The MLB trade deadline has passed and there is no waiver trade deadline in 2019, so the next chance to get a significant upgrade to your team is free agency.
While much of the league is focusing on the rest of the season while trying to win a World Series title, front offices should already turn their attention to free agency to see what type of options are available to upgrade the roster. We already saw forward-looking trades like Marcus Stroman and Trevor Bauer, so teams are clearly looking ahead to 2020.
Here is a breakdown of the big names who can change teams in the upcoming offseason.
Notable Free Agents
- Gerrit Cole, SP, Houston Astros
- Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals
- J.D. Martinez, DH, Boston Red Sox*
- Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants
- Didi Gregorious, SS, New York Yankees
- Cole Hamels, SP, Chicago Cubs
- Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets
- Marcell Ozuna, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
- Josh Donaldson, 3B, Atlanta Braves
- Yasmani Grandal, C, Milwaukee Brewers
- Yasiel Puig, OF, Cleveland Indians
- Nicholas Castellanos, OF, Detroit Tigers
- Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
- Dellin Betances, RP, New York Yankees
- Kyle Gibson, SP, Minnesota Twins
- Michael Pineda, SP, Minnesota Twins
- Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees
- Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Minnesota Twins
- Todd Frazier, 3B, New York Mets
- Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners
Top Players to Watch
Gerrit Cole, RHP
A true ace that is under 30 years old rarely hits the open market, but teams will get a chance to sign a big-time talent in Gerrit Cole this offseason.
Cole was always considered a top talent with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he truly hit his potential with the Houston Astros over the past two years. He was a Cy Young candidate in 2018 when he went 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA and he has shown in 2019 that it wasn't a fluke.
So far this season, the starter has a 2.94 ERA with a 12-5 record, plus a league-best 212 strikeouts in 143.2 innings.
His full repertoire is working so well with the Astros, it makes sense for him to stay with the squad as it continues to contend for World Series title.
On the other hand, the market could be huge this offseason and another team could potentially sweep Cole off his feet with a significant payday.
Free agency moved slowly for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado last offseason, but both ended up getting huge contacts on new teams. The 28-year-old Cole could also get a major deal this winter from any number of pitching-needy teams.
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Harper was a much bigger name on the Washington Nationals, but Anthony Rendon has arguably been even better over the past few years.
The third baseman earned MVP votes in each of the past two seasons with at least a .300 batting average, .900 OPS, 20 home runs and 40 doubles in each year.
He has somehow been even better in 2019, entering Wednesday with a career-high .318 batting average and 1.017 OPS that ranks fourth in the majors.
Rendon has proved to be one of the best pure hitters in baseball from the right side of the plate and he does it at a position that has limited elite options. This could make him extremely valuable in the upcoming offseason.
Although his age at 29 years old could prevent him from getting a contract that lasts more than a decade, he will likely see a lot of annual value in his next contract.
Of course, the question is whether the Nationals are going to let Rendon walk after losing Harper to free agency last offseason.
Zack Wheeler, RHP
While the top two names on the list are already stars and will get a big new deal, Zack Wheeler could be the most intriguing player in free agency.
The 29-year-old hasn't been nearly as consistent as Cole, but he could be in higher demand than established pitchers like Cole Hamels or Madison Bumgarner thanks to his upside going forward.
Wheeler was at his best in 2018 when he posted a 3.31 ERA in 29 starts, including an outstanding second half of the year where he went 9-1 with a 1.68 ERA after the All-Star break.
He hasn't been quite as good in 2019—7-6 with a 4.71 ERA—but his stuff is still impressive and he can be elite when everything is clicking.
A team could see his potential and realize it can get a frontline starter for a more reasonable cost considering his up-and-down play. On the other hand, any long-term investment could be dangerous for a pitcher who has never thrown 200 innings in a season.
The Mets could have the inside track after deciding not to trade him Wednesday, but there are a lot of unknowns going forward.