2021 Top 50 Free Agents

Welcome to FanGraphs’ top-50 free-agent rankings. In years past, Dave Cameron or Kiley McDaniel has been been responsible for this annual post; I have taken the reins this year, with some assistance from my colleagues.

In what follows, I’ve provided contract estimates and rankings of the winter’s top free agents, along with market-focused breakdowns for the top 25 players. Meanwhile, a combination of Ben Clemens, Brendan Gawlowski, Jay Jaffe, Eric Longenhagen, Rachael McDaniel, Dan Szymborski, and Jon Tayler have supplied the more player-focused breakdowns, which are designed to provide some context for each player at this moment in his career.

Players are ranked in the order in which I prefer them. Often, that order closely follows that of the overall contract values that both the crowd and I have projected for them, but not always. All dollar amounts are estimated guarantees to the player. Many players could end up with one-year deals that include a team option for a second year, but only the expected guaranteed years and dollars are included below. All projections are Steamer 2021 projections, with the exception of Ha-seong Kim’s, which is ZiPS 2021.

Some players still have pending opt-out or teams option decisions to contend with; we will update the profiles below to reflect any relevant changes as we learn of them. The list below also includes multiple players who are likely to receive a Qualifying Offer. The QO amount for this season is $18.9 million. Teams must make those offers within five days of the end of the World Series. Players then have another 10 days to decide whether to accept them. It’s not clear whether teams will curtail making such offers this winter out of a fear that more players than usual will decide to accept them and attempt to re-enter free agency in what will hopefully be a more certain climate next offseason. Only J.T. Realmuto and George Springer seem like guarantees to decline such offers, with Trevor Bauer and Marcus Semien likely to do so as well; Marcell Ozuna cannot receive a QO after receiving one last year.

For a comprehensive list of this year’s free agents, which will be updated to include signings as they happen and crowdsource results for those players on whose deals we polled, please consult our Free Agent Tracker.

Last year’s free agent class was headlined by Gerrit Cole, with Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon combining with him for guarantees totaling more than $800 million. This winter’s market is likely to be more tepid. Mookie Betts‘ extension, which looks like a great deal for the Dodgers, has taken a huge bite out of the action we might have seen in the coming months. But while this year’s class isn’t nearly as strong as 2019’s, the number of potentially solid contributors extends past the 50 players listed here. Veteran pitchers like Jake Arrieta, Anthony DeSclafani, Mike Fiers, Jon Lester, Homer Bailey, Brett Anderson, Aníbal Sánchez, and Cole Hamels didn’t make the cut; Martín Pérez could be added to that list if the Red Sox elect not to pick up his option. Solid infielders like Freddy Galvis, Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Villar, and Enrique Hernández were likewise excluded, as were outfielders Kevin Pillar and Yasiel Puig, C.J. Cron and Mike Zunino, and a host of relievers like Sean Doolittle, Greg Holland, Jake McGee, Justin Wilson, Shane Greene, Tommy Hunter, Darren O’Day, and Jeremy Jeffress.

The players above will likely be joined by a group of solid contributors after the December 2 deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. Last season, Cron, Kevin Gausman, Cesar Hernandez, Pillar, Blake Treinen and Taijuan Walker were among the players who found themselves free agents after being non-tendered.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the lost revenues of a 2020 played largely without fans in the stands, and the potential losses to come in 2021 are all going to shape free agency this winter. Everyone expects an ugly offseason when it comes to spending and team activity, but the pandemic alone doesn’t explain the shape of this year’s market. There was always going to be a significant drop in payroll in 2021 as team owners prepared for the end of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. The tepid markets that followed the 2016 and ’17 seasons have left just nine players who signed during those offseasons under contract for next year. Even from just two offseasons ago, there are only 13 contracts signed by that year’s free agents that are still in effect for 2021, and only five go beyond next season. As big contracts have expired, smaller ones have taken their place, and payroll was likely to fall by about half a billion dollars before factoring in the pandemic. If, as expected, teams trim their spending further, a significant increase in the number of non-tenders coupled with lowered guarantees in free agency could make the expected reductions cut even deeper.

That said, team owners are uniquely well-situated to ride out the effects of the pandemic. Even if we take the league’s recent claims of $3 billion in 2020 losses at face value, spreading those losses over the next 30 years at 3% interest would result in payments of just $5 million per team per year. Rob Manfred recently stated that teams now have more than $8 billion in combined debt (a figure that amounts to just $13 million annually per team over 30 years at 3% interest). But he failed to mention that that figure is only around 15% of team franchise values, or to distinguish what of that debt was used to fund 2020 operating expenses like payroll, and what was used for planned expenditures like real estate development near teams’ home parks. Debt isn’t always bad; indeed owners can use debt and the resulting payments on it to offset profits, functionally increasing their equity with less investment, and freeing up their cash to use elsewhere. But what the owners can do and what they will do are often different things, and teams have cut payroll in situations far less dire with considerably less of an excuse before. Team owners have left little doubt regarding their intentions this winter, having already moved forward with front office layoffs to go along with a reduced amateur draft and the planned contraction of the minor leagues. The uncertainty surrounding 2021 revenue, the future state of the pandemic, and the lack of a CBA beyond next season are likely going to result in a very ugly winter for this year’s crop of free agents.

The upper end of the market could move fairly quickly, but the looming non-tender deadline along with teams potentially trying to move players to cut payroll in the face of 2021 revenue uncertainty could inspire some clubs to try to wait out free agents. While the overall picture this offseason is rather grim, there will be opportunities for enterprising teams to get significantly better and position themselves well for the 2021 season and beyond.

Now let’s get to the rankings. – CE

1. J.T. Realmuto, C, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 6 $23.3 M $140.0 M
Median Crowdsource 5 $22.0 M $110.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 4.89 $21.4 M $104.5 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
592 7.5% 21.3% .263 .327 .451 .333 109 8.6 10.7 4.4

Craig’s Take
The Phillies catcher did little to hurt his value in the shortened 2020 season, and with Mookie Betts signing an extension in Los Angeles, he’s clearly the best free agent available. The Phillies could certainly benefit from bringing him back, but he shouldn’t lack for suitors, with a few NL East rivals and maybe the Yankees potentially in the mix with big budgets and a need or want at catcher.

Player Notes
The primary characteristics of Realmuto’s career thus far are that he’s good at everything and that he’s still finding ways to get better. Without lingering too long on his 2020 statline, we’d be remiss not to mention career highs in BB%, ISO, OBP, slugging, and exit velocity. Defensively, there are no holes in his game. He’s a great framer, and if the league suddenly yanks that carpet from beneath his feet, oh well, he’s still a fantastic blocker and a base runner’s worst nightmare. Even at 30, teams should be lining up to sign the cornerstone free agent on the market. He may never fully get his due as one of the game’s premier players; hopefully the nine-figure contract coming his way can ease the sting. – BG

2. George Springer, CF/RF/LF, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 5 $23.0 M $115.0 M
Median Crowdsource 5 $22.0 M $110.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 4.73 $22.3 M $105.4 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
676 11.6% 19.9% .268 .361 .497 .366 131 27.1 -2.8 4.7

Craig’s Take
While Kris Bryant is the most well-known recent example of service time manipulation, Springer has arguably been hurt the most by the practice. After turning down an extension ahead of the 2014 season, he was held in the minors for a few weeks and barely missed becoming a free agent at the end of last season. He likely would have ended up with more than $200 million in last year’s free agent frenzy, but will have to settle for something closer to half that amount due to his age — he turned 31 in September — and the tightened spending expected this winter.

Player Notes
While many of his Astros teammates saw their offensive stats take a downturn in the wake of the team’s sign-stealing scandal, Springer chugged along as if nothing had happened, putting up numbers right in line with the rest of his excellent career to date. Houston’s malfeasance will lead a lot of general managers to go over Springer’s numbers with a fine-tooth comb. What they’ll find is a player with outstanding plate discipline (he ranked in the top third of qualified hitters last season in strikeout rate, at just 17.1%) and power (his .275 ISO was 20th in that same group) who easily slots in atop any lineup. Any buyer also gets solid defense in center field and above-average speed. A much likelier limiting factor contract-wise will be age: Springer turned 31 in September. But he’s without a doubt the best all-around outfielder on the market, and any contender with a hole in center should be all over him. – JT

3. Trevor Bauer, SP, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 4 $22.5 M $90.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $29.0 M $87.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 3.13 $28.9 M $90.3 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
203.0 8.3% 26.7% 40.6% 4.07 4.06 4.15 3.8 3.5

Craig’s Take
Bauer had previously said he would only be interested in one-year deals in free agency, but his agent walked that statement back this fall. When I started this process, I estimated Bauer would receive a one-year, $26 million deal with a Qualifying Offer bringing his value down if he insists on a one-year contract. Given his previously stated desire to continually test the market, a contract with an opt-out or two might be a potential compromise, though that could lower the total value of the deal somewhat.

Player Notes
Cincinnati’s season may have ended in disappointment, but Bauer needn’t harbor any regrets about his on-field production. The right-hander was erratic after coming over from the Indians in a three-team deadline deal in 2019, but he wiped away any lingering memories of that season by putting up one as good as his breakout 2018. I’d even argue that 2020 was better for Bauer as he didn’t need a repeat of 2018’s 0.46 HR/9 rate to once again emerge as a real Cy Young contender. He set career bests for both strikeout and walk rates, and will only be 30 for the 2021 season.

But Bauer’s contract situation is not without complication. He has occasionally expressed a desire to go year-to-year, though his agent recently said he would be open to multi-year offers. And while I’m confident in his playing record, I’m less sure of his ability to avoid giving his new team occasional headaches. Although it probably won’t deter a club from signing him, he’s been at the center of several well-publicized outbursts, from angrily throwing a ball into center field while still with Cleveland to a string of ugly social media incidents with fans. And his comments on pine tar usage and spin rate have raised eyebrows given his own 2020 spin rate bump. Still, he’s the best free agent pitcher available, and seems likely to be paid like it. – DS

4. Marcus Semien, SS, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 4 $16.0 M $64.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $17.0 M $51.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 3.26 $16.8 M $54.9 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
687 10.8% 17.6% .251 .334 .431 .331 108 8.1 3.4 3.5

Craig’s Take
After a breakout 2019 season, Semien could have really used a full year as a springboard to free agency. His 91 wRC+ might look like a step back to the good-but-not-great version of Semien from 2018, but after a dreadful first two weeks of the season, his 133 wRC+ the rest of the way (including the playoffs) lines up neatly with his 2019 campaign. Semien is a good player, but with Didi Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons also in this free agent class and Francisco Lindor, Javier Báez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story coming up next offseason, Semien’s market could be fairly limited, enabling some lucky team to get a bargain.

Player Notes
Semien is seventh in WAR among big league shortstops since 2016 (fourth since 2017) and the players surrounding him on that list either have or soon will hit free agency. So, in addition to Semien bringing premium offensive ability somewhere new, his contract will be an interesting precursor to the huge 2021-2022 class of similarly-talented free agent shortstops whose deals will be signed on the other side of a contentious CBA negotiation.

He produced a mediocre 2020 line — .223/.305/.374, with a diminished Hard Hit % and average exit velocity — that can be circumstantially dismissed due to the season’s small sample and abrupt start, as well as his late-August oblique injury. The longer Semien was removed from that injury the better he hit, slashing .211/.341/.366 (a 104 wRC+) during the three-week September stretch between his return and the end of the season, before rolling into a .371/.450/.571 playoff line. That dominant run late in the year makes it tougher to decide if Semien’s MVP-worthy 2019 performance was perhaps also an anomaly, as throughout the rest of his career he has been a league-average hitter, albeit with remarkable consistency.

But an average hitter who can play shortstop is a very valuable player. There may be an industry divide regarding Semien’s defensive ability. His defensive metrics (DRS, UZR) indicate he’s been an above-average glove for the last several years, but visual evaluations are more middling, and perhaps a DJ LeMahieu-esque 2B/1B role lies toward the back end of his deal. It’s likely a team that thinks he can play short for a while will be the one that signs him. – EL

5. Marcell Ozuna, LF/RF, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 4 $17.5 M $70.0 M
Median Crowdsource 4 $17.5 M $70.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 3.99 $18.7 M $74.8 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
647 10.8% 21.3% .274 .355 .507 .365 130 24.6 -13.2 3.4

Craig’s Take
After two decent seasons in St. Louis, Ozuna had to settle for a one-year deal with Atlanta. No longer saddled with a Qualifying Offer and coming off a great 2020 campaign, Ozuna should be able to cash in, even in a slow offseason. He turns 30 in November and his time with the Cardinals might scare some teams away, but he hits the ball incredibly hard and clubs looking for a big bat don’t have a ton of options this winter.

Player Notes
After so-so production during two seasons in St. Louis — perhaps due to right shoulder woes and a slow recovery from a late-2018 surgery — Ozuna had to settle for a one-year, $18 million deal with the Braves, but it couldn’t have gone much better. He set across-the-board career highs with a .338/.431/.636 line, led the league in homers (18), total bases (145), and RBI (56), and placed third in wRC+ (179) and seventh in WAR (2.5) while helping Atlanta come within a win of a World Series berth. Underlying this performance was a much more fly ball-oriented profile and an elite barrel rate to go along with superlative exit velos and x-stats.

Not only is Ozuna hitting the market after a strong walk year, he stands out as the youngest of the top outfield options, about 14 months younger than Springer and three and a half years younger than Brantley. There may be a bit of concern about his defense — Statcast says he’s slowing down, and he DHed in 39 of his 60 games in 2020 — but his metrics have generally been above average, even with the occasional high-profile, wall-climbing gaffe. – JJ

6. DJ LeMahieu, 2B/3B/1B, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 3 $10.3 M $31.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $14.0 M $42.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 3.45 $18.0 M $62.1 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
683 7.7% 13.8% .291 .349 .444 .343 115 12.5 3.2 3.9

Craig’s Take
The two-year, $24 million contract the Yankees signed LeMahieu to ahead of 2019 has been a huge bargain, but he could face another difficult go of it this winter. He’s been great, but he’s now 32 years old, his defense isn’t what it was, and he plays a position teams haven’t been prioritizing. Will bidding be pushed over $50 million when Cesar Hernandez and Jurickson Profar are available for a fraction of the cost? LeMahieu’s Statcast numbers weren’t as rosy as his results, with a drop in launch angle putting him more at the mercy of batted ball luck. On the other hand, Mike Moustakas received four years and $64 million a year ago and LeMahieu is better than Moustakas even if he’s a year older. If the Yankees extend him a Qualifying Offer at $18.9 million, he will have a tough decision to make, as there’s risk to banking on multi-year offers that might not come despite his recent success.

Player Notes
Though he had already won a batting title and three Gold Gloves in Colorado, LeMahieu’s two years in the Bronx were a revelation. He not only showed off his elite contact skills (including a career-low 9.7% strikeout rate this year), he emerged as an on-base machine with impressive power numbers. The union of his opposite field-oriented approach and Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch paid off in the form of a major league-high 16 opposite field homers at home in 2019-20 (out of 36 total). After finishing second in the AL in batting average in 2019, he became the first modern player to win titles in each league in 2020; his .364/.421/.590 line also included the AL’s top on-base percentage and a career-high slugging percentage.

While a return to pinstripes makes a certain sense for both sides, Gleyber Torres‘ struggles at shortstop may necessitate a move back to second base, and the Yankees, who have made noise about belt-tightening, may prioritize fortifying the pitching staff. While LeMahieu might not have the same value to other teams, his glove, versatility, and bat-to-ball skills give him a solid floor. – JJ

7. Masahiro Tanaka, SP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $15.0 M $30.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $18.0 M $54.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.63 $17.1 M $44.9 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
176.0 5.7% 21.5% 45.6% 4.23 4.27 4.19 3.1 2.7

Craig’s Take
Another potential Qualifying Offer looms for the Yankees in the form of 32-year-old Tanaka. The right-hander has been a consistent, slightly above-average starter for the last four years. Even at his age, that might have put him in line for a four-year deal for $50 million or more. In the current environment with a QO, he might get three years, but four seems far-fetched, meaning he might just take such an offer if the Yankees make him one.

Player Notes
What José Bautista was to swing adjustments, Tanaka is to pitch mixes, moving away from the fastball before it was cool. Since coming stateside, Tanaka has been baseball’s most consistent No. 2 starter. If you prorate his 2020 numbers, he’s averaged three wins per year on the dot, and he’s done so while only missing a handful of starts. By any measure, he earned every cent of the $155 million the Yankees paid him. In a fairer world, the 31-year-old would be up for a similar payday. My sense, however, is that he’ll be lucky to make half of that.

To be sure, there are some concerning batted ball trends here. As batters hit the ball in the air more, it makes intuitive sense that relative soft-tossers like Tanaka would be more vulnerable to homers, which has been the case. What’s more, hitters raised their collective launch angle against him for the third year running, while barreling the ball uncomfortably often. Tanaka’s excellent control gives him some wiggle room on big flies, but if I was a seer and knew that the ball would remain juicy for years to come, I’d be leery of him. – BG

8. Ha-seong Kim, SS/3B, Age 25
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 5 $12.0 M $60.0 M
Median Crowdsource 4 $11.0 M $44.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 4.02 $11.4 M $45.7 M
2021 ZiPS Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
564 9.0% 16.8% .274 .343 .470 .350 119 17.4 7.1 3.8

Craig’s Take
Kim’s big advantage in free agency is his age. At just 25 years old, he’s half a decade younger than most of the players on this list. While he does have a posting fee, that amount is likely to be in the $10 million range and not especially onerous. He’s lower on this list than some players with lower estimated contracts due to the uncertainty with how his skills will translate to MLB, but even another $20 million on top of my estimate isn’t going to break the bank over five or six years. There’s less certainty than with the other players surrounding him on this list, but the ceiling is considerably higher given that he’s likely to spend all of his contract in his 20s.

Player Notes
The toolsiest of several good, young Kiwoom Heroes players, the 25-year-old Kim has averaged more than 20 homers and steals the last six seasons and is coming off his first year with more walks than strikeouts. He is a 5-foot-9 stick of dynamite, a plus runner with a high-effort swing that features a big, dramatic leg kick and surprising pull-side power.

He’s also a good defensive shortstop, with average hands and actions but expansive lateral range thanks to his speed, and an accurate, plus-plus arm. This is a player just entering his prime with thunderous physical tools including power, who can also play a premium defensive position, all of which makes Kim a baseball rarity.

It’s very difficult to project how his bat-to-ball skills will translate to MLB since even KBO’s best pitchers are often former minor leaguers who were on the 40-man roster fringe during their time in the States. Kim will have to make an Evel Knievel leap across a velocity canyon from a league where several of the best pitchers sit in the upper-80s or low-90s to one where the average bolt is 93 mph. There have been players with KBO contact numbers similar to Kim’s who either plateaued in MLB-affiliated ball (Dixon Machado 마차도, Andy Marte 마르테) or went from the KBO to MLB and didn’t translate (Hyun Soo Kim 김현수), but none of them were as toolsy as Kim. Only late-career Yamaico Navarro had a power/speed output anywhere close to Kim’s in the KBO, and that was after he’d seen MLB pitching.

There may be an early dry period for Kim as he sees the best pitching of his life, but he’ll be an impact regular if he can adjust to it. – EL

9. Didi Gregorius, SS, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $11.5 M $23.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $15.0 M $45.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.59 $14.4 M $37.3 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
566 6.8% 14.0% .258 .315 .439 .321 101 1.8 5.2 2.7

Craig’s Take
The Phillies shortstop appeared to return to form after Tommy John surgery slowed his 2019 season, though it is worth noting that his exit velocity and Statcast numbers paint his offense as not being markedly different from his last year with the Yankees. He’ll be 31 at the start of next season. The glut of shortstops available over the next year or so, combined with many teams already having established players at the position, could make Gregorius more of a stopgap option than a fixture with his next contract.

Player Notes
Gregorius bet on himself last winter, taking a one-year deal with the Phillies to rebuild his value after a so-so 2019 in the Bronx. The gamble worked, as he put up numbers close to his excellent 2018 campaign, with a 116 wRC+ that ranked 10th among qualified shortstops. Unsurprisingly, the left-handed Gregorius feasted at Citizens Bank Park, with a .371 wOBA and 131 wRC+ at home (as well as seven of his 10 homers) versus .322 and 100, respectively, on the road. That’s something to keep in mind for his potential suitors: Gregorius fits best in a park that boosts lefty power, given that he’s a pull-happy hitter who doesn’t light up the exit velocity charts or walk much. That, his age (31 next February), and his unexceptional defense may keep him from securing a big long-term deal, though his 2020 rebound should be enough to earn him the multi-year commitment he missed out on last year. – JT

10. Justin Turner, 3B, Age 36
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $13.0 M $26.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $16.0 M $32.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.05 $16.3 M $33.4 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
574 10.6% 16.7% .279 .370 .472 .363 129 19.8 -2.8 3.6

Craig’s Take
Sure, he’s older and his defense at third base has declined, but Turner can still hit. At 36 years old next season, he’s not going to get a long-term commitment, but two more years seems reasonable. His bat is good enough to be a designated hitter but he’s not incapable of playing the field. He’ll lengthen any lineup, and he isn’t likely to cost a ton.

Player Notes
The once non-tendered Met was one of the original launch angle revolution beneficiaries, and he’s enjoyed quite an outstanding run with the Dodgers, hitting a combined .302/.382/.503 (141 wRC+) with a reasonable facsimile of that line in 2020 (.307/.400/.460). Though his power numbers (including four homers and a .153 ISO) were down this year, his 90.3 mph average exit velocity and .386 xwOBA were virtually identical to 2019, and he had an xSLG of .553, his fifth straight year above .500. In other words, he had some bad luck.

That’s not to say concerns don’t abound for the going-on-36-year-old redhead. Turner played in just 75% of Dodgers’ games from 2017-20, maxing out at 135 in ’19; while a 2018 left wrist fracture caused the longest absence, hamstring and groin strains have cost him speed and led the Dodgers to treat him… gingerly. Per UZR, his defense has been in the red for four straight years as well (-5.5 UZR/150), and while he was exceptional this October, a future with at least part-time DH duty is probably in the cards. He could also face discipline for taking the field during the Dodgers’ World Series celebration despite a positive test for COVID-19, though unless the punishment is severe, it seems unlikely to significantly affect his market. – JJ

11. Marcus Stroman, SP, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $13.0 M $26.0 M
Median Crowdsource 4 $16.0 M $64.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 3.42 $16.1 M $55.0 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
175.0 8.1% 18.3% 54.2% 4.34 4.37 4.27 2.5 2.4

Craig’s Take
A pitcher who didn’t pitch getting a multi-year deal is a bit unusual, but then, 2020 was an unusual season. Stroman pitched well in 2019 then spent the first part of this year recovering from a calf injury; he opted out of the season in August. Stroman could pursue a one-year deal and test free agency again next winter, but the added security of a second guaranteed year might work well for him while the team that signs him could get two very good years from the groundball specialist at a relatively low commitment. Teams without a good infield defense need not apply.

Player Notes
Outside of his injury-shortened 2015 and 2017 seasons — and, of course, the 2020 season he opted out of — Stroman has been remarkably consistent, with his career-best 3.9 WAR in 2019 mere decimal points off his marks in previous years. His modus operandi remains the same: the sinker/slider combination that makes him one of the game’s best at inducing groundballs, with four other pitches that he’ll use. He used the cutter more in 2019 than in any year prior, most often when ahead in the count to set up his slider. Obviously, Stroman didn’t pitch at all in 2020, choosing to opt out after an injury just ahead of the season’s scheduled start, so there’s no data from this year to work off of. What we do know: He’s still young, presumably healthy, and one of the game’s best at inducing weak contact — a valuable player for pretty much any team to roster. – RM

12. Michael Brantley, LF, Age 34
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $12.0 M $24.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $15.0 M $45.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.96 $15.3 M $30.0 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
628 8.4% 12.6% .286 .351 .452 .346 118 13.2 -10.7 2.4

Craig’s Take
Brantley will be 34 next May and there were some signs of decline in his strikeout rate this season. He’s still a high-contact, good-average hitter, but he is spending less time in the field and might have gotten a bit lucky with his 134 wRC+ this season. He should still be able to parlay his skills and results into a few more years of guaranteed money, though if Houston makes a Qualifying Offer, he should probably take it.

Player Notes
Brantley followed up his excellent debut with the Astros in 2019 with a strong 2020 campaign, though he battled a right quad injury for much of the shortened season. After a collision with Joe Kelly at first base on July 29, the injury, along with Yordan Alvarez’s absence, pushed Brantley out of left field and into the DH role for most of his plate appearances; he spent two weeks on the IL in August. But in spite of that, he still managed to be the team’s third-most-valuable position player. At 33, Brantley’s skill as a hitter is well-established at this point. As he gets older, his health will continue to be an ongoing area of concern, but he’s shown in his two seasons with the Astros that he can continue to produce even through injury, limited playing time, and a change of role. – RM

13. James Paxton, SP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $15.0 M $15.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $15.0 M $30.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.04 $14.5 M $29.6 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
151.0 8.0% 24.2% 40.2% 4.22 4.30 4.39 2.3 2.4

Craig’s Take
How many Qualifying Offers will the Yankees make this offseason? They opted not to give one to Didi Gregorius last year for fear he would accept it, and given that injuries ended Paxton’s season, he seems very likely to accept a Qualifying Offer, if one is made. If not, he’ll likely take the best one-year deal on the market and hope a healthy season propels him to a bigger payday a year from now.

Player Notes
A healthy 2020 would’ve had Paxton jockeying with Trevor Bauer to be the top pitcher available this offseason. As is, his trainwreck of a year — one that started with offseason back surgery, saw his fastball lose over three miles per hour of velocity from the year prior, and ended in late August due to a flexor strain in his left elbow, amounting to all of five starts and 20.1 innings with a 6.64 ERA — not only puts him well behind Bauer but also imperils his hope of pulling down a big contract in his first trip to free agency. There’s plenty to like about the southpaw, starting with his wipeout stuff; if he’d pitched enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, his 13.2% swinging-strike rate would’ve been 11th-best among all pitchers. But persistent questions about durability make him a hard sell, as does the fact that he turns 32 in November. For the right team that can keep him on the mound and help him find consistency, he could be a bargain, albeit a risky one. – JT

14. Kevin Gausman, SP/RP, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $14.0 M $28.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $12.0 M $36.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.71 $12.4 M $33.4 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
154.0 7.5% 24.4% 42.7% 4.26 4.24 4.20 2.4 2.4

Craig’s Take
Gausman fits the recent trend of Rangers free agent signings of relatively cheap pitchers who might have a little more to offer (see: Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson). That isn’t to say the Rangers will sign Gausman, but the soon-to-be 30-year-old righty is in that mold. After middling results and a non-tender last offseason, Gausman was very good this year with a 32% strikeout rate. His velocity was up, too, though his fastball-splitter arsenal without an effective third pitch does raise some concerns over a longer season.

Player Notes
Gausman has been on quite a journey, from top prospect to workhorse to deadline acquisition to waiver bait to reclamation project. Since being traded by the Orioles at the 2018 deadline, he’s pitched for the Braves, Reds, and Giants. Thanks in part to a substantial rebound in velocity — his 95.1 mph average four-seamer was his highest since 2015, 1.4 mph ahead of his average as a starter in ’18-19 — he turned in a very strong season in San Francisco. While he fell one-third of an inning short of officially qualifying for the ERA title, he ranked sixth among NL pitchers with at least 50 innings in strikeout rate (32.2%) and strikeout-walk differential (25.7%), ninth in FIP (3.09), and tied for 17th in WAR (1.5). His splitter was particularly unhittable, limiting batters to a .106 AVG, .202 SLG, .150 xwOBA and 21.9% swinging strike rate.

After working on a one-year, $9 million deal in 2020, Gausman should be in line for a multiyear pact. He appears to be open to returning to the Giants, as he’s reportedly keen on working with Buster Posey. – JJ

15. Liam Hendriks, RP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 3 $10.0 M $30.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $12.0 M $36.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.78 $11.6 M $32.2 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
70.0 7.7% 32.4% 38.2% 3.33 3.25 3.50 1.1 1.1

Craig’s Take
There’s one truly elite reliever in this free agent class, and it is Hendriks. I could see the bidding go considerably higher than my estimate. Hendriks is better than Will Smith and Drew Pomeranz and likely won’t have a Qualifying Offer attached. Four years and $60 million wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility in a normal year — he’s that good. It’s hard to see who will be hurt most by teams cutting payroll, but relief pitching at the top isn’t the worst guess.

Player Notes
Hendriks has quietly become one of the best relievers in baseball. From 2015 (his breakout year) on, he’s been the fourth-best reliever by WAR, with much of that value coming in the last two years, when he’s gone from excellent setup man to sub-2.00 FIP monster. He’s never had a big arbitration payout, perhaps because he only had a single save before the start of the 2019 season, but suffice it to say that his $5.3 million salary (pre-pro-rating) is about to go up. He’s already 31, which limits the length of a prospective contract, but there’s legitimately nothing to nitpick about his current form. He set career highs in chase rate, swinging strike rate, and strikeout rate to go along with career lows in walk rate, ERA, FIP, xFIP, SIERA — I mean, you get the idea, he’s great. He’s the best reliever on the market, and while it’s fair to wonder what might become of him three years down the road, some team will likely pay up for the dominant present and work the future out when it comes. – BC

16. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $8.5 M $17.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $14.0 M $42.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.66 $13.9 M $37.0 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
576 7.0% 9.9% .275 .331 .395 .316 98 -2.3 14.0 3.1

Craig’s Take
The defense is probably still elite, but the offense has dipped since a pair of five-win seasons in 2017 and ‘18. At 31 years old, Simmons isn’t washed up, but he won’t be in the same demand he would have been a couple seasons ago. He can help a contending team as an everyday starter if healthy, but he’s not likely to play at an All-Star level over the next few years. For any team not yet set at shortstop for next year, though, Simmons should be a very good value.

Player Notes
A few years ago, I would have expected Simmons to hit free agency as the best shortstop on the market. Now, you can make a case for him being as low as the fourth, as he is on our rankings this year.

The power spike he showed in 2017 and ‘18 has largely faded, and in the last two seasons, he’s been a more aggressive hitter, with little to show for it. A decline in offense isn’t an insurmountable obstacle, but there’s also evidence of a defensive swoon. That’s a larger problem, as it’s Simmons’ stellar fielding that has made him a real contributor despite an OPS south of .700. After averaging nearly +30 runs a year by DRS from 2015 to 2018, he dropped to +12 in his shortened 2019 and dipped into the red for the first time in his career in 2020. His UZR shows a similar trend, and Statcast’s Outs Above Average is no more glowing about his 2020.

Simmons is the type of player I expect to be hurt the most in this economic environment thanks to his perceived decline and the significant free agent depth at his position, this year and next. He may be a good bargain for a team, but I expect it’ll mean an unfortunate pay cut for him. – DS

17. Joc Pederson, LF/RF, Age 29
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.42 $10.9 M $26.4 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
527 10.7% 22.2% .246 .339 .496 .354 123 15.4 -5.7 2.8

Craig’s Take
The lefty outfielder isn’t a full-time player and it’s hard to know how much that will bring his contract down. He didn’t have a great season, but the sample size was so small that a handful of postseason games easily brought his offensive numbers back above average. He’s one of the younger players on this list, turning 29 years old in April. Pederson should put up good numbers for several years as the strong side of a platoon and he can still play in a corner spot. He’s a good player to have, but isn’t likely to be near the top of teams’ wish lists this offseason.

Player Notes
Pederson’s stellar October, ultimately in service of a Dodgers championship, will probably outshine his struggles in the 2020 regular season in most people’s memories. The 28-year-old had a rough go of it for most of this year, a season he began by almost getting traded to the Angels. Getting most of his plate appearances against right-handed pitching, as one might expect from a left-handed hitter in a platoon role, he posted numbers (a .179/.276/.402 line with an 86 wRC+) that were very near career worsts for that split — the only time he’s struggled that much against right-handers was in his 2014 debut, when he only played 16 games. But aside from this blip in a shortened season, Pederson’s been a solid producer for most of a decade now — and, if nothing else, he can always be relied upon to hit the ball hard. – RM

18. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $9.0 M $18.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.25 $10.1 M $22.7 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
561 10.0% 26.7% .223 .313 .396 .308 92 -3.5 2.5 1.9

Craig’s Take
After three years of mostly average baseball combining good defense with below-average offense, Bradley’s bat came alive this season for the first time since 2016. Those offensive numbers in a small sample coupled with a high BABIP and infield hit rate will likely leave front offices feeling skeptical. But there’s no reason to be skeptical of Bradley’s glove, meaning some team with a hole in center field can find a decent starter without much in the way of salary commitment.

Player Notes
Defensively, few if any players can match what Bradley brings to the table. Per Statcast’s Outs Above Average, he was tops among all outfielders this year, and he’s never finished lower than 20th in that stat. The question is whether the glove is good enough to balance out his streakiness at the plate. His season was a success overall, with a 119 wRC+ and a career-best 10.6% walk rate. A lot of that was fueled, though, by a .343 BABIP, as Bradley put up below-average marks in exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and virtually every other peripheral that has to do with success at the plate. (His season line was also greatly boosted by a September during which he hit .326/.423/.562; like I said, he’s streaky.) Still a ground-ball machine in the era of launch angle, Bradley’s 2020 feels like a hard ceiling, and his ‘18 and ‘19 numbers (a 90 wRC+ both years) are more likely what you get. Any team that signs him is doing so first and foremost for the glove; everything else is gravy. – JT

19. Tommy La Stella, 2B/1B/3B, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $8.5 M $17.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $7.0 M $14.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.09 $7.5 M $15.6 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
568 9.1% 9.6% .280 .352 .441 .344 116 10.7 -3.2 2.7

Craig’s Take
A versatile platoon bat, La Stella is best positioned as a utility player making starts across the infield against right-handers. He is valuable in that role, giving regular or semi-regular starters time off with little-to-no drop in production. While that type of player won’t fit on with every team, he’s not likely to command too high of a salary, providing starter-level production at a high-end bench price.

Player Notes
2020 was another solid year for La Stella, who continued to be among baseball’s best at avoiding strikeouts and whiffs. He finished the year with a miniscule 5.3% strikeout rate and a walk rate nearly double that of his 2019 season. He even managed to raise his already-high contact rate. His ability to play a competent if unspectacular second and third base only makes him more appealing, and a team that can give him consistent playing time should only see further improvement, even if he sometimes merits a defensive replacement late in close games. – RM

20. Nelson Cruz, DH, Age 40
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $15.0 M $30.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.41 $14.0 M $19.7 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
602 10.6% 27.1% .253 .342 .482 .348 119 10.9 -16.1 1.6

Craig’s Take
One of these years Cruz’s production will fall off, but it didn’t happen in 2020, though his exit velocity did erode a tad. Until he completely falls off, he’s going to be deserving of an annual eight-figure contract. He’s not likely to get multiple years at this point, but that limits risk for teams. With the potential for there not being a universal designated hitter in 2021, his market won’t be as robust as it could have been, but he should still attract plenty of attention from AL clubs.

Player Notes
Cruz may be the most durable player in baseball, managing to be seemingly impervious to age-related decline.

It’s not often a player on a multi-year contract in his late-30s can actually claim to have been underpaid, but Cruz can. His signing has worked out wonderfully for the Twins, with his 2019 production alone outpacing his two-year, $26 million deal. And he found yet another gear in 2020. Not counting his 31 games in a 2008 cameo, his 164 wRC+ in 2020 was a career-high, beating out his previous best, a 163 mark, all at the tender age of 39. Among players age-35 and older, he’s now eighth all-time in wRC+ and 11th in homers with 176; if he has two more 20-homer seasons left in him, he’ll end up behind just Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron in the latter category.

There are a few reasons for mild concern — both his 2020 zSLG and xSLG agree that he was outperforming his exit velocity numbers — but when aren’t there for a 40-year-old player? Cruz might actually get another two-year contract and again be worth it. – DS

21. Trevor May, RP, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $6.0 M $12.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $5.0 M $10.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.79 $5.7 M $10.2 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
65.0 9.6% 30.6% 37.9% 3.78 3.80 3.92 0.8 0.7

Craig’s Take
Most of May’s numbers aren’t eye-popping, but his 40% strikeout rate in 2020 really jumps out. His velocity has steadily increased over the years, now sitting in the upper-90s. Even at 31 years old, there’s a sense that his best seasons might still be ahead of him. The home runs are a bit frustrating, but if he can keep hitters missing and stay healthy, he’s the second-best reliever in this free agent class.

Player Notes
At a glance, May’s 1.9 HR/9 ratio looks far more alarming than his strikeout surge looks encouraging. Small samples often have a distortive effect though, and that’s the case here as well. While May’s cartoonishly high 21.7% HR/FB ratio will undoubtedly regress in short order, the substantial increase in whiffs he generated looks legitimate. He reared back and found an extra tick on his fastball last season, and hitters missed the pitch more than 20% of the time. Life gets a whole lot easier when your fastball can carry the profile.

Three consecutive seasons of good-if-not-quite-great relief work should put May in line for a multi-year deal worth around $10 million per, give or take how excited front offices are about his four-seamer. The pandemic will likely eat into that figure though, and so it’ll be interesting to see if May values the stability of a longer contract or would rather roll the dice and hit free agency after 2021. As the valedictorian in Kelso High School’s class of 2008, I trust him to arrive at the right answer. – BG

22. Taijuan Walker, SP, Age 28
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $9.5 M $19.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $9.0 M $18.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.36 $8.9 M $20.9 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
168.0 8.5% 20.2% 42.1% 4.99 4.97 4.89 1.3 1.3

Craig’s Take
After barely pitching for two seasons, Walker acquitted himself pretty well as a starter this year. There isn’t much that stands out about him, but at 28 years old, he is one of the younger free agents in this class. We are now moving into a tier of starting pitchers with considerable question marks due to performance and health. Walker’s age and results separate him slightly from the rest of the pack, but teams will have options when it comes to potential back-of-the-rotation starters at a reasonable cost.

Player Notes
After almost two years on the shelf, Walker’s primary objective was to stay healthy in 2020. Mission accomplished. How teams evaluate his numbers in the context of his injury history will be the $64,000 question. On the one hand, his peripherals are underwhelming. Between a low BABIP, mediocre FIP, middling strikeout rate, and fly ball tendencies, it’s easy to cast him as a No. 4 and look elsewhere for more exciting options.

But pitchers are just a few adjustments from unlocking their potential these days, and there are a couple of things to tinker with here. The first is the split. While most changeups perform well against opposite-handed hitters, Walker’s doesn’t. He might be better served by ditching it and feeding lefties a steady diet of curves and sliders (his behaves like a cutter). Second, for a righty with limited spin and only average velo, Walker has a surprisingly effective four-seam fastball. Given that his sinker mostly gets clobbered, it would seem fruitful to replace most of the latter with more of the former. I suspect that some decision maker somewhere has also been to Walker’s Brooks Baseball page recently; perhaps they too smell a buy-low opportunity. – BG

23. Brad Hand, RP, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $9.3 M $27.9 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.44 $9.9 M $24.2 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
65.0 8.8% 27.3% 38.8% 4.00 4.10 4.23 0.4 0.5

Craig’s Take
When it comes to performance, Hand trails only Hendriks when it comes to relievers. He was very good in 2019 and great in the shortened season, though the complete lack of home runs allowed likely isn’t repeatable. Hand’s fastball velocity has been in decline for a few years now and he has compensated by using it less, with the slider as his featured pitch. Success there might not last forever. The lefty was placed on waivers by Cleveland; if he goes unclaimed, he shouldn’t have a problem landing a decent contract, and might get more than two years, but he’ll be hard-pressed to get more than $8 million to $10 million annually. But then again, it seems unlikely he goes unclaimed. Right?

Editor’s Note: Sadly, wrong! Hand cleared waivers. He is a free agent after his option was declined; Cleveland will pay a $1 million buyout.

Player Notes
His velocity fell for the second consecutive year (it trended up throughout the season) but Hand still struck out more than 30% of opposing hitters for the fifth straight season and had a career-best 2.05 ERA and 1.37 FIP. He’s a funky, low-slot lefty who can throw his trademark curveball for strikes whenever he wants and consistently locate it just off the plate to his glove side for swings and misses.

Aside from some elbow soreness that sidelined him late in 2019 (and perhaps limited his workload throughout that season), Hand has also been remarkably durable for a reliever, pitching in excess of 70 innings every year from 2014 to 2018, some of those in a swingman role. His lower arm slot gives Hand rather pronounced platoon splits, which means he may not be universally deployable in high-leverage situations, but his curveball quality and his ability to execute it consistently should still enable him to be a second or third bullpen banana for the next several years, even if his velocity keeps gradually sliding. Cleveland placed Hand on outright waivers yesterday, where he can be claimed if another team wants to pick up his $10 million option. That’s what the Dodgers paid Blake Treinen this year, so it’s about the going rate for a bullpen arm of this quality. – EL

24. Jake Odorizzi, SP, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $13.0 M $39.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.97 $10.7 M $21.0 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
149.0 8.6% 24.2% 34.5% 4.62 4.68 4.79 1.8 1.8

Craig’s Take
The Twins pitcher bet on himself last offseason by accepting a Qualifying Offer, hoping that a repeat of his 2019 season would land him a big deal. Unfortunately, after just four starts in 2020, the 30-year-old will have to bet on himself again to re-establish his value. Right now, 2019 looks more like an outlier than an indicator of good future performance, but a high-variance team looking to jump into contention next year might make a lot of sense for Odorizzi. He won’t want to go to a team that can’t guarantee him a starting spot, so a hopeful contender might make the most sense if he doesn’t end up back in Minnesota.

Player Notes
ZiPS was a huge fan of Odorizzi going into last offseason, but given the lack of action in recent markets, he gambled that he’d do better by taking the Qualifying Offer and hitting free agency again after 2020 without any draft pick compensation hanging over his head.

Instead, Odorizzi enters the market with new question marks. An intercostal strain (the negative effect of a line drive sent straight to his chest in August) and a blister issue limited Odorizzi to only four games this season. He wasn’t particularly effective in those, three of which came against the Royals, the AL’s 13th-ranked scoring offense. The Twins were extremely careful with him, never letting him get to 80 pitches, though that’s not exactly going to enhance his 2021 salary.

There’s not a great deal of good news in Odorizzi’s profile, but despite the injury issues, he at least didn’t lose velocity. His 6.59 ERA is largely the result of giving up four home runs, a 23.5% HR/FB rate in his 13.2 innings of work. Those long balls were all barrels — he allowed seven in his four games — but given the vagaries of the 2020 season and the injuries he was fighting, I don’t think he’s down in reclamation project territory. – DS

25. Drew Smyly, SP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $8.5 M $17.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $5.0 M $5.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.52 $7.1 M $10.8 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
148.0 9.2% 26.6% 35.4% 4.50 4.54 4.50 1.7 1.9

Craig’s Take
Smyly gained a couple miles per hour on his fastball after going to the Giants and used his curve a lot more and to great effect. He also missed a month with a finger injury, averaged about four innings per start, and had his best game of the season on its final day, against a Padres team that was looking ahead to the playoffs. There are some intriguing results to go with an intriguing skill set for the lefty here, but it’s possible Smyly has to shift to relief or short starting stints to keep up his great (but abbreviated) 2020 stat line

Player Notes
Taking a one-year flyer with the Giants, Smyly bounced back nicely in 2020 from his career-worst 2019 season. Despite missing time with a finger strain, he added spin and velocity to all of his pitches, posted a career-best strikeout rate, and was generally extremely effective. Batters whiffed on his pitches more than ever before, though when they did make contact it was often barrelled. It was a quiet season, but a good one, with some interesting developments. Of course, the biggest barrier to success for Smyly historically has been injury, and even in a shortened season he was unable to avoid missing time. – RM

26. Kolten Wong, 2B, Age 30
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $7.5 M $15.0 M
Median Crowdsource 3 $9.7 M $29.1 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.59 $9.9 M $25.7 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
557 9.1% 16.2% .259 .341 .385 .318 99 1.5 3.6 2.4

Player Notes
Wong was a victim of COVID-19. Not the direct effects of the disease, mind you (and thank goodness), but the economic devastation it wrought. Before the season was shortened, picking up his $12.5 million option was a no-brainer for the Cardinals; above-average players at up-the-middle defensive positions don’t come cheaply. There were fit issues — with no NL DH guaranteed in 2021, the Cardinals have two spots for Wong, Tommy Edman, and Matt Carpenter — but even if the team had no vacancies, they could have retained and traded him.

There’s no question that Wong is a talented player — he’s been worth more than 2 WAR/600 for the last four years and six of the last seven. Instead, it’s a question of what an average player will cost this offseason, and Wong’s availability implies that we might be looking at some small-dollar contracts. Whoever signs Wong will get a reasonable bat — Steamer projects him for a 103 wRC+ next year — and the best second base defender in the game by pretty much any metric, as shown by his three straight Fielding Bible Awards at the position. What his next team pays for him will go a long way towards setting the market for solid-but-not-spectacular players in this brave new financial world. – BC

27. Mike Minor, SP/RP, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $7.0 M $14.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.96 $10.1 M $19.7 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
168.0 7.7% 21.4% 38.4% 4.63 4.75 4.83 1.9 1.9

Player Notes
After missing the 2015-16 seasons due to labrum surgery, Minor enjoyed a strong three-year run that included ’18-19 seasons spent in the Rangers’ rotation, during which he posted a 3.84 ERA, 4.32 FIP and 6.7 WAR across 365.1 innings and made his first All-Star team. His 2020 season did not go so well; despite a strikeout rate that jumped from 23.2% to 25.9%, his walk and homer rates climbed as well, the former from 7.9% to 8.4%, the latter from 1.30 per nine to 1.75. Even so, where Minor’s ERA rose by nearly two runs (from 3.59 to an unsightly 5.56), his FIP only moved from 4.25 to 4.64. He wasn’t quite as bad as you might believe at first glance.

That said, Minor’s average fastball velocity dropped by a full two miles per hour (from 92.6 to 90.6), and by his own admission, his stuff simply wasn’t the same. His hard-hit and barrel rates both jumped substantially, and led to an August 31 trade to the A’s; he allowed more runs than innings pitched in three of his five appearances (the ones that weren’t against Seattle). Had he hit the market last winter, he’d have easily surpassed his previous three-year, $28 million deal, but that seems unlikely now, even in a relatively thin free agent market. – JJ

28. Blake Treinen, RP, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $9.0 M $18.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $8.0 M $16.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.77 $8.5 M $14.9 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
65.0 9.8% 24.3% 51.1% 3.86 3.95 4.00 0.5 0.6

Player Notes
The A’s are a very savvy organization, but they overreacted to Treinen’s dud of a 2019 campaign. The Dodgers profited from Oakland’s rashness, as the righty produced a tidy 3.86/3.15/3.47 pitcher slash last season while working hard for a reliever, at least by 2020’s abbreviated standards. Even though his strikeout numbers fell again, everything else looked good: Only 17 relievers allowed a lower average exit velocity last year and just two managed a higher groundball rate. That last point is particularly compelling in a time when the average fly carries to the warning track and one of Max Muncy’s dingers dented the space station. Treinen may never recapture the immortal form he wowed us with in 2018, but he doesn’t need to; the world needs set-up men, too. – BG

29. José Quintana, SP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $11.0 M $11.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.96 $10.9 M $21.4 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
170.0 7.5% 20.0% 42.7% 4.61 4.66 4.72 1.7 1.9

Player Notes
A cut on his left thumb and a left lat strain kept Quintana’s 2020 from ever getting off the ground, as he appeared in just four games, three as a reliever, and pitched a mere 10 innings. You could say the same about his Cubs career, which amounted to a 4.24 ERA over three-plus seasons. Fans on the North Side likely won’t look back on his tenure there with any fondness, especially given that he cost the team Eloy Jiménez, and his scattershot years in Wrigley Field make him a free-agent puzzle. Is the man who gobbled up innings and put up 4-WAR seasons with regularity on the South Side still in there? The problem is that Quintana was never someone who racked up strikeouts, nor does he bring top-shelf velocity to the mound. His game has always been predicated on soft contact, but that’s borderline impossible when your fastball gets hit as hard as his has (a .522 slugging percentage against it in 2020). – JT

30. Mark Melancon, RP, Age 36
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $11.0 M $22.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.39 $8.3 M $11.6 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
63.0 8.3% 18.8% 52.0% 4.33 4.40 4.42 0.2 0.2

Player Notes
Imagine a contending team as a meal at a fancy restaurant. You’ve got your main course — chicken à la Acuña with a side of Freeman, or Betts royale garnished with Bellingers, maybe. There’s a fun appetizer, maybe a Fried dumpling or a Kershaw/Buehler purée. In this strained metaphor, Melancon is a well-seasoned side of asparagus. It’s unfair to compare him to food, but it’s my entry, so here we are. He’s a perfectly nice bullpen option, best used as the third- or fourth-best reliever on the team. Want him to appear 60 times and avoid walks while keeping the ball on the ground? He’s the man for the job. Want him to stand athwart the opposing lineup and yell “Stop!” to miraculously wiggle out of the highest-leverage jams? He’s probably not the droid you’re looking for. His fastball lost a tick this year, and teams aren’t bending over backwards to sign relievers without strikeout stuff, but his record of competence is tremendously useful given the number of contending teams that could use bullpen help. – BC

31. Yadier Molina, C, Age 38
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.51 $11.8 M $17.9 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
448 5.3% 16.0% .253 .301 .394 .301 88 -10.3 9.4 1.7

Player Notes
Could Molina leave St. Louis after such a decorated career, a career that many thought would end years ago? He seems determined to catch on somewhere, and as weird as a 38-year-old catcher seems these days, he looks like a roughly average option at the position. His bat has cooled significantly since the 2011-2013 glory days, and his defense has followed suit. Catchers have a low offensive bar to clear, though — catchers as a whole hit .229/.310/.385 this year, good for a 90 wRC+. Even if Molina doesn’t clear said bar, he still adds enough on the defensive side — through framing, blocking, discouraging runners, and hard-to-quantify game calling — that he can continue to hit like his 2020 self and be valuable. Should he leave the Cardinals, one thing that might be harder to manage is his playing time — his status in that locker room is such that he essentially only took days off when he wanted to, which might have been to the detriment of his rate statistics and ability to stay fresh through a long year. On the other hand, backup catchers aren’t exactly known for their great skill, so squeezing 10 extra games out of your workhorse is mighty tempting. He’ll be an interesting puzzle for whichever team signs him — Redbirds or otherwise. – BC

32. Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $9.0 M $9.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $8.0 M $16.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.97 $8.7 M $17.1 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
648 10.2% 18.8% .267 .347 .381 .321 101 0.9 1.0 2.4

Player Notes
When the Indians signed Hernandez, they basically wanted a player who was more reliable than the declining Jason Kipnis, preferably one they didn’t have to pay much. Hernandez checked both boxes, hitting .283/.355/.408 for 1.9 WAR in 58 games while serving most of the season as the team’s leadoff hitter, all for a mere $6.25 million in pre-pandemic dollars.

There’s no real star upside to Hernandez — though his brief 2020 performance had him surprisingly close to that status — but he’s long been about as dependable a second baseman as you can find. Just how dependable? Since 2015, despite not having a single four-win season, he ranks sixth among second basemen in WAR, less than a win behind Javier Báez. Now admittedly, that ranking casts him in the best possible light as he’s also played the most games of any second basemen over these six seasons, but his health history is part of the package. For a contending team that ought to have a real interest in overpaying for an average or slightly above-average second baseman, a middle infielder who has had only one IL trip in a half-decade is worth a look. Kolten Wong’s entry into free agency possibly complicates matters for Hernandez, but I could see the Cardinals signing him for less per year than Wong’s $12.5 million option, which they just declined.

Hernandez has real value to a contending team, but I’m not sure it’ll manifest in a big payday. – DS

33. James McCann, C, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $7.0 M $14.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $6.0 M $12.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.02 $7.1 M $14.3 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
467 6.8% 27.7% .235 .294 .389 .296 84 -10.3 10.1 1.3

Player Notes
Quality catchers aren’t easy to come by these days, and for teams that can’t afford to offer a nine-figure deal to Realmuto and are loath to invest in a 38-year-old Molina (or simply aren’t the Cardinals), McCann offers a reasonable alternative. Admittedly, his track record for above-average play isn’t a long one; he was 0.7 wins below replacement as recently as 2018, and netted -0.1 WAR from 2014-18, that while hitting for just a 75 wRC+. Even so, his 3.8 WAR over the past two seasons is tied for fifth among catchers, while his 116 wRC+ is eighth.

Underlying his recent performance are substantial improvements on both sides of the ball. From 2015-18, McCann posted an average exit velocity of 87.9 mph and a .304 xwOBA, but he’s up to an average of 90.2 mph over the past two seasons, with a .328 xwOBA. Meanwhile, he posted his first above-average framing numbers this year (2.3 runs, up from -9.0 by our data, and from -8.0 to 1.5 via Baseball Prospectus). He’d be an upgrade for several teams. – JJ

34. Alex Colomé, RP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $7.0 M $14.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $8.0 M $16.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.72 $8.1 M $13.9 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
65.0 8.9% 20.7% 46.1% 4.48 4.54 4.61 0.1 0.2

Player Notes
Colomé’s release point was less scattered in 2020 and he rode his well-located cutters to an incredible 0.81 ERA. That’s obviously not sustainable, and Colomé does have some regression indicators: He stranded 86% of runners, a career high, and his strikeout rate dipped to a career-low 17.8%. But while Colomé struck out fewer hitters this year, he also induced much weaker contact than usual. His groundball rate went up substantially (45% career, 52% in 2020), while he set career lows in several other marks (average opponent exit velocity, hard hit %, and barrel %, plus he had zero home runs allowed). I think Colomé hides the ball well and creates such tough angle with that cutter that, so long as he executes pitches with this newfound level of consistency, such a pitch-to-contact approach is viable because his cutter is so nasty.

And Colomé, who’s built like a tank, has been remarkably durable. He hasn’t been on the IL since 2016 (he was day-to-day with back spasms late this September) and has thrown at least 60 innings every full season since then. He’s a fairly low-risk late-inning arm who should be the second or third best reliever on a contender. – EL

35. Jurickson Profar, INF/OF, Age 28
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $4.5 M $9.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $7.5 M $15.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2.27 $7.8 M $17.8 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
541 9.5% 15.1% .247 .330 .422 .326 104 3.7 -3.0 2.0

Player Notes
The former number one prospect struggled mightily with Oakland in 2019, but fared far better in his first year in San Diego, setting career highs in batting average (.278), on-base percentage (.343), and wRC+ (111). Hitting the ball on the ground with more frequency actually paid off, as he cut his infield fly ball rate from 18.9% to 8.5%, and legged out seven infield hits, more than double his 2019 total.

As in 2018 (but not ’19), the switch-hitting Profar hit lefties and righties about equally well. He also showed off his versatility. After starting the season as the Padres’ regular second baseman, he moved to left field to cover for the absence of Tommy Pham, and stayed there while Jake Cronenworth put in a Rookie of the Year-caliber season at the keystone. Cronenworth’s presence and the Padres’ outfield depth may preclude a return to San Diego, but this going-on-28-year-old should find some team for whom he can contribute in multiple roles in 2021. – JJ

36. Trevor Rosenthal, RP, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $8.0 M $16.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $6.5 M $13.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.85 $6.9 M $12.8 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
63.0 12.8% 29.8% 43.2% 3.84 4.00 4.13 0.5 0.6

Player Notes
Score one for the Royals here, a phrase I’m not prone to saying all that often. Rosenthal’s initial return from Tommy John surgery in 2019 was a disaster; his fastball recovered its velocity, but his control reached near Steve Blass/Mark Wohlers levels of sadness. 2020 was a completely different story. Rosenthal’s heater was much better located, and the slider that he had been working on pre-TJ showed nasty vertical bite, turning it into a real weapon. He was considerably less sharp in the playoffs, and nobody’s going to pay him as if he’s an elite closer, but his contract this winter should still be a nice raise after having to sign a minor-league deal last offseason. – DS

37. Kirby Yates, RP, Age 34
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 2 $5.0 M $10.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $7.0 M $7.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.54 $8.0 M $12.2 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
60.0 8.6% 30.0% 39.9% 3.72 3.70 3.82 0.6 0.7

Player Notes
What a difference a year makes. Yates would have been a hot ticket after 2018 and 2019, when his splitter simply overmatched opposing hitters; they swung at it too often, whiffed on 50% of those swings, and mostly put it straight into the ground when they did manage to make contact. That singular split, along with a stereotypically back-spinning four-seamer, drove a 41.6% strikeout rate without too much loud aerial contact, a lethal combination. His 2019 numbers, in particular, were absurd: a 1.19 ERA, 1.30 FIP, and 2.25 xFIP while striking out 15 batters per nine.

Alas, 2020. Yates threw only 4.1 innings before bone chips in his elbow required surgery, and he missed the remainder of the season. At 33 and with an uncertain recovery timetable, he’ll represent an educated gamble at best for the team that signs him, and front offices figure to be extremely conservative with their spending this offseason, to put it mildly. A year ago, I’d have expected a big-budget team to give him an incentive-laden two year deal, and that might still happen, but the market feels tenuous in a way that someone in 2019 experiencing Yates’ dominance wouldn’t believe. – BC

38. Brett Gardner, LF/CF, Age 37
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.06 $7.6 M $8.1 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
452 10.7% 21.2% .237 .325 .392 .314 96 -0.4 -1.8 1.4

Player Notes
Editor’s note: The Yankees have declined Gardner’s $10 million option, though Jon Heyman reports they may consider bringing him back on a new deal.

Thinking of Gardner wearing anything other than pinstripes feels strange. He’s been a fixture in the Yankees’ lineup for more than a decade, a competent defender with enough patience and bat control to offset a power deficit. Those skills aren’t quite up to their old level — age will do that — but he can still add value as a fourth outfielder. That’s valuable on a team with outfielders who would ideally spend some time at DH; most teams are hoping for mediocrity out of their fourth outfielder, and Gardner comfortably clears that bar even at 37. If that’s how teams see him, the Yankees will likely retain his services; he fits their roster well and is clearly comfortable with the franchise. The only question is whether some team will offer him starter money, and it’s a closer question than you’d think. I don’t think it will happen in this risk-averse offseason, but it’s not out of the question. That might lead the Yankees to pick up his $10 million team option (with $2.5 million buyout), which would be a good outcome for all parties. That does raise the question of why they didn’t agree to a longer deal already, but the most likely outcome is still a reunion. – BC

39. Corey Kluber, SP, Age 35
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $9.0 M $9.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $12.0 M $12.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.45 $12.5 M $18.1 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
157.0 6.4% 24.9% 43.7% 4.00 3.95 3.97 2.8 2.9

Player Notes
Back when Kluber signed a team-friendly five-year, $38.5 million deal coming off his first Cy Young award, it seemed unimaginable that he would be a free agent this offseason, and that was even more true after he picked up a second trophy in 2017. But with the Rangers apparently uninterested in picking up his $18 million club option, that’s where Kluber finds himself after two seasons ruined by injury. With his 35th birthday due not long after next season’s Opening Day, Kluber faces the unpleasant prospect of being a veteran on a one-year pillow contract. He doesn’t rely on blowing batters away at the plate, and I’m confident that if his curveball still bites, he’ll be fine if healthy. I’m just not confident that he will be, and I don’t expect many teams will be in the mood to roll the dice either.

Which teams are the best fits for Kluber? MLB.com’s TR Sullivan reported that the Rangers might be interested in a reunion on a reworked (and less expensive) deal, but if that doesn’t pan out, I think he’ll prioritize going to a team with excellent postseason odds, a ring having eluded him during his Cleveland years. The Dodgers in particular seem like a good fit; the team was linked to him in trade rumors last winter and the organization loves filling out the pitching staff with reclamation projects. – DS

40. Joakim Soria, RP, Age 37
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $7.0 M $7.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $7.0 M $7.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.15 $5.1 M $5.9 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
60.0 8.7% 24.6% 40.9% 4.20 4.27 4.41 0.4 0.4

Player Notes
Is your bullpen bad? Do you wish it had a little more depth, someone you could call on in the seventh inning without requiring the manager to watch the game with his hands over his eyes? Soria is exactly the reliever you’re looking for. He’ll be 37 next season, and his fastball velocity will probably slip a little lower next year — inevitable ravages of time and all that. Who cares, though? Soria has never blown people away with his heater, and it hasn’t mattered. He’s been Mister Consistency, particularly for a reliever, and he’s doing his part to adapt to the changing league; he’s throwing more sliders and fewer curveballs these days, a mirror of overall trends. Soria fit perfectly as the third-best reliever in a great bullpen in Oakland, and with the usual caveat that this year’s free agent market is unpredictable, he’ll almost certainly fulfill the same role for another contender next year. The years and dollars won’t be jaw-dropping, but there’s always a market for competent relief work, and Soria is precisely that. – BC

41. Carlos Santana, 1B, Age 35
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $11.0 M $11.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.47 $11.2 M $16.4 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
652 15.7% 17.1% .239 .361 .438 .346 118 13.5 -14.2 2.2

Player Notes
Santana is a player of extremes. He has the 11th-highest walk rate among all hitters this century at a whopping 15.5% career clip, and he was second in the majors in walks in 2020, trailing only Bryce Harper. But Santana hit just .199 this season and, for the first time in his career, had below-average offensive production (a 95 wRC+).

There are some indications that he was unlucky. His .212 BABIP was third-lowest in baseball, and while Santana’s not winning any races, that’s still much lower than his career norm, even at his advanced age. His contact quality slipped a little bit but his expected stats on Baseball Savant, which use Statcast data to approximate what the hitter’s line should be based on quality of contact, have him as a .250 hitter with a .450 xSLG, both way above Santana’s actual 2020 output.

He remains a switch-hitting power threat who grinds out tough at-bats, a 1.5 to 2 WAR 1B/DH whose career should see itself extended once the presumptive universal DH is put in place. Oh, and he can really pick it at first. The market for this type of 1B/DH performer may be flooded with similar younger players, as first base sluggers (though not with a skillset so extreme) are often the sort who get non-tendered. – EL

42. Garrett Richards, SP, Age 33
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $7.0 M $7.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $8.0 M $16.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.54 $8.0 M $12.4 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
139.0 9.3% 21.9% 44.7% 4.61 4.64 4.58 1.6 1.6

Player Notes
Richards is one of those paradoxical signings where, even though you don’t know exactly what you’ll get from him, you also kind of do. Nobody should be under the illusion that they’re enlisting the hard-throwing righty for 30 starts: He hasn’t hit that number, or topped 80 innings for that matter, since 2015. Even when he’s able to pitch, the ghost of the injured list has front-row seats to his every outing.

So, why sign this guy? Well, whether you’re getting 30 innings or 50, or you hit the lottery and get 100, odds are that he’ll pitch well. Over the past five years, he’s only chucked 200 frames, but in that time, he recorded a 3.86 FIP, 119 ERA+, and 205 strikeouts, good for about 3.5 WAR. Condensed into a single season, that kind of production is worth more than $30 million a year on the open market. He’ll make just a fraction of that, of course, and he’ll fit perfectly on a squad with a bevy of competent but underwhelming options in the back of the rotation. And who knows? Maybe someone will win the lottery. – BG

43. Rick Porcello, SP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $11.0 M $22.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.78 $10.1 M $17.9 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
177.0 6.5% 19.2% 40.5% 4.93 4.90 4.88 1.9 1.4

Player Notes
Few things were easier to predict than Porcello ending up with the Mets in 2020; everything about Rick Porcello at this stage in his career radiates powerful (if not lethal amounts of) Mets energy. Truthfully, there wasn’t much to recommend Porcello as a free agent last year. That remains the case this winter, as he once again slogged his way to an ERA above 5.00 with mostly gnarly peripherals, including a 6.4% swinging-strike rate that ranked 70th out of the 71 starters with 50 or more innings thrown last season. The righty’s main selling point is his durability: He hasn’t thrown fewer than 172 innings or made fewer than 28 starts in a 162-game season since 2010. That has some value, particularly for rebuilding or tanking teams that need a veteran who can soak up innings in a rotation of youngsters. So long as you don’t particularly care how good those innings are, Porcello is your guy. – JT

44. Matt Shoemaker, SP, Age 34
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $5.0 M $5.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.25 $5.8 M $7.2 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
144.0 8.3% 21.5% 41.7% 4.73 4.75 4.71 1.5 1.4

Player Notes
In both of Shoemaker’s two seasons with the Blue Jays, he pitched exactly 28.2 innings. In 2019, many of those innings were dominant. 2020 was more of a struggle. But in both campaigns, Shoemaker was, as has been so unfortunately frequent in his career, hampered by injury. The 2019 injury was a freak accident; the shoulder inflammation of 2020 is more worrying when thinking about the future. He did return in time to throw three commanding frames for the Jays against the Rays in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series, showing the sparkle that he’s capable of. But Shoemaker is 34 now, and he hasn’t cleared 15 starts in a season since 2016. His future, at this point, seems uncertain. – RM

45. J.A. Happ, SP, Age 38
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $13.0 M $26.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.09 $8.1 M $8.9 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
154.0 7.9% 20.8% 41.6% 4.67 4.73 4.74 1.5 1.7

Player Notes
Editor’s note: The Yankees have declined Happ’s $17 million option.

Outside of a handful of bad starts to begin the season and a much-discussed ALDS meltdown, the veteran lefty posted a pretty solid 2020 campaign, managing to avoid the extreme homer-proneness that plagued his 2019. At 38, Happ is who he is at this point (in 2020, that meant a 3.47 ERA and a 4.57 FIP), working primarily with his four-seam fastball, though he mixed in his sinker more frequently this season to positive effect. His velocity has been declining year over year, as one might expect from someone his age, but only by ticks. He has shown that he can still eat innings, never failing to complete at least five innings in any of his regular-season starts after August 16. – RM

46. Robbie Ray, SP, Age 29
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $8.7 M $17.3 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.9 $9.0 M $17.1 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
156.0 12.1% 28.4% 36.5% 4.49 4.61 4.51 1.9 2.0

Player Notes
Ray has been one tweak away from dominance for basically his whole career. He has the whiff-inducing fastball, plus slider, and where’d-it-go curveball to support his career 28.6% strikeout rate, a top-10 mark among starters since he debuted. On the other hand, he never quite mastered control; he’s the only one among those 10 with a double-digit walk rate. In an abbreviated 2020, the free passes sunk him — a career-low zone rate combined with a career-low chase rate resulted in a ghastly 17.9% walk rate, which in turn led to a 6.62 ERA and 6.50 FIP. He’s still an intriguing arm — heck, he struck out five Rays in three postseason innings this year — but after six years of maybe that has never materialized, he’s more reclamation project than solid starter at this point. Whichever team signs him — and he should sign a reasonable deal, because that strikeout rate is tantalizing — will do so with a plan to improve his command and double down on his best qualities. Maybe it’s a reworked delivery, or a cutter to give him more pitches to attack the zone — but it will be some tweak, and it will focus on throwing strikes, long his greatest weakness. – BC

47. Adam Wainwright, SP, Age 39
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $6.0 M $6.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $7.0 M $7.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.06 $6.2 M $6.5 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
159.0 8.0% 18.8% 45.1% 4.91 4.89 4.82 1.3 1.3

Player Notes
Wainwright might be auditioning for a future career in broadcasting, but he’s still plenty capable on the mound. His average fastball hasn’t cracked 90 since 2016, but he’s compensated by leaning ever harder on his cutter and signature 12-6 curveball. He’s never thrown the curve more than he did in 2020 — roughly 38% — but he’s still missing bats and drawing chases with it as often as ever. In fact, his 38.8% curveball chase rate in 2020 is the highest of his illustrious career. When that career continues, let’s not kid ourselves, it will probably be with the Cardinals. The one-year, $5 million deal he signed last year is a good starting point for what he might stand to make this year, and given his history with the Cardinals, it seems unlikely some team could blow him out of the water with $7 million and win his services. Wainwright seems to genuinely love pitching in St. Louis, so I’d expect another one-year deal in the same range and another year of competence and lollipop curves from the man who is so famous for the hook that his Twitter handle is Uncle Charlie. – BC

48. Robbie Grossman, LF/RF, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $6.0 M $6.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $5.0 M $5.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.55 $5.9 M $9.1 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
501 12.9% 19.7% .248 .351 .398 .329 106 3.7 -9.1 1.2

Player Notes
Grossman has been around for a while as a switch-hitting left fielder with a great approach, but because he’s lacked power he mostly produced like a fourth or fifth outfielder until 2020, when he slugged .521 against lefties. Did something change that might indicate Grossman will continue to do real damage? Maybe. He has made several swing tweaks over the last three years or so. In 2020, he had a more dramatic leg kick. He also swung more often at offspeed and breaking stuff this season, but he’s remained a low-ball hitter who avoids swinging at stuff at the top of the strike zone.

Is it likely that he slugs at a similar clip against lefties every year? Probably not, but there have been real and relevant changes to Grossman’s swing and approach, both of which seem to have had a substantive impact on his ability to hit for power, which has been his bugaboo for eight years. He’s someone’s short-term solution in left field. – EL

49. Brad Miller, INF/OF, Age 31
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $5.0 M $5.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $2.0 M $2.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.23 $4.2 M $5.2 M
2021 Steamer Projections
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
485 11.8% 28.0% .228 .325 .422 .323 102 1.2 -8.9 0.9

Player Notes
If you can play the infield and punish right-handed pitching, you’re going to play in the big leagues for a long time. Miller is yet another in a growing line of veterans whose careers have been extended by some combination of a) the shift enabling infielders with limited mobility to remain viable for longer and b) teams having more versatile players who make bat-only types like Miller rosterable. St. Louis was his fifth team in three seasons. Miller’s days of playing all over the field are probably over but he still hits righties well enough to get one year deal after one year deal until he stops. – EL

50. Chris Archer, SP, Age 32
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Craig Edwards 1 $7.0 M $7.0 M
Median Crowdsource 1 $8.0 M $8.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 1.72 $9.1 M $15.6 M
2021 Steamer Projections
IP BB% K% GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR RA9-WAR
154.0 8.6% 24.3% 41.6% 4.56 4.55 4.38 1.9 1.9

Player Notes
Archer didn’t throw a pitch for the Pirates in 2020, as he underwent surgery in early June to try to correct thoracic outlet syndrome. That malady has largely proven to be a career-killer for those who deal with it; coupled with Archer’s horrific 2019 numbers (a 5.19 ERA, 10.5% walk rate, and decreased fastball velocity), it’s a recipe for a quiet winter. Maybe some team is willing to give him a one-year deal with an option for 2022 in the hopes that he can rehab his way back to being the hard-throwing ace he was with Tampa Bay. More likely is a minor league deal with an invite to spring training to see what, if anything, he has left at 32 and coming off one of the worst injuries a pitcher can suffer. Hopefully he gets the opportunity, because it would be a shame for someone as fun and talented as Archer to fall out of the game like that. – JT





Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

My first reaction to the crowdsourcing/Craig estimates are mostly that they seem to have very low estimates on Bauer, who is the kind of player owners convince themselves they need and who compares well to Strasburg last year; and very high on most players out of that Top 12, either because they’ll be one-year deals, 30-50% lower AAV, or both.

Paxton, Simmons, Pederson, La Stella, Odorizzi, Smyly, Minor, Treinen, Quintana, Melancon, Molina…these guys are all getting one year deals with 7-figures instead of 8. I don’t even see how Archer gets more than a minor league contract; maybe a super cheap one year deal with a team option. Maybe.

emh1969
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emh1969

I was expecting Bauer to be the top ranked free agent. I suppose there’s a lot of uncertainty over his willingness to sign a long term contract. But other than that…he’s potentially an ace-level starter who’s never had a hint of arm trouble. And while he’s….hmm….”quirky”….he’s also well-known for being a good teacher of other pitchers (see Clevinger, Mike). So if he’s willing to sign a long-term contract, even with opt-out options, I’m taking the over on the above estimate.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

What is working against Bauer is that a lot of the big spending teams already committed to huge contracts last offseason (Dodgers, Angels) and some to pitchers (Yankees, Phillies, Nationals) and have a ton of money on the books. But I would think that the Blue Jays and Reds are going to be bidding here on a long-term contract, and the number of teams that would be willing to give him a one-year deal will probably push the price up.

There are always at least two owners who see a guy like Bauer as the missing piece.

emh1969
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emh1969

Yanks, at least, have to be considerd a strong possibility. They desperately need starting pitching. There’s no way they go into next season with Cole + a bunch of question marks. And none of the other FA starters are that exciting. Tanaka is listed as the second best starter above, and the Yanks have already seen that having Tanaka as their #2 only gets them so far.

mikejunt
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mikejunt

I laughed yesterday when I read mlb.com’s “top need for every team in free agency” and like 10/30 teams were ‘starting pitching’

If that’s really the case, uh, there’s not gonna be enough of it to go around.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

Just on paper, the Red Sox, Yankees, Twins, Angels, Blue Jays, White Sox, Cubs, Braves, Phillies, and Reds would all be interested. I would guess that most of them would only be interested in a one-year, high-AAV deal because a lot of these teams are worried about the luxury tax long-term, but that there would be enough teams bidding overall to spur interest in a $170-200M contract for the teams that are interested in a 6 or 7 year deal.

emh1969
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emh1969

I’m seeing a lot of speculation about the Mets as well. And Bauer also recently tweeted that he’s open to playing in Japan.

Psychic... Powerless...
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Psychic... Powerless...

Cubs seem highly unlikely to be signing any high-AAV free agents this year regardless of contact duration.

carter
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carter

Bauer seems like the type of guy who would refuse the Yankees. He doesn’t like Cole, doesn’t like to conform, etc.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

He likes organizations with good pitch data and where there’s a good chance to go to the playoffs, so the real issue is whether he’d shave. For the right amount of money, he’d probably shave. But only probably.

mikejunt
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mikejunt

I think theres ample reason to look at Bauer and not see quite the kind of top flight starter contract, he’s had some fantastic seasons but also had some much more pedestrian ones, and while he’s the top SP on the market, I don’t think he’s really that far ahead of some of the others due to what looks like fairly significant season to season variance.

People looking at his output over 60 games and thinking he’s going to get an ace level contract are, imo, mistaken.

emh1969
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emh1969

Sure there’s been some variability but over the past 3 sesasons (72 starts + 1 relief appearance) he has a 3.18 ERA and a 3.38 FIP.

Who else among the free agent pitchers comes close to that? Tanaka is next on the list above and he has a 4.06 ERA and 4.18 FIP over the past 3 sesaons.

mikejunt
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mikejunt

I mean yeah, hes the best of this group, for sure.

emh1969
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emh1969

I mean it’s obvious that he’s the best of this group. But it’s more than that. He’s the only one on the list who can be an ace. No one else on that list is even close to ace-level. And Bauer has pitched at that level 2 of the past 3 seasons. Heck, even in 2019, when he didn’t pitch that well, he still produced 3.3 WAR.

Is there downside risk? Sure. But that’s true of every player. Look at Stasburg. I’ve lost count of how many times he’s been injured. Yet Washington was still willing to give him 7 years and 245 million.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

This is what I keep coming back to:

Despite all of the number crunching and insisting what is a good value and what isn’t (which is dependent on whatever $/war figure you pick, which is contested) negotiations for big ticket free agents are almost always done through a series of benchmarks. It is like this in every industry–there is no actual way to determine the returns for hiring a star, so it’s all done based on comparison with others. And we have a near-perfect comp for Bauer in Strasburg. He is the same age, and he has had roughly the same track record. A guy who has had league ace-like seasons and 3-win seasons, and you can pretty much pencil him in somewhere in there.

Any difference between this season and last offseason will be 100% teams retrenching after having some revenue problems this year. Strasburg’s contract, after accounting for the deferments, was something like $225M over 7 years. He’s probably getting less than that because Strasburg’s contract is high and the revenue stuff, so I would probably guess it will be more like 6/$200M. but…he’s getting a lot of money. A lot more money than what was predicted here. Unless he decides to take a one year deal.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

I just said “100%” and then realized what I really meant was “85%”. Ha. Serves me right.

TKDC
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TKDC

Even if he doesn’t get Strasbourg’s deal (plus Covid discount), how about another Nats pitcher, Patrick Corbin? He can’t possibly be in worse position than him and he got 6/$140. I actually agree with you’re prediction if he takes the long deal, but he can’t do worse than Corbin if he’s going for max guaranteed dollars.

Honestly, I think he could easily get 3/$95 million with an opt out after one year if the pay is 25/35//35. If he is willing to eschew the length there is no way he won’t get top dollar. The only issue is that the QO will factor in and of course if he wants the super early opt out there is only so much that a team will do.

As a Braves fan, I’d be very happy giving him 3/$115 million, no opt outs if he’d take that. He’s not Cole, but the comparative risk of 3 v. 9 years is hard to even imagine.

carter
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carter

To be fair the Corbin deal gonna turn out poorly.

airforce21one
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airforce21one

“there is no actual way to determine the returns for hiring a star”

I mean, there is no actual way to determine anything in the future, but we certainly have things like crowdsourcing and AAV, for example.

Half the reason this website exists is to better predict future performance.

Dooduh
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Dooduh

For the most part I’m pretty impressed by the crowd sourced numbers with the exception of Semien and Ozuna. I really don’t see Semien getting more than $13M per. He’s had 1 very good season and unlike Bauer, he didn’t time it right.

And RHed sluggers like Ozuna are a rarity and usually get paid. I would be surprised if he didn’t find a 5/100M deal but again this market could be cruel, so it’s increasingly hard to forecast these.

I was expecting all the chatter of JTR seeking a $200M deal to swing the crowd some but it didn’t. It’s good to know this group filters out noise like that.