The Opener: Starters, Shortstops, Bellinger

What sort of shopping is happening in MLB free agency on this Cyber Monday?

1. Is The Backend Starting Pitching Market About To Move?

This year’s free agent starting pitching market is headlined by aces Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon. But many teams already know they won’t be shopping in that aisle and don’t need to wait around to see where those guys sign. The White Sox made the first significant move of the lower tiers, grabbing Mike Clevinger on a one-year, $12MM deal this weekend. This was right around MLBTR’s prediction of one-year and $10MM. For the other teams looking to make this level of investment, will they push on to similar pitchers? Corey Kluber, Johnny Cueto, Wade Miley and Kyle Gibson would make sense as backup targets for the teams that missed on Clevinger and those pitchers could get increased interest in the near future. Noah Syndergaard returned from Tommy John in 2022 and was relatively effective, but with diminished velocity and results compared to before the surgery. Will he have to settle for another one-year deal like last year or did he show enough to push himself into a multi-year deal?

2. Will Any Of The “Big Four” Shortstops Sign Before The End Of The Year?

The rumors involving the “Big Four” shortstops have been flying lately, with various teams interested in Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson. However, it’s unclear if any of them are particularly close to reaching a deal. Will there be any movement between now and the end of the year? One factor might be agent Scott Boras, who represents both Correa and Bogaerts, as well as Rodon, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Josh Bell, Taijuan Walker, J.D. Martinez, Cody Bellinger, Jurickson Profar, Joey Gallo and others. Boras has previously shown a willingness to wait until the New Year to find the best deals for his clients, but he surely can’t do that with all of them. As Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic writes, “Boras has so many free-agent clients, he probably will want to start taking some off the board.” Does that mean Boras will start striking deals at the Winter Meetings that start on Sunday? Or maybe even before?

3. How High Will Cody Bellinger’s Salary Go?

Cody Bellinger has fallen on hard times in recent years, having below-average offensive seasons in both 2021 and 2022. However, his previous MVP-winning production pushed his arbitration salary up, with MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projecting a salary of $18.1MM for 2023. The Dodgers weren’t willing to pay him at that level after his two lost seasons and presumably couldn’t find a willing trade partner either, leading to Bellinger’s non-tender a couple of weeks ago. The interest in Bellinger as a free agent has been robust, with Jon Heyman of The New York Post reporting last week that 11 teams are at the table. Despite Bellinger’s rough results in recent years, plenty of teams need help in center and there aren’t many great options. Though no team was willing to give up anything noteworthy in a trade in exchange for the ability to pay Bellinger close to $20MM, is there a team willing to pay him in that range when it only costs money?

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