- Giancarlo Stanton has been increasing his on-field activities, and Yankees manager Aaron Boone told ESPN’s Marly Rivera and other reporters that Stanton will hopefully be able to have “a full pregame workout” within the next day or two. Once that step is established, the team can explore a rehab timeline for Stanton, who has been on the 10-day IL since July 24 due to left Achilles tendinitis.
Mike Trout has been cleared to run and throw, and the former MVP is scheduled to take batting practice on the field today. Trout and Angels head trainer Mike Frostad spoke with reporters (including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register) yesterday, with Trout expressing confidence that he’ll be able to return to the lineup “sooner rather than later.” A more specific timeline isn’t yet known, as Trout may require a minor league rehab assignment.
Trout has now missed a full month of action due to left ribcage inflammation and back spasms, and Frostad’s past update about Trout’s larger-scale back problems (a costovertebral dysfunction) left concern over both Trout’s short-term and near-term future. Given that Trout ended up missing almost all of the 2021 season due to a calf problem that just kept lingering, fans probably won’t be fully relieved until they actually see Trout back on the field, no matter this latest positive news about his rib injury.
More on the Halos…
- Frostad also provided details on several other injured Angels players, including 60-day injured list members Michael Lorenzen, Matt Duffy, and Archie Bradley. Lorenzen has thrown two bullpen sessions this week and will face live batters on Tuesday. The right-hander (who has sidelined by a shoulder strain) is tentatively expected to be activated from the 60-day IL when first eligible on September 2. Duffy’s first eligible activation date is August 26, and the infielder is slated to start a minor league rehab assignment next week as he makes his return from back spasms. The news isn’t as good on Bradley, who has been out since late June with a fractured right elbow and has yet to start throwing, though Frostad suggested that Bradley could start throwing this week. Given Bradley’s long layoff and the amount of rehab still to come, he might not pitch again in 2022.
- Mickey Moniak’s season was though to be in jeopardy when the outfielder fractured the tip of his left middle finger, which sent him to the 10-day IL on August 7. Frostad said that Moniak’s stitches were removed yesterday, and depending on how he heals, might be able to return even if Moniak might still be playing through some discomfort. Acquired from the Phillies as part of the Noah Syndergaard trade at the deadline, Moniak played just five games for the Angels before hitting the injured list.
- The Mets and Yankees were among the teams also interested in acquiring Raisel Iglesias prior to the deadline, the New York Post’s Jon Heyman writes. However, neither New York club was willing to cover all of the $51.5MM remaining on Iglesias’ contract, while other teams were willing to take that deal entirely off the Angels’ books. Los Angeles ended up moving Iglesias to the Braves for Tucker Davidson and Jesse Chavez, but though the Halos dealt Iglesias and Syndergaard, Shohei Ohtani remained. “Half the teams or more” around baseball inquired about Ohtani, Heyman reports, and Heyman views owner Arte Moreno’s refusal to trade Ohtani as a missed chance. With Ohtani set for free agency after the 2023 season, there has already been a lot of speculation that he could be on his way out of Anaheim, and in search of a potential record-setting contract that reflects his unique two-way skillset.
The Yankees were known to be interested in Luis Castillo before the trade deadline. Jon Heyman of the New York Post sheds some light on the team’s discussions with the Reds, reporting that New York put outfield prospect Jasson Dominguez on the table. Heyman reiterates that New York refused to make top shortstop prospect Anthony Volpe available, however, and it’s unclear whether they were amenable to giving up fellow infielder Oswald Peraza either.
Volpe and Peraza are the only two Yankees farmhands who appeared on Baseball America’s most recent ranking of the league’s top 100 prospects. Dominguez checks in fifth in the New York system, per BA. The highest-profile player in the 2019-20 international amateur class, the switch-hitting Dominguez has big power potential but is now seen by many evaluators as likely to eventually move to a corner outfield position. He’s impressed offensively during his first full season at an affiliate, however, hitting .265/.373/.440 with nine homers and 19 stolen bases over 324 plate appearances in Low-A before being bumped up to High-A last month.
Details on the Yankees conversations with the Reds are ultimately an historical footnote, as Cincinnati wound up shipping Castillo to the Mariners for a package headlined by infielders Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo (each of whom appeared among BA’s top 50 farmhands). The Yankees then pivoted to Oakland in their search for an impact starter, landing Frankie Montas for a prospect package headlined by Ken Waldichuk and JP Sears.
Some additional notes on the Yankees big league club:
- Luis Severino has missed the past month after suffering a lat strain, but he’s making progress in his rehab. The righty threw off flat ground of a distance of 120 feet this afternoon, as Bryan Hoch of MLB.com was among those to relay (Twitter link). He’s scheduled for a bullpen session on Monday, his first mound work since landing on the injured list. Severino was transferred to the 60-day IL earlier this month (to his chagrin), but Hoch suggests the club anticipates he’ll make multiple starts in September. That indicates he’s on track to be reinstated around when first eligible during the second week of next month.
- Infielder Matt Carpenter, meanwhile, went for a visit with a specialist after fracturing his left foot on a foul ball on Monday (relayed by Hoch and Marly Rivera of ESPN). He’ll go a couple weeks without weight-bearing and be reevaluated at some point next month. Further testing confirmed the preliminary diagnosis of a 6-8 week recovery timetable for Carpenter’s return to game action, giving him a chance to make it back for a postseason push. The 36-year-old mashed at a .305/.412/.727 clip through 47 games after signing with the Yankees in May, so it’d be a key boost if the club could welcome his left-handed bat back for the stretch run. Carpenter will be a free agent at year’s end, so a late-season comeback and productive showing in October would also serve as a nice boost to his market.
Yesterday, MLBTR checked in on the status of seven players who have vesting options in their contracts for the 2023 season. Each can (or already has) lock in some guaranteed money or the right to opt out of their current deal based on their workload or finish in awards voting this year.
Over the next two days, we’ll turn our attention to players with less of a say over their contractual status. A host of contracts around the league contain club options for 2023. Some of them will be easy decisions one way or the other, while there are others that’ll be more borderline calls. With teams having to make these calls a little over two months from now, it’s worth taking a look at how these players are performing in 2022.
Today, we’ll start with the American League. We’ll follow up with a look at the Senior Circuit tomorrow.
- Jordan Lyles, SP ($11MM option, $1MM buyout)
Baltimore signed Lyles to a $7MM guarantee last winter, taking the form of a $6MM salary for 2022 and at least a $1MM buyout on next year’s option. He’s been a fine back-end starter, working to a 4.35 ERA across 130 1/3 innings. Lyles has below-average strikeout, swinging strike and ground-ball rates, but he leads the club in innings pitched and is throwing plenty of strikes. He’s also drawn strong reviews for his work in the clubhouse with the team’s younger arms. A $10MM call is borderline for a 4th/5th starter type, but the Orioles have almost nothing on the books next season and could keep him around as a veteran stabilizer.
- James Paxton, SP (team must decide on consecutive $13MM options this offseason; Paxton would have $4MM player option for 2023 if club declines)
Paxton signed a convoluted deal last winter that reflected his atypical situation. A mid-rotation caliber starter when healthy, he’s made just six starts over the past three years and hasn’t pitched in an MLB game since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April. He’s making $6MM this season and could be a rotation option for a team that’ll see each of Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Wacha and Rich Hill hit free agency. The club will have to decide whether to trigger consecutive $13MM options (essentially a two-year, $26MM pact) this winter. If they decline, Paxton could opt in to a $4MM salary for 2023 or test free agency. How things play out largely depends on how Paxton looks down the stretch. Manager Alex Cora recently told reporters the southpaw will throw a simulated game on Friday and could soon head out on a minor league rehab appearance (link via Chris Cotillo of MassLive).
- Hirokazu Sawamura, RP (team holds option currently valued at $3.6MM; Sawamura holds player option for 2023 currently valued at $1.8MM if club declines)
Sawamura signed a two-year, $3MM guarantee with the Red Sox over the 2020-21 offseason. The deal also included a club option for 2023 valued anywhere between $3-4MM, depending on whether Sawamura held his roster spot and based on his number of appearances. MLBTR has confirmed that escalators have already pushed the value of the club option to $3.6MM; that price escalates by an additional $100K for reaching each of 45, 50 and 60 appearances this season. (He’s presently at 43 games). If the team declines, Sawamura would have the right to trigger a player option currently valued at $1.8MM. As with the club option, the player option price escalates by $100K for reaching 45, 50 and 60 appearances. If both sides bypass their respective options, Sawamura would receive a $1MM buyout.
It seems likely that Sawamura’s team option price will fall somewhere in the $3.8MM – 3.9MM range, with a $1.8MM gap between the value of the club and player options. That’s an acceptable price to pay for a solid reliever, albeit one who’s been relied upon more in lower-leverage innings. Sawamura has a 3.14 ERA in 97 1/3 innings since coming stateside, striking out a decent 23% of opponents with a strong 51.7% ground-ball rate. He’s had issues throwing strikes consistently, but he’s an affordable power arm for a middle innings group that has been one of the team’s biggest weaknesses. That the Red Sox haven’t given Sawamura much high-leverage work in spite of their bullpen struggles is enough of a red flag to put this one in some doubt, but it seems likelier they’ll keep him around.
- Luis Severino, SP ($15MM option, $2.75MM buyout)
Severino barely pitched between 2019-21 because of injuries, including a Tommy John recovery. He returned to the rotation this season and pitched to an impressive 3.45 ERA through 16 starts before suffering a lat injury that’ll cost him at least two months. The injury history is a real concern, but Severino still looks like an above-average starter when healthy. He’s averaged around 96 MPH on his fastball, struck out 27.2% of opposing hitters and has a tiny 7.2% walk rate. The Yankees would have to be very pessimistic about his health outlook to buy out his age-29 season, particularly since it’s only a $12.25MM decision once the buyout price is taken into account.
- Kevin Kiermaier, CF ($13MM option, $2.5MM buyout)
Kiermaier hit .228/.281/.369 over 221 plate appearances before suffering a season-ending left hip injury. It’s the latest in a long line of major health issues for the 32-year-old, and the Rays are planning to buy out the three-time Gold Glove winner. It’s possible the team tries to circle back at a lower price point, but the career-long Ray is likely to hit the open market for the first time in his career.
- Anthony Bass, RP ($3MM option, $1MM buyout)
The Jays just acquired Bass from the Marlins at the trade deadline, fortifying their bullpen with a productive middle-innings arm. Bass has an excellent 1.49 ERA through 48 1/3 innings on the year, striking out 26.2% of opponents against just a 5.9% walk rate. It’s a career-best season at age 34, but Bass has a sub-4.00 ERA for five years running. He’s an underrated bullpen piece, and the Jays are sure to bring him back for what amounts to a $2MM decision.
- Tim Anderson, SS ($12.5MM option, $1MM buyout)
This is as easy a call as any team will have to make this winter. Anderson has been one of the game’s better players four years running. He’s an elite contact hitter and baserunner, and he’s cemented himself as the Sox’s franchise shortstop. His 2022 season has been dinged by injuries, including a recent hand ligament tear that’ll cost him most of the remaining schedule. Frustrating year aside, Anderson has hit at a quality .301/.339/.395 clip this season and been an All-Star caliber performer in prior years. The White Sox are keeping him around next year, and they can do the same in 2024 via $14MM option.
- Josh Harrison, 2B ($5.5MM option, $1.5MM buyout)
Harrison signed a one-year deal in Spring Training and got off to a dreadful start. The veteran utilityman has turned things on since the calendar flipped to June, though, and he now carries a roughly league average .242/.312/.385 line through 281 plate appearances. The Sox will have to make a $4MM call this offseason on whether to bring him back for 2023. They’ll probably look for an upgrade at second base, but that’s a reasonable enough sum to dedicate to a quality infielder off the bench. Chicago already has Leury García making decent money in that role, and they might prefer to focus their finances on adding to the back of the rotation and bringing back star first baseman José Abreu.
- Bryan Shaw, RP ($4MM option, $500K buyout)
Shaw is a longtime member of the Cleveland organization, having spent seven of his 11 MLB seasons there. He’s a durable bullpen workhorse who’s clearly a favorite of the coaching staff and front office, but his 2022 results have not been good. The 34-year-old righty owns a 5.36 ERA across 40 1/3 innings. He’s only striking out 17.7% of opponents, walking batters at an elevated 11.6% clip and has had some home run issues. The Guardians seem likely to go in another direction this offseason.
- Miguel Sanó, 1B ($14MM option, $3MM buyout)
Sanó is a longtime member of the organization who’s capable of carrying a lineup with his power at his best. His platform season has been a disaster, though, and the Twins are sure to buy out his option. The 29-year-old underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his knee in May. He returned briefly but went back on the 60-day injured list last week with additional knee concerns. It’s not clear whether he’ll make it back this season. Sanó has an .083/.211/.133 line in 20 games this year after slightly above-average offensive performances in 2020-21.
- Sonny Gray, SP ($13.1MM option, no buyout)
Just as Sanó’s option is certain to be bought out, Gray’s is a no-brainer to exercise. Minnesota acquired the right-hander from the Reds in Spring Training, sending last year’s first-round pick Chase Petty to Cincinnati. Gray lost some time on the injured list, but he’s posted an impressive 3.19 ERA with slightly above-average peripherals through his first 16 starts in a Twins uniform. A mid-rotation starter of his caliber is a solid bargain at the cost of his option, which played into the fairly high asking price the Twins had to relinquish in the trade.
- Dylan Bundy, SP ($11MM option, $1MM buyout)
The Twins bought low on Bundy on a one-year free agent deal, hoping he’d rebound from a dismal 2021 and look more like the mid-rotation arm he resembled in 2020. That hasn’t really transpired, as the right-hander has a 5.01 ERA through 93 1/3 innings. He’s averaging a personal-low 89.2 MPH on his fastball, and while he’s throwing plenty of strikes, that lack of velocity has been reflected in both his 18.6% strikeout rate and higher than average home run rate. It seems likely the Twins will decline the option and reallocate that $10MM elsewhere, particularly with the recent acquisition of Tyler Mahle and Kenta Maeda’s expected return reducing the urgency to add to the rotation next season.
- Will Smith, RP ($13MM option, $1MM buyout)
Acquired in a one-for-one deadline swap that sent Jake Odorizzi to Atlanta, Smith is having a generally disappointing year. He has a 4.17 ERA through 41 innings, striking out a personal-worst 24.1% of batters faced with a career-high 11.2% walk rate. Smith was an effective late-game arm as recently as a season ago and is still generating swinging strikes at a quality 14.2% clip, but the $12MM price tag seems likely to be too hefty given the mediocre strikeout and walk numbers.
- Stephen Piscotty, RF ($15MM option, $1MM buyout)
Piscotty has spent five seasons in Oakland after being acquired from the Cardinals heading into the 2018 campaign. He had an excellent first season in green and gold, but he’s been a well below-average hitter fours years running now. Going back to the start of 2019, Piscotty has a .231/.288/.380 line in just under 900 trips to the plate. He’s sure to be bought out and could be looking at minor league offers next winter.
- Ken Giles, RP ($9.5MM option, $500K buyout)
Seattle signed Giles to a two-year deal knowing he’d miss all of 2021 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Unfortunately, hopes of a year two payout have been largely derailed by a finger issue that delayed his season debut and some shoulder tightness that has kept him out of action for the past month. Giles has thrown just 4 1/3 innings in a Seattle uniform, surrendering only one hit but four walks with six strikeouts. He’s averaged 94.8 MPH on his fastball, still solid but down from the 96.9 MPH range he showed during his incredible 2019 season with the Blue Jays. There’s a non-zero chance Giles returns — he’s currently on a rehab assignment in Triple-A — and dominates down the stretch to make Seattle think about the option. For the moment, though, it’s trending towards a buyout.
- Garrett Richards, RP ($9MM option, $1MM buyout)
Texas signed the 34-year-old Richards to a one-year guarantee over the offseason, hoping he’d build off the promise he showed in a late-season bullpen stint with the Red Sox. That hasn’t panned out, as he has a 5.35 ERA across 38 2/3 innings of relief. Richards has an excellent 52.1% ground-ball rate, but he’s not missing as many bats as one would like and he’s giving up a lot of hard contact. Texas seems likely to buy him out.
- José Leclerc, RP ($6MM option, $750K buyout)
Texas signed Leclerc to an early-career extension in 2019, locking him in after a 1.56 ERA season the year before. He struggled with his control the following season, then missed virtually all of 2020-21 battling elbow issues that eventually culminated in Tommy John surgery. Leclerc returned to the mound in June but has a 4.01 ERA with a personal-low 20.4% strikeout percentage in 24 2/3 innings of generally low-leverage work. He’s still throwing hard and missing plenty of bats with his slider, so there’s a chance Texas takes an optimistic view and keeps him around. His deal also contains a $6.25MM option for 2024, so he’d be under control for multiple seasons if the Rangers are willing to give him a bit of a longer leash. This feels like it could go either way depending on how he performs down the stretch.
- Kole Calhoun, RF ($5.5MM option, no buyout)
The Rangers signing of Calhoun to a one-year deal over the winter hasn’t panned out. He’s hitting .211/.269/.363 through 350 plate appearances and is currently on the injured list with a heel issue. It’s a second straight below-average season for the veteran outfielder, who’ll be 35 in October. The Rangers will almost assuredly decline the option and look elsewhere in right field as they aim for legitimate competitiveness in 2023.
Aug. 10: Carpenter will not require surgery, tweets Marly Rivera of ESPN. He’ll be reevaluated in a month, with the club hopeful he could be back to action in six-to-eight weeks. That gives Carpenter a shot of returning for the stretch run and/or postseason play.
Aug. 9: The Yankees placed Carpenter on the 10-day injured list today, recalling Miguel Andujar to take his spot on the active roster.
Aug. 8: Yankees utilityman Matt Carpenter fractured his left foot during tonight’s game against the Mariners, the club announced. He fouled a ball off his foot in the third inning and was immediately replaced by Tim Locastro.
The club will provide more specifics and a timetable for his recovery in the coming days. He’ll certainly require an injured list stint, and whether his season is in jeopardy should be known shortly. Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies fractured his foot in mid-June and has yet to embark on a rehab assignment, with the club estimating his recovery in the two-to-three month range. Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor suffered a less devastating fracture in early July and returned to action over the weekend, missing exactly one month of action. That’s not to say either player offers a definite comparison point for Carpenter. His recovery timeline surely depends on the placement and severity of the fracture.
The injury interrupts what has been one of the more remarkable stories of the 2022 season. A three-time All-Star, Carpenter seemed to be nearing the end of his career after three years of well below-average play to close out his tenure with the Cardinals. The 36-year-old overhauled his swing path over the offseason but was still limited to minor league offers. He signed a non-roster pact with his hometown Rangers, and while he played well in Triple-A, he didn’t have a path to playing time in Texas.
After being granted his release from his minor league deal with the Rangers, Carpenter received an immediate MLB opportunity with the Yankees. Brought on as a bench bat, he’s played his way into an increasingly larger role with an unbelievable bounceback season. Carpenter has connected on 15 home runs in 154 plate appearances, posting an otherworldly .305/.412/.727 line. He’s forced his way into the lineup, with manager Aaron Boone rotating him between designated hitter and all four corner positions.
New York is already without primary DH Giancarlo Stanton, who has been on the shelf for a couple weeks due to Achilles tendinitis. First baseman Anthony Rizzo has dealt with a nagging back issue in recent days, although he’s not required a stint on the injured list to this point.
A lot has changed since the last edition of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings. Joe Musgrove, formerly the No. 5 entrant on the list, has since signed a five-year extension with his hometown Padres, keeping him from reaching the market. Willson Contreras, the No. 9 entrant on that edition of the list, was somewhat stunningly not traded at the deadline, meaning he’ll be subject to draft-pick compensation. Jacob deGrom had yet to pitch at that point in the season but has now made a dominant pair of outings in his 2022 debut. More broadly, several players on the list or on the “honorable mention” portion of the list have altered their stock with strong play or faded.
Here’s a look at where things stand, with a reminder that this list is based on what the MLBTR team believes to be each player’s earning power in free agency — not necessarily a ranking of the “best” free agents or who’ll hold up the best over the life of a major free-agent contract.
1. Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees (Last ranked: 1): While plenty has changed since the May 25 version of these rankings, it’s business as usual for Judge, who boldly turned down a seven-year, $213.5MM extension offer back in Spring Training and now looks prescient for doing so. Judge was hitting .314/.386/.692 at the time of our last rankings and has followed that with a remarkably consistent .292/.390/.654 line in 64 games since. Judge is on pace to top Roger Maris’ 61 home runs from the 1961 season, leading the Majors not only in long balls (44) but also runs scored (93), RBIs (98), slugging percentage (.677), OPS (1.068) and wRC+ (196). He’s leading the AL with 122 hits and has even stolen a career-high 11 bases (without being caught).
Judge has been the best hitter on the planet since Opening Day, and as things currently stand, the only person who could conceivably stand in his way of winning his first AL MVP trophy would be Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani. However, great as Ohtani has been again in 2022, his offense isn’t quite what it was last year (and isn’t anywhere close to Judge’s league-leading dominance). From a pure WAR perspective, Judge has been so good this year that his value with the bat has eclipsed Ohtani’s combined value at the plate and on the mound.
Regardless, Judge is now poised to reach free agency on the heels of the finest season of his already brilliant big league career. He’ll play the 2023 season at age 31, which is about the only strike against him in free agency. Judge will receive and reject a qualifying offer from the Yankees, and even though he’d be 38 by the end of an eight-year deal, that seems plenty plausible. He could very well command the largest annual salary any position player has ever received, too, and a $300MM overall contract doesn’t seem out of the question. This is what it looks like to bet on yourself and win — in resounding, overwhelming fashion, no less.
2. Trea Turner, SS, Dodgers (LR: 3): There’s not much on the baseball field that Turner doesn’t do well. The 29-year-old is the sport’s fastest player, by measure of Statcast’s Average Sprint Speed, and he’s hitting .305/.345/.499 as of this writing. The 28 home runs he popped in 2021 might very well go down as a career-high, but Turner should finish this year around 25 dingers and has twice in the past hit 19 long balls (including in a 2019 season where he played in just 122 games).
That injury shortened ’19 campaign was the only one in the past half decade in which Turner spent significant time on the shelf. Over the past five years, he’s a .303/.358/.493 hitter who’s made a pair of All-Star teams, won a batting title and taken home a World Series ring.
By the end of a long-term deal, Turner will probably move off shortstop, but he’s a solid option there for now who’d be plenty capable of sliding over to second base at some point. Over the past three seasons, he’s been 43% better than league-average with the bat, by measure of wRC+, and this will be his fourth season of at least four wins above replacement in the past five years — with the 60-game 2020 season, when he boasted 2.8 fWAR and bWAR alike, being the lone exception.
If Turner had been born a day later, next year would technically be considered his age-29 season, but he’ll be 30 on June 30, and the July 1 cutoff is (for whatever reason) generally seen as the arbitrary turning point for a player’s age in a given year. A seven-year deal for Turner would run through age-37, and an eight-year deal through age-38. He’ll have to contend with a qualifying offer and another deep class of shortstops, but Turner is one of baseball’s most well-rounded players and figures to be compensated in line with the game’s 10 to 20 best position players.
3. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Cardinals (LR: 6): It’s difficult to directly compare Arenado’s 2022 season and the 2019 season that propelled Anthony Rendon to a seven-year, $245MM contract, given that Rendon’s Herculean ’19 effort came during the juiced-ball season. Offense is down league-wide now, yet Arenado stacks up favorably in terms of batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Metrics like wRC+ and OPS+, which weight for both home park and league environment, feel that Arenado’s 2022 production at the plate has actually been slightly better.
Defensively, Arenado is nearly peerless at his position. Since making his MLB debut in 2013, Arenado ranks second among all players, regardless of position, with 151 Defensive Runs Saved, trailing only Andrelton Simmons. He’s third to Francisco Lindor and Nick Ahmed in Statcast’s Outs Above Average, which tracks defensive data dating back to 2016. Arenado’s numbers aren’t inflated by early-career marks, either. He remains elite this season, ranking third in all of MLB in DRS and second in OAA. Defensive metrics and the eye test agree, as Arenado has been a human highlight reel at the hot corner for his decade-long career.
The age gap between 2022 Arenado (31) and 2019 Rendon (29) can’t be ignored. However, that should be more reflected in the length of a theoretical Arenado contract than in the annual value. It’s also, of course, worth noting that Arenado is technically under contract through 2027. He’s guaranteed $144MM in that time but has the right to opt out of the contract after the current season. Arenado forwent an opt-out clause after the 2021 season, but his 2022 campaign is the best of his career.
Even if he’s capped at a five-year deal in free agency, he should be able to trounce the current $28.8MM annual value remaining on his deal by as much as $5-7MM — and a six-year deal doesn’t seem impossible to imagine coming off such a brilliant effort. (Freddie Freeman scored a six-year deal beginning with his age-32 season, so there’s recent precedent.) Perhaps Arenado and the Cardinals will work out a compromise, and it’s always possible he decides he’s happy in St. Louis and just passes on the opt-out entirely. If he does want to test the market again, however, there could be another $20-60MM in earning power for him on top of his current deal.
4. Carlos Correa, SS, Twins (LR: 2): The 2022 season might not have gone quite as well as either Correa or the Twins hoped, but he’s still enjoying a sound all-around year, hitting .265/.343/.433 (22% better than league average, by measure of wRC+). He got out to a slow start in April and has slumped following the All-Star break, but for a three-month stretch from late April to late July, Correa hit .308/.375/.509. Provided the current slump doesn’t last too long, Correa stands a decent chance to be around 30% better than average at the plate for the second straight season and third time in four years.
Last year’s all-world defensive ratings have taken a dip thus far in 2022 — surprising for a player who has generally been a consistent source of elite glovework. He’s made five throwing errors this season, tied for his most since 2016, but Correa has been plenty sure-handed, booting just two balls hit to him. He’s spent the year throwing to Miguel Sano and a pair of makeshift first baseman who’ve converted from other positions (Luis Arraez, Jose Miranda), so perhaps some of the throwing miscues can be forgiven by a team with a better defensive outlook at first base.
If those first couple paragraphs feel like they’re filled with caveats — well, they are. The simple fact is that Correa hasn’t had as strong a season as he did in 2021 and probably shouldn’t be expected to command the type of contract many (MLBTR included) thought to be possible last offseason. That said, Correa still hasn’t even turned 28 — the age at which he’ll play nearly all of the 2023 season. His youth alone gives him the chance to command the longest contract of any free agent this winter; even a 10-year deal would run through age-37.
That type of contract may not be on the table without a huge finish, but Correa is still a plus defender and well above-average hitter with age on his side. It’s perhaps narrowly more plausible that he could opt into a second year with the Twins, take another $35.1MM salary and hope to hit free agency on the heels of a stronger platform in 2023, but his current earning power is still among the best in this year’s free-agent class.
5. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (LR: 4): When the last version of our list was published, Bogaerts had homered just four times in 174 plate appearances while posting a below-average .135 ISO (slugging minus batting average). It was easy enough to overlook as little more than small-sample noise at the time, but Bogaerts has hit just five home runs in 267 plate appearances since that time and now has nine long balls and a tepid .141 ISO in 441 trips to the plate. That’s the worst power output we’ve seen from Bogaerts since 2017 by an overwhelming margin. From 2018-21, he belted 90 homers in 2106 plate appearances while turning in a stout .224 ISO.
Bogaerts is still hitting .311/.383/.452 on the season, but he’s also sporting a career-high .382 average on balls in play that he’s not going to sustain — particularly not when his average exit velocity, barrel rate and hard-hit rate are at their lowest or near-lowest levels since 2017.
There’s still no doubt that Bogaerts will opt out of the remaining three years and $60MM on his contract, but he’d be higher on this list if not for his power stroke going MIA. Couple that with ongoing questions about his defense — some teams are surely going to see Bogaerts as a player who needs to move off shortstop, perhaps as soon as 2023 — and the current free-agent outlook is a bit murkier than expected.
Nevertheless, Bogaerts has a long track record of excellent offense and well above-average power output. With a strong finish to the season, particularly in the power department, he should have no problem commanding a notable nine-figure deal — and something in excess of $200MM can’t be ruled out.
6. Jacob deGrom, RHP, Mets (LR: 7): The No. 6 ranking here for deGrom factors in something of a best-case scenario, but this list is based on earning power, after all. If deGrom gets hurt again or struggles down the stretch, it’s possible he’ll drop off the list entirely. The latter of those two scenarios seems unlikely, though, as deGrom hasn’t “struggled” since 2017. He’s been dominant through his first two starts of the 2022 season, averaging 99.2 mph with his fastball and holding opponents to three runs on four hits and a walk with 18 punchouts through 10 2/3 innings.
Dating back to 2018, deGrom has a comical 1.95 ERA in 591 2/3 innings with a 34.9% strikeout rate against a 5.3% walk rate. When healthy, deGrom is simply unmatched in terms of starting pitching dominance over that period. He ranks second among all Major League pitchers with 24 wins above replacement dating back to 2018, per FanGraphs, despite the fact that he’s made only 93 starts in that time. Max Scherzer tops the list but has started 24 more games and logged 143 2/3 more innings — about an extra 75% of a season’s worth of work.
If deGrom finishes the season with no red flags, the bidding should be furious. He’ll turn 35 next June, making him nearly three full years younger than Scherzer was when he secured his record-setting three-year, $130MM deal from the Mets. DeGrom could justifiably look to top that AAV on a multi-year deal, and he’s too good for the bidding to stop at two years. The biggest question surrounding deGrom is just how many years someone will be willing to guarantee. A three-year pact in excess of Scherzer’s seems doable, and a fourth year ought to be on the table as well.
7. Dansby Swanson, SS, Braves (LR: Not Ranked): Long a plus defender at shortstop, Swanson is having another strong year with the glove and a career year with the bat. He’s followed up a career-high 27 home runs in 2021 with a .292/.348/.461 showing through 463 trips to the plate. He’s been the beneficiary of a .375 average on balls in play that he surely won’t sustain over a larger sample, but Swanson is also making hard contact at a career-best 44.7% clip and elevating the ball more than he has in years past.
A greater walk rate than his current 7.3% clip or lower strikeout rate than his 26.3% mark would raise Swanson’s floor, but his glove alone will make him an above-average regular and he’s well on his way to his second straight 25-homer season. Add in that Swanson will play all of next season at 29 years old, and a nine-figure deal seems likely. Both Trevor Story and Javier Baez landed six-year, $140MM pacts last winter at the same age. Swanson will have to contend with a qualifying offer and with some more decorated shortstop options ahead of him on the market, but he’ll be in high demand all the same.
8. Carlos Rodon, LHP, Giants (LR: 8): Rodon was the best pitcher in baseball through late July in 2021, but he was capped to five innings per appearance (at most) down the stretch as he battled shoulder fatigue and diminished velocity. For a pitcher with Rodon’s injury history, that limited interest in him to the point that he took a two-year, $44MM deal with a chance to opt out following the 2022 season — provided he reached 110 frames.
Rodon has not only reached 110 innings — he’s shot past it with career-best velocity (95.8 mph average fastball) and another sub-3.00 ERA (2.95 through 128 1/3 frames thus far). Rodon is averaging just shy of six innings per outing and boasts a 31.2% strikeout rate against a 7.6% walk rate. He’s reached double-digit strikeouts in six of his 22 starts and held opponents to three or fewer runs in 18 of 22 tries.
Rodon’s fastball in his past eight starts is down about one mile per hour over his average from his first 14 starts, but it’s still been a healthy 95.1 mph in that stretch. That said, he threw a complete game on July 9, worked seven shutout innings on July 31, and averaged a resurgent 96 mph with his heater in his most recent outing. At least so far, Rodon doesn’t appear to be fading at all. If he can avoid the type of late swoon he experienced in 2021, he ought to find four- and five-year offers at superior annual values to this contract’s $22MM AAV. He’ll receive a qualifying offer and surely reject it, which isn’t ideal, but he has the best combination of age (30 all of next season) and 2022 performance of any starter on this year’s market.
9. Justin Verlander, RHP, Astros (LR: Not Ranked): Simply returning to make a full season’s worth of starts would’ve been a feat for a 39-year-old who had pitched just six innings since the end of the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. Verlander, of course, is no ordinary 39-year-old, and he’s not only returned but positioned himself as a front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award.
It’s a jaw-dropping feat, even for one of this generation’s best. Verlander has a 1.73 ERA with a 25.5% strikeout rate against a minuscule 4.6% walk rate. He’s averaging nearly 6 2/3 innings per start, sitting 95.1 mph with his heater — his second-best mark since way back in 2011 — and has thrown a quality start in 16 of his 20 appearances this year. Verlander hasn’t yielded more than one earned run in a start since June 18 and has held opponents to one or zero earned runs in a stunning 15 of 20 starts.
He’ll turn 40 in February, but Verlander has a legitimate case to break Max Scherzer’s $43.33MM AAV, particularly if he’s looking at a two-year deal. He’s said he wants to pitch into his mid-40s and looks as good as ever, though, so we shouldn’t discount the possibility that a team shrugs and goes to three guaranteed years for this generation’s most prolific workhorse. Verlander unlocked a $25MM player option when he reached 130 innings pitched, but he should be able to crush that in free agency even if he prefers to work out an extension with Houston.
10. Edwin Diaz, RHP, Mets (LR: Not Ranked): It’s been six years since Mark Melancon (four years, $62MM), Kenley Jansen (five years, $80MM) and Aroldis Chapman (five years, $85MM) each set new records for relief contracts in the same offseason. Diaz, the most dominant reliever in baseball this season, will have a chance to topple that Chapman record when he heads into free agency in advance of his age-29 season.
After a nightmarish first season in Queens, Diaz has righted the ship and become a spectacle in the best kind of way. He’s averaging 99.1 mph on his heater this season, has punched out 52.9% of his opponents and has an entrance more befitting of a professional wrestler than a Major League closer.
Diaz’s Baseball Savant profile looks like a video game cheat code. He’s leading the Majors in expected ERA, expected wOBA, expected batting average, expected slugging percentage, strikeout rate, whiff rate and ranks in the 99th percentile in average exit velocity, opponents’ chase rate, opponents’ barrel rate and fastball velocity. Diaz last allowed an earned run on June 18, and in 18 innings since that time he’s posted a 38-to-1 K/BB ratio while yielding just seven hits.
The 2022 version of Edwin Diaz might be the best reliever we’ve seen since Mariano Rivera. He’ll be hit with a qualifying offer, but it’s doubtful the teams pursuing him are going to even care about that. It’d be a surprise if Diaz doesn’t set a new contract record for relief pitchers this winter, and he could be baseball’s first nine-figure reliever.
The Yankees recently agreed to a minor league deal with reliever Joey Gerber, according to his transactions log at MLB.com. He’s been assigned to the organization’s complex in Florida, where he’ll presumably build into game shape before heading to an upper level affiliate.
Gerber, 25, was released by the Mariners in late June. The 6’4″ righty had dealt with a forearm strain for most of the first few months of the year, tossing a lone inning of complex ball with Seattle this season. That came on the heels of a 2021 campaign spent entirely on the minor league injured list, derailing Gerber’s attempts to carve out a role in the Mariners bullpen.
A former eighth-round draft choice, Gerber has 17 MLB appearances under his belt — all of which came with the Mariners during the abbreviated 2020 season. He tallied 15 2/3 innings of 4.02 ERA ball, averaging a decent 93.5 MPH on his fastball but only striking out 9.7% of batters faced. He’s missed bats at a much better rate in the minors, including a robust 31.3% strikeout rate in 22 2/3 frames at Double-A to close out the 2019 campaign. Baseball America had rated Gerber among the mid-tier prospects in the Seattle farm system before his recent spate of injuries, writing that his sinker-slider combination gave him a chance to be a high-leverage reliever.
It’s a no-risk dice roll for the Yankees to see if Gerber’s pre-injury form carries over after a lost season and a half. The Illinois product is still young enough to potentially carve out a middle innings role in the Bronx if he’s able to log some upper minors work over the next two months.
The Yankees had interest in the Tigers’ Tarik Skubal prior to the deadline, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports. Given how aggressively the Yankees were looking for pitching help, it isn’t surprising that they at least checked in on a talented and controllable arm like Skubal, who isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2026 season. Skubal ended up not being dealt anywhere, as while the Tigers were open to offers for “just about everyone” in the wake of a massively disappointing season, it would’ve naturally taken a huge trade package to obtain a pitcher that still looks like a significant part of Detroit’s present and future.
As poorly as 2022 has gone for the Tigers, they aren’t likely to abandon their plans to contend and immediately re-enter another rebuild phase, especially not with a lot of money already committed to such players as Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez. Since Skubal’s strong performance has been one of the few bright spots of Detroit’s season, moving Skubal might be just about the last thing the Tigers would do, so the Yankees’ pursuits might be limited to just monitoring the situation should plans change. Of course, New York landed a big arm at the deadline anyway in Frankie Montas.
More from the Bronx….
- Star prospect Oswald Peraza was hit on the hand by a pitch in today’s game, but x-rays didn’t reveal any broken bones, according to Conor Foley of The Scranton Times-Tribune (Twitter links). While it appears as though Peraza avoided any serious injury, it isn’t yet known if he might require at least a brief stint on the injured list if there’s any swelling or lingering soreness. While Anthony Volpe is often heralded as the Yankees’ shortstop of the future and one of baseball’s top prospects, Peraza is a top-100 prospect in his own right, and closer to the big leagues — Volpe is playing at Double-A while Peraza has hit .259/.328/.450 over 354 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. There has been speculation that Peraza could be a late-season call-up to New York, though this hand issue could potentially factor into when he could make his MLB debut.
- Derek Dietrich was issued a 50-game suspension after testing positive for the stimulant known as DMPA (1,4-dimethylpentylamine). As a result, Dietrich will miss the remainder of the Triple-A season. Dietrich has signed minor league contracts with the Yankees in each of the last two offseasons, with a brief stint with the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in the second half of the 2021 season. Best known for his time as a versatile regular with the Marlins, Dietrich hit a solid .245/.335/.428 over 2513 PA in the majors from 2013-2020 with the Marlins, Reds, and Rangers, and hasn’t since been back to the big leagues.
1:30pm: The Yankees announced the move, adding that Bard has been assigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
1:12pm: The Yankees have claimed right-hander Luke Bard off waivers from the Rays, reports Lindsey Adler of The Athletic (Twitter link). Tampa Bay designated Bard for assignment earlier in the week. The Yankees opened a spot on the 40-man roster this morning when they outrighted right-hander Carlos Espinal, so there’s a 40-man vacancy for the newly claimed Bard.
Bard, 31, possesses a tidy 1.93 ERA in 14 frames with Tampa Bay this season, though his small sample of work is a good example of how misleading earned run average can be. Bard has fanned only eight of the 56 batters he’s faced (14.3%) and walked seven of them (12.5%) in addition to plunking another pair. He’s been knocked around for a 4.88 ERA in 24 Triple-A innings so far in 2022 and came into the current season with a career 5.05 ERA and 5.32 FIP in 66 big league innings.
That said, Bard has long been able to spin his four-seamer at a higher rate than just about anyone in the game, and that’s again been the case in 2022, when his four-seamer’s spin rate sits in the 99th percentile among big league hurlers, per Statcast. He’s averaging 94.1 mph on the pitch and carries a solid enough 11.8% swinging-strike rate in his career (on all pitches combined). Bard is in his final minor league option year, so he can be sent back and forth between the Bronx and Triple-A Scranton without needing to pass through waivers for the remainder of this year at least.
The Yankees announced Friday that righty Carlos Espinal went unclaimed on waivers and has been assigned outright to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The team had not previously announced that the right-hander was designated for assignment or that he’d been placed on waivers.
Espinal, 25, had his contract selected to the big league roster Monday, 24 hours prior to the trade deadline, and optioned him back to Scranton the following day. He did not get into a game for his Major League debut before being passed through waivers, and is now once again off the 40-man roster. He hasn’t been outrighted previously in his career, so rejecting the assignment in favor of free agency was not an option.
Signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic back in 2015, Espinal has steadily climbed through the Yankees’ minor league ranks and generally posted solid results along the way (an ugly 2021 campaign standing as a notable exception). He’s righted the ship in 2022, however, logging a combined 50 2/3 innings of bullpen work between Double-A and Triple-A while recording a sharp 2.66 ERA with a 24.3% strikeout rate and an 11.7% walk rate he’d surely like to pare back a ways.
There’s no immediate corresponding move for Espinal’s subtraction from the 40-man roster, so for now, the Yankees sit at 39 players.