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The one thing that everyone involved with baseball agrees upon this offseason is it will be slow moving. After a season without fans during the regular season, it’s hard to know which MLB owners will be willing to spend this winter. Except for the New York Mets and new owner, Steve Cohen. Everyone expects the Mets to be very active in this free agency market.
But the Mets can’t sign everyone (or can they?), so who else will be joining them to ink deals with new players? Patrick Nolan, Greg Nix, and I share our best guesses where these 20 free agents will sign. Last year, Patrick beat Greg and I with four correct picks out of 20 (we had three). You can make your picks for a shot to win a $50 Fanatics gift card below.
Free Agent Predictions
Pnoles: New York Yankees – James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka are free agents, and J.A. Happ conveniently was one start short of having his expensive option vest for 2021, so New York is going to need pitching help. Those three players made $52.5 million in 2020, so a premium starting pitcher seems like a natural target for New York.
Greg: New York Mets – Bauer has made lots of noise about taking one-year deals for the rest of his career, but as the best pitcher in an uncertain labor market I’d be surprised if he forgoes a $100 million offer. Meanwhile, new Mets owner Steve Cohen is rich as hell and the team has virtually no reliable pitching depth beyond Jacob deGrom. This one makes too much sense.
Josh: Los Angeles Angels – Even though the Angels have $119 million committed to Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Albert Pujols, and Justin Upton, I see owner Arte Moreno making another free agent splash signing Trevor Bauer.
Pnoles: St. Louis Cardinals – He’d make for a great heir to Yadier Molina. The Cardinals could still retain Molina, but Realmuto would represent a monstrous upgrade over a guy who shouldn’t be starting for a contending team anymore.
Greg: Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies watched Sixto Sanchez, the centerpiece they sent to Miami for Realmuto, buzzsaw the NL East after the Marlins called him up, giving them one more good reason not to let the best catcher in baseball go for nothing. The Mets figure to be bidding here, as well, but I’d guess Philadelphia ponies up to keep him.
Josh: Philadelphia Phillies – I think the New York Mets will heavily pursue Realmuto, but ultimately Philadelphia finds a way to keep him in a Phillies uniform and make him the highest-paid catcher.
Pnoles: Washington Nationals – The Nats had a bad 2020, but with a barren farm system, they need to get the most out of the handful of stud players on their roster. At this point, they have to either keep pushing or blow it up.
Greg: Houston Astros – I just don’t see anyone else shelling out for Springer with all the baggage he carries.
Josh: New York Mets – New owner Steve Cohen will make his presence known this offseason, and by signing George Springer, the Mets would have an exciting outfield with Springer, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto.
Pnoles: Philadelphia Phillies – Didi Gregorius is a free agent, and if Philadelphia doesn’t bring him back, they’ll have an immediate need.
Greg: Los Angeles Angels – The Angels need a new shortstop to help their Sisyphian quest for a playoff berth, and probably want someone who’s a better bet to hit than Andrelton Simmons
Josh: Cincinnati Reds – According to FanGraphs, the Cincinnati Reds ranked 28th in WAR at the shortstop position. Adding Marcus Semien would help fix that issue.
Pnoles: Milwaukee Brewers – Milwaukee can finally get out from under Ryan Braun’s contract, and Ozuna would be an upgrade for them in the lineup.
Greg: Atlanta Braves – Ozuna smashed the ball in Atlanta, so I don’t see why they’d let him leave.
Josh: Atlanta Braves – Sometimes a fit works so well for both the player and team that it’s hard to imagine a split. That’s how I feel about Marcell Ozuna and the Atlanta Braves, and if there isn’t a DH in the National League, I still find the Braves making it work with Ozuna to play in LF.
Pnoles: Los Angeles Angels – The battle to get something out of having Mike Trout rages on. Los Angeles will need some help in the infield with Andrelton Simmons hitting free agency (perhaps David Fletcher plays shortstop going forward?), and LeMahieu can serve as one of the handful of guys who actually helps out Trout each year amidst a sea of disappointment.
Greg: New York Yankees – LeMahieu has become a fan favorite in New York, and the team seems to value his flexibility to fill-in around their talented but oft-injured core.
Josh: New York Yankees – Just like the Braves and Ozuna, I can’t imagine the New York Yankees letting DJ LeMahieu go elsewhere.
Pnoles: New York Mets (Accepts QO) – For the record, if he declines the qualifying offer, I’d predict the Braves for Stroman, as they could use a bundle of help in the rotation behind Max Fried and Ian Anderson. However, with Stroman having sat out the 2020 season and draft pick compensation now attached, he could easily just accept a year of getting paid a lot of money before getting to test the waters in (hopefully) a non-pandemic setting.
Greg: New York Yankees – I’d love to see Stroman in a White Sox uniform, but the combination of Jerry Reinsdorf’s cheapness and Tony La Russa’s regressive comments regarding Black players (which he has partially walked back) point to him landing elsewhere. The Yankees need reliable starters behind Gerrit Cole, and Stroman is just about as reliable as they come.
Josh: Miami Marlins – Going with a wild card pick here. The Miami Marlins surprised a lot of people in 2020 by reaching the postseason with a winning record and knocking out the Chicago Cubs. Adding Marcus Stroman to a rotation with Sixto Sanchez and Sandy Alcantara could be a formidable trio and help the Marlins surprise again in 2021.
Pnoles: Houston Astros – With George Springer, Josh Reddick, and Brantley himself hitting free agency, it likely makes sense for the Astros to retain one of Brantley or Springer to try to squeeze as much as they can out of their current core.
Greg: Washington Nationals – The Nationals got terrible production from… well, lots of places in 2020. But DH and RF were two of the biggest offenders, and assuming they continue to build around Juan Soto and Trea Turner, that makes Brantley a great fit.
Josh: Chicago White Sox – The White Sox need a dependable left-handed bat in the lineup, and Michael Brantley can be that. If Tony La Russa can’t trust Eloy Jimenez defensively, Brantley might play more in the field than expected.
Pnoles: Cincinnati Reds – A reliable bullpen would have done wonders for their record in the first half of this season, but instead they spent most of September playing catch-up. Hendriks would be a stellar addition for them.
Greg: Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers won the World Series with a rat bullpen, but trust me when I say that LA fans are tired of relying on Pedro Baez and the shell of Kenley Jansen in big moments. They certainly don’t need to add, but they will because they’re the Dodgers.
Josh: Washington Nationals – The Washington Nationals can’t sit and watch the rest of their NL East rivals make significant improvements. I see them locking up the best closer on the market with Liam Hendriks.
Pnoles: New York Mets – How do you fix a situation where you have an analytics darling (Edwin Diaz) that has trouble holding leads in the 9th inning? Pair him with a guy with underwhelming peripherals who doesn’t leak leads away in the 9th inning! They learn from one another and become SUPER RELIEVERS! The Mets finish in 4th place anyway because Mets.
Greg: Philadelphia Phillies – Philly’s bullpen was terrible, but at some point they have to run out of money for top-of-market solutions. That’s why Colome makes sense to steady the back of their bullpen that somehow put up a 7.06 ERA in 2020, even though I would personally rank him as closer to the 30th best free agent than the 10th. (I can also easily see the White Sox bringing him back at this kind of number.)
Josh: Philadelphia Phillies – With the Nationals signing Hendriks, I see the Phillies pivot and inking Colome to help fix the tire fire that was the 2020 bullpen.
Pnoles: Cincinnati Reds – The Reds have a fairly substantial need to upgrade their disappointing offense someplace and don’t seem to have any good internal solutions at shortstop. Gregorius would give this team a very significant boost.
Greg: Oakland Athletics – Gregorious is exactly the kind of player who might slip through the cracks this offseason: he’s good, but not as good as Semien or Korean import Ha-Seong Kim. The A’s are great at scooping up players that the market overlooks.
Josh: Los Angeles Angels – Even though Andrelton Simmons is a far superior defender, I see the Angels exchanging the glove for more bat signing Didi Gregorius.
Pnoles: New York Yankees – The logic for the Yankees going after Bauer also applies to a push to retain Tanaka, who has played in New York his whole career. He seems like a good candidate to return home.
Greg: Los Angeles Angels – Tanaka is an intriguing candidate for the Sox, considering they were runners-up when he signed with the Yankees out of Japan. But the Angels have deeper pockets, a more desperate need for starters, and Tanaka’s countryman Shohei Ohtani.
Josh: Toronto Blue Jays – Another surprise! After signing Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Toronto Blue Jays continue to supplement their potent, young offense with another veteran starting pitcher stealing him away from a chief rival.
Pnoles: San Francisco Giants (Accepts QO) – This is going to be a really weird market with teams likely hesitant to do their usual spending without a clear picture of what their 2021 revenue will look like. Gausman is a very talented pitcher who has had an inconsistent career. He’s been given the opportunity to earn $18.9 million next year and test the market in less traumatic times without draft pick compensation attached after 2021. He should take it.
Greg: San Francisco Giants (Accepts QO) – It’s sort of wild that Gausman went from a waiver claim in August 2019 to receiving a Qualifying Offer worth $19 million in November 2020, but that’s apparently what 10 good starts will do for you. He may be the biggest single beneficiary of the shortened season, and he should jump at the chance to get paid in the Bay.
Josh: San Francisco Giants (Accepts QO) – What Pnoles and Greg said.
Pnoles: San Diego Padres – San Diego is heading into its competitive cycle, but their 2020 bullpen was underwhelming after Drew Pomeranz. Hand has experience pitching in San Diego, and a reunion could make some sense after the Indians declined his option.
Greg: San Diego Padres – Hand finds himself on the free-agent market due to Cleveland’s cheapskate ownership, which will probably work out alright for him. The Padres don’t really have a closer and love to spend, so it’s logical they’d bring Hand back to the team where he established himself as a relief ace.
Josh: New York Mets – Again, I think the NL East is going to be busy in the reliever market. After Cleveland let Brad Hand go, the Mets pick him up to help close out games with Edwin Diaz.
Pnoles: Toronto Blue Jays – Toronto enjoyed some surprising success in 2020, and to build on that, they’re going to need to get some help in the rotation behind ace Hyun-Jin Ryu. Odorizzi seems to hit that mid-market sweet spot that Toronto tends to live in when approaching free agency.
Greg: Minnesota Twins – Odorizzi didn’t pitch much after accepting the Twins qualifying offer last offseason, and when he did he was pretty bad. I don’t expect there will be a huge market for him, so returning to Minnesota at a lower salary seems likely.
Josh: St. Louis Cardinals – Not knowing if Adam Wainwright will return, the St. Louis Cardinals could help Jack Flaherty by signing Jake Odorizzi to improve the starting rotation.
Pnoles: Chicago White Sox – Plot twist; the White Sox no longer have to choose between trying to win with Quintana or trying to win with the guys he might fetch in trade. Quintana’s pitched in Chicago for almost a decade, so why leave now? He’s not quite the pitcher he once was and he’s now on the wrong side of 30, but given how smart and adaptable Quintana is, I’d bet on him being in major league rotations for at least the next five years.
Greg: Chicago White Sox – Q returning to the South Side makes too much sense not to happen. The Sox need rotation depth, which is precisely what Quintana provides at this point. In a down market, I’d be shocked if he gets a multi-year deal.
Josh: Milwaukee Brewers – The Milwaukee Brewers continue to re-piece together the 2017 White Sox by signing Jose Quintana to add much-needed depth to their starting rotation.
Pnoles: Minnesota Twins – I don’t see a good reason for Cruz to leave, and I don’t see a good reason for Minnesota to want to let him. That lineup becomes far less formidable if you take Cruz out of it. He’s heading into his age-40 season, but that’s a lot less damning when he put up almost a 1.000 OPS at age 39.
Greg: Minnesota Twins – Cruz continued to crush in 2020, but at 40 years old he’s probably looking at one-year deals for the rest of his career. That said, Minnesota still needs his bat; why mess with a good thing?
Josh: Minnesota Twins – What Pnoles and Greg said, again.
Pnoles: Chicago White Sox – Beyond Springer there aren’t a lot of great free agent options that can handle right field defensively. Pederson’s ability to swing from the left side makes him a great fit in the lineup, and the Sox have been rumored to have had interest before. Plus, as a low-BABIP guy, he feels like someone who could absolutely crater any year now. Just in case you were questioning his fit on the south side.
Greg: Chicago White Sox – This dude has been a White Sox target for like four years running, so of course they’ll finally nab him coming off his worst major league season. He’s hopeless against lefties, but his .849 career OPS against righties should make him a fine platoon partner for Adam Engel.
Josh: Chicago White Sox – It just feels like destiny that Joc Pederson plays for the White Sox at some point in his career.
Pnoles: Tampa Bay Rays – Morton has some personal reasons for wanting to stay in Tampa Bay, as he’s said that he wants his kids to be able to see him pitch in what could be his final season. In a normal market, he’s easily worth more than the one year, $15 million option that the Rays declined, but he also took a below-market offer to come to Tampa Bay in the first place. My guess is he stays a Ray at a discount.
Greg: Miami Marlins – I was quite surprised to see the Rays decline Morton’s 2021 option, but that’s the Rays for you. His family lives in Florida (one reason he signed with Tampa to begin with), so Miami is an interesting dark horse as they try to build off of their surprising playoff appearance.
Josh: Atlanta Braves – After stealing Cole Hamels away from the White Sox last offseason, the Braves do it again by inking Charlie Morton to a one-year deal in the last hurrah for the right-hander.
Pnoles: Miami Marlins – This could prove to be a wild prediction, but after Miami surprised in 2020, they could be on the hunt for a real upgrade. McCann feels like the type of player they could sell (He’s an All-Star! He just hit .280/.360/.536!) while not actually being good enough to be out of their price range.
Greg: New York Mets – McCann is undoubtedly the 2nd best catcher on the market, and if the Mets fail to snag Realmuto then he makes a lot of sense as a more modest investment. Sox fans will be sad to see him go, but I hope he gets that bag!
Josh: New York Mets – A lot of White Sox fans would love to see James McCann return but I predict that when the Mets lose out on Realmuto, they shift directions and sign McCann before the Yankees can.