On Wednesday, three of the top free agents left on the market found homes. Freddie Freeman joined the Los Angeles Dodgers; Seiya Suzuki partnered with the Chicago Cubs; and Kyle Schwarber took his big bat to the Philadelphia Phillies. Factor in the trade Matt Chapman (Oakland to Toronto) and it was a busy day.
Busy days have been the norm since the lockdown imposed by the owner of Major League Baseball was lifted a week ago. So it would be understandable if you felt overwhelmed and lost as to who is staying in the open market. Heck, we feel the same. That’s why we decided to round up the best remaining free agents and break down their situations.
Below, you’ll find the remaining nine free agents who made it into our top 50 entering the offseason, along with a list of teams that have been connected to them in recent rumors. We even added a special bonus free agent, because everyone loves round numbers.
1. Carlos Correa, SS, No. 1 free agent entering the offseason
Teams are rumored to be interested: Astros, Cubs, Braves
Top 50 Capsules: Correa has such a talent that if he didn’t exist, a video game player would have created him. He’s a well-above-average hitter who walked and hit personal bests last season, and he did it while hitting top outing speeds on par with world-wide sluggers like Juan Soto. and Yordan Alvarez. Unlike Soto and Alvarez, two corner fielders celebrated more for their work on the flat than on the grass, Correa is a very capable defensive shortstop with a big arm. It’s made of flesh and bone, which means there are negatives to consider. His attendance was spotty earlier in his career, and it remains to be seen if he can maintain his high level of durability (he appeared in 92% of Houston’s games in 2020-21) as he approaches his 30s. He’s also no longer a stolen base threat, like he was when he broke into The Show. (He hasn’t attempted one during the regular season since April 2019.) There’s also the sign-stealing scandal. George Springer’s precedent suggests Correa won’t have a Poe-like moment this winter, his heart pounding like trash can noises as lower-than-expected bids pour in. players in this way they could make an exception for Correa. He may well win an MVP award one day and, by the authority of this list, is the best player available on the market.
2. Trevor Story, SS, free agent No. 11 entering the offseason
Teams are rumored to be interested: Twins, Red Sox
Top 50 Capsules: If you scroll through Story’s baseball reference page, you’ll click thinking his offense was underwhelming while his defense remained rock solid in his marching year. The truth is the opposite. Story’s early on-set results were its worst in years, but its underlying metrics (speed of release and launch angles) lined up perfectly with its 2019-20 campaigns. The area where the decline was most evident with his game was on the pitch, particularly his arm. He made almost as many throwing errors last season (11) as he had in the previous two seasons combined (12). Maybe the offseason will allow Story to rest his tired elbow, but some teams may already consider him a second baseman. (Heck, a team would have been interested in making him a center fielder at the deadline.) Consider ongoing concerns about his home/road splits (over the past three seasons his OPS was over 200 points better than Coors Field) and the inflated shortstop market, and he could end up serving as Marcus Semien of the winter, settling for a pillow deal before landing the mattress next year.
3. Nick Castellanos, OF, free agent #14 entering the offseason
Teams are rumored to be interested: Marlins, Phillies
Top 50 Capsules: Castellanos is a well-above-average hitter who has pole-to-pole power, an optimized launch angle, and a preference for hitting the ball through the middle. For better or for worse, that’s the extent of his game. He’s not a good defender; he doesnt walk a ton; and he is not a stolen base threat. Castellanos can strike, however, and he’s going to get a lucrative contract because of it.
4. Kenley Jansen, RP, No. 20 free agent entering the offseason
Teams are rumored to be interested: Dodgers, Blue Jays
Top 50 Capsules: You can argue that Jansen isn’t the most desirable door closer on the market. He is nevertheless the most accomplished and (perhaps) the most coherent; this combination, according to the estimation of this author, will make him the richest. Jansen had more seasons with an ERA over 200 than he had under 120; he has recorded at least 30 saves in seven consecutive full seasons; and he’s likely to crack the top eight, if not the top seven in the all-time saves standings next season. Two notes on his season that should encourage teams this winter: 1) his walk rate has increased although he is still throwing a well above average strike rate, suggesting the former was a problem rather than a problem ; and 2) he has shown increased confidence in his cursor, giving him another weapon to deploy as he sees fit.
5. Michael Conforto, OF, free agent #23 entering the offseason
Teams are rumored to be interested: Marlins, Diamondbacks, Rockies
Top 50 Capsules: There may not be a good time for a player to have a disappointing season, but there is a bad time. Conforto learned that lesson the hard way hitting .202/.341/.298 in the first half of his walking year. Although he rebounded to some degree in the second half (.252/.347/.445), his chances of cashing in this winter were already dashed. Conforto, it turns out, may disagree with that assessment. He seemed like an obvious candidate to accept the qualifying offer, but a report from last month said he intended to decline and seek something better on the open market. Good luck.
6. Michael Pineda, SP, free agent #32 entering the offseason
Teams are rumored to be interested: Tigers, Twins
Top 50 Capsules: Pineda needed three stints on the injured list last season, including one for an inflamed right elbow and another for an oblique strain. He hasn’t started 30 or more games in a single season since 2016. While you don’t know how much of him you’re going to get, you know what he’ll deliver when he’s available because his game is virtually untouched. . Pineda has lost some speed (he was down to 90mph in 2021) and he remains homerun-prone, but his gyroscopic slider remains his most effective offering and he still fills the strike zone. It’s probably safer to consider him a main starter in the future. Another short-term deal, lasting a year or two, seems likely.
7. Danny Duffy, LHP, free agent #36 entering the offseason
Teams are rumored to be interested: Unknown
Top 50 Capsules: Duffy is a joker in more ways than one. He did not pitch after July 16 due to a left flexor sprain. That same injury had sidelined him earlier in 2021, and this time it wiped out the rest of his season, preventing him from making an official appearance with the Dodgers after a deadline trade. Duffy is both younger (almost 33) and better (105 ERA+ since 2018) than most would expect. His fastball matches modern parameters, in that he gets a deep extension and induces a good vertical break. An adventurous club could sign him with a view to tweaking their ground mix to optimize their performance. At a minimum, he has experience in both the rotation and the bullpen and could prove to be an added value if his arm holds up.
8. Jorge Soler, OF, free agent #39 entering the offseason
Teams are rumored to be interested: Rockies, Marlins
Top 50 Capsules: Sometimes baseball just doesn’t make sense. When Soler was traded to the Braves at the deadline, he was hitting .192/.288/.370 with 13 homers in 94 games. His ball-tracking metrics indicated better times were ahead. Indeed, they were. He hit .269/.358/.524 the rest of the way, even throwing 14 homers in his last 55 games. Here’s the catch: his exit speed with the Braves was almost three ticks slower than it had been with the Royals. Go figure. Soler remains a poor defensive outfielder who should be used as a DH as often as possible. One development with his game worth watching is that he has reduced both his withdrawal and odor rates. Even if those gains prove unsustainable, his walking and jumping will keep him in line.
9. Tommy Pham, OF, free agent #46 entering the offseason
Teams are rumored to be interested: padres
Top 50 Capsules: It would be reasonable to scoff at the inclusion of Pham. Not only is he years away from his last great performance at the plate, but he’s now approaching his 34-year-old season. To conclude that he’s just an average hitter in the league these days would make sense. The counter-argument is that Pham is still in control of the strike zone and he proved last season that he can still hit the ball hard and on a line. Indeed, 32% of his balls hit had a launch angle between 10 and 30 degrees; additionally, 48% of his batted balls had an exit velocity of at least 95 mph. Here are a few players who had similar outages, along with their seasonal OPS+: Freddie Freeman (133), Max Muncy (138), Ketel Marte (143), Corey Seager (145), Brandon Belt (160); you get the point. Pham probably won’t deliver a season as good as any of those hitters, but there’s enough of a basis to warrant counting him as an above-average hitter.
10. Albert Pujols, 1B/DH, not classified in the off-season
Teams are rumored to be interested: Cardinals,
Capsule: The value of Pujols has a limited range. He’s a right-handed hitter who can’t run and isn’t able to defend any position other than first base. His recent squad splits suggest he’s best served as a part-timer, taking his cuts as often as possible against southpaws. That’s how the Dodgers used him last season, and it worked really well: he hit .294/.336/.603 with 13 homers on 146 trips to the flat. Pujols is at 21 of 700 home runs, so an uncompetitive team could sign him with a view to selling tickets and additional merchandise if he can reach that number. Otherwise, he will spend most of the year sitting on the bench of the suitors.