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These are the free agents most likely to sign next

By Mark Feinsand | @Feinsand

December 12, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- Following three days that saw the game's three biggest free agents land eye-popping contracts, the Winter Meetings closed Thursday with a few more moves.

Among them were Rick Porcello going to the Mets, Brett Gardner returning to the Yankees and the Red Sox bringing in Jose Peraza. Now, as the game's executives and agents scatter to their respective homes in preparation for the holiday season, a number of notable free agents will wait to see when their turn comes.

Who might be the next major free agent to sign? Let's look at some of the candidates, listed in order of who is most likely to sign next: 

1. Josh Donaldson
The biggest remaining fish in the position-player pond, Donaldson has a robust market that includes at least five teams: the Nationals, Rangers, Dodgers, Braves and Twins. A signing doesn't appear to be imminent, though mostly because now that Anthony Rendon has gone to the Angels, there's very little competition at third base unless the Cubs trade Kris Bryant -- a scenario unlikely to happen until his service-time dispute is settled. With no legitimate fallback plans for the teams that don't get Donaldson, he should land a four-year deal worth about $100 million. 

What's next for top free agent Donaldson?

2. Madison Bumgarner
Once Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole reached deals during the first two days of the Winter Meetings, Bumgarner became the jewel of the pitching market. The Dodgers are said to be in serious pursuit of the left-hander after missing out on Cole, and while the idea of seeing the long-time Giants ace in rival colors would be painful, it makes perfect sense baseball-wise. Still, the Dodgers face plenty of competition for Bumgarner; the Twins, Angels, D-backs, Giants, White Sox, Reds and Cardinals all remain in the mix for the 30-year-old. The bidding is expected to result in a five-year deal worth at least $100 million, especially after Zack Wheeler landed a $118 million pact from the Phillies. 

3. Hyun-Jin Ryu
Ryu will be 33 on Opening Day, but there appears to be no shortage of teams interested in adding the veteran lefty to their rotation. The Rangers, Blue Jays, Twins, Dodgers and Cardinals are among the clubs in play, though their success will likely depend on their willingness to give him three or four years with an average annual value in the $18-20 million range. One would think he'll wait for Bumgarner to sign given that they have some overlap in their suitors. 

4. Marcell Ozuna
The corner-outfield market was noticeably quiet during the meetings, as Strasburg, Cole and Rendon dominated headlines. Yes, the Yankees brought back Gardner on Thursday with a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $12.5 million, but that was fait accompli from the start of the offseason. The Reds and Braves appear to be among the more aggressive teams in the Ozuna market, though it won't be a surprise to see the outfielder wait for Donaldson to sign given that Atlanta is involved with both. 

5. Nicholas Castellanos
Castellanos has watched his agent, Scott Boras, work some magic this week with the $814 million worth of deals he landed for Strasburg, Cole and Rendon. Castellanos' market should begin to take better shape now that the agent has wrapped up deals for his big three. The Giants have been most often cited as favorites for Castellanos, though the Reds, Cubs, D-backs and Rangers are among the teams still in the mix for the soon-to-be 28-year-old. Executives believe Castellanos will land a deal in the same range as Mike Moustakas (another Boras client), who scored a four-year, $64 million pact from Cincinnati.

6. Dallas Keuchel
Like Ryu and Castellanos, Keuchel is also represented by Boras, so he must have expected to wait until Cole and Strasburg were taken care of for his market to develop. Now that those two are settled -- not to mention Wheeler's deal with the Phillies and Cole Hamels' one-year, $18 million deal with the Braves -- Keuchel can start getting a better idea of how the dominos will impact his market. Unlike last year, he has no Draft compensation attached to him, but he might still need to wait for Bumgarner and Ryu to sign before narrowing his options. It still might take weeks, but after signing last June following a frustrating winter, Keuchel should have a deal long before Spring Training starts in February.