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Top MLB free agents of 2023: Aaron Judge, Nolan Arenado surge as MVP candidates

Matt Johnson

The 2022 Major League Baseball season is underway with some of the top MLB free agents making impacts with their new teams. After witnessing the 2022 MLB lockout impact free agency, that won’t be an issue in the 2022-’23 winter frenzy.

Baseball fans can look forward to some of the most exciting talent hitting the open market next offseason. Thanks to the likes of Aaron Judge, Trea Turner and Rafael Devers not reaching extensions with their clubs, we’ll see huge contracts signed with plenty of big names on the move.

Bookmark this page for updates throughout the season. Our rankings of the best MLB free agents in 2023 will be updated throughout the regular season and MLB playoffs.

Related: Highest paid MLB players in 2022

When does MLB free agency start?

MLB free agents could sign with a new team five days after the World Series. The five-day period gives teams an exclusive window to negotiate with their impending free-agent talent.

There is one new potential rule that could significantly impact many of the MLB free agents next winter. If the MLB and players’ union agree on a MLB World Draft – including international players – the league would eliminate draft-pick compensation tied to any players who reject a qualifying offer. It should be a boost for players, with interested teams no longer factoring in the negative of losing a draft pick for signing a free agent.

Best MLB free agents in 2023

We saw some of the best players in baseball hit the open market in the 2021-’22 free-agent class. Incredibly, the pool of MLB free agents in 2023 will be even better.

Let’s dive into our top-10 free agents in MLB next offseason. We’ll add other marquee names in the months ahead. Players like Aaron Nola, Max Muncy and Tim Anderson are off the top-10 rankings because their clubs will likely exercise the 2023 team options.

Stats courtesy Baseball Reference and FanGraphs

1. Aaron Judge, outfielder, New York Yankees (Previously: 5)

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  • Aaron Judge stats (2021): 39 home runs, 24 doubles, 158 hits, .287/.373/.544, 149 OPS+, 5.5 fWAR

This was always the danger of not getting a contract extension done for the New York Yankees. Seeing the organization throwing him under the bus publicly, Judge’s motivation in a contract year kicked up even more. Age (30) isn’t on his side, but he is arguably the best hitter in baseball this year. Plus, Judge is also one of the most marketable figures in the sport. If he finishes the season healthy, Judge will be the No. 1 free agent in 2023. Assuming that happens, we’re looking at a multi-year contract worth $35 million per season.

Related: New York Yankees schedule, roster and 2022 predictions

2. Carlos Correa, shortstop, Minnesota Twins

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Minnesota Twins
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  • Carlos Correa stats (2021): 26 home runs, 34 doubles, 155 hits, .279/.366/.850, 131 OPS+, 5.8 fWAR

The Carlos Correa contract works out perfectly for both the team and player. Minnesota gets at least a year of one of the best shortstops in MLB. Meanwhile, Correa can use the 2022 season to prove his durability issues are behind him. If he stays healthy, he can use the opt-out this winter and will find plenty of seven-year contracts worth $30-plus million. Based on how he is playing right now, it’s no surprise MLB teams expect him to be a 2023 MLB free agent.

3. Trea Turner, shortstop, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previously: 1)

MLB: Spring Training-San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers
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  • Trea Turner stats (2021): 28 home runs, 32 steals, 195 hits, .328/.375/.536, 152 OPS+, 6.9 fWAR

There’s a strong argument to be made that Trea Turner deserved National League MVP this past season. Even without it, this is an All-MLB Team selection and NL batting champion who does it all. He’s the perfect leadoff hitter, capable of hitting for power and a consistent threat to reach base then do damage on the base paths. The Dodgers will need to make him one of the highest paid MLB players in 2023 or another team that needs an MVP-caliber shortstop will.

Turner does move down in our rankings of the top 2023 MLB free agents, but he is improving after a slow start to the season. Defensively things aren’t great (-5 Defensive Runs Saved), but this is still a phenomenal player who would be perfect in the leadoff spot for so many teams.

4. Xander Bogaerts, shortstop, Boston Red Sox

MLB: Spring Training-Atlanta Braves at Boston Red Sox
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  • Xander Bogaerts stats (2021): 23 homers, 34 doubles, 156 hits, .295/.370/.493, 127 OPS+, 5.2 fWAR

Fans might want to enjoy Xander Bogaerts for every game left on the Boston Red Sox schedule. Between the signing of Trevor Story and Bogaerts rejecting a contract extension, the signs of a split feel evident. Turning 30 in October, Bogaerts offers 20-plus home runs, a high OBP and strong defense at shortstop. He’s vastly superior to Javier Baez (6 years, $140 million) and should cash in next winter with the biggest contract in his MLB career. Given the direction things are headed between Bogaerts and Boston, an in-season trade might be possible.

5. Nolan Arenado, third base, St. Louis Cardinals (Previously: 6)

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Miami Marlins
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  • Nolan Arenado contract: 2023 player option, $35 million per season (2023-’24), $32 million (2025), $27 million (2026), $15 million (2027)

It’s no longer much of a decision for Nolan Arenado. The All-Star third baseman is an NL MVP candidate this season, carrying the St. Louis Cardinals alongside Paul Goldschmidt. While there is plenty of money remaining on his current contract, Arenado has no reason to stick with it. Expect Arenado to exercise his opt-out clause, landing one more massive contract as he is still playing at an elite level.

6. Joe Musgrove, pitcher, San Diego Padres

MLB: San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
  • Joe Musgrove stats (2021): 3.18 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 27.1% K-rate, .210 BAA in 181.1 innings

Being traded to the San Diego Padres in 2021 might have earned Joe Musgrove tens of millions in future contract earnings. The new environment and pitching staff led to a career-best season, locking him in as San Diego’s ace for the 2022 season. Musgrove, 30 in December, proved himself as a front-line starter. With teams always desperate for pitching, especially those who often perform like an ace, Musgrove can turn another quality season into a $100 million contract.

8. Carlos Rodón, pitcher, San Francisco Giants

MLB: Miami Marlins at San Francisco Giants
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  • Carlos Rodón stats (2021): 2.37 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 34.6% K-rate, .186 BAA in 132.3 innings

Carlos Rodón will find himself ranked very differently among individual lists of the top 2023 MLB free agents. There’s also a chance – a remote one – that he declines his $22.5 million option for the 2023 season. If he stays healthy, the sky is the limit. He dominated in 2021 with the Chicago White Sox and he’s with an even better organization this season. All Rodón needs to do is stay healthy and throw 150-plus innings. Accomplish that and his stuff will land him a life-changing contract worth far more than $22.5 million.

Related: MLB top prospects 2022

8. Jacob deGrom, pitcher, New York Mets (Previously: 4)

MLB: Spring Training-Houston Astros at New York Mets
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
  • Jacob deGrom stats (2021): 1.08 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, 45.1% K-rate, .128 BAA in 92 innings

Injuries are the only thing preventing Jacob deGrom from being atop the MLB free agents in 2023. Elbow issues in 2021 and shoulder problems to open the 2022 season are a major concern. Despite the issues, deGrom is still expected to exercise his opt-out clause. He might have to settle for a short-term deal, if health issues persist in 2022, but deGrom will still make $30-plus million per season because he’s the best pitcher in MLB when healthy.

Unfortunately, the more time deGrom misses in 2022 adds more uncertainty to his potential earnings. Now slated to be sidelined until mid-July, which is the best-case scenario, deGrom slides down our 2023 MLB free agent rankings.

Related: 2022 MLB rotation rankings

9. Clayton Kershaw, pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers
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It all comes down to health with Clayton Kershaw. When he is on the mound and throwing without issue, the 34-year-old can still compete for the Cy Young Award. He’s a surefire Hall of Famer with the presence a team wants in the clubhouse and an ability to mentor young pitchers. We, just like MLB teams next offseason, worry about his ability to stay healthy over a full season and in October. That’s what pushes him further down the list among the top MLB free agents.

10. Noah Syndergaard, pitcher, Los Angeles Angels

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers
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Noah Syndergaard turned down a qualifying offer in MLB free agency to take a similar deal with the Los Angeles Angels. No matter where he pitched, effectiveness and durability are what everyone is monitoring. The fastball velocity (94.7 mph average) isn’t what it used to be (97.4 mph), which is a bit concerning. For now, talent and the value of front-line pitching still keeps him among the best MLB free agents in 2023.

11. Joey Gallo, outfielder, New York Yankees

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
  • Joey Gallo stats (2021): 38 home runs, 111 walks, .199.,351/.458, 121 OPS+, 3.5 fWAR

The profile isn’t changing. Joey Gallo is the definition of a three-outcome player. He hit 39 homers in 153 games last season, walking in 18% of plate appearances and striking out 34.6% of the time. We could see a slight uptick in his batting average with MLB dramatically reducing the shift in 2023. Even if that doesn’t happen a profile featuring power, versatility, defense and a high OBP will generate a strong market (I.e. Javier Baez).

12. Willson Contreras, catcher, Chicago Cubs

MLB: Spring Training-Kansas City Royals at Chicago Cubs
Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
  • Willson Contreras stats (2021): 21 home runs, 20 doubles, .237/.340/.438, 108 OPS+, 2.1 fWAR

There’s a reason the Philadelphia Phillies wouldn’t allow J.T. Realmuto, one of the top MLB free agents in 2020, to leave. Look at the catching market this past offseason, the options were extremely underwhelming. Heck, James McCann landed a four-year, $40 million contract two years ago.

Enter Willson Contreras. A two-time All-Star selection, the 29-year-old ranks third among catchers in FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (6.4) and has the second-highest OPS (.863) since 2019. He’s made strides behind the plate, too. At a time when so many teams are struggling at catcher, Contreras will be hitting free agency at the perfect time.

13. Nathan Eovaldi, pitcher, Boston Red Sox

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports
  • Nathan Eovaldi stats (2021): 3.75 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 25.5% K-rate, .252 BAA in 182.1 innings

Notice a theme among our top MLB free agents for the 2022-’23 offseason? Many of the best players expected to be available have some medical red flags. When available to pitch, Nathan Eovaldi’s stuff is electric and the righty isn’t losing his fastball. He threw 182.1 innings last season, but it was the first time he cracked 120-plus innings since 2016. For now, we’ll give him the No. 10 spot while acknowledging he could fall quickly.

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2023 MLB free agents by position

Here’s a quick look at the top MLB free agents in 2023 by position. The rankings will update throughout the 2022 season. More names will be added throughout the year.

Starting Pitchers

  1. Jacob deGrom, New York Mets – $30.5 million player option
  2. Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies – $16 million club option
  3. Trevor Bauer, Los Angeles Dodgers – $35.333 million player option
  4. Joe Musgrove, San Diego Padres – 2023 free agent
  5. Carlos Rodón, San Francisco Giants – $22.5 million player option
  6. Nathan Eovaldi, Boston Red Sox – 2023 free agent
  7. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
  8. Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox –$27.5 million player option
  9. Chris Bassitt, New York Mets – 2023 free agent
  10. Noah Syndergaard, Los Angeles Angels – 2023 free agent
  11. Luis Severino, New York Yankees – $15 million club option
  12. Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves – 2023 free agent
  13. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
  14. Sonny Gray, Minnesota Twins – $12 million club option

Catchers

  1. Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs
  2. Omar Narvaez, Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Gary Sanchez, Minnesota Twins
  4. Mike Zunino, Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Christian Vazquez, Boston Red Sox
  6. Austin Hedges, Cleveland Guardians
  7. Martin Maldonado, Baltimore Orioles

First Base

  1. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
  2. Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers – $13 million club option, $1.5 million buyout
  3. Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles
  4. Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros
  5. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins – $14 million club option, $2.75 million buyout
  6. Josh Bell, Washington Nationals
  7. Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants
  8. Jesus Aguilar, Miami Marlins
  9. Carlos Santana, Kansas City Royals
  10. Eric Hosmer, San Diego Padres – $13 million player option (3 years, $39 million remaining)

Second Base

  1. Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers – $13 million club option, $1.5 million buyout
  2. Kolten Wong, Milwaukee Brewers – $10 million club option, $2 million buyout
  3. Enrique Hernandez, Boston Red Sox
  4. Jean Segura, Philadelphia Phillies – $17 million club option, $1 million buyout
  5. Cesar Hernandez, Washington Nationals
  6. Donovan Solano, Cincinnati Reds

Shortstop

  1. Trea Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox – $20 million player option (4 years, $80 million remaining)
  3. Carlos Correa, Minnesota Twins – $35.1 million player option (2 years, $70.2 million remaining)
  4. Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox – $12.5 million club option, $1 million buyout
  5. Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves
  6. Didi Gregorius, Philadelphia Phillies
  7. Jonathan Villar, Chicago Cubs
  8. Andrelton Simmons, Chicago Cubs
  9. Elvis Andrus, Oakland Athletics – $15 million club option

Third Base

  1. Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals – $35 million player option (5 years, $144 million remaining)
  2. Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers – $16 million club option, $2 million buyout
  3. Evan Longoria, San Francisco Giants – $13 million club option, $5 million buyout
  4. Jonathan Villar, Chicago Cubs
  5. Jake Lamb, Los Angeles Dodgers
  6. Aledmys Diaz, Houston Astros

Outfield

  1. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
  2. Joey Gallo, New York Yankees
  3. Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners
  4. Michael Brantley, Houston Astros
  5. Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets
  6. Enrique Hernandez, Boston Red Sox
  7. A.J. Pollock, Chicago White Sox – $10 million player option, $5 million buyout
  8. Wil Myers, San Diego Padres – $20 million club option, $1 million buyout
  9. Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays – $13 million club option, $2.5 million buyout
  10. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies – $10 million player option
  11. Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers
  12. Jackie Bradley Jr, Boston Red Sox
  13. Andrew McCutchen, Milwaukee Brewers
  14. Tommy Pham, Cincinnati Reds – $6 million mutual option, $1.5 million buyout
  15. Joc Pederson, San Francisco Giants

Designated Hitter

  1. Nelson Cruz, Washington Nationals – $16 million mutual option
  2. J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox

Relief Pitchers

  1. Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
  2. Edwin Díaz, New York Mets
  3. Kenley Jansen, Atlanta Braves
  4. Craig Kimbrel, Los Angeles Dodgers
  5. Taylor Rogers, San Diego Padres
  6. Blake Treinen, Los Angeles Dodgers
  7. Will Smith, Atlanta Braves – $13 million club option, $1 million buyout
  8. Zack Britton, New York Yankees
  9. Chad Green, New York Yankees
  10. Pedro Baez, Houston Astros– $7.5 million club option, $2 million buyout
  11. Corey Knebel, Philadelphia Phillies
  12. Daniel Hudson, Los Angeles Dodgers
  13. Jake McGee, San Francisco Giants – $4.5 million club option, $500,000 buyout
  14. Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers – $5 million club option, $750,000 buyout
  15. Trevor May, New York Mets
  16. Andrew Chafin, Detroit Tigers
  17. Ken Giles, Seattle Mariners – $9.5 million club option, $500,000 buyout
  18. Anthony Bass, Miami Marlins – $3 million club option