Rhys Hoskins isn’t a player without his flaws, but the slugging first baseman has proven to be capable of hitting 25 to 30 home runs per season while consistently drawing his walks. He may not be an irreplaceable player, but most teams don’t currently employ a first base/DH option better than the 30-year-old.
Among those teams are his current employer, the Philadelphia Phillies. While Trea Turner has struggled at the plate in his first season with the Phillies, and Bryce Harper’s power hasn’t entirely returned since Tommy John surgery, the Phillies have missed the right-handed thump of Hoskins in their lineup since he tore his left ACL this spring.
Dave Dombrowski and company are getting an interesting look into what life after Hoskins — who can become a free agent after the season — could look like.
For Hoskins, a Scott Boras client, likely missing all of the 2023 season is a crushing blow. Hoskins isn’t as accomplished as José Abreu, but he’s six years younger. Had Hoskins had another 30-homer, 90-RBI season, he very well could have landed a deal similar to the three-year/$58.5 million deal that Abreu received from the Houston Astros this past winter.
Instead, there’s a real chance Hoskins will have to settle for a qualifying offer, assuming one is extended to him, and hope he’s productive coming off of surgery in 2024.
With Hoskins’ stock down for the time being, here’s a look at the 10 best potential free agents in the 2023-24 class:
10. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP – Age 31 in 2024
After he used his partial no-trade clause to block a deal that would have sent him to the Los Angeles Dodgers just prior to the trade deadline, it’s difficult to know what to make of Rodriguez’s future.
He’s pitched very well in 15 starts this season, posting a 2.95 ERA and 3.17 FIP across 88.1 innings pitched. That would lead you to believe that he’ll opt out of the final three seasons of his five-year, $77 million deal and become a free agent again.
Conversely, Rodriguez and his family might be comfortable in Detroit, and he’ll elect to remain there. It’s also possible that he just didn’t want to deal with such a drastic change in location in the middle of the season.
If he opts out, there will be interest, but he does have an injury history, so there will be some questions from potential suitors.
9. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF – Age 28 in 2024
Bellinger had a string of parts of three disastrous seasons for the Dodgers after winning the NL MVP in 2019 and was finally non-tendered this past offseason. However, he caught on with the Cubs and has certainly rebounded, enough to earn Just Baseball’s Player of the Month honors for July.
His ability to play first base and all three outfield positions only adds to his value, as does the fact that he’s under 30. At the same time, Bellinger posting a .648 OPS between 2020 and 2022 still happened.
Furthermore, there are some concerning underlying metrics for him in 2023. His batting average on balls in play is .330, as opposed to .283 for his career. His hard-hit percentage in 2023 is 28%, down significantly from a 39.1% career average. Expect there to be wide variances in how teams view Bellinger should he reach the open market this offseason.
8. Marcus Stroman, RHP – Age 33 in 2024
Stroman went 9-6 with a 2.96 ERA in the first half of the season, earning him his second career All-Star selection. However, since then, he’s posted a 10.13 ERA in four starts, culminating in an IL stint for right hip inflammation.
Assuming Stroman pitches at a competent level when he returns, he’ll likely opt out of the final season of a three-year, $71 million deal with the Cubs and return to the free-agent market.
One of the risks in the Cubs holding onto him beyond the trade deadline is that because he previously accepted a qualifying offer from the Mets in 2021, he can’t be extended a QO again. So, if the Cubs aren’t comfortable matching whatever multi-year offers Stroman receives this offseason, they’ll be left empty-handed should he sign elsewhere.
7. Josh Hader, CL – Age 30 in 2024
After a brief hiccup last summer, the five-time All-Star has gotten back on track and is throwing as hard as ever.
Hader is on a Hall of Fame trajectory, and while paying relievers well into their thirties can end poorly, there should be a robust market for the three-time Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year.
With a 0.89 ERA and 0.959 WHIP, one would think Hader will look to top the five-year, $102 million deal that Edwin Díaz received from the New York Mets last offseason.
6. Blake Snell, LHP – Age 31 in 2024
Snell will almost certainly receive a qualifying offer from the Padres. That could hurt his value a bit, depending on what teams will be suitors for him and how much they value draft picks.
At the same time, the former AL Cy Young Award winner has a 2.50 ERA and 3.62 FIP in 22 starts this season. He’s not someone that’s going to top 200 innings, but Snell can be a very good No. 3 on a World Series-caliber team.
5. Lucas Giolito, RHP – Age 29 in 2024
Because Giolito was traded to the Los Angeles Angels prior to the trade deadline, he’s no longer eligible to be issued a qualifying offer, an advantage he will have in free agency over someone like Snell or the next few pitchers on this list.
At times throughout the course of his career, Giolito has been a horse. But year-to-year consistency, or even start-to-start consistency, hasn’t been there for the former first-round pick. In what turned out to be his penultimate start with the White Sox, Giolito gave up eight runs over 3.2 innings pitched. That, however, was wedged in between two starts where he allowed two runs over 12 frames.
On the right team, Giolito could compete for a Cy Young Award. On the wrong team, his deal could age like Patrick Corbin’s has in Washington.
4. Julio Urías, LHP – Age 27 in 2024
It’s been a frustrating walk year for Urías, who has a 4.98 ERA and 4.79 FIP to show for his 15 starts this season. He also spent time on the injured list with a left hamstring strain in May and June.
Part of you wonders — especially given that he’s the youngest of the potential free-agent arms — if Urías would be tempted to accept the qualifying offer this offseason from the Dodgers. Then again, he has the least mileage on his arm of any pitcher in this class, and he finished third in NL Cy Young voting in 2022 (while taking home the ERA title, to boot).
There will be long-term offers on the table that give Urías more security than accepting the qualifying offer would. And it’s possible that he’ll be able to secure an early opt-out clause, like the aforementioned Rodriguez did when he became a free agent at an inopportune time.
3. Aaron Nola, RHP – Age 31 in 2024
Nola is not having a good contract year for the Phillies, as he’s posted a 4.43 ERA and 4.26 FIP across his first 22 starts. The 24 home runs he’s surrendered are already more than he allowed in 37 total starts between the regular season and playoffs in 2022.
Still, FanGraphs had Nola as their leader in WAR among pitchers just a season ago. For as much of a struggle as 2023 has been at times, he still is fourth in baseball with 138 innings pitched.
Since the start of the 2018 season, Nola leads all pitchers with 1,009.2 IP, with Gerrit Cole the only other arm to top 950. It just feels like Nola’s been too dependable not to get a lucrative five-year deal if he hits the open market.
2. Matt Chapman, 3B – Age 31 in 2024
While some of the starting pitchers on this list have hurt their stock this year to varying degrees, Chapman has probably helped himself. He’s slashing .258/.353/.460 with 14 home runs, 44 RBIs, 53 walks and an .812 OPS.
Perhaps most importantly, the two-time Platinum Glove winner is performing like an elite defensive third baseman again. After posting 2 defensive runs saved and 1 out above average in his first season with the Blue Jays, Chapman has 12 DRS and 5 OAA in 2023.
1. Shohei Ohtani, DH/RHP – Age 29 in 2024
What’s there to say? If Ohtani isn’t the greatest show the sport has ever seen, he’s not far behind. It’s fair to wonder how sustainable being a frontline starter and elite slugger is, but it’s impossible to look away when Ohtani is on the field right now.
There’s been a lot of talk about how the former AL MVP could be the first player to get a $500 million contract, but don’t be shocked if the number ends up closer to $600 million.