The 2023-24 MLB offseason is slowly building momentum, with a free agent spending frenzy potentially on the horizon. The winter meetings are right around the corner, and presumably, some of the top offensive players on the open market will soon find new homes.
One of those top offensive players is third baseman Jeimer Candelario. He enters free agency for the second consecutive offseason, but this time around he is going to secure a lofty multi-year contract after turning in a strong 2023 campaign.
The 30-year-old switch hitter brings an element of consistency and dependability to the batting order, as well as valuable defensive versatility in the field. He was one of the most coveted bats at the trade deadline back in July, and now he will be equally desirable in free agency as one of the best offensive players on the market.
Candelario will be a target for any ball club looking for corner infield help, and there is a long list of teams who could use another impact bat in the middle of their lineup. Let’s take a look at potential suitors, starting with his most recent ball club.
A potential reunion in the Windy City would make sense for both parties. The Cubs acquired Candelario from the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline, and his presence in the lineup served as a boost for their offensive production down the stretch in 2023.
He didn’t post eye-popping numbers in his 41 games with the Cubs, as he hit just .234 while posting an OPS of .763. Yet, he continued to tally extra-base hits at a high rate with his new ball club, racking up nine doubles, six homers, and one triple in 157 plate appearances.
Low back strains staggered Candelario’s momentum at the plate when the calendar turned to September, so perhaps the ailments were the source of his offensive slump in the final months of the 2023 season.
Nonetheless, the Cubs are in need of an everyday third baseman who can provide consistent offensive production. If they fill the position internally, Nick Madrigal, Patrick Wisdom, and Christopher Morel will be the primary trio to fill the void.
While that grouping has plenty of talent, Candelario would be a more stable bat that can slide into any spot in the Cubs’ batting order. Chicago will be active in free agency, and Candelario is one of the top options at a position of need. There’s a real chance he remains in a Cubs uniform in 2024.
The Seattle Mariners should be in the mix for some of the top free agents this offseason, and signing Candelario could be in their plans. After trading former third baseman Eugenio Suárez to the Arizona Diamondbacks last week, the Mariners now have a vacancy at the position.
In nearly 700 plate appearances this past season, Suárez launched 22 homers and drove in 96 runs, which was the second-most on the Mariners.
If they choose to fill the position internally, Luis Urías, whom they acquired on November 17, appears to be in position to take over at the hot corner. However, Urías is coming off a miserable 2023 campaign in which he failed to hit .200 while posting an OPS under .640 across 144 plate appearances.
All that said, the Mariners are looking to compete in 2024. If they’re serious about contending, they will need to bring in an impact bat to fill the position next season, and Candelario feels like the perfect fit.
In terms of price, he won’t be as expensive as Matt Chapman, who is widely viewed as the top third baseman on the market. In terms of performance, he can hit for power and contact, and his recent offensive production makes him a logical replacement for Suárez at third base.
Toronto Blue Jays
Speaking of Matt Chapman, his potential departure from Toronto would leave the Blue Jays with a crucial vacancy at third base. While a reunion with the Jays isn’t out of the question, there will be several teams in the market for Chapman’s services, and he will warrant a significant financial commitment.
If Toronto passes on re-signing Chapman, Candelario feels like a viable replacement at third base. He would be a shorter-term, cheaper option, and he would be more than capable of being an impact bat in the middle of their lineup.
While he isn’t near the caliber of defender that Chapman is, Candelario can replace him from an offensive standpoint. The Jays are always in the market to add offensive firepower, and Candelario would deliver on that goal.
If the Blue Jays wish to fill the role internally, there are several less-inspiring options they could turn to. Yet, if they wish to compete in 2024, they should make a strong run at Candelario if Chapman signs with another club.
The Milwaukee Brewers could truly go in any direction this offseason. There have been rumblings of the club entertaining the idea of a fire sale, and there is still a chance they go out and get some coveted free agents to round out a competitive roster.
If the Brewers do choose to spend in free agency in an attempt to defend their NL Central title, Jeimer Candelario would be the picture-perfect fit. Two of Milwaukee’s biggest roster needs reside at the corner infield positions, and Candelario can play both spots at a high level.
Additionally, he would immediately slide into the middle of Milwaukee’s lineup as one of their top bats. He is coming off a 2023 season in which he slashed .251/.336/.471 to go with a wRC+ of 117. He hit a career-high 22 home runs to go with a whopping 39 doubles, which was the third-most doubles in the National League.
Between his switch-hitting ability and his defensive versatility at positions of need, Candelario seems like the ideal target for the Brewers. However, his upcoming deal won’t be cheap.
It all depends on how much Milwaukee will be willing to spend in free agency, if anything at all. I have my doubts the Brewers will be willing to pay for any of this year’s top free agents, given the several penny-pinching decisions the organization has made as of late.
The Washington Nationals are the dark horse in the Candelario sweepstakes, but a reunion with his former ball club makes some sense. He signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Nats last offseason, and he posted an .823 OPS while hitting 30 doubles and 16 homers prior to being traded to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline.
ESPN staff writer Jesse Rodgers reported that the Nationals have already shown interest in a reunion with the third baseman:
“Interest in Candelario should be high coming off a career-type year, with Toronto and his old team, Washington, already showing some.”
The future is bright for this young Nationals team. They ended the 2023 season with 71 wins, which far surpassed their preseason win total projections, and they have some young pieces starting to round into form at the big league level.
If the Nationals brought Candelario back on a multi-year deal, he would serve as a valuable veteran presence in the clubhouse and the lineup. The Nationals certainly won’t be contending in 2024, but if they wish to compete for a playoff spot soon after, a Candelario signing could go a long way for their success.