The Winter Meetings proved to be the trigger this market needed to get moving. But even after a busy week across the majors—followed by Carlos Correa’s mega-deal with the Giants—not all of the biggest free agents have found a home.
So, the time has come to play “find a partner”. Here are five top-tier players still on the market, where they might fit in, and where I hope they end up signing after all.
With Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom and Kodai Senga already on their new teams, Rodón is the latest ace on the board. And he is much younger than those other horses, at just 30 years of age. If we’ve learned anything from the cost of quality starting pitching this winter, it’s that the price tag could be extraordinary. But there are plenty of possible destinations, as there are many legitimate contenders who could still improve the front end of their rotations with a man who has just posted a 2.67 ERA and 157 ERA+ over the past two seasons.
It would fit very well: Rodón could change the way we view the Orioles overnight from a fun contender to a more serious threat. With a 2023 payroll projected right now at $73 million and no heavy commitments beyond that, Baltimore could take the risk that often comes with big pitching contracts.
Most likely destination: Being able to keep Aaron Judge was great, of course, but as far as improving the 2022 team is concerned, the Yankees would surely benefit from another ace to help them move forward in October. The lefty Rodón fits perfectly in that role.
The story of Swanson and the Braves has taken an odd turn: According to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, there have been “no legitimate negotiations since the offseason began,” so it certainly seems likely that Swanson will end up signing another side.
It would fit very well in: Although the Dodgers haven’t made much noise this winter, with their mind set on lowering their luxury tax penalties, it’s impossible not to think about the story of the hero who left Atlanta for Los Angeles last winter. How weird would it be to see Swanson and Freddie Freeman in gray when the Dodgers visit the Braves in May?
Most likely destination: Swanson just married Mallory Pugh, star of the Chicago Red Stars of the Women’s Professional Soccer League, and the Cubs are looking for a shortstop. Swanson would fit North Chicago, definitely.
Benintendi hasn’t reached the level of stardom he seemed headed for as a prospect and during his first season in 2017, when he finished behind Aaron Judge for AL Rookie of the Year. But he’s a solid player who brings good defense, good contact and walks. He didn’t show much power in 2022, coming off a broken hand that brought his days with the Yankees to an abrupt end shortly after he was traded to New York midseason. But at just 28 years old and with more than acceptable tools, Benintendi can help a lot of teams.
It would fit very well in: If the White Sox really want to shake off last year’s disappointment and return to the top of the AL Central, a left-handed-hitting left fielder makes all the sense in the world for their lineup.
Most likely destination: After investing heavily in their pitching (and in the middle of the infield last year), the Rangers continue to have doubts in their outfield beyond Adolis Garcia. It sounds logical that they add Benintendi for what now.
Although health is a perennial cause for concern with Eovaldi–who has twice undergone Tommy John surgery, another procedure to remove loose particles in his elbow and also dealt with shoulder inflammation in 2022–the right remains an effective weapon in rotation when going up to the mound. Over the past three seasons, he has an ERA +120 (20% better than league average), plus 350 strikeouts to 62 walks in 340 innings. He averaged 95.8 mph with his four-seamer fastball in 2022. Complicating his case is that he received the qualifying offer and whoever signs him will have to hand over Draft spots.
It would fit very well in: The Cardinals have the option of going with what they have right now in the rotation (Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Jordan Montgomery, Steven Matz and Dakota Hudson). But we think they could benefit from another dose of speed and postseason pedigree, and Eovaldi can provide that without needing St. Louis to break the bank.
Most likely destination: While by some accounts the Red Sox haven’t been as aggressive as other teams in their bid to sign Eovaldi, the issue of draft compensation, his value and familiarity with the franchise, and the fact that Boston can’t afford the luxury of losing arms make a reunion very likely.
Do you remember? After a slump in 2021 and a complete absence in 2022 with a shoulder injury, he remains an interesting free agency option. A team that bets on him could land the version of Conforto who had an .864 OPS, 97 homers and 86 doubles from 2017-20. He’ll be 30 next season and unlike last winter, he doesn’t have any compensation tied up this time around. in the Draft.
It would fit very well in: Although the Mariners added Teóscar Hernández to the outfield to partner Julio Rodríguez, there are still questions regarding their other options such as Jarred Kelenic, Taylor Trammell and Sam Haggerty. Conforto is also a question mark, but he’s a talented All-Star player and he’s also a Seattle native.
Most likely destination: Signing Benintendi or a healthy Michael Brantley (coming off shoulder surgery) could also work. But the Astros have the resources and enough depth in their lineup to take a risk and sign Conforto, who could help them in three outfield and as a designated hitter.
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Where would these five free agents fit best?