The top 25 free agents, ranked

Machado, Harper headline star-studded FA crop

September 17th, 2018

The market for free agents was mostly tepid last offseason, but history is unlikely to repeat itself, given the quality of this year's crop. Below are my current rankings of the top 25 free agents.
• 2018-19 free agents, position by position
Players who can opt out of their contracts -- such as (possible), (unlikely) and (unlikely) -- are not included, but they may be added if they do decide to hit the open market.
Note: 2019 seasonal ages listed in parentheses. 
1. , 3B/SS (26 years old)
Whether he insists on remaining at shortstop or accepts a long-term move back to third base, Machado is poised to cash in this offseason. The slugger has been one of the most productive players at his position over the past four years, and he led all impending free-agent position players with 5.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2018, per FanGraphs. Moreover, after being traded to the Dodgers in July, Machado isn't eligible to receive a qualifying offer, which means teams won't have to worry about surrendering Draft picks to sign him. That could increase the number of clubs competing for the infielder's services, and I expect him to get a deal in the range of eight to 10 years and as much as $300 million total. Of course, Machado could also get an opt-out clause after three or four years, which would affect any analysis of the deal.
Interested teams: Yankees, Phillies, Padres, Dodgers, White Sox, Marlins
2. , OF (26 years old)
Although Harper is one of the premier players in baseball, his lackluster production in the first half may have affected his chances of earning a record-breaking contract this offseason, as the outfielder's final numbers were somewhat muted. But after the All-Star break, he looked more like the player he was when he won the National League MVP Award in 2015, recording a .972 OPS. While there will be considerable debate about the number of years Harper should receive, it's clear that his annual salary will be among the highest in the game, and right around whatever Machado gets.
Interested teams: Nationals, Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals, Phillies

3. , LHP (29 years old)
Corbin quietly was one of the most dominant hurlers in baseball in 2018, recording a 3.15 ERA with an 11.1 K/9 rate, which contributed to his stellar 2.47 FIP. Decreasing his reliance on his four-seam fastball and increasing his two-seamer and slider usage was key as he went from average (104 ERA+ from 2012-17) to elite (137 ERA+ in 2018). The left-hander picked a great time to have a breakout campaign, doing so in his walk year. The six-year, $126 million contract signed with the Cubs last offseason is relevant here, and with Corbin being younger than Darvish was when he signed, the southpaw could see his offers creep toward $150 million.
Interested teams: Astros, Nationals, Yankees, Dodgers, Mariners, D-backs
4. , OF (32 years old)
After being hampered by injuries in 2016 and '17, Brantley put his health woes behind him and delivered a .309/.364/.468 slash line while continuing to display elite contact skills in '18 (9.5 percent strikeout rate). The veteran inked a club-friendly contract extension -- four years, $25 million with an $11 million team option -- in February 2014, but he should be able to get a much better deal on the open market this offseason. Look for the smooth-swinging outfielder's contract to rival the one former teammate signed with the Phillies last offseason (three years, $60 million).
Interested teams: Indians, Yankees, Mariners, Giants
5. , RH RP (31 years old)
The market for top-level relievers has been healthy in the past few offseasons, with , , and all landing big-money deals. Kimbrel is the next man up, and he is sure to draw significant interest. Although the right-hander saw his command waver this past season and he struggled early in the playoffs, he finished strong and still possesses dominant stuff. Kimbrel won't approach Chapman's five-year, $86 million contract from two offseasons ago, but expect him to get four years at around $15 million per year.
Interested teams: Red Sox, Cubs, Indians, Braves, Phillies

6. , LHP (31 years old)
Although his American League Cy Young Award-winning 2015 season has proven to be an outlier, Keuchel should still receive considerable interest as a free agent. The southpaw has built a successful career on solid command and the ability to rack up ground balls, so he should age well into his mid-30s. However, the emergence of Corbin as a premier arm has added some unexpected competition to the market, giving pitching-needy teams an additional option. My guess is that Keuchel will get one fewer year and a little less per year than Corbin.
Interested teams: Astros, Nationals, Yankees, Dodgers, Mariners
7. , DH (38 years old)
While his 40th birthday is on the horizon, Cruz is showing no signs of slowing down. The veteran slugger hit 37 homers in 2018, exceeding 35 for a fifth straight year, and his 135 OPS+ wasn't far from the mark he posted over '14-17 (148). Despite his advanced age, Cruz can still serve as a middle-of-the-order bat for a contender, which means a multiyear deal isn't out of the question. I figure he'll get roughly $35 million over two years.
Interested teams: Mariners, A's, Rangers
8. , RHP (29 years old)
Eovaldi has experienced his share of ups and downs in his career, but he was outstanding after joining the Red Sox in a July trade, particularly in the postseason. His health is a concern, as he missed all of 2017 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and part of '18 with loose bodies in his right elbow. But with impressive velocity and a newfound ability to mix up his offerings and location to keep hitters off balance, Eovaldi could receive multiple offers in the four-year, $70 million range. And give the dearth of right-handed starting pitching on the market, he could get more than Keuchel.
Interested teams: Padres, Red Sox, Braves

9. , RH RP (33 years old)
After struggling in 2017 -- his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery in '15 -- Ottavino emerged as one of the most effective relievers in baseball this year. The right-hander consistently thrived in high-leverage situations for the Rockies, recording a 197 ERA+ with 13.0 K/9 rate. He even tamed the Coors Field monster, notching a 2.10 ERA at home. As a result, there should be no shortage of suitors for Ottavino's services, and 's contract from a year ago (three years, $27 million) is a decent starting point.
Interested teams: Indians, Dodgers, Red Sox, A's, Nationals
10. , C (31 years old)
Ramos has a pair of torn ACLs on his resume, which may limit his offers. But there's little doubt that, when healthy, he is one of the top offensive catchers in baseball. The veteran arguably was better than ever at the plate in 2018, slashing .306/.358/.487 with 15 homers in 111 games. And after struggled on both sides of the ball in the postseason, Ramos could have more suitors than initially expected. Ideally, Ramos will sign with an AL team, allowing him to remain in the lineup as the designated hitter on the days when he doesn't catch.
Interested teams: Rays, A's, Nationals, Mariners
11. Yusei Kikuchi, LHP (28 years old)
Kikuchi -- who is expected to be posted this offseason -- spent time on the disabled list with a left shoulder issue this past season, which may give pause to some Major League clubs, especially considering the underlying concerns many MLB teams already have about the health of Japanese pitchers transitioning to a big league schedule. But from speaking to evaluators who have seen Kikuchi pitch, the consensus is that the left-hander who plays for the Seibu Lions can be a mid-rotation starter in the Majors.
Interested teams: Rangers, Dodgers, Yankees, Mariners, Phillies, Padres
12. , C (30 years old)
While he doesn't receive the same attention as , or even , Grandal has been one of the most productive catchers in the game for several seasons. The veteran is a strong defender who consistently rates well as a pitch-framer, and he has posted an OPS+ of 100 or better in each of his seven seasons (121 in 2018). Although Grandal may have turned some teams off with his playoff woes on offense and defense, the dearth of difference-making catchers should make him a coveted free agent nonetheless.
Interested teams: Mariners, Nationals, Mets

13. , RHP (35 years old)
Morton has pitched like a top-of-the-rotation starter over the past two seasons, providing a substantial return on the two-year, $14 million investment the Astros made in him following the 2016 campaign. However, he dealt with shoulder problems near the end of 2018 and has pondered retirement. Although there should be plenty of teams interested in signing Morton based on his recent performance, there's a chance he'll either return to Houston or hang up his spikes.
Interested teams: Astros, Mariners, Yankees, Mets, Braves
14. , LHP (32 years old)
Ryu notably improved his four-seam fastball command in 2018 -- he held hitters to a .344 slugging percentage with the pitch, compared to .724 in '17 -- which helped in lowering his ERA to 1.97 (3.77 in '17) and his FIP to 3.00 (4.74 in '17). He owns a lifetime 3.20 ERA with a 3.40 FIP in the Majors, so multiple teams will likely buy into his '18 progress and make a bid for him despite his longstanding injury problems.
Interested teams: Dodgers, Padres, Mariners

15. , 3B (30 years old)
One year after the market cratered, leading Moustakas to return to Kansas City on a one-year, $6.5 million pact with a $15 million mutual option for 2019, the veteran enters free agency again with no qualifying offer attached to him. While he has some shortcomings in the on-base percentage arena (lifetime .307 OBP) and saw his slugging percentage decline 62 points from '17 to '18, Moustakas offers the power to hit 30-plus homers along with considerable postseason experience. That should be enough for him to land a similar deal to the one got from the Mets (three years, $39 million) last offseason.
Interested teams: Cardinals, White Sox, Rangers, Braves, Brewers
16. , OF (31 years old)
It wasn't long ago that Pollock was one of the most valuable players in the NL, posting 6.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2015, per FanGraphs. But he has been hampered by injuries in recent seasons, playing no more than 113 games in any of the past two years after missing almost all of '16. The outfielder remains a productive player on offense, defense and the basepaths, but Pollock may be better off signing a one-year deal and trying to improve his value with a healthy '19 before making another run at free agency next offseason.
Interested teams: D-backs, Cubs, A's, Braves, Phillies

17. , LHP (36 years old)
Happ has been incredibly reliable over the past four years, making at least 30 starts in three of them (25 in the other) and recording a 121 ERA+ -- the 12th best among the 29 pitchers with at least 115 games started in that span. Despite entering 2018 as a 35-year-old, he substantially increased his K/9 rate for the second straight season, posting a 9.8 mark (8.8 in '17, 7.6 from '13-16). A two-year deal in the $20 million to $25 million range may be a starting point for the left-hander, considering the interest he will likely receive.
Interested teams: Padres, Cubs, Mariners, Dodgers, A's
18. , RH RP (29 years old)
After missing a significant portion of 2017 while recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot from his right shoulder, Familia rebounded to record a 3.13 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP and a 10.4 K/9 rate in 70 appearances between the Mets and A's this past season. The right-hander has reached the 70-games plateau in four of the past five years, and he has substantial experience pitching in high-leverage situations. With a premium being placed on those types of relievers, a three-year, $27 million deal is more than reasonable for Familia.
Interested teams: A's, Mets, Cubs, Phillies, Nationals, Indians
19. , RH RP (34 years old)
After finishing up a four-year, $46 million contract this past season, Robertson is set to become a free agent again, and his ability to pitch well in virtually any situation out of the bullpen should serve him well on the open market. Robertson remained a decidedly above-average relief option in 2018, posting a 3.23 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP, an 11.8 K/9 rate and a 3.4 BB/9 rate while reaching the 60-games mark for the ninth straight year. This time around, the right-hander should land a two- or three-year deal with a salary between $20 million and $30 million. There is another level of intrigue here as Robertson fired his agent and will represent himself.
Interested teams: Yankees, A's, Nationals, Indians, Cubs

20. , LH RP (34 years old)
Miller will hit the open market at an unfortunate time, as he is coming off a season in which he made three trips to the disabled list -- one with a left hamstring strain, one with a right knee sprain and one with a left shoulder impingement -- and posted a 4.24 ERA with a 1.38 WHIP over 34 innings. But before that, the left-hander was one of the game's most dominant relievers, and he helped redefine the way clubs deploy their best bullpen arms. The contract landed from the Phillies last offseason (two years, $18 million) could be the model for Miller's next contract, though the southpaw may be able to get a third year somewhere.
Interested teams: Indians, Red Sox, A's, Dodgers, Padres

21. , LH RP (31 years old)
Much like Miller, Britton has seen his stock fall while battling injuries -- a left forearm strain in 2017 and a torn right Achilles tendon this past season. Although the left-hander is unlikely to ever revisit the heights he reached during his historic 2016 season (0.54 ERA), he can still use his power sinker to be a reliable relief weapon in the late innings, and he's young enough that teams probably won't be hesitant to offer him multiple years.
Interested teams: Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, A's, Astros, Padres
22. , LHP (38 years old)
Sabathia has defied Father Time over the past three seasons, posting a sub-4.00 ERA while making at least 27 starts in each year. The veteran lefty returned to the Yankees on a one-year, $10 million deal in 2018, and he could seek a similar contract for '19.
Interested teams: Yankees, Angels
23. , 3B (33 years old)
Donaldson played just 165 games over the past two seasons as he battled a nagging left calf injury, so teams will be taking some risk by signing him. But the veteran could wind up being a free-agent bargain if he can rebound in his age-33 campaign. The third-base market is weak beyond , and not every club can afford the 26-year-old, which could work in Donaldson's favor. The August trade to Cleveland also means he can't receive a qualifying offer, which should help his cause.
Interested teams: Indians, Brewers, Braves
24. , 1B/2B (34 years old)
After undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee last October, Murphy didn't return until mid-June and then recorded a .188/.230/.261 slash line with one homer in his first 21 games back. But the veteran hit .328/.365/.506 with 11 home runs over his final 70 contests, looking more like the player who contended for the NL MVP Award in his first two seasons with the Nationals. Despite questionable defensive skills at second base, Murphy should garner plenty of interest.
Interested teams: Cubs, Dodgers, Indians, Phillies
25. , UTIL (30 years old)
Gonzalez often flew under the radar on a star-studded Astros club, but he is a valuable utility option who can play every infield position as well as both corner-outfield spots while providing above-average offensive production. Gonzalez's next contract could be similar to the three-year, $21 million deal signed with the D-backs earlier this month.
Interested teams: Astros, Cubs, Indians, Angels