Top Free Agents in MLB 2020

Rob Joyce
November 07, 2019 - 4:17 pm

The parade is over in Washington, players with opt-out clauses in their contracts have all decided whether to stay or go, and the offseason is in full swing. Though the “hot stove” isn’t quite what it historically is – remember, it took until spring training before Bryce Harper and Manny Machado signed, and Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel until mid-season – there are big-name folks hitting the market this winter.

Here are the top seven, and our predictions for where they’ll wind up next spring:

1) Gerrit Cole:

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

It took the likely AL Cy Young winner about 30 minutes after the end of Game 7 to all but announce his departure from Houston. In the postgame press conference he wore a hat with his agent’s logo on it, and reportedly told an Astros PR person he’s not a team employee. The 29-year-old is coming off a dominant 2019 in which he won 20 games and led the league with a 2.50 earned run average. He’s pitched at least 200 innings in three straight years, and he’ll make bank at some point this winter.

He’d be a perfect fit in the Bronx, where the Yankees need starters before their prime championship window closes. For all the talks of a new front office that won’t just overpay for talent, letting the Judge/Torres/Sanchez team control years go by for the sake of saving money (trust me, they have plenty already) would be a massive disappointment.

2) Anthony Rendon:

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The casual baseball fan finally learned that Rendon is a star this October, and it’s been evident now for three straight years. The Nationals’ third basemen set career highs this year in average (.319), home runs (34), RBIs (126) and OPS (1.010) in leading Washington to the World Series. In September the Nats reportedly offered the 29-year-old a seven-year, $210 million contract. It makes too much sense that he takes that deal and stays in DC. The same can’t be said, however, for the World Series MVP.

3) Stephen Strasburg:

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Just days after a phenomenal Game 6 performance to keep the Nats alive, and consequently winning World Series MVP honors, Strasburg opted out of his contract to become a free agent. He leaves four years and $100 million on the table, meaning he expects to cash in after a 2019 season in which he won 18 games, pitched 209 innings (his most since 2014) and maintained his sky-high strikeout rate. Not to mention, his lifetime 1.46 postseason ERA should help him earn a short-term, high-dollar deal. The hometown Padres could be the play for the Santee, California native.

4) Zack Wheeler:

(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

It’s a pitching-heavy market this offseason. And for those who can’t afford Cole or Strasburg, Wheeler tops the second tier. Outside of a bumpy 2017 season, the Mets’ starter has basically replicated the same numbers every year of his career: an ERA in the 3.50 range, anywhere from 180-195 innings, about nine strikeouts-per-nine, and his walk rate has been cut in half from his rookie season to now.

Reports were out that before trading for Zack Greinke, Wheeler was a top target in Houston. If they’re going to lose Gerrit Cole, Wheeler wouldn’t be a monstrous step down.

5) Yasmani Grandal:

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

His one-year deal in Milwaukee worked out splendidly, and he should be able to sign somewhere on a longer-term contract and make the big bucks. In an age where catchers are providing very little offensive production, Grandal is an exception. He’s hit at least 22 homers in four straight seasons, including a career-high 28 this year, he walked a career high 109 times, he’d had an OPS above .815 in three of the past four seasons and plays very good defense. He won’t be victimized by baseball’s broken market this year. He’ll sign a nice lucrative deal with the Twins.

6) Josh Donaldson:

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Injuries and being 32 meant Donaldson had to settle for a one-year deal with the Braves last offseason, and it paid off big time. The former MVP hit 37 home runs, had a .900 OPS and saw his walk rate return to his 2016 form. Now he’s 33 and he won’t get a mega-deal, but he is in line for a nice two or three-year deal in the $70-75 million range. Atlanta has the resources to make that kind of deal work and he wants to compete for a World Series, making a return to Cobb County a smart probability on all sides.

7) Didi Gregorius:

(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

He could be next year’s Donaldson – someone who gets a short-term, low-money deal and has a bounce back year. The 30-year-old probably wasn’t ready to comeback as quickly as he did from Tommy John surgery, as he hit just .238 with a .718 OPS in 82 games with the Yankees this year. Despite that, he still hit 16 home runs and is a consistent 20-25 home run guy who plays a capable shortstop. With New York able to slide Gleyber Torres to short full-time, his days in the Bronx might be over. But he’d be a great fit in Milwaukee, who is ready to contend now but has more budgetary limitations.