Hot Stove season is all about rumors, and while only a handful of players have actually signed new deals, there are plenty of dots to connect when trying to figure out which teams are logical destinations for which free agents.
With that in mind, it’s time for our annual exercise where we try to match up free agents with new teams. This list isn’t meant to serve as a prediction of what’s to come this winter, but rather a chance to play free-agent matchmaker.
We call it “30 free agents for 30 teams.”
We have only two rules:
- Every player has to be from another team (no incumbents).
- Each player can only be on the list once.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: Sonny Gray, RHP
The Orioles ranked in the middle of the league with a 4.14 rotation ERA, getting a breakout season from Kyle Bradish (2.83 ERA in 30 starts). Following its 101-win season, Baltimore is likely to look for help near the top of the rotation, which Gray – whose 2.79 ERA ranked second in the AL – could help to stabilize.
Boston Red Sox: Blake Snell, LHP
Boston’s 4.68 ERA from its starters ranked 12th in the AL, as all eight pitchers who made at least nine starts registered an ERA above 4.00. The 2024 rotation features just one lefty – the oft-injured Chris Sale – so bringing in the two-time Cy Young Award winner would benefit the Red Sox.
New York Yankees: Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP
Beyond AL Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ rotation was unsettled for most of 2023 due to injury (Nestor Cortes, Carlos Rodón) and underperformance (Rodón, Luis Severino), so adding a top-flight arm is a priority. Yamamoto is the top pitcher on the market, and at age 25, he could have the same type of impact that Masahiro Tanaka did for New York a decade ago.
Tampa Bay Rays: Jack Flaherty, RHP
The rotation is a major question mark for the Rays, as Shane McClanahan will miss 2024 following Tommy John surgery, Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen will be returning from elbow injuries and Shane Baz will be coming back from his own Tommy John surgery. That leaves Tyler Glasnow (who might very well be traded), Zach Eflin and Aaron Civale leading the rotation. Flaherty is coming off a down year, which is precisely the type of low-risk, high-reward pitcher the Rays tend to like.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jeimer Candelario, 3B
If Matt Chapman departs via free agency, the Blue Jays will have a hole to fill at third base. Candelario had a productive season with the Nationals and Cubs, hitting 22 home runs with 70 RBIs and an .807 OPS. Candelario, who turns 30 on Nov. 24, isn’t the same caliber of defender as Chapman, but he’s an above-average third baseman who would be able to fill the void if the Blue Jays find themselves with one.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: Whit Merrifield, INF/OF
Elvis Andrus is a free agent, leaving a potential hole at second base. Merrifield could fill that spot, though his positional flexibility – he can also play all three outfield spots – makes him an appealing player for many rosters. The White Sox will likely target starting pitching this winter, but Merrifield would be an asset to the roster.
Cleveland Guardians: Hunter Renfroe, OF
The Guardians aren’t expected to be major players in free agency, but after getting a league-low 18 homers and .654 OPS from their outfield, adding a bat with some pop should be a priority. Not including the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Renfroe has hit at least 20 homers in each of the past six full seasons.
Detroit Tigers: Michael Wacha, RHP
With Eduardo Rodriguez potentially departing as a free agent, the Tigers will be seeking rotation help this offseason. Wacha has rejuvenated his career with strong performances in 2022-23, making him a solid candidate to help any starting staff.
Kansas City Royals: Seth Lugo, RHP
Lugo is coming off of a career-high 146 1/3 innings, posting a 3.57 ERA that fell in line with his 3.50 career mark. The Royals will be looking for rotation help, and since they’re not expected to be in the mix for the top starters on the market, Lugo could provide a solid arm at a price tag Kansas City can live with.
Minnesota Twins: Adam Duvall, OF/DH
With Joey Gallo likely to depart via free agency and Max Kepler potentially on the trade block, the Twins could use another power bat in the outfield. Duvall hits lefties and righties well and has the ability to play all three outfield spots.
American League West
Houston Astros: Matt Moore, LHP
As good as the Astros were in 2023, one thing they lacked all season was a reliable left-hander in the bullpen. Moore has had two strong seasons in a row, though his numbers against lefties (.874 OPS) were worse than against righties (.623 OPS) last year.
Los Angeles Angels: J.D. Martinez, DH
Assuming that Shohei Ohtani signs elsewhere, the Angels will be seeking a replacement at designated hitter. Martinez had a stellar season just down the road for the Dodgers, hitting 33 home runs with 103 RBIs and an .893 OPS in 113 games. He may not be Ohtani, but who is?
Oakland Athletics: Gio Urshela, 3B
The Athletics aren’t expected to spend much in free agency this offseason, but they will still be looking for a player or two to help them next year. Urshela played only 62 games in 2023 and will likely have to settle for a one-year deal; if he plays well, he could become a trade chip next summer.
Seattle Mariners: Lourdes Gurriel Jr., OF
With Teoscar Hernández potentially leaving via free agency, there is a hole in the Mariners’ outfield that will need to be filled. Gurriel had a solid season in Arizona, helping the D-backs make a run to the World Series.
Texas Rangers: Josh Hader, LHP
The premier closer on the market, Hader would be a perfect fit with the Rangers, who could pair the lefty with right-hander José Leclerc to form a 1-2 punch at the back end of the bullpen. Texas’ bullpen blew 20 save opportunities in the eighth and ninth inning in 2023.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: Jordan Montgomery, LHP
Nobody may have earned themselves more money during the postseason than Montgomery, who starred for the Rangers during their World Series run. With Aaron Nola returning to the Phillies, Montgomery could be the ideal candidate to help upgrade Atlanta’s rotation.
Miami Marlins: Mitch Garver, C
The Marlins need catching help, and while some view Garver as a DH-in-waiting, the 32-year-old would help replace some of the power they’re likely to lose with the impending departure of free agent Jorge Soler.
New York Mets: Shōta Imanaga, LHP
The Mets are likely to pursue a number of notable free agents this offseason, and while Yoshinobu Yamamoto figures to be high on their wish list, Imanaga – who is also making a move from Japan to the Majors – could also fit into New York’s plans. The 30-year-old posted a 2.66 ERA in 159 innings for the Yokohama Bay Stars in 2023 after starting the championship game for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic.
Philadelphia Phillies: Jordan Hicks, RHP
The Phillies seem unlikely to pursue Josh Hader to fill their late-inning bullpen need, as the lefty is expected to command the largest deal ever for a reliever. Hicks possesses an elite fastball – the pitch averaged 100.1 mph last season – and he ranked in the top 20% of the league in ground-ball rate (96th percentile), average exit velocity (89th) and strikeout percentage (83rd). He would fit in nicely with Seranthony Domínguez and José Alvarado in the back end of Philly’s bullpen.
Washington Nationals: Harrison Bader, CF
Alex Call struggled at the plate (.614 OPS) in 2023, and the Nationals declined their option on Victor Robles (who remains under club control), so the Nationals could be in the market for a new center fielder this winter. Bader could seek a one-year deal to reestablish his value after an unproductive and injury-riddled season.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: Matt Chapman, 3B
The Cubs are deep in outfield prospects, but there’s no internal answer coming at the hot corner. Jeimer Candelario is a free agent, so Chicago could look to upgrade the spot with the best third baseman on the market.
Cincinnati Reds: Jorge Soler, OF
For all the talk about the Reds’ abundance of infield talent, Cincinnati’s outfield combined for 66 home runs, ranking eighth in the NL. The club’s right fielders combined for a .716 OPS, 11th in the NL. Soler was among the top 20 percent in the league in barrel percentage, hard-hit percentage and walk percentage, belting 36 homers with an .853 OPS, making him a good candidate to add into the middle of the Reds’ young lineup.
Milwaukee Brewers: Rhys Hoskins, 1B
Hoskins’ time in Philadelphia appears to have come to an end with Dave Dombrowski’s announcement that Bryce Harper will be the Phillies’ everyday first baseman. Hoskins, who missed all of 2023 with a torn ACL, could look to sign a short-term deal in order to prove that he’s healthy, and Milwaukee will be searching for a power bat at first base with Rowdy Tellez likely on his way out of town.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Frankie Montas, RHP
The Pirates will be looking for some veteran rotation depth, so why not roll the dice with a one-year deal for Montas? The right-hander threw 1 1/3 innings in 2023 after missing most of the season following shoulder surgery and will likely have to take a one-year deal, but if he pitches well, he could be a nice trade chip come July.
St. Louis Cardinals: Lucas Giolito, RHP
Aaron Nola’s seven-year, $172 million deal to return to the Phillies meant two things for the Cardinals: it took a big arm off the market and showed that pitching is going to be quite costly this winter. St. Louis added Lance Lynn on Monday, but the Cards need multiple arms to replenish their rotation, and while Giolito had a down year in 2023, he has enough of a track record to make him a worthy candidate to rebound in 2024.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
General manager Mike Hazen was part of the Red Sox front office when Boston acquired Rodriguez in 2014, so he’s quite familiar with the left-hander’s work. With Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly leading the rotation, Arizona could look to add a strong No. 3 such as E-Rod as they try to build on their successful 2023 season.
Colorado Rockies: Kyle Gibson, RHP
Colorado’s 5.91 ERA from its starters ranked dead last in the Majors, so trying to add an arm or two figures to be a priority. Gibson ranked eighth in the Majors with a 48.9% ground-ball rate, something that would play well in the Mile High City.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Shohei Ohtani, DH/RHP
No surprises here. Since they sat out most of free agency last winter, it’s been a foregone conclusion that the Dodgers would make a run at Ohtani. Los Angeles is considered the favorite to land the two-way superstar, who won’t be able to pitch in 2024 following Tommy John surgery.
San Diego Padres: Luis Severino, RHP
The Padres will spend much of the winter trying to restock a rotation that stands to lose free agents Blake Snell, Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo. San Diego isn’t expected to spend big on any of the top starters, but Severino – who is coming off the worst season of his career – could be a prime bounceback candidate in 2024.
San Francisco Giants: Cody Bellinger, OF/1B
The Giants are likely to pursue Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but San Francisco needs to add some punch to its lineup this offseason, as well. The Giants ranked last in OPS and second-to-last in home runs from the outfield in 2023, making Bellinger a logical choice to add into the mix