Now that the Trade Deadline has passed, we can look to the next big baseball rumor mill: the Hot Stove! That’s right, we’re going to have a bunch of free agents hit the market in an offseason that won’t look like any other. If you think it’s too early to start thinking about that, know that every team had it at the forefront of its mind on the Trade Deadline … and for a few years now.
Last week, Anthony Castrovince updated his ranking of the top 25 free agents this winter, and today we take a look at the top free agents on each team heading into the 2021 season. Some of these players will be looking at long-term deals. Some will just be grabbing one-year spots. But all of them are likely to be available this offseason. For the sake of clarity, we’ve omitted players who could become free agents if they were to exercise their opt-outs (like Giancarlo Stanton) but, for a variety of reasons, are unlikely to. Ages listed are as of Opening Day 2021.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Robbie Ray, LHP (age 29)
He has an awfully unsightly ERA this season, but obviously the Blue Jays had enough faith in him to trade for him at the Deadline. If he helps get them in the playoffs, he could rebuild much of his lost value.
Orioles: Wade LeBlanc, LHP (age 36)
That 8.06 ERA isn’t pretty, and he’s now out for the year with elbow problems … but the Orioles don’t have many free agents, presuming they pick up Jose Iglesias’ $3 million option.
Rays: Charlie Morton, RHP (age 37)
This is a tricky one. Morton has a $15 million option for next year, and based on how good he was last year, it seemed like an obvious pickup. But injuries have been a problem this year. He returned Monday night, and he may be pitching for that option.
Yankees: DJ LeMahieu, 2B (age 32)
The Yankees have a few options here -- from Masahiro Tanaka to James Paxton to even J.A. Happ -- but LeMahieu, who has turned out to be an absolute steal, is the clear top dog.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Indians: Carlos Santana, 1B (age 34)
He has a $20 million option, and it's hard to know if Cleveland will pick it up. The bigger question remains whether Francisco Lindor will make it to free agency as an Indian next offseason.
Royals: Ian Kennedy, RHP (age 36)
The highest-paid player on the Royals' payroll finally goes off the books next year. It turned out to be quite a ride in Kansas City for Kennedy.
Tigers: Jonathan Schoop, 2B (age 29)
Schoop has been the Tigers’ best hitter this year -- and don’t look know, but the Tigers might still have a playoff run left in them.
Twins: Nelson Cruz, DH (age 40)
With the designated hitter potentially being here to stay, the number of bidders for one of the best power bats in baseball might just double.
White Sox: Edwin Encarnación, 1B (age 38)
Encarnación has been one of the few disappointments for the White Sox this year. Would the Sox consider not picking up his $12 million option? He will be 38 next year.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Andrelton Simmons, SS (age 32)
Still one of the best defenders in the sport, he stayed put at the Deadline but has struggled with injuries all year.
Astros: George Springer, OF (age 31)
The 2017 World Series MVP is hitting the market at an inopportune time -- much of the league is suspicious of the Astros, plus Springer is in his 30s and having the worst year of his career (albeit still a good year). But he’s still George Springer.
Athletics: Marcus Semien, SS (age 30)
He was third in AL MVP voting last year, which would have been the ideal time to hit the market, considering his troubles this year. But it also looks like he’s going to have some postseason opportunities to show himself off.
Mariners: Dee Strange-Gordon, 2B (age 32)
He’s not hitting this year, and he only has one stolen base. He’s still, through it all, beloved nonetheless.
Rangers: Shin-Soo Choo, OF (age 38)
You could go with Corey Kluber here, considering there’s no way the Rangers pick up his option, but Choo’s seven-year deal finally expires this year.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Marcell Ozuna, LF (age 30)
That one-year make-good deal he signed with the Braves looks incredibly smart now, particularly now that he can just DH.
Marlins: Matt Joyce, OF (age 36)
Joyce may have a little bit of life left in his bat yet: He currently leads a playoff team in OBP (min. 80 plate appearances).
Mets: Marcus Stroman, RHP (age 29)
He elected not to play this year due to COVID-19 concerns, so it’s hard to know how other teams will value him.
Phillies: J.T. Realmuto, C (age 30)
Now that Mookie Betts has signed his extension, Realmuto might be the biggest free agent on the market this year. Will the Phillies try to re-sign him? Can they?
Nationals: Sean Doolittle, LHP (age 34)
This year has not been good for him and his velocity is down, but there’s still a considerable track record of success here.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Ryan Braun, OF (age 37)
The DH very well might add a few years onto his career … but will he remain with the one team he has ever known?
Cardinals: Yadier Molina, C (age 38)
Yadi is thinner and hitting better than he has in years, and he says he wants to keep playing for a few more years. The Cardinals wouldn’t really let him go somewhere else, would they?
Cubs: José Quintana, LHP (age 32)
He didn’t turn out to be the star at Wrigley that Cubs fans hoped he would be -- and they almost certainly regret trading Eloy Jiménez for him -- but there will definitely be a market for him this offseason.
Pirates: Chris Archer, RHP (age 32)
The Pirates could pick up his $9 million option, but what has he done for them so far that has shown he is worth further investment?
Reds: Trevor Bauer, RHP (age 30)
The often mercurial pitcher is having the best year of his career right when his market value peaks; the Reds, still all-in for this year, clearly weren’t letting him go at the Deadline.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Jake Lamb, 3B (age 30)
He was an All-Star as recently as 2017. Do try to remember this now that he has started this season 5-for-43.
Dodgers: Justin Turner, 3B (age 36)
There may be no player in baseball whose market will be more fascinating than Turner’s this offseason. He’s still hitting, like he always does … but he will turn 36 in the offseason, plus he has a history of recurrent leg injuries.
Giants: Kevin Gausman, RHP (age 30)
He’s a forever-intriguing arm, and as his strikeout rate has risen as his career has gone on, so too have the number of suitors for him.
Padres: Kirby Yates, RHP (age 34)
Yates has been sidelined by an elbow injury and is still hopeful he can return for the playoffs this year. If he can, and can be his old self, he’ll hit the market as the top closer.
Rockies: Kevin Pillar, OF (age 32)
He might be the perfect outfielder for the wide expanse of Coors Field. But will he have any sort of value left anywhere else?