Top MLB free agents 2021: Ranking and predictions


This will be a Hot Stove League unlike any other. It could start slowly. It could get ugly.

Yet as Eddie Murphy once said, money don’t crack.

Baseball’s free-agent market, which officially launched Sunday afternoon, features enough impactful talent and enough engaged teams — including one boasting of a brand new, stinking rich owner — that it should maintain our interest sufficiently during these tough times. Ironically, the lack of ultra-elite, record-seeking players (like Gerrit Cole last year and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado two years ago) among our Top 30 free agents could help things move along more expeditiously. With revenues down severely from 2020 and in question for 2021 thanks to the coronavirus, this is no time to be a hero on the player side.

These rankings result from statistical analysis, projected earnings and for sure some popular demand; these are The Post’s Top 30, not the definitive, statistically objective Top 30. The predictions for destination and contract emanate from background conversations with team officials, agents and other people in the loop, as well as an attempt to think along with clubs and players.

1. George Springer (OF, Age 31)

The Connecticut native wants to get closer to his family, and the Mets sure could use a righty-hitting center fielder with a championship pedigree

Prediction: Mets, five years, $110 million.

After signing big-name, big-money free agents each of the prior three winters and failing to make the playoffs, can the fourth time be the charm for the Phillies?

Prediction: Phillies, four years, $100 million.

3. Trevor Bauer (RHP, Age 29)

One industry person who knows the eccentric Bauer said he’ll sign with “whoever has the most digits in their final offer.”

Prediction: Padres, six years, $150 million.

4. DJ LeMahieu (IF, Age 32)

A unicorn due to his age and (relatively) late-career spike, will he price himself out of The Bronx?

Prediction: Yankees, three years, $66 million.

5. Marcell Ozuna (OF, Age 29)

He rewarded the Braves for their one-year commitment and, without a qualifying offer attached to him, will get multiple years this time.

Prediction: Red Sox, three years, $60 million

George Springer; Trevow Bauer; DJ LeMahieu
George Springer; Trevor Bauer; DJ LeMahieuGetty, AP, Charles Wenzelberg

6. Charlie Morton (RHP, Age 36)

He made his interest in returning to the Rays clear even after they declined his team option for 2021.

Prediction: Rays, two years, $20 million.

7. Nelson Cruz (DH, Age 40)

No one on this list gets hurt more by the uncertainty regarding the designated hitter in the National League for 2021.

Prediction: Twins, one year, $15 million.

8. Michael Brantley (OF, Age 33)

The Astros have spoken with him about a return.

Prediction: Braves, two years, $24 million.

9. Marcus Stroman (RHP, Age 29)

The highest-ranking free agent to opt out of 2020, would it make sense for him to accept the Mets’ qualifying offer, rebuild his value and hope the world improves?

Prediction: Mets, one year, $18.9 million.

10. Marcus Semien (SS, Age 30)

The winner of this year’s Terrible Timing Award, if only he had entered free agency after last year’s MVP-caliber year in a good economy …

Prediction: Athletics, one year, $12 million.

11. Justin Turner (3B, Age 35)

One moment of awful judgment (posing for the team championship photo after testing positive for COVID) won’t deter the Dodgers from continuing their prosperous relationship with the SoCal native.

Prediction: Dodgers, two years, $24 million.

12. Liam Hendriks (RHP, Age 31)

The top reliever in an already flooded market that will take on even more water when guys get non-tendered next month.

Prediction: Dodgers, two years, $24 million.

13. Kolten Wong (2B, Age 30)

Since there’s no major league team in Hawaii, the Aloha State native will have to settle for California if he wants to get closer to home.

Prediction: Angels, three years, $30 million.

14. Masahiro Tanaka (RHP, Age 32)

Not quite as high-profile a free agent as he was seven years ago, when he got a Yankees deal that worked out for both sides.

Prediction: Yankees, one year, $12 million.

15. Yadier Molina (C, Age 38)

It’s the legend’s first venture into free agency, yet would he really leave St. Louis?

Prediction: Cardinals, one year, $10 million.

16. James McCann (C, Age 30)

Under the radar, playing in the Midwest for largely unheralded teams, he has put together a nice career.

Prediction: Mets, three years, $27 million.

17. Didi Gregorius (SS, Age 30)

He rebounded impressively in his first full season back from 2018 Tommy John surgery.

Prediction: Phillies, three years, $36 million.

18. Carlos Santana (1B, Age 34)

He left Cleveland as a free agent three years ago and returned there after one season in Philadelphia, just saying.

Prediction: Nationals, one year, $12 million.

19. Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Age 30)

Unfortunately for him, most contenders already possess good options in center field.

Prediction: Astros, three years, $30 million.

20. Tommy La Stella (IF, Age 31)

The New Jersey native gets to cash in on his slow rise to “solid everyday player” status. Prediction: Giants, two years, $14 million.

21. Tomoyuki Sugano (RHP, Age 31)

The Yomiuri Giants appear likely to post him, as per The Post’s Joel Sherman.

Prediction: Blue Jays, three years, $27 million.

22. Andrelton Simmons (SS, Age 31)

His trademark defense slipped in 2020, although (almost) everyone deserves some forgiveness for 2020.

Prediction: Reds, two years, $24 million.

23. Jake Odorizzi (RHP, Age 30)

A near-absent 2020, due to a blister and chest contusion, followed a very strong 2019.

Prediction: White Sox, two years, $22 million.

24. James Paxton (LHP, Age 31)

If Scott Boras hadn’t invented the term “pillow contract” for Adrian Beltre long ago, he’d launch it now for his high-ceiling, injury-prone, Canadian client.

Prediction: Blue Jays, one year, $6 million.

25. Brett Gardner (OF, Age 37)

Sorry, surprising number of haters, he still gets on base, fields, runs and leads in the clubhouse.

Prediction: Yankees, one year, $5 million.

26. J.A. Happ (LHP, Age 38)

Putting aside the American League Division Series fiasco, he re-established his value as a back-of-the-rotation starter for a contender.

Prediction: Twins, one year, $8 million.

27. Mike Fiers (RHP, Age 35)

His first venture into the open market since he became best known for blowing the whistle on the Astros’ sign-stealing.

Prediction: Phillies, one year, $7 million.

28. Adam Wainwright (RHP, Age 39)

Like his longtime battery-mate Molina, his departure from St. Louis will be believed when it is seen.

Prediction: Cardinals, one year, $10 million.

29. Cole Hamels and Jon Lester (both LHP and 36)

Cheating here by asking these well-known veterans who struggled with injury and underperformance, respectively, to share a spot.

Predictions: Padres, one year, $5 million for Hamels and Cubs, one year, $8 million for Lester.

30. Yoenis Cespedes (DH, Age 35)

Sure, who knows if he has anything left — he does plan on a comeback — but how could we not pay tribute to someone who has helped journalism so much?

Prediction: Athletics, minor league contract.


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