Whether you’re looking for a slick-fielding infielder or an outfielder with some pop, an innings-eating starter or a late-inning relief option, this year’s free-agent market includes a little bit of everything.
So who is the best of the best? Here’s a look at the top player at every position, plus some other alternatives at each spot. Ages listed are as of Opening Day 2020.
Catcher: Yasmani Grandal, age 31
Grandal was second among all catchers in WAR (per FanGraphs) at 5.2, posting an .848 OPS with 28 home runs and 77 RBIs in 153 games (124 starts behind the plate, 16 at first base). Unlike a year ago, Grandal didn’t have to worry about the effects of having turned down a qualifying offer, as he was ineligible to receive one from the Brewers because he got one last year from the Dodgers.
First base: José Abreu, age 33
Abreu had a solid season, hitting 33 homers with 123 RBIs (the second-highest total in the Majors) and an .834 OPS. Abreu seems destined to re-sign with the White Sox, so teams seeking help at first base will likely have to look elsewhere.
Second base: Jonathan Schoop, age 28
Second base is a relatively thin position in this year’s market, and Schoop has been on playoff teams in four of the past six seasons and was an All-Star in another. He posted a .777 OPS with 23 homers and 59 RBIs in 121 games with the Twins in 2019, boosting his OPS by nearly 100 points from the previous season.
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius, age 30
It’s a very shallow pool of free-agent shortstops, but there’s also a dearth of contending clubs seeking help at the position. Gregorius missed the first two-plus months as he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery, and while his defense and power stroke were there (16 home runs in 82 games), his .276 on-base percentage was the lowest of his career, 41 points below his career average entering the season. The lack of a qualifying offer will also boost his appeal.
Third base: Anthony Rendon, age 29
Rendon isn’t just the top third baseman available in free agency this offseason; he’s the best position player on the market. The Nationals All-Star was one of only seven players in the Majors with an OPS above 1.000, while his 126 RBIs were the most in baseball.
Left field: Marcell Ozuna, age 29
Ozuna and Brett Gardner actually posted nearly identical statistics in 2019, but Ozuna gets the nod because of his age -- Gardner is 36. Ozuna didn’t come close to replicating his monster 2017 season during either of his two years in St. Louis, but he was far more consistent in '19 and should land a nice multiyear deal.
Center field: Cameron Maybin, age 32
If you’re looking for a starting center fielder, this is not the market for you. But Maybin had a renaissance as a role player for the Yankees, posting an .858 OPS with 11 home runs, 32 RBIs and 48 runs scored in 82 games. He will be a useful piece either as part of a platoon (.915 OPS vs. righties) or off the bench.
Right field: Nicholas Castellanos, age 28
Castellanos struggled through the first four months of his walk year, hitting 11 homers with a .790 OPS with the Tigers. A trade to the Cubs in July breathed new life into him, as Castellanos hit 16 home runs with a 1.002 OPS in 51 games with Chicago. His 58 doubles led the Majors.
Designated hitter: Edwin Encarnación, age 37
Encarnación is the only player in the Majors with 30 home runs in each of the past eight seasons, swatting 34 between the Mariners and Yankees in 2019. Even heading into his age-37 season, Encarnacion will provide legitimate pop to any lineup, and with teams like the White Sox, Rangers and Blue Jays looking for help at DH, he should cash in with a solid one- or two-year deal.
Best of the rest: Mark Trumbo
Right-handed starting pitcher: Gerrit Cole, age 29
Cole is the top free agent in this year’s class, having put together a tremendous two-year run with the Astros (35-10, 2.68 ERA, 602 strikeouts in 412 2/3 innings). He is likely to break records for both the biggest overall pitching contract and the highest average annual value, with no fewer than a half-dozen teams reportedly preparing to take a run at him.
Left-handed starting pitcher: Madison Bumgarner, age 30
Once upon a time, Bumgarner would have been considered the top overall starter on the market, but thanks to Cole’s dominance the past two seasons, Bumgarner will have to settle for being the best southpaw out there. Bumgarner -- who, despite making his debut in 2009 is still just 30 -- topped 200 innings for the first time since '16. His home-road splits were severe (2.93 ERA at home, 5.29 on the road), which could help the Giants in their efforts to bring him back.
Right-handed relief pitcher: Will Harris, age 35
This year’s market isn’t loaded with proven closers, but Harris had the best ERA in the American League (and second in the Majors) among all pitchers with at least 60 innings, posting a 1.50 in 68 appearances. He’s 35, so he may have to shop around for a three-year deal, but given the importance of bullpens these days, he should find several solid offers.
Left-handed relief pitcher: Will Smith, age 30
This would have been Aroldis Chapman had he opted out of his contract, but instead he got a year added to his deal and is now signed by the Yankees through 2022. Smith has quietly become one of the better lefty relievers in the game after missing the '17 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Over the past two years, he has put up 2.66 ERA with 167 strikeouts in 118 1/3 inning and was an All-Star in '19.