Ranking All 30 MLB Teams as Free-Agent Destinations in the 2022-23 Offseason | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

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Ranking All 30 MLB Teams as Free-Agent Destinations in the 2022-23 Offseason

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    AP Photo/John Minchillo

    Let’s all imagine, just for a little while, that we’re looking for work on Major League Baseball’s free-agent market. While we’re at it, let’s also assume that all 30 teams’ doors are open to us.

    Now then, how to rank our choices?

    This is how we set about sizing up all 30 MLB teams as free-agent destinations. It involved weighing factors that are sure to influence the decisions of real-life free agents, such as:

  • Resources: Or available money, in other words. This tends to be an important part of free-agent transactions.
  • Contention Timelines: Everything else being equal, players generally want to play to win.
  • Surroundings: How’s the ballpark? The city? The state? Perhaps more to the point for the latter two, is it an expensive or affordable place to live?

This was ultimately a subjective exercise, which means it’s not at all impossible to argue with how we arranged teams from No. 30 all the way down to No. 1.

In any case, we’ll check them off three at a time.

30-28: Athletics, Pirates, Reds

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    OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Manager Mark Kotsay #7 of the Oakland Athletics in the dugout during the game against the Seattle Mariners at RingCentral Coliseum on September 22, 2022 in Oakland, California. The Mariners defeated the Athletics 9-5. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)

    Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

    30. Oakland Athletics

    2022 Record: 60-102

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $35 Million

    Even in the best of times, the A’s have never spent more than $30 million on a single free agent. And with their first 100-loss season since 1979 in their immediate past and no real certainty as to whether their future is in Oakland or Las Vegas, these aren’t the best of times.

    The A’s also play in baseball’s fifth-oldest and first-worst stadium and in a state with the highest income tax and the second-highest cost of living out of the lower 48.


    29. Pittsburgh Pirates

    2022 Record: 62-100

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $48 Million

    Because PNC Park is an absolute jewel of a stadium and Pennsylvania is a low-tax state, the Pirates indeed have an enticing environment to offer. Plus, the team itself has a promising core coming together.

    The catch? Bob Nutting. The Pirates owner is notoriously stingy in free agency, never spending more than $39 million on a single player. There may come a day when that changes, but it likely won’t be after a second straight 100-loss season.


    28. Cincinnati Reds

    2022 Record: 62-100

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $73 Million

    The Reds haven’t been totally unwilling to spend in recent history, notably signing Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas to $64 million deals during the 2019-20 offseason. And between its low taxes and cost of living, dollars go further in Ohio than they do elsewhere.

    Alas, the Reds simply aren’t in a position to spend right now. Massive payroll cuts preceded the club’s 100-loss campaign in 2022, and Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer has written that still more cuts may be in order this winter.

27-25: Nationals, Royals, Rays

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    ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 24: Tyler Glasnow #20 and manager Kevin Cash #16 of the Tampa Bay Rays converse during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field on September 24, 2022 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

    Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

    27. Washington Nationals

    2022 Record: 55-107

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $92 Million

    Washington, D.C., is a high-tax place with an exorbitant cost of living, to boot, but those are things that can be overcome with big spending. The Nationals have indeed done a lot of that in the past, including on four different nine-figure deals in free agency.

    Of course, that was then. This is now, wherein the Nationals are in the process of being sold while they also try to rebuild. Even if they pursue more Nelson Cruz-like deals, the really big spending figures to be on pause for a while.


    26. Kansas City Royals

    2022 Record: 65-97

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $76 Million

    Even though it will turn 50 years old next year, Kauffman Stadium is aging just fine as a venue for the ol’ ballgame. Missouri is also one of the more affordable states, so there would be a lot to like here if the Royals were a contender with cash to burn.

    Unfortunately, this is not the case. Royals general manager J.J. Picollo has indicated that payroll will be similar in 2023 to what it was in 2022. If he’s referring to the club’s $94.8 million Opening Day payroll, there’s not even room for $20 million in new salaries.


    25. Tampa Bay Rays

    2022 Record: 86-76

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $68 Million

    Given their tendency for working magic with whatever players they get their hands on, the Rays are a decent landing spot for free agents looking for a career boost. Plus, Florida’s relatively high cost of living is offset somewhat by the state’s absence of income taxes.

    Trouble is, the Rays obviously aren’t going to pay anyone much money. They’ve never spent more than $30 million on a single free agent. And with all respect to Tropicana Field…well, it’s actually with no respect to Tropicana Field that we say it’s kind of a dump.

24-22: Marlins, Guardians, White Sox

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 03: General manager Kim Ng, manager Skip Schumaker, and owner Bruce Sherman of the Miami Marlins speak to the media during a press conference at loanDepot park on November 03, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

    Megan Briggs/Getty Images

    24. Miami Marlins

    2022 Record: 69-93

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $95 Million

    Though Miami is hardly an affordable city, at least there are no income taxes in Florida. And unlike the Rays, the Marlins play in a new-ish stadium with all the fixings. And despite their 2022 record, Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcántara is but one part of a talented roster.

    Yet the catch here needs no introduction, as it were. The Marlins are at best unpredictable spenders in free agency. And with their 2023 payroll already slotted above what they spent in 2022, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be more aggressive this winter.


    23. Cleveland Guardians

    2022 Record: 92-70

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $72 Million

    The Guardians are fresh off beating expectations in 2022, and with the league’s youngest roster at that. That plus the general affordability of Ohio would make place them high on free agents’ wish list in an alternate universe where the Guardians are known for big spending.

    In this universe, however, the Guardians aren’t known for that. And while president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti does expect payroll to go up in 2023, that doesn’t necessarily mean a return to the franchise’s record-high of $134.9 million is in the cards.


    22. Chicago White Sox

    2022 Record: 81-81

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $172 Million

    The White Sox just had a disappointing season, but they have enough in-house talent to aim for an immediate bounceback in 2023. They’re also $24 million below what they spent in 2022, which ought to give them room to add salary.

    To hear it from GM Rick Hahn, however, the White Sox are more likely to add from the trade market than the free-agent market. That’s a bummer for prospective suitors on the open market, who otherwise could have been eyeing Illinois’ reasonable taxes and cost of living.

21-19: Brewers, Diamondbacks, Angels

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    ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Matt Duffy #5 , interim manager Phil Nevin #88, Kurt Suzuki #24 and Jo Adell #7 of the Los Angeles Angels wait to greet Mike Trout #27 after a solo home run in the game against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 16, 2022 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

    Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

    21. Milwaukee Brewers

    2022 Record: 86-76

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $126 Million

    The Brewers are entrenched as one of MLB’s more consistent contenders, having enjoyed four playoff runs and five winning seasons since 2017. They’ve also been willing to spend in the past, with Lorenzo Cain’s $80 million deal from 2018 representing their high mark.

    Yet with only $11 million in space between where they ended 2022 and where they project to begin 2023, the Brewers would seem to have a limited budget for their shopping this winter. What’s more, Wisconsin has a relatively high marginal tax rate.


    20. Arizona Diamondbacks

    2022 Record: 74-88

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $98 Million

    Though the Diamondbacks are already slated to have a heavier payroll in 2023 than they did in 2022, GM Mike Hazen sure seems to be in an adding mood. The closer ownership is willing to go the franchise’s peak payroll of $131.6 million, the more leeway he’ll have.

    Yet in the scheme of things, even $30-odd million in new salaries wouldn’t qualify as much of a splash. And from the perspective of free agents, the D-backs are an uncertain contender in a relatively expensive state and in a city that’s been hit hard by inflation.


    19. Los Angeles Angels

    2022 Record: 73-89

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $181 Million

    The Angels might not be the property of Arte Moreno much longer, though GM Perry Minasian insisted on Nov. 7 that this wouldn’t preclude him from bigger expenditures. He subsequently proved as much by signing Tyler Anderson to a three-year, $39 million deal.

    There may be more where that came from if Moreno wants to end his ownership reign with a bang. Still, good-luck wishes are in order getting free agents to buy in to the team’s contention aspirations while walking headlong into California’s high taxes and cost of living.

18-16: Rockies, Tigers, Padres

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    SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 19: Manny Machado #13 of the San Diego Padres celebrates with manager Bob Melvin after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in game two of the National League Championship Series at PETCO Park on October 19, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    18. Colorado Rockies

    2022 Record: 68-94

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $158 Million

    Though the Rockies are already projected to top their 2022 expenditures by $22 million in 2023, reports that they’re in on Brandon Nimmo indicate that they’re willing to push even higher. If so, good on them for clearly being unhappy with their performance this year.

    Whether free agents are willing to give the Rockies’ contention timeline the benefit of the doubt is another question. And as beautiful as Coors Field and the surrounding area may be, Colorado isn’t the cheapest place to live.


    17. Detroit Tigers

    2022 Record: 66-96

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $109 Million

    The Tigers have had payrolls brushing up against the $200 million plateau in the past, so they’re well short of their spending capacity. They’d do well to use this flexibility to improve an offense that was the worst in baseball in several categories (including runs) in 2022.

    Whether free agents are willing to board the Tigers as they attempt to break free of a years-long rebuilding phase is another question. Michigan’s low taxes and cost of living, however, only figure to help the team win over any skeptics it attempts to court.


    16. San Diego Padres

    2022 Record: 89-73

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $210 Million

    Remember when the Padres were considered a small-market team? Those days are long gone. They’ve been one of baseball’s biggest spenders in recent years, in part because of their willingness to go big in free agency.

    Between that, the club’s wide-open contention window and the splendor of Petco Park, the Padres should be a top destination for free agents. Trouble is, their proximity to next year’s $233 million luxury-tax threshold could limit their flexibility this winter. Further trouble is, San Diego is really expensive.

15-13: Atlanta, Blue Jays, Orioles

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    CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 01: Manager Brandon Hyde #18 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates with Anthony Santander #25 after Santander hit a solo home run off Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Guardians during the first inning at Progressive Field on September 01, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

    Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

    15. Atlanta

    2022 Record: 101-61

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $196 Million

    As argued by Jake Mailhot of FanGraphs, Atlanta might be the strongest team in baseball right now. That ought to appeal to free agents who want to win, some of whom could also be swayed by how Georgia offers the lowest cost of living of any state with an MLB team.

    The catch, though, is that Atlanta is already slated to blow away last year’s franchise-record Opening Day payroll of $177.8 million. And to hear it from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the door is open to Dansby Swanson but perhaps no other high-priced free agents.


    14. Toronto Blue Jays

    2022 Record: 92-70

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $176 Million

    The Blue Jays haven’t shied away from going after big free-agent fish in recent years. That’s helped push their payroll ever higher, but they recently cleared a big salary with the Teoscar Hernández trade and are now said to be after Brandon Nimmo.

    This would indicate that the Jays are willing to further stretch their budget, as well they should be at a time when they have World Series upside. Prospective free agents must nonetheless beware that playing in Canada is a complicated situation (see here and here) with regard to taxes.


    13. Baltimore Orioles

    2022 Record: 83-79

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $41 Million

    The Orioles made the leap from rebuilder to contender in 2022, as they weren’t eliminated from the postseason until Oct. 1. The next step should be to invest in veteran talent to complement the team’s young core, and GM Mike Elias has indicated this will indeed happen:

    MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM @MLBNetworkRadio

    The Birds are back! <br><br>After being one of the biggest surprises this season, Mike Elias and the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Orioles?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Orioles</a> have big plans. <a href=”https://twitter.com/Orioles?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Orioles</a> | <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Birdland?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Birdland</a> <a href=”https://t.co/tQgEtFVJ8n”>pic.twitter.com/tQgEtFVJ8n</a>

    There are some caveats here, including Oriole Park at Camden Yards’ newfound bias against right-handed sluggers and Maryland’s ultra-high cost of living. But the more the Orioles are willing to pay, the more willing free agents figure to be to overlook these things.

12-10: Rangers, Astros, Cardinals

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    HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 07: Dusty Baker Jr. and Melissa Baker , Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner,  Astros Owner Jim Crane and wife Whitney Crane, participate in the World Series Parade on November 07, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    12. Texas Rangers

    2022 Record: 68-94

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $140 Million

    It was just last year that the Rangers spent $500 million just on Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, but every indication is that they’re willing to spend even more. Even the organization’s record payroll of $165.3 million might not be safe.

    Factoring in that, by way of no income taxes and a low cost of living, Texas is a good place to be for anyone who wants their dollars to go as far as possible, about the only issue here is whether the Rangers are a real contender or a wannabe contender.


    11. Houston Astros

    2022 Record: 106-56

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $164 Million

    The Astros are the reigning World Series champs and, at least in our estimation, a legitimate dynasty despite certain illegitimate things in their past. And with a $15 million gap between their year-end payroll for 2022 and their projected payroll for 2023, they have room to add.

    The Astros are nonetheless in a weird place, characterized by the sudden dismantling of their front office. So despite the organization’s credentials—and the aforementioned benefits of living in Texas—that’s at least one potential turn-off for free agents.


    10. St. Louis Cardinals

    2022 Record: 93-69

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $154 Million

    The Cardinals have made the playoffs four years in a row and 16 times overall since the turn of the century. St. Louis is thus a good place to be for those who truly value a winning culture, and Missouri isn’t a place that’s going to burn a hole in anyone’s wallet.

    And while the club is already up against the franchise’s peak of $163.5 million, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak has said that payroll will go up in 2023. Perhaps by a lot, if ESPN’s Jeff Passan is right that they’re likely to go “really big” this winter.

9-7: Twins, Mariners, Red Sox

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    BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Manager Alex Cora #13 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates with his team after a 17-4 victory against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 10, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    9. Minnesota Twins

    2022 Record: 78-84

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $98 Million

    With a $44 million gap between where they ended 2022 and where they project to begin 2023, the Twins have room to throw their weight around on the winter market. And despite what happened this past season, their contention window is indeed open.

    On whether they’re a proper World Series contender, though, there’s room for debate. And while neither may necessarily turn free agents off from the Twins completely, neither Minnesota’s income taxes nor its cost of living is on the cheap side.


    8. Seattle Mariners

    2022 Record: 90-72

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $140 Million

    The Mariners’ playoff drought finally ended after 21 years in 2022. And while its 2023 payroll is already higher than the $118 million it spent in 2022, the franchise has gone as high as $157.9 million in the past.

    That hypothetically leaves room for $18 million in new salaries, perhaps on the low end if the Mariners decide to go for broke. But while Washington only taxes capital gains, the state’s high cost of living could be a deal-breaker for prospective free-agent signees.


    7. Boston Red Sox

    2022 Record: 78-84

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $133 Million

    A couple of things make the Red Sox one of the thornier destinations for free agents. For one, the team’s status as a contender is very much in question right now. For two, the cost of living in Massachusetts is the highest of any state in the lower 48.

    According to Rosenthal, however, the Red Sox are signaling a “strong willingness” to spend. And they could potentially spend a lot, particularly given that they’re $81 million in average annual value short of next year’s $233 million luxury-tax threshold.

6-4: Giants, Cubs, Yankees

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 11: Manager Gabe Kapler #19 of the San Francisco Giants looks on from the dugout during the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Oracle Park on June 11, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    6. San Francisco Giants

    2022 Record: 81-81

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $133 Million

    The Giants resemble a West Coast version of the Red Sox in two ways. For one, the openness of the former’s contention window is debatable. For two, California and San Francisco, specifically, are not cheap places to live.

    And yet, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has said that nobody is “out of our capability” as the team looks to recover after falling from 107 wins in 2021 to just 81 this year. As such, the club’s record payroll of $200.5 million has a made-to-be-broken look to it.


    5. Chicago Cubs

    2022 Record: 74-88

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $127 Million

    The Cubs’ payroll projection for 2023 is only $19 million lower than where they ended 2022, but it’s $76 million below the franchise’s high mark of $203.1 million. This should be a diving board for a huge offseason splash, likely involving a center fielder and shortstop.

    Marquee Sports Network @WatchMarquee

    “I love Carlos Correa with the Chicago Cubs.”<a href=”https://twitter.com/jonmorosi?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@jonmorosi</a> with the latest on the free agent shortstop market. <a href=”https://t.co/N7ar0LvSKC”>pic.twitter.com/N7ar0LvSKC</a>

    Of course, accepting money from the Cubs would require free agents to trust that the team’s contention timeline is better than it’s looked the last two years. The reasonable cost of living in Illinois, however, could perhaps make some more willing to roll those dice.


    4. New York Yankees

    2022 Record: 99-63

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $206 Million

    Though it’s not as bad as California, New York is similarly an expensive place by way of its high taxes and cost of living. And after re-signing Anthony Rizzo to a two-year, $40 million contract, the Yankees’ free-agent funds have only diminished since the start of the offseason.

    And yet, the 27-time World Series champs remain $40 million short of last year’s Opening Day payroll of $246 million. Most, if not all, of that is presumably earmarked for Aaron Judge. But should he depart, one assumes all that money won’t go unspent.

3-1: Phillies, Mets, Dodgers

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    From left, Los Angeles Dodgers Cody Bellinger, Trayce Thompson, manager Dave Roberts and bench coach Bob Geren celebrate after Thompson hits a home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Los Angeles. Dodgers won 6-2. (AP Photo/Raul Romero Jr.)

    AP Photo/Raul Romero Jr.

    3. Philadelphia Phillies

    2022 Record: 87-75

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $179 Million

    If the Phillies proved anything in 2022, it’s that teams constructed mostly out of high-priced hired guns can indeed succeed in today’s MLB. They nonetheless still have work to do, as winning the National League pennant isn’t quite the same as winning the World Series.

    To this end, the Phillies figure to spare no expense. If they’re comfortable opening 2023 where they ended 2022, they can add as much as $63 million in new salaries. That’s plenty with which to entice free agents, who could be further enticed by Pennsylvania’s low taxes.


    2. New York Mets

    2022 Record: 101-61

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $235 Million

    With regard to luring free agents, the Mets effectively come with the same financial roadblocks as the Yankees. They likewise have less to spend now than they did at the outset of the winter after re-upping with Edwin Díaz for $102 million over five years.

    But if it’s a question of whether the Mets are maxed out, the answer seems to be a firm “no.” Team owner Steve Cohen has hinted that even a $300 million payroll isn’t out of the question, which would indicate he’s still serious about delivering a World Series victory.


    1. Los Angeles Dodgers

    2022 Record: 111-51

    Projected 2023 Payroll: $152 Million

    Signing a contract with the Dodgers comes with certain financial drawbacks. We’ve talked about California’s taxes and cost of living, and the latter is that much more relevant to the Dodgers given that Los Angeles is the most expensive place to live in the country.

    On the plus side, signing with the Dodgers also means joining the most constant winner of the last decade. And if they’re willing to match last year’s Opening Day payroll of $280.8 million, they can make one of the biggest offseason splashes that’s ever been made.


    Payroll projections courtesy of FanGraphs. Historical payroll data courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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