Aaron Judge, the top free agent available this winter, made his decision on Wednesday morning, returning to the New York Yankees on a nine-year contract worth $360 million. Judge's deal ranks as one of the five most lucrative in Major League Baseball history, both from a total value and an average annual value perspective. The Yankees beat out bids from the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres, who reportedly made him an even richer offer (though exact terms are yet to be revealed).
With Judge's blockbuster deal out of the way, it stands to reason that other important offseason business will face a streamlined process. The top of the market has been set, after all, and now it's just a matter of haggling over some fine details. No biggie. With that in mind, we here at CBS Sports figured this would be a good time to refresh everyone on which top free agents remain available to the highest bidder.
So, here are the top five remaining free agents, as determined by our top 50 rankings, along with our writeups from that list and notes on which teams have been connected to them to date.
1. Carlos Correa, SS (originally No. 3)
In the past, we've referenced Bill James' theory that it's better for a player's perception if they start hot rather than finish hot -- that way, James once reasoned, their statline looks better for longer. Correa may be evidence of the theory at work. He started slowly, homering just once in April and producing a depressed statline that lingered into the summertime, leading people to believe he was having a down year even as he picked up his play over the course of the summer. Check his Baseball-Reference page now that the leaves are falling and you'll notice that his OPS+ was higher in 2022 than 2021, a season good enough to earn him the top spot in our free-agent rankings last winter. Correa remains a very good player, in other words, and it shouldn't surprise anyone if this time around he gets his rate and term.
Correa has been linked to the Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Baltimore Orioles to varying degrees. He had also been tied with the Philadelphia Phillies before they signed Trea Turner. Correa would seem like the obvious candidate for the Giants to pivot to after they came up short in the Judge bidding. (Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported earlier this week that the Padres seemed unlikely to pursue another top shortstop, but it's unclear if and/or how the Judge decision changes that.)
2. Xander Bogaerts, SS (originally No. 5)
Bogaerts is the Max Martin of shortstops, a consistent hitmaker with a sparkling trophy case. In each of the last five seasons, he's appeared in at least 84 percent of his team's games and has produced an OPS+ north of 125. He can hit for average, he can walk, and he's mostly hit for power. This season proved to be an exception on that last note, though a late May collision with Alex Verdugo that resulted in wrist and shoulder discomfort might be to blame. Defensively, Bogaerts has been a few years away from moving off shortstop for, oh, a decade now. Statcast data confirms that he still doesn't have top-end speed or arm strength relative to his peers. It's not easy to convince a big-league team you're playable at the six for this long unless you're doing something right. Even if Bogaerts is asked by his next employer to shift elsewhere, you have to give him credit for the hard work he put into improving his defense. Do note that Bogaerts opted out of his contract with three years and $60 million remaining, suggesting he's looking to improve on an AAV of $20 million. He should, easily.
Bogaerts has been linked to the Boston Red Sox, as well as the usual suspects (Cubs, Dodgers, Phillies, Padres) and some surprising clubs, like the Arizona Diamondbacks. Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reported over the weekend that somewhere between eight and 11 teams had inquired about Bogaert's services.
3. Brandon Nimmo, OF (originally No. 7)
Juan Soto. Freddie Freeman. Bryce Harper. Aaron Judge. Paul Goldschmidt. What do those five players have in common? They're the only batters with at least 1,000 plate appearances during the Pandemic Era to reach base more frequently than Nimmo did. He's more than a pretty on-base: he's made improvements both as a center fielder and as a platoon-disadvantaged hitter, as the last two seasons have represented two of his three best single-season performances versus southpaws. If there is a stain on his T-shirt, it's his durability. Nimmo has appeared in more than 100 games just twice (thrice if you prorate his 2020 campaign over 162 games). The body doesn't tend to grow more durable as one ages, but Nimmo's top-of-the-order bat and middle-of-the-field glove should net him a lucrative long-term deal anyway.
Nimmo, now the top remaining outfielder on the free-agent market, has been connected to the New York Mets, along with the Yankees and Giants. Some dark horses in his sweepstakes include the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, and Seattle Mariners. The Colorado Rockies, who reportedly had interest in Nimmo coming into the winter, no longer appear to be a factor, according to Nick Groke of The Athletic.
4. Carlos Rodón, LHP (originally No. 8)
Rodón is a living testament to some of the game's recent philosophical shifts. Starters needing a reliable third pitch? Pff, that's the old religion. These days, Rodón chucks his fastball and slider more than 90 percent of the time combined and it isn't just allowed, it's encouraged. His mid-90s heater had the second-highest whiff rate (min. 1,000 thrown) in the majors last season behind Gerrit Cole, a byproduct of its velocity and rising movement, as well as the tough angle created by his release point. It's easy to think of Rodón's formula as being "elevated fastballs early, buried sliders late," but that's not the case. He's thrown his fastball more in two-strike counts than his slider the last two seasons, and it's reasonable to bet on him extending that streak. His injury history and lacking performance track record limited him to a short-term deal last winter. Rodón seems far more likely to get a long-term deal this offseason.
Rodón became the top pitcher left on the market once Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander found homes. He's reportedly been in contact with eight or nine teams, according to Jon Heyman, including the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Dodgers, and Rangers, as well as Orioles, Twins, and Blue Jays. It's to be seen if some recent big deals -- Judge's and the aforementioned deGrom and Verlander pacts, most notably -- will impact those teams' desires to hand out another to Rodón.
5. Dansby Swanson, SS (originally No. 9)
Swanson has elevated his game during the Pandemic Era. In addition to launching 62 home runs since 2020, the third-most among everyday shortstops, he's hit for a roughly league-average or better OPS in each of the last three seasons. If there is an area of concern for him offensively, it's his swing-and-miss tendency. Swanson checked in 120th out of the 130 batters who qualified for a batting title in contact rate and the only shortstops to whiff more frequently last season were Javier Báez and Jorge Mateo, neither of whom had a particularly good offensive showing. To Swanson's credit, he has a better feel for the strike zone than either of them. He also continues to grade well defensively, particularly on balls that require him to move in or to his right. The risk here is that Swanson's strikeout rate will balloon as he ages and loses bat speed, but his power and defense should give him a solid base to work from.
Swanson has been tied to most of the same suitors as the aforementioned shortstops, as well as the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. (The Phillies also met with him before signing Turner.) It stands to reason that his market will continue to be shaped by the Correa and Bogaerts biddings.