It’s that time of year: free agent rankings, predictions, and projections SZN.
Although you just can’t take too much from any of these, I do particularly look forward to the FanGraphs contract projections every year because (1) they include “expert” contract projections as well as the crowdsourced aggregate projection, and (2) they give you one of the better overall senses of how the free agents are viewed, relative to each other and to the market.
To that end, FanGraphs unveiled its 2019-20 Top 50 Free Agent list and projections today. It definitely makes for some fun Monday leisure reading as we get ready for the stove to kick up.
As you’d expect, Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon are the clear stars of the class, and each are projected to get about what you’d expect (7/$210M for Rendon, 7/$225+M for Cole). That – and even the projection for Stephen Strasburg (5/$140+M) – is not really where the interesting stuff is.
Instead, some of the things that jump out to me:
- FG and the crowd project the same contract for Nick Castellanos, which is kind of amazing given how hard his rate is to peg. They say four years and $56 million, but I wouldn’t be surprised – after a very long free agency – if Castellanos winds up with a better AAV on a three-year deal. Maybe 3/$48M. Of course, at that point, maybe the team could convince him to just take the fourth year for that $56M. For the Cubs, there’s mutual interest in a reunion, but gut says, because of the defensive questions he would create for the whole outfield, they’d have to feel like they were getting a bargain. Not sure they’d go to four years and $56 million, and it remains possible there’s an AL team out there willing to give him an even better deal.
- Huge disparity between FG and the crowd on Yasmani Grandal, with the former going to four years and $70 million (yikes), and the latter going to three years and $48 million (ooh, everyone should sign him!). Uncoupled from draft pick compensation and coming off another great year at the plate and in pitch-framing, Grandal is one of the best two-way catchers in the game. He’s *easily* worth $17.5M in AAV (or more!). But the issue is that, with catchers, we’ve seen it again and again: some guys just absolutely vanish very early in their 30s, both at the plate and on the defensive side, too. Signing Grandal comes with a lot of upside and a lot of risk.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu probably winds up sticking with the Dodgers, but man, he’d be awfully attractive on the projected two or three-year, $16M per year deal. Yes, there are so many injury concerns there, and he’ll be 33 next year, but he could be awfully, awfully good for the next two years.
- That reminds me: a full HALF of the top 20 free agents on the list are starting pitchers (including Cole Hamels at 19, projected at 2/$28M). Not a bad year to need a starting pitcher like the Cubs (indeed, might be a good year to wait out the market), though also not necessarily a great year to try to get a good return for Jose Quintana if the Cubs decided to shop his one-year, $10.5M deal.
- Will Smith is the class of the reliever market, projected to get a three-year deal in the $10M to $12M AAV range. You’d love to have him, but I can’t see the Cubs signing a pricey reliever contract when they have so many needs out there. Instead, gimme Drew Pomeranz at the crowd’s projection of two years and $6M per … except I think there’s no chance he signs for that little. His tweaks and breakout in relief were legit.
- The relief market, overall, looks pretty terrible this year. Daniel Hudson comes in as one of the top-ranked relief options, but even he projects to perhaps get only one year and $6 million. Bringing back Brandon Kintzler on a reasonable deal looks better and better. I’m worried that Steve Cishek’s best days might be long behind him, but he would also figure to be affordable. Then there’s Pedro Strop, whom the Cubs should be plenty willing to bring back on a no-risk deal just to see what he looks like in Spring Training. But obviously, yeah, finding an impact reliever might have to come by way of trade or another surprising breakout.
- So much more over at FanGraphs.