We know that free agents such as Shohei Ohtani, Cody Bellinger and Blake Snell will cash in with sizeable contracts this winter, but a number of players currently looking to go on a deep October run also see the postseason as an opportunity to make a closing argument to potential suitors.
Here are 13 impending free agents who could help -- or in some cases, hurt -- their cause in the coming weeks. Players are ordered based on their perceived demand this winter entering the Division Series.
Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies
Nola had an uneven season, allowing at least four runs in 15 of his 32 starts. The right-hander allowed a career-high 32 long balls, and his peripherals have led some to wonder whether he’s running out of gas after logging 1,097 1/3 innings in the regular season and postseason combined since the start of 2018.
After stumbling through the first half of September (11 runs allowed in his first two September starts), Nola pitched well in his final two starts of the regular season and dominated with seven scoreless innings in Game 2 of the NL Wild Card Series against the Marlins. If he can go on another October run, it could help him in his efforts to land the $200 million deal he was seeking last spring.
Sonny Gray, RHP, Twins
His 16-13 record might not reflect it, but Gray has been outstanding during his two years with the Twins, posting a 2.90 ERA in 56 starts, which is third-lowest among pitchers with at least 300 innings since the start of 2022. Gray pitched well in three of his four career postseason starts entering this year, though the last had come in 2017 with the Yankees.
The 33-year-old is finishing up a deal that paid him $42 million over the last four years, and while a presumptive top 5 finish in AL Cy Young voting will make him one of the better starters on the market, Gray -- who twirled five scoreless innings in the Twins’ AL Wild Card Series clincher on Wednesday -- can separate himself from some of the other pitchers on the free-agent market with more of the same.
Jordan Montgomery, LHP, Rangers
Montgomery was supposed to be a mid- to late-rotation addition when Texas traded for him at the Trade Deadline, but with Max Scherzer's availability for the postseason in doubt and Nathan Eovaldi struggling through the end of the regular season after his return from the injured list before a strong Wild Card Series start, Texas will be leaning on the lefty this postseason.
Montgomery -- who went 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts after joining the Rangers -- will be a free agent for the first time in his career, and after tossing seven scoreless innings in a Game 1 win over the Rays in the AL Wild Card Series, more of the same will help him secure the deal he’ll be seeking this winter.
Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Phillies
Kimbrel had another solid season in 2023, earning his second All-Star appearance in three years. He remains one of the top strikeout threats in the game, ranking in the 98th percentile for strikeout percentage, but he ranked near the bottom of the league in both hard-hit and barrel percentages.
At age 35, Kimbrel is one of the most experienced postseason relievers out there -- this marks his ninth trip to the playoffs -- and his October got off to a good start with a scoreless inning and a save in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series against the Marlins.
Hector Neris, RHP, Astros
Neris will surely draw plenty of attention in free agency after his stellar season, but the right-hander figures to be called on in some big spots this postseason, giving him an opportunity to enhance his résumé even further.
The 34-year-old -- who is not expected to exercise his $8.5 million player option after the season -- pitched well for the Astros last October, working to a 1.50 ERA in six innings over eight postseason appearances while striking out nine.
Kyle Gibson, RHP, Orioles
After a shaky August (7.89 ERA in five starts), Gibson rebounded with a strong September, posting a 2.45 ERA in his final five starts. The right-hander signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Orioles last offseason, and while his season has been uneven at times, Gibson won 15 games to lead the young Baltimore staff.
This will be his first starting assignment in the postseason (he has made three career relief appearances), so a solid performance would help the 35-year-old earn a new deal for 2024.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., INF/OF, D-backs
Gurriel’s first season in Arizona saw him earn his first career All-Star nod and hit a career-high 24 home runs, though his on-base percentage was a career-low .309. Gurriel, who turns 30 on Oct. 10, will be making his second career appearance in the postseason, having gone 2-for-8 for the Blue Jays in a Wild Card Series loss to the Rays in 2020.
Gurriel got off to a slow start in the 2023 NL Wild Card Series, going 1-for-8 with one RBI and four strikeouts, but he’ll have a chance to turn things around against the Dodgers.
Jack Flaherty, RHP, Orioles
Flaherty was having a decent season with the Cardinals (7-6, 4.43 ERA in 20 starts) prior to his trade to Baltimore, but things haven’t gone as well with the Orioles.
Flaherty went 1-3 with a 7.11 ERA in seven starts before being moved to the bullpen, where he will continue to work during the postseason. Flaherty figures to look for a rotation job as a free agent, but a strong showing in October in a relief role would help him regardless.
Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Rangers
Chapman went through a couple of bumpy weeks in late August and early September, but the left-hander pitched well down the stretch, earning some ninth-inning opportunities.
Chapman has given up some high-profile postseason homers during his career, so a good showing in October would help his cause as he looks for a new contract entering his age-36 campaign. He’s off to a good start, tossing a scoreless inning in Texas’ Game 1 Wild Card win over the Rays.
Enrique Hernández, INF/OF, Dodgers
Hernández turned his season around after being traded to the Dodgers, but with an overall OPS of .639 since the start of the 2022 season, the 32-year-old could use a strong postseason to help his free-agent case.
Hernández -- a jack of all trades who has played seven positions in each of the last two seasons -- figures to play against lefties, seeing time in center field and possibly second or third base.
Lance Lynn, RHP, Dodgers
Lynn has pitched better since being traded from the White Sox to the Dodgers, though after going 6-9 with a 6.47 ERA in 21 starts with Chicago, the bar was fairly low. Lynn went 7-2 with a 4.36 ERA with Los Angeles in 11 starts, but his postseason role is unclear.
The 36-year-old has plenty of playoff experience, making 27 career appearances (eight starts) between 2011 and 2021.
Michael A. Taylor, OF, Twins
Taylor established a career high with 21 home runs this season, posting his first OPS over .700 since 2017. The 32-year-old had a .278 on-base percentage this season, even worse than his career mark of .294, though his outstanding defense in center field has made him an invaluable member of the AL Central champs.
He went 1-for-6 with four strikeouts in the AL Wild Card Series against the Blue Jays, but he made a superb diving catch in Game 1 that reminded everybody of the value he brings Minnesota.
Pierce Johnson, RHP, Braves
This will be Johnson’s third trip to the postseason in four years, having pitched in October with the Padres in both 2020 and ’22. The 32-year-old was a curious trade acquisition after he posted a 6.00 ERA in 43 games with the Rockies during the first four months of the season, but Johnson has been spectacular for the Braves, allowing only two earned runs in 24 appearances (0.76 ERA) since coming to Atlanta.
Johnson signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rockies last winter, but his performance with the Braves could help him land a multi-year deal.