clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Predicting landing spots for top 10 MLB free agents left: Will Yankees get their starter?

Blake Snell, Cody Bellinger and Josh Hader are just some of the notable names left in free agency.

Blake Snell of the San Diego Padres delivers during the second inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 08, 2023 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Hard as it is to believe, the holidays have come and gone, and the beginning of a new baseball season is right around the corner — we’re now just over a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training camps across Florida and Arizona. That means it’s time for would-be contenders to get serious about completing their winter shopping lists, and with 14 of our top 25 free agents still unsigned as of Monday, we should see plenty of action in the coming days and weeks.

While the attention-dominating sweepstakes around Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto helped create an oddly sluggish pace to the start of this offseason, things are about to start heating up. Before they do, let’s play a little matchmaker, making some educated guesses as to where the top 10 remaining names on the market will wind up playing baseball this year. Our predictions are below, along with some explanation on their situations and why we think those fits are sensible.

1. Cody Bellinger, OF/1B: Blue Jays

The assumption has been that Bellinger will inevitably find his way back to the Cubs, but the longer his market drags on, the less sure of that assumption we are. Toronto entered this offseason in desperate need of a splash, coming off a disappointing Wild Card flameout in 2023 and with cornerstone stars Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. just two years away from free agency. That urgency was only heightened after missing out on Ohtani in brutal fashion and watching the division rival Yankees land Juan Soto. We know the Jays have the money to spend, and Bellinger checks every box as a big lefty bat who can start in left, spell Kevin Kiermaier in center and play DH and first base when needed. The Jays have every reason to be all-in on contending in 2024 and 2025, and it’s hard to see their path forward if they miss out on the one true impact bat remaining.

2. Blake Snell, SP: Yankees

We understand if New York’s fans aren’t wild about this match, but this is more a process of elimination than anything. Jordan Montgomery, according to all available reports, doesn’t seem like a likely option. (More on that in a little bit.) Brian Cashman has reportedly inquired about a trade for Dylan Cease, but Chicago figures to demand a king’s ransom, and after the Soto and Alex Verdugo deals, the Yankees may not have the horses to win that bidding war. Corbin Burnes is no longer on the market. New York can ill afford to go into 2024 without adding a significant pitcher to its rotation, and there’s a good chance that the best available option is Snell — who, despite his command and durability concerns, would increase their chances of winning the AL East dramatically. This contract might not age well, but Cashman and Co. can’t afford to fret over the future too much right now.

3. Matt Chapman, 3B: Giants

Speaking of teams in need of a splash: The Giants remain in need of more offensive oomph and defensive athleticism, even after landing center fielder Jung Hoo Lee from Korea. We We have reservations about how Chapman’s bat will age, but there’s no denying that he checks both of those boxes as a high-quality defensive third baseman with above-average pop. It doesn’t hurt that manager Bob Melvin is familiar with Chapman from their shared time with the Oakland Athletics. A reunion with the Jays could also be in play here, but there simply aren’t a ton of ways for San Francisco to upgrade its lineup before Opening Day.

4. Jordan Montgomery, SP: Rangers

Again: Maybe the reporting is wrong here, but it sure seems like Montgomery has his eyes on a return to Texas. And why wouldn’t he want to return to the team that went out and acquired him at last year’s trade deadline, and that he helped lead to a World Series title with a heroic October run? The lefty insists there’s no bad blood between he and the Yankees, but it’s hard to overlook Cashman dealing him away two seasons ago out of concerns that he wouldn’t be part of the team’s postseason rotation. Texas needs a rotation boost for its title defense, and Montgomery is the obvious answer.

5. Marcus Stroman, SP: Cubs

Yes, he’s 33, and yes, injuries derailed his season yet again in 2023. But Stroman has still had a weirdly quiet market so far: This is still an above-average starter, one who will generate oodles of ground balls and have no fear of taking the mound in big games. Recent buzz has connected him with the Yankees, and that sinker-heavy approach would seem to fit nicely in Yankee Stadium. But the relationship there has been rocky — at best — for years, and I can’t help but think that Chicago’s need for pitching help will lead the righty back to the North Side eventually.

6. Rhys Hoskins, 1B/DH: Cubs

Hoskins’ situation seems very much intertwined with Bellinger’s: The Cubs and Blue Jays — the two main prospective Bellinger suitors — have been tied to the former Phillie at various points this winter, along with the Mariners. But if Bellinger does in fact bolt to Toronto, Chicago would have a need for a middle-of-the-order bat and another first base/DH option. Hoskins is the best available short-term solution there, providing above-average production at a lower cost for a Cubs team that would seem to be ready to win right away.

7. Josh Hader, RP: Phillies

Hader hasn’t really popped up in a ton of offseason rumors just yet — perhaps unsurprising, considering the preoccupation with starting pitchers and the reports that the lefty is looking to become the richest closer in the history of the sport. Whether he hits that lofty bar remains to be seen, but whenever his market does start to heat up, the Phillies feel like a team that could pounce. The Orioles filled their own closer’s role by poaching — well, “poaching” — Craig Kimbrel from Philly, and the longer Hader remains available, the more tempted GM Dave Dombrowski figures to be. The Phils aren’t in a position to land another impact starter, and their lineup is more or less locked in; the back end of the bullpen is the most obvious spot to upgrade, and we saw how integral relievers were to the team’s postseason formula the past couple of years.

8. Jorge Soler, OF/DH: Angels

Soler not only launched 36 home runs last season while playing his home games in a park that suppresses right-handed power, he also posted new career bests in both strikeout and walk rate. As an added bonus, he’s younger than some of his DH counterparts, including Justin Turner and J.D. Martinez. So why aren’t we slotting him in with a contender? Unlike Turner and Martinez, the 31-year-old Soler is still in position to look for a more serious pay day, and the Angels have a bunch of money burning a hole in their pocket and a desire to put a halfway respectable product on the field this year as they begin life without Ohtani. This team needs as much thump as it can get, and they’ve long liked this player type — see their signing of Hunter Renfroe last winter. Plus, doesn’t Mike Trout deserve a little happiness and lineup protection in his life?

9. J.D. Martinez, DH: Diamondbacks

Martinez isn’t getting any younger, but the 36-year-old still mashed for the Dodgers in 2023 (.271/.321/.572 with 33 homers) and can absolutely provide a short-term middle-of-the-order presence for a contender that has DH at-bats to spare. The D-backs happen to be just such a team — there’s no natural fit as a full-time designated hitter right now — and it would put a nice bow on what’s been a shrewd offseason so far if they could engineer a reunion with their former trade deadline acquisition.

10. Joc Pederson, OF/DH: Astros

With Michael Brantley opting for retirement after a sterling 15-year career, the Astros once again have a need for both another corner outfielder and a left-handed bat in a largely righty-heavy lineup. Pederson may not have had the same topline success he enjoyed in 2022 (.764 OPS, 111 OPS+ for the Giants), but he still hits the ball very, very hard, and he checks both of the above boxes. Plus, it’s easier to hide his defensive limitations in left field at Minute Maid Park, and he could be a nice value play given the sort of bats he’ll be likely hitting behind in Houston.