Free agent rankings: Top 25 for the 2023-24 offseason

November 5th, 2023

One thing we know about this year’s free agent class is that the headlines will be dominated by one player, but there are plenty of talented players who will be shopping their services on the open market.

Here’s a look at my ranking of the top 25 free agents for the 2023-24 offseason based on conversations with club executives, scouts and agents.

Ages listed are each player’s seasonal age for 2024. A "^" indicates a player is ineligible for a qualifying offer.

1) , RHP/DH (age: 29)

Even with a torn UCL that required a second elbow surgery, Ohtani is easily the top free agent on this year’s market. It remains to be seen if/when Ohtani will return to the mound, but his offensive profile alone -- which compares favorably to Aaron Judge, who signed for nine years and $360 million last year -- should land him a deal in that range, as he’s more than a year younger than Judge was when he reached free agency. Most expect him to pitch again no later than 2025, and it’s possible his deal goes far beyond Judge’s, though the guaranteed dollars are sure to take a hit from what they would have been without the injury.

Potential fits: Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Mets

2) Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP (age: 25)

Yamamoto will be posted by the Orix Buffaloes this offseason, adding another intriguing arm to the free-agent market. The 25-year-old has won both Pacific League MVP honors and the Sawamura Award (Japan’s version of the Cy Young) in each of the past two years and the Triple Crown in each of the past three. Scouts believe Yamamoto can immediately jump into the No. 1 or 2 spot in a big-league rotation.

Potential fits: Dodgers, Mets, Red Sox

3) , LHP (age: 31)

On May 19, Snell was 1-6 with a 5.40 ERA after nine starts, leading many to project that he was costing himself a ton of money in free agency. From that point forward, he was arguably the best pitcher in baseball, going 13-3 with a 1.20 ERA over his final 23 starts. Snell, the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner, could add a second Cy Young to his résumé this season, which would make the left-hander only the seventh pitcher to earn that honor in both leagues.

Potential fits: Cardinals, Dodgers, Padres

4) , CF/1B (age: 28)

Following his disappointing 2021 and ’22 seasons, the 2019 National League MVP was forced to settle for a one-year, $17.5 million “pillow contract” with the Cubs last season, giving him an opportunity to reestablish his value before hitting the market again this winter. Bellinger made the most of his time in Chicago, posting a .307/.356/.525 slash line with 26 home runs and 97 RBIs in 130 games. The 28-year-old Bellinger should be set up for a sizeable multi-year deal in his second go-around in free agency.

Potential fits: Cubs, Giants, Yankees

5) , RHP (age: 31)

Nola was one of the most consistent and durable starters in the Majors from 2017-20, posting a 3.23 ERA in 106 starts for the Phillies. He finished fourth in the NL Cy Young race in 2022, but his performances in 2021 and ’23 began to raise questions about what his 30s could look like. Nola’s strikeout percentage this season was his lowest since 2016, though his walk percentage remained quite strong. He has never relied on velocity, using a 92-93 mph fastball effectively thanks to his strong command. Nola bolstered his free agent résumé with a strong postseason, going 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA in his first three starts before allowing four runs in 4 1/3 innings in his final NL Championship Series outing.

Potential fits: Cardinals, Giants, Phillies

6) , LHP (age: 30)

There are other proven closers on the market this winter including David Robertson and Craig Kimbrel, but those two former All-Stars are on the wrong side of 35 and won’t be viewed as long-term options for a club seeking to stabilize the ninth inning. Hader, on the other hand, turns 30 in April and is arguably the best reliever in the game right now. The lefty posted a 1.28 ERA in 61 appearances in 2023, ranking in the 97th percentile or better in strikeout percentage, xBA, xERA and hard-hit percentage. Edwin Díaz landed a record-setting five-year, $102 million deal last winter, a figure Hader might approach -- or eclipse -- as the best reliever available. 

Potential fits: Angels, Phillies, Rangers

7) , RHP (age: 34)

Gray has had a roller-coaster career, getting Cy Young votes in two seasons and making three All-Star teams while also posting seasons with an ERA of 4.90 and 5.69. But his two-year run with the Twins has been stellar; despite a 16-13 record, he’s posted a 2.90 ERA in 303 2/3 innings since the start of 2022. Gray made 32 starts in 2023, pitching to a 2.79 ERA over 184 innings, making him an appealing option for pitching-needy clubs as he enters his age-34 season.

Potential fits: Braves, Cardinals, Twins

8) , LHP (age: 30)^

Montgomery has quietly been one of the most consistent starters in the Majors since 2021, posting a 3.48 ERA in 94 starts for the Yankees, Cardinals and Rangers. Texas’ acquisition of Max Scherzer garnered most of the headlines at the Trade Deadline, but Montgomery excelled with the Rangers, going 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 regular-season starts. The left-hander, who turns 31 in December, may have boosted his value this month with his postseason performance (3-1, 2.90 ERA in six games, five of them starts). Also of note: Because he was traded during the year, Montgomery can’t be given a qualifying offer after the season, so unlike Snell and Nola, he won’t have any Draft-pick compensation attached to him.

Potential fits: Cardinals, Cubs, Rangers

9) , DH (age: 36)

Martinez has been an All-Star in each of the past five full seasons since 2018, posting another stellar season at age 35 in 2023. The 13-year veteran slugged 33 home runs with 101 RBIs and an .893 OPS in his first year with the Dodgers, providing great value after signing a one-year, $10 million pact last December. For teams in the race for Shohei Ohtani, Martinez could be a wise pivot if they fail to land the presumptive AL Most Valuable Player to fill their DH role.

Potential fits: Angels, Dodgers, Mets

10) , 3B (age: 31)

Only four years ago, Chapman was seen as one of the game’s rising stars, earning his first All-Star selection, his second Gold Glove and his second Top-7 AL MVP finish. His offensive production dipped in 2021 and ’22, though he remained a solid power hitter (27 home runs in each season) while continuing to play a stellar third base. Chapman’s home run total fell to 17 in 2023, but his .330 on-base percentage was his highest since 2019 and he finished fourth in the AL with 39 doubles. The third-base free-agent market is thin this winter, putting Chapman in position to cash in with a nice deal.

Potential fits: Blue Jays, Dodgers, Yankees

11) , OF/DH (age: 32)

Two years ago, Soler won World Series MVP honors prior to free agency, landing a three-year, $36 million deal with the Marlins. Soler had good timing again in 2023, belting 36 home runs this season and opting out of the final year and $9 million left of his contract. The 31-year-old is one of the premier power bats on the market this winter and should draw plenty of interest.

Potential fits: Cubs, Marlins, Orioles

12) , LHP (age: 31)^

As expected, Rodriguez opted out of the final three years and $49 million of his contract with the Tigers. Given his performance this season, the southpaw should have little trouble eclipsing those numbers with a new contract. Rodriguez was having a superb season in the first half before a finger injury put him on the shelf for about five weeks, and while he didn’t pitch at the same level as he did in April and May, he allowed two or fewer runs in eight of his 15 starts after his return. Given the need for quality starting pitching around the league, Rodriguez should have plenty of suitors.

Potential fits: Orioles, Reds, Tigers

13) Jung Hoo Lee, CF (age: 25)

Lee is expected to be posted by the Kiwoom Heroes in the KBO League, even after ankle surgery ended his season in August. Lee, the 2022 KBO League MVP who hit .429 for Team Korea in the World Baseball Classic, has a career .340/.407/.491 slash line in seven seasons in Korea and is considered to be an above-average defender in center field.

Potential fits: Giants, Mariners, Yankees

14) , OF (age: 30)

Gurriel made his first All-Star team in 2023, establishing a career high with 24 home runs while driving in 82 runs with a .772 OPS. Gurriel ranked in the top quarter of the league in hard hit percentage and strikeout percentage, while his defensive metrics were solid. The 30-year-old helped the D-backs reach the World Series in his first year in Arizona, but there should be plenty of competition for his services.

Potential fits: Braves, D-backs, Yankees

15) Shōta Imanaga, LHP (age: 30)

Imanaga started the gold medal game for Team Japan in this year’s World Baseball Classic, kicking off a year that saw him go 7-5 with a 2.66 ERA for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. He has been one of the best pitchers in Japan since he broke into the Central League in 2016, posting more than a strikeout per inning throughout his career. He is expected to be posted by Yokohama this offseason and should have multiple suitors.

Potential fits: Dodgers, Giants, Mariners

16) , OF (age: 31)

Hernández got off to a sluggish start in his first season with the Mariners, but he turned things around in June, posting solid numbers -- 26 home runs and 93 RBIs over 160 games. He has hit at least 25 home runs in each of his past four full seasons and carries a career OPS of .802. Hernández has a strong arm but is considered to be a below-average fielder, with some viewing him as a future DH by his mid-30s.

Potential fits: Brewers, Mariners, Mets

17) , 1B (age: 31)

A torn left ACL kept Hoskins out for all of 2023, but the 30-year-old has been a steady power source since breaking in with the Phillies in 2017. Hoskins has hit at least 27 home runs in each of his four full seasons, so as long as his knee isn’t an issue, he should be among the top power bats available this offseason.

Potential fits: Brewers, Mariners, Padres

18) , RHP (age: 29)^

Giolito was one of the top targets at the Trade Deadline, but his move to Anaheim was a disaster -- he went 1-5 with an 6.89 ERA in six starts with the Angels -- while his season-ending stint with the Guardians was somehow worse (1-4, 7.04 ERA in six starts). Nobody will confuse Giolito with a bonafide ace, but the 29-year-old has been a proven innings-eater and will likely be paid accordingly.

Potential fits: Cardinals, D-backs, Red Sox

19) Yariel Rodriguez, RHP (age: 27)

A starter-turned-reliever, Rodriguez played in Cuba from 2015-20, when he joined the Chunichi Dragons in Japan’s Central League. Rodriguez posted a 1.15 ERA and 27.5% strikeout rate in 56 appearances for Chunichi in 2022, but after pitching for Team Cuba in this year’s World Baseball Classic, he chose not to return to Japan, instead preparing himself for a chance to move to the Majors. Chunichi granted him his release in early October, paving the way for him to come to MLB, where more than half of the league’s teams attended his first showcase earlier this month.

Potential fits: Padres, Yankees, White Sox

20) , INF/OF (age: 35)

It wasn’t all that long ago that Merrifield ranked among the annual AL leaders in hits, and while those days might be behind him, he remains a very useful player. Merrifield -- a three-time All-Star since 2019 -- can play all over the field and hit 11 home runs with 67 RBIs and 26 stolen bases in 2023, ranking in the top 20 percent of the league in strikeout percentage and sprint speed.

Potential fits: Blue Jays, Twins, White Sox

21) , RHP (age: 32)

It seemed like a foregone conclusion that Stroman would opt out of the final year and $21 million of his contract after his All-Star first half, during which he went 9-6 with a 2.96 ERA. An inconsistent second half marred by injuries caused some to question whether it was the right move, but Stroman opted out to test the free-agent market. Teams will have to consider whether or not they’re getting the All-Star version of Stroman when it considers signing him, though he has enough of a track record (3.65 career ERA over nine seasons) that he should command a nice contract.

Potential fits: Cubs, Cardinals, Angels

22) , 3B (age: 30)^

Candelario had a career year in 2023, hitting 22 home runs with 70 RBIs and an .807 OPS with the Nationals and Cubs. He doesn’t offer the same hot-corner defense as Matt Chapman, but Candelario brings a more consistent bat.

Potential fits: Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers

23) , RHP (age: 28)^

Once considered to be among the top young starters in the game, Flaherty has regressed in the past two years, posting a 4.84 ERA over 38 games (35 starts). Flaherty was acquired by the Orioles at the Trade Deadline to bolster the rotation, but he went 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA in nine appearances (seven starts), prompting Baltimore to remove him from the rotation down the stretch. Given his history, he could be a worthy gamble for a pitching-needy team that won’t be in on the big-money arms.

Potential fits: Nationals, Pirates, Rays

24) , OF (age: 32)

Has any player as productive as Renfroe bounced around as much as this guy? Renfroe -- who has played for six teams since the start of 2019 -- has hit at least 26 home runs in five of his six past full seasons, the lone exception coming in 2023, when he hit 20 in 140 games. Renfroe still boasts one of the strongest outfield arms in the game, though his range is below-average.

Potential fits: Guardians, Marlins, Pirates

25) , CF (age: 30)^

Bader continues to be an elite center fielder, ranking in the top 10 percent of the league in both range and arm strength, but for those who believe availability is the most valuable ability, Bader leaves something to be desired. He hasn’t played more than 103 games in a season since 2019, and he’s never reached the 140-game mark during his six full seasons in the Majors. Since setting career highs with 16 home runs, 50 RBIs and a .785 OPS in 2021, Bader is averaging six homers, 35 RBIs and a .635 OPS over the past two seasons.

Potential fits: Cubs, Giants, Nationals

Other notable free agents (in alphabetical order by last name): Aroldis Chapman, LHP; C.J. Cron, 1B; Michael Conforto, OF; Adam Duvall, OF; Mitch Garver, C; Randal Grichuk, OF; Clayton Kershaw, LHP; Michael Lorenzen, RHP; Kenta Maeda, RHP; Hector Neris, RHP; James Paxton, LHP; Joc Pederson, OF; David Roberston, RHP; Luis Severino, RHP; Gio Urshela, 3B

Note: Julio Urías is eligible for free agency, but he is currently on administrative leave while the league investigates allegations of domestic violence against him. Given that his status for Opening Day 2024 remains unclear, he was not included in these rankings.