We are entering the time in the baseball calendar when general managers and their front offices work in earnest to reach contract extensions with their key players. This includes players who will be free agents after this season, next season and those who are a few years away, but also young stars who have as little as one year of major-league service time. Most front offices and players prefer to use Opening Day as a deadline for extension talks so negotiations don’t spill into the season and affect performance.

The stakes are high as teams weigh different metrics and risk versus upside. There are ripple effects from any deal, but also from waiting too long to sign a player long term.

There have already been major extensions this offseason, including the Red Sox and third baseman Rafael Devers agreeing to an 11-year, $331 million deal. So which players could be next? Here are my picks for the 15 most significant extension candidates in the game, the players whose teams should be prioritizing talks now.

Teams and agents typically don’t want to discuss extension negotiations. They don’t want to tip their hands or negotiate in public. That is the case with this group. I reached out to most of the front-office decision makers associated with these 15 players, and none I contacted would comment on the record about the status of potential talks. However, most of these players and their agents likely have had initial talks with their respective teams about a longer-term contract, and it will be fascinating to see what deals get done.

(Wins Above Replacement are according to Baseball Reference. All stats are from the 2022 season unless otherwise noted.)


1. Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Angels

Age: 28 Free agent: 2024
WAR: 9.6
OPS: .875 HR: 34 RBI: 95
W-L: 15-9 ERA: 2.33 SO: 219

Ohtani shocked the industry when he agreed to a one-year contract for $30 million this offseason despite being arbitration-eligible. Most analysts believe he would have had a strong argument for a one-year deal in the $35 million to $40 million range because of his unique resume as an impact two-way player. Ohtani is eligible for free agency after this season and if the Angels can’t extend him before the trade deadline, their best play will be to trade him at that time. Ohtani likely will break all the financial records (average annual value, overall money), with his next contract probably ending up in the $450 million to $500 million range. But will it be with the Angels or another team?


2. Juan Soto, OF, Padres

Age: 24 Free agent: 2025
WAR: 5.6
OPS: .853 HR: 27 RBI: 62 OBP: .401

The Padres basically traded their farm system to land Soto and potentially experience three postseasons with him. However, their goal is to sign him long term. Soto will have to perform better this year at the plate and in the field if he wants to be paid more than Mike Trout ($426.5 million over 12 years), Mookie Betts ($365 million, 12 years) and Aaron Judge ($360 million, nine years), but if he plays to his potential, he could be the next $400 million outfielder.


3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, Blue Jays

Age: 23 Free agent: 2026
WAR: 3.9
OPS: .818 HR: 32 RBI: 97

The Blue Jays’ top priority has to be trying to sign Guerrero to a long-term deal in the 10- to 12-year range, and they should expect it to take around $350 million. Guerrero has hit 80 home runs with 208 RBIs in the past two years and he has a 135 OPS+ over four major-league seasons. He has developed into a plus defender at first base. Guerrero keeps himself in great shape, but the one concern for Toronto is how his body will age over a long-term pact.