Top 20 MLB free-agent pitchers
With the offseason now underway, theScore examines the top 20 free-agent pitchers (statistics from 2022, ages as of Opening Day 2023).
1. Jacob deGrom, Rangers*
*deGrom signed 5-year, $185M contract with Rangers on Dec. 2
There's considerable risk associated with signing deGrom. The two-time Cy Young winner is arguably the most dominant hurler in the game, but he's struggled to stay on the field over the past few seasons. DeGrom has made just 26 starts over the past two campaigns and posted his highest ERA since 2017 across 11 starts in 2022. Despite the red flags, there will likely be several teams willing to sign him based on his tremendous upside. It will be interesting to see how much term deGrom can secure on what will likely be the last major payday of his illustrious career.
2. Carlos Rodon, Yankees*
*Rodon signed 6-year, $162M contract with Yankees on Dec. 15
2022 salary: $21.5M
Qualifying offer: Yes
Rodon is another high-risk, high-reward option. The talented left-hander has battled injuries but is coming off the best two-season stretch of his career; he set career highs in innings (178), fWAR (6.2), strikeouts (237), and HR/9 (0.61) across 31 starts in 2022. Rodon bet on himself coming out of the lockout, inking a two-year deal that allowed him to return to free agency on the heels of a strong performance. It's fair to assume Rodon will be able to secure a deal similar to the five-year, $110-million pact Kevin Gausman signed with the Toronto Blue Jays last November.
3. Justin Verlander, Mets*
*Verlander signed 2-year, $86.6M contract with Mets on Dec. 5
No one knew what to expect from Verlander in his first season after missing nearly two campaigns following Tommy John surgery. It turned out to be one of the most remarkable performances from a starting pitcher in decades. The veteran hurler is poised to win a third American League Cy Young Award and set new career bests in ERA (1.75) and BB/9 (1.49). Max Scherzer set the record with a $43.3-million average annual value on his three-year deal with the New York Mets, but Verlander could challenge for that crown on a potential two-year contract this winter.
4. Chris Bassitt, Blue Jays*
*Bassitt signed 3-year, $63M contract with Blue Jays on Dec. 12
2022 salary: $8.8M
Bassitt isn't as flashy as some of the top-tier arms, but he provides a high floor and consistency when he takes the ball; he's posted an ERA below 4.00 in every season since 2018. Though he isn't a top-of-the-rotation starter, any team looking for a dependable No. 3 option should probably consider adding the competitive Bassitt.
5. Kenley Jansen, Red Sox*
*Jansen signed 2-year, $32M contract with Red Sox on Dec. 7
Jansen continues to defy Father Time and deliver as one of baseball's pre-eminent ninth-inning stoppers. He hit the 40-save mark for the first time since 2017 this year, looking comfortable with the Atlanta Braves after spending the first 12 seasons of his career with the Dodgers. He's not as dominant as Diaz, but teams seeking a reliable option at the back end of the bullpen will likely be interested in adding Jansen.
6. Nathan Eovaldi, Rangers*
*Eovaldi signed 2-year, $34M contract with Rangers on Dec. 27
2022 salary: $17M
Qualifying offer: Yes
Eovaldi emerged as a dependable presence over his five seasons with the Boston Red Sox, helping them to a World Series in 2018 and a surprising ALCS appearance in 2021. The veteran hurler struggled to stay healthy last year and might have to settle for a shorter-term contract in free agency as a result. Despite some concerns about his health, Eovaldi is a strong option for any club looking to bolster its rotation - he throws hard and does a great job limiting walks. If he can recapture the form he showcased in 2020 and 2021, Eovaldi could provide excellent value for his next team.
7. Tyler Anderson, Angels*
*Anderson signed 3-year, $39M contract with Angels on Nov. 15
Anderson showed impeccable timing by posting a career campaign ahead of free agency. The veteran left-hander set new personal bests in innings pitched (178 2/3), ERA (2.57), fWAR (4.0), BB/9 (1.71), and HR/9 (0.71) in 2022. He also posted a sub-4.00 ERA for the first time since his 2016 rookie season with the Colorado Rockies. It's fair to wonder if this incredible performance was more an anomaly than the new norm. Anderson will likely have several suitors, and it will be fascinating to see what type of contract he commands after a surprising breakout season.
8. Martin Perez, Rangers*
*Perez accepted 1-year, $19.65M qualifying offer from Rangers on Nov. 15
Perez is another veteran left-hander who enjoyed an unexpected breakout in 2022, setting new career highs in ERA (2.89), fWAR (3.8), and K/9 (7.75). He did an excellent job suppressing hard contact and keeping the ball in the park. Perez is unlikely to break the bank on his next contract, but he provides a stable floor for clubs seeking a pitcher who can deliver dependable results every fifth day. The most likely scenario remains a reunion with the pitching-starved Rangers.
9. Taijuan Walker, Phillies*
*Walker signed 4-year, $72M contract with Phillies on Dec. 6
Walker will likely exercise his player option and forego the $6 million he's scheduled to earn in 2023. The right-hander emerged as a dependable option in a strong rotation behind deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Bassitt in 2022. Walker enjoyed his best season since 2017 and tied his personal best with 2.5 fWAR in his 29 starts. An improved splitter was a big reason for Walker's success as he threw it more than ever with strong results. Walker will likely have multiple clubs interested in his services and it would be a surprise if he isn't able to snag a multi-year deal.
10. Jameson Taillon, Cubs*
*Taillon signed 4-year, $68M contract with Cubs on Dec. 6
After an excellent start to the 2022 campaign, Taillon struggled in the summer months before rebounding with a strong September finish. Though the former first-round pick hasn't quite lived up to lofty expectations, he has developed into a solid pitcher. The New York Yankees could explore a reunion with Taillon, but he'll have no shortage of suitors if that fails to materialize. Teams are always interested in starting pitchers armed with a strong fastball complemented by a handful of quality off-speed pitches.
11. Michael Wacha
2022 salary: $7M
Qualifying offer: No
After struggling to the tune of a 5.39 ERA across 2020 and 2021, Wacha rebounded in a big way last season with his best campaign since 2018. The veteran continues to boast a solid changeup and is at his best when he can complement it with his fastball and cutter. Wacha has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, which will likely hinder his ability to get more than a two-year deal.
12. Ross Stripling, Giants*
*Stripling signed 2-year, $25M contract with Giants on Dec. 13
Like Anderson with the Dodgers, Stripling authored an unlikely career season at the best possible time, setting new personal bests in innings pitched (134 1/3), ERA (3.01), wins (10), and fWAR (3.1) in 2022. It's always risky to bet on a pitcher replicating a breakout campaign after the age of 30, but Stripling's improved changeup could be the biggest reason to bet on a repeat performance. A pitching-needy club will likely offer him a multi-year contract.
13. Sean Manaea, Giants*
*Manaea signed 2-year, $25M contract with Giants on Dec. 12
Manaea saw his stock tumble after an uneven performance in 2022. The big left-hander posted the highest ERA (4.96) and HR/9 (1.65) of his seven-year career. Despite those struggles, Manaea's ability to eat innings and rack up strikeouts as a lefty will likely draw multiple suitors. It's hard to envision Manaea returning to the San Diego Padres after he fell out of the club's postseason rotation, but there will be plenty of teams interested in adding him this offseason.
14. Zach Eflin, Rays*
*Eflin signed 3-year, $40M contract with Rays on Dec. 1
Eflin is a fascinating arm to watch on the open market. The versatile right-hander can start games or pitch in leverage situations out of the bullpen. Eflin posted a 1.17 ERA across seven regular-season relief appearances and emerged as a dependable postseason option for Phillies manager Rob Thomson. The 28-year-old has been at least a league-average pitcher by ERA+ in each of the last four campaigns. Whether interested clubs view him as a starter or reliever, someone will likely bite and offer Eflin a multi-year contract.
15. Jose Quintana, Mets*
*Quintana signed 2-year, $26M contract with Mets on Dec. 7
Quintana resurrected his career pitching in the NL Central for the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals in 2022. The left-hander won't wow anyone at this stage of his career, but there is still value in what he does well. Quintana excelled at limiting hard contact and giving his club a chance to win this past season. Though he may not command a multi-year deal, Quintana is likely to have a strong market among teams in search of a capable back-of-the-rotation starter.
16. Andrew Heaney, Rangers*
*Heaney signed 2-year, $25M contract with Rangers on Dec. 6
Heaney continues to be one of MLB's most confounding starting pitchers. The left-hander has incredible strikeout ability, but he also has a penchant for giving up home runs and has struggled to stay healthy. Heaney showcased all three of those traits in 2022, posting a staggering 13.62 K/9 for the Dodgers while permitting 1.73 HR/9 across just 72 2/3 innings. The upside is good enough that multiple teams will be interested, but his issues with home runs and injuries will likely limit him to one-year, incentive-laden offers.
17. Mike Clevinger, White Sox*
*Clevinger signed 1-year, $12M contract with White Sox on Nov. 27
It's been a difficult few years for Clevinger, who has battled injuries and inconsistency since posting a 13-4 record with a 2.71 ERA in 2019. Clevinger has made just 31 starts over the past three campaigns and struggled to a 4.33 ERA and 7.16 K/9 with the Padres in 2022. He still has enough talent to draw interest, but Clevinger may need to settle for a one-year, prove-it deal in hopes of rebuilding his value and securing a long-term offer next offseason.
18. Noah Syndergaard, Dodgers*
*Syndergaard signed 1-year, $13M contract with Dodgers on Dec. 14
2022 salary: $21M
Qualifying offer: No
Syndergaard isn't the pitcher he once was. His fastball isn't as lethal as it used to be, forcing him to evolve into a pitcher who relies on inducing soft contact over gaudy strikeout numbers. Though his upside is diminished, the right-hander can still help a club looking for innings in the rotation; there's plenty of value in a pitcher who can deliver 2.2 fWAR across 134 2/3 frames.
19. Rafael Montero, Astros*
*Montero signed 3-year, $34.5M contract with Astros on Nov. 12
Montero put a miserable 2021 campaign in the rearview mirror, emerging as a dependable high-leverage option in the Astros' deep and talented bullpen. The right-hander saved 14 games in 2022 and is likely to have a number of clubs interested in his services. It wouldn't be surprising if Montero is able to command a multi-year deal for a team looking for a reliever who can pitch in a multitude of important situations.
20. Taylor Rogers, Giants*
*Rogers signed 3-year, $33M contract with Giants on Dec. 23
2022 salary: $7.3M
Qualifying offer: No
Rogers had an interesting 2022 campaign. The left-hander got off to a fast start with the Padres before losing the closer's role, and San Diego eventually traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers in the Josh Hader deal. Rogers gives up a few too many home runs to be considered a truly elite ninth-inning option. Still, his ability to rack up strikeouts while limiting walks will likely draw strong interest from teams seeking a veteran bullpen presence.