Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Free agents who can boost stock in October

@feinsand
September 20, 2020

The postseason is scheduled to get underway next week with the first-ever round of Wild Card Series, giving players another opportunity to make history on the game's biggest stage. Each October creates its own memorable -- and potentially legendary -- moments, but for a handful of players heading for free

The postseason is scheduled to get underway next week with the first-ever round of Wild Card Series, giving players another opportunity to make history on the game's biggest stage.

Each October creates its own memorable -- and potentially legendary -- moments, but for a handful of players heading for free agency, the postseason is a chance to make a closing argument, showing teams around the Majors how impactful they can be.

Here are 13 impending free agents (listed alphabetically by last name) who could help -- or in some cases, hurt -- their cause in the coming weeks.

Trevor Bauer, RHP, Reds
Bauer has excelled during his final season before free agency, thrusting him into the National League Cy Young Award conversation. Like his regular-season history, Bauer has been inconsistent in October, leaving a hole in his résumé. Bauer is considered to be the top free-agent starter this winter; assuming the Reds can find their way into the playoffs, a big postseason performance would go a long way in cementing that status.

Michael Brantley, LF, Astros
Brantley had been a disappointment in his three postseason appearances with the Indians (2013, '17 and '18), and while he played well at times during the Astros' run to the World Series last fall, his .611 career postseason OPS leaves much to be desired. The 33-year-old Brantley will be looking for a starting job in free agency, and after a solid regular season, he'll try to cap 2020 with a productive October.

Edwin Encarnación, DH, White Sox
Encarnación has not had the type of offensive impact the White Sox were hoping for when they signed him to a $12 million deal for 2020. The 37-year-old has a $12 million club option that seems unlikely to be exercised, which means he could be searching for a job again this winter. Encarnación hit well during the 2016 playoffs (.286/.359/.571 slash line) with the Blue Jays, but he has been ineffective during the past three Octobers (.125/.263/.188 slash line in 14 games). At his age, he could quiet his doubters with a strong postseason.

Didi Gregorius, SS, Phillies
Gregorius rolled the dice this season, signing a one-year, $14 million deal with the Phillies after playing just a half-season with the Yankees in 2019 following Tommy John surgery. Gregorius has had some moments in October, but his overall postseason performance hasn't done much to enhance his value on the open market. With the big class of free-agent shortstops set to hit the market next year, Gregorius would benefit from a good October as he seeks a multi-year deal.

DJ LeMahieu, INF, Yankees
The Yankees' stealth signing of LeMahieu to a two-year, $24 million deal before the 2019 season has proven to be one of the best contracts in recent history. The 32-year-old had his first productive postseason last year (three homers, seven RBIs and a 1.011 OPS in nine games) after he had failed to do much in five career playoff games with the Rockies in 2017-18; another prolific performance this October would put LeMahieu in prime position heading into free agency.

James McCann, C, White Sox
Given that the White Sox signed Yasmani Grandal to a big contract last offseason, it feels like a long shot that McCann will be back on the South Side in 2021. That means he'll be auditioning on the big stage for potential suitors, many of whom view the 30-year-old as the second-best catcher on the free-agent market behind J.T. Realmuto.

Marcell Ozuna, LF, Braves
Ozuna was in the same position when he made his postseason debut last October, setting up his first free-agent experience with a huge National League Division Series against the Braves (who, ironically, went on to sign him to one-year, $18 million deal). Ozuna and the rest of the Cardinals flopped in a four-game NL Championship Series sweep at the hands of the Nationals, but now Ozuna gets his second career trip to the postseason as he attempts to land a multi-year pact in the coming months.

Jurickson Profar, 2B/LF, Padres
Profar went seven years between postseason appearances, falling in the American League Wild Card Game in 2012 with the Rangers and again in '19 with the Athletics. Playing for his third team in three seasons, the 27-year-old will test free agency for the first time this offseason. His versatility and 20-homer power should make him appealing to teams, but October will give him a chance to shine on the big stage as part of a star-studded lineup.

Robbie Ray, LHP, Blue Jays
When the season began, Ray was on the short list of most attractive free-agent starters heading for free agency in 2020. But a disastrous seven-start run with the D-backs (7.84 ERA) preceded a trade to Toronto, where he's pitched to a 5.94 ERA in four outings (three starts). A bounce back in October could help Ray re-establish some value as he heads into the offseason, though he might wind up looking for a one-year deal in his age-29 season to prove he's worth a sizeable multi-year investment.

J.T. Realmuto, C, Phillies
Realmuto is already the consensus No. 1 player on the market this offseason, yet this October will present an opportunity the 29-year-old has yet to experience during his first seven years in the Majors: postseason play. Realmuto should land himself a healthy contract regardless of how he fares in the playoffs, but a big October could take his market to another level.

Marcus Semien, SS, Athletics
Semien's breakout 2019 season landed him a third-place finish in the AL Most Valuable Player Award race, but Oakland suffered a second straight Wild Card Game loss, leaving the shortstop without much of a postseason résumé (2-for-9, one run scored). Semien experienced a statistical drop-off in his walk year, so a productive playoff run would help his cause as he seeks a sizeable contract this offseason.

George Springer, RF, Astros
Springer's free-agent season began in mediocre fashion, but a September surge is helping him finish the year with solid numbers. The 2017 World Series MVP has shown he can get it done in October, posting another strong postseason in '18. He struggled during much of the '19 playoffs, but a big October would re-establish himself as a big-time force as he hits free agency.

Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, Yankees
Tanaka is having his finest season since 2016, which is good timing for a pitcher whose elbow has been thought of as fragile since his rookie year of '14, when he suffered a partial UCL tear. Tanaka has quietly been one of the best postseason pitchers of the past five years, posting a 1.76 ERA in eight starts for the Yankees since '15. A fresh reminder of his October dominance to potential suitors could earn him a few extra dollars this offseason.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.