Updating MLB's Top 25 Available Free Agents After Flurry of Activity

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2021

Updating MLB's Top 25 Available Free Agents After Flurry of Activity

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    A slow-moving MLB offseason finally kicked into gear Tuesday with a flurry of activity.

    J.T. Realmuto found his way back to the Philadelphia Phillies, while the middle infield carousel came to a stop for Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons, Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis.

    Brad Hand, Jurickson Profar, Garrett Richards and Jason Castro are among the other notable signings in recent days, dating back to the headline-grabbing George Springer-to-Toronto Blue Jays news last week.

    With so many key free agents finally signing new deals, now seems like the perfect time for an updated look at the top 25 players still available this offseason.

    Players are ranked based on their expected impact during the upcoming season, complete with predictions on where they'll land and what their contract might look like.

         

    Note: The signing is not yet official, but infielder Tommy La Stella is expected to sign a three-year deal with the San Francisco Giants, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. He was excluded from these rankings as a result.

Nos. 25-21

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    Eddie Rosario
    Eddie RosarioPaul Sancya/Associated Press

    25. SP Chris Archer (Age: 32)

    While other bounce-back candidates like Corey Kluber and James Paxton have held showcases for scouts to prove they're back on track, it's been radio silence from Archer as he recovers from thoracic outlet surgery. That's probably not a good sign. Still, he's an intriguing roll of the dice for the right price.

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $2 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.

            

    24. RP Brandon Workman (Age: 32)

    After posting a 1.88 ERA and 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings over 73 appearances for the Boston Red Sox in 2019, Workman had a hard time missing bats this past season. His opponents' batting average spiked from .123 to .352, and his other numbers followed suit. But his recent dominance makes him an appealing buy-low target.

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Seattle Mariners.

                

    23. IF Hanser Alberto (Age: 28)

    Alberto hit .299/.322/.413 with a 96 OPS+ and 3.7 WAR in two seasons with the Baltimore Orioles after he was claimed off waivers from the Texas Rangers, but that wasn't enough to save him from being non-tendered this winter. His defensive versatility and elite contact skills make him a useful utility piece.

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $3 million deal with the Washington Nationals.

           

    22. RP Mark Melancon (Age: 35)

    After failing to live up to a four-year, $62 million contract with the San Francisco Giants, Melancon enjoyed a career renaissance after he was traded to Atlanta at the 2019 deadline. He converted 22 of 24 save chances with a 3.30 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 46 appearances with the Braves, and his 205 career saves rank sixth among active pitchers.

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $5 million deal with the Oakland Athletics.

           

    21. IF Brad Miller (Age: 31)

    Signed to a one-year, $2 million contract last offseason, Miller posted a 120 OPS+ with eight doubles, seven home runs and 25 RBI in 48 games with the St. Louis Cardinals. He graded out well in hard-hit rate (73rd percentile), barrel percentage (87th percentile) and exit velocity (66th percentile), suggesting his surprisingly productive season could be sustainable.

    Prediction: Signs a two-year, $9 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Nos. 20-16

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    Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright
    Yadier Molina and Adam WainwrightJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    20. LF Eddie Rosario (Age: 29)

    A proven run producer just a year removed from a 32-homer, 109-RBI season, Rosario's value is hurt by his lack of on-base ability. With a 4.7 percent walk rate and .310 on-base percentage for his career, there's not much meat on the bone beyond his surface-level power numbers, but he's still a viable everyday left fielder.

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $7.5 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

             

    19. 2B Jonathan Schoop (Age: 29)

    After his fourth straight 20-homer season in 2019, Schoop signed a one-year, $6.1 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. He hit .278/.324/.475 for a 115 OPS+ with eight home runs and 23 RBI in 177 plate appearances, and he won't turn 30 years old until after the 2021 season.

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $5 million deal with the Miami Marlins.

               

    18. SP Adam Wainwright (Age: 39)

    As he inches closer to his 40th birthday, Wainwright is coming off his best season in years. In 10 starts, he posted a 3.15 ERA and 1.05 WHIP while tossing a pair of complete games to earn the Game 2 start for the St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card Series. Matching the one-year, $5 million contract he signed last offseason seems fair.

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $5 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.

              

    17. LF Adam Duvall (Age: 32)

    Duvall slugged 16 home runs in 2020, eight of which came during an eight-game binge in which he hit .414/.452/1.345 and turned in a pair of three-homer games. As a solid defender with a strong throwing arm, he provides value beyond his power production, but he's a streaky hitter and struggled to the point of being relegated to the minors not long ago. He's a boom-or-bust play.

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $4 million deal with Cleveland.

              

    16. C Yadier Molina (Age: 38)

    After earning $20 million annually the past three seasons, Molina will need to accept a significant pay cut if he wants to keep playing, whether in St. Louis or elsewhere. In the end, no one is going to value him higher than the Cardinals, who will be motivated to ensure the future Hall of Famer spends his entire career in St. Louis.

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $10 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Nos. 15-11

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    James Paxton
    James PaxtonKathy Willens/Associated Press

    15. OF Joc Pederson (Age: 28)

    A .190 batting average and 84 OPS+ could not have come at a worse time for Pederson as he hits the open market coming off the worst season of his career. As long as he's not overexposed against left-handed pitching, he's still a perennial 30-homer threat with enough on-base skills to offset his strikeout rate.

    Prediction: Signs a two-year, $14 million deal with the Texas Rangers.

          

    14. 1B Mitch Moreland (Age: 35)

    A former All-Star and Gold Glove winner, Moreland showed he still has plenty left in the tank by hitting .328/.430/.746 with eight home runs and 21 RBI in 22 games with the Boston Red Sox last year. His numbers dipped following a trade to San Diego, but he's still a well-rounded first baseman who should come cheap.

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Minnesota Twins.

        

    13. SP James Paxton (Age: 32)

    The 2020 season was an unmitigated disaster for Paxton, from a 6.64 ERA in 20.1 innings while showing diminished stuff to a flexor strain in his left forearm that ultimately ended his season after five starts. That said, it's easy to connect his struggles to the arm injury while betting on his 3.82 ERA and 186 strikeouts over 150.2 innings during the 2019 season. Just don't expect him to make 30 starts and he could be a steal.

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $12 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds.

            

    12. RP Alex Colome (Age: 32)

    Colome doesn't have prototypical closer strikeout numbers with a 7.7 K/9 rate in 83 appearances over the past two seasons with the Chicago White Sox. However, that hasn't stopped him from nailing down 42 of 46 save chances during that time with a 2.27 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and a terrific groundball rate.

    Prediction: Signs a one-year, $8 million deal with the Miami Marlins.

            

    11. SP Jake Odorizzi (Age: 30)

    An All-Star in 2019 when he posted a 3.51 ERA with 178 strikeouts in 159 innings, Odorizzi accepted a qualifying offer and then struggled through an injury-plagued 2020 season that saw him make just four starts. Assuming his medicals check out, he's one of the few pitchers left on the market who could secure a multiyear deal.

    Prediction: Signs a three-year, $36 million deal with the Boston Red Sox.

10. CF Jackie Bradley Jr.

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Age: 30

    Jackie Bradley Jr. has never quite put it all together offensively, but he has still averaged 2.9 WAR over the past six seasons, in large part because of his stellar defense.

    With George Springer off the market, he is now far and away the best available option for teams looking to plug a hole in center field, and he's coming off a strong season at the plate that should help him secure a multiyear pact.

    He hit .283/.364/.450 with 11 doubles and seven home runs, posting a career-low 22.1 percent strikeout rate while walking at a 10.6 percent clip.

    Prediction: Signs a three-year, $30 million deal with the Houston Astros.

9. SP Taijuan Walker

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Age: 28

    After pitching just 14 total innings in 2018 and 2019 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Taijuan Walker signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Seattle Mariners last winter.

    He pitched well enough in five starts to turn himself into a trade chip, then posted a 1.37 ERA in six starts for the playoff-bound Toronto Blue Jays down the stretch.

    His 2.70 ERA in 53.1 innings was backed by a 4.56 FIP, and that's probably a better indication of what to expect going forward. That said, his age and pre-injury track record could be enough to land him a multiyear deal now that he has a clean bill of health.

    Prediction: Signs a three-year, $36 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.

8. 2B Kolten Wong

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    Scott Kane/Associated Press

    Age: 30

    The list of teams in need of a starting second baseman is growing shorter by the day, and while a door is not shut on a return to St. Louis, there's a good chance Kolten Wong will be playing elsewhere in 2021.

    A slick defender with 20-steal speed and some sneaky power, Wong is just a year removed from hitting .285/.361/.423 with 11 home runs and 24 steals while earning some down-ballot MVP support and winning his first Gold Glove Award in a 5.2-WAR season.

    With ample postseason experience and some upside relative to the number for which he'll likely sign, he could be a good fit as a veteran mentor for a rebuilding team on the rise.

    Prediction: Signs a two-year, $16 million deal with the Detroit Tigers.

7. 3B Justin Turner

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Age: 36

    According to Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times, third baseman Justin Turner is seeking a four-year deal in free agency.

    That would explain why the 36-year-old is still available.

    Still a productive player fresh off a 135 OPS+ regular season and a strong playoff run, he has undoubtedly lost a step, and further decline is likely in the years to come.

    His market is reportedly down to four teams, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, and a return to the World Series champions is still very much on the table.

    Prediction: Signs a two-year, $32 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

6. RP Trevor Rosenthal

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    Derrick Tuskan/Associated Press

    Age: 30

    After he stumbled to a disastrous 13.50 ERA with 26 walks over 15.1 innings in 2019, it looked like Trevor Rosenthal might be finished. It was no surprise he was forced to settle for a minor league deal last offseason.

    He made good on that contract with the Kansas City Royals and quickly emerged as one of the most sought-after bullpen arms at the trade deadline, eventually landing with the San Diego Padres and posting a 0.00 ERA and 15.3 K/9 in nine appearances.

    All told, he finished his bounce-back season with a 1.90 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 14.5 K/9 while converting 11 of 12 save opportunities. With Liam Hendriks and Brad Hand both off the market, he's the best reliever still available this winter.

    Prediction: Signs a two-year, $18 million deal with the San Diego Padres.

5. SP Masahiro Tanaka

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Editor's Note: Tanaka announced on Twitter early Thursday morning that he would be closing the door on his Yankees career and returning to Japan to pitch for the Rakuten Eagles

    Age: 32

    After a successful seven-year run with the New York Yankees, it's looking more and more like Masahiro Tanaka will return to Japan to close out his professional career.

    Aside from a postseason hiccup that bucked the trend of his past playoff success, it was another productive season for Tanaka, who posted a 3.56 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 10 starts to help provide some much-needed stability behind ace Gerrit Cole.

    A formal offer from the Rakuten Eagles was expected as soon as this week, according to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. Until that's official, there is still time for a pitching-needy MLB club to make its case.

    Prediction: Returns to Japan.

4. DH Nelson Cruz

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Age: 40

    Entering his age-40 season, slugger Nelson Cruz has shown no signs of slowing down as he pushes increasingly closer to the 500-home run mark for his career.

    He hit .303/.397/.595 with 16 home runs and 33 RBI over 53 games in 2020, finishing in the top 10 in American League MVP voting for the second straight season while anchoring the Minnesota Twins lineup.

    Age will be a prohibiting factor in his earning power, and anything beyond another two-year deal is unlikely. He's a DH only at this point in his career, but a number of AL contenders would benefit from adding his bat for what figures to be a reasonable salary.

    Prediction: Signs a two-year, $24 million deal with the Chicago White Sox.

3. SS Didi Gregorius

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Age: 30

    After multiple middle infield dominoes fell Tuesday, it looks like the market for Didi Gregorius boils down to the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies with the Oakland Athletics lurking in the shadows if they decide to spend some money to replace Marcus Semien.

    Gregorius settled for a one-year deal last offseason after a sluggish return from Tommy John surgery hurt his free-agency value, and he bounced back nicely with the Phillies.

    He hit .284/.339/.488 with 10 doubles, 10 home runs and 40 RBI in 60 games, returning to the level of production he showed pre-injury with the New York Yankees. He'd be wise to sign a multiyear deal this offseason with a loaded shortstop class coming next year.

    Prediction: Signs a three-year, $45 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

2. DH/OF Marcell Ozuna

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Age: 30

    The Atlanta Braves gave Marcell Ozuna a one-year, $18 million contract last January in an effort to replace the middle-of-the-order production that departed with Josh Donaldson, and he rewarded them with a career year.

    Ozuna led the National League in home runs (18), RBI (56) and total bases (145), and he hit .338/.431/.636 in the process to finish sixth in NL MVP voting and win his second Silver Slugger Award.

    He fits best in the DH role, but he's not the atrocious fielder many have made him out to be. He's more than capable of handling himself in left field for an NL team. His presence in the locker room and the middle of the lineup could make him more valuable to the Braves than anyone else.

    Prediction: Signs a four-year, $64 million deal with the Atlanta Braves.

1. SP Trevor Bauer

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    Age: 30

    The latest rumors have the New York Mets as the favorites to sign reigning NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer.

    According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Bauer received a "lucrative contract formal offer" from the Mets in mid-January, and they are now in the driver's seat to sign him.

    However, as the top pitcher on the market and the biggest fish left in the free-agency pond, Bauer has no reason to rush his decision. Drawing things out could allow another team to come in with an even higher offer.

    Until he signs on the dotted line, expect the unexpected.

    Prediction: Signs a three-year, $109 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

            

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.