We last checked in on the 2019-20 free agent class at the end of April. No extensions have been signed since then, but otherwise there’s plenty of movement in the rankings. As always, these players are ranked by my estimate of their 2019-20 open market earning power. To view the entire list of 2019-20 MLB free agents, click here.
1. Gerrit Cole. Cole maintains his spot atop this list, earning a second consecutive All-Star nod and cementing himself as one of the best starting pitchers in the game. We haven’t seen a starting pitcher sign a seven-year deal since Stephen Strasburg inked his $175MM extension in May 2016. The largest contract signed by a starter remains David Price’s seven-year, $217MM deal from December 2015. The way free agency has been trending, it’s difficult to say whether Cole can reach the $200MM heights of Price, Max Scherzer, and Zack Greinke. For more on Cole’s free agency, click here.
2. Anthony Rendon. In the midst of his best offensive season yet, Rendon was finally voted into the All-Star game by his peers, though he was unable to participate. Rendon quietly keeps putting up six-win seasons as the Nationals’ third baseman, and he’s on the cusp of a huge contract. Rendon’s agent Scott Boras and the Nationals discussed an extension this month, according to Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com, but Boras suggested the ball is in the club’s court. A six-year deal could be a reasonable goal.
3. Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner is adding another fine season to his resume, if a bit homer-prone. It’s shaping up to be his first three-win season since 2016. He’s one of baseball’s most likely trade candidates this month, though the Giants are complicating matters by playing well of late. San Francisco is only three games out of the Wild Card, and if that holds up over the next two weeks, I can see the club holding onto him. That’s relevant to this post in that the team would saddle him with a qualifying offer in that case, reducing his earning power. In such a scenario, an extension with the Giants could begin to make sense.
4. Zack Wheeler. Wheeler’s spot on this list is precarious, as the 29-year-old righty recently landed on the IL for shoulder fatigue. The timing of the injury gives scant time for Wheeler to re-establish his health in advance of the July 31st trade deadline, and also stings from the pitcher’s standpoint if it leads to a qualifying offer after the season. Mike Puma of the New York Post suggests a qualifying offer from the Mets “seems unlikely” for Wheeler, but I think if he pitches reasonably well to close out the year, he’ll get one. Though Wheeler’s ERA is up to 4.69, he’s demonstrated skills that typically lead to something closer to 4.00.
5. J.D. Martinez. Martinez has the ability to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5MM on his contract after this season. He owns a solid 129 wRC+ to date, though that’s short of the lofty standard he set in years prior. As a DH who turns 32 in August, I don’t believe Martinez would do much better than $62.5MM on the open market, but his earning power still secures a spot on this list.
6. Aroldis Chapman. Chapman can opt out of the remaining two years and $30MM on his contract after the season, and there’s a decent chance the Yankees’ closer exercises that right. The Yankees could also get out ahead of the situation by adding, say, an extra year and $20MM to the deal. But Chapman turns 32 in February, and the Yankees may be content to let him leave even after another excellent season. Wade Davis’ three-year, $52MM deal from December 2017 could be a target for Chapman if he hits the open market.
7. Hyun-Jin Ryu. Ryu’s 1.97 ERA in 15 starts last year seemed impossible to beat, yet this year his ERA sits at 1.78 and he started the All-Star Game for the NL. The 32-year-old lefty has walked a mere 2.5% of batters faced this year, best in baseball. Though Ryu has not pitched 150 innings in a season since 2014, his injuries have not involved his arm or shoulder following his September 2015 elbow debridement procedure. If Rich Hill can get three years and $48MM heading into his age-37 campaign, it stands to reason that Ryu can get something similar heading into his age-33 season, particularly since he’s ineligible for another qualifying offer.
8. Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna is having a respectable bounceback season for the Cardinals, with a 118 wRC+ in 326 plate appearances. However, he’s a bat-first left fielder and is currently on the IL with multiple finger fractures. Ozuna will be just 29 in November, but he won’t be hitting the same market that saw Justin Upton snag a five-year, $106MM extension in November 2017. Ozuna also may come with a qualifying offer attached, and seems like a player who could face a difficult free agency.
9. Jake Odorizzi. A new entrant to this list, Odorizzi made his first All-Star team this year and owns a 3.06 ERA through 94 innings. 30 in March, he should be in line for a healthy contract with a strong second half. However, he may be saddled by a qualifying offer and could fail to reach the new standard of four years and $68MM set by Nathan Eovaldi and Miles Mikolas.
10. Yasmani Grandal. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year offer from the Mets in excess of $50MM during the offseason before signing a one-year, $18.25MM deal with Milwaukee. He’s matching last year’s excellent offense thus far and won’t have to contend with a qualifying offer this time, and should come out ahead on the gamble.
Honorable mentions: Stephen Strasburg (can opt of remaining four years and $100MM, Kenley Jansen (can opt out of remaining two years and $38MM), Josh Donaldson, Yasiel Puig, Didi Gregorius, Nicholas Castellanos, Will Smith, Dallas Keuchel, Kyle Gibson, Cole Hamels, Mike Moustakas