As we sit approximately two months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, general managers around the league are still actively working to improve their rosters either via free agency or through trades.
While there are still a few notable free agents remaining, like Carlos Rodon, Carlos Correa, and Dansby Swanson, many of the biggest names have already been plucked off the board. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five best free agent signings of the offseason thus far.
# 1 – Kodai Senga
Kodai Senga is definitely an unknown commodity when it comes to Major League Baseball. While he has dominated the leagues in Japan, it is obviously a risk as to whether it translates to MLB. Still, this list is about best signings, not best overall players necessarily.
In 23 games last season, Senga went 11-6 with a 1.89 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, and he struck out 159 in 148 innings.
His success translated into a five-year deal worth $75 million with the New York Mets. Still, that could be a steal for the Mets if he pitches to his ace potential. Featuring an upper-90s fastball and devastating splitter, Senga could easily shoot up to the top of this list for best free agent signings by mid-season.
#2 – Xander Bogaerts
“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” For the San Diego Padres, that had to be how they felt after whiffing on both Trea Turner and Aaron Judge in free agency. As a third-place trophy, shortstop Xander Bogaerts is not a bad prize.
Bogaerts hit .307/.377/.456 with 15 home runs, 73 runs batted in, and 84 runs for the Boston Red Sox last year. Now, in a much better lineup, he will be in a top four of a lineup that also features Manny Machado, Juan Soto, and eventually, Fernando Tatis Jr.
After beating the Dodgers in the playoffs last year, the Padres are trying to go all in again for this year, and an 11-year, $280 million contract proves they are ready to continue spending with the big boys.
#3 – Aaron Judge
At 30 years old, Aaron Judge’s nine-year, $360 million contract could look like a gross overpay by the end, but that is the price of doing business with the reigning AL MVP and new AL home run champion.
After rejecting the Yankees’ offer last offseason, Judge bet on himself and won big. This season, he hit .311/.425/.686 with 62 home runs, 131 runs batted in, 133 runs, and 16 stolen bases.
For the Yankees, Judge is a generational talent, but for a fanbase that expects a contender every year, losing the pinstriped icon just wasn’t an option for New York.
This might not be the savviest or fiscally responsible deal, but this was a deal that the Yankees had to make. Owner Hal Steinbrenner all but ensured that Judge will play his whole career with the Yankees, and Judge gives the Yankees one of the best odds of getting to the World Series in the American League next year.
#4 – Trea Turner
All too often, teams have a tendency to rest on their laurels when it comes to improving a club after a season of success. For the Phillies, they could have done exactly that after making the World Series; instead, after getting a taste of success, ownership wanted more.
What better way to improve your club than signing one of the best shortstops and natural hitters in the game by inking Trea Turner to an 11-year, $300 million deal?
Last year, with the Dodgers, Turner hit .298/.343/.466 with 21 home runs, 100 runs batted in, 101 runs scored, and 27 stolen bases.
Paired with Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Kyle Schwarber, the Phillies will feature one of the most dynamic offenses in baseball, one that could easily improve on their 4.59 runs per game from last year.
#5 – Justin Verlander
The New York Mets lost one of the best pitchers in the game in Jacob deGrom as a free agent but returned arguably an even better one in Justin Verlander. Solidifying the top of the rotation, the Mets ensured a 1-2 punch with Max Scherzer by signing reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Verlander to a two-year, $86.6 million deal.
While the $43.3 million ties Scherzer for the highest average annual value, only having to commit to two years (although there is a third-year option) is a huge win for the organization as Verlander is approaching 40.
Still, Verlander has been one of the best pitchers of this generation, and after going 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA this season, it doesn’t appear that he is slowing down.
In a division that includes high-octane offenses like the Phillies and Braves, the Mets pitching staff will arguably be one of the best in baseball. Currently, the Mets rotation consists of Verlander, Scherzer, Senga, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Carrasco.
If free agent signing Verlander can even come close to replicating his 2022 season, the Mets will get a significant upgrade over deGrom, who has not pitched in more than 15 games in a season since 2019.
The Verlander signing comes with risk, but for a Mets team that has shown they are all in to win this year, it has a great chance of being the best signing of this year’s free agent class, at least for 2023.
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