Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom, Twins shortstop Carlos Correa, and Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts headline a group of nine players who on Monday were added to the pool of 2022-23 free agents after they exercised opt-outs in their respective contracts. By opting out of their current contracts, the players are betting they can fetch a larger guarantee on the open market, and none of the decisions, which the MLBPA announced, was especially surprising.
In addition to the star trio noted above, Taijuan Walker of the Mets, Carlos Rodón of the Giants, Nelson Cruz of the Nationals, and Jurickson Profar and Robert Suarez of the Padres also became free agents via opt-out. Zach Davies of the Diamondbacks is also now a free agent, although in his case it's because the club declined their half of a mutual option.
DeGrom, 34, had a $32.5 million guarantee for 2023 in his contract and a $32.5 million team option for 2024. R.J. Anderson recently ranked deGrom as the No. 2 free agent available on our list of the top 50 free agents of the current offseason. Here's his write-up of the two-time Cy Young winner:
It reads oddly given deGrom's excellent track record, but he might be the biggest risk-reward proposition in the class. He's been one of the best pitchers in the sport since he debuted in 2014, of course, amassing two Cy Young Awards and four All-Star Games appearances along the way. There's no questioning his legacy, or his ability to throw a baseball with great efficacy when he's healthy -- therein lies the rub: how often will he be healthy heading forward? Injuries have limited deGrom to 26 starts over the last two seasons, and he's now a half-year shy of turning 35. Pitchers do not tend to stay healthier as they age. Seeing as how deGrom opted out of a one-year pact that would have paid him $32.5 million, it's likely that he's seeking a deal with an AAV closer to the $43 million Max Scherzer received last winter. Someone will undoubtedly pony up for a chance at adding a bonafide ace to their rotation, but they may end up experiencing buyer's remorse if deGrom's body continues to fail to comply.
Correa, 28, had two years and $70.2 million left on his deal with Minnesota. Correa also had an opt-out after the 2023 season. Here's Anderson's write-up on the star shortstop, whom we ranked as the No. 3 free agent of the current class:
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.
Bogaerts, 30, had three years and $60 million left on his contract with the Red Sox plus a $20 million vesting option for 2026. He's ranked fifth on our list of free agents:
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.
Other ranked free agents to opt out on Monday include Rodón (No. 8), Profar (No. 28), Walker (No. 40), Suarez (No. 41). Cruz and Davies did not make our top 50. The other notable opt-out decision belonged the star third baseman Nolan Arenado, but he chose to remain with the Cardinals for the remaining term of his contract.
Monday's decisions bring the total of available free agents to 140.