Up for grabs: Top free agents still available
The top free agents are coming off the board left and right. Trevor Bauer, Marcell Ozuna and Nelson Cruz are in the latest wave of premier players to agree to deals, joining George Springer, J.T. Realmuto, DJ LeMahieu and more who have already signed.
So who's left? Don't worry, there's still value out there to be found, especially lower-cost players who could end up being solid contributors in 2021 for whichever team signs them.
Here are the top nine free agents who are still available.
1. Justin Turner, 3B (age 36)
Turner, who was ranked No. 10 on our original free-agent rankings at the beginning of the offseason, is the last real impact bat left. The longtime Dodger might be 36, but he's still a star hitter -- as he showed for the World Series champs when he hit .307 with an .860 OPS in 2020 -- team leader and elite postseason performer. A return to the Dodgers still seems most likely, but other teams like the Brewers are reportedly interested. Or what about a return to the Mets, who were in the running for an infielder (DJ LeMahieu) and have resources to spare after missing out on LeMahieu and the other top-of-the-market free agents?
2. James Paxton, LHP (age 32)
Paxton is a high-risk, high-reward starter coming back from an arm injury (left flexor strain), but his ceiling is high enough to make him the best starting pitcher on the market now that Bauer, Marcus Stroman and Masahiro Tanaka are signed. We ranked Paxton the No. 12 overall free agent entering the offseason, thanks to the 3.54 ERA and 183 strikeouts he averaged from 2017-19. A whole bunch of teams could be in on Paxton -- the Mets, Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Giants are all looking for starting pitching. If Paxton is healthy, he can be one of the top strikeout lefties around (11.1 K/9 since '17).
3. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF (age 31)
Springer is now in Toronto, but there's still a solid starting center fielder out there in Bradley, whom we originally ranked the No. 14 free agent this offseason. JBJ is one of the elite defensive center fielders in baseball, which makes him worth signing by itself, and he also provides some lefty power and just had his best hitting season in years. The Red Sox veteran batted .283 with seven home runs and an .814 OPS in 2020, after five straight double-digit home run seasons from 2015-19 (averaging 17 a year in that span). A return to Boston could happen, and teams like the Phillies and Mets could also use a center fielder.
4. Taijuan Walker, RHP (age 28)
Walker also carries some risk as he missed almost all of 2018 and '19 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he was impressive in his first full season back in 2020 -- a 2.70 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings over 11 starts -- and he's still at a prime age (basically the only free-agent starter left in his 20s). Those are big points in his favor entering 2021. We had the right-hander as the No. 15 free agent entering the offseason, and he's now one of the most attractive starting-pitching options left. As with Paxton, teams like Philadelphia and St. Louis could be fits.
5. Jake Odorizzi, RHP (age 31)
Odorizzi's solid mid-rotation innings-eating from 2014-19 will outweigh his injury-shortened 2020 campaign. Over those previous six full seasons with the Rays and Twins, Odorizzi posted a 3.88 ERA and averaged 30 starts and 165 innings a year with 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings. He's still relatively young, entering his age-31 season, and his solid track record made him the No. 24 overall free agent entering the winter. He doesn't have the upside of Paxton, but he's probably a safer bet -- and he was an All-Star in 2019, too, when he had a career year with a 3.51 ERA and 178 strikeouts for Minnesota. The Cardinals are interested, and the Mets look like a fit after missing out on Bauer, but reports are they might be targeting other starters instead.
6. Trevor Rosenthal, RHP (age 31)
If you want to find a lights-out closer on the free-agent market, Rosenthal is your best bet. This is an overpowering 100 mph fastball just sitting there for the signing. The veteran righty rebounded from a disastrous 2019 season when he couldn't throw a strike (26 walks, four hit batters and nine wild pitches in 15 1/3 innings) to have a dominant 2020 for the Royals and Padres. A 1.90 ERA and 38 strikeouts to only eight walks in 23 2/3 innings made him an NL Reliever of the Year finalist. Now that he has his command back, Rosenthal has the potential to be an elite reliever, which sets him apart from other free-agent options.
7. Rick Porcello, RHP (age 32)
Innings are going to be extra important in 2021, as teams try to ramp up their pitching staffs to a full-season workload from their short season in '20. And Porcello will give you innings. The former Cy Young Award winner has made at least 27 starts and pitched over 160 innings in every single full season of his career (2009-19), with a 4.36 ERA and an average of 137 strikeouts a year. He had a 5.64 ERA in 12 starts for the Mets in 2020, but his peripherals were a little better (3.33 FIP). He could fit with a team like the Tigers, where he started his career.
8. Jake Arrieta, RHP (age 35)
Arrieta is an intriguing starting pitching option, clearly in a tier below Paxton, Walker and Odorizzi but with some upside. Arrieta has dealt with elbow issues and general struggles over his last few seasons with the Phillies, but he reportedly looked good after throwing in front of teams last week, and he's now drawing interest from several. The Mets are one -- in fact, Arrieta might be the free-agent starter they're most interested in currently -- and a return to the Cubs, where he won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award, is also on the table. Arrieta had a 4.36 ERA and a 7.1 K/9 from 2018-20 with Philadelphia, but he had a 2.67 ERA and 9.1 K/9 from 2014-17 with Chicago. He probably won't return all the way to that dominant level in his mid-30s, but he's still a bounceback candidate.
9. Marwin Gonzalez, UTIL (age 32)
We're getting into the territory where all the players left carry significant question marks, whether due to recent performance, injuries, limited track record or whatever. So there's a wide range of candidates for the No. 10 spot, but let's go with the super-utility player Gonzalez, who's drawing interest from multiple teams lately and whose versatility can make him a fit in a lot of places. Gonzalez's hitting line wasn't good in 2020, but he was an above-average hitter over his last five full seasons from 2015-19, batting .269 and averaging 16 home runs. But most importantly, he can play all over the infield and in the corner outfield. That's extra valuable in today's game. The Mets, Red Sox and Phillies are all interested in Gonzalez, and more are likely in the mix, as his current market is said to number around half a dozen teams.
LHP Cole Hamels, LHP Rich Hill, RHP Mark Melancon, RHP Shane Green, RHP Jeremy Jeffress, LHP Justin Wilson, RHP Matt Shoemaker, CF Kevin Pillar, OF Brett Gardner, OF Yasiel Puig, OF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Mitch Moreland, 1B C.J. Cron, INF Brad Miller