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2019 Top 50 Free Agents

Welcome to FanGraphs’ top-50 free-agent rankings. Dave Cameron has previously been responsible for this annual post. This year, though, I’m leading the charge, with some assistance from my colleagues.

In what follows, I’ve provided contract estimates and rankings of the winter’s top free agents, along with market-focused breakdowns for the top-25 players and one case beyond that. (As for why I’ve provided commentary on only the top 25, you can decide for yourself whether it’s because my take on No. 46 Cody Allen was too hot for the internet or if all the players just kinda seemed the same to me by that point.) Meanwhile, a combination of Craig Edwards, Jay Jaffe, Eric Longenhagen, Meg Rowley, Dan Szymborski, and (in one case) Carson Cistulli have supplied the more player-focused breakdowns designed to provide some context for each player at this current moment in his career.

Note that players are ranked in the order in which I prefer them, in terms of the overall guaranteed money I’d spend on them. Usually, this is very similar to the order of overall contract values as both the crowd and I have projected. In some instances, that’s not the case, however — notably with the first and second players on the list. I explain my rationale where relevant.

Given how slow and frustrating last offseason was for the players, the biggest storyline to follow this winter will be how the market reacts. With the Dodgers and Yankees getting under the luxury tax specifically for this winter, multiple mid-market clubs rumored to be ready to spend, and rare stars in their prime on the market, there are fewer causes for restraint. I wouldn’t expect Harper or Machado to sign quickly, as both their agents and the players union will be focused on precedent-setting across the board and they’ll need to get the lay of the land first. If you’re interested in more notes and rumors, I’ve got a corresponding post up, but I didn’t want to make you scroll any further.

Now let’s get to the list.
– Kiley McDaniel

1. Manny Machado, SS, Age 26
Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Kiley McDaniel 9 $31.0 M $279.0 M
Median Crowdsource 8 $32.0 M $256.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 8.6 $31.7 M $273.0 M
2019 Steamer Forecast
PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
630 9.4% 15.6% .287 .356 .527 .370 134 25.3 2.6 5.0

Kiley’s Take
Has produced roughly as many career wins as Harper and is projected to produce roughly the same number in the near future, but will likely be available for less. That and ability to play shortstop place him first.

Player Notes
Machado’s baserunning antics and related comments cast him as a villain during the Dodgers’ postseason run, but they probably won’t dent his market much. Despite splitting his season between Baltimore and Los Angeles, he set or tied career bests in all three slash stats, wRC+, walk and strikeout rates (9.9% and 14.7%), and homers. Given his age, he could maintain this level for a few years. Meanwhile, playing shortstop full-time for the first time since 2012, his pre-trade metrics were brutal (-7.2 UZR, -18 DRS in 96 games), but improved markedly post-trade (0.8 UZR, 6 DRS in 51 games) thanks to a combination of better positioning by the analytically inclined Dodgers and an emphasis on better anticipating batted balls as opposed just to reacting to them. Expect him to prioritize remaining at short and to receive a massive payday. – JJ

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