If you're hoping for a quick resolution on the top three free agents this offseason - RHP Gerrit Cole, RHP Stephen Strasburg and third baseman Anthony Rendon - don't hold your breath.
After Scott Boras weighed Bryce Harper's free agent options for over 115 days last offseason, the polarizing agent represents each of the top three options available this winter. And no matter how long it takes, he's going to find a way to maximize their value on the open market.
That said, while there will be more big-market contenders in on the top free agents this winter than last, there's still at least half the league that will look to bolster their roster with smaller additions. With that in mind, RADIO.COM examined who could be an impact (yet realistic) option in free agency for all 30 teams:
Washington Nationals - Anthony Rendon, Third Baseman
The Nationals were able to withstand the loss of Bryce Harper in free agency last winter and still win their first World Series title in franchise history in 2019. That said, they had Juan Soto and Victor Robles ready to take over in the outfield. Those type of blue-chip pieces don't grow on trees, which makes it imperative the Nationals retain Rendon, who FanGraphs says has been the best third baseman in baseball since the start of the 2016 season.
Atlanta Braves - Madison Bumgarner, LHP
Per Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area, the Braves have made Bumgarner "a priority." He fits better on their roster than any other team. While he's not the pitcher he was in 2014, he's one of the greatest postseason pitchers in baseball history and would be joining a team that's been eliminated in the NLDS in consecutive years. In Atlanta, Bumgarner wouldn't have to be the ace of a team that employs Mike Soroka, is hoping for a bounce-back from Mike Flotynewicz and also has a slew of other young arms at or near the major league level. But he's thrown over 200 innings seven times in his career (including in 2019) and would bring stability to a talented, but inexperienced rotation.
New York Mets - Will Smith, LHP
Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen swung and missed last winter on the reliever market. He made a major trade for former Seattle Mariners closer Edwin Diaz, who posted a 5.59 ERA in 2019, a year after he led the league with 57 saves. After returning to New York in free agency, Jeurys Familia also had a disastrous 2019, posting a 5.70 ERA in 66 games. While the Mets can hope for a bounce back from those two, they have a lineup and starting rotation ready to compete in the heavily-contested National League East in 2019, so they need to add a sure thing out of the bullpen. Smith has a 2.66 ERA over the past two seasons and can pitch out of a variety of roles in the bullpen. Smith was issued a qualifying offer by the Giants, so the Mets would have to forfeit their second-highest draft pick and $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money to land him. That said, unless they re-sign RHP Zack Wheeler, they'll get draft compensation in return for him, so things should even out.
Philadelphia Phillies - Zack Wheeler, RHP
The Phillies desperately need to add legitimate starting pitching depth behind Aaron Nola. Coincidentally, Wheeler is tied with Nola for the ninth-highest WAR among pitchers since the start of the 2018 season (8.9). At 29, there's still a feeling from some that Wheeler hasn't reached his full potential. He may always be a pitcher that flashes front-line potential and isn't that on a consistent basis, but the Phillies may be willing to take that risk on a four or five-year deal, because the potential reward is that new pitching coach Bryan Price is able to help him reach his ceiling.
Miami Marlins - Howie Kendrick, Infielder
Kendrick may ultimately be one of the first notable free agents to sign. The 2019 World Series hero has a career .294 batting average and has shown an ability to thrive in the super-utility role. Health is the biggest concern for the 36-year-old. But Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic has reported that the Fish have interest. Kendrick would replace Martin Prado as a veteran leader in a perpetually-young organization and would also become a trade chip in the summer.
St. Louis Cardinals - Hunter Pence, Outfielder
Pence wasn't healthy for much of the second half of the 2019 season, but the four-time All-Star revived his career before the All-Star Break, slashing .294/.303/.608 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs in the first half of the season. Perhaps the Cardinals will aim higher if Marcell Ozuna leaves in free agency, but Pence can play both corner outfield spots, serve as a bat off the bench and is a two-time World Series Champion. For a team that reached the NLCS in 2019, Pence seems to make quite a bit of sense.
Chicago Cubs - Tanner Roark, RHP
The Cubs are likely to lose LHP Cole Hamels in free agency this winter, which is unfortunate when you consider he's posted a 3.30 ERA in 218.0 innings for them over the past two seasons. However, with significant money in the starting rotation tied into Yu Darvish, Jon Lester and Jose Quintana, the Cubs may look for a cheaper veteran rotation option. Roark would provide that, and he's about as reliable of an innings-eater as you'll find, as he's pitched over 165 innings six times in his career.
Cincinnati Reds - Didi Gregorius, Shortstop
Whether it's on a one-year, prove-it deal or a multi-year deal, there are going to be a ton of teams interested in Gregorius. And they should be, as the 29-year-old has been a top-10 shortstop over the past five seasons, per FanGraphs. Gregorius posted just a .276 on-base percentage in 82 games in 2019, but he was working his way back from Tommy John Surgery. There's reason to think he'll bounce back in 2019, and RADIO.COM MLB Insider Jon Heyman has reported that there's interest from the Reds, who Gregorius actually briefly played for in 2012.
Milwaukee Brewers - Jake Odorizzi, RHP
Though he came back down to earth after the All-Star Break, Odorizzi had the best season of his career in 2019, going 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA, 3.36 FIP and 4.3 fWAR. He's a consistent bet to top the 150 innings mark, and is still only 29. The Brewers don't have the financial wherewithal to compete for someone like Gerrit Cole, but Odorizzi would be a rotation upgrade on a multi-year deal. Odorizzi was issued a qualifying offer by the Minnesota Twins, but because the Brewers received revenue sharing in 2019, they would only be required to part with their third-highest pick in the 2020 MLB Draft if they signed Odorizzi.
Pittsburgh Pirates - Yasiel Puig, Right Fielder
Even after arguably the worst season of his career, Puig, who will turn 29 in December, makes sense for smaller-market teams looking for corner outfield help, a description that fits the Pirates. 2019 was underwhelming by the standards of Puig's early career success in Los Angeles, but the Cuban-born outfielder still hit 24 home runs and drove in 84 runs in a campaign that he split with the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians. The Pirates would likely be able to flip Puig for a small return before the July 31 trade deadline.
San Francisco Giants - Marcell Ozuna, Outfielder
Though it's possible the qualifying offer attached to Ozuna will turn the rebuilding Giants off, it's impossible not to still be intrigued by the offensive superstar potential that Ozuna flashed in his five seasons in Miami. The 29-year-old wasn't a superstar over the last two years for the St. Louis Cardinals, but he still averaged 26 home runs and nearly 90 RBIs. That production would be a vast improvement over what the Giants got in 2019, and there may still be some hope he rediscovers the offensive form he showed in Miami.
Los Angeles Dodgers - Hyun-jin Ryu, LHP
It probably can't be ruled out that the Dodgers make a push for one of the bigger arms on the free-agent market. But, the guess here is that if they make a splash this offseason, it will be for a star infielder, not a pitcher. In that event, it would make sense for them to re-sign Ryu, who is coming off of the finest season of his career. Ryu started the All-Star Game for the National League in 2019, and finished with a 2.32 ERA in 29 starts, allowing him to come in second place in National League Cy Young Award voting. Health has been a concern throughout the 32-year-old's career, but when he's been on the mound, he's been a front-line caliber arm.
San Diego Padres - Stephen Strasburg, RHP
Stephen Strasburg is from San Diego and played his college ball at San Diego State. The Padres possess the No. 1 farm system in baseball, which they'll slowly add to a core that already includes Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Kirby Yates and Chris Paddack. The Padres have a chance to be one of the most successful franchises of the 2020s. First, though, they'll have to dethrone the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. Adding the reigning World Series MVP would go a long way in helping the Padres attempt to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Colorado Rockies - Corey Dickerson, Outfielder
Corey Dickerson is a really good player that just didn't stay healthy in 2019. The 30-year-old was an All-Star with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017, won a Gold Glove Award with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018 and hit .304 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs in just 78 games in 2019, a season he split with the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies. In Colorado, the Rockies have three outfielders capable of starting, though a healthy Dickerson would be an upgrade over Ian Desmond in left field, and allow him to play in the super-utility role, which is what he's best-geared to do.
Arizona Diamondbacks - Julio Teheran, RHP
Though Teheran has made six consecutive Opening Day starts for the Atlanta Braves, that streak figures to come to an end in 2020 one way or another. The most likely scenario is that after nine seasons with the Braves, Teheran exits in free agency. The Diamondbacks remained surprisingly competitive after trading Zack Greinke in July, but will need affordable pitching depth to compete in the National League West and/or National League Wild Card race. Teheran, though no longer a front-line starter, has thrown 170 or more innings in seven consecutive seasons.
Baltimore Orioles - Jose Iglesias, Shortstop
The Orioles had the second-worst record in all of baseball last year as they are amid a rebuild, so it is not likely they will make any sort of big splash in free agency. Yet, the team still has needs they must address. Per MASNSports’ Roch Kubatko, the Orioles will be looking for pitching depth and a veteran starting shortstop. With Jonathan Villar’s future uncertain, the Orioles should turn to someone like Jose Iglesias. He would be a downgrade offensively from Villar, but is one of the best defensive shortstops in the league, and would be a significant upgrade over Villar and RIchie Martin in the field.
Boston Red Sox - Dellin Betances, RHP
With Chaim Bloom in as Boston’s new head of baseball operations, it is clear ownership is looking to slash payroll this winter which should make for an intriguing and busy offseason for the Red Sox. Yet, the team still needs to improve its bullpen and Dellin Betances should be a prime target. He missed almost all of 2018 due to a shoulder injury and then Achilles tear, which makes his market value difficult to gauge. If teams are reluctant to give Betances a multi-year contract, the Red Sox could swoop in and perhaps get him at a bargain price or one-year deal.
New York Yankees - Gerrit Cole, RHP
The Yankees’ biggest weakness continues to be starting pitching, and this year’s free agent class is deep with starting pitchers. Gerrit Cole should be atop their wish list. The Yankees have been cautious on spending money in recent years, but they also have been ousted in the postseason three straight years all by teams with better starting pitching. Cole should garner a record contract, the question is if the Yankees are willing to be the Yankees of old and pony up the money to sign him.
Tampa Bay Rays - Edwin Encarnacion, First Baseman/DH
The Rays’ biggest need is to add some power to their lineup and Edwin Encarnacion provides just that. There were reports the Rays were interested in trading for the right-handed slugger during the season last year, but should be able to sign him this winter. He’s 36 and injury-prone, but he’s hit at least 30 home runs eight consecutive seasons and should come at an affordable price for the small-market club.
Toronto Blue Jays - Tanner Roark, RHP
The Blue Jays were at the bottom of the barrel in the American League last season, but they have some rising young talent in their lineup as they continue to rebuild. With those young, power bats, the Blue Jays will need to add some starting pitching this offseason. They won’t be in on the Cole or Strasburg sweepstakes, but they should prioritize a reliable, veteran arm. Tanner Roark fits that mold, and the 33-year-old will probably come at an affordable price.
Chicago White Sox - Dallas Keuchel, LHP
The White Sox will look to retain Jose Abreu, but as for bringing in outside help, the team needs serious pitching help to take the next step in 2020. Dallas Keuchel, who was a free agent last year and was not signed until June, is an ideal fit. He is a tier below the top arms in the market, but is a reliable veteran who can slide into the rotation behind ace Lucas Giolito.
Cleveland Indians - Brian Dozier, Second Baseman
If the Indians are willing to spend, Mike Moustakas is an ideal fit on a two-year deal, but based on their recent cost-cutting measures that doesn’t seem to be the case. Brian Dozier may be a cheaper option to upgrade the infield, while allowing Jose Ramirez to move to third base. He is coming off a poor season in Washington, but the power is still there and a return to the American League Central could be what Dozier needs.
Detroit Tigers - Yasiel Puig, Outfielder
The Tigers were the worst team in baseball last season and still have a long rebuild ahead of them, but they still need bats to fill their lineup. Puig could be the perfect fit. The 28-year-old hit 24 home runs with a career-high 84 RBIs and a slashline of .267/.327/.458 with the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians last year. Those numbers make him about a league average outfielder despite the hype that has surrounded him since he burst onto the scene. Depending how the outfield market shapes out, the Tigers could offer Puig a short-term deal, giving them the pop their lineup needs, as well as a player to attract fans as the rebuild continues.
Kansas City Royals - Wade Miley, LHP
The Royals likely won’t make any big moves in free agency and will probably follow a blueprint similar to last year in which they signed Homer Bailey to a minor-league deal and were able to flip him mid-season. If the Royals are willing to spend a little bit more, they could bring back Wade Miley. The 33-year-old left-hander will be buried alongside a deep starting pitching class, and if the top market teams start spending big, it could open an opportunity for the Royals to pursue him on a potential one-year deal, a la Bailey in 2019.
Minnesota Twins - Madison Bumgarner, LHP
The Twins are coming off their first 100-win season in franchise history, but were still eliminated by the Yankees in the postseason. How do they get over that hurdle? Sign a pitcher with a postseason pedigree. The Twins likely cannot afford Cole or Strasburg, but Madison Bumgarner is a little older and likely past his peak, so he’ll come at a cheaper price. Plus, Minnesota was reportedly interested in trading for him during the season, now they can go out and sign him if they are willing to spend what it takes to make the next step.
Houston Astros - Zack Wheeler, RHP
Based on Gerrit Cole’s comments following the World Series, it seems like his days in Houston are numbered. So, the Astros likely must replace a Cy Young-level ace, which is near impossible. But the Astros have established a reputation of taking in pitchers and revitalizing their careers. Zack Wheeler seems to be an ideal fit for the next pitcher Houston takes and works its magic to make him an ace.
Los Angeles Angels - Gerrit Cole, RHP
The Angels appear ready to spend and contend this offseason, and Cole is atop that list. The right-hander is from California and is reportedly interested in returning to the West Coast. Los Angeles lacks a true ace, and going all-in on Cole is the first step in revamping a pitching staff and making a team with Mike Trout in the lineup a legitimate contender.
Oakland Athletics - Drew Pomeranz, LHP
The A’s are the face of “moneyball,” so do not expect any big spending spree here. They do, however, have a team that has reached the American League Wild Card game two years in a row. The lineup is solid and the bullpen has always been a strength. Adding a low-cost starting pitcher, perhaps a familiar face in Drew Pomeranz, will likely be one of the team’s more pressing needs.
Seattle Mariners - Julio Teheran, RHP
The Mariners are another American League team in rebuild mode, but as they gear up for the future, they still need to add some starting pitching for 2020. One name they should target: Julio Teheran. He is 28 and coming off a solid year with the Braves. If the Mariners could add him on a two-year deal, he would be a trade chip at the deadline for this year or next as they continue to rebuild.
Texas Rangers - Josh Donaldson, Third Baseman
Donaldson resurrected his career in 2019 with the Atlanta Braves and the Texas Rangers are already reportedly making “an aggressive push” for the slugging third baseman. The Rangers have been looking to fill the void since Adrian Beltre retired after 2018 and Donaldson has a lot of similarities as Beltre at the plate.