Stock Up, Stock Down for Every Upcoming Free Agent From the 2020 MLB Playoffs
The 2020 World Series is in full swing, but it's never too early to start looking ahead to the upcoming free-agent market.
Specifically, we're looking at what each of the 16 teams that reached the postseason this year stand to lose and whether those players have seen their stock rise or fall ahead of free agency.
From sluggers Marcell Ozuna and George Springer to National League Cy Young favorite Trevor Bauer, plenty of upcoming free-agent talent has been on full display this October.
It's not just the top-tier guys worth talking about, though, as secondary pieces can often prove to be what pushes a team over the top.
Case in point, DJ LeMahieu just wrapped up a two-year, $24 million contract with the New York Yankees that will go down as one of the best bargains in franchise history.
With that, let's dive into the upcoming free-agency picture for each of the teams that took the field this postseason.
DH Marcell Ozuna
A limited market, partially because he received a qualifying offer, led Ozuna to sign a one-year, $18 million contract last offseason. After leading the NL in home runs (18) and RBI (56) while hitting .338/.431/.636 for a 175 OPS+, he's headed for a lucrative multiyear payday.
RP Mark Melancon
Once viewed as an albatross contract on the San Francisco Giants' books, Melancon enjoyed a career resurgence after he was traded to Atlanta last summer. He converted 11 of 13 save chances with a 2.78 ERA in 23 appearances this year and tossed 6.1 scoreless innings in the postseason. He should have no trouble finding an MLB deal, though he will likely have to settle for a one-year pact entering his age-36 season.
RP Shane Greene
Greene may never duplicate the success he enjoyed during the first half of the 2019 season when he converted 22 of 25 save chances with a 1.18 ERA closing out games for the Detroit Tigers. Still, he's a quality addition to any contender's bullpen. His 2.60 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 28 appearances for Atlanta could be enough to earn the 31-year-old a multiyear deal.
RP Darren O'Day
Once an elite setup reliever, O'Day was included in the deal that sent Kevin Gausman from the Baltimore Orioles to Atlanta as a salary dump of sorts. The side-armer was excellent in a middle relief role this year, logging a 1.10 ERA and 0.80 WHIP with 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 19 appearances. At 38 years old, he'll be limited to a one-year deal, and his lack of high-leverage exposure could further limit his market.
RF Nick Markakis
After initially opting out of the 2020 season, Markakis returned to action on Aug. 5 and served as the primary right fielder once again. The 36-year-old hit .254/.312/.392 for a career-low 84 OPS+, and it's hard to see how he fits into the 2021 picture for the Braves. With 33.8 WAR in 15 MLB seasons, he may be headed for retirement.
SP Cole Hamels
Hamels pitched 3.1 innings in his lone start of the 2020 season, allowing three hits and three earned runs before returning to the injured list. That's not what the Braves had in mind when they signed him to a one-year, $18 million contract. If the 36-year-old wants to keep pitching, he'll need to take a significant pay cut and an incentive-laden deal.
Other Free Agents: C Tyler Flowers, IF Adeiny Hechavarria, RP Josh Tomlin
SP/RP Tyler Chatwood
Chatwood started the 2020 season extremely strong, allowing just six hits and one earned run while striking out 19 batters in 12.2 innings over his first two starts. Then he was shelled for 11 hits and eight earned runs in 2.1 innings his third time out, and he made just two more appearances before spending all of September on the injured list with a forearm strain. He's likely headed for an MiLB deal after signing a three-year, $38 million contract last time he hit the open market.
2B Jason Kipnis
Signed to an MiLB deal late last offseason, Kipnis ended up seeing the bulk of the playing time at second base. The 33-year-old hit .237 with 12 extra-base hits and a 101 OPS+ in 135 plate appearances, nearly matching his 2019 WAR total (0.7) with 0.6 WAR in 44 games. Despite the respectable numbers, his age and a limited market for second baseman likely mean another minor league pact is coming.
SP Jon Lester
The Cubs will likely exercise a $10 million buyout on their $25 million club option for Lester in 2021, but they could explore a reunion on a cheaper, one-year deal. The 36-year-old went 3-3 with a 5.16 ERA and 5.14 FIP in 2020, but it's worth a few million to see if he has anything left in the tank as a No. 4/5 starter.
SP Jose Quintana
In parts of four seasons with the Cubs after coming over from the Chicago White Sox in the blockbuster deal that sent Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease the other way, Quintana posted a 4.24 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 439.2 innings. The 31-year-old will be a popular buy-low candidate on this year's market after a hand injury limited him to 10 innings in 2020.
Other Free Agents: C Josh Phegley, OF Cameron Maybin, OF Billy Hamilton, RP Andrew Chafin
Chicago White Sox
C James McCann
An All-Star in 2019, McCann took a backseat to free-agent signing Yasmani Grandal this year, but he was still extremely productive when he was in the lineup. The 30-year-old posted a 144 OPS+ with seven home runs in 111 plate appearances, and he was behind the plate for Lucas Giolito's no-hitter. He'll be a solid consolation prize for teams that miss out on J.T. Realmuto.
RP Alex Colome
Despite a pedestrian strikeout rate—8.2 K/9 for his career and 6.4 K/9 in 2020—Colome continues to be an effective late-inning presence. The 31-year-old had 12 saves in 13 chances this season with a 0.81 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 21 appearances. He's one of the few elite-level relievers on the market and should be a lock for a multiyear deal. Will the White Sox make keeping him a priority?
SP Gio Gonzalez
The White Sox hold a $7 million club option on Gonzalez, but they will likely instead opt for a $500,000 buyout. Working in a swingman role this year, he posted a 4.83 ERA and 5.50 FIP in 31.2 innings. The 35-year-old will likely have to pitch his way onto a big league roster with an MiLB deal.
DH Edwin Encarnacion
On the heels of another 30-homer season in 2019, Encarnacion looked like a potential steal on a one-year, $12 million contract. Instead, he hit just .157 with 10 home runs in 181 plate appearances on his way to a 70 OPS+ and minus-0.5 WAR. There's no buyout on his $12 million club option for 2021, making it a lock to be declined.
Other Free Agents: OF Jarrod Dyson
SP Trevor Bauer
There's not much more Bauer could have done to set himself up for free agency. The 29-year-old is the heavy favorite to win NL Cy Young honors after going 5-4 with a 1.73 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 73 innings. His 7.2 shutout innings in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series were the cherry on top. His free-agency process promises to be one of the most compelling in years.
SS Freddy Galvis
Galvis was once again a solid defensive shortstop with some pop, posting an 86 OPS+ with seven home runs in 159 plate appearances. The 30-year-old is an attractive stopgap for teams looking for a short-term solution at the position, though another multiyear deal might be a stretch now that his two-year, $9.5 million contract is up.
SP Anthony DeSclafani
Few pitchers hurt their free-agency stock more than DeSclafani, who posted a 7.22 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in 33.2 innings. The 30-year-old went 9-9 with a 3.89 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 167 strikeouts in 166.2 innings in 2019, and he's one of the most appealing bounce-back candidates on the market.
Other Free Agents: RP Nate Jones
2B Cesar Hernandez
Signed to a one-year, $6.25 million contract to replace Jason Kipnis at second base, Hernandez hit .283/.355/.408 with an AL-high 20 doubles in a 1.5-WAR season. The 30-year-old plays a solid second base, has good gap power, can steal a base and knows how to work a walk. He's not the sexiest name on the free-agent market, but he's productive.
RP Oliver Perez
Still going strong in his age-38 season, Perez posted a 2.00 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with one save and three holds in 21 appearances. If he wants to keep pitching, he should have no trouble finding a job as a lefty reliever capable of getting right-handed hitters out.
1B Carlos Santana
After arguably the best season of his career in 2019 when he hit .281/.397/.515 with 34 home runs in a 4.6-WAR campaign, Santana saw his production bottom out. He led the AL with 47 walks and posted a solid .349 on-base percentage, but he hit just .199 with eight home runs. The cost-conscious Indians will likely decline his $17.5 million club option in favor of a $500,000 buyout.
Other Free Agents: C Sandy Leon, OF Domingo Santana
CF George Springer
While a number of key Astros hitters struggled in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal, Springer put together his usual dynamic offensive season. The 31-year-old posted a 140 OPS+ with 14 home runs out of his usual leadoff spot in the lineup en route to a 1.9-WAR season. It will be interesting to see how much, if at all, his association with the 2017 team impacts his market.
DH/OF Michael Brantley
One of the best pure hitters in the game, Brantley batted .309/.370/.497 with a 126 OPS+ in his two seasons with the Astros. Despite being used primarily in the DH role in 2020, he's a capable defensive outfielder, and he finished his season on a high note with a .346/.424/.558 line and three home runs in 13 playoff games. Even entering his age-34 season, another multiyear deal appears likely.
RF Josh Reddick
Reddick has been a below-average offensive performer for the past three seasons, hitting .258/.318/.400 with a 92 OPS+ during that span. His defensive metrics (minus-3 DRS, minus-22.3 UZR/150) also took a sharp downturn in 2020, and he was a negative-WAR player (minus-0.7) as a result. He fits best as a part-time fourth outfielder at this point in his career.
SP/RP Brad Peacock
A key member of the Houston pitching staff the past several seasons while filling a wide variety of roles, Peacock made just three appearances in 2020 while dealing with a balky right shoulder. The 32-year-old had a 4.12 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 91.2 innings just last year, and he figures to be in-demand on a one-year, prove-it deal after his lost season.
Los Angeles Dodgers
RP Blake Treinen
The Dodgers took a chance on Treinen returning to something close to his 2018 form when they signed him to a one-year, $10 million contract after he was non-tendered by the Oakland Athletics. The sinkerballer posted a 3.86 ERA and 7.7 K/9 while pitching some high-leverage innings, recording one save and nine holds in 27 appearances. A multiyear deal should be forthcoming this offseason.
RP Jake McGee
Plucked from the scrapheap after he was released by the Colorado Rockies and signed for the prorated league minimum, McGee posted a 2.66 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 33-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20.1 innings. The 34-year-old should at least be able to secure an MLB deal as one of the better southpaws on the market.
3B Justin Turner
There will be a limited market for a 35-year-old third baseman who has lost a step defensively, but Turner can still flat-out hit. He posted a .307/.400/.460 line with four home runs and 23 RBI in 2020, and he has a long track record of postseason success. The best-case scenario for both sides might be a return to Los Angeles on a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2022.
IF/OF Enrique Hernandez
The ultra-versatile Hernandez has been an invaluable member of the Dodgers for the past six seasons. The 29-year-old hit a pair of home runs in this year's NLCS, and he has provided some memorable moments over the years. He has an .820 OPS in 893 career plate appearances against left-handed pitching, and his platoon value will drive his market.
OF Joc Pederson
Pederson hit .190/.285/.397 with seven home runs in 138 plate appearances as the primary designated hitter for the Dodgers this season. The 28-year-old is a strict platoon player with a .576 career OPS against left-handed pitching, but he can be a great power source at a reasonable price in the right situation.
Other Free Agents: SP/RP Alex Wood, RP Pedro Baez
RP Brad Boxberger
An All-Star in 2015 when he led the AL with 41 saves, Boxberger struggled to a 5.40 ERA with the Kansas City Royals in 2019 and he was forced to settle for a minor league deal last winter. He won a spot in the Miami bullpen and emerged as one of the team's top setup relievers, posting a 3.00 ERA and 9.0 K/9 with six holds in 23 appearances.
RP Nick Vincent
Another minor league signing, Vincent pitched to a 4.43 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 21 appearances while converting all three of his save chances. He's a useful middle reliever on a contending team, though his strikeout rate falling from 9.5 to 6.9 K/9 is a bit alarming. Chances are he's headed for another MiLB deal.
OF Matt Joyce
Joyce hit .295/.408/.450 for a 119 OPS+ over 238 plate appearances in 2019 after making the Atlanta Braves roster as a minor league signing. Despite those numbers, he again had to settle for an MiLB contract last offseason, and his 89 OPS+ in 148 trips to the plate has moved his stock in the wrong direction.
Other Free Agents: UT Sean Rodriguez
1B/OF Ryan Braun
The Brewers will undoubtedly decline their end of a $15 million mutual option with Braun, opting instead for a $4 million buyout. The 36-year-old hit .233 with a .281 on-base percentage, though he did slug eight home runs in 141 plate appearances. There's a good chance he's headed for retirement.
SP Brett Anderson
Anderson went 13-9 with a 3.89 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 31 starts with the Oakland Athletics in 2019, earning himself a one-year, $5 million contract from the Brewers. He went 4-4 with a 4.21 ERA in 10 starts but pitched just 47 innings on the year, and that inability to pitch deep into games, coupled with his lengthy injury history, likely means another one-year pact.
IF Eric Sogard
Sogard put together a career year in 2019, hitting .290/.353/.457 with 13 home runs to snag a one-year, $4 million contract from the Brewers. After hitting just .209 with six extra-base hits in 128 plate appearances, his $4.5 million club option is a lock to be declined, and he may be back to searching for a minor league deal this winter.
Other Free Agents: OF Ben Gamel
DH Nelson Cruz
Another year, another massive offensive season from Cruz. The 40-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down, posting a career-high 169 OPS+ with 16 home runs and 33 RBI while hitting .303/.397/.595. His age will prevent him from getting anything beyond a two-year deal, but he remains an elite middle-of-the-order presence.
RP Trevor May
Arguably the best reliever on the market outside of Oakland closer Liam Hendriks, May posted a staggering 14.7 K/9 with two saves and nine holds in 24 appearances. He has closer stuff if a team wants to give him a look in that role. Otherwise, he should have no problem finding a lucrative multiyear deal to continue on in a setup role.
SP Rich Hill
On the wrong side of 40, Hill can't be counted on for 30 starts or 200 innings, but he remains effective when used sparingly. He made eight starts in 2020 and posted a 3.03 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 38.2 innings. He inked a one-year, $3 million contract last offseason, and at a similar price point, he's capable of providing solid value. But it will take the right situation and a team willing to be patient.
UT Marwin Gonzalez
Signed to a two-year, $21 million contract after a solid run in Houston, Gonzalez flopped in Minnesota. He hit just .248/.311/.387 for an 87 OPS+ in his two seasons with the team, and while his versatility and power make him an appealing bench piece, he won't come close to matching his last contract.
SP Jake Odorizzi
Odorizzi accepted a one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer last offseason, foregoing an opportunity to gauge his free-agency value on the heels of an All-Star season in the process. A year later, that looks like a costly mistake after he struggled to a 6.59 ERA in 13.2 innings. He might have landed a four-year deal last offseason, but now he'll likely settle for another one-year contract and a significant pay cut.
Other Free Agents: C Alex Avila, IF Ehire Adrianza, RP Tyler Clippard, RP Sergio Romo
New York Yankees
2B DJ LeMahieu
The two-year, $24 million contract LeMahieu inked with the Yankees prior to 2019 will go down as one of the best signings in franchise history. After finishing fourth in AL MVP voting a year ago, he became the first player in MLB history to win a batting title in both leagues when he hit .364/.421/.590 for a 177 OPS+ in 2020. It's not out of the question to think he could approach the four-year, $92 million deal Josh Donaldson signed last winter.
SP J.A. Happ
Happ posted a 2.34 ERA in 42.1 innings over his final seven starts, bouncing back nicely from a trying 2019 season in which he lost his rotation spot down the stretch. The 38-year-old looks like a prime candidate for a contract similar to the one-year, $10 million deal Rick Porcello signed last winter, and he's capable of helping a contender as a back-end starter.
SP Masahiro Tanaka
It's hard to believe Tanaka has already played out the entirety of the seven-year, $155 million contract he signed with the Yankees when he left Japan. The 31-year-old had a 3.56 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 10 starts, and a Yankees rotation littered with question marks gains another if he is not retained.
SP James Paxton
If Paxton had reached free agency last winter after he went 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA and 186 strikeouts in 150.2 innings, he might have landed a nine-figure contract. Now he appears destined to be a buy-low target on a one-year deal after struggling to a 6.64 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in five starts while showing diminished stuff.
Other Free Agents: C Erik Kratz, SS Jordy Mercer
IF Tommy La Stella
An All-Star in 2019, La Stella missed the bulk of the second half with an injury, leaving him as something of a wild card entering 2020. His stellar hit tool and strong on-base ability were on full display once again, and he wound up with more walks (27) than strikeouts (12) on his way to a .281/.370/.449 line in 228 plate appearances. The 31-year-old fits extremely well in Oakland and could be re-signed to fill the hole at second base.
OF Robbie Grossman
Over the past five seasons, Grossman has a .359 on-base percentage and a 13.2 percent walk rate while serving as an oft-used fourth outfielder. He saw everyday action for the first time in his career in 2020 and was one of just 19 qualified hitters to finish with a walk rate above 10 percent and a strikeout rate below 20 percent. He doesn't have prototypical corner outfielder power but is still capable of making an impact, and he should come at a reasonable price.
1B/3B Jake Lamb
Released by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sept. 12, Lamb signed with Oakland two days later and hit .267/.327/.556 with three home runs in 49 plate appearances. He went from castoff to hitting third in Game 3 of the Wild Card Series. Still just 30 years old and with a 30-homer season and All-Star selection on his resume, he'll garner some buy-low interest.
SS Marcus Semien
Semien finished third in AL MVP voting in 2019 when he posted a 139 OPS+ with 43 doubles and 33 home runs. The 30-year-old didn't come close to matching those numbers, hitting just .223/.305/.374 with seven home runs in 53 games. Didi Gregorius might have jumped ahead of him on the shortstop market, and his best move might be to sign a one-year deal and try to boost his stock.
SP Mike Minor
After earning an All-Star selection and finishing eighth in AL Cy Young voting during a 7.8-WAR season in 2019, Minor cratered his stock in 2020 with a 5.56 ERA in 56.2 innings. The 32-year-old is an appealing reclamation project with some experience pitching in relief, but he cost himself a ton of money.
Other Free Agents: SP Mike Fiers, RP Yusmeiro Petit, RP Joakim Soria
San Diego Padres
RP Trevor Rosenthal
A former All-Star with a pair of 40-save seasons on his resume, Rosenthal was shelled to the tune of a 13.50 ERA over 15.1 innings in 2019. He pitched his way onto the Kansas City roster as a minor league signing this spring and quickly emerged as one of the most sought-after trade chips on the market. He finished with a 1.90 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 14.5 K/9 in 23 games while converting 11 of 12 save opportunities. A multiyear deal awaits this offseason.
SP Garrett Richards
Healthy for the second season of a two-year, $15.5 million reclamation-project deal, Richards posted a 4.03 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 51.1 innings. The former Los Angeles Angels ace is still just 32 years old, and he represents one of the better second-tier arms on the market this winter. Something like a two-year, $20 million contract is not out of the question.
IF/OF Jurickson Profar
Profar is never going to live up to the expectations that came with being the No. 1 prospect in baseball, but he quietly put together the best season of his career in 2020. The 27-year-old posted a 113 OPS+ with 13 extra-base hits and seven steals in a 1.1-WAR season. His age and defensive versatility could be enough to get him a multiyear contract.
C Jason Castro
Despite hitting just .188 in 92 plate appearances, Castro has the track record and defensive ability to rank as the clear No. 3 catcher on the market behind J.T. Realmuto and James McCann. He posted a 102 OPS+ with 13 home runs over 79 games in 2019 to earn a one-year, $6.85 million contract from the Angels, and another one-year deal is likely forthcoming.
RP Kirby Yates
Baseball's best closer in 2019, Yates converted 41 of 44 save chances with a 1.19 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 15.0 K/9 to finish ninth in NL Cy Young voting. Unfortunately, he wasn't a free agent last offseason, and he'll now enter the market after struggling to a 12.46 ERA in six appearances before spending the bulk of the season on the injured list following surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. He'll be this year's Blake Treinen.
St. Louis Cardinals
SP Adam Wainwright
A poor 2017 season and an injury-shortened 2018 campaign looked like the end for Wainwright, but after a resurgent season last year, he was arguably the best pitcher on the St. Louis staff in 2020 with a 3.15 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 65.2 innings. Another one-year deal and a nice raise over the $5 million he was scheduled to make this year is in order if he's not ready to retire.
C Yadier Molina
After 17 seasons in a Cardinals uniform, Molina is probably worth more to St. Louis than he is on the open market, and that should help facilitate a reunion. That said, Molina might be headed for a lighter load as he enters his age-38 season with Andrew Knizner ready to take over part of the catching duties. How big of a pay cut from the three-year, $60 million contract he just wrapped up will Molina be willing to accept?
Other Free Agents: C Matt Wieters
Tampa Bay Rays
RP Aaron Loup
That's right, folks. The Rays have one notable free agent. Loup, 32, made good on a minor league deal this year, winning a spot in the bullpen and posting a 2.52 ERA and 0.84 WHIP with four holds in 24 appearances. The Rays will likely let someone else pay for his bounce-back season.
Toronto Blue Jays
SP Taijuan Walker
Tommy John surgery limited Walker to 14 total innings in 2018 and 2019, and he had to settle for a one-year, $2 million contract with the Seattle Mariners in his first trip to free agency. Five strong starts were enough to make him a viable trade chip, and he went on to post a 1.37 ERA in six starts with Toronto. Still just 28 years old, he's pushed his way into the second tier of available starters.
SP Matt Shoemaker
Handed the ball in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series, Shoemaker tossed three scoreless innings in an expanded opener role. The 34-year-old posted a 3.14 ERA in 11 starts with the Blue Jays over the past two seasons, navigating some injury issues along the way. If he can stay healthy, he has a chance to be a real bargain at the right price.
IF/OF Jonathan Villar
A 3.9-WAR player in 2019 when he put together a 40-steal, 33-double, 24-homer season, Villar was decidedly less productive this year. He hit .232 with a 64 OPS+ in 207 plate appearances and batted just .188/.278/.203 in 22 games with the Blue Jays. The 29-year-old will have a tough time topping his $8.2 million salary from 2020.
SP Robbie Ray
Ray has long tantalized with his elite swing-and-miss stuff, and it was on display once again in 2020 as he racked up 68 strikeouts in 51.2 innings. However, he also walked 45 batters for an unsightly 7.8 BB/9 rate, tanking his free-agency value in the process. The 29-year-old has the highest upside of any buy-low candidate on the market, but he cost himself tens of millions of dollars with his 2020 performance.
Other Free Agents: IF Joe Panik, SP Chase Anderson, RP Anthony Bass, RP Ken Giles (Tommy John surgery)