By: Chris Larson
The baseball Hot Stove season has officially commenced and that means that it's the time of year where there will be plenty of trade and free agent rumors swirling around, team's front offices going to the drawing board to see where they can make a significant upgrade or two, and plenty of bits of news that are going to be great conversation pieces.
The Hot Stove season is something that every baseball fan embraces and enjoys because it's an exciting part of the game and it's exciting to see exactly what all 30 teams around baseball are going to do. Sometimes, the free agent signings that a General Manager and their front office staff make are highly predictable, but other times there are scenarios where a signing might be highly unexpected and something that virtually no one saw coming which just adds to the excitement of the "season".
As a result, here are the Top 10 Free Agents available this offseason for teams to take a look at.
* All stats listed under each player are from the 2019 regular season. *
1. 3B Anthony Rendon (Age 29)
OPS+: 153, WAR: 6.3
Anthony Rendon is easily going to be the top position player free agent available on this winter's free agent market. Rendon continued to make a case of his greatness during this year's World Series and it's highly likely that he is going to receive a massive payday upwards of a total contractual value of at least $250 million dollars. There will be many interesting suitors out there as well including the Washington Nationals, who don't have necessarily a high chance of resigning him but will be involved in the derby, along with the Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, and to a lesser degree the New York Yankees. Of those teams, all of them make sense, but the one outlier is the New York Yankees because they could easily sign Rendon and then make current third baseman, Giovanny Urshela, available in a trade package to acquire a top of the rotation starting pitcher. While the Yankees might be better off focusing on acquiring starting pitching and only that, an argument could be made that another offensive heavy bat could be a tremendous asset as well.
2. C Yasmani Grandal (Age 31)
OPS+: 119, WAR: 2.5
Of all of the free agents available on the open market this offseason, catcher Yasmani Grandal might be the most underrated of them all. Grandal has always been a highly regarded catcher, but he made the bold move last offseason by signing a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers instead of signing the reported four-year, $60 million dollar deal with the New York Mets. Regardless, a case can be made that all 30 teams should be in on Grandal because of the value he brings to any team he plays for, but some of the best fits include Grandal's former club the aforementioned Milwaukee Brewers along with the Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Oakland Athletics. Of all six of those teams, the most intriguing fit would be the Oakland Athletics because they could plug in Grandal behind the plate and would vastly improve their catching defense which was a struggle from this past season. Of all 30 teams around baseball, the Oakland Athletics finished second to last in Defensive Runs Saved with a (-21) value, at the catching position.
3. DH/OF J.D. Martinez (Age 32)
OPS+: 140, WAR: 3.3
When it comes to J.D. Martinez, everything is hypothetical because he hasn't officially announced that he is going to opt-out of the remaining three-years and $62.5 million dollars left on his deal with the Boston Red Sox, but he is certainly an impactful name if he hits the open market. One of the main reasons why he is likely going to opt-out is because of the two impactful seasons that he has had with the Boston Red Sox. However, trying to find a logical fit around baseball given that only American League teams will be in the market for a Designated Hitter is much more difficult. Of all of the American League teams, the Chicago White Sox are a real possibility because of uncertainty regarding a Designated Hitter of their own in Jose Abreu, who is also hitting the free agent market this winter. If Abreu ends up signing somewhere else, then the White Sox are a perfect destination and J.D. Martinez would vastly improve their offensive output.
4. 3B Josh Donaldson (Age 34)
OPS+: 127, WAR: 6.1
Josh Donaldson is coming off a season in which he took a "pillow deal" with the Atlanta Braves in hopes of regaining his value and looking to sign a multi-year contract this offseason. Donaldson did just that with the Braves last year and played an integral role in helping Atlanta to clinch a postseason berth. Furthermore, when Donaldson is healthy, his defense over at the hot corner is extremely valuable and that will play quite well for any team that either loses out in the Anthony Rendon sweepstakes, a team that doesn't want to spend the money it will take to sign Anthony Rendon, or a team that misses out on acquiring a third baseman, who might be available on the trade market, in Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs. The same teams mentioned for Rendon make sense for Josh Donaldson along with two other National League East Teams - the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets could afford to add an impactful bat to their lineup and third base is a need as Jed Lowrie is currently slated to be the Opening Day third baseman, while the Phillies could afford an upgrade at that position as well.
5. OF Marcell Ozuna (Age 29)
OPS+: 107, WAR: 2.2
Among the free agent outfielders available on the market, Marcell Ozuna is one of the more impactful ones and likely is going to be out of the picture with the St. Louis Cardinals. Ozuna does have some difficulties from a fielding perspective, but he has a productive enough bat to be an impactful part of any lineup and enough power still left at the age of 29. Over the course of his major league career, Ozuna has played a bulk of his total innings in both leftfield and centerfield so teams with needs at those positions will be among the best suitors. One of the best fits around baseball is the Arizona Diamondbacks who could afford a significant upgrade in leftfield and assurance in the event that outfielder, David Peralta, gets injured again over the span of the 2020 season. Beyond the Arizona Diamondbacks, other fits include the: Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, and the San Francisco Giants. San Francisco would be an interesting fit because Ozuna would give them an offensive upgrade over current leftfielder, Alex Dickerson. It's not clear if the Giants would be opening to spending money on an upgrade at that position, but it does make sense on paper.
6. OF Nicholas Castellanos (Age 28)
OPS+: 121, WAR: 2.7
Looking back on this year's July 31st Trade Deadline, Nicholas Castellanos was likely the best player traded and had a very impactful two months with the Chicago Cubs. Over the span of the 2019 regular season, Castellanos had the highest slugging percentage (.525) over his big league career and had a cumulative WAR of (2.9). However, some teams might be hesitant because of the negative defensive metrics for Castellanos in the outfield and might view what he did with the Cubs as an extended hot streak, but he should still be able to net something valuable in free agency. Of all of the teams around baseball, the best fit for Castellanos are the aforementioned Chicago Cubs because the fit was so great and he seemed to hit the ball well at Wrigley Field. If the Cubs fail to reach a deal with Castellanos or don't express interest, then the team on the other side of Chicago, in the White Sox, would make sense or potentially the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, if they determine that Castellanos is more of an upgrade over current rightfielder, Kole Calhoun.
7. 2B/3B Mike Moustakas (Age 31)
OPS+: 114, WAR: 3.2
If a team is looking for a second baseman or someone that can play both second and third, then they should look no further than Mike Moustakas. Back in 2015, Moustakas was an integral part of the World Series Championship Kansas City Royals team and ever since has had to rely on one-year deals because teams have been hesitant to commit to deals longer than that. However, with this offseason, Moustakas should be able to land a multi-year deal and find something quite comfortable to his liking. As far as potential fits go for Moustakas, there are a couple of intriguing ones out there including the Washington Nationals if they lose out on Anthony Rendon, the Texas Rangers if they miss out on either Rendon or the aforementioned Josh Donaldson, along with Milwaukee Brewers, Moustakas former club, and a very intriguing fit in another former club for Moustakas - the Kansas City Royals. The Royals could insert Moustakas over at third base to be a pillar of the next great Royals team and have a true leader for the young players on the team. Furthermore, Moustakas has a relationship with Dayton Moore in Kansas City and was a fan favorite for many years there.
8. SS Didi Gregorious (Age 30)
OPS+: 87, WAR: 0.6
Didi Gregorious only played in (82) games during the 2019 regular season, but he is still a very good player on both sides of the ball when healthy and could be a very impactful signing. Gregorious concluded the 2019 campaign with a (.441) slugging percentage along with (16) home runs and (61) RBI. Despite those impressive numbers, Gregorious might be better off taking the Qualifying Offer from the New York Yankees rather than testing the free agent market, but if he does not and wants to go on the open market, then the Cincinnati Reds could be one of his strongest suitors. The Reds did pick up the option of Freddy Galvis this past week for the 2020 season, which could mean that there's less of a chance of Gregorious landing there compared to a couple of weeks ago, but Cincinnati could utilize Galvis at second base and have Gregorious at shortstop. Another potential is found across The Buckeye State with the Cleveland Indians. There has been plenty of chatter about the Indians making shortstop, Francisco Lindor, available on the trade market so if that happens, Gregarious could be a nice option for the Indians to keep them competitive while they reap the rewards of a Lindor trade.
9. OF Yasiel Puig (Age 29)
OPS+: 100, WAR: 1.3
Yasiel Puig's free agency is going to be an interesting one because it could very well end in him only being able to land a one or two-year deal with a new club. Puig, who is coming off a season in which he recorded (84) RBI and (19) stolen bases over the span of (611) plate appearances with the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians, could find himself back with either of those teams. Puig did well in the clubhouse during the second half of the 2019 regular season with the Indians and both teams could use help in the outfield. Despite that though, one very intriguing fit is the Miami Marlins who could very well be gearing up to either sign Yasiel Puig to an aforementioned one or two-year deal or even a longer deal than that and have him as their household player moving forward. Puig, who has roots from Cuba, would be a great marketing asset for the Miami Marlins with the Cuban-type of culture in Miami and could really reinvigorate the entire fanbase after several tough seasons on and off the field. Furthermore, Puig is the type of player that the Marlins could use on billboards and in marketing campaigns to draw fans to the ballpark.
10. OF Avisail Garcia (Age 28)
OPS+: 111, WAR: 2.0
A big reason why the Tampa Bay Rays made the playoffs this season was in part because of the contributions of Avisail Garcia in the outfield and his overall swing approach changed completely during his tenure with the Rays. As everyone knows, the Rays are a very analytically driven organization that is into everything from speed to hard contact rate and everything else in between and given their reliance on each one of those metrics, was a big reason why Garcia seemingly fit like a glove down there in Tampa Bay. Therefore, the best fit in free agency is with the Tampa Bay Rays and a deal can likely be permeated that fits the needs of both parties. Garcia won't be nearly as expensive as other outfield options in free agent for the Rays and has enough offensive wear withal to still be a threat within their lineup to partner with the likes of Tommy Pham, Austin Meadows, and Ji-Man Choi. Outside of the Rays, other potential fits include the: Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, and San Francisco Giants.