It's never too early to look ahead to the off-season, and as Ben Reiter notes in his list of the winter's ten best free agents, this year's group is star-studded and set to make some serious money.
I’ve ranked baseball’s top 50 free agents for SI.com in each of the past seven winters, so I can say with confidence that this upcoming off-season’s crop is the best I’ve ever considered, and possibly the best ever, period. This is an era in which teams seek to lock in their young stars with long-term contracts that extend through their prime years, but reports of free agency’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
We’re just five months away from the official graduation of a class that might include a half-dozen of the top 21 in FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement for pitchers, as well as a host of All-Star caliber offensive players, particularly outfielders. In fact, I’d have likely ranked no fewer than six players—possibly as many as eight—ahead of the No. 3 player on last year’s Reiter 50, former Royal (and current Padre) James Shields.
A lot can change between now and early November. Players can get hurt at the worst possible moment; they might choose to re-sign with their current clubs, or they might be traded as non-contenders seek to extract whatever value they can from them. Still, it is not too early to look ahead to a class that will undoubtedly be the most richly compensated of any in baseball’s history. While my rankings will certainly change over the next several months, here is my current top 10.
The Next 10 (in alphabetical order): A.J. Burnett, Pirates, SP; Chris Davis, Orioles, 1B; Doug Fister, Nationals, SP; Dexter Fowler, Cubs, CF; Howie Kendrick, Dodgers, 2B; Scott Kazmir, A’s, SP; Adam Lind, Brewers, 1B; Jeff Samardzija, White Sox, SP; Denard Span, Nationals, CF; Ben Zobrist, A’s, 2B.