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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.

Position: RP | Age: 33

Current Team: Dodgers | Best Fit: Cubs

2017 Stats: 6-0, 2.06 ERA, 0.916 WHIP, 10.3 K/0, 2 SV

A wonderful rebound story, Morrow and his newfound 98 mph heater were simply dominant for the Dodgers—including in 13 of his 14 postseason appearances. The Cubs should be on him, perhaps not only to shore up the back end of their bullpen but even to close, given the likely departure of Wade Davis.

Position: OF | Age: 33

Current Team: Royals | Best Fit: Phillies

2017 Stats: .285 BA, .746 OPS, 17 HR, 85 RBI, 1 SB

Cabrera just keeps hitting, year after year, always good for 170+ knocks and somewhere in the mid-teens as far as homers. He's also a keep-the-line-moving type of a guy, striking out just 74 times last year, and Philadelphia could add him into a mix that is largely young and whiff-prone.

Position: 3B | Age: 32

Current Team: Yankees | Best Fit: Giants

2017 Stats: .213 BA, .772 OPS, 27 HR, 76 RBI, 4 SB

Frazier provides everything except batting average: pop, strong defense, good character. The Giants need all of those things, particularly the first: their third basemen combined to hit nine home runs last year, and they were so desperate for production that they tried to turn back to the Kung Fu Panda, which didn't work.

Position: 1B | Age: 31

Current Team: Mariners | Best Fit: Mariners

2017 Stats: .266 BA, .866 OPS, 28 HR, 67 RBI, 2 SB

Alonso mirrored Logan Morrison for much of the season—a long disappointing top prospect who finally found his power stroke thanks to an uppercut-generating swing (his flyball rate rose from 33% to 43%). Unlike LoMo, he tailed off in the second half, when his OPS fell from .934 to .774. Still, the Mariners liked him enough to acquire him from the A's at the deadline, and a somewhat middling 42 games might not change their minds.

Position: SP | Age: 37

Current Team: Yankees | Best Fit: Yankees

2017 Stats: 14-5, 3.68 ERA, 1.271 WHIP, 7.3 K/9

He rather amazingly rediscovered his health and his form as the latter half of his big Yankees deal wore on, improving his ERA in each of the past three seasons and emerging as New York's most dependable starter down the stretch. On the whole, the Yankees can have no regrets about the past nine years, and it seems a lock that he'll return to rejoin Brett Gardner as the last links to their 2009 championship club.

Position: 1B | Age: 32

Current Team: Rays | Best Fit: Giants

2017 Stats: .217 BA, .818 OPS, 30 HR, 64 RBI, 0 SB

Duda has averaged 24 homers over the past four years, and he's done it while playing in an average of just 116 games—which is good and bad. Good, in that he has the potential for a truly monster slugging year, and bad because he's proved injury prone. But we've already covered the Giants' terrible power deficiency, and an offseason in which they added Gonzalez, Frazier and Duda—even two of them—would certainly address that.

Position: C | Age: 31

Current Team: Orioles | Best Fit: A's

2017 Stats: .282 BA, .813 OPS, 20 HR, 53 RBI, 0 SB

He's established himself as one of the best offensive catchers in the game—he did all of his statistical damage in just 341 at-bats—but the knock against him has always been his work behind, not beside, the plate. He's improved there, in certain ways—his remarkable 49% caught stealing rate last year jumps out at you—and while there actually aren't that many clubs with a need at catcher, the A's are one.

Position: RP | Age: 30

Current Team: Royals | Best Fit: Red Sox

2017 Stats: 6-6, 2.55 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, 10.2 K/9, 6 SV

Another great reliever redemption story, like Brandon Morrow, the former starter returned from two years on the shelf to dominate for the Royals, flashing a fastball that was up more than four miles per hour, from around 90 during his days with the Braves to above 94 last year. He was good enough to decline a $10 million option, and now the Red Sox might lead the chase for him, as they could use not only a setup man for Craig Kimbrel but a lefthanded one at that.

Position: 1B | Age: 34

Current Team: Rockies | Best Fit: Rockies

2017 Stats: .267 BA, .839 OPS, 30 HR, 97 RBI, 2 SB

He hit 21 of his 30 homers at Coors Field, with a .978 OPS at home and a .703 OPS on the road. Why would he want to leave, and why would the Rockies let him?

Position: SP | Age: 31

Current Team: Rangers | Best Fit: Brewers

2017 Stats: 11-11, 3.40 ERA, 1.320 WHIP, 4.6 K/9

The former flamethrower rediscovered himself as a pitch to contact guy who sits at 93. A good fit for the rising Brewers, if they're priced out of the market's top options.

Position: 2B | Age: 32

Current Team: Brewers | Best Fit: Angels

2017 Stats: .265 BA, .801 OPS, 14 HR, 49 RBI, 0 SB

He's injury prone, with just 112 games played on average over the last two years, but a solid 20-homer second baseman is hard to find. The Angels got a league-low .601 OPS at second last year.​

Position: C | Age: 31

Current Team: Cubs | Best Fit: Orioles

2017 Stats: .264 BA, .834 OPS, 14 HR, 49 RBI, 0 SB

Even being traded by his own father—Tigers G.M. Al Avila—didn't stop him from completing his best year since his All-Star 2011 season. A potentially excellent placeholder until top Orioles prospect Chance Sisco is ready, and a tutor thereafter.

Position: SP | Age: 30

Current Team: Padres | Best Fit: Orioles

2017 Stats: 13-10, 3.89 ERA, 1.270 WHIP, 7.6 K/9

Quietly, because it was in San Diego, Chacin put up a great year, eating 180 1/3 quality innings for the Padres. Only one Orioles starter worked more last year, and none came close to his ERA.

Position: OF | Age: 32

Current Team: Rangers | Best Fit: Rangers

2017 Stats: .255 BA, .802 OPS, 17 HR, 51 RBI, 13 SB

Despite injuries that cost him nearly 60 games, Gomez put up a perfectly respectable season on his one-year, $11.5 million deal. A return could send Delino DeShields Jr. back to the bench.

Position: RP | Age: 31

Current Team: Rockies | Best Fit: Astros

2017 Stats: 0-2, 3.61 ERA, 1.099 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 3 SV

We know the Astros need relievers, and they've got no lefties in the `pen to speak of. Focus on McGee's numbers away from Coors Field: a 2.64 ERA and a .176 batting average against.

Position: SP | Age: 31

Current Team: Orioles | Best Fit: Royals

2017 Stats: 8-11, 5.43 ERA, 1.262 WHIP, 5.3 K/9

Regressed after a strong 2016, in part because he became a more extreme flyball pitcher and played in two home run havens (in Philadelphia and Baltimore). A move to a more spacious park, like Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, could allow him to rediscover his effectiveness.

Position: SP | Age: 35

Current Team: Royals | Best Fit: Blue Jays

2017 Stats: 18-11, 4.16 ERA, 1.330 WHIP, 6.7 K/9

He fell off badly after his first ever trip to the All-Star Game, which he made on the strength of a 12-3, 2.62 ERA first half. Still, 180 innings are tough to find, and the Blue Jays need a bottom of the rotation starter.

Position: UTIL | Age: 34

Current Team: Nationals | Best Fit: Blue Jays

2017 Stats: .315 BA, .844 OPS, 9 HR, 41 RBI, 12 SB

Raked for both the Nationals and the Phillies last year, and doesn't need regular at-bats or a defined position (he played left, second, first and DH in `17). Exactly what the Blue Jays need, especially with second baseman Devon Travis's health always a question.​

Position: 2B | Age: 37

Current Team: Angels | Best Fit: Brewers

2017 Stats: .285 BA, .735 OPS, 13 HR, 60 RBI, 11 SB

Maybe Jonathan Villar will bounce back for the Brewers after his OPS plummeted 160 points last season. Phillips is a good insurance policy and possible mentor, one who can still do a little bit of everything.

Position: RP | Age: 30

Current Team: Indians | Best Fit: Twins

2017 Stats: 4-6, 3.52 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, 8.6 K/0, 3 SV

Shaw's reliable cutter makes him one of the most dependable relievers in the game, leading the AL in appearances in three of the past four years. The Twins return only one reliever with more than 40 outings and a sub-4.00 ERA. He could close for them.

Position: RP | Age: 29

Current Team: Red Sox | Best Fit: Diamondbacks

2017 Stats: 2-3, 2.84 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 19 SV

A 2.40 ERA in the two full seasons since the Diamondbacks traded Reed in mid-2015 should make Arizona want him back. A contender simply must have a more dependable closer than Fernando Rodney.

Position: OF | Age: 31

Current Team: Astros | Best Fit: Royals

2017 Stats: .228 BA, .683 OPS, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 33 SB

The speed is very hard to ignore—he finished fifth overall in steals despite taking just 395 at-bats for the Angels and Astros—and he had an .801 OPS as recently as 2016. Feels like a Royals type of player: fast and cheap.

Position: DH | Age: 38

Current Team: Yankees | Best Fit: Rays

2017 Stats: .231 BA, .748 OPS, 19 HR, 64 RBI, 1 SB

With 39 homers in 215 games over the past two years, he's still got pop, if not health. Could be a chemistry-producing presence for the relatively young Rays, like Carlos Beltran was for the Astros.

Position: RP | Age: 37

Current Team: Rockies | Best Fit: Indians

2017 Stats: 5-3, 1.59 ERA, 0.866 WHIP, 10.0 K/9, 1 SV

The side-armer just had his best season, split between the Phillies and the Rockies. He’d be an excellent replacement for Bryan Shaw in Cleveland, and a good late inning complement to Cody Allen and Andrew Miller.

Position: UTIL | Age: 35

Current Team: Mets | Best Fit: Mets

2017 Stats: .246 BA, .728 OPS, 15 HR, 58 RBI, 24 SB

A miserable first half obscured a terrific second half, in which he batted .288 with seven homers, 29 RBIs, 14 steals and a .828 OPS in 62 games. Reyes led the Mets in at-bats, runs, triples, and steals, and deserves a return as a utilityman who will probably play a lot.

Position: OF | Age: 37

Current Team: Dodgers | Best Fit: Yankees

2017 Stats: .212 BA, .775 OPS, 26 HR, 64 RBI, 6 SB

A good (and cheaper) candidate to fill Matt Holliday's elder statesman role in a largely young lineup—and we know how much he loves that rightfield porch at Yankee Stadium. Though he only spent four of his 14 seasons with the Yankees so far, he's hit 22 more homers in their park than anywhere else.

Position: C | Age: 32

Current Team: Diamondbacks | Best Fit: White Sox

2017 Stats: .254 BA, .865 OPS, 17 HR, 43 RBI, 0 SB

That's a lot of production in just 89 games, and the reloading White Sox would find him an upgrade in the lineup over Omar Narvaez and a boon to their talented but extremely callow pitching staff.

Position: RP | Age: 32

Current Team: Dodgers | Best Fit: A’s

2017 Stats: 7-4, 3.38 ERA, 1.380 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 10 SV

Another solid lefty, if one definitively behind Mike Minor and Jake McGee, he'll be pursued by many teams with southpaw-deficient bullpens—including Oakland's, which has only Daniel Coulombe.

Position: RP | Age: 32

Current Team: Rays | Best Fit: Mets

2017 Stats: 3-2, 2.01 ERA, 0.896 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 1 SV

The former closer was phenomenal after a mid-season trade from Seattle, with a 1.09 ERA over 24 1/3 innings. The Mets' bullpen is terribly thin after Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos and lefty Jerry Blevins.

Position: RP | Age: 32

Current Team: Brewers | Best Fit: Dodgers

2017 Stats: 6-4, 2.33 ERA, 1.036 WHIP, 10.6 K/9, 2 SV

You're getting either a fastball or a slider from Swarzak, and you'll have trouble hitting either: batters whiffed on more than 28% of their swings against him. Would be a nice piece for Los Angeles to slot in front of Kenley Jansen.

Position: SP | Age: 28

Current Team: Rockies | Best Fit: Orioles

2017 Stats: 8-15, 4.69 ERA, 1.442 WHIP, 7.3 K/9

You definitely have to look at Coors Field here: he had a 3.49 ERA on the road. He's also relatively young, his fastball sits at 95 and he has a good groundball rate, making him a quietly smart investment for any club—like the Orioles, who need all the arms they can get.

Position: SS | Age: 31

Current Team: Royals | Best Fit: Padres

2017 Stats: .250 BA, .629 OPS, 6 HR, 54 RBI, 4 SB

The one-time World Series champion is hanging on by a thread, and his always-low OBP dropped to .272. But he can still play an average shortstop, and keep the spot warm in San Diego until lauded prospect Luis Urias is ready.

Position: SP | Age: 29

Current Team: Yankees | Best Fit: Rangers

2017 Stats: 8-4, 4.39 ERA, 1.287 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 0 SV

Was destined for the top 20 on this list before undergoing Tommy John surgery in July. Still a worthy risk for a pitching-needy club like the Rangers, presumably on a multi-year deal that includes a cheap first season. His upside puts him ahead of other just-missed candidates like Matt Albers, Jose Bautista, Carlos Beltran, Rajai Davis, Jarrod Dyson, Jaime Garcia, Tommy Hunter, Jon Jay, Brandon Kintzler, Mitch Moreland, Mike Napoli, Juan Nicasio, Chris Tillman and Danny Valencia.

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