2019 MLB Free Agents: Latest Rumors, Predictions Before World Series

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals delivers in the first inning of game three of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park on October 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The 2019 World Series begins on Tuesday night, as the Houston Astros square off against the Washington Nationals at Minute Maid Park in a best-of-seven series to determine this year's champion.

Once that series wraps and the confetti falls on another World Series parade, another busy MLB offseason awaits with the usual whirlwind of hot stove rumors.

Ahead we've put together a quick look at the latest notable rumors surrounding some of the key names from the upcoming offseason's free-agent class.

     

Marcell Ozuna likely to receive QO, Unlikely to be re-signed to multiyear deal

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - OCTOBER 07:  Marcell Ozuna #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after hitting a solo home run against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning in game four of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on October 07,
Scott Kane/Getty Images

The St. Louis Cardinals paid a steep price to acquire Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins prior to the 2018 season, and he has been one of the team's most productive offensive players over the past two years.

The 28-year-old posted a 107 OPS+ with 29 home runs, 89 RBI and 2.2 WAR this past season, and now he's set to hit free agency for the first time in his career as one of the top outfielders on the market.

Is a return to the Cardinals a possibility?

Mark Saxon of The Athletic offered up the following when asked about the possibility of Ozuna re-signing:

"They’re not going to make an effort to sign Ozuna to a long-term deal. I was all but assured the path they’ll take is to extend him a $17.8-million qualifying offer and be happy with either possibility. If he takes it, they only have to pay him for one season. If he doesn’t, they’ll get a draft pick once he signs with somebody else."

The Cardinals have a crowded outfield situation with Dexter Fowler still under contract and Tyler O'Neill, Harrison Bader, Lane Thomas, Randy Arozarena and Jose Martinez also in the mix for playing time. Top prospect Dylan Carlson could also be ready for the majors in 2020 after reaching Triple-A in a breakout season.

Unless he's willing to accept the one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer, expect to see Ozuna in a different uniform in 2020.

        

Stephen Strasburg likely to opt-out

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Championship Series at Nationals Park on October 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smit
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Stephen Strasburg put together one of the best seasons of his career in 2019, posting a 3.32 ERA and 1.04 WHIP with 251 strikeouts in an NL-leading 209 innings.

That raised some serious questions about whether he would exercise the opt-out clause in his contract and walk away from the final four years and $100 million left on his current deal.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported in early September that an opt-out seemed increasingly likely:

"While one source made clear Strasburg has not made any firm decisions about his future, there’s increasing speculation in the industry that he will opt out of the remaining four years and $100 million left on his contract with the Nationals -- or at least leverage that possibility into getting a new, larger contract.

Now it looks like his brilliant postseason performance has erased any doubt. Here's a look at his playoff performance thus far:

  • NL WC Game: 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
  • NLDS Game 2: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K
  • NLDS Game 5: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
  • NLCS Game 3: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K

"If there was any doubt going into October that turning down nine figures in order to explore the open market is the right business decision for Strasburg, it has been totally erased by his postseason performance," wrote Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com.

He'll take the ball next in Game 2 of the World Series with a chance to further improve his already soaring free-agent stock.

      

Anthony Rendon potentially interested in a short-term deal

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 15: Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals reacts as he flies out in the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during game four of the National League Championship Series at Nationals Park on October 15, 2019 in Wa
Rob Carr/Getty Images

After an MVP-caliber season, Anthony Rendon is set to cash-in on the free-agent market.

The 29-year-old hit .319/.412/.598 with 44 doubles, 34 home runs and an NL-leading 126 RBI in a 6.3 WAR season, earning his first trip to the All-Star Game in the process.

He's followed that up by hitting .375/.465/.594 with four doubles and one home run in 43 plate appearances during the postseason.

While a lucrative long-term deal no doubt awaits, Buster Olney of ESPN recently reported that he might prefer a shorter deal with a higher annual value:

"The Washington Nationals have reportedly offered Rendon a seven-year deal, and free agents of Rendon's caliber can sometimes command a deal of seven to 10 years. But some friends of Rendon believe that he's more interested in a shorter-term deal — perhaps a higher salary for a four- or five-year contract — because he might not be devoted to the idea of playing for as long as he possibly can."

It's an interesting wrinkle to the free-agent market's top hitter, and something worth keeping an eye on once the offseason begins in earnest.

      

All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted. 

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