Patrick Corbin was an exception last offseason.
Amid a slow free agent market – some stars didn’t sign until after the start of spring training – Corbin’s search for a new home was over in December when he received a $140 million, six-year contract from Washington.
That worked out pretty well for both team and player. Corbin was a key part of the Nationals’ starting rotation this year, and he threw three scoreless innings in relief in Game 7 of the World Series, helping the team win its first World Series title.
Now, another offseason is in full swing. It’s hard to say whether teams will be more aggressive in pursuing free agents, hoping to land the next Corbin, but the Atlanta Braves already made a significant move, signing reliever Will Smith away from San Francisco.
Here’s a look at the top free agents still available, broken down by position. Players are listed with their most recent teams, with their ages in parentheses:
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers (32)
The runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award, Ryu went 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA – and he made 29 starts, nearly doubling his total from 2018.
Other options: Would you believe Madison Bumgarner just turned 30 this August? You could make a case that he’s the top lefty available, but he just posted a career-worst ERA of 3.90, and he received a qualifying offer from San Francisco, which could depress the market for the former World Series MVP. Dallas Keuchel knows all about that after his free agency last offseason dragged all the way until June. He eventually signed a one-year deal with Atlanta and went 8-8 with a 3.75 ERA. Injury-prone Rich Hill is still effective when he can take the mound, but that happened only 13 times this year, and he turns 40 in 2020.
Drew Pomeranz, Brewers (30)
Pomeranz went 2-10 with a 4.85 ERA this year, but that included 18 starts. As a reliever, he posted a 1.88 ERA in 28 appearances.
Other options: Jerry Blevins? Francisco Liriano? There’s not a lot to choose from among lefty relievers after Smith signed with Atlanta.
Gerrit Cole, Astros (29)
The top picks from the 2011 and 2009 drafts are both available this offseason. Cole gets the nod over Stephen Strasburg because he’s two years younger. Both of them were terrific in 2019 – in the regular season and the postseason.
Other options: Cole and Strasburg are Nos. 1 and 1a among righty starters, but keep an eye on Zack Wheeler, who went 11-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts for the Mets. He doesn’t turn 30 until May.
Will Harris, Astros (35)
It didn’t work out, but there was a reason Houston went to Harris in a big spot in Game 7 of the World Series: He was one of the best relievers in the game this year. Harris went 4-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 2019, and he was great in the postseason too before faltering in the final two games.
Other options: Steve Cishek has posted an ERA under 3.00 for four straight seasons, and Cubs teammate Brandon Kintzler can be effective as well. Dellin Betances has 621 strikeouts in 381 2/3 career innings, but injury problems kept him out almost all of this season, and now he’s recovering from a partially torn Achilles tendon.
Yasmani Grandal, Brewers (31)
Grandal turned down a qualifying offer from the Dodgers last year, signed with the Brewers, hit a career-high 28 home runs, then turned down a mutual option with Milwaukee and will try free agency again.
Other options: Robinson Chirinos supplied his usual power at the catcher position for the AL champion Astros. Travis d’Arnaud played for three different teams this season, finally ending up with Tampa Bay and doing solid work for the Rays. He’s still only 30.
Justin Smoak, Blue Jays (32)
Slim pickings here after Jose Abreu decided to stay with the White Sox. Smoak has declined sharply since hitting 38 homers in 2017, but he still has power, and he did manage a .342 on-base percentage this year despite batting .208.
Other options: Howie Kendrick can still hit the ball hard at age 36 – just ask any of the Nationals’ postseason opponents. He can play multiple positions too. Mitch Moreland was limited to 91 games this year for Boston, but he managed 19 home runs.
Jonathan Schoop, Twins (28)
Schoop was part of a Minnesota team that slugged its way to the AL Central title, and he contributed a .256 average and 23 homers. He won’t turn 29 until next October.
Other options: Brian Dozier didn’t have a big role during Washington’s postseason run, but he did hit 20 homers for a sixth straight year. Starlin Castro hit .270 with 22 homers while playing all 162 games for Miami.
Anthony Rendon, Nationals (29)
An MVP finalist and a World Series champion, Rendon is clearly the crown jewel of this free agent class among position players – although it’s a reasonably strong group at third base this year.
Other options: Mike Moustakas hits the market at age 31, fresh off a 35-homer season with Milwaukee. Josh Donaldson turns 34 next month, but he showed he could stay healthy with the Braves this year, hitting 37 homers and playing in 155 games.
Didi Gregorius, Yankees (29)
New York did not make a qualifying offer to Gregorius, so that might make him more appealing for teams needing a shortstop. Gregorius played 82 games after Tommy John surgery and finished with a woeful on-base percentage of .276.
Other option: Jose Iglesias hit .288 with a career-high 11 home runs for Cincinnati.
Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals (29)
Yasiel Puig, Indians (28)
Nicholas Castellanos, Cubs (27)
Ozuna was an All-Star with the Marlins in 2016 and 2017, then had a couple productive seasons with St. Louis. Puig brings consistency at the plate (he’s hit between .255 and .267 each of the past five seasons) along with power and speed. Castellanos does not have a good reputation defensively, but after 27 homers and 58 doubles in 2019, you do what you have to do to get his bat in the lineup.
Other options: Brett Gardner hit a career-high 28 homers this year at age 36. Corey Dickerson hit .304 but played in only 78 games and finished the season shelved with a broken foot. Kole Calhoun hit a career-high 33 homers for the Angels. Avisail Garcia hasn’t been able to repeat his impressive 2017 season with the bat, but he hit .282 with 20 homers this year and doesn’t turn 29 until June.
Edwin Encarnacion, Yankees (36)
Encarnacion hit 34 home runs in 109 games, but the Yankees declined a 2020 option on him after he was limited by oblique problems down the stretch. Given the paucity of first basemen on the market, Encarnacion’s ability to play there could help his value. But he has to be healthy enough.
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