2023-24 MLB free-agent signing tracker, grades: Reds sign Candelario

MLB free agency is well underway. 

All free agents could start signing with teams as of Nov. 6, the start of the hot-stove season.

Shohei Ohtani is the top prize on the market. The two-way superstar is likely to receive the biggest contract in MLB history, if not the biggest contract in the history of North American professional sports. But there are several other star players, notable names and valuable contributors on the open market as well. 

[Read more: 2024 MLB free-agent rankings: Shohei Ohtani leads top 30]

Here’s a look at the notable moves made so far this offseason, signing grades, and the top free agents still available.

Dec. 7

Nationals sign OF/3B Nick Senzel

2023 stats: .236/.297/.399, 13 home runs, 42 RBIs, 85 OPS+, six stolen bases
Reported terms: One year, $2 million
Previous team: Reds

Dec. 6

Reds add 3B/1B Jeimer Candelario

2023 stats: .251/.336/.471, 22 home runs, 70 RBIs, 119 OPS+
Reported terms: Three years, $45 million
Previous team: Cubs

Diamondbacks sign LHP Eduardo Rodríguez

2023 stats: 13-9, 3.30 ERA, 143 strikeouts, 1.153 WHIP, 152.2 IP
Reported terms: Four years, $80 million
Previous team: Tigers

All throughout their magical October jaunt, it was clear the Arizona Diamondbacks desperately needed another starting pitcher. Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly were leaned upon as expected and rookie Brandon Pfaadt emerged as a legitimate option. But behind that trio was a carousel of nothingness, a hope, a prayer and a gaping hole. The Arizona bullpen performed admirably, but was so obviously outmanned.

Enter Rodríguez, one of the most three-starter three-starters in all of baseball who opted out of the remaining three years and roughly $46 million on his deal with Detroit on the back of a strong 2023 season. In 26 starts, the Venezuelan lefty delivered a 3.30 ERA and 152 2/3 innings. The underlying numbers suggest that ERA was a tad lucky — E-Rod’s strikeout and batted ball numbers were more pedestrian than fantastic — but the soon-to-be 31-year-old is the epitome of a mid-rotation arm.

For the Diamondbacks, this move was a no-brainer. The rest of their projected 2023 rotation — Gallen, Kelly, Pfaadt and Ryne Nelson — were right-handers. Rodríguez gives that group a different look, a particularly key dynamic in a playoff series. The signing is an indicator that Arizona intends on keeping the momentum from its phenomenal NL-winning season going. There were rumors that the uncertainty surrounding the D-Backs’ television deal might limit their ability to spend. Those rumors have proved untrue, as this signing pushes the 2024 payroll approximately $10 million beyond last year’s mark. Good for the D-backs, the snakes stay alive. — Mintz

Grade: A-

OF Juan Soto traded from Padres to Yankees

2023 stats: .275/.410/.519, 35 home runs, 109 RBIs, 158 OPS+
Trade return: RHPs Michael King and Jhony Brito, minor-league RHPs Drew Thorpe and Randy Vásquez, C Kyle Higashioka. The Yankees are also getting OF Trent Grisham in the deal.

[Read more: Juan Soto trade analysis: Are the aggressive Yankees back? What’s next for Padres?; Why the Yankees still have work to do after trading for Juan Soto]

Orioles sign RHP Craig Kimbrel

2023 stats: 71 appearances, 23 saves, 3.26 ERA, 94 strikeouts, 1.043 WHIP, 69 innings
Reported terms: One year, $13 million
Previous team: Phillies

The 36-year-old Kimbrel is arguably one of the five best closers in baseball history. He’s eighth on the all-time saves list with the second-highest strikeout rate ever, though his effectiveness has understandably tailed off in his mid-30s.

At this point in his career, Kimbrel is more capable than dominant. He was the Phillies’ ninth-inning option for much of last year, but was never close to being the club’s most effective reliever. This past October, he blew back-to-back games in the NLCS against Arizona, as he looked completely rattled, overmatched and up the creek without a paddle. Thus, he remains the primary scapegoat in Philadelphia following its devastating playoff exit. The City of Brotherly Love is happy to see him gone.

But the Orioles, who agreed to a one-year deal with Kimbrel worth $13 million, believe that Kimbrel can still provide value during the regular season. Baltimore will be without Félix Bautista for all of 2024 after the shutdown closer tore his UCL near the end of last season. Kimbrel will not come close to filling that void, but he does give skipper Brandon Hyde a relatively reliable option in a hazy bullpen.

Kimbrel has a chance to be useful, but is far from a lockdown ninth-inning playoff soul-snatcher. The moment has gotten to the stocky flamethrower during the playoffs throughout his impressive career, and there’s no real reason to think that will change.

How this fits into Baltimore’s offseason as a whole is the more interesting dynamic. The $13 million given to Kimbrel is the biggest free-agent contact the Orioles have handed out since the four-year, $57 million deal they gave Alex Cobb in March 2018. If Kimbrel is the totality of the offseason, it will be a disastrous winter. If Kimbrel is simply a supplementary feature of a grander, more active strategy, that’s a different story. The ebbs and flows of an offseason are all about chronology. Kimbrel makes the Orioles better than they were yesterday but cannot single-handedly ensure the O’s repeat their 101-win success of last year. — Mintz

Grade: B-

Astros sign C Victor Caratini

2023 stats: .259/.327/.383, seven home runs, 25 RBIs, 95 OPS+
Reported terms: Two years, $12 million
Previous team: Brewers

Dec. 5

RHP Marco Gonzales traded from Braves to Pirates

2023 stats (with Mariners): 4-1, 5.22 ERA, 34 strikeouts, 1.460 WHIP, 50 innings pitched
Reported trade return: Cash considerations

OF Alex Verdugo traded from Red Sox to Yankees

2023 stats: .264/.324/.421 slash line, 13 home runs, 54 RBIs, 100 OPS+
Reported trade return: RHPs Richard Fitts, Greg Weissert and Nicholas Judice

[Read more: Yankees fill void with Alex Verdugo trade; Red Sox gain flexibility and promise]

RHP Erick Feede agrees to deal with White Sox

2023 stats (KBO): 20-6, 2.00 ERA, 209 strikeouts, 0.95 WHIP, 180.3 innings 
Reported terms: Two-years, $15 million
Previous team: NC Dinos (Korean Baseball Organization)

Dec. 4

Brewers re-sign LHP Wade Miley

2023 stats: 9-4, 3.14 ERA, 79 strikeouts, 1.139 WHIP, 120.1 innings
Reported terms: One year, $8.5 million

Nov. 29

Reds add another starter in RHP Nick Martinez

2023 stats: 6-4, 3.43 ERA, 106 strikeouts, 1.260 WHIP, 110 innings
Reported terms: Two years, $26 million
Previous team: Padres

By the end of last season, the Reds’ pitching rotation was essentially Andrew Abbott, Brandon Williamson, me, you and Mr. Magoo. Injuries to arms like Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene turned out to be the difference between an October on the big stage and an October on the beach. Remember, the Reds finished just two games behind the D-Backs! 

A promising and controllable young offensive core means Cincy’s front office can focus on acquiring more proven arms this winter and Martinez is their first prize. The 33-year-old has had a fascinating career arc — from 18th-round pick to mediocre big leaguer to dominant Japanese League soul-snatcher and back — and opted out of the final two years of his Padres contract in search of a bigger payday. That’s exactly what he got. 

Martinez had two years and $16 million left on that deal, and last time I checked, 16 is a smaller number than 26. The Pads had him bouncing back and forth between the ‘pen and the rotation over the last few years and there’s no doubt Martinez himself firmly believes he can start. He’ll get that opportunity and the Reds will get a low-cost hurler who, with less role-related yo-yoing, could emerge as a legitimate mid-rotation guy. Jake Mintz

Grade: B

RHP Luis Severino reportedly signs with Mets

2023 stats: 4-8, 6.65 ERA, 79 strikeouts, 1.646 WHIP, 19 appearances (18 starts), 89.1 innings
Reported terms: One year, $13 million
Previous team: Yankees 

There’s a long winter ahead that will help fully crystalize the degree to which the Mets intend to compete in 2024, but how they choose to address the glaring rotation needs will tell us a lot. Severino is an intriguing upside gamble that could pay dividends for the Mets regardless of what direction their 2024 goes. Maybe the former Yankee is a key member of a rebuilt rotation, maybe he’s a great piece to flip for a prospect or two at the deadline. I’d be more concerned about Severino’s recent struggles to stay on the field more than his atrocious 2023 stat line. He’s still throwing hard enough to rack up a lot of whiffs with the right tweaks to his arsenal, but none of it will matter if he can’t stay on the mound. I’d expect the next arm New York acquires to be one with a fair bit more certainty of delivering 25-plus starts in 2024. — Jordan Shusterman

Grade: B

RHP Emilio Pagán signs with Reds

2023 stats: 5-2, 2.99 ERA, 65 strikeouts, 0.952 WHIP, 66 appearances (one start), 69.1 innings 
Reported terms: Two years, $16 million
Previous team: Twins

Nov. 27

OF Jason Heyward re-signing with Dodgers

2023 stats: .269/.340/.473 slash line, 15 home runs, 40 RBIs, two stolen bases, 117 OPS+
Reported terms: One-year deal

RHP Sonny Gray reportedly signs with Cardinals

2023 stats: 8-8, 2.79 ERA, 183 strikeouts, 1.147 WHIP, 32 starts, 184 innings 
Reported teams: Three years, $75 million
Previous team: Twins

Fresh off a runner-up finish in the AL Cy Young race, Gray lands a hefty multiyear deal with a team in serious need of top-end starting pitching. The pre-Thanksgiving signings of Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson make a lot more sense in the context of this Gray addition, as the Cardinals have swiftly added three veteran arms before the calendar flipped to December. Gray is the key, though — a rotation filled with strictly innings-eaters of Lynn and Gibson’s ilk likely won’t hold up especially well come postseason time. There are elements of Gray’s sensational 2023 that will be tough to repeat — namely his elite home run suppression — but he’s still someone you’d feel great about giving the ball to in October. That caliber of pitcher didn’t exist on the Cardinals roster until this move. Now, the question is, will St. Louis pursue another front-end starter via trade, or does the focus shift to the bullpen? — Shusterman

Grade: B+

Nov. 26

RHP Kenta Maeda signs with Tigers

2023 stats: 6-8, 4.23 ERA, 117 strikeouts, 1.169 WHIP, 21 appearances (20 starts), 104.1 innings 
Reported teams: Two years, $24 million
Previous team: Twins

Maeda’s return from Tommy John surgery was derailed in April by a triceps strain that put him back on the shelf for a month, but he was highly reliable in his final 17 outings for Minnesota after coming off the IL in late June (3.36 ERA, .680 OPS against). Maeda should be an excellent veteran complement to an otherwise young yet promising Detroit rotation led by ascendent lefty Tarik Skubal. This is exactly the kind of floor-raising move the Tigers should be pursuing aggressively this winter, even if the soon-to-be 36-year-old Maeda doesn’t offer the same kind of upside he once did. — Jordan Shusterman

Grade: A-

Nov. 21

SS Paul DeJong signs with White Sox

2023 stats: .207 batting average, .258 on-base percentage, .355 slugging percentage, 14 home runs, 38 RBIs, four stolen bases
Reported terms: One-year deal
Previous team: Cardinals

RHP Kyle Gibson signs with Cardinals

2023 stats: 15-9, 4.73 ERA, 157 strikeouts, 1.32 WHIP, 33 starts, 192.0 innings 
Reported terms: One year, $12 million
Previous team: Orioles

Nov. 20

RHP Reynaldo López signs with Braves

2023 stats: 3-7, 3.27 ERA, 83 strikeouts, 1.273 WHIP, 68 appearances, 66 innings 
Reported terms: Three years, $30 million
Previous team: Guardians

A few days after acquiring lefty groundball machine Aaron Bummer, Atlanta bolstered its bullpen further with the signing of Bummer’s former White Sox teammate in López. López is a traditional late-inning flamethrower that is coming off a career year racking up punchouts at a career-high 30% clip, which positioned him as one of the top relievers on the market. Early reports that the Braves are considering having López stretched out as a starter are curious to say the least, but securing a pitcher of his caliber this early in the offseason is a nifty move regardless of the role he ultimately settles into. — Shusterman

Grade: A-

RHP Lance Lynn signs with Cardinals

2023 stats: 13-11, 5.73 ERA, 191 strikeouts, 1.394 WHIP, 32 starts, 183.2 innings 
Reported terms: One year, $10 million
Previous team: Dodgers

Nov. 19

RHP Aaron Nola re-signs with Phillies

2023 stats: 12-9, 4.46 ERA, 202 strikeouts, 1.151 WHIP, 32 starts, 193.2 innings 
Reported terms: Seven years, $172 million
Previous team: Phillies

Can’t spell Aaron Nola without three A’s. Nola and the Phillies were canyons apart when they discussed an extension in spring training, but compromise won the day. Nola got the seventh year he wanted, while the Phillies kept the average annual value in a reasonable range. The Phillies needed a pitcher and went with the one they knew intimately, one whose work ethic and makeup they love and one they believe will age well into his late thirties. — Mintz

Grade: A

Top free agents still available:
Shohei Ohtani 
Yoshinobu Yamamoto
Blake Snell
Cody Bellinger
Jordan Montgomery
Matt Chapman
Josh Hader
Clayton Kershaw
Eduardo Rodríguez 
Lucas Giolito
Marcus Stroman
Jung Hoo Lee
Jorge Soler
JD Martinez 
Teoscar Hernández
Jeimer Candelario 
Lourdes Gurriel Jr
Justin Turner 
Mitch Garver
Rhys Hoskins 
Seth Lugo 
Shota Imanaga 
Kenta Maeda 
Michael Wacha 
Brandon Belt 
Joc Pederson 
Jordan Hicks 
Yariel Rodríguez 

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