Nobody ever accused any Major League Baseball free agent of being a wholly safe bet, so it's perhaps fair to say that any player in any given market is a boom-or-bust type.

Still, we'd naturally prefer to focus on the ones in the 2022-23 market who match that description more than most.

We only considered players who haven't yet signed, as we otherwise would have been all over Edwin Díaz. We ultimately identified eight free agents who have three things in common: tremendous talent, obvious pitfalls and projections for multi-year deals worth tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.

Many of those will be given out, but not all of them will be overloaded with risk. Not to name names, but...well, hitters like Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson and Brandon Nimmo don't have much in the way of downside, and it bodes well for pitchers like Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker and Jameson Taillon that they don't need power stuff to be effective.

In any case, we'll check off our eight biggest boom-or-bust targets in ascending order of likely earning power.


8. 1B Josh Bell

Age: 30

2022 Stats: 156 G, 647 PA, 17 HR, 0 SB, .266 AVG, .362 OBP, .422 SLG

B/R Projection: 4 years, $64 million

Why He Could Go Boom

Generally speaking, Josh Bell can hit.

His career 120 OPS+ means he is 20 percent better than the average hitter, and that's without even getting into specific highs such as his 37 home runs from 2019 or his 81 walks from this past season.

The switch-hitting Bell has also typically offered a solid bat-to-ball skill, and never more so than in 2022. His 15.8 strikeout percentage landed him in the 83rd percentile. At least in theory, such things make him an ideally well-rounded hitter.

Why He Could Go Bust

Trouble is, anyone who's watched Bell closely throughout his career will know that he's maddeningly inconsistent.

Take, for example, his first- and second-half splits. They've varied widely over the last three full seasons, with an average difference of 221 points' worth of OPS. Most recently, his OPS dropped 288 points from the first half of this year to the second.

On top of this, prospective suitors for Bell should also fret about what befell his contact quality in 2022. His exit velocity, for example, went from being safely above 90 mph between 2019 and 2021 to just below 89 mph.


7. RHP Koudai Senga

Age: 29

2022 Stats (in NPB): 23 GS, 148.0 IP, 104 H (7 HR), 159 K, 50 BB, 1.89 ERA

Why He Could Go Boom

It's a "whoopsie" that we don't have a contract projection for Kodai Senga, but rest assured he's going to get paid. Predictions for his first major league deal run as high as five years, $75 million.

Senga's latest performance was typical of what he did in 11 years with the SoftBank Hawks. At work was an arsenal of quality pitches, the best-looking of which are his high-90s fastball and a forkball known as the "Ghost Fork."

With a slider and a cutter also in his bag of tricks, Senga would seem to have everything he needs to function as a top-of-the-rotation starter in MLB.

Why He Could Go Bust

Senga nonetheless comes with real red flags, one of which concerns how he wasn't always healthy throughout his career in Japan.

There's also a question of whether his fastball will play in the majors. Jim Allen covered how Senga doesn't have a great command of the pitch, while Ben Clemens of FanGraphs highlighted how the pitch isn't overpowering up in the zone.

Granted, the fastball doesn't play as large of a role in today's MLB as it used to. Yet that doesn't make it easy for a pitcher to be entirely fastball-free, so Senga may end up having a low ceiling if he doesn't at least get his fastball command up to par.