2022 MLB Free Agent Grades: The B-Team

Nelson Cruz

Recently I started releasing my grades for MLB’s 2022 free agent class, beginning this two-part series with my A-Team, headlined by guys like Freddie Freeman, Max Scherzer, and Nolan Arenado. Since it comprised of top players in all of the sport, that list featured just 28 players. Today’s B Team, though, is, of course, much more extensive as it features essentially everyone else expected to receive attention this coming offseason. Remember, not all of these players will actually hit the open market, given the club and player options on many of these contracts.

Like in the previous installment, below I’ve provided a table of players, with some comments at the end.


Nelson Cruz (DH) Corey Kluber (RHP)
Brandon Belt (1B) Zack Greinke (RHP)
Anthony Rizzo (1B) Mark Melancon (RHP)
Mike Zunino (C) James Paxton (LHP)
Brandon Belt (1B) Jon Gray (RHP)
Cèsar Hernández (2B) Chris Archer (RHP)
Josh Harrison (2B) Michael Pineda (RHP)
Kyle Seager (3B) Alex Wood (LHP)
Jonathan Villar (3B/SS) Collin McHugh (RHP)
Miguel Rojas (SS) Kwang Hyun Kim (LHP)
José Iglesias (SS) Merrill Kelly (RHP)
Javier Báez (SS) Wade Miley (LHP)
Freddy Galvis (SS) Alex Cobb (RHP)
Starling Marte (OF) Jon Lester (LHP)
Nick Castellanos (OF) Kendall Graveman (RHP)
Chris Taylor (OF) Andrew Heaney (RHP)
Avisaíl García (OF) Steven Matz (LHP)
Mark Canha (OF) Danny Duffy (LHP)
Kyle Schwarber (OF) Kendall Graveman (RHP)
Jurickson Profar (OF) Héctor Neris (RHP)
Michael Conforto (OF) Andrew Chafin (LHP)
Eddie Rosario (OF) Jimmy Nelson (RHP)
Joc Pederson (OF) Pierce Johnson (RHP)
Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF)
Kevin Pillar (OF)
Charlie Blackmon (OF)


If you’re a team looking to spend some money on an outfielder, this is the year to do it. The 32-year-old Marte could’ve been included on my first post, given his combined WAR accrued over the last five seasons trails A-Team member Tommy Pham by just 0.2 fWAR. Even more, Marte has had the year of his life in 2021.

In time split between the Marlins and Athletics this season, as of Saturday, the Dominican has hit .307 with 12 homers and a whopping 47 stolen bases in 118 games — good for a career-best 5.6 fWAR. We’ve been seeing Marte’s name regarding a potential target for the Braves for it feels like several years now, but he’s going to be a highly sought-after bat this winter.

How much longer can Nelson Cruz keep this up? In his age-40 season this year, the Twins and Rays designated-hitter once again tallied 30+ homers, giving him seven straight full seasons with at least 30 bombs. Since 2017, Cruz has led all MLB DHs with 165 home runs and is third in fWAR (14.6). The universal-DH is coming, folks, so even though Cruz is entering his age-41 campaign, all 30 teams will be interested in his services.

Anthony Rizzo could be a nice constellation prize in a world where the Braves naively let Freeman walk this winter. The 32-year-old isn’t the player he was back during his mid-20s with Chicago, but he’s still a top-10 first baseman in MLB. Let’s hope news of an extension for Freddie comes soon, and we don’t have to worry about it.

The B-Team pitchers certainly feature a handful of household names — Corey Kluber, Jon Lester, Chris Archer, and Zack Greinke all used to be considered ace starters by many but recently have met their inevitable declines. Now 40-years-old, Adam Wainwright just recently came off the board as the Cardinals signed the veteran for one more year. It’s likely that one of those four above also takes a one-year deal soon. For me, the steal of the deal from this list has to be lefty James Paxton.

Set to pitch in his age-33 season in 2022, the 6-foot-4, 227-pound southpaw has essentially missed the last two years due to various injuries. However, during the four seasons before his chronic ailments, Paxton averaged nearly 4 fWAR per year and was good for 140 innings worth of starts. This past winter, the former fourth-round pick signed a one-year, $8.5-million contract and was forced to leave his April 6th start with the Mariners. He was spotted throwing in late September, so maybe he takes a show-me contract to prove he can still perform.

I’m intrigued with another southpaw from this list, 30-year-old Steven Matz, who went from the worst pitcher in baseball back during the shortened 2020 campaign to a nearly 3-WAR player this season. From 2016-19 — when he was with the Mets — Matz was a roughly 4.00 ERA starter who could fill the third or fourth spot in a rotation. That type of production is still valuable, and now that he has shown he can get batters out again, Matz may be a sought-after arm for clubs looking to lengthen its staff.


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