We’ll spend a lot of time this winter talking about free agents joining new clubs, but a number of players on this year’s market may wind up signing back with their former teams.
Here’s a look at all 30 clubs and which incumbent could make the most sense to return for 2024:
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: RHP Shintaro Fujinami
A midseason trade acquisition, Fujinami pitched well in a relief role down the stretch for the Orioles, posting a 3.78 ERA (and a 2.30 FIP) in his final 17 appearances. Fujinami, who signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal with the Athletics last winter after pitching in Japan for a decade, could return in a similar role in Baltimore’s bullpen.
Boston Red Sox: OF Adam Duvall
Duvall performed well for the Red Sox last season, belting 21 home runs with an .834 OPS in 92 games. Given the left-handedness of Boston’s outfield -- especially if the Red Sox trade Alex Verdugo this winter -- Duvall could come back to give the team a righty power bat in the outfield.
New York Yankees: LHP Wandy Peralta
Since being traded to the Yankees during the 2021 season, Peralta has been a steady presence from the left side in New York’s bullpen, posting a 2.83 ERA in 63 appearances for the Yankees. Peralta is highly effective against lefties (.483 OPS in 2023) and good enough against righties (.758 OPS), so New York isn’t afraid to use him at any spot in a game.
Tampa Bay Rays: RHP Robert Stephenson
The 30-year-old Stephenson thrived after his midseason trade to Tampa Bay, posting a 2.35 ERA in 42 appearances. Stephenson has pitched for four teams since 2020, finally finding a strong situation with the Rays. His potential return will likely come down to the years and dollars he can find on the free-agent market.
Toronto Blue Jays: 1B/DH Brandon Belt
Belt rebounded nicely from offseason knee surgery, though a pair of stints on the injured list limited him to 103 games in 2023. The 35-year-old hit 19 home runs with an .858 OPS, proving that he still has some life in his bat after 13 seasons in the Majors. Belt could return to Toronto on a short-term deal.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: RHP Bryan Shaw
Tim Anderson, Elvis Andrus, Mike Clevinger, Yasmani Grandal and Liam Hendriks are Chicago’s other free agents, and none are likely to return. Shaw pitched better in 2023 than his overall numbers indicate, as he gave up nine of his 21 earned runs this season in just two outings.
Cleveland Guardians: OF Kole Calhoun
It seems unlikely that Cleveland will retain Lucas Giolito or Reynaldo López, both picked up on waivers late in the season. Calhoun, who was acquired from the Dodgers in early-August, assumed a leadership role for a young Guardians team, but will that be enough to bring him back for 2024?
Detroit Tigers: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
Rodriguez opted out of the final three years and $49 million of his contract, but a return to the Tigers isn’t out of the question. The left-hander vetoed a trade to the Dodgers at the Trade Deadline, and he seems to be comfortable in Detroit, so his potential return will hinge upon the club’s willingness to hand out another sizeable contract for the 30-year-old.
Kansas City Royals: RHP Zack Greinke
Matt Duffy, Brad Keller and Josh Staumont are the Royals’ only free agents aside from Greinke, who endured the worst season of his career in 2023. The former AL Cy Young winner went 2-15 with a 5.06 ERA in 30 games (27 starts). While there seems to be a solid chance that the 40-year-old Greinke retires, the Royals could bring him back for one more year should he decide to continue pitching.
Minnesota Twins: RHP Emilio Pagán
The Twins have a number of free agents -- headlined by Sonny Gray, who has put up a pair of excellent seasons in Minnesota, but who might price himself out of the Twins’ plans. Pagán had a strong 2023 season (2.99 ERA in 66 appearances) and could return to play another prominent role in the bullpen.
American League West
Houston Astros: RHP Hector Neris
Neris was one of the best bullpen arms for one of the AL’s best bullpens, posting a 1.71 ERA in 71 appearances during his second season with the Astros. Michael Brantley’s time in Houston is likely over, while Martín Maldonado is unlikely to return as Yainer Diaz takes over behind the plate. Along with Neris, relievers Phil Maton and Ryne Stanek could also come back on new free-agent deals.
Los Angeles Angels: RHP/DH Shohei Ohtani
What seemed like a stretch a few months ago might turn into a reality, as Ohtani’s elbow injury could open the door for a return to Anaheim. If potential suitors are even remotely wary of his elbow, Ohtani’s deal -- which is still expected to be the biggest in baseball history -- could fall into a range that is reasonable for the Angels to take a run at bringing him back.
Oakland Athletics: 2B/LF Tony Kemp
Following Trevor May’s retirement, Kemp is one of three Oakland free agents, along with Drew Rucinski and Kevin Smith. Though his production has wavered, Kemp remains a solid veteran presence in a young clubhouse.
Seattle Mariners: C Tom Murphy
Despite rumors that he might be dealt last summer, Murphy remained in Seattle for the rest of 2023. The Mariners’ catching depth behind Cal Raleigh is weak, and Murphy provides great leadership in the clubhouse. As far as backup catchers go, Murphy’s bat is solid, as he hit eight homers with an .873 OPS in 47 games last season.
Texas Rangers: LHP Jordan Montgomery
Montgomery pitched well for the Rangers after the Trade Deadline, going 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 regular-season starts. Jacob deGrom won’t return until at least next August, Martín Pérez is a free agent and both Max Scherzer and Andrew Heaney will be free agents next winter, so the Rangers could sign Montgomery -- who was impressive in the postseason -- to a multi-year deal to fortify the rotation moving forward.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: OF Kevin Pillar
Pillar isn’t going to make the type of impact that the Braves’ stars do, but the 34-year-old was a useful piece as Atlanta’s fourth outfielder, a role he could fill once again in 2024.
Miami Marlins: OF/DH Jorge Soler
Considering that the Marlins ranked last in the NL in runs scored and 11th in home runs, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Miami bring back its biggest power threat. Soler didn’t just lead the club with 36 home runs; he was the only Marlins hitter with more than 19 this season.
New York Mets: RHP Trevor Gott
The Mets have six free agents following the non-tender deadline: Gott, Carlos Carrasco, Adam Ottavino, Daniel Vogelbach, Jeff Brigham and Sam Coonrod. Gott was acquired from the Mariners in early July, posting a 4.34 ERA in 34 appearances for the Mets.
Philadelphia Phillies: 1B Rhys Hoskins
The Phillies already brought back Aaron Nola on a seven-year, $172 million deal, taking care of one of their primary objectives for the offseason. Philadelphia has stated that Bryce Harper will remain at first base, but what if the Phillies traded Nick Castellanos and returned Harper to right field, opening the door for Hoskins’ return? Stranger things have happened.
Washington Nationals: RHP Carl Edwards Jr.
The choice of Edwards here isn’t a suggestion that the reliever will return, as he missed the final three-plus months with a shoulder injury. But the Nationals’ only other free agents are Victor Robles, Dominic Smith and Cory Abbott, none of whom are likely to return. Edwards might have to settle for a Minor League contract, which could come from the Nats.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: 1B/3B Jeimer Candelario
Candelario didn’t perform as well with the Cubs as he did with the Nationals, but Chicago liked him during his two-month stint and could bring him back to play third base. The Cubs will also try to retain Cody Bellinger, but he is expected to have a number of other high-profile suitors.
Milwaukee Brewers: LHP Wade Miley
It was hardly a surprise when Miley’s mutual option was declined -- these types of options almost always are -- but that doesn’t rule out a reunion between the Brewers and the left-hander for 2024. Miley went 9-4 with a 3.14 ERA in 23 starts for Milwaukee in 2023, and given that Corbin Burnes could be on the trade block and Brandon Woodruff was non-tendered following shoulder surgery, the Brewers could bring back Miley.
Pittsburgh Pirates: OF Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen returned to Pittsburgh last offseason with a one-year, $5 million deal, but his homecoming was cut short in early September due to an Achilles tear. Both McCutchen -- who is sitting on 299 career home runs -- and GM Ben Cherington have expressed a desire to continue the relationship in 2024, so a return seems likely.
St. Louis Cardinals: Drew VerHagen
The Cardinals traded away all of their high-profile free agents, leaving only Adam Wainwright -- who is retiring -- VerHagen, Andrew Knizner, Dakota Hudson, Jake Woodford and Juan Yepez and Jacob Barnes as candidates. VerHagen was a disappointment in the first season of his two-year, $5.5 million deal, but he posted a 3.98 ERA in 60 appearances last season, pitching to a 2.25 ERA from Aug. 1 through the end of the season.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: OF Tommy Pham
Arizona might have interest in bringing back Lourdes Gurriel Jr., though the 30-year-old will surely be seeking a long-term deal that might be out of the club’s price range. Pham performed well after being dealt to the D-backs at the Trade Deadline (6 HR and 32 RBIs in 50 games). Entering his age-36 season, Pham can likely be brought back on a one-year deal.
Colorado Rockies: LHP Brent Suter
Suter was a trade candidate this summer, but Colorado held onto the lefty, a sign the club might want to bring him back on a new deal. Suter had a solid year in his first season with the Rockies, posting a 3.38 ERA in 57 appearances while ranking at or near the top of the league in average exit velocity, barrel percentage and hard-hit percentage.
Los Angeles Dodgers: J.D. Martinez
Martinez had an outstanding season in his first year with the Dodgers, hitting 33 homers with 103 RBIs and an .893 OPS, but his potential return will hinge upon Los Angeles’ pursuit of Ohtani. If the Dodgers sign Ohtani, the DH spot won’t be available for Martinez, who played only 12 innings in the outfield in 2023. If Ohtani goes elsewhere, Martinez seems like a good fit to return to L.A.
San Diego Padres: C Gary Sánchez
Sanchez hit 19 home runs with 46 RBIs in 72 games for San Diego, looking like the offensive force he was early in his career. After being maligned for his work behind the plate during his time in New York, Sanchez played well for the Padres, becoming Blake Snell’s personal catcher during his NL Cy Young season.
San Francisco Giants: LHP Scott Alexander
Alexander had the highest ERA of his career in 2023 (4.66), but the left-hander was effective against lefties (.560 OPS, 5 extra-base hits in 83 plate appearances). A Bay Area native, Alexander could return to help stabilize the back end of the Giants’ bullpen.