BY J.A. SCHWARTZ
There are literally hundreds of major league baseball players who qualify as free agents this offseason. With the obvious caveat that no insider information informs these musings, here are my best guesses as to where the top 15 most impactful players will land, and for how much.
- Gerritt Cole, RHP: Anaheim Angels, 7 years, $260 million.
The Angels have wasted the early part of three time MVP Mike Trout’s career, failing to complement his talent with enough performers to push the team into the postseason. Arte Moreno will change that, giving the 29-year-old starter the biggest free agent deal ever for a pitcher, filling his team’s biggest need while simultaneously weakening the Astros hold on the AL West.
- Anthony Rendon, 3B:Texas Rangers, 7 years, $220 million.
The Nationals would love to keep both Rendon and Strasburg, but that is probably not economically realistic. Texas native Rendon, 30, gets to head home to a team that is trying to rebuild towards being steadily competitive in the tough AL West.
- Stephen Strasburg, RHP: Washington Nationals, 6 years, $170 million.
The defending champions bring back Strasburg, the World Series MVP, giving him a contract that should keep the 31-year-old hurler in Washington through the end of his career.
- Yasmani Grandal, C: Tampa Bay Rays, 3 years, $58 million.
The Rays are loaded with position players in the infield and have more on the way, but they don’t have a solution to their catching situation, where incumbent C Mike Zunino is likely to leave as a free agent. The Rays step up to acquire the 31-year-old Grandal, one of the top catchers in the league, and augment a great young pitching staff with one of the majors top pitch framers.
- Josh Donaldson, 3B: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $65 million.
Donaldson had a great season for the Braves on his one year deal in 2019, and the two sides seem likely to extend the relationship on a contract that will keep the 34- year-old former AL MVP in Atlanta as a middle of the order bat on a team that figures to be in the playoff mix again in 2020.
- Marcell Ozuna, OF: Arizona Diamondbacks, 3 years, $55 million.
Ozuna, 29, is young enough to fit the profile the Diamondbacks figure to be interested in, and their OF could badly use the offensive boost. He was a relative disappointment for the Cardinals, but he could see his output skyrocket in the friendlier Arizona ballpark.
- Madison Bumgarner, LHP: Atlanta Braves, 4 years, $72 million.
The 30-year-old Bumgarner isn’t the ace caliber-starting pitcher he had been for the Giants for most of his career, but he’s still capable of providing valuable innings for a Braves team gearing up for an extended window of competitiveness. Bumgarner’s experience and example is exactly the kind of mentorship the young Braves rotation needs to take the next step towards an NL pennant.
- Zack Wheeler, RHP: Minnesota Twins, 5 years, $105 million.
The Twins have wisely positioned their payroll obligations to allow themselves to target some of the higher end players on the free agent market, and the 30-year-old Wheeler fits the bill. He’s got premium stuff, and could be exactly the kind of pitcher that pitching coach Wes Johnson can finally get to take the next step towards being a #1 starter.
- Didi Gregorius, SS: Milwaukee Brewers, 3 years, $50 million.
The Brewers were beaten in the NL Wild Card game despite leading in the eighth inning with closer Josh Hader on the mound. Adding Gregorius, 30, to a potent lineup will try to help insure that the Brewers don’t suffer a similar fate in 2020.
- Nick Castellanos, OF: Toronto Blue Jays, 4 years, $66 million.
Castellanos has been an abysmal defensive outfielder over the past two seasons, and any team signing the 28-year-old slugger will take that into account. The Jays have a slot open for a 1B/DH type, and could see Castellanos’ resurgence with the Cubs over the last 8 weeks of 2019 (.321/.356/.646) as the ceiling for the slugger, making him a powerful addition to a young lineup featuring high upside bats like 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and SS Bo Bichette.
- Dallas Keuchel, LHP: New York Yankees, 4 years, $60 million.
Keuchel, 32, has pitched well against New York in the playoffs, with a 2.04 ERA against the Yankees in three postseason starts. The Yankees will ensure he’s not going to torment them in October any further. The Bombers will add the sinkerball specialist to their rotation and hope that his league leading groundball rates will fare well in homer friendly Yankee Stadium.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP: Los Angeles Dodgers, 3 years, $45 million.
The Dodgers know the 33-year-old best, and they bring back the NL ERA leader from 2019 to help them finally win the World Series title that has eluded them since 1988.
- Mike Moustakas, 3B: Minnesota Twins, 3 years, $40 million.
The Twins import Moustakas, 31, to take over 3B, allowing Miguel Sano to move to 1B full time in 2020. The move improves the Twins defensively and lengthens an already powerful lineup, which set the all time record for HR in a season in 2019 with 307.
- Kyle Gibson, RHP: Toronto Blue Jays, 2 years, $22 million.
Gibson, 32, has been a durable, if unspectacular starter for the Twins during his major league career. The Jays have a glaring need to augment their starting rotation, and Gibson provides reliable performance while their young pitching prospects matriculate towards the big leagues.
- Yasiel Puig, OF: Chicago White Sox, 3 years, $40 million.
Puig is still only 29, and the White Sox outfield has been an area in need of improvement. With Cuban born prospect Luis Robert on the way to Chicago to take over in CF, the team imports Puig to add to 1B Jose Abreu and 3B Yoan Moncada, each of whom has Cuban heritage, creating a Little Havana on the South Side.
There are dozens more free agents that figure to find new homes for the 2020 season, and there will almost certainly be trades transacted between now and spring training that will help reshape rosters around the league. Check back in a few months to see how many of these prognostications were accurate.