Even though the Major League Baseball offseason opened more than two months ago, free agency has moved at a snail’s pace to this point. MLBTR ranked the top 50 free agents in the game heading into the winter, and at least some of those names have come off the board. Based on our contract predictions, here’s a look at the top 10 players still sitting on the open market…
1.) Trevor Bauer, RHP (original prediction: four years, $128 million)
As was the case when the offseason opened, it’s unclear what kind of deal Bauer is seeking. Yes, he’d probably love to break Gerrit Cole’s annual average value of $36 million, but will it be for one year or over the long haul? Bauer, the reigning National League Cy Young winner, has continued to leave all options on the table. While Bauer recently met with the Blue Jays, there haven’t been many strong rumors connecting him to specific teams. Regardless, it seems likely Bauer will price himself out of Cincinnati, where he thrived in 2020.
2.) J.T. Realmuto, C (original prediction: five years, $125 million)
Again, there doesn’t seem to be much happening with Realmuto. The Phillies, with whom he spent the previous two years and served as the game’s best catcher, certainly want him back. But are they willing to meet Realmuto’s demands? No dice so far. Otherwise, as MLBTR’s Anthony Franco wrote a couple weeks back, the Jays, Angels and Astros are just a few teams that could conceivably sign Realmuto.
3.) George Springer, OF (original prediction: five years, $125 million)
Springer was among the sport’s best outfielders in Houston from 2014-19, but it doesn’t seem as if he’ll remain with the club. Springer reportedly has multiple offers worth upward of $100 million, although the Astros haven’t really been connected to him in the rumor mill this winter. The Jays and Mets have come off as Springer’s most ardent suitors to this point, but New York’s interest may have cooled off after it acquired shortstop Francisco Lindor and right-hander Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland last week. The Mets might rather duck the $210 million luxury tax in 2020, and adding Springer would make that a difficult goal to achieve.
4.) Marcell Ozuna, OF/DH (original prediction: four years, $72 million)
Wouldn’t it be nice if MLB announced whether there will be a universal DH in 2021? The decision will be quite meaningful to someone such as Ozuna, who was a DH more than an outfielder with Atlanta last season. Thanks in part to the lack of clarity on the DH position, Ozuna’s market has been quiet so far. However, anyone acquiring him will land a player who was an all-world hitter in 2020. The 30-year-old dominated in both bottom-line statistics and Statcast figures.
5.) DJ LeMahieu, INF (original prediction: four years, $68 million)
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Toronto looks like a realistic possibility for another top free agent in LeMahieu. That said, the Yankees – with whom the second baseman was outstanding from 2019-20 – as well as the Dodgers, Red Sox, Braves, Cardinals and Mets may be in the mix. It’s a bit befuddling that the Yankees haven’t yet used their financial might to bring back LeMahieu, who apparently wants to re-sign after a batting title-winning, near-AL MVP season, but the two sides have been unable to close the gap in negotiations. In an ideal world for LeMahieu, he could collect around $100 million on his next deal. That’s a far cry from the two-year, $24 million contract he previously signed with the Yankees.
6.) Didi Gregorius, SS (original prediction: three years, $39 million)
The Gregorius rumor mill has been surprisingly quiet to this point. Aside from 2019, when Sir Didi was coming back from Tommy John surgery, he has been consistently productive over the past few years. He rebounded last season in Philadelphia, perhaps his lone season with the Phillies, although they might not be willing to re-sign him if they aren't going to spend a large amount. Barring a re-signing in Philly, two of Gregorius’ other ex-teams – the Reds and Yankees – might be among those to make pushes for him.
7.) Masahiro Tanaka, RHP (original prediction: three years, $39 million)
Beyond Bauer, the starting pitching market has dwindled rapidly in terms of both free agency and trades. A few examples: Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman, whom MLBTR initially ranked as top 10 free agents, accepted qualifying offers. Meanwhile, Yu Darvish and Blake Snell joined new teams in blockbuster deals, and Nippon Professional Baseball’s Tomoyuki Sugano decided to stay in Japan. Tanaka – who, like Darvish and Sugano, hails from Japan – is still available, and he might be the second-best starter left in free agency. Even though the 32-year-old generally got the job done as a Yankee from 2014-20, the Bombers haven't made a big effort to sign him to this point. Neither has anyone else, it seems, and Tanaka hasn’t closed the door on a return to Japan.
8.) Jake Odorizzi, RHP (original prediction: three years, $39 million)
Odorizzi went through an injury-limited 2020 in Minnesota, recording a mere 13 2/3 innings, but teams know what he’s capable of doing. As recently as 2019, Odorizzi was an All-Star with a 3.51 ERA in 159 frames. The Twins then gave Odorizzi a qualifying offer, which he accepted, although it wouldn’t be surprising to see him reel in a multiyear deal before next season. At least a few teams have shown interest in the soon-to-be 31-year-old this winter.
9.) Liam Hendriks, RHP (original prediction: three years, $30 million)
Hendriks might have been the top reliever in baseball in the previous two years in Oakland, and he appears to have landed a deal with the White Sox Monday night. With Hendriks also soon to turn 32, the Blue Jays (if you can believe it), Dodgers and Astros had been connected to him over the past couple of months.
10.) Michael Brantley, OF/DH (original prediction: two years, $28 million)
Considering the defensive questions surrounding him, Brantley is in a similar position to Ozuna at the moment. It would be beneficial to Brantley if MLB kept the universal DH around next season, as he’s a 33-year-old (34 in May) with an injury history who didn’t see much time in the field as an Astro in 2020. A few teams have shown interest in Brantley since then, although it doesn’t appear he’s all that close to signing anywhere.