Baseball’s hot stove is burning bright this week as team executives, players, and agents have all converged in Nashville, Tennessee for the 2023 MLB Winter Meetings. With big name free agents still unsigned and major trade chips still in play, this figures to be one of the most active and exciting Winter Meetings in recent memory.
Shohei Ohtani’s Free Agency Looms Large
The biggest storyline in Nashville is the future of 2021 AL MVP Shohei Ohtani, the two-way superstar for the Los Angeles Angels. Ohtani is a free agent after the 2023 season and is expected to command a record-setting contract. Nearly every team would love to add Ohtani’s talents, but only a few have a realistic chance at signing him.
The Angels clearly want to retain Ohtani, but they face an uphill battle. Ohtani is said to be prioritizing winning at this stage of his career. After playing for losing Angels teams the last few years, he may look to join a perennial contender. Teams like the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, and Padres seem to have the best chance at Ohtani based on their ability to pay top dollar and build competitive rosters.
However, Ohtani is still under Angels’ control in 2023 and they will work hard this week to convince him to stay long-term. Re-signing him is GM Perry Minasian’s "main goal" but he admits they have work left to do. The Angels recently hired pitching coach John Burkett who has a pre-existing relationship with Ohtani from their time together in Japan. The Angels hope that connection could help sway Ohtani to re-sign.
Juan Soto’s Name Also Swirling in Trade Talks
Ohtani isn’t the only young superstar that could be on the move. Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals is on the trade block after rejecting a 15-year, $440 million contract extension offer from Washington last summer.
The Nationals are looking for a massive prospect haul in return for Soto. This makes completing a trade very difficult, but teams like the Cardinals, Rangers, Mariners, and Mets have shown real interest. The Nationals were unsatisfied with trade packages offered for Soto last summer, but his extra year of team control seems to have teams more willing to meet Washington’sasking price this time around.
Aaron Judge’s Dwindling Market
In contrast to Ohtani and Soto, Aaron Judge does not seem to have a robust free agent market despite coming off an AL record 62-homer season. Most insiders believe Judge will re-sign with the Yankees, but the lack of competition has slowed the negotiating process.
The Giants and Dodgers have been linked to Judge at times but do not seem willing to approach New York’s 9-year, $360 million offer. Brian Cashman and the Yankees still expect Judge to accept their deal. But if talks linger on too long, teams like the Red Sox could swoop in and snatch Judge away from his long-time club.
Intrigue Around Other Top Free Agents
Beyond the superstars above, there are several other fascinating free agents to track in Nashville:
- Reigning AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander has drawn interest from the Yankees, Dodgers, and Mets early on
- Shortstop Xander Bogaerts has meetings lined up with the Phillies, Red Sox, Cubs and others
- Outfielder Brandon Nimmo is being pursued aggressively by the Mets while the Rockies, Blue Jays, and Rays have also been involved
- Left-hander Carlos Rodon has attracted the Mariners, Yankees, Rangers, Dodgers and Giants so far
|2023 Free Agent
|Rumored Contract Ask
| Justin Verlander | Astros | Yankees, Dodgers, Mets | 2-3 years, $40M+ AAV
| Xander Bogaerts | Red Sox | Phillies, Cubs, Red Sox | 7+ years, $25M+ AAV |
| Brandon Nimmo | Mets | Mets, Rockies, Blue Jays, Rays | 5+ years, $20M+ AAV
| Carlos Rodon | Giants | Mariners, Yankees, Rangers, Dodgers | 6+ years, $30M+ AAV
Beyond the top targets above, dozens of other free agents will be seeking deals in Nashville this week. Relievers, back-end starters, role players, and more remain unsigned. Teams that miss out on the top names will pivot to contingency options deeper in the market.
Braves Seek Repeat, Mets & Phillies Push Back
The reigning champion Atlanta Braves have been uncharacteristically quiet so far, but expect them to make moves in Nashville. GM Alex Anthopoulos is known for creative trades and could use his prospect capital to add a bat or bolster the rotation behind Max Fried.
NL East rivals New York and Philadelphia will also be aggressive this week after missing the playoffs in 2022. The Mets are meeting with Verlander and have been heavily linked to Brandon Nimmo. They still need rotation help even after signing Justin Bieber.
The Phillies need to replace shortstop Bogaerts and could dangle young arms like Andrew Painter to do so. Their lineup and rotation are both viewed as playoff-caliber already if they can add one more key bat.
Dodgers & Padres Load Up In the West
The West promises to be a two-team arms race once again between regional rivals. Both clubs have met with Verlander early on and seem poised to spend whatever is necessary to maximize their championship odds in 2023.
The Dodgers top priorities seem to be retaining Trea Turner while adding either Verlander or Rodon to replace Tyler Anderson. The Padres will be eyeing upgrades at DH, second base, and the back-end of their rotation. San Diego GM A.J. Preller is also known for splashy trades if payroll flexibility persists.
Cubs & Cardinals Battle in Central
The Cubs and Cardinals enter the Winter Meetings as clear favorites in a weak NL Central. Both clubs have money to spend and motivation to improve.
Chicago is meeting with Bogaerts and has interest in Verlander as well. Their lineup and bullpen appear mostly set, putting the focus on rotation upgrades. St. Louis also covets Bogaerts and is exploring trades for frontline arms like Pablo Lopez or Tyler Glasnow. An unexpected move for a bat like Teoscar Hernandez or Bryan Reynolds could materialize too.
The Winter Meetings promise to set the stage for a fun Cubs-Cardinals battle atop the Central all year long.
What Comes Next?
Many insiders believe this week in Nashville will only be the beginning of a turbulent MLB offseason. With owners forecasting record revenues in 2023, payrolls and player salaries are expected to explode.
Once Ohtani, Judge, and other top targets sign, attention will shift towards the next tier of free agents. Big names like Michael Brantley, Chris Bassitt, and Kenley Jansen remain available. Trade chips like Bryan Reynolds and Sean Murphy could also move to new teams shortly after the Meetings conclude.
Clubs that miss out on primary targets typically pivot quickly in the aftermath. As a result, signings and transactions should occur fast and furiously through the holidays and well into January.
By the end of the Winter Meetings this year, we should have clarity on Ohtani’s future, Soto’s next destination, Judge’s free agency decision, and dozens of other roster moves. But the hot stove is far from cooling off. Expect a flurry of activity to carry through the entire offseason until Spring Training arrives.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.