Free-agent season is just getting started, and one of the challenges of assessing free agents sometimes can be separating what they did in the last year of their most recent contract and what they can expect to do in the future. There's not a ton of evidence that players are healthier or better in their contract year than they are the rest of their career, but teams can't help but bid sometimes on what they saw most recently.
So, today, we look at the most prominent pending free agent for next year, the guys who will be playing for their next contract in 2019. These are the names we'll be talking about a year from now come Hot Stove time … though the sort of offers they'll get will depend on what happens next season.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Justin Smoak
The Blue Jays actually have several big free agents coming up -- Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales, Yangervis Solarte -- but Smoak is coming off the best season of any of them.
Orioles: Mark Trumbo
That hefty contract he signed before the 2017 hasn't paid off well for the Orioles, and the market has definitely contracted for players like Trumbo since.
Think the Rays are meticulous planners? They have no impending free agents on their team at all. Even Tommy Pham, who is 30 and playing on a minimum contract, has three years of team control.
Red Sox: Chris Sale
The final year of that team-friendly deal he signed in 2013 is finally upon us, and he could be the most coveted a free agent a year from now. Xander Bogaerts is also poised to hit the market, and J.D. Martinez has an opt-out in his deal, so the Red Sox could look a lot different in 2020.
Yankees: Didi Gregorius
This is a player who could make himself a lot of money with a terrific 2019, but he just underwent Tommy John surgery and could miss a decent chunk of the year.
The Indians have three "expensive" players with club options -- Kipnis, Edwin Encarnacion and Corey Kluber -- and Kipnis seems like the one they're least likely to pick up.
Royals: Alex Gordon
It is extremely unlikely that the club will pick up his $23 million mutual option.
Tigers: Nicholas Castellanos
He could be a sleeper option for someone next offseason … and an obvious Trade Deadline candidate.
Twins: Kyle Gibson
He was sneakily the Twins' best pitcher this year. If he can do that again, he could be another Kyle Lohse.
White Sox: Jose Abreu
Both Abreu and Avisail Garcia seem like obvious Trade Deadline candidates this year. It's a little surprising neither has been traded already.
Here's another team with no pending free agents. Unfortunately for the Angels, it's for very different reasons than the Rays. Michael Trout has just two years left, friends.
Astros: Gerrit Cole
Here's another pitcher who has made himself quite a bit more money in the last calendar year.
Athletics: Khris Davis
Davis will be one of the most fascinating free-agent cases next season. If the A's are excellent again, that'll help.
Mariners: Felix Hernandez
There might be no pitcher in baseball whom the sport will be cheering for to have a great final (?) season in Seattle.
Rangers: Drew Smyly
He'll be on his way out the door before most Rangers fans had a chance to even say hello.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
He might quietly be the best closer on the market next season.
That extension he signed after the 2016 season feels like it happened in a different lifetime.
Whatever you think of the Mets, they don't have many long-term contracts laying around the roster anymore.
It's possible the biggest contract next season might end up going to Rendon.
The Phillies are clearly ready to spend this offseason, and they should be.
He ended up being their best pitcher last season. Do that again, and he might be one of the top starters on the market.
If he has the year in 2019 that the Cardinals had wanted him to have in 2018 he might end up the big-ticket item next winter.
The arbitration hearings are starting to pile up for all those young Cubs stars.
One of the most underrated catchers in the game. Corey Dickerson's deal will be up too.
Has any player raised his profile more in the last two seasons than Gennett?
There are some trade rumors swirling around Goldschmidt, so it's possible he isn't with Arizona next winter when he hits the market.
In case you were wondering whether next year's Hot Stove will lack for hot takes … it will not.
That deal he signed with the Red Sox finally expires next year, presuming the Giants don't pick up the club option.
Stammen is destined to be the reliever your team signs whom you're not excited about but is the only reliever you trust in September.
Surely they're going to get an extension done at some point … right? Otherwise he's all we'll be talking about next winter.