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MLB free agency and trade predictions for all 30 teams: Justin Verlander leaves Houston?

MLB free agency and trade predictions for all 30 teams: Justin Verlander leaves Houston?

Major League Baseball’s offseason is here. It is time to sign free agents, trade prospects, make bold proclamations about improving for the short term and long term. It’s time to make big moves … unless you are the Reds. We’ve ranked the top 50 free agents. We’ve analyzed every team’s biggest need. Now we set expectations. The Athletic’s MLB staff has made one bold prediction for all 30 teams. Here is what you can watch for:

They trade a young, talented outfielder. Daulton Varsho and Corbin Carroll are almost certainly off-limits, but the Diamondbacks have more lefty-batting outfielders than they have spots. It might come down to Alek Thomas, a Gold Glove finalist who nonetheless was demoted to Triple A at season’s end, or Jake McCarthy, who’s flown under the radar but had a terrific rookie season. Thomas has more prospect pedigree, and trading him would be more of a surprise, but it’s hard to look at McCarthy’s production and say, “Let’s subtract that from our lineup.” -Zach Buchanan

The Braves will sign shortstop Xander Bogaerts after he opts out with Boston and becomes a free agent. The Braves will have to pay him a higher AAV than they would’ve to re-sign Dansby Swanson, but not too much more. Bogaerts, who’s 16 months older, has a .373 OBP, .880 OPS and 133 OPS+ over the past five seasons, compared to Swanson’s .321 OBP, .755 OPS and 100 OPS+ in that period. Each had 5.7 bWAR in 2022, but Bogaerts’ 23.3 bWAR over the past five seasons is nearly double Swanson’s 12.0. Bogaerts, from Aruba, will join Curaçao native Ozzie Albies to give the Braves a double-play combo from the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao). -David O’Brien

I think the Orioles will do their best to trade from their surplus – minor-league infielders and major-league outfielders – to acquire a quality starter. That’s the more likely scenario. But want something bold? The Orioles win a bidding war for one of the second-tier, highly coveted starters. My guess: Chris Bassitt. Until that happens, they’ll just be rumored to be in on every available pitcher in the big leagues. -Dan Connolly

Boston Red Sox

Is it considered bold to predict that the Red Sox actually will sign both Rafael Devers and Bogaerts to long-term deals? Signing both would be a massive expense — and it would be a significant shift only three years after trading away Mookie Betts — but perhaps re-signing two cornerstones is not particularly bold. So, how about a higher-end starting pitcher? For years now, the Red Sox have focused on depth and upside. But this will be the winter they go after a real impact arm. -Chad Jennings

Some injuries to key prospects dings the confidence in this prediction, but the Cubs will make a big trade for an established starting pitcher to lead their rotation. -Sahadev Sharma

Other than letting José Abreu walk, general manager Rick Hahn also hinted at being newly willing to trade from the team’s core. Could that be two-time All-Star Tim Anderson? The shortstop is 29 with two years of club options left on his contract, and coming off a year where injury limited him to 79 games. The Sox don’t have an in-house replacement so to speak, but Lenyn Sosa, José Rodríguez and top prospect Colson Montgomery give them a small slate of short and mid-term options, presuming a trade strengthens them elsewhere. -James Fegan


Tim Anderson (Ron Chenoy / USA Today Sports)

Cincinnati Reds

Bold? The Reds? That’s not exactly what this team is known for right now. Is it bold to buy out Mike Moustakas’ last year of his contract or is it just necessary? -C. Trent Rosecrans

Cleveland Guardians

The Guardians finally swing a long-awaited, noteworthy trade, packaging several prospects/young players for someone more established. It’s the sort of deal that makes Chris Antonetti sweat as his quivering index finger hovers over the “send” button on his phone’s keyboard before he submits the decisive text that confirms he’s in. This seemed like a prudent move a year ago or at the trade deadline; instead, the team stood pat. But there doesn’t seem to be room for Nolan Jones and Gabriel Arias and Tyler Freeman and Will Brennan and Brayan Rocchio and Richie Palacios and George Valera, who are all big league-ready or close to it. Cleveland could revisit Oakland’s asking price for Sean Murphy. They could survey the starting pitcher market. They will do something. Finally. Maybe. -Zack Meisel

The Rockies will make a significant trade! Not a bold prediction? It is for the Rockies, who’ve been among the least active teams in trades over the past decade. But they traded Nolan Arenado, you say. True, but they were forced into that trade by a series of self-owns. They have preferred instead to draft and develop. But that narrow strategy has left the Rockies with a significant gap while they wait for their best prospects from the lower levels. They have cornered themselves into needing to trade, especially for pitching. Who goes? Maybe All-Star slugger C.J. Cron. Maybe Gold Glove second baseman Brendan Rodgers. Maybe, gasp!, one of the prospects they’ve worked so hard to hoard. -Nick Groke

The Tigers make more than one creative trade before Opening Day. It’s hard to see how the Tigers will upgrade at positions such as catcher, third base and corner outfield. If they’re to come close to patching all their holes, it can’t happen all through free agency. Look for Scott Harris to work the trade market and attempt to identify under-the-radar hitters who can help. -Cody Stavenhagen

The Astros won’t try and re-sign Justin Verlander, assuming he opts to become a free agent after this year. He’ll be 40 years old next season and presumably looking for either a multi-year deal, or an extremely expensive one-year deal. In either case, Houston will hit the free agent market for other starting pitchers to possibly take over his spot as the ace of the Astros’ pitching staff. -Sam Blum

The Royals will get one of their young players signed to a long-term extension that locks in their arbitration years in exchange for a couple of years on the back end (or some team options). This is admittedly a vague bold prediction. But it takes two to tango, as they say. It may not be the perfect time for Bobby Witt Jr., whose talent remains evident but whose on-base percentage was under .300. Witt may not want to sell himself short; the Royals may desire more data points to mitigate the risks. And Witt is still really young. It may be easier to pursue a deal with Brady Singer and/or Vinnie Pasquantino. Singer, 26, would be an obvious candidate. Pasquantino, 25, debuted in June and will be on the other side of 30 when he hits free agency, so perhaps there’s no rush. But if the Royals believe in Pasquantino, a deal could provide cost certainty in their long-term planning. -Rustin Dodd

The Angels will cut payroll. Payroll last year was about $180 million. And even with about $120-$130 million already committed, it stands to reason the payroll will still be cut. The Angels are in the process of selling the team, and it’s unclear if owner Arte Moreno is still in the business of winning, or in the business of selling at the best price. Selling could be complicated by acquiring risky assets, such as expensive free agents. Those typically haven’t gone well for the Angels anyway. The issue with a lower payroll is that the Angels don’t exactly have enough talent to reasonably expect they’ll improve without adding some good players. -Sam Blum

Payroll will go down. This might not be particularly bold — the Dodgers just missed paying the “Cohen Tax” level of the luxury tax this season, and it’s hard to expect them to want to spend more than that. They have a decision to make on Justin Turner’s $16 million club option. Non-tendering Cody Bellinger could save them a sizable amount of money. Trea Turner, Clayton Kershaw and Tyler Anderson are free agents. While Andrew Friedman wouldn’t signal much either way in terms of payroll, he did acknowledge that the Dodgers have several prospects at or near the big leagues who could play roles on the big-league club, which would lower payroll by default. -Fabian Ardaya


Trea Turner (Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports)

Andrew Benintendi ends up a Marlin. There are only three lefties on the currently projected depth chart — Jazz Chisholm Jr., Joey Wendle, and Jesús Sánchez — and the latter two are borderline everyday starters at this point in their respective careers. Throwing in an everyday left-hander with experience hitting in pitchers’ parks, who can make a ton of contact and take walks while playing good defense in the outfield might make an outsized impact on this team, especially considering the fact that Benintendi’s decline in power may make him more affordable. Someone like Joc Pederson or David Peralta could help similarly without being as well-rounded, but none of the three will single-handedly turn this lineup around. -Eno Sarris

It’s purely speculation, but there’s logic in trading Corbin Burnes. He’ll be due around $11 million through arbitration, and Brandon Woodruff will see a similar amount. The Brewers’ staff regressed in 2022 — they were arguably baseball’s best in 2021 — but they still would have Woodruff, Aaron Ashby, Freddy Peralta, Eric Lauer and Adrian Houser (granted, they need better depth after that). It’s not a perfect comparison, but would the Brewers have received a better return if they dealt Josh Hader away earlier than they did? Probably. Milwaukee doesn’t function as the kind of organization that extends players in their prime; it tried to hit on players ahead of time, like Peralta. Milwaukee still has Burnes for two more seasons under team control, but in a winter that doesn’t feature many big-name starting pitcher options, this could be the time to fetch the best return. -Will Sammon

It may not be Carlos Correa himself, but for the second offseason in a row the Twins will hand out the biggest free-agent contract in team history. Correa’s three-year, $105.3 million deal signed last March is the Twins’ current record-holder, although both sides knew at the time it would almost surely end up being a one-year, $35.1 million deal. With plenty of money to spend and plenty of high-end talent available on the free-agent market, including four All-Star shortstops, the Twins should be looking to sign an impact player to a contract that’s actually in excess of $100 million. -Aaron Gleeman

The Mets will look to the trade market to address some starting pitching needs. It’s plausible, from a speculative standpoint, to see the Mets swing a trade with either the Marlins or Brewers for a starting pitcher. The Mets need to rebuild the majority of their pitching staff. Even if they re-sign Jacob deGrom, their rotation could use at least one other reliable option, similar to Chris Bassitt. The Marlins have Jesús Luzardo and Pablo López while the Brewers have Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Eric Lauer. These are all pitchers under team control, meaning it will require the Mets to part with valuable assets, which is something that they may be more inclined to do if the return isn’t a rental like at the 2022 trade deadline. They could have some redundancies within their farm system, particularly with bats — Mark Vientos at DH, Ronny Mauricio at shortstop, etc. After deGrom and Carlos Rodón, there isn’t a lot in the form of ace-caliber pitchers to choose from in free agency. -Sammon

The Yankees have tried on multiple occasions to land Angels star Shohei Ohtani. Under contract for just one more season, Anaheim could explore moving him if it thinks he won’t re-sign to at least recuperate some assets instead of losing him for nothing in free agency next offseason. That could mean the price to land Ohtani might not be as exorbitant as some might think. We’ve touched on Aaron Judge’s star power, and if the Yankees did lose him, there’s only one player who rivals him in the sport: Ohtani. If Judge leaves, the Yankees will do what they can to land Ohtani. Even if Judge re-signs, it wouldn’t be stunning if the Yankees found a way to add Ohtani. -Chris Kirschner

Oakland Athletics

The A’s probably won’t do anything too bold in the traditional sense. They’re unlikely to splurge on a free agent and Mark Kotsay’s job as manager is safe. They could look to trade either Ramón Laureano or Murphy, but Laureano’s value is extremely low and the A’s might not believe that Shea Langeliers is ready to be a full-time major-league catcher. So I’m going to make the boldest prediction possible for this team, one that will upset fans (my apologies in advance): The A’s will announce that they are moving to Las Vegas before the 2023 season. Outgoing Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf admitted that it’s unlikely that the city council will vote on a term sheet this year and Rob Manfred recently said that despite Schaaf’s efforts, a deal that would keep the team in Oakland “doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.” Manfred could just be applying pressure here, and Schaaf’s response was to say she’s confident a deal will get done next year. As an East Bay resident, I selfishly want the A’s to stay and hope this prediction looks dumb in hindsight. But despite both sides clearing some hurdles, not enough was accomplished in 2022 to make me believe the Howard Terminal project will come to fruition. -Steve Berman

Maybe this isn’t so bold for a team that spends with the best of them, but the Phillies will add another player making at least $20 million per year this winter. The revenue and good vibes generated by this unexpected postseason run will compel the Phillies to keep adding star power. -Matt Gelb

The rebuild that Cherington began three years ago finally is starting to gain traction at the big-league level, as several key prospects are about ready to graduate. Yet, the Pirates need to import a reliable, experienced starting pitcher and a solution at first base. That could lead Cherington to dip into his farm system a trade one or two of his top-30 prospects, such as Nick Gonzales, Ji Hwan Bae or Carmen Mlodzinski. -Rob Biertempfel


Kodai Senga (Koji Watanabe / Getty Images)

The Padres sign Kodai Senga. San Diego has had success acquiring players from Asian leagues (see: Ha-Seong Kim, Nick Martinez, Robert Suarez, Pierce Johnson). But the organization’s connections in Japan still haven’t yielded a major free-agent signing. Here’s guessing this winter brings the first in the form of Senga, who might be seeking a deal above the four-year, $56 million contract Yusei Kikuchi received from Seattle before the 2019 season. Senga, 29, has the kind of repertoire that could translate to mid-rotation production. Given the Padres’ need for starting pitching and Senga’s friendship with Yu Darvish, the potential fit feels as natural as any in the big leagues. -Dennis Lin

There’s no sense in predicting the outcome of the Judge pursuit. Either he wants to be a Giant or he wants to be a Yankee. Whatever he wants to happen will happen. Regardless of what happens, the Giants need to do more than sign one player and it’s high time that they get creative on the trade front. As we keep reminding you, it’s been 32 years since the last time the Giants and A’s made a big leaguer-for-big leaguer swap. The A’s are into their arbitration years with catcher Murphy and outfielder Laureano, two players who could help the Giants immensely as they seek major defensive upgrades. So this will be the offseason that Billy Beane and Farhan Zaidi finally shake hands on a deal (or at least text a shaking-hands emoji). -Andrew Baggarly

The youthful Mariners sign José Abreu to a two-year deal. Sure, he’ll be 36 in January and his power dropped in 2022, but he still had a 3.9 fWAR and his influence will benefit his teammates. A middle-of-the-order bat, Abreu will help lengthen this lineup immensely. -Corey Brock

John Mozeliak stated multiple times throughout his end-of-season press conference the Cardinals’ payroll will increase heading into 2023. The Cardinals aren’t a cheap organization by any means, but the front office has operated rather conservatively over the last few offseasons in terms of free agency. Based on their 2022 attendance and the revenue generated from the final seasons of Molina and Albert Pujols, I predict the Cardinals end up landing a blockbuster free agent. St. Louis could use upgrades at shortstop and in the rotation as well as at catcher. This looks like the winter they’ll finally be in a position to cash in. -Katie Woo

This team could make a run at Josh Bell. If they decline the $4 million owned Ji-Man Choi, and the $13 million owed to Kiermaier, would that be close to enough annually to sign Bell for a few years? Because of declining defense, and high ground-ball rates, Bell has only been a league-average player for a couple of seasons in a row now, meaning he could be affordable. But he makes a ton of contact, has a good sense of the zone, and hits the ball really hard, making him sort of a switch-hitting Yandy Díaz type. The big question is if Bell’s price has fallen into Tampa’s range.  -Sarris

The prediction isn’t that bold, but the move would be: I predict a major trade for a top-line starting pitcher, given the relative scarcity at the top of the SP free agent market. -Levi Weaver

The Blue Jays will trade Teoscar Hernández. One suggested flaw of the Blue Jays is that they’re too right-handed and while hitting righties wasn’t an issue — actually, hitting left-handers was — having a predominantly aggressive, right-handed lineup might make them too easy to game plan against. Hernández is one of the most dangerous power hitters in the game but he’s a year away from free agency and now might be the time for the Blue Jays to move him to create space for a left-handed outfielder who might offer different skills than he does. The Seattle Mariners, who need offense and have some starting pitchers to spare, could be a good trading partner. -Kaitlyn McGrath

New ownership wants to win now so the Nats pursue several big free agents. -Brittany Ghiroli

(Top art: John Bradford / The Athletic; Photos: Logan Riely / Getty Images, Ronald Martinez / Getty Images, Quinn Harris / Getty Images)





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