As we approach the offseason, Spotrac projects contracts & destinations for our Top 10 MLB Free Agents, including 7 pitchers, 2 position players, & 1 who can do a lot of everything.
RELATED: 2024 MLB Free Agents
Shohei Ohtani (DH/SP, 29, LAA)
Just how much (if any) will the UCL tear and subsequent surgery reduce Ohtani’s free agent contract? Let’s put it this way. If Shohei Ohtani was set to hit the market as just a position player this winter, his starting point would be Aaron Judge’s 9 year, $360M contract, which represented 17.1% of this year’s tax threshold. If we adjust that for the 2024 figure ($237M), this brings us to $366M over 9 years, or nearly $41M per year.
Gerrit Cole’s 9 year, $324M free agent contract with the Yankees back in 2020 represented 17.3% of that respective tax threshold. If we adjust for 2024, that means $369M over 9 years. If we lop off one year of that (because he won’t be available to pitch in 2024), it’s $328M for 8 years, or $41M per year.
In other words, if a Cy Young pitcher were to hit the open market this winter (see below), there’s a world where his agent could point to Gerrit Cole’s deal, and request 9 years, $369M in 2024.
And if a two-time league MVP were to hit the open market this winter, there’s a world where his agent could point to Aaron Judge’s deal, and request 9 years, $366M as a floor.
Is Shohei Ohtani going to score $735M over the next 9 years? Of course not. But we can’t argue that there isn’t data to show that he could conceivably request it. The only logical assumption we can make here is that 6-10 teams will make significant offers, and the only real question is: will the Dodgers match them all?
Prediction: 12 years, $552M, Los Angeles Dodgers
Blake Snell (SP, 30, SD)
Talk about peaking at the right time, Snell turned a slow start in San Diego into a Cy Young performance heading toward the open market. He’s worth plenty more than the $45.5M he reeled in over the past 5 seasons.
Prediction: 5 years, $115M, Baltimore Orioles
Aaron Nola (SP, 30, PHI)
The production dipped in 2023 after a rock solid 2022 campaign (4th in Cy Young voting), but Nola now has over 650 strikeouts across the last 3 seasons, each of which he made 32 starts. He and Blake Snell should be eying very similar compensation this winter.
Prediction: 6 years, $140M, Arizona Diamondbacks
Cody Bellinger (OF, 28, CHC)
The Cubs don’t appear overly motivated to bring back Bellinger with any sort of long-term guarantee, but that shouldn’t stop him from finding a great contract this winter. After compiling a combined 1.0 WAR over the past three seasons, Bellinger broke back out with a 4.4 output, including 29 doubles, 26 homers, 20 stolen bases, and an .881 OPS. Is he fixed for good?
Prediction: 5 years, $110M, San Francisco Giants
Matt Chapman (3B, 30, TOR)
Chapman starting 2023 on a torrid pace, leading us all to believe he would blow past his 2022 production and post career highs. That didn’t end up being the case, and Chapman now enters the open market with at least a little bit of doubt attached to him. Still, he’s a power hitting, Gold Glove caliber 3rd baseman in an offseason where hardly any are available.
Prediction: 6 years, $100M, Los Angeles Dodgers
Josh Hader (RP, 29, SD)
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.
Prediction: 5 years, $90M, Chicago Cubs
Clayton Kershaw (SP, 35, LAD)
It’s been a steady dose of 1 year contracts for Kershaw and the Dodgers since 2021, and a steady dose of maintained, elite pitching production as well. If Kershaw (24 starts, 9.4 K/9, 177 ERA+) wants to continue his career, the Dodgers will almost certainly oblige. He’s a whopping $37M player in our system, but following the recent breadcrumbs here, a 1 year, $24M contract should be about right.
Prediction: 1 year, $23M + incentives, Los Angeles Dodgers
Yoshinobu Yamamoto (SP, 25, Japan)
He’s winning every pitching award possible in Japan, posting ridiculous numbers in 2023 (23 games, 169 Ks, 1.21 ERA) in what is largely believed to be his swan song season there. Every MLB team is in on this one.
Prediction: 5 years, $85M, New York Mets
Sonny Gray (SP, 33, MIN)
After what seemed like a few declining seasons in Cincinnati, Gray posted back to back elite years for the Twins, and is a large reason for their latest AL Central Division Title. He’ll be 34 years old by the time Spring Training approaches, so this won’t be a blockbuster deal, but he’s certainly earned another pay day in this league.
Prediction: 3 years, $66M, Minnesota Twins
Jordan Montgomery (SP, 30, TEX)
In 11 starts for Texas this year, Montgomery posted a 2.79 ERA, 1.094 WHIP, and a 2.1 WAR. He and Nathan Eovaldi became the goto arms for this team down the stretch, and at this point, it’s hard to imagine them moving forward without him in 2024 and beyond.
Prediction: 6 years, $110M, Texas Rangers