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Friday, October 25, 2019

Ranking MLB’s Top 50 Free Agents

Eleven autumns ago, we at debuted the Reiter 50, which would become our annual ranking of the top 50 free agents available. That first list was topped by a certain hard-throwing 28-year-old—the same one who just last week walked off the mound, at 39 and in pain, after throwing what was certainly his final pitch for the club that signed him way back then.

The end of Carsten Charles Sabathia’s career was, first and foremost, a reminder of both the passage and ravages of time, as he was not just best but the last remaining active player from that first list. But it also spoke to the franchise-altering potential of the right free agent. Free agency, as an institution, has changed since 2008; owners are more tight-fisted now, and around a third of the league’s clubs each winter can be expected to barely participate at all, preferring to rebuild from within until they judge the time to be right. Still: for the cost of only (a lot of) money, teams might add a Sabathia, or a Scherzer, and never regret it.

This year’s postseason has affirmed the continuing value of elite starting pitchers, and this winter’s class is likely to include at least two of them. The class, in fact, is distinctly tiered: genuine superstars, from No. 1 to No. 3; plain-old All-Stars, from No. 4 to No. 12; really strong contributors, from No. 13 to No. 21; and needs-based pieces with potential, down to the bottom, although it gets a little thin around No. 40. Clubs looking for starters will find them, if they spend, and there are also generally a lot of solid-to-elite infielders—although not many shortstops. Relievers? Your options are limited.

A few notes: I’ve made educated guesses about what options will or will not be picked up; perhaps the player who is most likely to join this list is slugger Edwin Encarnacion, as the Yankees might choose to buy him out for $5 million instead of keeping him aboard for four times that. Each player’s listed age reflects how old he will be during the 2020 season, and we’re using the Baseball Reference version of Wins Above Replacement.

So, what do we make of this list?

QLE Posted: October 25, 2019 at 12:57 AM | 15 comment(s)
  Beats: free agents, lists




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