MLB Trade Rumors released their annual top 50 free agent list. Their lists also include team predictions and an estimate as to how much each player will sign for. This year, two of their writers and the site owner, Tim Dierkes, named the Arizona Diamondbacks as a potential landing spot for five of the top free agents.
The highest-ranked free agent who one of the writers predicts could sign with the D-Backs is Seth Lugo. After spending the first handful of seasons of his career in the NY Mets’ bullpen as a long-relief/swingman, Lugo finally got the chance to start games regularly and turned in a quality season.
The right-hander pitched a career-high 146.1 innings, working to a 3.57 ERA, 3.83 FIP, and 1.20 WHIP. Both his K% of 23.2% and home run rate, clocking in at 1.17, hovered slightly above the league average. But Lugo was great at limiting walks with a 6% BB%. Underlying numbers also back Lugo’s performance, as he had a 3.76 xFIP, 3.83 SIERA, and 91 DRA- (to an 86 ERA-).
Lugo is ranked as the 19th-best free agent. He is a tad older, as 2024 will be his age-34 campaign, but his first season as a starting pitcher was successful. MLB Trade Rumors projects Lugo to make three years valued at $42 million ($14 million AAV). The D-Backs could certainly use another starter behind Brandon Pfaadt, Zac Gallen, and Merrill Kelly.
The second free agent and starting pitcher one of the MLB TR writers lists as a suitor for Arizona is Michael Lorenzen. Lorenzen had a mixed season. After an all-star appearance with the Detroit Tigers and working to a 3.58 ERA, 3.86 FIP, and 1.10 WHIP in 105.2 innings, Lorenzen was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. While Lorenzen made a phenomenal first impression, throwing a no-hitter in just his second start in Philly, it was all downhill from there. Lorenzen would then work to an 8.01 ERA, 6.98 FIP, and 1.91 WHIP. He was even demoted to the bullpen at one point.
Lorenzen’s home run rate shot up from 0.94 with Detroit to 1.71 per-9 innings with the Phils. However, an uptick in home runs would be expected, as Lorenzen would go from one of the least home run-friendly parks in baseball to the fourth most home run-friendly park. However, his walk rate also rose from a robust 6.5% rate with the Tigers to 9.7% with the Phillies, while his K% dropped from 19.9% to a mere 13.6%. Through his final 30.1 innings, he walked nearly as many batters as he struck out.
As of right now, MLB TR pins Lorenzen as their 34th-best free agent, and signing a two-year deal worth $22 million ($11 AAV). Chase Field could certainly help Lorenzen as he would be going from a bandbox of a park to one of the more pitcher-friendly stadiums in the sport. He may also benefit from the fact he’ll go from the Phillies, who had -30 defensive runs saved and -3 outs above average, to the D-Backs, who had +46 DRS and +31 OAA in 2023.
Two of the three MLB TR writers have the Diamondbacks going after their 41st-ranked free agent, Justin Turner. The Snakes are more than familiar with Turner, as he spent his first nine seasons from 2014 through 2022 with the LA Dodgers. Turner signed a one-year deal with a player option for 2024, but given that the player option was for just $13.4 million and the buyout was worth $6.7 million, he is being lobbed a softball to make more money next season.
In his first season in Boston, Turner batted .276/.345/.455. His 17.6% K-rate was the highest of his career since his breakout 2014 campaign, but still well above the league average. His 8.1% walk rate is respectable but also one of the worst of his career. Turner went yard 23 times and had a .179 isolated slugging percentage. Turner finished the year with a .346 wOBA and 114 wRC+.
After spending years over at third base, Turner was mainly a designated hitter with a handful of games at first base this past season. He hasn’t played more than 600 innings in the field since 2021, and even then, his defense was declining. But Turner was decent at first base this season in his 289.1 innings with +3 DRS and 0 OAA.
Turner is estimated to make $16 million for one year. That seems like a bit much if you ask me. Turner opted out of his contract, making $6.7 million. He would only have to sign for $6.7 million plus one dollar to surpass what he would have made if he opted into his contract. I think he’ll reach $10 million, but $16 million seems like a stretch. Turner would likely play a similar role as Evan Longoria did last season if the D-Backs signed Turner.
The third player listed with the D-Backs as a potential landing spot is also one I briefly mentioned, Jakob Junis. Junis worked in a swing-man role, appearing in 40 games, starting four, and pitching a total of 86 innings. The right-hander worked to a 3.87 ERA, 3.74 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP. Junis’ 26.2% strikeout rate was a career-best by nearly 5%. Junis also paired that with a minuscule 5.7% walk rate. He was one of 22 pitchers last season with a K:BB ratio over 4.5 in 80+ IP at 4.57. The only rate stat that wasn’t great on Junis’ report card was his 1.26 HR/9 rate, which was still around the league average.
However, Junis could be better in 2024. He owned a 3.35 SIERA, 3.66 xFIP, and an 85 DRA- (92 ERA-). Junis suffered from a .335 batting average on balls in play. The Giants weren’t a horrible defensive team with -15 DRS, but +15 outs above average, but they pale compared to the defensive numbers the Diamondbacks posted last season. Simply put, fewer fly balls are going to drop for hits when Alek Thomas and Corbin Carroll are in your outfield compared to Michael Conforto and Mike Yastrezemski.
Junis is ranked as the 47th-best free agent on MLB TR’s list. He is estimated to sign a two-year deal valued at $15 million (AAV of $7.5 million). For a guy who could be a mid-3s ERA pitcher and provide 80+ innings both as a long relief man and spot starter, that is a pretty good deal. Junis’ ability to play whatever role he needs to be in is valuable on a pitching staff, and it would be a steal if he can do that with quality results for less than $10 million.
The fourth and final player any of the MLB TR writers names the D-Backs as a predicted team is veteran reliever, Liam Hendriks. Hendriks has been the victim of a series of unfortunate events. After battling cancer, Hendriks made a triumphant return to the mound. But after just five innings, Hendriks would be forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, eliminating him from the rest of the 2023 season and essentially 2024 as well.
But before both cancer and elbow surgery took Hendriks out, he was one of the best relievers in the league. In 2021-2022, Hendriks worked to a strong 2.66 ERA, 2.49 FIP, and 0.87 WHIP in a combined 128.2 innings. While Hendriks had an unimpressive 1.26 HR/9 rate, it was about the only negative thing you could say about his numbers. He struck out nearly 40% of the batters he faced with a 39.4% K-rate and had a walk rate below 5% at 4.6%.
He is ranked as the 49th best free agent on MLB TR’s list and is estimated to make $12 million over two years. The deal will probably be highly back-loaded, with nearly all the money guaranteed for the 2025 season, since he probably won’t pitch at all in 2024. Year-to-year bullpen depth charts are hard to predict, so what precisely the D-Backs’ pen looks like in 2025 could change dramatically based on what happens in 2024.
Hendriks has been through a lot, and while returning from TJ surgery at the age of 36 is an uphill battle, it’s a small hill compared to what he’s already gone through. If he returns healthy in 2025, he could win another Comeback Player of the Year award, and if he signs with the D-Backs, would likely be just the second player in baseball history and the first since Francisco Liriano in 2013 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, to win it in both leagues.
In my opinion, Lugo and Turner make the most sense among the four. A starting rotation headed by Gallen, Kelly, Pfaadt, and Lugo is underrated but formidable. Turner would fill the veteran DH/3B role that Longoria is leaving behind. Lorenzen is a solid fall-back option if they are unable to land Lugo. I think Junis would also be a decent guy to go after, so the D-Backs have a solid 6th starter type who can give them some starts but also pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen. Henriks would be an extremely interesting proposition. While he’d be a great story, it would be a high-risk/reward signing. $12 million isn’t an insignificant amount to commit to a reliever, but if Hendriks can pitch like he did prior to 2023, he’d be a bargain at that price. We shall see what the D-Backs do this winter, but I would not be upset with any of these free agents.