As teams around the MLB get set to break out the chequebook this winter, TSN Blue Jays Reporter Scott Mitchell and TSN Baseball Insider Steve Phillips rank the top 50 free agents, predicting their landing spots and examining what sort of payday they might be looking at. Here are the top 50 players on the market from around the MLB:
1. Gerrit Cole
Position: SP Age: 29 2018 Salary: $13.5M
2019 Stats: 212.1 IP, 20-5, 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 7.4 WAR
Mitchell's Take: Dominant? Check. Durable? Check. In his prime? Check. Legit aces don’t hit the market often, but Cole is doing just that at the age of 29, and he’s coming off a Cy Young-worthy season. The big right-hander posted a career-best 2.50 ERA and struck out 326 hitters en route to 7.4 total fWAR. There aren’t any red flags, either, as he’s now thrown three consecutive seasons of 200-plus innings. The Newport Beach, Calif., native — geography could be an important factor with both the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres ready to pursue top-flight starters — is going to break the bank.
Phillips’ Fit: Los Angeles Angels
The Yankees and Rangers will go hard after Cole but the L.A. Angels will land him. They want him and he wants them. The Angels hired Joe Maddon, signalling they are all-in on winning. L.A. desperately needs pitching to support their Mike Trout-led offence. Cole is from Southern California and has made it clear to teammates and friends that going home is his desire, if all things are equal.
Projected Price: Seven years/$245 million
2. Anthony Rendon
Position: 3B Age: 29 2019 Salary: $18.8M
2019 Stats: .319 BA, 34 HR, 126 RBI, 1.010 OPS, 6.2 WAR
Mitchell's Take: Like Cole, Rendon picked a great time to author a career year, slashing .319/.412/.598 with 34 homers and a 1.010 OPS in 146 games for the World Series champs this season. But Rendon also has a long track record of star-level production, as it’s his third straight year of at least 6.2 fWAR and fourth in the past six seasons. The 29-year-old also seems to have gotten over some early career injury issues. Oh, and he also plays Gold Glove-caliber defence at the hot corner. He’s the best position player on the market by a wide margin.
Phillips’ Fit: Texas Rangers
The Nationals will make a run to try and keep him, but their preference for deferring significant portions of the contract will cost them in this case. The Texas Rangers are moving into a new stadium in 2020 and will make the Houston native the centrepiece of their team.
Projected Price: Seven years/$217 million
3. Stephen Strasburg
Position: SP Age: 31 2019 Salary: $38.3M
2019 Stats: 209.0 IP, 18-6, 3.32 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 5.7 WAR
Mitchell's Take: By opting out of his final four years and $100 million with the Nationals, the former No. 1 overall pick sets himself up for another huge payday, and get this — he’s coming off a career year, too. Two years older than Cole, Strasburg threw 200 innings for the second time in his career — and first time since 2014 — and also posted a ground-ball rate above 50 per cent for the first time in seven seasons. Then the San Diego native — see Cole above for why this matters — went out and claimed the World Series MVP, simply dominating the month of October with a 1.98 ERA over six starts.
Phillips’ Fit: Washington Nationals
The Nationals won’t want to lose Rendon and Strasburg this off-season. The big righty opted-out in an effort to get more from the Nationals. He will leverage his best season and World Series MVP award into a big payday, blowing away the four years/$100 million that originally remained on his contract.
Projected Price: Six years/$192 million
4. Madison Bumgarner
Position: SP Age: 30 2019 Salary: $12M
2019 Stats: 207.2 IP, 9-9, 3.90 ERA, 1,12 WHIP, 3.2 WAR
Mitchell's Take: If you were forced to guess the ages of Cole, Strasburg and Bumgarner, the bet here is that you’d think the lefty was the oldest, maybe by quite a bit. It just feels like Bumgarner has been around forever, and his resume backs that up. But Bumgarner is only heading into his age-30 season and a bounceback year in 2019 provides hope that he could have a lot more left in the tank, similar to another lefty a little further down this list, Cole Hamels. Shoulder and hand injuries limited him to 111 and 129.2 innings in 2017 and 2018, respectively, but Bumgarner got back to his workhorse ways in 2019, throwing 207.2 frames for the lowly Giants. His 3.90 ERA was the highest of his 11-year career, but teams should be asking themselves whether this is truly the decline phase or just a blip like Justin Verlander endured before rebounding.
Phillips' Fit: Atlanta Braves
Bumgarner is from North Carolina so there is a geographic fit. Plus, he will want to stay in the NL where he can hit. The Braves replace Keuchel with another veteran lefty with a big postseason pedigree to help their young pitchers take it to the next level.
Projected Price: Five years/$110 million
5. Zack Wheeler
Position: SP Age: 29 2019 Salary: $5.9M
2019 Stats: 195.1 IP, 11-8, 3.96 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 4.7 WAR
Mitchell's Take: What’s your appetite for risk? Even though Wheeler has posted back-to-back seasons of 4-plus fWAR, it’s hard to forget his dubious track record of health and the 195.1 innings he threw in 2019 represent a new career-high. On the other hand, teams could be getting a top-of-the-rotation starter for something of a bargain if the 29-year-old continues stay healthy and fine tune things. Wheeler’s strikeouts are going up, his walks are going down, and his ability to suppress home runs is a key skill in this homer-happy era. He also posted a 2.83 ERA in the second half. It will be interesting to see where Wheeler’s total value ultimately ends up, but there’s sure to be a lot of suitors.
Phillips’ Fit: New York Yankees
Wheeler is the fall-back for those who lose out on Cole. Clubs will look at him as the next Cole; a young guy with a big arm and tremendous potential. He would be a guy the Blue Jays should pursue as there is untapped potential,but the level of interest will drive up the price. The Yankees have coveted him for years, hoping to steal him in a trade with the Mets. Now they just buy him.
Projected Price: Five years/ $105 million
6. Josh Donaldson
Position: 3B Age: 33 2019 Salary: $23M
2019 Stats: .259 BA, 37 HR, 94 RBI, .900 OPS, 4.9 WAR
Mitchell's Take: The Bringer of Rain was one of the first prominent free agents to sign last winter, deciding against trolling for multi-year deals in order to bet on himself with a one-year, $23-million offer from long time JD fan Alex Anthopoulos. Figuring he could get healthy enough to continue being an elite bat in his age-33 season, Donaldson didn’t disappoint, slashing .259/.379/.521 with 37 homers. Donaldson also rebounded with the glove, with Defensive Runs Saved handing him a plus-15 mark in 2019, his best since 2014. Most importantly, he played 155 games.
Phillips’ Fit: Atlanta Braves
Donaldson came all the way back this season just as the Braves hoped and expected. His bat, glove and leadership. Plus, Austin Reilly showed enough ability in the outfield and enough holes at the plate that he isn’t quite ready to be the everyday third baseman. Donadlson made $23 million in each of the last two seasons on one-year deals. Age (34) will limit the magnitude of this deal.
Projected Price: Two years with vesting option/$46 million plus $23 million option year salary.
7. Hyun-Jin Ryu
Position: SP Age: 32 2019 Salary: $17.9M
2019 Stats: 182.2 IP, 14-5, 2.32 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 4.8 WAR
Mitchell's Take: Another player who picked a great time to have a career year, Ryu went from accepting the Dodgers’ $17.9-million qualifying offer last winter to starting the All-Star Game for the National League and throwing 182.2 innings, by far his highest total since 2013. Heading into his age-33 season, the lefty control specialist has proven he’s good … when healthy. Unfortunately, Ryu has only been able to make 30 starts in a season once, and he only got to 29 this year. He was also much better in the first half (1.73 ERA) than the second (3.18 ERA). The fact he isn’t eligible for a qualifying offer, meaning no draft pick compensation, helps his cause.
Phillips’ Fit: San Diego Padres
The Padres have seen a lot of Ryu in the NL West as he has gone 8-1 with a 2.06 ERA in his career against them. They want him in their uniform now and will get him. They will sign him as he enters his age-33 season.
Projected Price: Three years/$60 million
8. Didi Gregorius
Position: SS Age: 29 2019 Salary: $11.7M
2019 Stats: .276 BA, 16 HR, 61 RBI, .718 OPS, 0.9 WAR
Mitchell's Take: Here we find our first player who didn’t come up with a career season in his walk year. Sidelined until June due to Tommy John surgery late last year, Gregorius’ bat wasn’t what it once was when he returned. After posting a career-best .335 on-base percentage in 2018 and continuing to show more pop than ever before with three-straight 20-homer seasons, Didi slashed just .238/.276/.441 in 82 games. The good news is there’s still enough power and the glove is solid, but he wasn’t as selective and it sapped his overall value. The good news for Gregorius is he’s by far the best middle infielder available.
Phillips' Fit: Cleveland Indians
Cleveland has to manage their roster and budget in a smallish market. They can’t afford to keep Francisco Lindor and they can’t afford not trading him. They will score big on a Lindor deal and replace him with Gregorius. The Indians paid Lindor $10.55 million in 2019 and he is slated to make about $17 million in arbitration.
Projected Price: Five years/$60 million
9. Yasmani Grandal
Position: C Age: 31 2019 Salary: $16M
2019 Stats: .246 BA, 28 HR, 77 RBI, .848 OPS, 5.2 WAR
Mitchell's Take: Grandal had multi-year offers on the table last winter, but like Donaldson, he decided to bet on himself in hopes of finding a better deal a year later. Grandal did his part, going out and proving he’s one of the best all-around catchers in the game, earning high marks for his defence while slashing .246/.380/.468 with 28 homers from a position teams dream of getting that type of production at. Heading into his age-31 season, Grandal’s walks are going up, his strikeouts are dropping, and his defence is elite. That’s a pretty good combination.
Phillips' Fit: Milwaukee Brewers
Grandal bet on himself last year by signing a one-year deal for $18.25 million, even when he had a number of multi-year offers. He didn’t get the offers he thought he deserved so he took a chance he could have a big year and become a free agent again without the qualifying offer attached. The Brewers saw his value offensively and defensively and lock him up again.
Projected Price: Four years/$68 million
10. Nicholas Castellanos
Position: OF Age: 27 2019 Salary: $9.9M
2019 Stats: .289 BA, 27 HR, 73 RBI, .863 OPS, 2.8 WAR
Mitchell's Take: A bit of an afterthought as a last-minute deal at the July 31 trade deadline, Castellanos went on to slash .321/.356/.646 with 16 homers in 51 games for the Chicago Cubs, helping to keep their postseason hopes alive in the second half. He finished with a career-high 27 bombs and an .863 OPS, but there could be room for more as Castellanos will only be 28 next season. The issue, however — and the reason he’s not in the top 10 on this list — is that he’s a well below average outfielder and a move to first base would only put more pressure on the bat to continue its upward trajectory.
Phillips' Fit: St. Louis Cardinals
Castellanos complained while a Detroit Tiger that his power was robbed at Comerica Park (11 HR in 100 games). When he was traded to the Cubs at the deadline he proved that he was right, as he popped 16 homers in 51 games. His outfield defence isn’t very good but it is playable still. He will play at 28 next season and would be a nice fit for the Blue Jays lineup. The Jays won’t look at it the same way as they have depth in numbers in the outfield. The Cards saw Castellanos’ impact first-hand in the NL Central race. He will replace Marcell Ozuna in left field.
Projected Price: Six years/$90 million
11. Marcell Ozuna
Position: OF Age: 28 2019 Salary: $12.2M
2019 Stats: .241 BA, 29 HR, 89 RBI, .800 OPS, 2.6 WAR
Mitchell's Take: The top tier of outfielders — Castellanos, Ozuna and Yasiel Puig — all come with similar strengths as well as limitations. Ozuna has graded out fairly neutral with the glove over his career, but he’s far from pretty out there and he’s limited to left field. He hasn’t been able to match the 5.0 fWAR season he put up in 2017 with the Miami Marlins in his two campaigns in St. Louis, but Ozuna dealt with a shoulder injury in 2018 and the hard-hit rate and exit velocities say he’s a decent bet to bounce back even further in his age-29 year.
Phillips' Fit: Cleveland Indians
The Indians need outfielders. They picked up Franmil Reyes last year along with Yasiel Puig at the trade deadline as they desperately tried to add offence on the fly. Ozuna’s arm hasn’t rebounded from shoulder surgery and his range has declined a bit from his Gold Glove season in 2017 with the Marlins, but he is still acceptable. Ozuna will satisfy a real need in left field.
Projected Price: Four years/$50 million
12. Jose Abreu
Position: 1B Age: 32 2019 Salary: $16M
2019 Stats: .284 BA, 33 HR, 123 RBI, .834 OPS, 1.9 WAR
Mitchell's Take: When it comes to counting stats, Abreu has been the model of consistency over six seasons. He’s hit between 22 and 36 homers each season, including three campaigns of 30-plus. He’s also driven in 100-plus runs in five of six seasons. The issue is he doesn’t walk enough to be an elite first base bat, and his pedestrian on-base percentages have turned him into a league-average option over the past two years. Teams are becoming more and more hesitant to pay one-dimensional bats, but Abreu is the best one available at the cold corner.
Phillips' Fit: Chicago White Sox
The White Sox opted to not make Abreu available at the trade deadline, hoping to let him know they wanted him back for 2020 and beyond. He has been the centre of their offence for six years. The Red Sox could use him but they may not have their house in order regarding a possible trade of Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez’s opt out in time to compete for Abreu’s services.
Projected Price: Three years/$50 million
13. Yasiel Puig
Position: OF Age: 28 2019 Salary: $9.7M
2019 Stats: .267 BA, 24 HR, 84 RBI, .785 OPS, 1.2 WAR
Mitchel''s Take: Every so often, Puig dazzles with a tape-measure home run or a chance to show off his cannon for an arm. But, overall, the Cuban outfielder has been worth more than 2.0 fWAR once in the past five seasons and his advanced defensive metrics aren’t going in the right direction. Only 29 in 2020, there’s a chance Puig still has a career-year in his bat but he may have to wait until that happens to get a long-term deal.
Phillips' Fit: San Francisco Giants
The Giants need outfield help. Athleticism is important in Oracle Park. Puig has the kind of power and tools that work there when applied properly. General manager Farhan Zaidi knows Puig well from his time with the Dodgers. Puig goes back to the NL West.
Projected Price: Four years/$50 million
14. Mike Moustakas
Position: 3B Age: 31 2019 Salary: $7M
2019 Stats: .254 BA, 35 HR, 87 RBI, .845 OPS, 2.8 WAR
Mitchell's Take: A free agent for the third straight winter, no player has been frustrated more by the process than the former Kansas City Royals third baseman. Maybe the third time is the charm in his search for a multi-year deal, especially coming off a 35-homer season. While Moose has proven he’s a solid third base option with both the bat and glove, he’s also proven he can play a decent second base in a pinch and can hit both lefties and righties.
Phillips' Fit: Washington Nationals
The hard-nosed team-player finally gets a multi-year deal. He has been a solution in Milwaukee each of the last two years. He has shown grit, toughness and versatility. He has come up big in the clutch. The Nationals will have to replace Anthony Rendon at third base and they will turn to the experienced Moustakas.
Projected Price: 3 years/$30 million
15. Edwin Encarnacion
Position: DH Age: 36 2019 Salary: $21.6M
2019 Stats: .244 BA, 34 HR, 86 RBI, .875 OPS, 2.5 WAR
Mitchell's Take: Three years younger, Encarnacion is trending towards Nelson Cruz status as a big DH bat that continues to produce well into his late thirties. At the age of 36, Edwin went out and slashed .244/.344/.531 with 34 homers, the eighth straight season he’s hit at least 32 baseballs over the wall. And he did it in only 109 games. A $20 million option for 2020 was too much for the Yankees, but Encarnacion’s consistency is attractive.
Phillips' Fit: Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have long appreciated Encarnacion but never pulled the trigger on a trade or a free agent offer. With J.D. Martinez opting out plus a need at first base, Encarnacion is a good fit. He has hit more than 30 homers in eight straight seasons and can still deliver in the clutch. He is more affordable than Martinez and is a short-term option.
Projected Price: One year/$14 million
16. Dallas Keuchel
Position: SP Age: 31 2019 Salary: $13M
2019 Stats: 112.2 IP, 8-8, 3.75 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 0.8 WAR
Mitchell's Take: A victim of the qualifying offer and the draft pick compensation attached to it, Keuchel waited until that disappeared following the draft in June. He still managed to secure $13 million for two-thirds of a season’s work, but he’ll be seeking multiple years this winter after posting a 3.75 ERA across 19 starts for the Braves. The southpaw isn’t dominant or flashy, and he’s not going to get paid like his 2015 Cy Young might suggest, but he provides a safe, innings-eating option — and a lefty to boot — for a contender seeking a No. 3 starter.
Phillips’ Fit: Minnesota Twins
The Cardinals have a solid infield defense that can support a groundball sinkerballer like Keuchel. They are much improved on team defence and Keuchel will take advantage of that strength. He would also be a great leader for some of the young arms in the Cardinals organization. This will be a good test of his value as he heads to free agency without the qualifying offer attached to him
Projected Price: Three years/$36 million
17. Will Smith
Position: RP Age: 30 2019 Salary: $4.2M
2019 Stats: 65.1 IP, 34 SV, 2.76 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 1.2 WAR
Mitchell's Take: With Aroldis Chapman re-upping in the Bronx, Smith is the clear-cut top reliever on the market. That should help the lefty in a year where bullpen implosions around baseball may force GMs to re-think lavish multi-year deals for relievers. Over the past two seasons, Smith has been lights-out, registering ERAs of 2.55 and 2.76, while upping his strikeouts to an elite level. He blew away lefties to the tune of a .157/.167/.229 slash line against in 2019.
Phillips’ Fit: Los Angeles Dodgers
L.A. almost wanted to add a left-handed complement to the fading Kenley Jansen at the end of the game at last year’s trade deadline. The final two months proved they need it even more now than previously thought. They know Smith well from his years in San Francisco.
Projected Price: Three years/$36 million
18. Jake Odorizzi
Position: SP Age: 29 2019 Salary: $9.5M
2019 Stats: 159.0 IP, 15-7, 3.51 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 4.3 WAR
Mitchell's Take: Another player who picked a great time for a career year, Odorizzi struck out a career-high 10.1 batters per nine innings, while keeping the ball in the ballpark for the second straight season. There are some red flags, however. One is the fact he was much better early than late (4.77 ERA from June 15 on), plus the fact left-handed hitters enjoyed some success with a .277 average.
Phillips’ Fit: Milwaukee Brewers
It is time for Odorizzi to move to the NL. He is 10-6 with a 3.39 ERA against the NL in his career. He is more of a two-time-through-the-lineup guy which means having a good bullpen behind him is critical. Milwaukee has that. He is from the Midwest, so the fit is made even better. There has been some chatter about the Jays having interest in Odorizzi but he has not fared all that well in the AL East in his career.
Projected Price: Three years/$30 million
19. Julio Teheran
Position: SP Age: 28 2019 Salary: $11.1M
2019 Stats: 174.2 IP, 10-11, 3.81 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 1.6 WAR
Mitchell's Take: At one time the top prospect in the Braves system, Teheran has teased more than he’s actually produced in his seven full big-league campaigns. The slight righty has three sub-3.21-ERA seasons on his resume, but has spent the last three seasons hovering around 4.00. The Braves thought $12 million was too much for his age-29 season, but there’s interesting upside here.
Phillips’ Fit: Philadelphia Phillies
Teheran is still young (29 next season) and has been very effective in the NL East. He isn’t overpowering but usually gives his team a chance to win. A change of scenery may inspire him to go to the next level. Philadelphia desperately needs to upgrade its rotation in performance and predictability. Teheran does both.
Projected Price: Three years/$39 million
20. Rick Porcello
Position: SP Age: 30 2019 Salary: $21.1M
2019 Stats: 174.1 IP, 14-12, 5.52 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 1.8 WAR
Mitchell's Take: Similar to Bumgarner, Porcello is another pitcher who feels like he’s been around forever after debuting at the age of 20, and he’ll head into his 12th big-league season as a 31-year-old next spring. Porcello’s final product wasn’t pretty this season as he pitched to a 5.52 ERA in 32 starts, the worst qualified ERA of 61 starters across baseball. There’s some buy-low upside at the right price, especially if Porcello can escape the AL East.
Phillips’ Fit: New York Mets
It is time for the former AL Cy Young Award winner to move to the NL and face weaker lineups. He doesn’t get many swings and misses in this launch angle era as he is a sinkerball pitcher. The Mets are in win-now mode and can have an adequate infield defence. Porcello grew up in New Jersey, so it could be a bit of a homecoming.
Projected Price: Three years/$30 million
21. Michael Pineda
Position: SP Age: 30 2019 Salary: $8M
2019 Stats: 146.0 IP, 11-5, 4.01 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 2.7 WAR
Mitchell's Take: The hulking right-hander was enjoying a successful return from a year and a half lost to Tommy John surgery when he was popped for a banned diuretic and was suspended 60 games in September. Not only did it cost him more than $1 million this season, it’s going to cost him in free agency, too, as Pineda will miss the first 39 games of 2020. After posting a 2.76 ERA over his last 11 starts, he’s an intriguing buy-low candidate heading into his age-31 season.
Phillips’ Fit: Minnesota Twins
The Twins invested blood, sweat and tears into Pineda and his rehab back from Tommy John surgery only to be rewarded with a PED suspension in early September. Everyone agreed that it was a mistake by Pineda as he was trying to lose weight and not gain strength by his PED usage. The Twins will be forgiving and with Pineda grateful for it, they will make a deal.
Projected Price: Two years/$18 million
22. Cole Hamels
Position: SP Age: 35 2019 Salary: $20M
2019 Stats: 141.2 IP, 7-7, 3.81 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 2.5 WAR
Mitchell's Take: No longer the front-of-the-rotation arm he once was, Hamels is still a solid rotation piece for a contender after posting a 3.81 ERA over 27 starts with the Cubs. Those numbers look even better when you consider he was sporting a 2.98 ERA through the end of June before an oblique injury led to a second half collapse.
Phillips’ Fit: Los Angeles Angels
The Angels desperately need to add pitching and although he is not quite what he once was, Hamels would be a solid No. 3 starter behind Gerrit Cole and Shohei Ohtani. Hamels is a West Coast (San Diego) guy and will finally be able to pitch closer to home.
Projected Price: One year/$13 million
23. Tanner Roark
Position: SP Age: 33 2019 Salary: $10M
2019 Stats: 165.1 IP, 10-10, 4.35 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 2.0 WAR
Mitchell's Take: Roark was only able to haul 165.1 innings this season, which led to the burly righty’s worst fWAR since 2013 at an even 2.0. There’s nothing sexy about what the 33-year-old brings to the table, but he’s capable of pitching at the back end of a rotation for a contender and a decent contract comparable could be the three-year, $30-million deal the Texas Rangers gave Lance Lynn last winter.
Phillips’ Fit: Oakland A’s
The A’s have a history of trading for starters like Roark at the trade deadline and then resigning them the next season after making them better. Roark did a nice job for the A’s after coming over from Cincinnati. He is an affordable starter on a short-term deal.
Projected Price: One year $10 million
24. Kyle Gibson
Position: SP Age: 32 2019 Salary: $8.1M
2019 Stats: 160.0 IP, 13-7, 4.84 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 2.6 WAR
Mitchell's Take: On the surface, Gibson’s season was about as average as it gets. He totalled 2.6 fWAR, ran up a 4.84 ERA and won 13 games. But Gibson ended up losing his rotation spot in September and was generally seen as a frustrating pitcher every fifth day, nibbling too much and allowing too many home runs. On the bright side, Gibson’s strikeout totals rose for a fourth straight year.
Phillips’ Fit: San Francisco Giants
Gibson is a change-of-scenery target. He has been in Minnesota so long that maybe hearing a different message will get him to become more consistent. He has shown flashes but has never locked in on a consistent approach. He is a serviceable starter whose stuff plays better in the NL.
Projected Price: One year/$9 million
25. Shogo Akiyama
Position: OF Age: 31 2019 Salary: $2.1M
2019 Stats (Japan): .303 BA, 20 HR, 62 RBI, .864 OPS
Mitchell's Take: After posting an .863 OPS with 20 homers and 12 stolen bases for the Seibu Lions last season, the 31-year-old outfielder decided it was time to see what North America is all about and filed for international free agency. Unfortunately, Akiyama fractured his right foot Oct. 31 and will have to deal with that this winter, but when healthy he’s considered a decent defender — he played centre but many think he will be a better fit in left heading into his age-32 season — with a contact-and-speed-oriented approach from the left side of the plate.
Phillips’ Fit: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs need a centrefielder and a lead-off hitter. Akiyama solves both problems. He is a veteran who has participated in international competition. He will handle the pressure and atmosphere in Chicago. A recent broken foot won’t scare the Cubs away as he has been one of the most durable players in Japan.
Projected Price: Three years/$27 million
26. Brett Gardner
Position: OF Age: 36 2019 Salary: $7.5M
2019 Stats: .251, 28 HR, 74 RBI, .829 OPS, 3.6 WAR
Mitchell's Take: Even in his mid-thirties, Gardner continues to be a useful piece. While he’s no longer the elite outfield defender he was a decade ago, the 36-year-old bashed a career-high 28 homers in 2019 and provided capable glovework in centre and left for an injury-ravaged Yankees team. Gardner hit .265/.346/.546 with 23 homers against right-handers this season.
Phillips’ Fit: New York Yankees
We have been down this road before and Gardner has ended up a Yankee. I could see the Cubs trying to make a play for the veteran outfielder, but he will go back to New York for one more season.
Projected Price: One year/$7.5 million
27. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo
Position: 1B/OF Age: 27 2019 Salary: $3.5M
2019 Stats (Japan): .272 BA, 29 HR, 79 RBI, .899 OPS
Mitchell's Take: Unlike Akiyama, Tsutsugo should be right in the middle of his prime, heading into his age-28 season, but other than dabbling at first base and potentially left field, his best position might be designated hitter. Tsutsugo posted a .906 OPS over parts of 10 seasons with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, including a career-best 44 homers and a .322/.430/.680 slash line in 2016. This year’s posting window runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 5, followed by a 30-day period to negotiate with teams once Tsutsugo is posted.
Phillips’ Fit: Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays will have to overcome the vision that Tsutsugo had of playing in the States created by his admiration of Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui. They will sell the diversity of Toronto and the reality that he could have two nations rooting him on if he plays north of the border. He is young (28) and could grow with the young Jays’ position players. Plus, he will be more affordable than similar sluggers who have put up big numbers in MLB.
Projected Price: Four years/$40 million, plus $7.625 million posting fee.
28. Josh Lindblom
Position: SP Age: 32 2019 Salary: $1.7M
2019 Stats (Korea): 194.2 IP, 20-3, 2.50 ERA, 0.99 WHIP
Mitchell's Take: A second-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008, Lindblom was quickly shifted to the bullpen in the upper minors and turned out to be a decent depth reliever for a couple of big-league seasons. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound right-hander then made the move to the KBO in 2015, had some success, returned to MLB for a failed one-year stint with the Pirates in 2017, before heading back to Korea. But something has clicked lately and the 32-year-old has been one of Korea’s best starters, posting 2.88 and 2.50 ERAs over the past two seasons, striking out about a batter per inning. MLB teams have reportedly been intrigued by his spin rates, and the Arizona Diamondbacks gave righty Merrill Kelly a two-year, $5.5-million deal (plus a couple of option years) last off-season with a similar resume. Kelly posted a 4.40 ERA and was worth 2.0 fWAR in his return stateside. It’s an upside gamble on the unknown, but one that won’t break the bank.
Phillips' Fit: Houston Astros
Houston drafted Lindblom out of high school in the third round and didn’t get him signed. They get their man this time around. If any organization knows what remaking pitchers is all about, it’s the Astros. Lindblom remade himself in Korea and is a great fit in a rotation behind Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. The Astros need to add depth in their rotation as evidenced by their lack of a No. 4 starter in the playoffs.
Projected Price: Two years/$12 million
29. Kole Calhoun
Position: OF Age: 32 2019 Salary: $14M
2019 Stats: .232 BA, 33 HR, 74 RBI, .792 OPS, 2.5 WAR
Mitchell's Take: A veteran of eight big-league seasons, the Angels thought Calhoun’s $14-million option was a tad pricey and cut the 32-year-old outfielder loose on the heels of a career-high 33 home runs. Still a good defensive outfielder with a strong, accurate arm in right field, Calhoun should have lots of interest in a weak outfield market.
Phillips' Fit: Arizona Diamondbacks
Calhoun is a Gold Glove-calibre defender with some pop in his bat. His game will play nicely at Chase Field. He is in the right price point for the D-Backs as well. He is a big upgrade from Adam Jones in right field.
Projected Price: Three years/ $33 million
30. Wade Miley
Position: SP Age: 32 2019 Salary: $4.5M
2019 Stats: 167.1 IP, 14-6, 3.98 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 2.0 WAR
Mitchell's Take: The 33-year-old southpaw has been able to out-pitch his peripherals over the last two seasons, leading to solid work at the back end of the Milwaukee and Houston rotations. At this point, there’s not much upside, but there are worse fifth starters out there.
Phillips’ Fit: Chicago White Sox
The White Sox need to add some pitching to go with their young position players. They are hoping to move from being a rebuilding team to a competitive team. Miley will have to overcome his end-of-season collapse, but he has remade himself before. He could be a candidate to follow an opener in Chicago.
Projected Price: One year/$4 million
31. Rich Hill
Position: SP Age: 39 2019 Salary: $18.6M
2019 Stats: 58.2 IP, 4-1, 2.45 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 0.9 WAR
Mitchell's Take: When Hill is healthy enough to pitch, he’s pretty darn good. Turning 40 in March, how many innings the crafty lefty will be available for next season is anyone’s guess. Over the duration of his recently-expired three-year, $48-million contract, Hill’s innings fell from 135.2 to 132.2 to just 58.2 in 2019. They’re still quality innings, there’s just not a lot of them. He’s clearly worth the most to a contender than can use him judiciously and, at times, sparingly throughout the season.
Phillips’ Fit: Texas Rangers
The Rangers are hoping to compete in 2020 and will need some veteran pitching. The AL is safer for Hill now as he won’t have to hit or run the bases with his recent knee injury. He will be an affordable option to the Rangers who could possibly use an opener before he enters the game.
Projected Price: One year/$6 million
32. Dellin Betances
Position: RP Age: 31 2019 Salary: $7.1M
2019 Stats: 0.2 IP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, 0.1 WAR
Mitchell's Take: Betances came into the season with five years of lights out bullpen work under his belt, and needed only one more to make it free agency as the top potential closer on the market. That didn’t happen. Shoulder issues shut him down until September, before the 6-foot-8, 265-pounder suffered a partially torn Achilles, one that didn’t require surgery. The injury clouds things, but there’s huge upside in a relief market short on top-tier options.
Phillips' Fit: Washington Nationals
Betances will likely look for a one-year deal to rebuild his free agent value. A shoulder impingement and then an Achilles injury wrecked his 2019 season. The Nationals will give Betances a chance to potentially close games which will further enhance his 2021 value.
Projected Price: One year/$6 million
free agents 33-50
|Rank||Player/Pos||Age||'19 Salary||BA/IP||HR/ERA||RBI/WHIP||WAR||Signs With|
|33||Travis d'Arnaud - C||30||$2.9M||.251||16||69||1.6||-|
|34||Will Harris - RP||35||$4.2M||60.0||1.50||0.93||1.1||-|
|35||Drew Pomeranz - SP||30||$1.5M||104.0||4.85||1.43||0.7||-|
|36||Robinson Chirinos - C||35||$5.7M||.238||17||58||2.3||-|
|37||Gio Gonzalez - SP||34||$2M||87.1||3.50||1.29||1.4||-|
|38||Alex Wood - SP||28||$9.6M||35.2||5.80||1.40||-0.2||-|
|39||Jordan Lyles - SP||29||$2.0M||141.0||4.15||1.31||1.6||-|
|40||Avisail Garcia - OF||28||$3.5M||.282||20||72||1.8||-|
|41||Jose Iglesias - SS||29||$2.5M||.288||11||59||1.6||-|
|42||Eric Thames - 1B/OF||32||$6.0M||.247||25||61||1.9||-|
|43||Howie Kendrick - INF||36||$4M||.344||17||62||2.9||-|
|44||Justin Smoak - 1B||32||$8M||.208||22||61||0.2||-|
|45||Starlin Castro - 2B||29||$11.8M||.270||22||86||1.3||-|
|46||Yan Gomes - C||32||$7M||.223||12||43||0.8||-|
|47||Michael Wacha - SP||28||$6.3M||126.2||4.76||1.56||-0.2||-|
|48||Jason Castro - C||32||$8M||.232||13||30||1.6||-|
|49||Corey Dickerson - OF||30||$8.5M||.304||12||59||1.0||-|
|50||Brian Dozier - 2B||32||$9M||.238||20||50||1.7||-|
BACKUP CATCHERS: Austin Romine, Russell Martin, Welington Castillo, Martin Maldonado, Jonathan Lucroy, Alex Avila
PLATOON BATS: 1B Mitch Moreland, 1B Ryan Zimmerman, 1B Matt Adams, 1B Yonder Alonso, 2B Brian Dozier, 2B Jason Kipnis, 3B Todd Frazier, 3B Pablo Sandoval, 3B/2B Jedd Gyorko, OF Corey Dickerson, OF Cameron Maybin, OF Hunter Pence, OF Jarrod Dyson, OF Billy Hamilton, OF Alex Gordon, OF Gerardo Parra, OF Adam Jones
UTILITY PLAYERS: 1B/2B Wilmer Flores, 2B Scooter Gennett, 2B Jonathan Schoop, 2B/OF Ben Zobrist, 2B/3B Eric Sogard, 2B/3B Brock Holt, 3B/2B Asdrubal Cabrera, SS Adeiny Hechavarria
ROTATION DEPTH: RHP Ivan Nova, LHP Martin Perez, RHP Homer Bailey, LHP Brett Anderson, RHP Andrew Cashner, LHP Matt Moore, LHP Jason Vargas, RHP Felix Hernandez, RHP Jhoulys Chacin, RHP Matt Harvey, RHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Tyson Ross, RHP Clay Buchholz, LHP Drew Smyly, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Kendall Graveman
BULLPEN DEPTH: RHP Daniel Hudson, RHP Joe Smith, LHP Jake Diekman, RHP Chris Martin, RHP Collin McHugh, RHP Steve Cishek, RHP Pedro Strop, RHP Brandon Kintzler, RHP David Phelps, RHP Craig Stammen, RHP Sergio Romo, RHP Hector Rondon, RHP Yoshihisa Hirano, RHP Arodys Vizcaino, RHP Pat Neshek, RHP Jared Hughes, RHP Anthony Swarzak, RHP Fernando Rodney, RHP Darren O’Day, RHP Kyle Barraclough, RHP Brandon Morrow
*FanGraphs WAR used throughout