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Bellinger? Snell? Best landing spots for 11 MLB free agents

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With only weeks remaining before teams begin reporting to camp, plenty of top free agents are still on the market. 

The Cubs might want another impact position player. The Rangers could use more pitching help in their quest to repeat. The Blue Jays, Diamondbacks and Brewers could all be intrigued by the litany of designated hitting options still available. 

So, where does everyone end up?

Here are 11 different potential landing spots for the top 11 free agents remaining on the board (based on Jordan Shusterman’s rankings at the beginning of the offseason). 

THE RETURNERS 

Cody Bellinger
The match: Chicago Cubs 
Next best guess: Toronto Blue Jays 

The calendar flipped to January, and the Cubs finally started cooking. But after adding highly-regarded prospect Michael Busch to the infield mix and Shota Imanaga to the rotation, the biggest fishes are still floating as the Cubs look to make a splash in Craig Counsell’s first season at the helm. 

With the Blue Jays bringing back Kevin Kiermaier and the Giants adding Jung Hoo Lee, two of the top potential contenders for Bellinger’s services were seemingly eliminated, making a return to Chicago all the more plausible for the reigning Comeback Player of the Year. 

Jordan Montgomery
The match: Texas Rangers 
Next best guess: Boston Red Sox 

Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Tyler Mahle all hope to contribute to the Texas rotation in 2024. When or if that happens remains to be seen. The Rangers saw last year that the most well-intentioned starting pitching plans can explode in an instant. Montgomery, who has thrown more than 150 innings in each of the past three seasons, guided them to safety. 

The Rangers wouldn’t have been champions, or even a playoff team, without him. While the uncertainty around their television deal might explain their inactivity this offseason, I’d be stunned if the Rangers don’t upgrade either their rotation with Montgomery or their bullpen with Josh Hader as they begin their repeat effort. 

Clayton Kershaw
The match: Los Angeles Dodgers
Next best guess: Texas Rangers

Every year around this time, Kershaw will consider three options: stay in Los Angeles, go to his hometown Rangers or retire. This winter brought a different challenge, though, as he recovers from shoulder surgery. If he feels he can still compete at the highest level, it’s hard to imagine him in a different uniform than the one he has worn for the past 16 years. 

THE ACE  

Blake Snell
The match: Los Angeles Angels 
Next best guess: San Francisco Giants 

The Angels have some nice young rotation pieces in Reid Detmers, Patrick Sandoval, Griffin Canning and Chase Silseth. They don’t have an ace. Snell won’t erase the loss of Shohei Ohtani, but after watching their otherworldly superstar drive up the 5 freeway, the Angels might be desperate enough to add another headliner that they’ll give the left-hander the best offer. 

THE CLOSER

Josh Hader
The match: Philadelphia Phillies
Next best guess: Texas Rangers 

The Rangers managed to win a World Series in a year in which they blew more saves than they converted — while dealing away a potential stud in Cole Ragans for volatile reliever Aroldis Chapman — but if they end up shelling out for Montgomery, I doubt they’ll pony up for Hader as well. 

The Phillies’ bullpen looked much better last season but still cratered at the worst time, giving the D-backs life in the NLCS. With Craig Kimbrel gone, the Phillies might want to get the best player available to solidify a position that has been a sore spot for years. 

THE WILD CARD 

Matt Chapman
The match: San Francisco Giants 
Next best guess: Detroit Tigers 

You could make a strong argument for why the Blue Jays, Giants, Mets, Cubs, Mariners, Diamondbacks, Nationals and Yankees all would make for a reasonable fit here. The Tigers, whose third basemen graded out third-worst in OPS (.624) and the worst in Outs Above Average (-22), make for an especially logical landing spot. I just don’t believe they’ll shell out the long-term commitment necessary to win the bidding. 

The Giants would, plus they have plenty of familiarity with the player. Farhan Zaidi drafted Chapman in the first round in 2014. Bob Melvin coached him for five years. San Francisco brings him closer to home. If the Giants don’t get Snell, I don’t think they’d be content with just Lee and Jordan Hicks considering their recent offseason shortcomings. I’d pen Chapman going their way. 

THE DH SCRAMBLE

Rhys Hoskins
The match: Milwaukee Brewers 
Next best guess: Washington Nationals 

The Brewers ranked 25th in home runs and slugging last year, had the lowest OPS at DH, were only marginally better at first base and generally failed to make hard contact. Hoskins, who has a career 1.194 OPS in nine games at Miller Park, could help change that. 

The Brewers added Jake Bauers this offseason, but that shouldn’t preclude them from giving a one-year deal to the right-handed-hitting Hoskins to help the 30-year-old reestablish his value after missing last year with a torn ACL. If the Brewers end up contending, Hoskins can help. And if they go full fire sale, he can help there, too, on a short-term deal. 

Jorge Soler
The match: Toronto Blue Jays
Next best guess: Seattle Mariners 

It’s hard to believe the Blue Jays had the fewest home runs against left-handers in all of MLB last season. Lucky for them, there’s a man lingering in free agency who launched 14 homers off southpaws in 2023 — tied for third-most in baseball — still available. The Jays’ have plenty of outfield defense already, so Soler could focus on what he does best as a full-time DH, providing a necessary jolt to a Toronto offense that could use it. 

J.D. Martinez
The match: Arizona Diamondbacks 
Next best guess: Toronto Blue Jays 

The Dodgers will be the odds-on favorites in the division, but the D-backs aren’t just going to sit back after last year’s World Series appearance. They’ve bolstered their budding young roster by adding Eduardo Rodríguez, trading for Eugenio Suárez and extending Lourdes Gurriel Jr., but I’d be surprised if they don’t find more help at designated hitter. 

A reunion with Martinez makes perfect sense. At 36, he still packs plenty of pop — he had a higher slugging percentage last year than any player on Arizona’s roster — and an Arizona team with one of the lowest whiff rates in the game should be able to absorb his deficiencies while taking advantage of his power. 

Justin Turner
The match: Washington Nationals 
Next best guess: Los Angeles Angels 

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Turner return to Boston after a highly productive age-38 season. But even as his barrel rates dip, other teams will have interest in his bat-to-ball skills. He might be a particularly nice add for a developing young team looking for a veteran offensive addition that won’t break the bank. As the Nationals prepare for the arrivals of Dylan Crews and James Wood and look to make another leap forward, they could use more impact bats. 

In Washington, Turner could fill a similar role he had with the Red Sox, getting most of his time at DH while making spot starts around the infield. And if the first half doesn’t go the way the Nationals hope, Turner could get the Jeimer Candelario treatment and still finish the year on a contender. Otherwise, the Southern California native could make sense for an Angels team that lost its star DH and got very little production out of the corner infield in 2023. 

Brandon Belt
The match: Detroit Tigers 
Next best guess: Milwaukee Brewers/Cleveland Guardians 

While the Twins remain quiet, the Tigers made some moves this offseason that should have them better equipped to compete in the AL Central following their second-place finish. But they could stand to keep adding in a division that remains up for grabs. 

Specifically, they could use more help against right-handers after posting the third-worst OPS in baseball against them last year. Belt, who led the Blue Jays with an .890 OPS against righties in 2023, would provide a relatively affordable upgrade for a young team that could use his combo of on-base and slugging skills as a designated hitter or first-base platoon. 

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and MLB as a whole for FOX Sports. He previously was the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner. 


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