Here's the free agent each team should re-sign

November 17th, 2022

Any time a notable free agent signs with a new club, he immediately becomes one of the biggest stories in camp once the team gathers for Spring Training.

But sometimes the biggest signings can be the players who don’t go anywhere, re-upping with their current club to continue their championship mission.

Here’s a look at all 30 clubs and which incumbent could make the most sense to return for 2023.

American League East

Blue Jays: RHP Ross Stripling
Stripling bounced back in 2022 with his best season in four years, posting a 3.01 ERA in 32 appearances (24 starts). He was 9-4 with a 2.92 ERA in those starts, helping solidify Toronto’s rotation as José Berríos and Yusei Kikuchi struggled. Stripling should have a wide market, but the Blue Jays could make an early push to bring him back.

Orioles: C Robinson Chirinos
Jesús Aguilar doesn’t figure to return to Baltimore, while Jordan Lyles ($11 million club option) could also become a free agent. Adley Rutschman will be the everyday catcher, but Chirinos could serve as his veteran backup.

Rays: RHP Corey Kluber
The Rays could eventually pursue reunions with catcher Mike Zunino and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, but they have ready-made replacements at their positions in Christian Bethancourt and Jose Siri. What they don’t have, but always pursue, is a veteran starter to soak up innings and serve as a good influence for their young pitchers. Kluber filled that role this year, proving his health by working 164 innings over 31 starts, making him a candidate to return.

Red Sox: SS Xander Bogaerts
Bogaerts opted out of the final three years and $60 million of his contract, but that doesn’t rule out a potential return to Boston. Should Bogaerts sign elsewhere, Trevor Story could move to shortstop, but Bogaerts’ return could hinge upon the club’s extension discussions with third baseman Rafael Devers.

Yankees: OF Aaron Judge
Judge’s big bet on himself paid off, as the slugger hit 62 home runs and will likely be voted as AL MVP. Even more likely is that Judge cashes in with a monster contract, and while a number of teams will make their bids for him, the Yankees know how much he means to the club on and off the field.

American League Central

Guardians: C Austin Hedges
The Guardians’ No. 5 prospect is Bo Naylor, who had a cup of coffee in Cleveland during the season’s final week. Whether Naylor gets the chance to win the starting job next spring remains to be seen, but Hedges would serve as a bridge if Naylor isn’t ready or a veteran backup if he is.

Royals: RHP Zack Greinke
Greinke is the only answer to this question, as he’s the Royals’ lone free agent this winter. The 39-year-old had a respectable 3.68 ERA in 137 innings (26 starts), but he hasn’t made a decision whether he wants to play in 2023. If he does, there’s a good chance he’ll do it in Kansas City once again.

Tigers: LHP Daniel Norris
Norris, Tucker Barnhart and Michael Pineda are Detroit’s free agents, while Jonathan Schoop and Andrew Chafin can opt out of their deals. Norris pitched for the Tigers from 2015-21, then returned this season after being released by the Cubs in July, pitching to a 3.45 ERA over 28 2/3 innings in 14 appearances (two starts). Detroit could bring him back as a lefty specialist, as he held left-handed hitters to a .622 OPS this season.

Twins: RHP Michael Fulmer
Fulmer’s career was trending in the wrong direction after he posted an 8.78 ERA in 10 starts in 2020, but a move to the bullpen in 2021 helped rejuvenate the right-hander, who has a 3.17 ERA over 133 1/3 innings over the past two seasons. Depending on the price tag, Fulmer could return to Minnesota to provide bullpen depth.

White Sox: 1B José Abreu
The heart and soul of the White Sox, Abreu has played his entire nine-year career on the South Side. His three-year, $50 million pact has expired, and while he’s heading into his age-36 season, Abreu could return to Chicago on a new two- or three-year deal. He isn’t the same power threat he once was, but the durable Abreu still posted an .824 OPS in 157 games in 2022.

American League West

Angels: RHP Michael Lorenzen
The Anaheim native has said he would like to return to the Angels, for whom he went 8-6 with a 4.24 ERA in 18 starts in 2022. Two bad starts -- which preceded a two-month stay on the injured list with a shoulder injury -- bloated his ERA, which was 3.63 in his other 16 outings. Given the Angels’ need for pitching, a reunion is a realistic possibility.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander
Verlander returned from Tommy John surgery with a Cy Young-winning season in 2022, giving him a chance to opt out of the final year and $25 million of his contract. That doesn’t mean that Verlander -- who will turn 40 during Spring Training -- won’t return to Houston on a new multi-year deal, especially if owner Jim Crane has anything to say about it.

Athletics: INF/OF Chad Pinder
Pinder and Stephen Vogt are Oakland’s only free agents, and Vogt recently announced his retirement. The 30-year-old Pinder served as a versatile option for the Athletics, but given the club’s youth movement, it would be surprising if he returned.

Mariners: OF Mitch Haniger
Haniger was limited to 57 games this season due to a high ankle sprain that sent him to the injured list for three months. When he has been on the field during the past two seasons, Haniger has been one of Seattle’s more productive hitters, slugging 50 homers with 134 RBIs and a .786 OPS in 214 games. Julio Rodríguez and the newly acquired Teoscar Hernández (who will be a free agent next offseason) will fill two starting outfield spots, while Jesse Winker might be better suited as a designated hitter. If the Mariners aren’t sold on Jarred Kelenic as an everyday player, the popular Haniger could be brought back to round out the outfield.

Rangers: LHP Matt Moore
The 33-year-old left-hander found success as a reliever in Texas, posting a 1.95 ERA over 74 innings in 63 appearances. Moore, who spent most of his first decade in the Majors as a starter, was more effective against right-handed batters (.537 OPS) than lefties (.634 OPS), but showed the ability to get both out with regularity. Moore signed a Minor League deal with Texas last year, earning $2.5 million when he made the club. He should do far better this year.

National League East

Braves: SS Dansby Swanson
The Braves have managed to sign so many of their young stars to extensions, the most recent coming in early October when Spencer Strider inked a six-year, $75 million deal. Having previously locked up Matt Olson, Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley and Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta has its core set in place for the next few years. Swanson won’t be taking any type of hometown discount, but given the team-friendly nature of some of the other deals, the Braves could still sign Swanson to keep their starting infield intact.

Marlins: None
The Marlins have no players heading to free agency.

Mets: RHP Chris Bassitt
The Mets have already brought back closer Edwin Díaz and 1B/DH Daniel Vogelbach, but the rotation is where New York must focus its attention. Jacob deGrom is no sure bet to return, and while Bassitt -- who rejected a $19.65 million qualifying offer -- isn’t a top-level replacement for the two-time Cy Young Award winner, he was a dependable starter for the Mets in 2022.

Nationals: Aníbal Sánchez
Washington’s rotation had the worst ERA in the Majors (5.97), as Sánchez was the lone starter (minimum four starts) to post an ERA below 5.00. The right-hander will turn 39 during Spring Training, but he could come back to help fill out the Nationals’ thin rotation.

Phillies: RHP David Robertson
The Phillies’ 4.27 bullpen ERA ranked 11th in the NL, but Robertson -- who was acquired from the Cubs prior to the Trade Deadline -- had the lowest mark (2.70) among all Philadelphia relievers with at least 20 appearances. Robertson’s first stint with the Phillies was a disaster after he blew out his elbow, but perhaps the club will look to bring the 37-year-old back as part of its late-inning mix.

National League Central

Brewers: Jace Peterson
Peterson’s offense isn’t going to overwhelm anybody, but he’s a tough at-bat and his versatility has been a valuable weapon for the Brewers. Peterson played 86 games at third base -- where his seven outs above average were tied for the fifth-best mark in the Majors -- and also filled in at first base, second base and both corner outfield spots. He even pitched a scoreless inning, making the fourth pitching appearance of his career. He’s a good fit in Milwaukee.

Cardinals: LHP José Quintana
With Adam Wainwright already back for another year, the Cardinals have enough starters to fill out the rotation. So why bring back Quintana? For starters, he was a great Trade Deadline addition for St. Louis, posting a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts to earn the Game 1 start in the Wild Card round against the Phillies. Left-handers are a good fit at Busch Stadium, and given the Cardinals’ need for a new catcher, one of the other arms might be used to acquire one in a trade with Oakland for Sean Murphy or with Toronto for one of its three solid catchers.

Cubs: LHP Wade Miley
Miley and Willson Contreras are the Cubs’ only free agents (Drew Smyly has a mutual option and will likely join that list), and it seems unlikely that Contreras will be back in 2023. Miley’s season was marred by elbow and shoulder injuries, but the veteran left-hander pitched well during his nine outings (eight starts), posting a 3.16 ERA.

Pirates: C Roberto Perez
Perez has expressed interest in returning to Pittsburgh, where pitchers were singing his praise for his work behind the plate. Entering his age-34 season, Perez can serve as a bridge and mentor behind the plate to prospects Endy Rodriguez and/or Henry Davis.

Reds: INF Donovan Solano
Cincinnati has five players heading to free agency, but Chase Anderson, Austin Romine, Hunter Strickland and Justin Wilson are likely to move on. Solano played three different infield positions for the Reds this season, providing the club with a veteran bench option.

National League West

D-backs: Zach Davies
Arizona has no true free agents, though there are options on Zach Davies (mutual) and Ian Kennedy (club) that could thrust the two pitchers on to the open market. Davies -- who posted a 4.09 ERA in 27 starts, missing five weeks with a shoulder injury -- has said he plans to opt out of his deal, but he is interested in re-signing with the D-backs.

Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw
Even as he enters his age-35 season, Kershaw continues to be effective when healthy; he pitched to a 2.28 ERA in 22 starts this season, winning 12 of his 15 decisions. Kershaw has reportedly decided to return to the Dodgers for a 16th season, though no deal has been made official.

Giants: LHP Carlos Rodón
The Giants are expected to be big players in free agency, and while Aaron Judge remains the team’s top target, they shouldn’t forget about their own All-Star. Rodón has been tremendous for the past two seasons, proving that his 2021 breakout season wasn’t a fluke. The Giants need another big arm to pair with Logan Webb atop the rotation, so why not bring back the one they already know so well? He clearly liked pitching at Oracle Park, going 8-2 with a 1.93 ERA in 15 home starts.

Padres: 1B Josh Bell
Bell’s two-month stint with the Padres did not go as expected, as the slugger hit just three home runs with a .587 OPS in 53 games after being traded by the Nationals. His two-run homer off Max Scherzer in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series helped set the tone for the Padres, however, and with Fernando Tatis Jr. set to miss the first month of 2023 as he serves a suspension, San Diego might have interest in keeping Bell’s big bat in its lineup.

Rockies: RHP Carlos Estévez
Estévez had the lowest ERA of his six-year career (3.47), providing some stability in an otherwise unstable Colorado bullpen that posted the highest ERA (4.85) in the Majors. Entering his age-30 season, Estévez earned $3.025 million in 2022 and should be in line for a raise, albeit an affordable one.