The 2019-20 MLB free agent season has hardly wrapped up. It’s been a wild offseason, with all the top chips already off the table such as Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. Those three players alone have been able to net roughly $1B. We aren’t quite done yet, as we still have some solid contributors that have yet to sign a deal; most notably Josh Donaldson.
After the wild winter frenzy, its hard not to at least wonder what will happen next year. There are a lot of big names that are set to hit the market barring any extension before the season. Mookie Betts is set to headline the 2020-21 free agent market and will likely command a minimum of $300M.
I elected to pick ten players who could potentially hit the market, but I will be leaving off ones with player options. Giancarlo Stanton would be the most significant example, but the chances of him opting out of his major contract is significantly low. JD Martinez may be more of a likely option to opt out of his contract, but we will leave him out for now.
10. Yoenis Cespedes (OF/DH)
I would like to note this isn’t a ranking by any means. If it was however, Cespedes would have belonged right at the top of this list a few years ago. When healthy, he is a consistent threat at the plate and is at least serviceable in the outfield.
He will be 35 heading into the 2021 season. Unfortunately, his time with the New York Mets has been a struggle. He hasn’t been able to put together a season without being plagued with injuries and has struggled to play 100+ games for the majority of his four-year tenure. That includes missing all of the 2019 season.
Cespedes is better suited as a DH in the American League. He could find better success staying healthy as a full-time DH and could potentially smack a minimum of 30 home runs in a full season. A later Nelson Cruz-type of arrangement comes to mind in terms of a contract.
Prediction: Cespedes signs a one-year, $10M with the Toronto Blue Jays.
9. Didi Gregorius (SS)
Gregorius has been one of the game’s better all-around shortstops in the league. He has been a consistent offensive threat and has always been a solid defensive presence. However, he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and was limited to just 82 games in 2019 with the New York Yankees. He was still able to tally 16 home runs to go with 61 RBI.
Despite the brighter moments, he was understandably a step down from the player he once was. Gregorious, being the spirited player that he is, decided to bet on himself. He signed a one-year, $14M deal with the Philadelphia Phillies with the hopes of commanding a multi-year contract next season.
Even though last season was a down-year for the 29-year old, he seems confident he will be able to rebound. I suspect he will likely be able to land a multi-year contract valued at roughly $17M per year. It seems like a perfect match for Gregorius in Philadelphia.
Prediction: Gregorius signs a four-year, $65 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.
8. Trevor Bauer (RHP)
Trevor Bauer had a rough 2019 season. He pitched to an 11-13 record, closing with a 4.48 ERA. That is including an ERA over 6 and a 2-5 record since he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. This time next season, it may be a wonder to some as to why he was on this list to begin with.
However, Bauer has proven to be more effective than not in the past and could potentially be a bargain for a team looking to improve their rotation. He could be placed into a slightly lesser Dallas Keuchel category. Keuchel was dominant in his time with Houston, but his inconsistency in 2018 was enough to delay him from finding a place to play until June.
However, Keuchel showed that he still had the ability to be an effective pitcher and was able to sign a three-year, $55M deal with the Chicago White Sox this offseason. I suspect that Bauer will do something similar.
Prediction: Bauer signs a three-year, $60M deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
7. Jake Odorizzi (RHP)
Odorizzi has been solid throughout his career, but 2019 was exceptional for him. He is less than elite, but could provide stability in part of a team’s rotation. At the age of 29, he will likely be able to command a three-year deal next offseason.
He will be 31 going into the 2021 season, but if he can build on his productive 2019 campaign, he could also see money in the same ball park as Dallas Keuchel. However, the St Louis Cardinals lack stability in their rotation and should be the presumed favorites.
Prediction: Jake Odorizzi signs a four-year, $80M deal with the St Louis Cardinals.
6. Andrelton Simmons (SS)
At least for this article, I won’t be mentioning Marcus Semien. However, I decided to mention Andrelton Simmons instead. He is average, at best, when it comes to hitting at the dish.
However, with any solid production, his talent would be icing on the cake due to how elite he is defensively. Simmons would bring stability to any team he decides to join. He won’t command a major contract, but I suspect he will gather interest from teams looking for stability at the position. Simmons has the potential to be overpaid by a smaller market team on a short-term deal.
Prediction: Andrelton Simmons signs a three-year, $45M deal with the Cincinnati Reds.
5. Masahiro Tanaka/James Paxton (SP)
This is slightly cheating, but I didn’t want to take up two spots on two players who are likely to be retained for the same team. Both Paxton and Tanaka provide the New York Yankees with a complete rotation.
I can’t imagine the Yankees would let these two walk. Paxton could potentially command a big contract with a big season, but both players should earn an annual salary of roughly $15-18M. Tanaka also seems pretty comfortable with the Yankees and has been clutch during the postseason.
Prediction: Both James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka sign a four-year, $68M deal with the New York Yankees.
4. George Springer (OF)
George Springer may be one of the more underrated players in baseball. He is on a talented Astros team with stars like Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. He has hit at least 20+ home runs in five of his six seasons. That includes a 39 home run campaign to go with a .292 batting average in 2019, despite playing in just 122 games.
Springer brings playoff experience and talent to any team he joins. If he is able to produce next season, he could command a contract similar to the one Anthony Rendon got.
Prediction: George Springer signs a seven-year, $160M deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
3. JT Realmuto (C)
He may not be considered a top ten player by any means, but Realmuto is in the upper echelon at the catcher position. He has been consistent offensively and is one of the better defensive catchers as well.
Finding an all-around catcher is never easy. It is very likely that the Philadelphia Phillies opt to aggressively re-sign the 29-year old, but if Realmuto hits free agency, it’s likely that he signs elsewhere. I would expect Realmuto to use the Yasmani Grandal’s recent agreement with the Chicago White Sox worth $73 million over four years to his advantage as well.
Prediction: JT Realmuto signs a seven-year $145M deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
2. DJ LeMahieu (IF)
A year from today, LeMahieu was barely going to make the New York Yankees lineup. However, with a breakout season, he is primed to gather some attention.
The Yankees would be smart to try and extend him immediately, as one more big year for the 31-year old could allow him to command a contract above $100M. I would question whether or not New York would be willing to spend that kind of money on him, considering Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez need to be apart of the bigger picture.
Prediction: DJ LeMahieu signs a four-year, $90 million deal with the New York Yankees.
1. Mookie Betts (OF)
The obvious headliner for the 2021 free agent class is Mookie Betts. He is a true five-tool player and is arguably the second-best player in the league behind Mike Trout. It’s unknown whether or not he will be playing for the Boston Red Sox by the end of 2020.
I’d imagine the Red Sox will make an effort to retain Betts, but they are going to have major competition. He already has a Hall of Fame-like resume and is only 28. He is a former MVP, former batting champion, three-time Silver Slugger, and four-time Gold Glove winner.
Prediction: Mookie Betts signs a 10-year, $350M deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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