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MLB Free Agents 2019: Early Rumors and Predictions for Hitters on Expiring Deals

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 8, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 31: Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals removes his batting gloves after reaching first base against the Atlanta Braves during the ninth inning at Nationals Park on July 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Although there are still two months left in the 2019 MLB regular season, franchises have directed some attention to the offseason. 

The preparation to keep some of the high-profile hitters on expiring contracts for the 2020 campaign and beyond has already begun behind the scenes. 

Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon is expected to be at the top of the free-agent class from a hitting perspective. 

Beneath Rendon lies a handful of intriguing catchers, infielders and outfielders that could potentially switch ball clubs, including one from the New York Yankees. 

                   

Anthony Rendon 

Ben Margot/Associated Press

According to MASN's Mark Zuckerman, Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner and agent Scott Boras talked about a potential extension for third baseman Anthony Rendon in early July.

The 29-year-old Rendon is projected as the top hitter to reach the free-agent market at the conclusion of the 2019 season, and he should be coveted by a handful of ball clubs. 

The 2019 MLB All-Star has four straight seasons of 20 home runs, and he is on track to put up 100 RBIs for the second time in his career. 

Rendon's consistent power at the dish should draw eyes from all over the league, and the market may be bigger with Nolan Arenado locked into a long-term deal in Colorado. 

Arenado's eight-year, $260 million deal that he inked in February could be what Rendon's camp uses to maximize his next contract. 

Since Arenado is a year younger than Rendon, his deal may end up as the more expensive one, but the Nationals infielder should still receive a lucrative raise. 

Nationals president Mike Rizzo told The Athletic's Grant Paulsen the team is attempting to sign Rendon to a lengthy contract. 

"He realizes what he means to us, and our commitment to him has been real," Rizzo said. "The numbers that we are talking about are (in line) with the market place, and the timing is right. We’re making a real attempt to get him signed long term."

Losing Bryce Harper and Rendon in back-to-back offseasons would be a huge blow to the franchise, but the disappointment of a potential Rendon departure could be softened by the promotion of top prospect Carter Kieboom, who is currently at Triple-A. 

The Nationals have not been afraid to splash money in free agency, as they signed Patrick Corbin to a six-year, $140 million deal last offseason. 

Holding on to Rendon makes the most sense for the Nationals so they could partner him with Kieboom in the lineup and possess the best chance to compete with Atlanta, Philadelphia and the New York Mets in the National League East. 

Prediction: Washington figures out a way to keep Rendon. 

                        

Didi Gregorius

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported before the start of the season that the New York Yankees and Didi Gregorius were talking about a contract extension. 

The 29-year-old is making $11,750,000 on his contract for the 2019 campaign and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. 

Gregorius has played in 42 games, as he was one of many Yankees struck by the injury bug, but he has returned to hit eight homers and knock in 31 runs since June 7. 

In each of the last three seasons, Gregorius increased his home run total, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. 

Of course, those numbers will dip in 2019 because of his long layoff, but he has produced at a solid clip since coming off the injured list. 

Since Gregorius is expected to be the top shortstop on the market, the Yankees should do their best to keep him in the Bronx for a few more years through a contract extension. 

One could argue the Tommy John surgery that forced Gregorius to miss the first half of the season is a concern moving forward, but Heyman noted it is "certainly not an impediment". 

It would be wise of the Yankees to lock down Gregorius because of his high level of production, plus the market beneath him will be scant at best with Texas' Elvis Andrus the next-best target if he opts out of his deal. 

Prediction: Yankees keep Gregorius through contract extension.

                                   

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from Baseball Reference

Contract information obtained from Spotrac