The top available MLB free agents

Baseball’s strangest season has just concluded, and it’s now time to look ahead to what should be an exciting winter. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best players available on the free-agent market.

J.T. Realmuto

Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire

Realmuto represents a bit of a white whale this winter. The catching position is easily the most difficult spot on the diamond to fill with a reliable and stable presence, let alone a superstar. For several years now Realmuto has been the undisputed best backstop in the game, and after Philadelphia failed to lock him up to a long term extension, here he is available on the open market. His contract will almost assuredly surpass the 8 year/$184 million pact Joe Mauer inked with the Twins a decade ago.

Potential suitors: Just about every team

Trevor Bauer

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

Bauer has been a productive starting pitcher for a long time, but he was easily better than he’d ever been in the truncated 2020 campaign. In 11 outings the right hander delivered a 1.73 ERA with a 0.79 WHIP, while holding the opposition to a .159 batting average and striking out 12.33 hitters/nine innings. His eccentric personality and controversial social media presence will certainly come up in meetings with teams. But neither should be a dramatic deterrent to teams in search of a front line starter.

Potential suitors: Yankees, Reds, Mets, Braves, Phillies

George Springer

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

Here’s in my opinion the most interesting free-agent of the entire class. The Astros sign stealing scandal has obviously been well documented, and we don’t need to go into too much detail here. What’s important to know, though, is that Springer is the first of the Houston core that had so much success to hit the open market. In 2020 Springer impressively slashed .265/.359/.540 with 22 extra-base hits in 189 at-bats, but his reputation is still tainted by the scandal. It’s going to be fascinating to see how much his contract is affected.

Potential suitors: Astros, Mets, Giants, Phillies

4 of 27

D.J. LeMahieu

D.J. LeMahieu

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

LeMahieu was a two time all-star in Colorado and he even won a batting title in 2016. But since joining the Yankees prior to the ’19 campaign he’s become a legitimate superstar. The right handed swinging infielder set new career highs in every power statistic in his first season in the Bronx, and despite missing a little time in ’20, he proved his breakout was not a fluke. What position he plays would be determined by what else the Yankees do over the winter, but this is one guy the Bombers cannot afford to let go.

Potential suitors: Yankees, Royals, Nationals

Marcus Semien

Kyusung Gong/Icon Sportswire

Unfortunately this is likely going to become the latest example of a superstar playing their way out of Oakland. In ’19 the A’s shortstop emerged as one of the best two way players in the entire American League, slashing .285/.369/.522 with 33 bombs and 92 RBI. His 43 doubles and seven triples each ranked in the league’s top five as well. A little bit of a rough 2020 should do little in the way of affecting his free-agent outlook. The Athletics would surely love to bring him back, but the bidding almost certainly will get too rich for their liking.

Potential suitors: Reds, Giants, Athletics, Yankees

Marcell Ozuna

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

Ozuna bet on himself when he signed a one year deal with Atlanta last winter, and his gamble is certainly about to pay off. The right handed slugger just crushed an NL high 18 long balls while also pacing the senior circuit with 56 RBI. His .338 batting average and .431 OBP were easily the best marks of his career, and the veteran is about to get himself paid. The Braves would love to retain Ozuna who became perfect protection for Freddie Freeman in the middle of their line-up but they will have competition.

Potential Suitors: Braves, Rangers, Red Sox, White Sox

Liam Hendriks

Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire

If Hendriks and the previously mentioned Marcus Semien both do indeed depart the Bay Area, the Athletics’ ability to backup their AL West crown in 2021 will be severely hampered. Over the past two years the big righty has been the best relief pitcher nobody talks about. In ’20 he dominated to the tune of a 1.78 ERA and an 0.67 WHIP, while striking out 37 hitters in 25.1 frames and locking down 14 saves. The relief market is always volatile, but teams will line up to try to add a pitcher with Hendriks’ resume to the back of their bullpens.

Potential Suitors: Mets, Phillies, Yankees, Dodgers, Athletics, Nationals, Indians

Marcus Stroman

Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire

Here’s what could turn out to be the best value bet available on the open market. The veteran right hander did not play at all in 2020 after opting out due to concerns over the corona virus. After a so-so second half of ’19 following a midseason trade to the Mets, Stroman’s value is in need of a refresh. He stands out as a perfect candidate to do exactly what Ozuna do a year ago. Attempt to parlay a one year deal into a lucrative long term contract. If that’s indeed what he’d like to do, every team in need of starting pitching will be getting his agent on the phone.

Potential fits: Mets, Phillies, Yankees, Red Sox, Reds, Blue Jays, Astros, Orioles, Padres

Didi Gregorius

Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire

Speaking of signing a high value single season deal to rebuild value. That’s exactly what Gregorius did with the Phillies last winter, and he stands to reap the benefits now. In 215 at-bats for Philly, the veteran shortstop slashed .284/.339/.488 with 10 homers and 40 RBI. He’s now emphatically back on the map as an impact left handed bat, and look for him to ink a well deserved mid-long range deal some time in the next few months.

Potential suitors: Phillies, Yankees, Reds, Athletics, Indians, Angels

Michael Brantley

Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire

Brantley has never been a high profile slugger or a household name, but that fact is no fault of his own. The sweet swinging left handed veteran has always been a productive contributor on every team he’s played for, and two straight strong seasons in Houston have only made him more desirable. A team like the Yankees who were far too right handed in the recently completed campaign, stand out as an obvious fit.

Potential suitors: Yankees, Astros, White Sox

Shane Greene

Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire

Greene racked up 65 saves for the Tigers before joining the Braves in a deadline deal in 2019. While he never got a chance to close in Atlanta, the righty didn’t let that disappointment affect his performance, as he immediately became one of the top set-up men in the NL. In the recently completed ’20 campaign, the veteran pitched to a 2.60 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP in 28 contests. Look for him to seek a chance to return to the top of a relief depth chart this winter.

Potential suitors: Dodgers, Nationals, Mets, Cubs, Rangers

12 of 27

Alex Colome

Alex Colome

Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire

Speaking of back of the bullpen help. Colome has been a dynamic late inning presence for a long time, but he’s without question coming off the best season of his career. In 21 outings the hard-throwing right hander turned in a sub-1.00 ERA with a dominant .163 batting average against. The White Sox would certainly like to retain him, but there will be a lot of relief needy teams angling to convince him the grass is greener elsewhere.

Potential suitors: White Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, Mets, Phillies, Braves, Nationals

Masahiro Tanaka

Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire

Tanaka may no longer be the number one ace he was when he first left Japan in favor of the Major Leagues, but he’s still more than capable of being a difference maker in somebody’s rotation. The veteran righty just finished with a serviceable 3.56 ERA in 10 2020 starts, and his postseason resume almost speaks for itself. Despite a partial UCL tear in his throwing elbow, starting pitching needy teams will be reaching out.

Potential suitors: Yankees, Phillies, Astros, Mets, Angels

Yadier Molina

Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire

Whenever Molina decides to hang them up, he will assuredly eventually end up in Cooperstown. The career long Cardinal has made nine all-star games and captured nine Gold Glove awards, and while his offense is no longer what it once was, the value he brings defensively is second to none. It would truly be shocking to see him leave St. Louis, but hey, 2020 has been a weird year.

Potential suitors: Cardinals, Yankees

Nelson Cruz

Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire

The big right handed slugger is 40 years old but don’t let his age distract you from the fact that he remains one of the most productive run producers in all of baseball. In Minnesota last season Cruz hit .303 with 16 homers in 185 at-bats. Being an exclusive DH may limit his value just a little, but someone will be thrilled to pencil the veteran into the middle of their line-up on a daily basis.

Potential suitors: Twins, Rangers, Rays

Robbie Ray

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

Ray could represent an enormous opportunity for a team who really believes in their pitching coach. The left hander has had success at the big league level–he was even an all-star in 2017–but to date he’s been unable to sustain that performance level. Prior to a midseason trade to Toronto last summer it had become clear Ray needed to get out of Arizona. A fresh start and reset somewhere new in 2021 could be just what he needs.

Potential suitors: Phillies, Yankees, Astros, Mets, Brewers

Taijuan Walker

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

The 28-year-old righty was limited to only four Major League appearances over a two year span thanks to a frustrating deluge of injuries, but he came back impressively in 2020. In 11 starts split between Seattle and Toronto the veteran finished with a strong 2.70 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. Buyers are certainly going to be wary given the injury history here, but for what should be a reasonable dollar amount, Walker is worth the gamble.

Potential suitors: Blue Jays, Yankees, Reds, Twins, Phillies

Justin Turner

Kyusung Gong/Icon Sportswire

The Dodgers’ star third baseman enjoyed a strong postseason following a lackluster by his standards regular season. When it comes to his free-agency, though, interested teams know exactly what they’re bidding on. A proven, battle tested, middle of the order right handed hitter. Turner will turn 36 in November so he’s not going to command a crazy long term commitment, but for a team in a win now mode, adding him to their infield would be a plus.

Potential suitors: Dodgers, Marlins, Nationals

Mike Minor

Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire

The 32-year-old Minor represents an intriguing buy low option for rotation needy teams. After a terrific 2019 campaign that even earned him some Cy Young consideration, the lefty took several large steps backwards a year ago. A midseason trade from Texas to Oakland did little to reenergize him after a slow start. That being said, it’s important to understand the unique circumstances the 2020 season presented every individual involved, and I for one like Minor’s chances of rebounding.

Potential suitors: Phillies, Angels, Mets, Yankees

James McCann

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

The free-agent catching market is understandably going to be dominated by J.T. Realmuto, but all of the losers in that sweepstakes could immediately turn their attention to McCann. In only 97 at-bats a year ago the veteran slashed .289/.360/.536, and in a full season in ’19 he blasted 18 home runs. McCann is also a standout defensive player behind the plate, and for a fraction of what Realmuto will get he has the potential to be a serious bargain.

Potential suitors: Mets, Phillies

Jose Quintana

Rob Grabowski/Icon Sportswire

For the first five years of his career Quintana was one of the top left handed starting pitchers in the big leagues while he was a member of the White Sox. Unfortunately, when he changed neighborhoods in the Windy City and joined the Cubs, things have not gone as swimmingly. In three full seasons calling Wrigley Field home the veteran has failed to ever finish with an ERA under four. It would appear a change of scenery is needed.

Potential suitors: Phillies, Yankees, Orioles, Astros

James Paxton

Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire

The veteran southpaw affectionately known as “Big Maple” was one of the AL’s best starting pitchers while with the Mariners, and after a high profile trade brought him to the Bronx in 2019, he delivered in spades for the Bombers. Frustratingly, a horde of injury issues completely derailed his ’20 campaign, limiting him to only 20.1 innings. A short term reunion with the Yankees seems the most likely outcome here.

Potential suitors: Yankees, Angels

Blake Treinen

Kyusung Gong/Icon Sportswire

Relief pitching is obviously the most volatile area of big league rosters, and you can never have enough proven arms in your bullpen. In 2018 Treinen was historically dominant as the Athletics’ closer, but he immediately followed that up with a tremendously disappointing ’19. This season he’s helped rebuild his stock. As part of the highly successful Dodgers’ bullpen, the righty registered nine holds and lowered his ERA by over a full run. He’ll get plenty of attention this winter.

Potential suitors: Marlins, Dodgers, Red Sox

Andrelton Simmons

Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire

At 31-years-old Simmons remains one of the truly elite defensive players in our sport. In the truncated 2020 campaign the veteran shortstop hit .297 and reached base at an impressive .346 clip. The biggest knock on his game was certainly his slugging, as his power essentially disappeared. For the first time in his career Simmons didn’t hit a single home run, and he doubled only seven times. That said, teams would love to have him hitting towards the bottom of a good offensive order and playing sensational defense at a premium position.

Potential suitors: Yankees, Phillies

Jake Odorizzi

Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire

After the best season of his career in 2019 that saw Odorizzi win 15 games with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, it was somewhat stunning that the righty accepted the Twins’ qualifying offer last winter. In hindsight he clearly made the right decision. Three separate trips to the injured list limited Odorizzi to only 13.2 innings. Like Minor, and in some ways Quintana, he represents an attractive bounce back candidate.

Potential suitors: Twins, Phillies, Rays, Orioles, Angels

Brad Hand

Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire

A late addition to the free-agent market is the left handed Hand, who quite surprisingly was placed on outright waivers by the Indians earlier this week. Cleveland can try to spin this however they want, but it’s clear the reasoning had more to do with finances than performance. In 2020 the veteran converted all 16 of his save opportunities with a 2.05 ERA. Any club claiming Hand will assume the $10 million option on his contract. Waiver priority is determined by last season’s record, meaning Pittsburgh has the first opportunity. I wouldn’t expect Hand to make it through too many teams without someone claiming him.

Potential suitors: Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Mets

Roberto Osuna

Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire

Like Hand, Osuna was placed on outright waivers yesterday. However, unlike Hand, it’s far from a lock that he’ll be claimed. An elbow injury prevented the right hander from appearing in all but four of Houston’s contests in 2020, and his horrific domestic violence incident will never be forgotten. Osuna was lucky the Astros took a chance on him when the Blue Jays cut bait two years ago, but now he finds himself unemployed yet again. He obviously has talent and could help a lot of bullpens, but teams will have to weigh if it’s worth the controversy. And morally, the answer to that is probably a resounding no.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top