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Kielar's Top 10 Remaining MLB Free Agents

With a few moves already made this MLB offseason, the hot stove is only beginning to heat up. The top free agent to sign so far was Aaron Nola, who the Philadelphia Phillies re-signed to a seven-year, $172 million deal. After him, Sonny Gray went to the St. Louis Cardinals for three years, $75 million, and Reynaldo Lopez signed with the Braves for three years, $30 million. There have been three other multi-year deals so far, all two-year deals. Those are Nick Martinez and Emilio Pagan to the Cincinnati Reds and Kenta Maeda to the Detroit Tigers.

The few one-year deals included former New York Yankee Luis Severino going a short Subway ride away to Queens and signing with the Mets for $13 million. With that in mind, there are still plenty of big-time free agents on the market, plus trade candidates led by Juan Soto. Buckle up, because with Winter Meetings set to begin on Sunday, it could be a flaming hot stove. Without further ado, let’s get into My Top 10 remaining free agents.

Player name, Position, Age, Agent

1. Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, 29, Nez Balelo

The clear top free agent on this year’s market, Ohtani is a unicorn and will be a game-changer to any team that signs him. Even after he tore his UCL and needed a second elbow surgery, Ohtani has the offensive profile alone that is right up there with the likes of the Aaron Judges and Ronald Acuñas of the world. While it is unknown when or even if he will return to the mound, there is no reason he shouldn’t garner a deal in a similar range that Judge did, which was nine years for $360 million to re-sign with the Yankees. Ohtani is more than a year younger than Judge was at this time last year, and adding in his hopeful return to the mound does wonders for what he can earn. Had he not gotten injured, who knows what kind of contract he’d be looking at. Nonetheless, the two-time MVP will set off a massive bigging war, and it’s anybody’s guess who wins it.

2. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP, 25, Joel Wolfe

After being posted just over a week ago by the Orix Buffaloes, teams have just over a month to send out offers for stud Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto. With the deadline set for 5 p.m. on January 4, the righty is expected to come to the U.S. to meet with finalists in person after the Winter Meetings end on December 6. He also intends to speak with teams over Zoom during the Winter Meetings. It shouldn’t be long after that he makes a decision. The 25-year-old won both the Pacific League MVP and the Sawamura Award in the past two years, in addition to the Triple Crown in the past three. According to Jeff Passan, the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the favorites to land the potential big-league ace. He would immediately move to the top of anyone’s rotation as either a No. 1 or No. 2. The latest is that Yamamoto has a $200 million contract floor.

3. Blake Snell, LHP, 31, Scott Boras

After becoming just the seventh pitcher in MLB history to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues (2023 Padres, 2018 Rays), Snell now hits the free agent market for the first time in his career. Several teams could use Snell’s skillset at the top of their rotation, although he doesn’t come without risk. The stuff is tremendous, led by a plus fastball and incredible offspeed pitches. But the big concern is his control - or lack thereof. This past season, while he set a personal best in strikeouts, Snell also walked 99 batters in 180 innings. A year older than Carlos Rodon was when he was a free agent, Snell could wind up with a deal similar to what the former received from the Yankees last offseason. That was a six-year, $162 million, and Snell winning the Cy Young will help his case.

4. Cody Bellinger, OF/1B, 28, Scott Boras

The former National League MVP returned to form after back-to-back disappointing seasons in 2021 and 2022, as he settled for a one-year, $17.5 million "prove it" deal with the Chicago Cubs last offseason. The 28-year-old set himself up for a big payday after slashing .307/.356/.525 while recording 26 homers and 97 RBI in 130 games to go with his 4.1 fWAR and 134 wRC+. A reunion with the Cubs is certainly not out of the question, but they'll have to pay more this time.

5. Jordan Montgomery, LHP, 30, Scott Boras

One of the more underrated and consistent starters over the last couple of years, Montgomery comes with plenty of intrigue. The southpaw has recorded a 3.48 ERA in 94 starts with the Yankees, Cardinals, and Rangers since 2021. His performance with the Rangers helped boost himself up for a wealthy multi-year deal, especially in their World Series run. In 11 regular season starts with Texas, Montgomery posted a 2.70 ERA and 3.27 FIP while striking out 58 and walking just 13 in 67 2/3 innings. Then in the postseason, he was a huge factor in the Rangers taking home that World Series. In six games (five starts), he went 3-1 with a 2.90 ERA. Another intriguing aspect of Montgomery is that he won't come with draft-pick compensation, since he was traded during the season. Is a Yankees reunion in the cards? I'd say it's unlikely, but perhaps Brian Cashman can fall back on him if they miss out on Yamamoto.

6. Josh Hader, LHP, 30, CAA Sports

The only real serviceable closer on the market this offseason, Hader has been very dominant for the past several years. He turns 30 in April and is coming off an incredible season with the Padres. The left-hander held a 1.28 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 61 appearances, while also ranking in the 91st percentile or better in pitching run value (19), expected ERA (2.34), expected batting average against (.157), chase rate (33.6%), whiff rate (33.1%), strikeout rate (36.8%), barrel rate (4.4%) and hard-hit rate (28.3%). Edwin Diaz earned a record-setting five-year, $102 million deal from the Mets last offseason, and I'd argue Hader has Diaz beat in talent and pure stuff. Although, Hader is over a year older than Diaz was at this time last year. Even still, Hader should be a hot commodity as, quite frankly, one of the top closers of the last several decades.

7. Jung Hoo Lee, CF, 25, Scott Boras

The Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO officially posted Lee on November 23, one of the top outfield free agents in the world. Lee was the 2021 KBO League MVP in 2022 and proved himself on the world stage as he hit .429 for Team Korea in the World Baseball Classic. He also had a career .340/.407/.491 slash line along with 65 homers, 69 stolen bases, and a .898 OPS over seven seasons in the KBO, and is an above-average defensive center fielder. Lee underwent season-ending ankle surgery in August but is expected to be ready for spring training.

8. Matt Chapman, 3B, 31, Scott Boras

Given that the third base market is so thin this offseason, Chapman will be more sought after than he'd be if there was competition. The offensive production simply isn't what it once was for the one-time All-Star and former Top 7 MVP finisher. The power numbers were still there in 2021 and 2022, with 27 dingers each season, but that output dipped to 17 bombs in 2023. He has still given teams something to work with, though, as he posted his highest on-base percentage since 2019 at .330, while being in the top five amongst AL sluggers with 39 doubles. On top of that, Chapman is still one of the top defensive third basemen in the majors.

9. Shōta Imanaga, LHP, 30

Yamamoto isn't the only Japanese player to be on MLB's radar this offseason, as Imanaga was officially posted last Monday, December 27 by the Yokohama DeNa BayStars. While he is lesser known than the Orix Buffaloes ace, Imanaga will garner a pretty lofty deal as well. The lefty started the gold medal game for Team Japan in the WBC and wound up recording a 2.66 ERA for Yokohama in 2023. Since breaking into Japan's Central League in 2016, Imanaga has posted more than a strikeout per inning at 9.4 strikeouts per nine.

10. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., OF, 30, Magnus Media

Coming off his first All-Star selection with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Gurriel should garner significant attention on the free-agent market. He smashed a career-high 24 bombs while helping Arizona to their first World Series since 2001. The 30-year-old knows how to put bat to ball, as he rarely whiffs or strikes out and was within the top quarter of the league with a 46 percent hard-hit rate. He also had solid defensive metrics, ranking in the 89th percentile with an arm value of 2, 75th percentile with a 2 range rating (Outs Above Average), and 77th percentile in arm strength (88.7).

Main Image from Getty Images


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