MLB Free Agency is underway, and there have already been a few significant signings. The Chicago White Sox, desperate for a left-handed bat, went out and signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four year, $73 million contract. Grandal took a one year prove-it deal with the Milwaukee Brewers last season and got rewarded with a big contract. The White Sox also resigned slugging first baseman Jose Abreu to a three year $50 million deal. Abreu paced the American League in RBI's with 123 and started at first base in the all-star game. He will likely finish his career on the south side.
The other team that has been active so far in the free-agent market has been the Atlanta Braves. They made the first big splash of the offseason, signing all-star reliever Will Smith to a three year $39 million deal. Smith had a phenomenal year as the San Francisco Giants closer and gives the Braves much needed help in the bullpen. Atlanta was also able to re-sign reliever Chris Martin, strengthening a Braves bullpen that was severely lacking last year. Also some breaking news on the Braves free agency front. While I was typing this article, they agreed to terms with catcher Travis D'Arnaud on a two-year deal worth $16 million. He will be replacing Brian McCann, who called it a career after the playoffs.
If your team hasn't done anything yet, don't worry. The big fish are still out there and man are there plenty of big fish this year. The free agency crop is headlined by two aces in Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strausburg, as well as the third-place finisher in the N.L. MVP race in Anthony Rendon. Those are the big prizes, but there are some quality players all over the place. Guys like Nicholas Castellanos and Josh Donaldson will look to cash in on dominant offensive statistical seasons. And who can forget about Madison Bumgarner, one of the greatest postseason pitchers in the history of baseball. This class is loaded and it will be fun to see where these guys land. I'm going to do my best to predict where I see some of the top guys landing. We all know how good I am at predicting too, as I dominated my MLB playoff predictions. Without further ado, let's get into it.
2019-2020 MLB Free Agency Predictions
Gerrit Cole is going to be one rich man in a couple of months. The 29-year-old California native had the best season of his career, ultimately coming up short in not only the World Series but also in the Cy Young voting. Still, Cole was otherworldly this season, going 20-5, including winning 18 straight games. Cole also paced the junior circuit in ERA and strikeouts and was two wins away from winning the rare pitching triple crown. He was also unreal in the playoffs, going 4-1 with a 1.72 in 36.2 innings pitched.
There are going to be a lot of teams in on Gerrit Cole for a good reason. He's the perfect top of the rotation workhorse with world-class stuff. Teams like the Yankees, Padres, Phillies, Braves, and Cubs are all going to be interested and are the most likely suitors for Cole. However, I think Cole signs with the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels did just give out a hefty, but well-deserved contract to Mike Trout, but they've been stuck in mediocrity for a while now. Joe Maddon comes in as the new manager, which is the first domino. Next is signing Cole, which is something the Angels have been lacking for a long time now. Having the best position player in baseball, along with arguably the best pitcher in baseball would catapult the Angels into the playoff discussion. Who wouldn't want to see Mike Trout playing baseball in October?
Prediction: Los Angeles Angels
Another ace that has the potential to turn an entire team around. Strausburg has lived up to the number one pick hype so far. He's carved himself out a great career to this point, as he's starting to hit his stride as he enters his prime. The 30-year-old three-time all-star is coming off a season that saw him lead the National League in wins and innings pitched. Strausburg finished tied for fourth in Cy Young voting behind Jacob De Grom, Hyun Jin-Ryu and teammate Max Scherzer. He was dominant in the playoffs as well, as he tied the record for most wins in a single postseason with five.
Unlike with Gerrit Cole, I see this as a two-team race for Stephen Strausburg. The first team would be his current team, the Washington Nationals. He's been a vital part of the team's dominant rotation and with Scherzer getting up there in age, it would make it almost a priority for the Nats to give Strausburg the big money. The next team is the San Diego Padres. Strausburg grew up in that area and attended San Diego State University, where he was coached by Padres legend Tony Gwynn. Ultimately, I believe that Strausburg stays with the Nats and runs it back again with the defending champions.
Prediction: Washington Nationals
Anthony Rendon is one of the most complete players in baseball. Offensively, he won't wow you with Cody Bellinger or Trout like numbers, but he consistently hits over .300 and is arguably the engine of the Nationals potent young lineup. Rendon is also great defensively, although he does get overshadowed by the incredible defensive displays of Nolan Arenado. He was instrumental in Washington's march to the World Series title, coming up with clutch hit after clutch hit, including a five-RBI performance in game six of the world series, and a home run in game seven to get the Nats offense rolling.
Rendon will draw interest from a lot of teams. The Nationals could bring him back, but are they willing to pay up for both him and Strausburg? The St. Louis Cardinals are another interesting team, as their offense was horrendous in the playoffs and are in need of another star alongside Paul Goldschmidt. Or even the Atlanta Braves, who've shown their aggressiveness in the early stages of free agency. However, I think it's the Los Angeles Dodgers who swoop in to get Rendon. The Dodgers NEED to win a World Series soon. They've been so close in two of the past three seasons, coming up short in 2017 and 2018. Getting Rendon makes the Dodgers lineup even scarier. This also would free up Justin Turner to move to a different position, something that he's willing to do.
Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers
After a couple of rough years, it seems that Josh Donaldson has finally returned close to the form he was at during his MVP run. Although the average dipped, his home run totals were right there with his dominant stretch between 2013-2017. He's another guy who capitalized on a prove-it deal, as he signed with the Braves last season for one year at $23 million. Donaldson provided a great veteran presence to a lineup full of young superstars. 1-4 of him, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman were statistically one of the most dominant foursomes in the history of the game.
With that being said, why break that up if your Atlanta? He's getting up there in age but proved last year that he still has a lot left in the tank. Teams in need of a bat will definitely look to lure JD away from the Braves, but it only makes sense for him to return to Atlanta and try to lead the Braves to their first World Series title since 1995.
Prediction: Atlanta Braves
We know what Madison Bumgarner brings to the table. He's an absolute workhorse with a dynamite slider who's going to show up in October and November and try to will your team to a championship. After two down year, he had a bounce-back 2019, going 9-9 with a 3.90 ERA. The four-time all-star was also able to eclipse 200 innings pitched for the first time since 2016. Mad-Bum was another example of a guy who needed to prove that he could still work this year and I think he was able to show he can still go.
Bumgarner's market will be interesting. I know the Phillies and Yankees have shown interest, as well as a few other teams. Bumgarner doesn't seem like a big city kind of guy, so I'm going to rule those two teams out. I think he ends up with the Padres. After striking out on the above names, I think San Diego becomes extremely desperate for starting pitching, something they're going to covet this offseason. Chris Paddack showed he can be a quality starter, and I think pairing him with a guy like Mad-Bum can benefit the both of them at this stage of their careers.
Prediction: San Diego Padres
As a Chicago Cubs fan, this one hits close to home for me. The Cubs acquired Castellanos at the trade deadline last season, and he proceeded to run rough shot through everyone he faced. In 51 games with the north siders, Castellanos hit an incredible .321 and slugged an even more impressive .646. He finished the year with 58 doubles, which led all of Major League Baseball. There's no question that Castellanos can hit. The knock on him is his defense. He's a below-average defender in right, which diminishes his value slightly, but he's still a necessary piece in any lineup.
My hometown bias might be coming through here, but damn I hope the Cubs re-sign this guy. I don't care how much he wants, just pay him. Teams in need of a bat like the Cardinals, White Sox or even the Miami Marlins could potentially go after the 28-year-old. However, Castellanos seemed to love Chicago and with the Cubs being so close to another playoff spot, I think he decides to run it back with the loveable losers.
Prediction: Chicago Cubs
After missing two years due to injury, it finally seems that Zack Wheeler has hit his stride. The former top prospect has looked great the past two seasons, combining to go 23-15 with a sub 3.60 ERA. Wheeler has dynamite stuff and could arguably be an ace on a pitching staff. However, he still hasn't had the breakout type season, which is something that teams will definitely take into account. Nevertheless, Wheeler will be on a lot of teams radars due to his potential, as well as his relatively young age of just 29.
There's a lot of teams who are one pitcher away. Most of them I've discussed already, like the Phillies and Yankees. A dark horse I like here is the Minnesota Twins. They shocked the world by winning over 100 games last season. They did that with an incredible, home run driven lineup that led the league in that category. The one aspect they struggled in was pitching. They got good contributions from Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi, but after that was rocky. They were able to bring back Odorizzi on the qualifying offer, but I think the Twins should make a move after a guy like Wheeler. However, I think they get outbid by the Yankees, the team that eliminated them and frankly embarrassed them in this year's playoffs. The Yankees finally get a relatively big name and someone that will help their rotation.
Prediction: New York Yankees
Hyun-Jin Ryu doesn't throw the hardest and doesn't have the nastiest stuff, but the dude knows how to pitch. His season was cut short in 2018 due to injury, but still had a minuscule 1.97 ERA in 82.1 innings pitched. 2019 was his first full season in a while and he showed out. He ended up pacing the senior circuit with a 2.32 ERA. Ryu made his first all-star game and was even named the starting pitcher for the National League. If it wasn't for a bad run late in the season, Ryu would've taken home the N.L. Cy Young.
Ryu will definitely be a hot name for a team looking for pitching. I see him signing a shorter-term deal, maybe two or three years for a higher average salary. I wouldn't be shocked if he went back to the Dodgers, but for this sake let's send him to Philadelphia. Philly needs a left-handed starter to complement emerging ace Aaron Nola. The already stacked National League East gets even tougher if Ryu heads to the Phils.
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies
Marcell Ozuna struggled in 2019 but still was able to put up respectable numbers. His average was poor, sitting at a low .241, but mashed 29 home runs and drove in 89 runs. Ozuna's a really talented hitter, but defense and effort seem to hurt Ozuna's value. One thing that helps Ozuna is his versatility. Some outfielders are restricted to one position. Although Ozuna only played left for the Cardinals, he's shown in the past that he can play all three outfield positions.
I'm going outside the box on this one. At this point, Ozuna to me is strictly a DH, which means the American League. He can play the field, but I don't think he really wants to anymore. I have Ozuna headed to the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have a slew of young talented hitters like Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara, and Ozuna's powerful bat would fit nicely next to those guys. If he doesn't head to the lone star state, I think the Braves and re-signing with the Cardinals are the next most likely destinations.
Prediction: Texas Rangers
Free agency is going to be fun this year. It's certainly a top-heavy class, especially when it comes to pitching. Hopefully, they don't make us wait too long this year, but it's likely some of these guys don't get signed until close to spring training. Where do you think some of the top guys land this year?