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MLB free agency: A way-too-early ranking of the 2023-24 market after Rafael Devers’ extension with Red Sox

MLB free agency: A way-too-early ranking of the 2023-24 market after Rafael Devers' extension with Red Sox

The Red Sox reached an 11-year extension with third baseman Rafael Devers on Wednesday, thereby ensuring that he, unlike Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, will not become the latest star to depart Boston. Devers’ new pact doesn’t alter the Red Sox’s short-term outlook — he was already on the roster, and they weren’t inclined to trade him this offseason anyway — but it does have an immediate effect on next winter’s free-agent class.

Indeed, Devers could have played out the string with the Red Sox before testing the open market next winter as one of the top two or three players available. Instead the free-agent class will have a little less starpower to dream on. That doesn’t mean the 2023-24 market will be without big names, however. 

To wit, let’s take a premature stab at ranking the 10 best players who are expected to be available in about nine months. As always, note that this is for entertainment purposes only, and that we’re doing our best in making educated guesses about which players will opt out and which will not.

Now, let us proceed.

Ohtani is an unprecedented talent heading for an unprecedented payday. How much are teams willing to pay a player who is above-average in both pitching and hitting? Barring an ill-timed injury, it seems likely we’ll find out next winter. Ohtani has been adamant that he wants to win a World Series, something the Angels aren’t well-positioned to do. The Dodgers and Mets, among others, are expected to pursue him if and when he becomes available. In other words, Ohtani won’t have to choose between riches and victories.

Machado has the ability to opt out of his contract after the season, leaving five years and $160 million on the table. At that point, he’ll be 31 years old and potentially coming off a run that saw him earn Most Valuable Player Award consideration in four consecutive seasons. Strange things can happen with opt-out calls — Nolan Arenado stayed in St. Louis, for example — but we think Machado would be able to either beat his average annual value, or to increase his overall payout by signing one of those trendy super long-term deals. If he decides he likes living in San Diego too much to bother … well, fair enough.

3. Julio Urías, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Urías will enter his walk year having amassed the fourth-best ERA+ among pitchers with at least 300 innings thrown during the Pandemic Era. Factor in how he’ll be only…

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