MLB Free Agency 2019-20: Early Look at One Realistic Fit for Every Team
As always, there will be something for everyone when the free-agent market for the 2019-20 Major League Baseball offseason opens for business.
To wit, we've highlighted one realistic free-agent signing for every team. For contenders, these were based on needs and financial flexibility. For rebuilders, it was about digging up buy-low players who might be turned into trade chips.
Since nothing is set in stone with options and opt-outs, we declined to include potential free agents such as J.D. Martinez, Stephen Strasburg, Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas.
We'll go division by division, starting in the American League East and ending in the National League West.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: RHP Trevor Cahill
The Baltimore Orioles are on pace for 110 losses. But in the context of their rebuild, what really matters is that they've boosted their farm system from No. 19 to No. 11.
The Orioles will need trade chips if they want to boost their system further in 2020. They'll have room for them in a pitching staff that is famous for all the home runs it's surrendered.
What the O's need are affordable ground-ball pitchers, such as Brett Anderson, Ivan Nova and Trevor Cahill. Of the three, Cahill should have the lowest price tag after flopping in a one-year, $9 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
Boston Red Sox: LHP Will Smith
The Boston Red Sox are likely to enter a retooling phase in the wake of president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski's firing. As such, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez may well follow him out the door.
But since the Red Sox will almost certainly still be eyeing contention in 2020, whatever savings they accrue this offseason will presumably be reallocated to fill various needs. Notably, they'll have a big one in a bullpen that's struggled with holding on to leads in 2019.
All-Star southpaw Will Smith will be the best possible fix for the Red Sox on the free-agent market. Signing him to a multiyear deal likely wouldn't require too great of a stretch of their finances.
New York Yankees: RHP Gerrit Cole
The New York Yankees won't have many needs to fill this offseason, so it's possible they'll have an abnormally quiet winter.
What's more likely, however, is they will seek to upgrade where they can. The most obvious target will be their rotation, which has caused them a great deal of consternation in putting up a 4.58 ERA.
Because the Yankees have been shying away from long-term free-agent deals in recent years, they may give Gerrit Cole a wide berth. But they can absolutely afford a $200 million contract worthy of his record-setting strikeout artistry.
Tampa Bay Rays: 3B/1B Todd Frazier
Next year's Tampa Bay Rays could largely resembling this year's iteration, but they might want to add more power to an offense that's produced "only" 202 home runs.
With Avisail Garcia and Travis d'Arnaud due for free agency and Mike Zunino and Jesus Aguilar possibly on the chopping block as non-tender candidates, a right-handed slugger would suit the Rays best. They would just need to find one in their price range, and he'd preferably have some versatility.
Todd Frazier, who's averaged 26 homers per year since 2012, could be just their guy as a low-cost designated hitter and platoon option for third and first base.
Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Tanner Roark
With Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. at the forefront, the Toronto Blue Jays have established an offense that should be one of MLB's best in coming years.
But this offense won't be good for much until the Blue Jays add some pitching. In talking to reporters (including Gregor Chisholm of the Toronto Star) in August, club president Mark Shapiro didn't seem terribly willing to splurge this offseason.
Still, it wouldn't be unreasonable for the Blue Jays to make a modest multiyear investment in a veteran who could carry their rotation until young reinforcements are ready. Tanner Roark, who's a reliable source of quality innings, will be an ideal candidate to fill such a role.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: 1B Jose Abreu
The Chicago White Sox may have larger aspirations for their offseason shopping, but there isn't a move destined to happen more than their re-signing Jose Abreu.
"[Owner] Jerry [Reinsdorf] several times has told me and my family that I am not going to wear a jersey other than a White Sox jersey," Abreu told Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times through a translator.
Though Abreu isn't the elite hitter he once was, the 32-year-old's personality still fits the White Sox clubhouse as well as his power (33 homers this year) fits their lineup. It'll be an upset if they let him go.
Cleveland Indians: INF/OF Howie Kendrick
The Cleveland Indians can avoid a hole at shortstop if they decide against trading Francisco Lindor. But if they decline Jason Kipnis' $16.5 million option, one will open up at second base.
The Indians will have another hole in their outfield once free agency claims Yasiel Puig. Given how tight their budget is, their best play will be to sign an outfielder who could moonlight as a second baseman or vice versa.
Howie Kendrick could be their guy. Though he boasts a .970 OPS, his age (36) and recent injury history could lower his market value into the Indians' price range.
Detroit Tigers: 2B Scooter Gennett
As if their 105 losses weren't bad enough, the Detroit Tigers' 2019 season has also been marked by only a slight improvement of their farm system; it's gone from No. 11 to No. 9.
If there's a bright side, it's that the Tigers will have room in their MLB-worst offense for potential trade chips. Specifically, they could easily slot them in at catcher, second base and outfield.
As luck would have it, the winter's crop of second basemen features a classic candidate for a "pillow" contract in the person of Scooter Gennett. The Tigers could add him on an incentive-laden deal and hope he recaptures his All-Star-caliber form of 2017 and 2018 following an injury-ruined 2019.
Kansas City Royals: RHP Rick Porcello
Come November, John Sherman will replace David Glass as the Kansas City Royals owner by way of a $1 billion sale. After that, well, perhaps a Miami Marlins-style fire sale isn't out of the question.
Alternatively, Sherman may prefer to endear himself to his new fanbase by at least feigning an interest in breaking out of the 100-loss rut the club is stuck in.
If so, arms for a rotation that has struggled with a 5.16 ERA in 2019 will be a priority. They might get a good deal on 2016 American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, whose fly-ball style would play better at Kauffman Stadium than it has been at Fenway Park in recent seasons.
Minnesota Twins: LHP Dallas Keuchel
The Minnesota Twins arguably don't have enough starting pitching even now, so there's little question it will be their top need once Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda reach the open market.
The Twins might be in the running for Gerrit Cole, but it's hard to imagine they will hang around in a bidding war that is likely to escalate into the $200 million range. Besides, they would be wiser to spread money around on several hurlers.
To that end, Dallas Keuchel may reappear on their radar. The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner and ground-ball specialist will require a multiyear deal in the wake of his strong work with the Atlanta Braves, but his final price might not be too big for the Twins.
American League West
Houston Astros: RHP Zack Wheeler
The Astros will have another shot at Wheeler in free agency, and they may well favor signing him on a lesser deal to re-signing Cole on what's sure to be a massive deal.
For one thing, the Astros will need to retain some financial flexibility in the face of rising salaries elsewhere on their roster. For another, Wheeler's electric stuff makes him an ace-in-waiting just like Cole was when he arrived in Houston in 2018.
Los Angeles Angels: RHP Gerrit Cole
If the Astros do indeed pass on re-signing Gerrit Cole, the Angels may be all too happy to jump at the opportunity to steal one of baseball's best pitchers from a division rival.
Cole is certainly needed in the Angels rotation, which has compiled an MLB-low 1.8 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference. To boot, pressure is on the club to build a contender around Mike Trout.
Provided L.A. makes him a competitive offer, Cole may likewise be only too happy to spend the rest of his prime playing next door to his hometown of Newport Beach, California.
Oakland Athletics: LHP Brett Anderson
As of right now, Tanner Roark, Brett Anderson and Homer Bailey are members in good standing in the Oakland Athletics starting rotation. But come the offseason, all three will be free agents.
The A's can rest a little easy knowing Mike Fiers, a healthy Sean Manaea and top prospects Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk are standing by to carry their 2020 rotation. Even still, they'll likely look to add at least one starter.
Re-signing Anderson will be their most practical play. The veteran sinkerballer has already spent seven of his 11 seasons in Oakland. Adding another year to the pile shouldn't cost the team too much.
Seattle Mariners: RHP Michael Wacha
It's been a rough season for the Seattle Mariners, but it shouldn't be long before they start harvesting talent from their fourth-ranked farm system.
In light of that, the Mariners might have more in mind for their offseason than simply adding trade chips for 2020. They might have interest in improving a rotation that sorely needs some upside.
Michael Wacha will be right up the Mariners' alley. His career got sidetracked after a promising start from 2013 to 2015, but he's still only 28 years old. The Mariners might pick him up on an incentive-laden deal and hope to strike gold.
Texas Rangers: 3B Anthony Rendon
They may not finish the season above .500, but everyone should be warned the Texas Rangers are a sleeping giant.
Only a few key pieces separate them from contention, after all, and they'll have an excuse to go get them this offseason. The new stadium they're moving into effectively provides carte blanche for the club's front office.
Notably, Rangers third basemen have produced only 0.2 WAR this season. Nobody would fix that as well as National League MVP candidate Anthony Rendon, who may be thrilled at the prospect of playing in his home state.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: LHP Madison Bumgarner
Given how many roster needs they're going to have opened up by free agency, the Braves may be one of the most active teams on the offseason market.
If they don't splurge to re-sign Josh Donaldson as their third baseman, they might look to spend big bucks on a similarly accomplished replacement for Dallas Keuchel at the top of their rotation.
Three-time World Series champion Madison Bumgarner would suit them well, and any interest the Braves express in him may be mutual. According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com (h/t Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com), the North Carolina native wants to go "back home" to Atlanta.
Miami Marlins: RHP Arodys Vizcaino
Not to be overlooked amid the Marlins' otherwise dreadful season is just how much their farm system has improved. It's rocketed from No. 25 to No. 5 since the start of the year.
But until it starts bearing fruit, the Marlins must be in sign-and-flip mode for at least one more offseason. If there's a specific area on their roster with room for potential trade chips, it's a bullpen that ranks dead-last in MLB with minus-1.3 WAR.
The Marlins might take a flier on Arodys Vizcaino. After missing almost all of 2019 because of shoulder surgery, the hard-throwing closer will be in the market for a cheap pillow contract.
New York Mets: RHP Daniel Hudson
Though the New York Mets have a decent amount of salary coming off their books, a big pay bump for Jacob deGrom and escalating arbitration costs could more than make up for it.
The Mets could nonetheless opt for a massive splurge worthy of a New York club, but it wouldn't be surprising if they settled for surrounding their core with affordable depth pieces. They'll certainly need some in a bullpen that has been one of baseball's worst in 2019.
Daniel Hudson is one pitcher who might suit them. He's quietly put up a 2.73 ERA, yet he likely isn't due for a significant raise on the $1.5 million he's making this season.
Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Gerrit Cole
The Philadelphia Phillies made good on their tease about spending "stupid money" last offseason, but the initial result in 2019 will be only a minor improvement over their 80-win 2018 campaign.
Rather than back down, the Phillies figure to spend even more stupid money this offseason. They might put it all on Anthony Rendon if they fancy another upgrade for their offense. A much more pressing need, however, is for a co-ace to help Aaron Nola carry the rotation.
Between that and their general shortage of strikeout pitchers, the Phillies will have two good excuses to be all-in on Gerrit Cole.
Washington Nationals: 3B Anthony Rendon
The Washington Nationals have thrived in the first year of their post-Bryce Harper era precisely because Anthony Rendon has ably filled his shoes with a 1.036 OPS, 34 homers and 6.5 WAR.
Though it will soon be Rendon's turn to seek his own fortune on the open market, the Nationals may be more enthusiastic about retaining him than they were about Harper. According to Mark Zuckerman of MASNSports.com, they were trying to extend the superstar third baseman as recently as the end of the first half.
Rendon's value has only risen since then—but perhaps not beyond the Nationals' price range. After all, they're a big-market team that will get some payroll relief in the near future.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: LHP Will Smith
Heads will roll if the Chicago Cubs don't go far in October. But rather than enter into a full-on rebuild, they figure to engage in more of a retooling effort.
The Cubs offense and rotation could see some turnover but probably not as much as their bullpen. It's been on thin ice for the last two seasons, and free agency now looms for Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop and Brandon Kintzler.
Just as they were ahead of the trade deadline, the Cubs will be a likely suitor for Will Smith in free agency. They may not want to add another high-cost reliever in the wake of their experience with Craig Kimbrel, yet because of his struggles, it would behoove them to seek insurance for the ninth inning.
Cincinnati Reds: OF Nicholas Castellanos
The Cincinnati Reds never really found their footing in this year's NL Central race. The bright side, however, is they have most of what they need to dig in next season.
Namely, an outstanding starting rotation and good individual pieces—such as Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto, Aristides Aquino and Nick Senzel—in their lineup. The latter may only be one impact bat from escaping its generally below-average existence.
So long as he's willing to play left field, Nicholas Castellanos would be an ideal addition for the Reds following his post-deadline 1.037 OPS for the Cubs. As a bonus, the Reds wouldn't have to sacrifice a draft pick to sign him.
Milwaukee Brewers: LHP Drew Pomeranz
Though we're only focusing on no-strings-attached free agents, the Milwaukee Brewers will likely be tasked with re-signing Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas after they decline their mutual options.
Otherwise, a search for pitching depth will surely be a defining feature of the Brewers' offseason. It's just a question of whether they'll prioritize a rotation that has put up a 4.58 ERA or a bullpen that has done marginally better with a 4.48 ERA.
Or maybe the Brewers will ask, "Why not both?" A swingman such as Collin McHugh, Drew Pomeranz or Andrew Cashner could start or relieve as needed. Pomeranz could have a special appeal following his strikeout-heavy performance (36 in 21.1 innings) in Milwaukee.
Pittsburgh Pirates: C Travis d'Arnaud
If they'd rather not rebuild, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have a lot of holes to fill this offseason. According to Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic, none concerns general manager Neal Huntington more than the one behind the plate.
Pittsburgh's top options will be Jason Castro, Travis d'Arnaud and Robinson Chirinos. Despite his .804 OPS for the Rays, d'Arnaud may fit best in Pittsburgh's price range by way of the issues he's had staying healthy and productive in recent seasons.
St. Louis Cardinals: LHP Will Smith
The St. Louis Cardinals notably stand to lose Marcell Ozuna, Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha to free agency. However, they can choose replacements for them from an impressive array of in-house options.
Assuming Carlos Martinez gets a shot at reclaiming a rotation job, the Cardinals may boot up a hunt for a new closer who could hold down the job at least until Jordan Hicks recovers from Tommy John surgery.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: C Jason Castro
The Arizona Diamondbacks will be in a difficult spot this offseason: They're not good enough to go all-in yet not bad enough to break up and rebuild.
Perhaps they'll trade Robbie Ray and other short-term assets with value, but they may balance those against some signings that could help them stay afloat as a wild-card contender in 2020.
Catcher will be an area of need after Alex Avila becomes a free agent. The D-backs could probably afford to replace him with Jason Castro, who'll be coming off his best offensive season since 2013.
Colorado Rockies: OF Marcell Ozuna
Speaking of difficult spots, the Colorado Rockies probably won't want to rebuild despite their fall to last place. Led by Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, they have too many stars in the primes of their careers.
Instead, the Rockies might shed dead-weight salaries belonging to players such as Ian Desmond, Wade Davis, Daniel Murphy and Bryan Shaw. If successful, they could reinvest the savings in an offense that is having its worst season since 2005.
Marcell Ozuna would be a huge upgrade for a left field spot that has put out minus-1.0 WAR this season. And given how few other teams actually need a left fielder, the Rockies might get him for a good price.
Los Angeles Dodgers: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
Perhaps the Los Angeles Dodgers didn't expect Hyun-Jin Ryu to accept their qualifying offer last year, but they must be glad he did.
After posting a 1.97 ERA in limited action last year, Ryu has enjoyed a superstar breakout marked by an MLB-best 2.35 ERA. By all rights, he should be in for a massive contract in free agency.
In actuality, Ryu's age (he'll be 33 in March) and injury history—he made only 41 appearances from 2015 to 2018—figure to scare away plenty of potential suitors. That would only make it easier for the Dodgers to snap him back up on a short-term, high-money deal to their liking.
San Diego Padres: LHP Cole Hamels
The San Diego Padres ought to like where they're headed despite having secured their ninth straight sub-.500 season. They have the beginnings of a contender, and they haven't even emptied their top-ranked farm system yet.
What the Padres need now is a veteran who could hold down the No. 1 slot in their starting rotation. Rather than Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner or Dallas Keuchel, Cole Hamels could be perfect for the job.
With his 36th birthday due up in December, he is strictly a candidate for short-term offers. And at this stage of his career, the San Diego native may be glad to take one from his hometown team.
San Francisco Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner
If the San Francisco Giants don't re-sign Madison Bumgarner this offseason, their refusal to trade him ahead of the deadline will go down as a fatal miscalculation.
Then again, his actually leaving as a free agent isn't a fait accompli. Bumgarner and the Giants are clearly fond of one another, and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi granted "there's a lot of reasons" to keep the southpaw around beyond 2019.
The Giants will have to make Bumgarner a competitive offer. But since it's no secret his days as an ace are behind him, that might not be too difficult.