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  • For the 10th consecutive year, Ben Reiter offers his top 50 free agents and predicted landing spots.
By Ben Reiter
November 05, 2017

This year’s World Series was one of a kind in many ways, but here’s another: it featured no fewer than five of the top 21 members of last November’s Reiter 50, SI.com’s annual ranking of the Top 50 free agents available on the market.  Championships these days, of course, are largely won from within, not bought.

Take a look at the identities of the players in question, and it makes more sense.  For the Dodgers, they were Kenley Jansen (No. 4), Justin Turner (No. 5) and Rich Hill (No. 12)—all players whom LA re-signed, to allow for the continuation of what they’d already been building.  The Astros’ free agents were both new, but both were finishing touches as opposed to transplanted centerpieces: Josh Reddick (No .10) and Carlos Beltran (No. 21). 

Clubs will have every opportunity to calculate the risk and reward of bringing in a new superstar next winter, which promises to be the free agent class to end free agent classes, starting with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Craig Kimbrel, Charlie Blackmon and, pending the declining of his player option, Clayton Kershaw.

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By our lights, there’s only one member of this year’s tenth annual Reiter 50—the first one—who belongs in that company, but there are many who might provide the final lift to contention.  Clubs, though, will be unusually loath to overspend, given what’s coming next winter.  Here are those who will tempt them:

Position: OF | Age: 30

Current Team: Diamondbacks | Best Fit: Astros

2017 Stats: .303 BA, 1.066 OPS, 45 HR, 104 RBI, 4 SB

The Astros cut Martinez near the end of spring training of 2014, but only after he'd passed through waivers and all 29 other clubs declined to pick him up. Since then, he's posted the seventh-best OPS (.936) of any hitter in the majors. He's a legitimate superstar, albeit without the profile of one, and the Astros could correct their mistake by bringing him back to fill the likely departing Carlos Beltran's spot in the lineup.

Harry How/Getty Images

Position: SP | Age: 31

Current Team: Dodgers | Best Fit: Cubs

2017 Stats: 10-12, 3.86 ERA, 1.163 WHIP, 10.1 K/9

Darvish enjoyed the National League, striking out more than 11 batters per nine with a 3.44 ERA after his midseason trade from the Rangers. He's the best starter out there, despite two disastrous World Series starts, and those get paid: over the past three years, three of them (Zack Greinke, David Price and Max Scherzer) have commanded pacts worth more than $200 million. The Cubs—likely to lose Jake Arrieta and John Lackey—have an opening.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Position: SP | Age: 32

Current Team: Cubs | Best Fit: Phillies

2017 Stats: 14-10, 3.53 ERA, 1.218 WHIP, 8.7 K/9

Arrieta seemed to damage his stock early on—his ERA stood at 5.44 in mid-May—but a final three months in which he had a 2.26 ERA and didn't allow more than three runs in any of his 13 starts pushed him back near the top of this list. He could be the rebuilding Phillies' version of Jon Lester: a long term cornerstone for a club for whom contention might not be far off.​

Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Position: 1B | Age: 28

Current Team: Royals | Best Fit: Royals

2017 Stats: .318 BA, .882 OPS, 25 HR, 94 RBI, 6 SB

Hosmer picked a good time to have his best season, as his OPS exceeded his former career high by 60 points. He's also the youngest player on this list. The Royals have a number of key free agents, perhaps signaling the end of their run of contention—but they also have a way of convincing their own players to return at a discount. They'll probably focus most of their efforts on making Hosmer the latest.

Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

Position: OF | Age: 32

Current Team: Royals | Best Fit: Mariners

2017 Stats: .300 BA, .803 OPS, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 26 SB

Yes, beware free agents over 30 whose strengths stem from their legs. But although his range in center has started to slip, Cain does so many things well—he just set a career high in on-base percentage—that he should be able to compensate for any loss of speed. Five Mariners centerfielders combined for a .612 OPS last year, a league low at the position.​

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Position: CL | Age: 32

Current Team: Cubs | Best Fit: Cardinals

2017 Stats: 4-2, 2.30 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, 12.1 K/9, 32 SV

Though not quite as dominant as he was at his peak with the Royals, when a 1.00 ERA for him was high, Davis's peripherals remain strong. His fastball still sits above 94 mph and he only blew one save all year. Theo Epstein doesn't seem to mind cycling through new closers year after year, but the Cardinals will certainly want to stop their own careening carousel.​

 

Position: 3B | Age: 29

Current Team: Royals | Best Fit: Angels

2017 Stats: .272 BA, .835 OPS, 38 HR, 85 RBI, 0 SB

How deeply might Kansas City be harmed by free agent losses? Moustakas is the third Royal in the top seven—and he just set a franchise record for home runs. He impressively bounced back from a torn ACL that ruined his 2016, but he'll almost certainly be moving on—perhaps to the Angels, who need an upgrade at third over the .199-hitting Luis Valbuena.

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Position: C | Age: 32

Current Team: Rockies | Best Fit: Rockies

2017 Stats: .265 BA, .716 OPS, 6 HR, 40 RBI, 1 SB

A huge disappointment with the Rangers, who traded two top-50 prospects for him just last year, Lucroy was superb after arriving in Colorado—and Coors Field!—at this season's deadline, hitting .310 with an .865 OPS. His once elite framing skills have eroded, somewhat mysteriously, but he's still the best catcher on the market and the Rockies are likely to want him back.

David Maxwell/Getty Images

Position: 1B | Age: 32

Current Team: Indians | Best Fit: Red Sox

2017 Stats: .259 BA, .818 OPS, 23 HR, 79 RBI, 5 SB

Santana is another player who got off to a poor walk year start—he was hitting .209 with a .641 OPS on May 5—before rebounding to approach career norms. First base/DH types with games predicated on power haven't attained enormous contracts recently—Edwin Encarnacion got three years and $60 million from the Indians last year—but Santana is the best of this year's crop. In fact, the power-starved Red Sox might regret not signing Encarnacion to fill Big Papi's shoes, and might now turn to Santana.

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Position: SP | Age: 30

Current Team: Rays | Best Fit: Dodgers

2017 Stats: 12-10, 3.66 ERA, 1.221 WHIP, 6.4 K/9

Not every recovery from Tommy John surgery is the same, and Cobb really had two seasons wiped out by his.  Between 2013 and `14, he was quietly dominant (2.82 ERA), and he improved over the course of last season as he rediscovered his feel for his wipeout splitter-change. Dodgers president Andrew Friedman is well acquainted with Cobb's peak years with the Rays; Cobb would be perfect in the Dodgers' starting pitching mix.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

Position: OF | Age: 31

Current Team: Indians | Best Fit: Indians

2017 Stats: .254 BA, .832 OPS, 36 HR, 101 RBI, 1 SB

Bruce led the Mets in homers and RBIs … even though he didn't play for the club after the first week of August, when they traded him to Cleveland. He hit well there too, with nine homers and 30 RBIs in 48 games, including the playoffs. In fact, if the Indians lose Santana, they could keep Bruce as a marginally cheaper source of pop.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Position: SP | Age: 31

Current Team: Cardinals | Best Fit: Rangers

2017 Stats: 11-8, 3.43 ERA, 1.229 WHIP, 8.6 K/9

Lynn made an impressive return from Tommy John surgery, especially as far as his durability: he threw 186 1/3 innings and didn't miss a start. There are some causes for concern, like a career-low strikeout rate, a home rate that nearly doubled from 2015 and a 4.82 FIP. But almost every free agent pitcher comes with some knocks, and the Rangers badly need depth and innings behind Cole Hamels.

 

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Position: SS | Age: 32

Current Team: Reds | Best Fit: Reds

2017 Stats: .297 BA, .933 OPS, 24 HR, 63 RBI, 3 SB

Cozart had a career year across the board, and according to FanGraphs was 11th in the NL in WAR (5.0), just behind Paul Goldschmidt. So he's going to get paid, right? Perhaps not, for the same reason the Reds couldn't find a taker for him at the deadline. There's just a glut of shortstops in baseball right now, and virtually no team without a young one or a highly paid one. Except, perhaps ... for the Reds.

Norm Hall/Getty Images

Position: CL | Age: 32

Current Team: Rockies | Best Fit: Rockies

2017 Stats: 3-6, 3.61 ERA, 1.151 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, 41 SV

Holland's return from Tommy John surgery began impressively—a 1.60 ERA and 33 saves in 34 chances—but he had an 8.47 ERA in 19 outings thereafter. He opted out of a $10 million mutual option, but suitors surely are aware of his dog days swoon, and he could wind back in Colorado anyway.​

Position: OF | Age: 32

Current Team: Rockies | Best Fit: Giants

2017 Stats: .262 BA, .762 OPS, 14 HR, 57 RBI, 3 SB

He was almost impossibly bad in the first half—batting .221 with six homers and a .637 OPS—but returned to his All-Star form in the second (.314 BA and .921 OPS).  That extended swoon will depress his market, though, making him a potentially cheap (and, despite his age, high upside) fit for the Giants, who hit by far the fewest homers in the league, 128, with just 38 of those coming from their outfielders

Position: 1B | Age: 30

Current Team: Rays | Best Fit: Cardinals

2017 Stats: .246 BA, .868 OPS, 38 HR, 85 RBI, 2 SB

Once a Top 20 prospect, Morrison disappointed in virtually each of his first seven years in the majors. That all changed this season, thanks in large measure to a swing overhaul that helped him put the ball in the air; his flyball rate spiked from 35% to 46% in just one year. St. Louis hit just 196 homers this year, 18th in the league, and has a spot at first for the Missouri native.

Position: UTIL | Age: 31

Current Team: Red Sox | Best Fit: Red Sox

2017 Stats: .313 BA, .801 OPS, 12 HR, 58 RBI, 24 SB

Nunez was excellent for the Red Sox after a July trade from the Giants—batting .321 with an .892 OPS and eight homers, in just 38 games—but he's really been a valuable utilityman for several years now. Boston might have wanted him back anyway, but now that knee surgery will sideline Dustin Pedroia through at least late May he's an even stronger fit.