MLB Draft time! As we continue to investigate the 2020-21 free-agent class, we’ve come to learn a few things about free agents right now. It’s somewhat top-heavy, with a “big four” at the top, before the elite-level talent thins out quickly. But it’s deep in another sense because there are dozens of starter-quality players available as a free agent in the league.
How deep the list of free agents? Well, we got our writers SIU and SAQ together to do an informal 10 players draft with guaranteed-to-be-right predictions about where each player might end up and for how many years.
SIU: There are some fine free agents out there we can name then in the MLB draft and we’re about to name a whole bunch of them. But there is only one player we can say, with nearly 100% certainty, is the absolute best at his position. That’s Realmuto, who may have had the best year of his (already excellent) career at the plate and also is a Gold Glove Award winner behind the plate.
By definition, there isn’t a team in baseball that isn’t better with Realmuto on the roster. I’m very much Team Mets Are Gonna Spend Like Crazy This Offseason, and Realmuto would fill an obvious hole. The Phillies would like to keep him, too, but even in this unusual offseason, you can see the bidding getting out of control for this guy.
Prediction: 5-year deal with Mets.
SAQ: There are areas where this free-agent market is deep in MLB draft like you can find a catcher or a reliever. But in centre field, there’s Springer, then a big gap, then Jackie Bradley Jr., then … well, that’s it. There are no other starting centre fielders.
Springer’s value is in his consistent quality — he has a career 131 OPS+, and he’s never been below 114 in a season — and that, plus his status as the No. 11 overall picks a decade ago, helps him separate himself somewhat from what the 2017 Astros may have done to help (or not) their hitters. He’s a strong enough centre fielder that you can keep him there for a few years without concern, and with enough experience in right field that a move there as he ages would be seamless. If I can’t take the best catcher, I’m taking the most reliable remaining position player.
Prediction: we predict a 5-year deal with Mets.
SIU: Taking performance of Bauer into consideration so it was obviously incredible in 2020, at the exact right moment that personally most benefited him, which is probably something we should have seen coming. It is still worth remembering that other than 2018 and 2020, he has basically been Loud Gil Meche.
People will buy big on those two career years, though, and even with his, uh, polarizing personality, the suitors will line up. Cincinnati is probably the best fit, but all told, it does sort of feel like a big market, with many big microphones, is the cosmically correct place. Here’s hoping he and Gerrit Cole have officially made up.
Prediction: we predict 5-year deal with Yankees.
SAQ: The first three names we listed are clearly three of The Big Four of this year’s free-agent market, with a sizable gap following them. So LeMahieu it is, baseball’s most unshiftable man. He’s fresh off proving that not all Rockies hitters are merely a product of their mile-high home park better than anyone could have expected by posting a .336/.386/.536 line in two years with the Yankees — while also playing three spots and setting hearts aflutter by not striking out often and going to the opposite field.
The Yankees would love to have him back, but we’ll bet they’ll first spend big on pitching and add a shortstop to move Gleyber Torres, and rather than just assume the two New York teams will gobble up every free agent, let’s send him to a National League contender in absolute desperate need of offence. Welcome back to Wisconsin, DJ.
Prediction: we predict 3-year deal with Brewers.
SIU: Yes about Ozuna? Nothing against the guy, he’s a blast, but we are still exhausted by the great Cabrera-Trout War of 2012 and would rather just note that Ozuna was a fantastic hitter without having to get all “historic” about it.
A lot of Ozuna’s market in the MLB draft– we’ll see this from a few guys — is wrapped up in whether or not the National League still has the designated hitter or not. If you were to ask me to guess — without any actionable information here, I want to be clear — I’d wager that the DH does return to the NL, which makes Ozuna staying in Atlanta the logical bet here. But to warn: The Braves aren’t particularly eager to play him in left field if they’re forced to, and we can’t say that we blame them.
Prediction: we predict a 3-year deal with Braves.