent could make the most sense to return in 2022.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Baltimore Orioles: LHP Fernando Abad
Abad and Matt Harvey are the Orioles’ only free agents, and while bringing back a reliever who will be 36 next season seems like a long shot, the idea of re-signing Harvey after he went 6-14 with a 6.27 ERA feels even less likely. Abad would likely have to sign a Minor League deal.
Boston Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
After missing all of 2020, E-Rod was inconsistent in 2021, winning 13 games despite a 4.74 ERA in 157 2/3 innings. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 28-year-old return on a one-year deal -- the Red Sox extended him a qualifying offer, meaning the club will get Draft pick compensation if E-Rod signs elsewhere -- with the idea of reestablishing his value and taking another shot at free agency next year. On Sunday, Boston announced it picked up catcher Christian Vázquez’s $7 million option.
New York Yankees: 1B Anthony Rizzo
Rizzo was a good fit in the Bronx after being acquired at the Trade Deadline, and the Yankees have the flexibility to move DJ LeMahieu around the infield to keep first base open for the lefty slugger.
Tampa Bay Rays: RHP David Robertson
Robertson showed glimpses of his old self in a brief 12-game stint with the Rays, his first big league action since undergoing Tommy John surgery. Entering his age-37 season, the right-hander is unlikely to seek huge money, making him a good fit as a veteran presence with a young Tampa Bay club. Other free agents include Chris Archer, Nelson Cruz, Tommy Hunter, Collin McHugh, Chaz Roe and Michael Wacha.
Toronto Blue Jays: LHP Robbie Ray
The Blue Jays have eight free agents, but Ray and Marcus Semien are the ones that will draw the most attention, and both officially received qualifying offers on Sunday, so the Blue Jays will get Draft pick compensation if they sign elsewhere. As important as Semien was to Toronto’s offense, the lineup is deep and talented, making the return of Ray the more pressing need. Steven Matz could also return if the price is right, although the club did not extend him a qualifying offer.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Chicago White Sox: LHP Carlos Rodón
Rodón finally had the breakout season the White Sox had been waiting for all these years, winning 13 games with a 2.37 ERA while making his first All-Star team. The starting pitching market is fairly deep, so the White Sox will have options, but Rodón -- who did not receive a qualifying offer -- will be entering his age-29 season and appears to be a good fit in Chicago. The White Sox exercised Craig Kimbrel’s $16 million option, while Ryan Tepera could also re-sign after spending the final two months of the season on the South Side.
Cleveland: RHP Bryan Shaw
Shaw and fellow reliever Blake Parker could both return, as the pair pitched well for Cleveland in 2021. Shaw is three years younger than Parker, making him the pick here. The Guardians’ only other free agent is catcher Wilson Ramos.
Detroit Tigers: RHP Wily Peralta
Peralta, José Ureña, Julio Teheran and Derek Holland are the Tigers’ free agents; given the performances of Ureña and Holland and the fact that Teheran threw just five innings, Peralta would appear to have the best chance at a return. After making his 2021 debut on June 15, the 32-year-old posted a 3.07 ERA in 19 outings (18 starts) for Detroit, finishing the year with a 2.61 ERA in 10 starts after August 1.
Kansas City Royals: RHP Jesse Hahn
This pick says more about who is unlikely to return, as free agents Greg Holland, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis don’t appear to be in Kansas City’s future plans. A shoulder injury limited Hahn to just 3 1/3 innings in 2021, but he was extremely effective for the Royals in 2020, so Kansas City could bring him back on a short-term deal if he is unable to find a multi-year deal elsewhere.
Minnesota Twins: RHP Michael Pineda
Pineda and Andrelton Simmons are the Twins’ only free agents, and while a Simmons return seems far-fetched, a reunion with Pineda could be in the cards. Minnesota’s rotation has holes to fill, and when healthy, Pineda has pitched well during his three years with the Twins.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Houston Astros: RHP Justin Verlander
The Astros extended a qualifying offer to Verlander, who will be coming back from Tommy John surgery at the age of 39, though it’s unclear whether he would accept the one-year deal to come back to Houston in 2022. Houston will receive a Draft pick if he signs elsewhere. Other Astros free agents include Carlos Correa, who also received a QO, Zack Greinke and Kendall Graveman.
Los Angeles Angels: RHP Alex Cobb
The Angels will try to retain Raisel Iglesias this winter (they gave him a qualifying offer on Sunday) but several teams might be in the mix for the closer. Cobb performed well in 18 starts (8-3, 3,80 ERA) during his first year with the Angels, though a wrist injury kept him on the injured list from late-July through mid-September. Cobb has said he would like to remain with the club, and the Angels would be wise to bring him back to fill one of their rotation spots.
Oakland Athletics: INF Josh Harrison
Roughly half of Oakland’s roster is headed for free agency, leaving plenty of options here. Starling Marte will likely command more money than the Athletics will be willing to pay, while Mark Canha and Andrew Chafin might have also priced themselves above Oakland’s budget. Harrison was a good fit with the Athletics, playing four different positions to give former manager Bob Melvin some flexibility. Harrison earned $1 million in 2021 and might not cost much more than that to return for his age-34 season.
Seattle Mariners: LHP Tyler Anderson
Anderson is entering his age-32 season, and although he didn’t pitch great for the Mariners and Pirates in 2021 (4.53 ERA in 31 starts), he was durable, throwing 167 innings. Seattle will likely seek rotation upgrades this offseason, but Anderson could be brought back to provide depth. Kyle Seager had his club option declined, while James Paxton, Joe Smith, Héctor Santiago and Sean Doolittle are among the Mariners’ other impending free agents.
Texas Rangers: INF Brock Holt
Holt, Jordan Lyles, Mike Foltynewicz and Charlie Culberson are Texas’ four free agents, and while none of them figure into the Rangers’ long-term plans, Holt -- a Fort Worth native who earned $1.75 million in 2021 -- could return to provide a versatile bat off the bench.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Atlanta Braves: 1B Freddie Freeman
The Braves’ free-agent list includes Jorge Soler, Tanner Roark, Drew Smyly, Eddie Rosario and Chris Martin. Joc Pederson also hit the open market, after declining a $10 million mutual option (with a $2.5 million buyout). But the Braves’ top priority will be retaining Freeman, a five-time All-Star and former NL MVP who has been the face of the franchise for more than a decade. He’s 32, so the length of a deal will be the biggest issue, but both sides appear to want a reunion. Freeman received a qualifying offer, so the Braves will receive Draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.
Miami Marlins: C Sandy León
Slim pickings here, as León is the Marlins’ lone free agent now that Miguel Rojas’ $5.5 million option vested with his 500th plate appearance in 2021. León provided a strong veteran presence for the young team and could return as the backup catcher.
New York Mets: OF Michael Conforto
No, the Mets won’t be signing Conforto to a long-term deal after his disappointing 2021, but he received a qualifying offer, ensuring the club will receive a Draft pick in case he departs. After potentially costing himself millions with his underwhelming season, there’s a strong chance Conforto will take it. The Mets have a number of free agents including Noah Syndergaard (also received a QO), Marcus Stroman, Javier Báez (ineligible for a QO), Jeurys Familia, Jonathan Villar, Aaron Loup and Rich Hill.
Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Archie Bradley
Philadelphia’s bullpen could look drastically different in 2022, as Bradley, Héctor Neris and Ian Kennedy are all free agents. The pick here to return is Bradley for no other reason than that he’s the youngest of the trio at 29 years old, but the Phillies could try to bring back two or even all three pitchers. Other free agents include Brad Miller, Matt Moore and Freddy Galvis. Andrew McCutchen’s $15 million club option ($3 million buyout) was declined.
Washington Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman
Zimmerman’s future depends largely on whether he wants to retire or play a 17th season with the Nationals, filling a backup/bench role for another season. Alex Avila, Jordy Mercer, Gerardo Parra and Luis Avilán are Washington’s other free agents, none of whom figure to fit into the club’s plans.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Chicago Cubs: INF Matt Duffy
Duffy played all four infield positions for the Cubs in 2021, made a few cameos in left field and even pitched once, giving manager David Ross a versatile role player. He also provided a strong veteran presence in the clubhouse, and given the state of the Cubs, a return would not be a surprise. Other free agents include Zach Davies, José Lobatón, Adam Morgan, Robinson Chirinos and Austin Romine.
Cincinnati Reds: RHP Michael Lorenzen
Nick Castellanos exercised his opt-out clause and was extended a qualifying offer, while Wade Miley was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. None of the Reds’ free agents figure to be in the club’s plans, but Lorenzen’s past track record makes him the most logical candidate of the group. Other free agents include Mychal Givens, Asdrúbal Cabrera and Delino DeShields.
Milwaukee Brewers: OF Avisaíl García
García was the Brewers’ most consistent offensive player in 2021, leading the team with 29 home runs and 86 RBIs. He declined his half of a $12 million mutual option ($2 million buyout), making him a free agent, but the Brewers should try to bring the 30-year-old back. Eduardo Escobar, Brett Anderson, Brad Boxberger, Hunter Strickland, Daniel Norris and Manny Piña are all free agents, while Jackie Bradley Jr. exercised his $9.5 million player option for next season.
Pittsburgh Pirates: INF/OF Yoshi Tsutsugo
After being traded from the Rays to the Dodgers in mid-August, Tsutsugo thrived in Pittsburgh after signing with the Pirates for the final six-plus weeks of the season. He hit eight home runs with 25 RBIs and an .883 OPS in 43 games with the Pirates, so it would not be a shock to see Pittsburgh bring him back -- especially if the universal DH is introduced in 2022. Free-agent pitchers Chasen Shreve, Shelby Miller and Trevor Cahill are unlikely to return.
St. Louis Cardinals: LHP J.A. Happ
The acquisitions of both Happ and Jon Lester went under the radar at the Trade Deadline, but the two lefties helped stabilize St. Louis’ rotation down the stretch. Happ is the more likely of the two to return on a one-year deal, which would give the Cardinals some needed rotation depth. Other potential free-agent reunions include Luis Garcia and T.J. McFarland, while Kwang Hyun Kim, Andrew Miller, Wade LeBlanc are unlikely to return. Matt Carpenter ($18.5 million option with $2 million buyout) and Carlos Martínez ($17 million option with $500,000 buyout) had their options declined.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Arizona D-backs: RHP Merrill Kelly (option exercised)
Arizona has no unrestricted free agents, but the D-backs already exercised their $5.25 million option on Kelly for 2022. The D-backs declined their options on Tyler Clippard ($3.5 million, $500,000 buyout) and Kole Calhoun ($9 million with $2 million buyout).
Colorado Rockies: RHP Jon Gray
Gray and the Rockies have expressed a mutual interest in continuing their relationship, making a new contract a legitimate possibility; Gray did not receive a qualifying offer. Trevor Story (received a QO) is a near-lock to sign elsewhere, while Chris Owings and Jhoulys Chacín are the Rockies’ other free agents.
Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Max Scherzer
Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw could both be back with the Dodgers next season, though Los Angeles has a number of other free agents this winter, including Kenley Jansen, Corey Seager (received a QO), Chris Taylor (received a QO), Corey Knebel, Albert Pujols, Danny Duffy and Jimmy Nelson. The Dodgers would probably like to bring back Taylor, though his price tag may prevent that from happening. Seager will likely be headed elsewhere as Trea Turner takes over at shortstop, while Jansen could be closing for another club in 2022.
San Diego Padres: OF Tommy Pham
Pham knows he may have to take a one-year deal to reestablish his value in 2022, so why not do it back in San Diego? Relievers Mark Melancon and Daniel Hudson are also free agents, both of whom are potential options to come back to the Padres next season.
San Francisco Giants: RHP Kevin Gausman
The Giants have already locked up Brandon Crawford, while Buster Posey surprised the baseball world by announcing his retirement. Gausman has paced San Francisco’s rotation for the past two seasons and is a good bet to return on a new deal. Other Giants free agents include Brandon Belt (received a QO), Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Jake McGee. Wilmer Flores ($3.5 million option) and José Álvarez ($1.5 million) had their options picked up and will both be back, while Johnny Cueto’s $22 million option ($5 million buyout) was declined.