While a handful of free agent starters are already off the board (Martín Perez, Tyler Anderson, Clayton Kershaw), the majority of this year’s class remains on the open market. Of the 16 starting pitchers listed among our top 50 free agents, 13 are still in search of their next contract.
The range of pitchers available should make for an interesting hot stove season once a few more dominoes fall into place. There are Cy Young-caliber arms, talented mid-rotation starters, a number of high-risk, high-reward options, and one exciting star from Japan. Nearly every contending team should be in the market for at least one of them.
These are the top starters remaining in the 2023 free agent class.
1. Jacob deGrom – 2.2 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 5-4, 64.1 IP, 3.08 ERA, 102 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 14.27 K/9, 1.12 BB/9, 1.26 HR/9, 2.13 FIP, 2.24 xERA
DeGrom has long been the best pitcher in baseball when healthy, and he proved that’s still the case with a dominant two-month stretch at the end of the 2022 season. Regardless of health and age-related concerns, deGrom is still the best starter on the free agent market – that’s how good he is at full strength.
2. Justin Verlander – 6.1 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 18-4, 175 IP, 1.75 ERA, 185 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 9.51 K/9, 1.49 BB/9, 0.62 HR/9, 2.49 FIP, 2.66 xERA
Verlander proved age is just a number with a Cy Young performance in 2022. He’ll turn 40 years old next year, but considering how good he was at 39, his age is hardly a cause for concern just yet. The future Hall of Famer can still blow past opposing hitters with a 95 mph fastball and a nasty slider.
3. Carlos Rodón – 6.2 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 14-8, 178 IP, 2.88 ERA, 237 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 11.98 K/9, 2.63 BB/9, 0.61 HR/9, 2.25 FIP, 2.64 xERA
Rodón has been an injury risk throughout his career, but he put those concerns to rest in 2022 with the first 30-start season of his career. He’s been worth 11.1 fWAR over the past two seasons, which ranks third in baseball and first among left-handed pitchers.
Still just 29 years old, he’s one of the younger free agent starters, too. He should earn more guaranteed money than anyone else on the market.
4. Chris Bassitt – 2.7 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 15-9, 181.2 IP, 3.42 ERA, 167 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 8.27 K/9, 2.43 BB/9, 0.94 HR/9, 3.66 FIP, 3.46 xERA
Bassitt doesn’t have the Cy Young upside of the three pitchers ahead of him on this list, but he’s a safer bet than any of them. The right-hander has thrown 546 innings over the past four seasons with a 3.31 ERA and 9.3 fWAR. He’s a reliable mid-rotation starter – the kind of guy nearly every contending team could use.
5. Nathan Eovaldi – 1.0 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 6-3, 109.1 IP, 3.87 ERA, 103 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 8.48 K/9, 1.65 BB/9, 1.73 HR/9, 4.30 FIP, 4.31 xERA
Eovaldi’s full-season stats weren’t all that impressive in 2022, but it’s important to consider he spent most of the year dealing with various nagging injuries. His numbers are also skewed by a couple of dreadful appearances; if you remove those two starts, his ERA drops by more than a full run.
With several months to rest and recover this offseason, Eovaldi can hopefully return to his 2021 form, when he put up 5.7 fWAR in 32 starts.
6. Jameson Taillon – 2.3 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 14-5, 177.1 IP, 3.91 ERA, 151 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 7.66 K/9, 1.62 BB/9, 1.32 HR/9, 3.94 FIP, 4.20 xERA
Taillon never quite recovered the velocity he lost after his Tommy John surgery, but he has learned to adapt to his new normal. The righty made 32 starts in 2022 and posted one of the lowest walk rates in the American League. He’s a capable number-three starter with flashes of number-two potential, and rumor has it he’s already attracting quite a lot of interest this offseason.
7. Ross Stripling – 3.1 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 10-4, 134.1 IP, 3.01 ERA, 111 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 7.44 K/9, 1.34 BB/9, 0.80 HR/9, 3.11 FIP, 3.57 xERA
Stripling was a delightful surprise for the Blue Jays in 2022. His inconsistent performance in 2020 and 2021 will still give his suitors some pause, but Stripling was good enough in 24 starts this past season to get himself a nice multi-year deal.
8. Kodai Senga – NPB
I’ll be honest, I had a lot of trouble deciding where to rank Senga among the MLB free agent starters. His numbers from NPB are unreal, and he’ll only be 30 years old next season. However, it’s so hard to know how his performance in Japan will translate stateside. His upside is a lot higher than Taillon’s or Stripling’s, but I chose to play it safe for now.
9. José Quintana – 4.0 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 6-7, 165.2 IP, 2.93 ERA, 137 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 7.44 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9, 2.99 FIP, 3.86 xERA
Quintana probably won’t be able to replicate his dominant second half from 2022, when he had a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts. Still, if he can be the 3.50 ERA pitcher he was during the first half, that’s more than enough to make him an appealing free agent target.
10. Taijuan Walker – 2.5 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 12-5, 157.1 IP, 3.49 ERA, 132 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 7.55 K/9, 2.57 BB/9, 0.86 HR/9, 3.65 FIP, 3.94 xERA
For the second year in a row, Walker started off strong and then struggled in the second half. This time around, however, it wasn’t quite so big of a drop-off, and his second-half self was still a serviceable back-end starter. He also picked things up at the end of the year, putting himself in a good position to find another multi-year contract.
11. Corey Kluber – 3.0 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 10-10, 164 IP, 4.34 ERA, 139 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 7.63 K/9, 1.15 BB/9, 1.10 HR/9, 3.57 FIP, 4.00 xERA
Kluber qualified for the ERA title this past season for the first time since 2018. He’s no longer the pitcher he was back then, but the two-time Cy Young winner still knows what he’s doing on the mound. Kluber was a master of control in 2022, limiting opposing batters to 1.15 BB/9.
12. Andrew Heaney – 1.1 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 4-4, 72.2 IP, 3.10 ERA, 110 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 13.62 K/9, 2.35 BB/9, 1.73 HR/9, 3.75 FIP, 3.39 xERA
Heaney showed off his powerful stuff in 14 starts for the Dodgers. When it comes to potential, he’s one of the best free agent starters available. Unfortunately, injury issues kept him off the mound for much of the year, and teams will still have a lot of questions about his ability to perform next season.
13. Zach Eflin – 1.4 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 3-5, 75.2 IP, 4.04 ERA, 65 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 7.73 K/9, 1.78 BB/9, 0.95 HR/9, 3.56 FIP, 3.27 xERA
Eflin would be much higher on this list were it not for some serious injury concerns. When he’s on the mound, the 28-year-old righty is a talented mid-rotation starter. Unfortunately, he’s dealt with chronic knee injuries throughout his entire career, and they’ve been particularly bad in each of the past two seasons. Even so, his pre-injury performance and his late-season return to the Phillies’ bullpen should be enough to convince the right team to take a gamble on him.
14. Sean Manaea – 1.1 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 8-9, 158 IP, 4.96 ERA, 156 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 8.89 K/9, 2.85 BB/9, 1.65 HR/9, 4.53 FIP, 4.05 xERA
Manaea is a reliable number-four starter who flashed number-three potential in 2021. He makes a good fit for a team in search of stability with a little upside.
15. Noah Syndergaard – 2.2 fWAR
2022 Traditional Stats: 10-10, 134.2 IP, 3.94 ERA, 95 K
2022 Advanced Stats: 6.35 K/9, 2.07 BB/9, 0.94 HR/9, 3.83 FIP, 4.43 xERA
No longer the flamethrower he was before Tommy John surgery, Syndergaard now relies on a diverse mix of pitches to keep batters on their toes. It worked well enough in 2022, and still just 30 years old, Syndergaard has time to refine his approach.
Free Agent Starters – Honorable Mentions
Michael Wacha (1.5 fWAR), Zack Greinke (1.9 fWAR), Johnny Cueto (2.4 fWAR), Kyle Gibson (1.8 fWAR)