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Where will the Top MLB Free Agents Go?

Nov. 01, 2019 - Michael Stewart

Where will the Top MLB Free Agents Go?

Introduction: The 2020 MLB free agent list has lots of talent available to any team willing to spend the money. There are ample starting pitchers, positional players and relief pitchers on the market who can help any team looking to improve their roster. I have assembled my top free agents available and which two teams have a legit chance of signing them.

Starting Pitchers

  • Gerrit Cole (Houston Astros): Cole will more than likely win the AL Cy Young award after a dominant season (20-5/2.50 ERA/.0895 WHIP); which includes his performance in the playoffs. Probable Destinations: Los Angeles Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
  • Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals): Strasburg was voted the 2019 World Series MVP and he couldn’t have come at a better time for him.  Strasburg is in control of his own destiny as he has the option to walk away from his current 4 year/$100M contract to seek a longer and possibly a more lucrative deal. At 31, it’s hard to imagine him eclipsing his current contract. Probable Destinations: Washington (doesn’t opt out), New York Yankees (decides to opt out).
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu (Los Angeles Dodgers): Jin-Ryu faltered in the second half of the season for the Dodgers, but overall put up solid numbers (14-5/2.32 EA/1.007 WHIP). The Dodgers are out of options with Jin-Ryu as they can’t offer him a qualifying offer, so they either need to re-sign him or let him walk. That decision will be an easy one if they can sign Gerrit Cole. However; if not then they might have to look to bring him back. Probable Destinations: Los Angeles Dodgers (if the Dodgers miss out on Gerrit Cole), Seattle Mariners (if Jin-Ryn wants to move on).
  • Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco Giants): Bumgarner got his groove back in the 2nd half of the season and reminded all of baseball that he still has plenty in the tank. At 30, Bumgarner might not get that long term deal, but he could either sign a one-year deal to improve his stock for 2021 or decide to take a 3 year deal around $19-20M per year. Probable destinations: Houston Astros/San Francisco Giants
  • Jake Wheeler (New York Mets): The New York Mets will place a qualifying offer on Wheeler; which he will more than likely refuse. Wheeler has electrifying stuff, but has never been able to equate that into wins. Perhaps finding the right team will provide that for him. Probable Destinations: Houston Astros/New York Yankees.
  • Dallas Kuechel (Atlanta Braves): Kuechel held out for most of the 2019 season as he was seeking a multi-year contract. Kuechel settled on a one-year deal by the Braves and he finished the year at 5-3/3.71 ERA/1.063 WHIP; which was respectable, but not top tier. The question here will be does Kuechel still believe his a top 2 rotational starting pitcher or will teams look at him as a mid to backend rotational starting pitcher? Probable Destinations: Cleveland Indians/Cincinnati Reds.
  • Jake Odorizzi (Minnesota Twins): Ordorizzi made his 1st All-Star game in 2019 and the timing couldn’t have been better as Ordorizzi finished the year with a 15-7/3.51 ERA/1.208 WHIP. The biggest question teams will have on Ordorizzi will be is he a one year wonder or is he an emerging starting pitcher whose better years are still ahead? Probable Destinations: Minnesota Twins/Houston Astros.

Relief Pitchers:

  • Kenley Jansen (Los Angeles Dodgers): Jansen’s numbers declined in 2019; which prevent him from opting out of his remaining 2 year/$38M contract.  Sources have indicated that Jansen will more than likely stay put, but there’s always a chance he won’t. Probable Destinations: Los Angeles Dodgers (doesn’t opt out), Cleveland Indians (if he opts out).
  • Aroldis Champman (New York Yankees): Chapman has two more years remaining on his contract at $30M. At 32, would he be able to get a longer contract from another team or would be wiser to stay with the Yankees and win a Championship there? Probable Destinations: New York Yankees (opts to stay), Los Angeles Angels (Opts to leave).
  • Will Smith (San Francisco Giants): Smith was dominant in his walk year and will be rewarded with a multi-years deal. There will be many suitors for his services and Smith will have the luxury of picking and choosing which team will be the better fit. Probable Destinations: New York Mets/Houston Astros.

Position Players:

  • Anthony Rendon-3B (Washington Nationals): Rendon showcased clutch hitting for the Nationals during the playoffs and teams noticed. Rendon turned down an offer from the Nationals (7 years/$210M), so it’s unclear if he wants to leave Washington or is he trying to get Washington to raise the amount.  There’s no doubt Washington would like Rendon to remain a National as they really don’t have a suitable replacement in line. However; the Nationals have been known to have a strong stance of large multi-years deals with position players (see Bryce Harper). Probable Destinations: Los Angeles Angels/Atlanta Braves (upgrade from Josh Donaldson)
  • Jose Abreu-IB/DH (Chicago Whitesox): Abreu is 33 years old and it would seem his better years are behind him. However; his 2019 production tells a different story (33HRS/123 RIBI/.284BA). Abreu’s relationship with the White Sox organization has been great throughout his career there and all indications are pointing to him re-signing with them or at least getting an qualifying offer. If not, he will have some teams interested in his services despite giving up compensation. Probable Destinations:  Chicago White Sox/Seattle Mariners.
  • J.D Martinez-RF/DH (Boston Red Sox): Truth be told here, I believe the Red Sox would like to see Martinez opt out of his remaining 3 year/$62.5M contract, however; there’s no indication either way if he will or won’t. Martinez is a productive offensive weapon and he would enhance any lineup. The Biggest question mark here would be if Martinez at 32 years old could find a better deal than the one he already has? Probable Destinations: Boston Red Sox (doesn’t opt out), Arizona Diamondbacks (opts out).
  • Nick Castellanos-RF/DH (Chicago Cubs): When the Cubs traded for Castellanos, even they didn’t expect to get a player to hit .321 with 16 HRS/36 RBI and a OPS of 1.002 in the final 51 games. Castellanos provided a spark for the Cubs that would have given them a wild card spot if not for their underachieving starting pitching and bullpen down the stretch. Biggest question here will be do teams view Castellanos and a full-time player or a super-sub off the bench? Probable Destinations: Boston Red Sox (if Martinez and/or Betts depart), Chicago Cubs
  • Yasmami Grandal-Catcher (Milwaukee Brewers): Grandal will be the best all-around catcher available in free agency this off season and he should get interests from a number of teams. Grandal finished with 28HR/77 RIB/.246 BA and can hit from both sides of the plate & is a quality defensive catcher. Probable Destinations: Washington Nationals/ New York Mets (if they can trade Wilson Ramos).
  • Josh Donaldson-3B (Atlanta Braves): Donaldson signed a one-year deal with the Braves and responded well with a line of 37HR/94RBI/.259BA.  The Braves also have talent at other positions, so it’s a sure bet that they would bring him back as Donaldson is seeking at least a 2-3 year deal at roughly $22M. As I pointed out above with Anthony Rendon, the Braves could simply replace Donaldson with Rendon or look to sign Donaldson to a shorter contract. Probable Destinations: Atlanta Braves (if Atlanta misses out of Rendon)/Philadelphia Phillies (If they miss out on Rendon)
  • Marcel Ozuna-RF (St. Louis Cardinals): Ozuna has been a steady offensive weapon for the Cardinals, but could be in line to get a qualifying offer instead of a multi-year contract. If so, expect Ozuna to refuse the QO and look to find a new home in 2020. Ozuna could attract a few suitors with his power/ speed attributes. Probable Destinations: Cleveland Indians/Cincinnati Reds.
  • Didi Gregorius-SS (New York Yankees): Gregorius returned by mid-season after having rotator cuff surgery and provided decent numbers with a line of 16HR/61 RBI/.238 BA. However; the Yankees have options at SS with up and coming star Gleybor Torres sliding over from 2B or possibly looking to acquire Cleveland Indians SS Francisco Lindor. If the Yankees consider either one of these options, Gregorius will be playing for another team in 2020. The Yankees do have an option to give Gregorius a qualify offer, however; the fear there would be he might accept it. Probable Destinations: Cleveland Indians (if trade with Yankees happens for Lindor), San Francisco Giants.
  • Mike Moustakas-3B (Milwaukee Brewers): Moustakas will be seeking a multi-year (2-3 years/$12-$15M per) after hitting 101 homeruns over the past three seasons. Many scouts project the 31 year old will more than likely find a home in the AL, so a DH role would also be in play. Probable Destinations: Cleveland Indians/Seattle Mariners
  • Yasiel Puig-RF (Cleveland Indians): Puig provided the Indians with some offensive spark at the trading deadline (24HR/84RBI/.267). Puig is only 29 years old should have a solid 3-5 years of production left in him. Biggest concern with Puig will be that teams with interest would like to see more consistency from him and not spurts during the year. That might be too much to ask for from Puig, but he is still a solid player. Probable Destinations: Cleveland Indians/San Diego Padres.

Final Thoughts: There are other noteworthy free agents available, but these players are the top tier in this year’s free agent market. It’s not clear if we will see an active off season in free agents being signed as many of the top free agents do have player options and could utilize them instead of testing the market. However; if they do decide to test the market, it should be a fun off season with lots movement around the league.