Major League Baseball's free-agent period has opened up, and that means it's time for everyone to lean into the mad season to come. Sometimes that entails ranking free agents (we've already done that) or trade candidates (we've done that too), and other times it means making sure-to-be-wrong predictions.
Below, you'll find our early winter guesses at what contracts the top 10 free agents on the market will sign before the offseason is said and done. For the most part, these have been informed by precedent. In other cases, we're going off industry speculation. We are legally obligated to note that these are for entertainment purposes only and you shouldn't take them as gospel.
With that fine print out of the way, let's get to it.
1. Shohei Ohtani: 10 years, $500 million
. That would, rightly, give him the most lucrative contract in league history. He's since undergone elbow surgery that will prevent him from pitching again until 2025. How much will that impact his contract? It's to be seen. Some sources predicted to us that it wouldn't. We feel more confident in writing that Ohtani's next deal will likely include opt-out clauses as a means of separating offers from the pact.
2. Yoshinobu Yamamoto: 8 years, $220 million
The seven-year, $155 million pact Masahiro Tanaka signed with the Yankees in January 2014 remains the richest ever given to an incoming Japanese pitcher. (Shohei Ohtani's earning power was restricted by MLB's rules governing international amateur free-agent contracts.) Nearly a decade later, we anticipate that Yamamoto's combination of youth, skill, and track record should enable him to shatter that record by a healthy margin.
3. Cody Bellinger: 6 years, $180 million
George Springer signed a six-year pact worth $150 million prior to the 2021 season. A few years and a new CBA have passed in the time since, suggesting that Bellinger could be in for a richer deal. The catch is that Springer had demonstrated more year-to-year reliability than Bellinger. Nevertheless, it takes only one team to buy into Bellinger's unusual season for him to get paid.
4. Matt Chapman: 5 years, $150 million
While we have reservations about how Chapman's bat will age -- he's prone to swinging and missing and he has a large hole up in the zone -- he's undeniably an outstanding defensive third baseman who boasts middle-of-the-order power. That combination is going to get him paid. With the exception of José Ramírez's sweetheart deal with the Guardians, most third basemen with similar production make $30 million-plus annually. Our guess is that teams would prefer to sign him to a three- or four-year deal, but that some club will separate itself by giving him that fifth year, even if it's a risky proposition.
5. Aaron Nola: 5 years, $150 million
Nola has had a few inconsistent years so far as his ERA concerns. He throws strikes and takes his turn in the rotation, and a few veteran talent evaluators said they'd prefer him to Snell and the class's other non-Yamamoto pitchers. That leads us to believe that his contract could come in sweeter than expected.
6. Blake Snell: 5 years, $135 million
Carlos Rodón signed a six-year deal worth $162 million last winter. Snell might win the National League Cy Young Award, but we're skeptical he gets to that level financially. Front-office sources have expressed reservations about his command and workload, suggesting he might have to settle for a contract that's both a little shorter and a little lighter than he might've expected.
7. Eduardo Rodriguez: 5 years, $100 million
Rodriguez opted out of the three years and $49 million remaining on his previous deal. We'll give him two extra years plus a healthier chunk of change after he reestablished himself as an above-average lefty starter. With no stated geographic restrictions, it's possible Rodriguez gets even more than this.
8. Marcus Stroman: 3 years, $70 million
Stroman is a little older than Rodriguez, but he too opted out of the one year and $21 million left on his deal to test the open market. We're projecting him to gain two years and nearly $50 million more. This might prove to be too optimistic -- Stroman has not cleared the 150-inning threshold since 2021 -- but it's essentially a sweeter version of the deal Chris Bassitt signed last winter with the Toronto Blue Jays.
9. Lucas Giolito: 2 years, $38 million
Giolito is a difficult pitcher to peg because teams will have different reads on how his last two seasons have played out. (He was disappointing in 2022 and miserable in 2023 following a midseason trade.) It's possible some teams will feel more comfortable going three-plus years than we realize. For now, we're giving him what amounts to the Nathan Eovaldi contract after some inflation.
10. Jordan Montgomery: 5 years, $110 million
Montgomery isn't as flashy as his classmates and may not be viewed as a frontline starter. All he does is make his starts and get outs, and that should still make him an appealing target for a lot of teams. We're granting him that fifth year on the assumption that that's what it will take to get a deal done.