By: Ross Sutton
With Spring Training fast-approaching, the remaining free agents have to sign soon, so here are the teams that I think the top five remaining free agents will sign with, and how much money each player will sign for.
Cody Bellinger: San Francisco Giants – 7 years, $175M ($25M AAV)
Year-to-year inconsistency is likely the reason why teams have not been more aggressive in trying to sign Bellinger this offseason, but coming off of a great 2023 season, I think Bellinger has re-established his value as a contact hitter that plays elite defense in the outfield or at first base. Bellinger will be 28 during the 2024 season, so a 7-year deal is not as risky as it would be for an older free agent, and even after signing Jung-Hoo Lee and Jordan Hicks, I think the Giants would love to land a star like Bellinger. Additionally, the Giants could use another bat in the middle of their lineup, and I think Bellinger would fit on this roster, as the Giants could play Bellinger and Lee in left and center with Yastrzemski in right, and use the DH spot to platoon Conforto and Wilmer Flores. Then Conforto comes off the books this offseason and it is even easier to fit Bellinger into this roster. The Giants have constantly tried and failed to sign top free agents in recent years, so they certainly have the money to offer Bellinger, and I’m not sure how many other teams would still have interest in Bellinger at this point in the offseason. Bellinger’s most recent team and the team that many thought would eventually sign him this offseason, the Cubs, will likely have Pete Crow-Armstrong, Ian Happ, and Seiya Suzuki in the outfield with newly-acquired Michael Busch at first base, so I’m not sure that there is room for Bellinger on the Cubs roster now. The combination of the Giants need for another star to try to keep up with the rest of the NL West and the seemingly shallow market for Bellinger makes this landing spot appear to be a good fit, so this is where I think Bellinger ends up. If the Giants did sign Bellinger, I think their lineup would look something like this:
Blake Snell: Los Angeles Angels – 6 years, $168M ($28M AAV)
After losing Shohei Ohtani this offseason, the Angels have not made any major moves, but they are apparently interested in reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. The Angels starting rotation has struggled mightily in recent years, so Snell seems like a great fit, as he would immediately become the team’s top starting pitcher. Much like Bellinger’s, Snell’s slow market can likely be attributed to his inconsistent performance on a year-to-year basis, as he has won a Cy Young Award twice now in his career, but during the four seasons between Snell’s Cy Youngs, he pitched to an ERA+ of 104, or four percent above league average. At this stage of the offseason, I think the unsigned free agents are a bit on edge and eager to sign, and I also think there are certain teams (like the Giants, Angels, and Cubs), that are a bit desperate to sign impact players after not doing much so far this offseason. This makes for logical fits between those unsigned players and star-needy teams, and Snell and the Angels would certainly be one of those matches.
Jordan Montgomery: Texas Rangers – 5 years, $125M ($25M AAV)
Montgomery has become one of the most reliable and effective pitchers over the last few seasons, and I think he will finally get the contract he deserves from the Rangers now since it seems like the team’s TV broadcast issues are close to being resolved. The Rangers are the team that most people have assumed will ultimately sign Montgomery, and it feels like it is only a matter of time before Monty re-signs with Texas. In most cases, I would not project a player to re-sign with his former team at this point in the offseason, but it seems like the Rangers had a legitimate reason to not spend much in free agency this offseason, so I still think it is likely that Montgomery returns to the Rangers on a multi-year deal. I could also see the Red Sox signing Montgomery since they only have right-handed pitchers in their rotation right now and could use a dependable arm, but I think there is a better chance of the Rangers signing Monty right now.
Josh Hader: Chicago Cubs – 5 years, $105M ($21M AAV)
Hader is reportedly aiming to top Edwin Diaz’s record deal for a closer worth 5 years and $102M, and I think he will, as he is one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. The Cubs have had a relatively quiet offseason after giving Craig Counsell the largest contract ever for a manager, as there only other notable moves have been signing Shota Imanaga and trading for Michael Busch. I personally like the moves that Cubs have made this offseason, but they need to do more if they want to win the NL Central. Signing Josh Hader would be a great way to fortify the Cubs bullpen, which I think needs to add at least one more arm. Hader also has experience playing for Craig Counsell, as the two were both with the Brewers from 2017-2022. There are reportedly a few big market teams currently in on Hader, and I could see a team like the Phillies going after him, but the Cubs seem like the best fit for Hader right now.
Matt Chapman: Chicago Cubs – 5 years, $110M ($22M AAV)
I think the Cubs sign Matt Chapman as well. Toronto is a great fit for Chapman on paper, but he was with the Blue Jays for the last two seasons, so since Chapman and the Jays haven’t agreed to a deal yet, I don’t think they will. The Giants would also be a good fit for Chapman and I could certainly see him signing there, but I think Bellinger fits there a little better than Chapman since Bellinger is the more valuable hitter. If the Cubs were to sign Matt Chapman, they would have one of, if not the best defensive infield in the league with Chapman, Swanson, and Hoerner playing third, short, and second, respectively. Chicago’s current starting third baseman is Nick Madrigal, so Chapman would be a significant upgrade at the position. The Cubs lineup with Matt Chapman in it would probably look something like this:
Although it is a bit right-hand heavy, I think this is a very solid lineup. The Cubs should have a solid starting rotation, but the elite defense behind their pitching might make this team a legitimate threat in the NL Central.