Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Here's how the next 5 free-agent classes look

@_dadler
April 18, 2019

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were this year's marquee free agents, and now both have found new homes, in Philadelphia and San Diego, respectively. Meanwhile, six of the biggest names who were a year away from free agency have come off the board, with Nolan Arenado (Rockies), Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals),

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were this year's marquee free agents, and now both have found new homes, in Philadelphia and San Diego, respectively. Meanwhile, six of the biggest names who were a year away from free agency have come off the board, with Nolan Arenado (Rockies), Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals), Chris Sale (Red Sox), Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), Justin Verlander (Astros) and Khris Davis (A's) signing extensions.

Even so, there will be plenty of stars reaching free agency in the coming offseasons. MLB.com is previewing the free-agent classes for 2020 and beyond. Teams have plenty to look forward to. Here's a look at the notable players at each position who are set to become free agents over the next several years.

Notable free agents for 2019-20
Catcher: Francisco Cervelli, Yasmani Grandal (mutual option)
First base: Jose Abreu
Second base: Scooter Gennett, Jonathan Schoop
Third base: Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius
Outfield: Marcell Ozuna, Nicholas Castellanos, Yasiel Puig, Adam Eaton
DH: J.D. Martinez (opt-out)
Starting pitchers: Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler, Stephen Strasburg (opt-out), Rick Porcello, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Wood
Relievers: Dellin Betances, Arodys Vizcaino, Sean Doolittle (club option), Kenley Jansen (opt-out)

With Arenado and Goldschmidt out of the picture, the headliner of next year's free-agent class may be the underrated Rendon, who is perhaps not far behind Arenado when it comes to top third basemen.

Even with Sale and Verlander out of the mix, the upcoming market for starting pitchers still could be much stronger than the 2018-19 class, which featured Patrick Corbin as the No. 1 starter available. Cole is likely to command the highest price tag, as he will be 30 in 2020. If Bumgarner can have a bounceback season this year, he could be in demand too.

Two wild cards of the 2019-20 free-agent class could be Martinez and Strasburg, who can opt out of their contracts with the Red Sox and Nationals, respectively, starting next offseason, although it's very possible neither one will.

Notable free agents for 2020-21
Catcher: J.T. Realmuto, Mike Zunino, Yadier Molina
First base: C.J. Cron, Yuli Gurriel, Ryan Zimmerman
Second base: Starlin Castro, Jason Kipnis, Cesar Hernandez, Marwin Gonzalez, DJ LeMahieu, Daniel Murphy (mutual option)
Third base: Justin Turner, Zack Cozart, Jake Lamb
Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons, Jonathan Villar, Marcus Semien, Jurickson Profar
Outfield: Mookie Betts, George Springer, Yoenis Cespedes, David Peralta, Michael Brantley, Joc Pederson, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jay Bruce, Giancarlo Stanton (opt-out)
DH: Edwin Encarnacion
Starting pitchers: Trevor Bauer, Robbie Ray, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Jake Arrieta, Marcus Stroman, Jose Quintana
Relievers: Blake Treinen, Jeremy Jeffress, Alex Colome, Brandon Morrow, Andrew Miller (club option)

Mike Trout was the obvious headliner here until the Angels inked him to a record extension, but one of the AL's other top players could still be very much in the mix by November 2020. Betts would be entering his age-28 season, and could be in line for some free agency history.

There could also be a pair of headlining names at premium positions -- Realmuto at catcher and Simmons at shortstop. Realmuto is one of the few all-around star catchers in the Majors. The same factors that made him such a strong trade chip for the Marlins during the 2018-19 offseason could put him in line for a nice free-agent payday entering his age-30 season in 2021. Simmons, meanwhile, is widely considered the best defensive shortstop in the sport, and he's become an above-average hitter over the last couple of years, garnering some MVP votes. He'll only be 31 in 2021.

The starting-pitching class could be a deep one for a second year in a row, though last year's National League Cy Young winner, Jacob deGrom, no longer will be a part of it once his five-year deal with the Mets is official, and neither will Cubs righty Kyle Hendricks, who has inked an extension through 2023. Still, with frontline starters such as Bauer, Ray and Paxton, and established veterans such as Tanaka and Arrieta, teams looking to bolster their 2021 pitching staffs should have a stable of strong arms to choose from.

Notable free agents for 2021-22
Catcher: Salvador Perez, Wilson Ramos, Yan Gomes
First base: Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Brandon Belt, Matt Carpenter (vesting option)
Second base: Javier Baez, Kolten Wong, Dee Gordon
Third base: Arenado (opt-out), Kris Bryant, Eduardo Escobar, Travis Shaw, Miguel Sano
Shortstop: Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story
Outfield: Michael Conforto, Tommy Pham, Michael Brantley, Starling Marte, Kyle Schwarber, Byron Buxton, Christian Yelich (club option), Andrew McCutchen (club option)
Designated hitter: Khris Davis
Starting pitchers: Noah Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Chris Archer, Mike Foltynewicz
Relievers: Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Brad Hand, Jeurys Familia, Corey Knebel, Archie Bradley, Raisel Iglesias, Roberto Osuna, Zack Britton (club option)

If all the players in line for free agency in the 2021-22 offseason actually reached the open market, it might be one of the best classes ever.

Start with the shortstops … wow. Lindor, Correa and Seager are three of the brightest young stars in the game today, and Story emerged along with them in 2018. All four of them would be free agents in their primes -- Correa will be 27 in 2022, Lindor and Seager 28, Story 29.

The starting pitchers … wow again. Syndergaard has some of the most overpowering stuff in the game and will be entering his age-29 season in 2022. In the same class could be some of the greatest starting pitchers of the generation -- the three-time Cy Young winners Kershaw and Scherzer, and the two-time winner Kluber, although they'll be getting older by the time they're free agents.

On top of all that, there's the superstar trio of Cubs that could become free agents all at once -- Bryant, Rizzo and Baez. There's the Braves' Freeman, who's been one of the top first basemen in the NL for years. There's a deep group of relievers, including elite closers Chapman and Jansen. And if Arenado opts out of his Rockies deal or the Brewers don't pick up Yelich's option, there are another two potential big names right there.

Potential free agents for 2022-23 and 2023-24
If you really want to go down the line, here are some of the star players who could become free agents following the 2022 and '23 seasons.

2022-23: Aaron Judge, Trea Turner, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Nola (club option), Luis Severino (club option), Edwin Diaz, Sale (opt-out), deGrom (opt-out)
This group includes the Yankees' Baby Bombers, Judge and Sanchez, who could be anchors of a perennial contender by the time they enter free agency. It also includes some of the breakout stars of 2018, such as Nola and Diaz, and may include Sale and deGrom if they opt out.

2023-24: Machado (opt-out), Jose Ramirez, Matt Chapman, Cody Bellinger, Rhys Hoskins, Blake Snell, Walker Buehler, Josh Hader
The Indians locked up Ramirez on a team-friendly deal a few years ago, and it paid off when he blossomed into an MVP candidate. That contract puts him on track for free agency after 2023, assuming Cleveland picks up his pair of contract options. He could be joined by the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year Bellinger, the '18 AL Cy Young Award winner Snell, the emerging two-way star third baseman Chapman and maybe even Machado if he opts out to look for a new and improved megadeal.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.