The Opener: Harper, Judge, 2023-24 Free Agents

Turkeys are in the oven but what’s simmering on the hot stove?

1. Bryce Harper Undergoes Tommy John Surgery

After playing most of 2022 with a torn UCL, Bryce Harper finally went under the knife yesterday. It wasn’t known what type of surgery he would require until the procedure began, but he ultimately required a full ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, also known as Tommy John surgery. The Phillies provided this update: “The prognosis is for Bryce to be returning as the designated hitter by the All-Star break of 2023 with a possible return to play right field towards the end of the regular season.” Not having Harper in the lineup for the first half of the season is certainly a blow to the club, but it also creates opportunities by opening up the DH spot. That could mean less time in the outfield for guys like Kyle Schwarber or Nick Castellanos, but there are other plans being considered. Manager Rob Thomson told reporters, including Alex Coffey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, that one option would be Alec Bohm moving over to first base and Rhys Hoskins taking the DH spot. Third base would then go to Edmundo Sosa, with the club presumably adding a shortstop. The Phils have been connected to the free agent shortstops for some time and Harper’s lengthy absence could increase their urgency to pursue Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson.

2.  Aaron Judge Meets With Giants

As expected, Aaron Judge met with the Giants this week. According to Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area, this meeting included a chat with NBA superstar Steph Curry. The Giants are expected to make an offer soon and it will be interesting to see what form it takes. The top free agents usually reach free agency in the late 20s but Judge is a little older, turning 31 in April. As part of our post on the top 50 free agents, MLBTR predicted Judge to get an eight-year deal, which would take him into his age-38 season. With multiple teams at the table, would Judge try to get a ninth year with a lower annual salary or would he prefer to focus on the AAV? Also, who else will he meet with? It’s been reported that the Dodgers are interested in signing Judge to take over right field and then moving Mookie Betts to second base. Is Judge planning to take a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway after the holidays?

3. 2023-24 Free Agents

The 2022-23 offseason is underway, but if you’re already looking ahead to next winter, MLBTR has you covered. Later today, we will publish a list of players currently slated to reach the open market one year from now. This list will be fluid since some players will sign extensions, while current free agents will agree to one-year deals or longer pacts with options or opt-outs opportunities. The post will be updated over time to reflect those changes. There are some very intriguing names on the list, but the most exciting is a certain two-way player who’s currently on the Angels.

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