As the 2023 MLB season ends with the Texas Rangers winning their first World Series, it’s time to make free agency predictions. Over the next four months, some of the game’s biggest stars will continue their careers with different teams. Here are predictions for some of 2023’s five biggest MLB free agents.
Shohei Ohtani — Los Angeles Dodgers
First, let’s start with the undisputed best player in the game. One of the most hyped up free agents in MLB history, Ohtani’s price will be near $500 million when it’s all said and done. While the announcement of Ohtani undergoing Tommy John Surgery will hinder his overall price, his offensive production will still remain elite.
Every team should be interested in acquiring him during the off-season, but only a few teams will have a chance at emptying the bank for the most talented player to grace the diamond.
The Los Angeles Dodgers will be my pick to land Ohtani this off-season. The team has consistently added top talent over the past decade, and it’ll be the optimal landing spot for Ohtani. He’ll remain in LA, and will terrorize National League West teams for the next decade.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto — New York Yankees
Yamamoto joins a recent list of top Japanese free agents to hit the MLB market. The 25-year-old right-hander has dominated to a 1.72 ERA during his seven-year career in the Nippon Professional Baseball league. Yamamoto dominated in Game 6 of the Japan Series — posting 14 strikeouts over 138 pitches. Yamamoto only allowed one run in his potential final game in Japan.
Similar to Ohtani, Yamamoto is a free agent every team should attempt to add. He has the tools to be a top-end starting pitcher for all 30 teams.
With that being said, I believe Yamamoto will end with the New York Yankees. The Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016, and starting pitching was an issue aside from Gerrit Cole. Cole dominated to potentially win his first Cy Young Award, but every other qualifying starting pitcher threw to a 4+ ERA. With Yamamoto landing in New York, the Yankees will have a dominant 1-2 punch in the rotation.
Blake Snell — New York Mets
Starting pitcher Blake Snell dominated from June-October for the San Diego Padres, leading to potentially his second career Cy Young — one of only seven players to win the award for both leagues.
The Padres had a down year in 2023 by missing the playoffs one season after making the 2022 National League Championship Series. In this prediction, Snell ends up joining a team that experienced its own baffling season: the New York Mets.
Mets’ owner Steve Cohen has continuously flaunted his checkbook over the past few seasons. A disappointing 2023 campaign won’t stop him from making another splash. Snell would become the third veteran starting pitcher to join the Mets via free agency the past two seasons — joining future Hall of Famers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.
Aaron Nola — Philadelphia Phillies
Starting pitcher Aaron Nola has thrown for the Phillies since 2015. His career with the City of Brotherly Love will not end here. Nola didn’t perform up to his All-Star-caliber level in 2023 — allowing a career-high 32 home runs in 193.2 innings — but I believe owner John Middleton will keep one of his franchise pitchers.
His age will be a concern, though, as he showed substantial regression in his year-30 season. If Nola returns to Philly, I think it’ll be a 4-5 year deal to keep him until his mid-30s.
Cody Bellinger — Chicago Cubs
CF/1B Cody Bellinger signed a one-year prove it deal with the Chicago Cubs. He did plenty to prove he’s still an MVP-caliber player. As expected, though, Bellinger used his player option to become a free agent for the second consecutive season.
The Cubs were competitive in 2023 for the first time since 2020. President Jed Hoyer will have to remain aggressive to build on the promising season. The first line of aggression will be bringing Bellinger back to the north side. Bellinger’s obvious success playing at Wrigley Field, and Hoyer’s ability to open the bank, will bring Bellinger back to Wrigley for years to come.
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