The 10 Biggest MLB Free Agent Deals This Offseason

The 10 Biggest MLB Free Agent Deals This Offseason

MLB Spring Training is underway, meaning we're just a few weeks from the start of the regular season. There will be trades and injuries along the way, but for the most part, teams have a sense of who they're moving forward with this year. That means the biggest free agent deals are behind us — and there were some impressive contracts handed out, including a pair of record-setting ones.

Note that these are only players whose contracts expired with their current teams (or they opted out) and signed new deals. We're not counting minor leaguers who signed with their MLB teams or players who still had time left on their contracts and signed an extension.

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Dodgers: 10 Years, $700 Million

This wasn't only the biggest contract given out this offseason; it's the largest deal in MLB history. Shohei Ohtani is a rare two-way player who's both an excellent hitter and pitcher. He's coming off surgery that will limit him to a hitter in 2024, but he should be back on the mound the following season. The 29-year-old has never reached the postseason, and he's hoping to end that streak with the Dodgers.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this deal is how Ohtani structured it. He'll only make $2 million a season, with the remaining $68 million deferred until after the contract ends. Assuming there aren't further changes, the Dodgers will be paying him for 20 years. But by making a minimal amount right now, Ohtani has opened up opportunities for the Dodgers to make other moves, such as…

Dodgers pitcher Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto

Shohei Ohtani (L) and Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Los Angeles Dodgers: 12 Years, $325 Million

Yoshinobu Yamamoto is a pitcher who earned a ton of accolades in Japan. He's come off three straight seasons winning each of the Triple Crown, Pacific League MVP, and Sawamura Award, which is given to the top pitcher in the league. The Dodgers are hoping he can deliver the same type of star power in L.A. 

Yamamoto's contract — a record for a pitcher — almost feels like a bargain compared to Ohtani's, though between the two of them, they'll be making over a billion dollars. The Dodgers also owe $50.6 million to the Orix Buffaloes, Yamamoto's former team. The pitcher was making $4.9 million last season, so the Dodgers are paying more than ten times simply for the right to get him on their roster.

Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies: 7 Years, $172 Million

Aaron Nola is already one of the most impressive pitchers to ever don a Phillies uniform, and he's planning to stay for the long haul. If Nola finishes out his contract in Philadelphia, he'll be the longest-tenured pitcher in franchise history.

His deal will pay him north of $24 million per season. The Phillies drafted him seventh overall in 2014 and didn't post a winning season until 2021, barely finishing above .500. But the Phillies have steadily improved in the regular season with impressive postseason results, too — a World Series appearance in 2022 and coming one win away from doing the same in 2023. Nola is sticking around for one big reason: to finally win a championship.   

Jung-hoo Lee, San Francisco Giants: 6 Years, $113 Million

Not wanting to be outdone by their NL West rivals, the Giants signed an Asian star to a long-term deal. Lee comes to the U.S. via South Korea's KBO League. The outfielder won KBO Rookie of the Year in 2017 and MVP in 2022 and earned five straight Golden Gloves from 2018 to 2022. 

Despite three championships in the 2010s, the Giants have mostly struggled in recent years. They're hoping Lee can lead a resurgence to secure baseball's ultimate prize.

Josh Hader, Houston Astros: 5 Years, $95 Million

The Baltimore Orioles drafted Josh Hader in the 19th round of the 2012 draft; back then, he signed for $40,000. Clearly, this deal will pay him quite a bit more than that, averaging $19 million per season.

After MLB stints with the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres, this will be Hader's first time closing in the American League. He's coming off a solid year, reaching the All-MLB First Team (his third such honor) and earning his fifth All-Star nod. 

Cody Bellinger, Chicago Cubs: 3 Years, $80 Million

Cody Bellinger was one of the biggest sagas of the offseason. Other players signed big deals, but he was left without an offer (or at least one that he wanted to accept) for almost the entire winter. In the end, he'll return to the Chicago Cubs. In his lone season with the team, he posted .307/.356/.881 splits, along with 26 home runs, 97 RBIs, and 20 steals. 

His new deal includes opt-outs after both the first and second years. Assuming he remains with the Cubs for the duration of the contract, Bellinger will earn $30 million for the next two seasons and then $20 million in 2026.

Eduardo Rodriguez, Arizona Diamondbacks: 4 Years, $80 Million

Eduardo Rodriguez still had three years and $49 million left on his previous deal with the Detroit Tigers, but he opted out to join the Diamondbacks. He'll get a nice increase in his annual salary, moving from about $16.3 million to $20 million per year. The deal also has a vesting option which could increase it to $99 million total.

Rodriguez has struggled with injuries during parts of his career, though he posted a solid 3.30 ERA with a 13-9 record in 152 ⅔ innings with the Tigers last season. He'll join one of the youngest rotations in baseball that also had its own share of injuries last postseason. If everyone can stay healthy, the Diamondbacks have a great shot at returning to the World Series.

Sonny Gray, St. Louis Cardinals: 3 Years, $75 Million

Gray will make a tidy $25 million with his new deal, which also includes a club option for the 2027 season. He made $12 million with the Minnesota Twins last season, and a pay raise of more than 100% is never a bad thing.

Though his win-loss record was only so-so (at 8-8), Gray is coming off one of the better seasons of his career. He struck out 183 batters in 184 innings, finishing with a 2.79 ERA and 1.147 WHIP.

Seth Lugo, Kansas City Royals: 3 Years, $45 Million

The Royals lost 106 games last season and were one of the worst teams in the major leagues. It's quite the fall from the World Series championship in 2015 (or even the World Series appearance in 2014), but Lugo is one of Kansas City's offseason acquisitions, alongside reliever Chris Stratton, to try and turn things around.

The third year of this deal is a player option, so Lugo could choose to opt-out if a better offer presents itself. At the very least, he's set through his age-37 season. 

Jeimer Candelario, Cincinnati Reds: 3 Years, $45 Million

Both the Cubs and Reds nearly eked out postseason appearances last year. This winter, Jeimer Candelario jumped from one NL Central team to the other — though, to be fair, he only played 41 games in Chicago after a midseason trade from the Washington Nationals. He'll make $15 million over the next three seasons, with a $15 million team option for 2027. 

Candelario is part of an extensive free agent class for the Reds, and he's also joining a crowded infield. However, he's coming off a career-best season, including career-highs of OPS (.807), home runs (22), and RBIs (70). The Reds will find a spot for him.