The 2022-23 offseason has begun and there has already been one major free-agent signing: Edwin Díaz returned to the Mets on a reliever record five-year, $102 million contract. It's very rare for a top free agent to re-sign during the five-day exclusive negotiating period. Usually once a player makes it this far, they see what free agency has to offer. Kudos to the Mets for acting swiftly and keeping their closer.
Here are R.J. Anderson's top 50 free agents. This is a top-heavy free-agent class, and because of that, teams could venture out into the trade market to address their needs. There are still plenty of rebuilding teams willing to trade their best players for prospects, and no shortage of contenders looking to reshape their roster and reallocate dollars.
With that in mind, here are MLB's top 20 trade candidates heading into the 2022-23 offseason, ranked in order of how likely they are to be moved and how attractive they are to potential trade suitors.
1. Sean Murphy, Athletics
2. Ramón Laureano, Athletics
The A's purge is nearly complete. Laureano and Murphy are Oakland's two best players and top remaining trade chips, and both are projected to make $4 million or so through arbitration. Hard to see the A's paying that. Furthermore, the club already has Murphy's long-term replacement behind the plate in top prospect Shea Langeliers, who debuted in the second half and came over in the Matt Olson trade.
Murphy is the top prize. He is one of the game's very best all-around catchers and he will remain under team control through 2025. The 28-year-old provides power and hard-hit ability without striking out excessively, and he rates exceptionally well as a pitch-framer. Murphy is not J.T. Realmuto but similarities exist. He's a really good player on both sides of the ball and a cornerstone type with long-term control. The Athletics will demand a haul for Murphy and they should get it.
As for Laureano, his offense has slipped in recent years and his outfield defense is more along the lines of making the occasional highlight-reel play than being consistently above average. He comes with three years of control, and while he fits best in right field, he should be able to roam center fielder for at least a little longer if a team wants him there seeing how he's only 28. Laureano is a low on-base/middling power hitter and it's a risky profile. That said, the free-agent center field market is barren.
Possible landing spots: Cardinals, Giants, and Rays for Murphy. I'm not sure it'll happen but I'd like to see the Tigers get involved as they try to advance their rebuild. A great two-way catcher with multiple years of control is exactly the kind of player Detroit should be after. The Cubs, Marlins, and White Sox are the teams to watch on Laureano. He just has that White Sox vibe, doesn't he?
3. Jesse Winker, Mariners
There is more to this than Winker having a disappointing season after coming over in a trade with the Reds last winter. Ryan Divish, the plugged-in Mariners beat writer for the Seattle Times, detailed some behind the scenes issues with Winker. Here's what Divish said during an appearance on the "Brock & Salk Show" last month:
"I think he was home (during the postseason). I was curious because he didn't make the trip when we went to Toronto and then Houston, and I asked. And they said, 'Well, he wanted to get a second opinion on his neck.' … I think they probably just told him to go home. I mean, it speaks to that. I think by the end of the season, it's what scouts call a tired act. I just think some of his teammates were done with him, were just tired of putting up with him. I think the team is frustrated with him. Everything that Mitch Haniger does to prepare for a game to get ready, Jesse Winker's kind of the opposite. I mean -- I can say it, he may not like it -- I think he's not very physically strong. I don't think he puts in the time to be better defensively or to have a better arm or any of the work that should be done. And really it is counter to what has made this team great. The last few years, this team prepares more than any team I've ever seen on a daily basis to be ready to play that day, and he doesn't. He doesn't always. It's just not there. And it's noticeable. Players notice it. I think part of it is, too, when he didn't post for that doubleheader (on Oct. 4) and guys were having to play 18 straight innings, I think that bothered some players. And once you lose your teammates, why be there? So there's gonna be some hard conversations either with Jesse from this front office, or they're just gonna move on. And (manager) Scott Servais has said that a lot of times like, 'We have a plan. We have a way we play. We have a way to prepare. If you don't like it, we'll find somebody else that does.' If you can, do it. And I mean Scott's preached it, all the time. But it takes all these guys to embrace it … They do it, they believe that's why they're good. And Jesse Winker just hasn't followed through on that a lot."
Yeesh, that ain't good. Winker had by far his worst offensive season as a big leaguer in 2022, with concerning drops in exit velocity and hard-hit ability in addition to underwhelming surface stats. He's also a poor defensive outfielder, one of the very worst in the game, so Winker is essentially a DH who didn't H this past season.
The Mariners signed Winker to a two-year, $14.5 million contract last offseason that will pay him $8.25 million in 2023. Without that, there's a chance Seattle simply would have non-tendered him and made a clean break. Ultimately, once you've lost the clubhouse, there's no turning back. The Mariners essentially have to trade Winker, but it won't be easy given his lack of production and the contract.
Possible landing spots: Rays, Red Sox, Twins. It's likely the Winker trade will be a salary dump -- "take the money and give us an middling prospect in return and we'll call it a deal" -- but he has a track record of being an excellent hitter, and the money isn't that bad. There will be clubs willing to roll the dice.
4. D-Backs outfielders
I'm going to cheat and include these guys as one "player" in our top 20 trade candidates. It's a very large group. The Diamondbacks are overloaded with outfielders. They can each be dropped into one of three buckets:
- MLB players: Jake McCarthy, Pavin Smith, and Daulton Varsho
- Top prospects: Corbin Carroll and Alek Thomas
- MLB-ready prospects: Dominic Canzone, Dominic Fletcher, and Stone Garrett
Every single one of those guys hits left-handed except Garrett, who is a righty. Something has to give here. The D-Backs are very deep in lefty-hitting outfielders at the upper levels and it only makes sense to use some of them as trade chips to address other roster needs. GM Mike Hazen suggested such a move could be coming a few weeks ago.
"You take a left-handed hitting outfielder and turn him into a right-handed hitting slugger, yeah, I can see that puzzle coming together," Hazen told the Arizona Republic last month. "… It's not going to be taking one of those guys and trading them for prospects in that type of way."
Picking which players to keep and which players to trade is easier said than done, though I would assume Carroll (the best outfield prospect in baseball) and Varsho (quietly a 5-WAR player in 2022) are in the keeper pile. Likely Thomas as well. He's not quite the prospect Carroll is, though he's highly regarded and entered the season as the top-50 prospect in the game.
Point is, the D-Backs have lefty-hitting outfielders to spare and should use him as trade chips to improve their roster elsewhere. They are so deep in lefty hitting outfielders they could conceivably trade two or three of these guys this offseason, and still have enough outfield depth moving forward.
Possible landing spots: With this many young and controllable outfielders to peddle, the entire league is a potential trade partner. The rebuilding Athletics, on the rise Cubs, and outfield-needy Yankees stand out as clubs that should be at the front of the line for one (or more) of Arizona's outfielders. I have a hard time believing Arizona will go the entire offseason without trading an outfielder. They're not going to give these guys away, but there's a move or two to be made here.
5. Pablo López, Marlins
The Marlins are loaded with pitching and reports at the trade deadline indicated they are willing to move any starters other than ace Sandy Alcantara and top prospect Eury Pérez in an effort to improve an offense that ranked 28th in runs scored and 24th in home runs in 2022. Obviously some pitchers will fetch larger returns than others, but they're almost all available.
Among non-Alcantara/Pérez starters, López is the biggest candidate to move because he is only two years away from free agency. The Marlins and Yankees reportedly had talks involving the changeup specialist at the deadline, and those talks could be rekindled this offseason. If not New York, then elsewhere. López has been reliably above-average the last few years and Miami will have no trouble finding trade partners. There's a chance he is the best starting pitcher traded this winter.
Possible landing spots: Orioles, Padres, Yankees. Any team with a chance to make a run at a postseason spot in 2023 and 2024, really. There isn't a team in the sport that wouldn't benefit from adding López to its rotation mix.
6. Rafael Devers, Red Sox
Normally I would say no way, the Red Sox will keep Devers because he is the face of the franchise, but the Chaim Bloom-led front office has not earned that benefit of the doubt. This is the group that traded Mookie Betts and let Xander Bogaerts opt out of his contract and become a free agent. Is trading Devers, who is a year away from free agency just like Betts was at the time of his trade, all that farfetched? I don't think so.
"We would like to," Bloom told The Athletic last month when asked about possibly signing Devers to an extension. "Nothing has changed in that regard. He is one of the best players in the game. He has shown the ability to perform on the biggest stages and to do it here, and he is someone we want to build around."
Devers turned only 26 last month and is line for a monster contract next offseason, upward of $300 million given his youth and production. Realistically, only a few teams can (or, more accurately, are willing to) afford him long-term, which limits his trade market a tad. Not many clubs will want to give up a huge trade package for a player who may leave in a year.
Possible landing spots: Dodgers, Giants, Mets. It'll never ever ever happen, but the Yankees could really use Devers and his lefty bat, couldn't they? Even if only for a year before he heads elsewhere as a free agent.
7. Danny Jansen, Blue Jays
It seems the time has come for the Blue Jays to make a decision behind the plate. Alejandro Kirk was an All-Star this season and he is under team control through 2026. Top prospect Gabriel Moreno made his MLB debut this year and was impressive, and has the pedigree to become a frontline catcher in time. Toronto has an embarrassment of young talent at catcher.
Then there's Jansen, an above-average hitter with power who has rated well defensively over the years. He turns 28 in April and is two years away from free agency, so he's older than Kirk and Moreno and not under control nearly as long. That makes him the obvious candidate to be traded this winter. Toronto could go with a Jansen/Kirk tandem and use Moreno in a blockbuster trade, but I'm inclined to bet against blockbusters. Jansen is firmly on the trade block this winter.
Possible landing spots: Cardinals, Giants, Rays. The Cardinals and Giants are trying to replace franchise legends behind the plate and the Rays have been trying to find a quality catcher basically since the franchise came into existence. Toby Hall is their all-time leader with 5.7 WAR at the catcher position.
8. Yandy Díaz, Rays
9. Tyler Glasnow, Rays
As highly paid Rays, Díaz and Glasnow are trade candidates by default. Glasnow returned from Tommy John surgery in September and looked very good in his limited action. The 29-year-old was originally scheduled to become a free agent after 2023, though the Rays gave him a two-year deal worth $30.35 million in August to lock him up through 2024. The contract structure:
- 2023: $5.35 million
- 2024: $25 million
It's easy to look at that and say yep, the Rays will trade Glasnow after 2023, and that very well might happen. But keep in mind he just came back from a major arm injury, and the Rays can't really afford him getting hurt again. Another injury would not only crush Glasnow's trade value, it would also put a lot of dead money on Tampa's always small payroll.
The Rays are in a good spot with Glasnow because they don't have to trade him. He came back in September and looked very good, so there are no concerns about him coming back from Tommy John surgery. They can market him as a full-fledged ace, and if no one meets their asking price, the Rays can take Glasnow into 2023 and trade him later. That carries risk, but it's doable.
Díaz was Tampa's best hitter in 2022 (by a lot) and his salary is set to jump into the $6 million range through arbitration. He is two years away from free agency and yeah, this is usually when the Rays trade their guys. It's not that they don't want to keep Díaz. It's that they don't have the payroll to support him.
Randy Arozarena deserves a mention here as well. He qualified as a Super Two, meaning he will go through arbitration four times rather than the usual three. His 2023 salary now projects around $4 million rather than something closer to the $720,000 league minimum. Super Two status turned Arozarena into a trade candidate.
Possible landing spots: Cubs, Dodgers, Padres, and any team that expects to contend in 2023 and 2024 is a possible landing spot for Glasnow. Díaz fits better at first base but he's playable at third. The Astros, Brewers and Padres all make sense as trade suitors.
10. Amed Rosario, Guardians
11. Shane Bieber, Guardians
Cleveland changed the narrative earlier this year when the club signed José Ramírez to a nine-figure extension rather than trade him one year before free agency like Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Francisco Lindor, and others. Will Rosario get an extension next? Or will he be moved prior to his contract year like all those others?
Bieber is two years away from free agency, not one, so there is less urgency to make a decision about his long-term future. There is no doubt he will generate a ton of trade interest though. Bieber is one of the best pitchers in the sport and the Guardians are not afraid of trading a core player while the team's contention window is open. I think it's more likely one of Aaron Civale or Zach Plesac is moved this winter than Bieber, but by no means is Bieber untouchable. The team's track record tells us so.
Possible landing spots: Cardinals, Phillies, and Rockies for Rosario. One year of team control figures to limit his market to teams expected to contend (or teams that have convinced themselves they can contend like Colorado) in 2023. For Bieber, every team is a possible fit there, with the Cubs, Orioles, and his hometown Angels making the most sense.
12. Anthony Santander, Orioles
It feels like something has to give with Baltimore's outfield. Prospect Kyle Stowers made his MLB debut this August and Colton Cowser, the No. 5 pick in the 2021 draft, blew the doors off the minors and reached Triple-A in 2022. He'll be up at some point next season. The O's are on the rise, but GM Mike Elias is a ruthless efficiency type, and trading Santander when his value is at its highest after a 33-homer season seems right up his alley.
Possible landing spots: Blue Jays, Marlins, Rockies. Toronto badly needs a lefty bat with some thump and Santander is a switch-hitter who provides that thump. He was better against lefties than righties in 2022, though that was out of line with the rest of his career.
13. Tyler O'Neill, Cardinals
Even after trading Harrison Bader at the deadline, the Cardinals are deep enough in outfielders to trade another one, and O'Neill is closer to free agency than Dylan Carlson, Lars Nootbaar, and top prospect Alec Burleson. O'Neill was unable to repeat his 2021 magic in 2022 and he is only two years away from free agency. This isn't a must-trade scenario, but if the Cardinals are going to make a move, the outfield is still their position of greatest depth and O'Neill is the likeliest candidate to go.
Possible landing spots: Giants, Padres, Red Sox. O'Neill's swing-and-miss tendencies can be scary, but he's a sneaky-great defender who would fit well in spacious outfields like Petco Park and Oracle Park. Also, could you imagine a righty who posts some of the league's best exit velocities and pulls the ball nearly 50 percent of the time in Fenway Park?
14. Rhys Hoskins, Phillies
The Phillies were just two wins away from a World Series title and pennant winners don't usually break up the band, but Hoskins is a year away from free agency and Philadelphia is a flawed team with glaring holes to address. The Phillies need to improve their defense, first and foremost, and perhaps cut down on the swing and miss. Hoskins has always been a reliable power source, though he will strike out in bunches, and he is a liability at first base.
Furthermore, Hoskins turns 30 in March, and the Phillies are unlikely to sign him long-term given who is already on their books (i.e. several similar DH types). Sure, they could run it back with Hoskins in 2023 and try to make another run. It also makes sense to explore the trade market as part of their larger efforts to improve the defense and diversify the offense. Hoskins is Philadelphia's longest-tenured position player and trading guys like that hurts. Sometimes it is necessary though.
Possible landing spots: Mariners, Padres, Twins. The one year of control means only teams intent on contending in 2023 with pursue Hoskins aggressively.
15. Gleyber Torres, Yankees
16. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Yankees
Give the Yankees a truth serum and I think they'd tell you they wish they could hit undo on the trade that brought Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson over from the Twins last offseason. That one was a stinker. No undo button exists though, and unloading Donaldson and the $29 million he's owed in 2023 will be close to impossible. Shedding Kiner-Falefa, who has one affordable season of arbitration-eligibility remaining, will be easier, not that he has much trade value.
As for Torres, the Marlins and Yankees reportedly discussed a Torres for Pablo López trade at the deadline and those talks could be picked back up this offseason. Torres is two years away from free agency now, and while he had a bounce-back season, he hasn't come close to repeating his 38-homer effort in 2019. The Yankees don't have much flexibility with their infield and Torres is far and away their most tradeable infielder. He could fetch a quality return. The other guys, no so much.
Possible landing spots: Mariners, Marlins, and White Sox for Torres. Quite a few clubs need a second base upgrade and figure to touch base with the Yankees at some point. Kiner-Falefa's market is a bit narrower because he's a utility guy with just the only year of control remaining. The Brewers, D-Backs, and Twins could kick the tires.
17. Bryan Reynolds, Pirates
Reynolds is at the point now where he will be mentioned as a trade candidate every offseason and every deadline until he actually gets traded, or until the Pirates sign him to a long-term contract. He turns 28 in January and is three years away from free agency, and it's fair to wonder whether his peak years will align with the team's return to contention. If the Pirates believe they're, say, three years away from contending, does it make sense to lock up Reynolds so he's in his 30s when your window opens?
Needless to say, a switch-hitting outfielder with power and on-base skills with three years of control is very valuable and will be in very high demand, even if his defense fits best in left field rather than center. I don't know whether the Pirates will move him this winter, but the longer Reynolds goes without an extension, the closer he gets to being traded.
Possible landing spots: Mariners, Marlins, Yankees. You needn't try all that hard to see Reynolds fitting with just about any team. The production and three years of control makes him desirable to immediate contenders and teams that think they're a year away.
18. Willy Adames, Brewers
19. Corbin Burnes, Brewers
The Brewers are approaching tough decision time with their core. Adames, Burnes, and Brandon Woodruff (and Eric Lauer) will all be free agents after 2024 and there's no chance Milwaukee can retain them all long-term. The only way it happens is owner Mark Attanasio raising payroll to a level never before seen for this franchise. Possible? Sure. Likely? No way.
Burnes, the 2021 NL Cy Young winner, confirmed there have been no extension discussions with the Brewers a few weeks ago. He also took note of the Josh Hader trade. Hader started to get expensive through arbitration and Milwaukee sent him away at the deadline, when he was a year-and-a-half away from free agency. Burnes will be in the same situation at next year's deadline.
"You would think maybe there would have been some initial talks last offseason, but nothing," Burnes told MLB.com about extension talks in September. "... For anyone who isn't on a long-term deal, once you get into your later years of arbitration, anything can happen. We saw it with Hader. We might see it this offseason. I don't know what route the front office is going to take. It's one of those things you start looking at. You hope you're here for the long-term -- two more years, seven more years, eight more years, 10 more years, whatever it may be -- you hope to be in one jersey your entire career. But there's other things that go into that."
Woodruff is more than a year older than Burnes and he doesn't have the Cy Young padding his resume, so it stands to reason signing him long-term will be easier. The Brewers signing both Burnes and Woodruff will be close to impossible. So, the business decision could boil down to signing Woodruff long-term and trading Burnes for a godfather package. The sooner they trade him, the more they get in return, and the less injury risk they assume.
As for Adames, his salary will be up around $10 million next year through arbitration, and top shortstop prospect Brice Turang had a strong Triple-A season and is knocking on the door. The free-agent market is loaded with high-end shortstops (Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson), and teams that don't want to swim in the deep end of the free agent pool could instead turn to the trade market, and pursue Adames as a Plan B.
Possible landing spots: Dodgers, Orioles, and Padres for Burnes, though his market will hardly be limited to those three teams. When a Cy Young winner with more than one year of control hits the market, the other 29 teams come calling. The Angels, D-Backs, and Yankees are potential suitors for Adames.
20. Shohei Ohtani, Angels
I know GM Perry Minasian said Ohtani will not be traded this winter and I'm not calling him a liar. I'm just saying we've heard this before:
Nationals will not trade Juan Soto, GM says: 'Every intention of building this team around' star outfielder https://t.co/Y9zxykdRkp— CBS Sports MLB (@CBSSportsMLB) June 1, 2022
Other teams will not stop trying to trade for Ohtani. The Angels get calls about him nonstop and one of these days one of those calls will deliver an offer Minasian has no choice to take to his bosses. It could happen tomorrow. Do I think Ohtani will be traded? No. The chances he gets traded are not zero though, no matter what Minasian says.
Possible landing spots: Braves, Cubs, Giants. Like I said, I don't think the Angels will trade Ohtani this offseason. We are going to hear a ton of rumors about teams checking in through. It is inevitable.