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Yes, it's the Winter of Ohtani (arm injury withstanding), but the MLB offseason offers plenty of other storylines worth gravitating toward in the coming weeks. Our look at a few notable headlines, with a couple of contract predictions mixed in.

The Winter of Ohtani

Where? How Big? Could it have been bigger? We’ve done plenty of work on this one for the past 18 months so let’s just summarize this time around. Baseball contracts have almost never been “conditional”. If a great player gets to the open market, there will always be at least one team willing to go above and beyond to land him. An arm injury for the 29-year-old is a major red flag, but not enough of one to reduce his value this winter. While the Giants, Cubs, Mets, etc… are all (obviously) interested, the Dodgers told us out loud that they were dialing back the 2022 offseason in order to align themselves for a move this winter. Let’s just listen to them and move on. 12 years, $504M, Dodgers.

An International Market Reset

Teams have tempered initial contracts for international players (especially pitchers) to this point. Kodai Senga (5 years, $75M) & Masataka Yoshida (5 years, $90M) are the current benchmarks in this regard. But early buzz out of front offices leads us to believe that caution will be thrown out of the window when it comes to Japanese pitching phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who has now won 3 consecutive Sawamura awards (Cy Young equivalent), and just turned 25 a few months ago. Early reports have us throwing out a previous projection (based on math), and bringing Yamamoto’s new floor up to 8 years, $200M. Toss in a bidding war, and the cash in the banana stand may need to come out as well. 8 years, $240M, Mets.

A Domestic Starting Pitcher Market

NL Cy Young favorite Blake Snell, NLCS starter Aaron Nola, World Series starter Jordan Montgomery, future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw plus the likes of Sonny Gray, Eduardo Rodriguez, & Marcus Stroman make for a very strong class this winter. Every one of these names could (should) secure a contract averaging at or above $20M per year.


A Questionable Positional Market

Cody Bellinger hitting the open market again this year sort of feels like Kris Bryant hitting the open market a few winters ago. Great talent, but which version of him are we supposed to believe/value/pay? Bryant scored $182M from the Rockies. The 28-year-old is a $22M player in our system, but how many years guaranteed will a team be willing to go? The Giants need a win this winter. 8 years, $190M, Giants.

Matt Chapman was an All-MLB hitter for a few months in 2023. Then he wasn’t. He’s an All-MLB defensive 3rd baseman every time he puts the uniform on. A little inconsistency never stopped MLB Free Agency from overpaying. 6 years, $124M, Cubs.

Teoscar Hernandez is an upper level MLB power hitter - just not in Seattle. The Mariners proved they agreed by not slapping a Qualifying Offer on him this week. A down year won’t stop another market from viewing Hernandez as their version of Kyle Schwarber. 5 years, $90M, Red Sox.


A New Top Closer

After a rocky 2022, Hader rounded back into elite form heading toward free agency for the first time. Edwin Diaz put a new flag in the reliever market ground this winter, penning a $20.4M per year, $102M total value contract in NY. Will Hader approach or surpass these numbers? Mathematically he’s a $17.5M player in our system, but common sense and a bidding war tells us that Diaz’ number is in jeopardy here - especially when the World Champs are already calling. 5 years, $105M, Rangers.


From Playoffs to Purgatory

Every year, a few MLB teams sneak into the postseason, bow out, then decide to completely change course and take the next year off financially. It’s the nature of a beast that doesn’t require spending on an annual basis.

So which franchises are candidates to do so in 2024?

The Brewers seem an early favorite in the clubhouse, with a potential season-long injury to starter Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes’ name a fixture on the trade block, a manager who just left for their division rival, and a large group of core players heading into the expensive portion of their arbitration process.

Speaking of, Tampa Bay has been the model of how to win with savvy offseason moves, a revolving door at every position, incredible scouting, even better in-house development, and a bottom third payroll to boot. Is that window closing? Major injuries to the rotation, and a sure fire trade candidate in Tyler Glasnow could be a tell-tale sign that Tampa simply doesn’t have the roster to compete going forward - nor the financial backing to quickly fix it on the fly. Then again, they may just be a few creative trades away from another 90 wins next season.