As the calendar flips to February with spring training just weeks away, some of Major League Baseball’s best free agents remained unsigned.
It’s been a relatively quiet winter (new Dodgers Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto aside), with a top-heavy market never really taking shape.
Six of the top 14 players in USA TODAY Sports’ 2023-24 free agent rankings are still without a team, including two-time Cy Young winner Blake Snell and former MVP Cody Bellinger, with suitors waiting for asking prices drop.
Here’s how USA TODAY Sports’ MLB writers and editors predict the final weeks of the hot stove season will go:
Bob Nightengale: Los Angeles Angels – The Angels were aggressive early saying how much they want him, and are now just waiting for his price-tag to dip below $200 million to seal the deal, hoping the Giants don’t swoop in.
HOT STOVE UPDATES: MLB free agency: Ranking and tracking the top players available.
Gabe Lacques: New York Yankees – Snell swallows some pride and the Yankees sweeten their offer just a bit to create enviable, if unpredictive, rotation depth.
Steve Gardner: San Francisco Giants – They have a serious need for another top starter to pair with Logan Webb.
Scott Boeck: New York Yankees – Pairing Snell with Gerrit Cole, two reigning Cy Young Award winners, creates a historic one-two punch for the Bronx Bombers, who are all in this upcoming season.
Jesse Yomtov: Los Angeles Angels – It doesn’t feel like there’s a perfect fit out there for Snell and the Angels’ payroll is projected about $150 million for 2024, giving the perpetually-rudderless organization plenty of room to sign the market’s top pitcher.
Nightengale: Chicago Cubs – It’s a perfect marriage after dating all of last season, and everyone knows it’s going to happen. The only question is who proposes first.
Lacques: Chicago Cubs – Pete Crow-Armstrong’s fine defense is no reason to pass on a Bellinger reunion, not when he’s still out there, the Cubs lack thump at Bellinger’s positions and at 28, the 2019 MVP still has plenty of prime years remaining.
Gardner:Chicago Cubs – Not finding any takers for his big-money demands, he returns to the Friendly Confines and fills the Cubs’ greatest need..
Boeck: Chicago Cubs – Bellinger returns to Chicago on a short term deal despite interest in moving back to Los Angeles to play for the Angels.
Yomtov: Chicago Cubs – You have to wonder if Bellinger’s stellar 2023 was an aberration or a return to form for the former MVP. Either way, it makes sense for the Cubs to run it back.
Nightengale: San Francisco Giants – Giants manager Bob Melvin and bench coach Matt Williams are openly campaigning for Chapman, a Bay Area favorite, whose options have dramatically dwindled.
Lacques: San Francisco Giants. Not exactly the star power the Giants sought this winter, nor the offensive thump they need, but Chapman can lay a foundation upon which the club can build – and perhaps snare a third wild card spot.
Gardner: Detroit Tigers – The AL Central is theirs for the taking; adding a power bat and Gold Glove will definitely help..
Boeck: Chicago Cubs – With the Blue Jays signing Justin Turner, a reunion with Chapman is no longer in the picture. The Cubs, a potential playoff team, could use a reliable defensive third baseman for a relatively bargain price.
Yomtov: San Francisco Giants – At 30 years old, the four-time Gold Glove third baseman would be a relatively low-risk signing.
Nightengale: Texas Rangers — Montgomery badly wants to return to Texas, Texas wants Montgomery, but can the two sides make the economics fit with the Rangers’ TV contract in limbo?
Lacques: Boston Red Sox – At some point, public shaming of Red Sox officials for their lack of action has to pay off.
Gardner:Baltimore Orioles – Assuming they can’t swing a deal for Dylan Cease, the O’s need to do something to show they’re in it to win it.
Boeck:Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox are in need of an additional veteran arm to compete in the AL East and Montgomery’s wife is currently interning at a Boston hospital. Could be a perfect fit for the left-hander.
Yomtov: San Francisco Giants — The 31-year-old southpaw would be a sorta-budget-friendly alternative to signing Snell.
Nightengale: Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox have been relatively quiet all winter (with the only noise being the fanbase screaming for action) but the unrest should at least be momentarily subdued with a Soler signing.
Lacques: Detroit Tigers – A bit of insurance against Parker Meadows’ inexperience and at this point, the price is right.
Boeck: Boston Red Sox – Soler’s power could help balance out the Red Sox lineup and improve the outfield that lost Alex Verdugo via trade and likely free agent Adam Duvall.
Gardner: Tampa Bay Rays — Watch Tampa Bay wait out the market and get a nice bargain to lead the team in home runs.
Yomtov: Boston Red Sox – Fans have been livid with the team’s moves (or lack thereof) this winter, but inking the 31-year-old Soler would give Boston a big bat – albeit a fairly inconsistent one – in the middle of the order who can play both corner outfield spots and DH.
Nightengale: San Francisco Giants – The Giants still have plenty of money to burn, and although Martinez doesn’t have the versatility they covet, his bat could solve a whole lot of offensive concerns.
Lacques: Los Angeles Angels – Their really weird offseason continues.
Gardner:Cleveland Guardians – Last in the majors in homers in 2023, Cleveland’s offense could use an infusion of veteran power.
Boeck:Arizona DIamondbacks – In 2017, Martinez flourished in the desert when he spent half a season with the D-backs and slugged 29 homers in 62 games. Now at 36, a reunion would make a good fit for the veteran slugger on a team that reached the World Series last year.
Yomtov:New York Mets – After an ugly 2023, the Mets haven’t really done anything to improve their offense and approach February with D.J. Stewart as their presumed primary designated hitter. A one or two-year deal for the 36-year-old would who had 33 HR and 103 RBI with the Dodgers last season would really stretch out the lineup.