Let's all imagine, just for a little while, that we're looking for work on Major League Baseball's free-agent market. While we're at it, let's also assume that all 30 teams' doors are open to us.
Now then, how to rank our choices?
This is how we set about sizing up all 30 MLB teams as free-agent destinations. It involved weighing factors that are sure to influence the decisions of real-life free agents, such as:
Resources: Or available money, in other words. This tends to be an important part of free-agent transactions.
Contention Timelines: Everything else being equal, players generally want to play to win.
Surroundings: How's the ballpark? The city? The state? Perhaps more to the point for the latter two, is it an expensive or affordable place to live?
This was ultimately a subjective exercise, which means it's not at all impossible to argue with how we arranged teams from No. 30 all the way down to No. 1.
In any case, we'll check them off three at a time.
30. Oakland Athletics
2022 Record: 60-102
Projected 2023 Payroll: $35 Million
Even in the best of times, the A's have never spent more than $30 million on a single free agent. And with their first 100-loss season since 1979 in their immediate past and no real certainty as to whether their future is in Oakland or Las Vegas, these aren't the best of times.
The A's also play in baseball's fifth-oldest and first-worst stadium and in a state with the highest income tax and the second-highest cost of living out of the lower 48.
29. Pittsburgh Pirates
2022 Record: 62-100
Projected 2023 Payroll: $48 Million
Because PNC Park is an absolute jewel of a stadium and Pennsylvania is a low-tax state, the Pirates indeed have an enticing environment to offer. Plus, the team itself has a promising core coming together.
The catch? Bob Nutting. The Pirates owner is notoriously stingy in free agency, never spending more than $39 million on a single player. There may come a day when that changes, but it likely won't be after a second straight 100-loss season.
28. Cincinnati Reds
2022 Record: 62-100
Projected 2023 Payroll: $73 Million
The Reds haven't been totally unwilling to spend in recent history, notably signing Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas to $64 million deals during the 2019-20 offseason. And between its low taxes and cost of living, dollars go further in Ohio than they do elsewhere.
Alas, the Reds simply aren't in a position to spend right now. Massive payroll cuts preceded the club's 100-loss campaign in 2022, and Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer has written that still more cuts may be in order this winter.