Major League Baseball’s free agency officially opened on Sunday, although it could be a quieter than usual free-agent period because a lot of teams are crying poor after a season with no fans in the stands due to COVID-19. It’s far from a sure thing fans will be allowed at games next year, either. Here’s a look at some of the top free agents available.
Top 5 Free Agents | 2020 MLB Expert Analysis
Trevor Bauer, Reds pitcher
The Reds extended a qualifying offer to their ace as expected but he’ll decline it and get a mega-deal in free agency as the top pitcher on the market. Somewhat doubtful the Reds can afford his price but Bauer has said he’d like to return.Players who get a qualifying offer have 10 days to decide whether to accept it. If they do, they’re signed with their team for the next season at the qualifying offer value. If they decline, they become a free agent, and if a new team signs them, their old team receives Draft pick compensation.Bauer could win the NL Cy Young Award. The 29-year-old was outstanding in 2020 with a 100/17 K/BB ratio in 73 innings and a 1.73 ERA in his 11 starts. Expect Bauer to surprise people by signing with Toronto.
JT Realmuto, Phillies catcher
The Phillies extended an $18.9 million qualifying offer to Realmuto but he won’t take it. As one of the best catchers in baseball, Realmuto is looking at a massive, multi-year contract this winter. If Philadelphia is unable to re-sign the 29-year-old, they’ll be awarded a draft pick after the first round. Among MLB catchers, he finished T-1st in HR (11) and T-2nd in RBI (32) & XBH (17). Realmuto was T-5th in MLB in HR with two strikes (7)The standard for a free-agent catcher contract was set last winter when Yasmani Grandal got $73 million ($18.3M AAV) for four years while about one and a half years older than Realmuto and with a comparable recent track record.
The New York Mets will win the bidding for Realmuto.
George Springer, Astros outfielderThe WAR leaderboard for 2019-20 is headlined by Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Mookie Betts, Alex Bregman and Cody Bellinger, with Springer sitting ninth, half a win behind Bellinger. The Astros gave Springer a qualifying offer but he’ll turn it down.Springer’s age and injury history could limit his earning power. Springer hit .265 in 51 games in 2020 with 37 runs scored, 14 home runs and 32 RBI. He led the club in runs, home runs and OPS (.899). In 13 postseason games, Springer hit four home runs with 10 RBI. But Springer finished the shortened season with a flourish, and his career .852 OPS and postseason pedigree make him an attractive Plan B with Betts off the board.
The Phillies will sign Springer.
DJ LaMahieu, Yankees second baseman
The Yankees gave LaMahieu a qualifying offer but he will not take it. LeMahieu is 32, and that hurts his case for a multiyear deal a bit. LeMahieu, who recently finished a two-year deal for $24 million, is in line for a significant raise after leading the majors in hitting with a .364 average. His ability to play third base, second and first and his reputation as an outstanding clubhouse presence are attractive.
The Yankees want him back but might not be willing to extend to four years for the 32-year-old, who finished fourth in the AL MVP race in 2019 and will likely garner MVP votes this year.It’s not clear if the Yankees even want him back as they might move Gleyber Torres to second base because he struggled defensively at shortstop. But we think LaMahieu does return to the Bronx.
Marcell Ozuna, Braves outfielder
The 29-year-old Ozuna finished his eighth major league season, and had career bests in batting average (.338), on-base percentage (.431) and slugging percentage (.636). Ozuna played in all 60 games, and had team highs in home runs (18) and RBI (56).
N.L. ranks: home runs (18, 1st), RBI (56, 1st), total bases (145, 1st), hits (77, 2nd), extra-base hits (32, T2nd), batting average (.338, 3rd), on-base % (.431, 3rd), slugging % (.636, 3rd), OPS (1.067, 3rd), AB/HR (12.67, 6th), walks (38, T6th) and fWAR (2.5, T10th).His 18 homers and 56 RBIs both led the NL. He the first Braves player to lead the N.L. in either home runs or RBI since 2005, when Andruw Jones also paced the circuit in both. Jones hit a franchise-record 51 HR and had 128 RBIs. Ozuna was the first N.L. player to lead the league in both of those since Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton in 2017 (59 HR, 132 RBI).He is not a good defender, and that could limit his market primarily to American League teams if the universal DH is no longer in play. The Texas Rangers will sign him.
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