By: Noah Wright
The 2018-2019 free agent class was considered one of the most deep, and impressive we’ve seen in a while. Headlining the group, we saw 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper, and All-Star third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado hit the open market. That wasn’t even the cream of the crop. Patrick Corbin, who came off a great season with the D-Backs, was also on the market. Dallas Keuchel, another solid starting LHP was available for grabs. All-Star closers Craig Kimbrel, Zack Britton, Jeryus Familia, and set-up man Adam Ottavino were also part of this free agent class. I could go on and on about how many great free agents there were. But in comparison to the next year’s free agent class, this would look fairly weak.
The 2019-2020 FA class was going to be legendary. Madison Bumgarner is going to be on the market, but he wouldn’t even be close to the best starter available. Chris Sale, who was coming off a second career year with the Red Sox, was also going to be on the free agent market, as well as Astros’ ace Justin Verlander. Xander Bogaerts, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado were all slated to be on the open market. Relief pitcher Ryan Presssley would have also been a free agent after the 2019 season. In the outfield, you would have seen Aaron Hicks and Khris Davis available for signing.
But then the extension craze that happened right at the tail end of the 2018-2019 off-season happened. All the players I mentioned above, aside from MadBum, received an extension. Now if you look at MLB Trade Rumor’s 2019-2020 list of free agents, it’s fairly shallow. There are only a few remarkable names who have produced consistently. One of which is Anthony Rendon. Rendon is, again for a third straight season, crushing the ball at an unbelievable rate. He currently has a .320/.422/.655 line, 14 home runs, and a 172 OPS+ in 230 plate appearances. While he has seen some regression with his defense, his offense is more than making up for it. Outfielder Nick Castellanos is another notable name, but he isn’t without his flaws. Sure he had a very good 2018 season with the bat (.298/.354/.500 line, 678 PA’s, 23 HRS, 128 OPS+), but he’s been off to a hot start in 2019 (100 OPS+, .764 OPS), and has always been a defensive liability everywhere he has played so far in his career. Gerrit Cole is one of the other few remarkable names that will 100% be on the FA market as of now. Although he has a 3.72 ERA, he has walked batters at a rate of just 2.1 per 9, while striking them out at a career high 13.8 per 9 rate. The only concern with him is his HR/9 rate currently sitting at 1.6. Aside from these 3, most are either getting older, showing their age already, a potential injury risk, or just a risk in general.
But it’s not all lost. There are a few players who could really improve the look of this class. Elvis Andrus, and J.D. Martinez both have player options. Yasmani Grandal, and Mike Moustakas have mutual options. One club option I could see being turned down is Edwin Encarnacion’s for $20 million, and a team deciding to go down the $5 million buyout route if they don’t want to pay a DH $20 million.
As of June, this free agent class is looking very shallow, which is a huge difference to what it was at the end of the 2018 season. However, sometimes the unexpected happens. Player can opt out of their current contracts, or teams turn down team options. This class could become much deeper if we see some options being turned down, and it could rejuvenate some of next off season.