Well, the 2017 MLB free agent class had its decent share of talent, but not that many players that stand out as "franchise changers". Prepare to be disappointed for the upcoming 2018 free agent class, one that only features a handful of studs like Jake Arrieta, Matt Holliday, Yu Darvish, Lorenzo Cain and J.D. Martinez.
2019 promises to be the best ever -- a class that includes Josh Donaldson, Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Manny Machado, Adrian Gonzalez, Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and some guy named Bryce Harper. Anyone hear of him?
Though the 2020 free agent class isn't quite as stacked as the 2019 one, it is shaping up to be many times better than that of the 2017 or 2018 group. There are a handful of ace pitchers, a superstar reliever and many elite hitters available. So just where will these guys be playing in 2020?
Here's a look at the top free agents set to hit the market in 2020, with projections of where they will go.
*Stats courtesy of ESPN.com, all contract details via Spotrac.com*
15 Brian McCann: Texas Rangers
Brian McCann is among the few hard-hitting catchers in baseball, so he's going to get paid a lot of money when he's on the market in 2020. He's on his way to hitting 20 home runs for the 10th-straight season. Though he's not hitting particularly well for average and his defence has declined, McCann is still better than 90 percent of MLB catchers.
The Texas Rangers will be a good fit for McCann. They've built a lineup strictly around guys with home run power. With Jonathan Lucroy sure to leave them in free agency this winter, Texas will be needing a new catcher eventually.
McCann will be in his mid-30s by then, so Texas shuold be able to get him cheap on a two-year deal worth about $20 million.
14 Ben Zobrist: Minnesota Twins
Ben Zobrist has been one of the most underrated hitters in baseball this decade. Everyone finally noticed his talents in the 2016 World Series, as Zobrist helped the Chicago Cubs end their 108-year championship drought.
But Zobrist has been struggling with the Chicago Cubs in 2016, batting just .264. But when you look at his track record, you figure he's bound to turn it around. He's going to be nearing the age of 40 by the time he reaches free agency, but Zobrist should be able to sustain his power and discipline at the plate for a few more years.
So why the Twins? Easy. With Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Max Kepler in the fold, Minnesota will be a championship contender by then. All young teams like to add veterans for playoff runs. The Cubs did it with Zobrist and it paid dividends. The Twins will follow suit and take on the 2016 World Series MVP.
13 Matt Kemp: New York Mets
As it stands now, the New York Mets have a very uncertain future in the outfield. Veterans Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce are set to become free agents, and the odds of them coming back are next to zero. With their top prospects still a while away from the big leagues, look for GM Sandy Alderson to take a chance on Matt Kemp.
After a frustrating tenure with the San Diego Padres, Kemp is turning it around with the Atlanta Braves -- batting .293 in 2017 with an .824 OPS. He's 32 years of age, but should have plenty of bat left in the tank by the time he's a free agent.
Kemp will be a good piece for a young Mets team that figures to re-emerge as a World Series contender by then. Signing Kemp to a one or two year deal worth $15 million a season is a worthy gamble.
12 Xander Bogaerts: San Diego Padres
Boston Red Sox fans may cringe at me having Xander Bogaerts head elsewhere. But team president Dave Dombrowski is eventually going to have to try and re-sign Craig Kimbrel and Drew Pomeranz (they are free agents after the 2018 season) and Chris Sale (more on him later).
On top of that, young stars Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts figure to earn hefty contracts worth at least $70 million each. As such, Bogaerts becomes the odd man out.
The Padres hope that prospect Luis Arias can form the infield of their future. He and Bogaerts would surely form one of the best in baseball. With the Padres a while away from contending, they have the payroll flexibility to get Bogaerts on a five-year deal worth around $70 million.
11 Jake Odorizzi: Baltimore Orioles
Jake Odorrizi has been one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball since the Kansas City Royals packaged him to the Tampa Bay Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis. Odorrizi sports a solid 3.85 career ERA, is good for over 150 strikeouts a season and should be a threat to pitch 200 innings when healthy.
The Rays are never able to retain their key players, due to the harsh reality of playing in small market with very few financial resources. This is where the pitching-desperate Baltimore Orioles make their move.
Odorrizi could land a four-year deal worth around $40-45 million, but only a team that actually really needs a No. 1 or 2 pitcher will pay that. The Orioles have the money to spend, so signing Odorrizi makes plenty of sense.
10 Justin Smoak: Toronto Blue Jays
From a bench player to reaching his first All-Star Game, life has been kind to Justin Smoak in 2017. He's been the lone bright spot on a lowly Toronto Blue Jays team -- batting .297 with 27 home runs and a .961 OPS. Smoak has emerged as one of baseball's top sluggers, and should get a long-term contract from the Jays.
He's in a similar position than Jose Bautista -- who broke out of nowhere in 2010 (also at the age of 30). Toronto extended Bautista for six years, but they may be more comfortable extending Smoak instead.
He'll be 34 by 2020, though. A fair deal for Toronto is to sign Smoak for four years worth around $40 million. The Jays didn't re-sign David Price or Edwin Encarnacion, so they owe it to the fans in retaining a star player/fan favourite.
9 Dellin Betances: St. Louis Cardinals
Dellin Betances is one of the best relievers in all of baseball (if you subtract his slump in July), and is going to get paid a ton of money in 2020. He's fortunate that the reliever market is at an all-time high (see Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, for example), and will learn that when he's a free agent.
The 6-foot-8, 265-pound giant owns a career 2.24 ERA in just four seasons as a full-time reliever. Betances throws massive heat and is also a strikeout machine -- racking up 468 of them in just 289.2 innings pitched.
The St. Louis Cardinals own one of the worst bullpens in baseball right now. They overpaid for an underachieving Brett Cecil last offseason, and don't really have any options coming up. In three years' time, look for them to give Betances a four-year contract worth around $50 million.
8 Sonny Gray: Seattle Mariners
Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Jean Segura, Danny Valencia and Ben Gamel form arguably a top-five lineup in baseball. So why aren't the Seattle Mariners capable of making a run at the playoffs these days? Easy -- they don't have a rotation outside of Canadian boy James Paxton.
Felix Hernandez is past his prime as he gets up there in age and struggles to stay healthy. Hernandez is actually a free agent in 2020, but he's not on my list since the market is unlikely to be big on him when he enters it.
But Sonny Gray would be a great addition for Seattle. Most of their core players are locked up long-term, so the time to win is now. Gray is a borderline ace -- or at worst a No. 2 starter. The Mariners will be more desperate for him than any other team, and should get him for five years at around $65-70 million.
7 Cole Hamels: New York Yankees
Cole Hamels will be 37 years of age in 2020, so the market for him won't be that high. That's where baseball's highest-spenders make their move -- GM Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees will get Hamels.
If you haven't noticed, the Yankees have actually been great in helping their pitchers find the Fountain of Youth. This includes C.C. Sabathia, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Mariano Rivera and Hiroki Kuroda, among others.
Hamels has been one of baseball's most dominant starters for over a decade. He owns a career 3.33 ERA and has racked up 200 strikeouts in five different seasons. He's also a sure bet for 200 innings a season.
The Yankees will overpay a bit for Hamels, here. With few elite pitching prospects (but plenty of hitters), in the system, look for them to sign Hamels to a two-year deal worth $30 million.
6 Adam Eaton: San Francisco Giants
The Giants don't have much of a plan in their outfield for the future. Hunter Pence (the guy who looks like Marv from Home Alone), is a free agent in 2019, and leadoff man Denard Span's contract expires in 2020.
Without much of a farm system, the frequently high-spending Giants will look to capture Adam Eaton -- one of the league's elite centrefielders when it comes to batting and playing defence. Eaton is a career .284 hitter, can steal bases from time-to-time and has posted a WAR above 3.0 in his last three seasons.
Outfielders like Eaton could earn around $100 million. But since he'll be 32 years of age by then, Eaton is unlikely to get a long-term contract. Expect the Giants to come calling as they try to add yet another World Series championship. A five-year contract worth around $80 million -- similar to that of what the Cardinals gave Dexter Fowler -- should make make a deal happen.
5 Anthony Rendon: Philadelphia Phillies
Life may become very frustrating for Washington Nationals fans by 2020. Bryce Harper is bound to leave after the 2018 season, and if my calculations are correct, Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon will soon follow.
Rendon is one of baseball's top third basemen -- batting .315 this season with 20 home runs and a ridiculous 1.006 OPS. Rendon already owns a 4.9 WAR and could see that number nearly double by the end of the season.
Thing is, the Nationals probably won't be matching Rendon's contract demands in 2020. But the rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies -- who look to contend by then -- will have plenty of money to spend. This is where they make the classic double whammy signings, whereas they get better and weaken a division rival. A five-year deal worth $90 million sounds reasonable.
4 Madison Bumgarner: Arizona Diamondbacks
With the San Francisco Giants window probably closing by 2020, it's entirely possible that "MadBum" chooses to thank the team for his three World Series championships before chasing more money in the offseason.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are in great position to make a run at Madison Bumgarner. He's one of the top starters in baseball, and you can make a case that no pitcher has been more dominant in the postseason this decade.
With Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray forming one of the best 1-2 combos in baseball, adding Bumgarner could put them over the top. Bumgarner will make a lot of money, and Arizona should have no problem spending it. Look for the three-time World Series champion to get a six-year deal worth around $100 million.
3 Paul Goldschmidt: Arizona Diamondbacks
Sorry, but the D-Backs aren't letting their franchise player get away.
Paul Goldschmidt is unquestionably one of the top-10 hitters in all of baseball. He's a career .300 hitter (batting .310 this season), is on his way to his sixth 20-home run season and should once again rack up 100 RBI. Goldschmidt has posted a WAR of 3.0 or better every year since 2012, and continues to make his case as the best first baseman in the game.
Because he's great, I technically had to include Goldschmidt on the list. But the reality is that Arizona probably extends him long-term within the next couple of years. Their championship window of opportunity is just opening, so they have every incentive to give him $100 million or whatever it takes to lock him up long-term.
2 Chris Sale: St. Louis Cardinals
I really wanted to put the Boston Red Sox beside Sale's name. But as I touched on earlier, this team has way too many players that are due for lengthy extensions. And seeing how big of a disaster David Price's $217 million contract has already become, it's tough to envision Dombrowski giving another pitcher (who'll be 31 by then), $200 million.
So why do I feel like the Cardinals will land Chris Sale? Because, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported that they were ponying up a lot of money for David Price, but then the Red Sox offered at least $30 million more. But my point stands that the Cardinals will willingly pay a pitcher a lot of money.
The Cardinals will be one of the few teams with a) the financial resources/payroll flexibility and b) the chance to win now. Sale will want to go with a team that offers both. look for St. Louis to give him a seven-year deal worth around $200 million.
1 Jose Altuve: Houston Astros
Sorry to lack creativity here, but do you really envision Jose Altuve playing anywhere else? Neither do we.
Arguably the best player in baseball not named Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, Altuve has become the face of the Astros franchise. He's a career .317 hitter (batting a ridiculous .364 thus far in 2017 with a 1.002 OPS), and has all the makings of a Hall of Famer. He can play defence, he can run, he can hit for power and he can hit for contact.
Altuve is on his way to posting a WAR above 4.0 for the fourth consecutive season, further evidence that he's one of the top-of-the-top players in the game. Seeing how the Astros have willingly spent more money in free agency over the years, they should have zero problem meeting Altuve's contract demands. My projection? A seven-year deal worth around $180 million. He's not leaving Houston.
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