This year’s crop of free agents has spent the 2022 season trying to raise their value, hoping to land a hefty contract this winter.
Stars such as Aaron Judge and Trea Turner have already done their part to secure lucrative deals, but for a group of impending free agents, the postseason presents an opportunity to bolster their case for potential bidders.
Here are 13 impending free agents (listed in alphabetical order) that could benefit — or in some cases, hurt — their causes in the coming weeks.
Tyler Anderson, LHP, Dodgers
Anderson chose the perfect time to have the best year of his career, going 15-5 with a 2.57 ERA, as well as being called up to his first All-Star game. While some might wonder if 2022 was an outlier for the 32-year-old pitcher, the left-hander will have a chance to put the final stamp on his year in the postseason. The veteran has pitched in the playoffs a couple of times (both with the Rockies), with a relief inning in 2017 and a strong start in 2018 (6 EL, 1 CL in an NL Division Series loss to to the Brewers).
Jacob deGrom isn’t the only Mets starting pitcher headed for free agency — both Bassitt and Walker have options on their contracts that should make them free agents. Bassitt had the better regular season of the two, but both pitched well enough to generate interest from teams in need of starting pitching. If either pitcher makes a mark in October, he would be helping their causes in free agency.
Bell didn’t perform well after being traded to the Padres at the deadline, hitting just three home runs and posting a .587 OPS in 52 games. The 30-year-old slugger will be playing in the postseason for the first time in his seven-year Major League career, a golden opportunity to shine on the biggest stage.
Mike Clevinger, RHP, Padres
Clevinger might not get a chance to pitch in the postseason if the Padres are eliminated in the Wild Card Series, because Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell are the three likely starters to take the mound in that round. If San Diego makes it through, Clevinger will likely join the rotation. Given his lackluster campaign after Tommy John surgery, a breakout performance in October would make him an interesting free-agent option for clubs in need of pitching.
It might seem strange to include a two-time NL Cy Young Award winner on a list of players who could boost his bonuses, but this October could be a big deal for deGrom. After making his season debut Aug. 2, deGrom had a 1.66 ERA in his first seven starts. However, since Sept. 13, the right-hander has a 6.00 ERA in four starts, raising questions about his health. DeGrom is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract for $30.5 million, but at 34, the right-hander might need a big postseason performance to get the kind of contract he hopes for in free agency.
Díaz is the favorite to win the Trevor Hoffman Award this year as the best reliever in the National League, and industry experts believe that the Puerto Rican will surpass Cuban Aroldis Chapman’s record contract of five years and US$85 million – which came after Chapman helped the Cubs win the World Series title. Closing out in the postseason creates a different kind of pressure, giving Diaz a chance to show he can thrive on the biggest stage baseball has to offer.
Mitch Haniger, RF, Mariners
Haniger missed more than three months this season, first due to COVID-19 and then a major right ankle injury. Since returning on Aug. 6, Haniger’s overall numbers haven’t been impressive (seven homers, 26 RBIs, .712 OPS in 47 games), though his bat showed more life in the final two weeks of the season (. 938 OPS in 11 games since Sept. 22). The Mariners snapped a 21-year postseason drought, giving Haniger a chance to shine in the spotlight for the first time in his career as he heads into free agency.
Trey Mancini, 1B/OF, Astros
After six years of not seeing action in a postseason game for the Orioles, Mancini will get a chance to prove himself on this stage. His two-month stint with the Astros didn’t pay off: He had a .180/.264/.373 offensive line in 50 games with Houston. Mancini is on his way to his 31-year-old season and is about to become a free agent. Therefore, a great month of October would raise his bonuses this winter.
Nimmo had his best season since 2018, when he posted an .800 OPS in a career-high 151 games. The 29-year-old slugger’s bat won’t overwhelm anyone, but he is a fixture at the top of the Mets’ lineup. Nimmo will be an important hitter who sets the table for sluggers like Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso in October, where he can show the world the value he brings on offense.
Jose Quintana, LHP, Cardinals
Quintana was one of the game’s best bargains in 2022 after signing a $2 million deal with the Pirates last November. A solid first half earned him a trade to St. Louis, where he had a stellar 2.01 ERA in 12 starts, helping the Cardinals win the NL Central crown with a miniscule 0.89 ERA in five starts. September. St. Louis has several options for its postseason rotation, but if Quintana can cap his resurgence this season with a strong October, the 33-year-old Colombian won’t settle for a one-year deal this winter.
Dansby Swanson, SS, Braves
This will be the fourth straight postseason for Swanson, who homered twice and had an .804 OPS in the World Series for Atlanta last fall. Swanson has been a standout in 33 postseason games, hitting five homers and 15 RBIs, along with a .768 OPS, but given that he’ll be part of a brilliant crop of free-agent shortstops, another strong October would raise his value.
Jameson Taillon, RHP, Yankees
Taillon had a solid second season with New York, which translated into an opportunity to pitch in the postseason for the first time in his career. The right-hander will likely join Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Luis Severino in the Yankees’ rotation, hoping to help the Bronx Bombers return to the World Series for the first time since 2009. Heading into his season at age 31, Taillon would benefit from pitching well in a higher-profile setting.
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Imminent free agents who would benefit from shining in these playoffs