Inside the Clubhouse: Destinations for Jacob deGrom and top free agents

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

This week’s Inside the Clubhouse gives an early look at the markets for the top four players in free agency, including Jacob deGrom, Carlos Correa, Aaron Judge and Trea Turner.

As the playoffs roll along the majority of teams are already shifting into offseason mode, preparing to dive into the free-agent market. There will be plenty of star power available including an elite pitcher in Jacob deGrom and huge bats like Carlos Correa, Aaron Judge and Trea Turner.

Plenty of factors are in play for each free agent but here is the early buzz on which teams could be interested and have the resources to make a compelling offer to each of the four.

Can the Mets re-sign Jacob deGrom?

New York Mets: deGrom has made it clear that he will opt out of his contract after the season, but Steve Cohen is expected to make a strong push to retain him. The Mets know deGrom and his medical history better than any other team, which will make negotiations interesting, but he should command a multi-year deal worth north of Max Scherzer’s $43.33 million annual average value.

Texas Rangers: I expect the theme of their offseason to be pitching, pitching and more pitching. deGrom is easily the best starting pitcher on the market and the Rangers, after spending over $550 million in free agency last winter, should make a call to see what it would take to bring deGrom to Texas.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers will have to remake their rotation after the 2022 season, as Clayton Kershaw, Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney are all free agents. Andrew Friedman once signed Trevor Bauer to a three-year, $102 million contract. With Bauer’s contract off the books, could Friedman make a splash once again?

Where will Carlos Correa land?

Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles have a strong young core, headlined by Adley Rutschman, and are viewed by rival executives as a team that could make a splash in free agency. Correa, arguably the best free-agent shortstop, would fit that description … if the price is right. One note to consider: Mike Elias, the Orioles general manager, was the Astros’ amateur scouting director when Houston drafted Correa.

Chicago Cubs: The Cubs have expressed confidence in Nico Hoerner as the long-term shortstop. But Jed Hoyer recently told reporters: “The way the game is trending, athleticism in the middle infield will make a big difference.” The Cubs were linked to Correa last offseason and once again, they’ll have a plethora of options to consider (Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson).

Who will pony up for Aaron Judge?

New York Yankees: After turning down a seven-year, $213.5 million contract this past offseason, Judge is going to get paid in free agency. Right now, I believe that contract will come from the Yankees. He means too much to that roster. Judge and the Yankees are in good standing after avoiding an arbitration hearing. And he posted the best season of his career, hitting .311/.425/.686 with 62 home runs, 131 RBI and 10.2 WAR.

San Francisco Giants: San Francisco has been connected to Judge for obvious reasons. He’s from Fresno, CA and grew up a Giants fan. They have money to spend and the flexibility to add a huge contract. They also have a need for a big bat (and outfielder) and Judge would give them their best player since Barry Bonds.

New York Mets: You can’t rule anything out with Steve Cohen. You just can’t. But the only scenario in which I see the Mets getting serious for Judge is if they lose deGrom in free agency and feel the need to spend big in free agency after an early playoff exit.

Trea Turner will have no shortage of suitors

Los Angeles Dodgers: By all accounts, Turner has loved his time with the Dodgers, and that feeling is mutual. Los Angeles felt comfortable letting Corey Seager leave in free agency last winter because of Turner’s presence. But Turner, who some scouts believe is the best shortstop in baseball, is going to get paid in free agency. One evaluator predicted Turner would sign a long-term contract worth between Seager and Francisco Lindor’s average annual value. When asked about that assessment, another evaluator said: “They’re in the right ballpark.”

Atlanta Braves: To me, the Braves are the sleeper for Turner … if Dansby Swanson leaves in free agency. Swanson and the Braves have talked about an extension, sources said, though nothing is believed to be close. Atlanta has saved money in the long haul by signing Michael Harris II, Spencer Strider, Austin Riley and others to extensions. Perhaps they could use some of that money to sign Turner in a move that would send shockwaves throughout baseball.

San Francisco Giants: The Giants have to start thinking about life after Brandon Crawford and Turner would be a very good succession plan. Crawford is signed through 2023, but Turner has the versatility to play second base. Andrew Friedman acquired Turner in 2021. Giants executive Farhan Zaidi worked alongside Friedman with the Dodgers and happen to like many of the same players. Just sayin’.

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