We're always looking ahead here at MLBTR, sometimes way ahead, hence our recent publication of the 2014-15 free agent class. These players project for free agency after the 2014 season, two seasons from now. We know plenty of them will sign extensions between now and then, but it's still fun to discuss.
Joining This Group Later
After the 2013 season, several players have club options that seem likely to be exercised, such as James Shields and Jon Lester. That means they'll play out the 2014 season and then become free agents.
The Under-30 Group
Clayton Kershaw, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Colby Rasmus, Homer Bailey, and Chris Perez are among those who will play the 2015 season at an age below 30. Kershaw and Andrus, in particular, are primed for monster contracts barring major hiccups in the next two seasons. Kershaw will turn 27 in March of 2015, and the Dodgers' ace seems the best candidate to soar past the $200MM mark whether through an extension or free agency. Andrus, meanwhile, will enter the 2015 season as a 26-year-old. It takes a special kind of player to put in six years of Major League service time by that age.
The 2014-15 free agent class is deep at shortstop at the moment, with Andrus, Cabrera, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, and perhaps Hanley Ramirez. Sandoval, Chase Headley, and Nick Markakis are potential middle-of-the-order bats in a market that appears light on them. Perhaps someone like Melky Cabrera can post a couple of strong seasons to solidify his status. Otherwise you're looking at a 39-year-old David Ortiz or 35/36/37-year-olds Josh Willingham, Adam LaRoche, Victor Martinez, Aramis Ramirez, and Michael Cuddyer.
Kershaw and Justin Verlander represent a pair of true aces who will seek record-setting contracts, should they reach free agency. Verlander will turn 32 prior to the 2015 season. I realize he's not like most pitchers, but the list of seven-year megacontracts given to 32-year-olds is a short one for good reason. At any rate, it'll be fun times at MLBTR if both pitchers reach free agency, but there's a pretty good chance the Dodgers lock up Kershaw. Beyond those two, Max Scherzer, Shields, and Lester comprise a strong second tier. Homer Bailey, Justin Masterson, and Brandon McCarthy can join them with a pair of strong seasons. And who knows what the mid-30s will bring for Josh Beckett and Jake Peavy.
How accurate can we be, analyzing a free agent class two years early? Aside from all the guys who will be plucked off the market early due to extensions, some players will just see their stock plummet. For every Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton, there's a Stephen Drew, a guy who I considered a $100MM contract candidate two years ago.