At the conclusion of an MLB season unlike any other, it's time to gear up for an offseason mired in uncertainty. The financial landscape of a league that just played almost all of its season with no fans—all while teams lay off hundreds in an effort to cut costs—makes it difficult to predict how clubs will spend this winter.
Even without the economic ramifications brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the on-field results of this season were likely a harbinger for a cooler-than-normal hot stove. A Rays-Dodgers World Series only underscores player development as the key to reaching great heights, not spending hundreds of millions on free agents.
In coming up with the top 50 free agents available this winter, we analyzed past performance, extrapolating this year's stats over a full season. For those who have team or player options for 2021, we had to speculate on whether or not they would end up hitting the market. For example: The Cubs are certain to pick up Anthony Rizzo's $14.5 million club option, while Giancarlo Stanton won't opt out of the $218 million left on his deal with the Yankees.
Below you'll find our ranking of the best 50 players on the market, along with the team each one fits best with.
A few notes: each player’s listed age reflects how old he will be during the 2021 season, and we’re using Baseball Reference's version of Wins Above Replacement. This page will be updated throughout the offseason as players sign with teams.
50. Garrett Richards, SP
Age: 33 | 2020 Stats: 2-2, 51 1/3 IP, 4.03 ERA, 21.6 K%, 8 BB%, 1.0 WAR (2.7 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Padres | Best Fit: Angels
After totaling 31 starts between 2016-19 due to a pair of Tommy John surgeries, Richards stayed healthy and recorded a 4.27 ERA in 10 starts this season. He's set up to sign as an innings-eater next year and beyond. With his peripherals worse than they were during his heyday with the Angels, he won’t attract the attention of the league’s heavyweights. But the former first-round pick could sign a deal with a starter-hungry team on the edge of playoff contention. Could Richards reunite with Mike Trout and Co. in Orange County?
49. Brad Miller, INF
Age: 31 | 2020 Stats: .232/.357/.451, 120 OPS+, 7 HR, 21 R, 25 RBI, 1 SB, 0.7 WAR (2.2 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Cardinals | Best Fit: Cardinals
Despite signing for just $2 million last winter, Miller served as St. Louis’s cleanup hitter for 29 of 60 games after getting off to a fast start. But the lefty was limited to a single pinch-hit appearance in the team’s wild-card series against San Diego after slashing .153/.247/.316 with two home runs and a 37% strikeout rate over his last 27 games. The journeyman is best suited as a DH or a quality bench bat going forward after making five errors in just 28 chances around the infield. He would mean more to the offensively-starved Cardinals than any other contender.
48. Kevin Pillar, OF
Age: 32 | 2020 Stats: .288/.336/.462, 107 OPS+, 6 HR, 34 R, 26 RBI, 5 SB, 0.1 WAR (0.3 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Rockies | Best Fit: Nationals
Pillar has long been regarded as an elite defensive outfielder and below-average hitter, but he’s declined in the field to just a tick above average as he’s reached his 30s. In fact, the metrics say he was a little overmatched in Colorado’s spacious center field after being acquired from Boston at the deadline. The good news is Pillar posted an OPS+ above 100 for the first time in his career, though he partially owes that to a career-high .335 BABIP. The longtime outfielder fits well with a contender in need of a fourth outfielder or a lower-rung team looking for a veteran starter who could be flipped for prospects.
47. Corey Kluber, SP
Age: 35 | 2019 Stats: 2-3, 35 2/3 IP, 5.80 ERA, 22.6 K%, 8.9 BB%, -0.4 WAR (-1.1 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Rangers | Best Fit: Giants
Rangers GM Jon Daniels indicated Texas won’t pick up Kluber’s $18.5 million option, putting a two-time Cy Young Award winner on the open market. But after his time in Arlington was limited to one inning after tearing his shoulder, which followed a fractured pitching arm that ended his final (subpar) season in Cleveland, the right-hander is a severely depreciated asset. He’ll still command at least a high seven-figure salary, and could revive his value in San Francisco’s spacious ballpark to give the Giants a high-ceiling starter they’ll need after losing several key arms to free agency.
46. Rich Hill, SP
Age: 41 | 2020 Stats: 2-2, 38 2/3 IP, 3.03 ERA, 19.9 K%, 10.9 BB%, 0.8 WAR (2.2 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Twins | Best Fit: Padres
Father Time is undefeated, but Hill is giving him all he can handle. In his age-40 season, Hill made eight starts for the Twins, allowing two earned runs or fewer in seven of them. His average fastball velocity dipped to under 90 mph, and hitters did more damage to it (.472 slugging percentage) while whiffing far less often (17.4%). Hill’s curveball remains effective, though, inducing a .172 batting average against. A contender in need of rotation depth would be a good fit for Hill, which could mean the Padres come calling on a one-year deal.
45. Robbie Grossman, OF
Age: 31 | 2020 Stats: .241/.344/.482, 130 OPS+, 8 HR, 23 R, 23 RBI, 8 SB, 1.0 WAR (2.7 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Athletics | Best Fit: Athletics
The switch-hitting Grossman did most of his damage against righties in 2020, batting .260/.357/.521 in 168 plate appearances. That could set him up for the preferred side of a platoon situation on his next team. Advanced metrics paint a favorable picture of him defensively, as he ranked second among qualified left fielders in outs above average. Grossman also was 8-for-9 in stolen base attempts, and posted career highs with a .241 isolated power and 37.5% hard-hit rate. The A’s would surely welcome him back, though there will likely be plenty of suitors.
44. Blake Treinen, RP
Age: 33 | 2020 Stats: 3-3, 1 SV, 25 2/3 IP, 3.86 ERA, 20.6 K%, 7.5 BB%, -0.2 WAR (-0.5 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Dodgers | Best Fit: Phillies
Treinen was somewhat-surprisingly designated for assignment by Oakland after a down year in 2019. The Dodgers scooped him up, and though basic numbers reveal a modest bounce-back, the underlying data shows a true return to form. Treinen rated in the 95th percentile in average exit velocity allowed (84.8 mph) and saw his groundball rate jump to 64%, the third-highest among all relief pitchers. You can put the Phillies down as potential landing spots for pretty much any reliever on the market, but Treinen would be a particularly ideal fit.
43. Yasiel Puig, OF
Age: 30 | 2019 Stats: .267/.327/.458, 99 OPS+, 24 HR, 76 R, 84 RBI, 19 SB, 1.3 WAR
Current Team: N/A | Best Fit: Red Sox
Puig curiously never signed with a team for the 2020 season after his reported one-year agreement with the Braves was voided by a positive COVID-19 test. MLB executives seem to view him in far worse standing than fans do. He may reportedly try to rebuild his stock by playing in the Dominican winter leagues. If that goes well, perhaps the Red Sox could swoop in to sign Puig to play alongside Alex Verdugo and Andrew Benintendi in a reshuffled outfield that’s expected to lose Jackie Bradley Jr. to free agency.
42. Jake McGee, RP
Age: 34 | 2020 Stats: 3-1, 0 SV, 20 1/3 IP, 2.66 ERA, 41.8 K%, 3.8 BB%, 0.4 WAR (1.1 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Dodgers | Best Fit: Blue Jays
McGee was cut by Colorado this summer after logging a 5.54 ERA during the first two seasons of an ill-fated three-year, $27 million contract. The Dodgers picked him up just a few days later and McGee responded by striking out 33 hitters while walking just three in 20 1/3 innings, holding opponents scoreless in 21 of 24 appearances. Our top-ranked lefty reliever seems like a guy the Blue Jays could pay to anchor their righty-heavy bullpen as they look to climb in the AL East.
41. Greg Holland, RP
Age: 35 | 2020 Stats: 3-0, 6 SV, 28 1/3 IP, 1.91 ERA, 27.7 K%, 6.3 BB%, 0.9 WAR (2.4 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Royals | Best Fit: Nationals
Holland has always relied on his slider, but no more so than last season. He threw the pitch a career-high 51.3% of the time in 2020, with opposing hitters batting .167 against it and whiffing 34.8% of the time. Holland’s average fastball velocity jumped up 1.3 mph from 2019 to 92.9 mph in 2020. He signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with Kansas City last offseason after a down year, and he’s in line for a bigger payday this time around.
40. Adam Wainwright, SP
Age: 39 | 2020 Stats: 5-3, 65 2/3 IP, 3.15 ERA, 20.6 K%, 5.7 BB%, 0.5 WAR (1.4 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Cardinals | Best Fit: Cardinals
Three years after he considered retirement, Wainwright put together a strong performance in his age-38 season, leading the Cardinals in wins, innings and strikeouts. His curveball remains elite, holding opponents to a .191 batting average and 33% whiff rate. Wainwright has said that he’d consider getting into broadcasting if he doesn’t pitch next season, and it’s hard to imagine him in anything but a Cardinals uniform.
39. J.A. Happ, SP
Age: 38 | 2020 Stats: 2-2, 49 1/3 IP, 3.47 ERA, 21.4 K%, 7.7 BB%, 1.2 WAR (3.2 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Yankees | Best Fit: Braves
Happ’s final season in pinstripes was marred near the beginning by a public squabble with the front office over his $17 million vesting option and ended with a public disagreement over how he was used in his lone postseason appearance. In between, however, it was a solid bounce-back season for the left-hander. Once Happ started taking regular rotation turns on August 29, he posted a 2.45 ERA and 3.14 FIP in 36 2/3 innings. He'd be a one-year signing in the mold of what Atlanta tried to accomplish with Cole Hamels this past season.
38. Mike Minor, SP
Age: 33 | 2020 Stats: 1-6, 56 2/3 IP, 5.56 ERA, 25.9 K%, 8.4 BB%, 0.0 WAR
Current Team: Athletics | Best Fit: Cubs
One of the league’s most extreme flyball pitchers fell from the clouds after finishing eighth in AL Cy Young award voting last year. Minor had a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings against the Mariners and a 7.77 ERA in 38 2/3 innings against other West division teams while splitting time between the Rangers and A’s. His peripherals were only marginally worse than they were during his 200-strikeout 2019 campaign, however. The Cubs previously targeted Minor before he signed with Texas in 2018, and they’ll want a left-handed starter if they lose both Jon Lester and Jose Quintana to free agency.
37. Robbie Ray, SP
Age: 29 | 2020 Stats: 2-5, 51 2/3 IP, 6.62 ERA, 27.1 K%, 17.9 BB%, -0.2 WAR (-0.5 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Blue Jays | Best Fit: Braves
A year ago, Ray seemed destined to end up much higher on this list. He owned a 3.96 ERA and 29.3% strikeout rate in five seasons with the Diamondbacks, but was never able to find his command in 2020. He walked 45 batters in 51 2/3 innings with 13 home runs allowed last season, which saw a midseason trade to Toronto. Ray still misses bats and actually threw harder in 2020 than 2019, so the potential is there for a rebound if he lands in the right situation. The Braves are firmly in win-now mode and could use some more rotation depth behind youngsters Max Fried and Ian Anderson, so Ray could make sense as a high-ceiling addition.
36. James Paxton, SP
Age: 32 | 2020 Stats: 1-1, 20 1/3 IP, 6.64 ERA, 28.9 K%, 7.8 BB%, -0.4 WAR (-1.1 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Yankees | Best Fit: Blue Jays
The Big Maple underwent back surgery in February and never quite seemed to recover in 2020, as his fastball, cutter and sinker velocity were all down about 3 mph in six starts before he was shut down in August. Health has frequently been an issue for Paxton, who’s always missed at least a few starts each year and has a career high of 160 1/3 innings pitched. But he’d never posted an ERA above 4.00 before this season and may have the highest ceiling of any free agent starter not named Trevor Bauer. Toronto showed it was willing to bet on potential in starters when they acquired Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker at the deadline. How about bringing the native Canadian north of the border on a one-year prove-it deal?
35. Jurickson Profar, UT
Age: 28 | 2020 Stats: .278/.343/.428, 113 OPS+, 7 HR, 28 R, 25 RBI, 7 SB, 1.1 WAR (3.0 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Padres | Best Fit: Dodgers
Profar is one of the youngest free agents on the market, and among the most versatile, so he’s sure to have several suitors. He’s stayed healthy for three years straight now, and his bat bounced back from a subpar 2019 in which he hit a meager .219/.301/.410. With the Dodgers potentially needing to replace Kiké Hernandez, Justin Turner and Joc Pederson, they might be an ideal landing spot for Profar.
34. Kiké Hernandez, UT
Age: 29 | 2020 Stats: .230/.270/.410, 83 OPS+, 5 HR, 20 R, 20 RBI, 0 SB, 0.9 WAR (2.4 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Dodgers | Best Fit: Marlins
From 2017-19, Hernandez was able to combine his elite versatility with league-average hitting, posting an OPS+ of 99 while making at least 10 starts at seven different positions. He still played all over the diamond in 2020, but his bat lagged behind, as he posted a career low in on-base percentage and walk rate (4.1%). Still on the right side of 30, the newly crowned World Series champ should garner interest this winter as a vital bench player for a contender. Miami could be a nice landing spot for him, as it'd reunite him with Don Mattingly and give the Marlins a flexible veteran.
33. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
Age: 29 | 2020 Stats: .278/.324/.475, 115 OPS+, 8 HR, 26 R, 23 RBI, 0 SB, 1.0 WAR (2.7 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Tigers | Best Fit: Red Sox
Schoop was a major reason why the Tigers were surprisingly competitive out of the gate, slashing .300/.341/.529 through the end of August. His season ended on Sept. 12 after getting hit by a pitch in the wrist, but he still provided great value for Detroit after signing for $6.1 million last winter. An oversaturated second base market could again prevent Schoop from securing a multi-year deal, but the newly minted Gold Glove finalist will find a starting job somewhere.
32. Tommy La Stella, INF
Age: 32 | 2020 Stats: .281/.370/.449, 127 OPS+, 5 HR, 31 R, 25 RBI, 1 SB, 0.5 WAR (1.4 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Athletics | Best Fit: Indians
In this strikeout-heavy era, La Stella was the league’s hitter least likely to whiff by a wide margin, with 16.3 at-bats per strikeout (the next-closest being Yankees star D.J. LeMahieu at 9.3 at-bats per strikeout). After being acquired from the Angels at the deadline, La Stella looked like a strong bet to return to Oakland after Billy Beane lavished praise on him at the end of the regular season. The former utility player has performed well enough over the past couple years to start every day at second base.
31. Jake Odorizzi, SP
Age: 31 | 2020 Stats: 0-1, 13 2/3 IP, 6.59 ERA, 20.0 K%, 5.0 BB%, -0.2 WAR (-0.5 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Twins | Best Fit: Cardinals
After going 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA In 2019, Odorizzi accepted Minnesota’s qualifying offer of $17.9 million last offseason. He struggled through what was virtually a lost season in 2020, spending three stints on the injured list with a back strain, chest contusion and blister. It’s hard to glean much from Odorizzi’s performance, as we simply didn’t see much of him last year. From 2015-19, he was quite reliable, making at least 28 starts each season with an ERA+ of 109. That type of consistency may cause any club to take notice, but the Cardinals could be a natural fit. St. Louis ranked 20th in combined WAR from their starting pitchers last season, and Odorizzi grew up in nearby Highland, Ill.
30. Carlos Santana, 1B
Age: 35 | 2020 Stats: .199/.349/.350, 91 OPS+, 8 HR, 34 R, 30 RBI, 0 SB, 0.6 WAR (1.6 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Indians | Best Fit: Brewers
The only first baseman in our top 50, Santana would have been primed to cash in with a 2020 campaign up to the standard he’d set during his other nine seasons in Cleveland, especially after his first All-Star appearance in 2019. The switch-hitting Dominican then turned in the first below-average offensive season by OPS+ of his career despite leading the league with 47 walks. Milwaukee may capitalize on Santana’s diminished market value after enduring a disastrous showing from Opening Day first baseman Justin Smoak, who was DFA’d in early September.
29. José Quintana, SP
Age: 32 | 2020 Stats: 0-0, 10.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 29.3 K%, 7.3 BB%, 0.0 WAR
Current Team: Cubs | Best Fit: Diamondbacks
Through his first five big-league seasons, Quintana was quietly among the league’s most reliable (and underrated) starters. He posted a 3.41 ERA over 151 starts, rattling off four consecutive years of 200 or more innings. He hasn’t had a sub-4.00 ERA since 2016, and hasn’t reached 200 innings either. Quintana barely pitched in 2020—he started the season on the injured list after cutting his thumb while washing dishes, then went back on the IL in early September. He’s a good candidate to sign a one-year deal.
28. Joc Pederson, OF
Age: 29 | 2020 Stats: .190/.285/.397, 84 OPS+, 8 HR, 21 R, 16 RBI, 1 SB, -0.4 WAR (-1.1 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Dodgers | Best Fit: Rangers
As baseball fans have seen in multiple Home Run Derbies and World Series, Pederson can hit the snot out of the ball. Even during a disappointing 2020 regular season, he finished 10th in average exit velocity. But a .200 BABIP, which would’ve been the worst in the majors if he had enough at-bats to qualify, doomed his surface stats. He’s only effective against right-handers (128 of his 138 plate appearances this year came against righties), likely setting him up for a platoon. The Rangers are getting Shin-Soo Choo’s $21 million salary off the books and still need to give fans a reason to come out to their new ballpark despite having a mostly awful team.
27. Mark Melancon, RP
Age: 36 | 2020 Stats: 2-1, 11 SV, 22 2/3 IP, 2.78 ERA, 14.7 K%, 7.4 BB%, 1.0 WAR (2.7 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Braves | Best Fit: Cubs
Melancon has been quite consistent over the past five years, with an ERA+ of 144, making it curious that he’s played on four different teams during that span. He kept up his usual groundball-heavy ways in 2020, and few relievers have been more difficult to homer off over the past few seasons than Melancon. He threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings this postseason, and a contender like the Cubs could be a good pairing.
26. César Hernández, 2B
Age: 31 | 2020 Stats: .283/.355/.408, 106 OPS+, 3 HR, 35 R, 20 RBI, 0 SB, 1.5 WAR (4.1 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Indians | Best Fit: Athletics
It may be surprising to see Hernández, who was non-tendered by Philadelphia last offseason before signing with Cleveland for $6.25 million, ranked this high. But the switch-hitter is somewhat of a sure bet to be around league-average at the plate—he’s put up an OPS+ between 90-110 every year since his first full season in 2015. If the more offensively heralded Tommy La Stella ends up pricing himself out of Oakland’s range, the underrated Venezuela native and 2020 Gold Glove finalist is the sort of savvy signing the A’s may make to fill their hole at the keystone.
25. Kevin Gausman, SP
Age: 30 | 2020 Stats: 3-3, 59 2/3 IP, 3.62 ERA, 32.2 K%, 6.5 BB%, 1.3 WAR (3.5 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Giants | Best Fit: Angels
Gausman quietly put together a strong season in San Francisco, setting career highs in strikeout rate and FIP (3.09). He added 1.2 mph to his average fastball velocity compared to 2019, bumping his heater up to 95.1 mph. His performance and strong peripheral stats will lead to pitching-starved teams lining up for Gausman’s services. The Angels—who helped unlock the potential of Gausman’s former Orioles teammate, Dylan Bundy—would be a strong fit.
24. Jeremy Jeffress, RP
Age: 33 | 2020 Stats: 4-1, 8 SV, 23 1/3 IP, 1.54 ERA, 19.3 K%, 13.6 BB%, 1.2 WAR (3.2 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Cubs | Best Fit: Astros
Jeffress was one of the best bargains of last offseason. The 2018 All-Star signed with Chicago for $850,000 after a down year in Milwaukee and ended up being the team’s most reliable bullpen arm. It must be said, however, that a little bit of luck was on his side. Opposing hitters were held to a microscopic .161 BABIP and Jeffress got away with below-average strikeout and walk rates. The difference between his ERA (1.54) and FIP (4.09) was the fifth-largest among relievers. But dependable relievers have never been more valuable and Jeffress has a long track record of success compared to most of his peers.
23. Ha-Seong Kim, SS
Age: 25 | 2020 Stats (KBO): 137 G, 619 PA, .308/.399/.526, 30 HR, 111 R, 109 RBI, 23 SB
Current Team: Kiwoom Heroes | Best Fit: Giants
The lone international player to appear on this list, Kim will be among the most sought-after hitters on the market. He'll be one of four everyday shortstops available after his KBO team, the Kiwoom Heroes, post him, making him available to sign with all 30 major league clubs for a contract of any length or amount.
Kim made his KBO debut in 2014 at age 18, and became a regular the following year. He's hit well each season since but has taken his offensive game to the next level the past two seasons. Kim has drawn comparisons to a recent KBO-to-MLB shortstop in Jung Ho Kang. Kang had more power than Kim, though Kim is regarded as a better contact hitter, baserunner and fielder. Kim has split time at shortstop and third base the past two seasons and could end up seeing time at second base as well once he arrives in the majors. His youth and offensive prowess make him one of the most intriguing players available this winter.
22. Andrelton Simmons, SS
Age: 31 | 2020 Stats: .297/.346/.356, 95 OPS+, 0 HR, 19 R, 10 RBI, 2 SB, 0.3 WAR (0.8 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Angels | Best Fit: Phillies
Simmons hits the market at an inopportune time, as he’s missed 89 games due to injury over the past two seasons. Most of his value comes on the defensive side, which remained at an all-world level through 2019. The advanced metrics were not quite as high on him in 2020, though defensive metrics can be a bit fickle and unreliable in small sample sizes. Offensively, Simmons produced at about a league-average clip, rarely striking out though ranking near the bottom of the league in making hard contact. The Phillies could be an interesting fit, as no team induced groundballs at a higher rate than Philadelphia. Simmons could replace Didi Gregorius, who also enters free agency this offseason.
21. Kolten Wong, 2B
Age: 30 | 2020 Stats: .265/.350/.326, 87 OPS+, 1 HR, 26 R, 16 RBI, 5 SB, 1.1 WAR (3.0 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Cardinals | Best Fit: Nationals
The Cardinals made the somewhat surprising decision to decline Wong's $12.5 million club option for 2021, making him a free agent a year ahead of schedule. Wong's bat has been fickle throughout his career, but his defense has been consistently superb. He hit for virtually no power in 2020, with just seven extra-base hits in 208 plate appearances, and he had among the lowest average exit velocity (86.5 mph) among qualified hitters. Wong's contact skills and and strike zone control keep his offensive contributions hovering in the vicinity of league-average, so he'll draw plenty of interest from teams in need of an everyday second baseman.
20. Brad Hand, RP
Age: 31 | 2020 Stats: 2-1, 16 SV, 22 IP, 2.05 ERA, 33.7 K%, 4.7 BB%, 0.7 WAR (1.9 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Indians | Best Fit: White Sox
Cleveland placed Hand on waivers with the intention of declining his $10 million club option for 2021. Hand led the majors in saves in 2020 and didn't allow a home run in 23 appearances while posting the lowest walk rate of his career. Hand's slider remained elite last season, with opposing hitters batting .139 against it and whiffing 38.6% of the time. Hand has posted a 2.70 ERA in 320 innings since becoming a full-time relief pitcher, and would anchor the back end of any bullpen.
19. Trevor Rosenthal, RP
Age: 31 | 2020 Stats: 1-0, 11 SV, 23 2/3 IP, 1.90 ERA, 41.8 K%, 8.8 BB%, 1.2 WAR (3.2 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Padres | Best Fit: Padres
Rosenthal was back and better than ever for the Royals and Padres (we’ll ignore his messy playoff showing), notching personal bests in strikeout rate, ERA, WHIP (0.85) and opponents batting average (.146). Because of his renewed propensity for throwing triple-digit fastballs, missing bats and (mostly) avoiding walks, he may be viewed by some teams as the second best closer on the market after Liam Hendriks.
18. James McCann, C
Age: 31 | 2020 Stats: .289/.360/.536, 7 HR, 20 R, 15 RBI, 1 SB, 1.2 WAR (3.2 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: White Sox | Best Fit: Indians
Fellow free agent catcher J.T. Realmuto will get more attention (and a bigger contract), but McCann will also be high on teams’ wish lists. In a small sample size of 31 games, McCann proved his 2019 offensive breakout was no fluke. He walked more and struck out less than he did a season ago, while setting a new career high in isolated power (.247). McCann cut down on swinging at pitches outside of the zone, and upped his average exit velocity to a career-high 90.5 mph. Indians catchers hit a combined .138/.252/.199 last season, so Cleveland would be thrilled to steal McCann from a division rival and slot him into its lineup.
17. Shane Greene, RP
Age: 32 | 2020 Stats: 1-0, 0 SV, 27 2/3 IP, 2.60 ERA, 19.3 K%, 8.3 BB%, 1.0 WAR (2.7 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Braves | Best Fit: Reds
Originally a starter with the Yankees when he cracked the big leagues, Greene transformed himself into an All-Star reliever during his time in Detroit. He lost Atlanta’s closer role within 10 days of being traded there last year and never regained it, but recovered to become one of the team’s most reliable bullpen arms. Greene did post his lowest strikeout rate since converting to relief, but his velocity was consistent with last year’s measurements.
16. Taijuan Walker, SP
Age: 28 | 2020 Stats: 4-3, 53 1/3 IP, 2.70 ERA, 22.2 K%, 8.4 BB%, 1.3 WAR (3.5 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Blue Jays | Best Fit: Red Sox
After missing essentially two full seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Walker stayed healthy in 2020 and turned in more than encouraging results. Though his average fastball velocity (93.2 mph) didn’t quite return to its pre-surgery level (93.7 mph in 2017), it was incredibly effective. Opposing batters hit .156 against Walker’s fastball with a 23.1% whiff rate. There was a sizable gap between Walker’s 2020 ERA (2.70) and his FIP (4.56), tied for the third highest among pitchers with at least 50 innings. His age and talent will still make him an extremely in-demand option for teams in need of rotation help outside of a one-year rental.
15. Alex Colomé, RP
Age: 32 | 2020 Stats: 2-0, 12 SV, 22 1/3 IP, 0.81 ERA, 17.8 K%, 8.9 BB%, 1.0 WAR (2.7 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: White Sox | Best Fit: Giants
Colomé doesn’t have the velocity (average fastball: 94.7 mph) or strikeout numbers you would expect from an elite closer, but his resumé is undeniable. All-Star closer with the Rays in 2016. MLB saves leader (47) in 2017. Ranked first among relievers in win probability added (2.1) and second among AL relievers in ERA in 2020. After Colomè signed for one year and $10.5 million to return as Chicago’s closer last offseason, he'll be assured of more years and money this time around. San Francisco would have been a playoff team in 2020 with more stability at the back of the bullpen, something Colomé would certainly bring.
14. Masahiro Tanaka, SP
Age: 31 | 2020 Stats: 3-3, 48 IP, 3.56 ERA, 22.3 K%, 4.1 BB%, 0.7 WAR (1.9 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Yankees | Best Fit: Yankees
Tanaka may not have lived up to the initial hype of the $155 million deal he signed with New York, but he’s had a relatively high floor throughout his career despite never quite reaching his ceiling. He threw all of his pitches harder in 2020 than he did in 2019, to varying results. Hitters feasted on his fastball though Tanaka had success with his slider (40.6% whiff rate) and splitter (.207 batting average against). Yankees manager Aaron Boone has previously said he’d like to have Tanaka back in 2021, so expect New York to make a strong push at retaining him.
13. Justin Turner, 3B
Age: 36 | 2020 Stats: .307/.400/.460, 135 OPS+, 4 HR, 26 R, 23 RBI, 1 SB, 1.3 WAR (3.5 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Dodgers | Best Fit: Dodgers
It’s hard to imagine the Dodgers’ newly minted leader in career postseason home runs playing anywhere except Los Angeles at this stage of his career. But the only third baseman in our ranking should draw considerable interest on the open market after his seventh straight season with an OPS+ above 120. Turner tends to get banged up over the course of the regular season, but he’s a proven leader with a ton of playoff experience. Now, about joining the World Series celebration after testing positive for COVID-19...
12. Didi Gregorius, SS
Age: 31 | 2020 Stats: .284/.339/.488, 119 OPS+, 10 HR, 34 R, 40 RBI, 3 SB, 0.9 WAR (2.4 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Phillies | Best Fit: Angels
After missing half of the 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Gregorius signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia to re-establish his value. The gamble appears set to pay off, as he enjoyed a strong season at the plate. He cut down on his strikeouts while producing his typical strong power output. Gregorius didn’t make hard contact at his typical rate in 2020—with his average exit velocity dropping to 83.8 mph—though he hit to the opposite field more often to help buoy his average. We'll project a little quasi-shortstop swap, since the Angels could be a logical fit assuming Andrelton Simmons heads elsewhere in free agency.
11. Liam Hendriks, RP
Age: 32 | 2020 Stats: 3-1, 14 SV, 25 1/3 IP, 1.78 ERA, 40.2 K%, 3.3 BB%, 1.4 WAR (3.8 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Athletics | Best Fit: Twins
A year after finishing as runner-up for the AL Reliever of the Year behind Aroldis Chapman, Oakland’s Aussie fireman won the award this season after leading AL relievers with at least 20 innings in WHIP (0.67) and FIP (1.14) while ranking second in walk rate. His heroic three-inning scoreless outing during Game 3 of the ALDS proved his playoff mettle. It’s been quite the turnaround for a guy who’s been designated for assignment four times in his career, including as recently as June 2018. Now, he’s the best reliever on the free agent market and about to be handsomely compensated by some contender angling for smooth sailing in the ninth inning.
10. Michael Brantley, OF
Age: 34 | 2020 Stats: .300/.364/.476, 126 OPS+, 5 HR, 24 R, 22 RBI, 2 SB, 1.5 WAR (4.1 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Astros | Best Fit: Yankees
Brantley was his typical productive self in 2020, posting his third straight season with an OPS+ of 120 or better. Entering his age-34 season, Brantley still has elite bat-to-ball skills, despite his strikeout rate increasing to 15%, which was his highest since 2011. His contact numbers were slightly more concerning, though, as his expected batting average was just .263. Brantley made a career-high 26 starts as designated hitter in 2020, so his value going forward relies largely on how much faith teams have in his hit tool aging well. The Yankees did not get strong production out of the DH spot or left field last season, so they could look to Brantley as a replacement for Brett Gardner.
9. Nelson Cruz, DH
Age: 40 | 2020 Stats: .303/.397/.505, OPS+, 16 HR, 33 R, 33 RBI, 0 SB, 1.6 WAR (4.3 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Twins | Best Fit: Twins
Cruz showed few signs of slowing down in his age-39 season. In fact, he posted the highest OPS+ of his career, and has compiled his two best OPS marks during his two years in Minnesota. The late-blooming slugger has reportedly expressed a desire for a two-year deal, which may be tougher to secure if the National League doesn’t keep the DH next season. The only places that really make sense for him are Minnesota, Chicago and Toronto. The Twins should be motivated to keep around their most powerful bat after a decline from their record pace at the plate in 2019 and an early playoff exit.
8. Jackie Bradley Jr., OF
Age: 31 | 2020 Stats: .283/.364/.450, 118 OPS+, 7 HR, 32 R, 22 RBI, 5 SB, 1.8 WAR (4.7 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Red Sox | Best Fit: Cubs
Bradley remained elite defensively in center field and turned in his strongest offensive performance in years. He posted career bests in strikeout rate (22.1%) and walk rate (10.6%), while tying for the league lead in outs above average. Bradley’s BABIP was .343, while his hard-hit rate dipped to a career low 36.1%, so he’ll likely undergo some regression at the plate. Still, merely approaching league-average offensive production would make Bradley a valuable asset to any team. He could fit in nicely with Theo Epstein and the Cubs if Chicago is willing to move Ian Happ to left field.
7. Marcus Stroman, SP
Age: 30 | 2019 Stats: 10-13, 184 1/3 IP, 3.22 ERA, 20.5 K%, 7.5 BB%, 4.6 WAR
Current Team: Mets | Best Fit: Mariners
Stroman opted out of the season after partially tearing his calf in summer camp to avoid risk of infection or re-injury, and that appears to have been a wise decision. His 2019 All-Star season, which was split between Toronto and New York, has set him up well. If Trevor Bauer truly intends to sign a one-year contract, MLB’s shortest starter could end up drawing the largest amount of guaranteed money among free agent pitchers this offseason. Stroman has never recorded a FIP above 4.00 despite his middling strikeout numbers. He would seem to be an excellent candidate for the crosstown Yankees to splurge on since Masahiro Tanaka could leave town, but a critical Twitter post of his would-be teammates may have burnt that bridge. Jerry Dipoto could be looking to make a big move after Seattle’s rebuild showed progress this season, and Stroman would be a strong co-anchor of the young team’s rotation along with Marco Gonzales.
6. Marcus Semien, SS
Age: 30 | 2020 Stats: .223/.305/.374, 91 OPS+, 7 HR, 28 R, 23 RBI, 4 SB, 0.3 WAR (0.8 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Athletics | Best Fit: Athletics
Semien’s offensive production crashed back down to earth following a stellar 2019, in which he hit 33 home runs and finished third in AL MVP voting. After reducing his strikeout rate to 13.7% that season, Semien struck out 21.2% of the time in 2020. Defensively, Semien ranked fourth among qualified shortstops in ultimate zone rating (UZR), and he’ll still fetch a high price given his offensive ceiling. A Bay Area native, Semien would surely be welcomed back in Oakland if the A’s make a strong enough offer. But if they cheap out, Cincinnati has a hole at shortstop and would love to make a splash after failing to score a run in the postseason.
5. Marcell Ozuna, OF
Age: 30 | 2020 Stats: .338/.431/.636, 175 OPS+, 18 HR, 38 R, 56 RBI, 0 SB, 2.3 WAR (6.2 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Braves | Best Fit: White Sox
Ozuna may be the best pure bat available. No free agent barreled up the ball more often in 2020 than Ozuna (9.7% of plate appearances). He also led the National League in home runs and RBI, finishing third in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. A qualifying offer from St. Louis hurt his market last offseason, and while that won’t be the case this time around, American League teams may be more aggressive in pursing him if the National League doesn’t adopt the DH rule for 2021. Atlanta mostly slotted him at DH, and a 2018 shoulder injury appears to have sapped his arm strength. The White Sox could use him to replace the disappointing Edwin Encarnación and augment an already intimidating, entertaining lineup.
4. George Springer, OF
Age: 31 | 2020 Stats: .265/.359/.540, 140 OPS+, 14 HR, 37 R, 32 RBI, 1 SB, 1.9 WAR (5.1 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Astros | Best Fit: Astros
In a year when several Astros headliners struggled at the plate, it was another standout year for Springer. He posted an OPS+ of 140 or better in for the third time in the last four seasons, cutting down his strikeout rate to a career-best 17.1%. On average, he’s homered once every 14.7 plate appearances over the past two years compared to once every 23 plate appearances before 2019. Springer remains strong enough defensively to stick in center, though he can shift to right when needed. Expect Houston to make a strong offer to keep Springer as part of the team’s core going forward.
3. J.T. Realmuto, C
Age: 30 | 2020 Stats: .266/.349/.491, 123 OPS+, 11 HR, 33 R, 32 RBI, 4 SB, 1.2 WAR (3.2 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Phillies | Best Fit: Mets
Realmuto is reportedly looking to sign a “record-shattering” contract in the range of $200 million. That seems to be at odds with Phillies owner John Middleton’s hinted desire to cut payroll. So, despite Phillies fans and Bryce Harper alike pleading for the team to re-sign Realmuto, it appears the most well-rounded catcher in the game will be suiting up elsewhere in 2021. And the fit with the division rival Mets is almost too obvious. An obvious positional need with Wilson Ramos and Robinson Chirinos both having their 2021 options declined? Check. A right-handed bat to stick in the middle of a lefty-heavy lineup? Check. A new owner in Steve Cohen—now the richest team owner in baseball—looking to put his imprint on the club? Check—as in, what Realmuto will likely be receiving from the Mets for many years.
2. DJ LeMahieu, INF
Age: 32 | 2020 Stats: .364/.421/.590, 177 OPS+, 10 HR, 41 R, 27 RBI, 3 SB, 2.8 WAR (7.6 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Yankees | Best Fit: Yankees
After a strong debut season in pinstripes, LeMahieu somehow outdid himself in an abridged 2020 campaign. He won his second career batting title while leading the AL in on-base percentage and OPS+. He made starts at first, second and third base, though he’ll likely continue to see the majority of his time at second. LeMahieu has undoubtedly benefited from spending his entire home career hitting at Coors Field and Yankee Stadium, but he combines elite bat-to-ball skills with an excellent track record of making hard contact. LeMahieu has said publicly that he wants to stay in New York, and the Yankees would certainly be happy to have him back.
1. Trevor Bauer, SP
Age: 30 | 2020 Stats: 5-4, 73.0 IP, 1.73 ERA, 36.0 K%, 6.1 BB%, 2.7 WAR (7.3 WAR over 162 games)
Current Team: Reds | Best Fit: Mets
The most controversial player outside of Houston was spectacular in the shortened season that will almost certainly result in his first Cy Young award. That’d make Bauer the first free agent coming off a Cy Young campaign since Greg Maddux in 1992. Bauer has said he wants to play for a contender, approach teams about an opportunity to pitch every fourth day and is open to everything from a one-year contract to the longer-term deals more customary for players of his status. Whether it’s via a record-setting one-year agreement or a multi-year pact that’s too good to turn down, here’s to betting lifelong Mets fan and soon-to-be Mets owner Steve Cohen opens up his stewardship of the franchise by bringing both the best pitcher and catcher available to Queens.