February has arrived, which means the start of spring training is right around the corner. At least, we hope so.
Either way, the MLB offseason is starting to wind down after it took a while to get going. However, there are still a few high-profile free agents who are still on the market. While most of the top stars have either found a new home or a lucrative deal with their most recent team, there are plenty of impact players who are still available.
The balance of power in both leagues still hangs in the balance based on where several free agents end up. As of Feb. 3, let’s take a look at the 10 best MLB free agents who are still out there.
10. Taijuan Walker
It’s surprising to see Taijuan Walker still unclaimed on the free-agent market. He was able to put some injury issues aside in 2020, posting a 2.70 ERA over 11 starts with the Mariners and Blue Jays. He’s just 28, making him younger than a lot of the other starters who are still available.
Walker should be worthy of a multi-year commitment, although the later we get into the offseason, the less likely that could be. Several teams who were clearly in need of a starter have already addressed that need, including the Blue Jays, making Walker’s options somewhat limited unless he’s willing to take a one-year deal and explore his options again next winter.
9. Kolten Wong
The market for Wong has been largely stagnant thus far. He’s spent his entire career with the Cardinals, who don’t seem to be interested in bringing him back to St. Louis. Wong’s problem is that his offensive numbers have been up and down in recent years. Despite being an elite defensive second baseman, his offense is holding back the market. However, he’s too good not to find a team that’s willing to make him their everyday second baseman.
UPDATE: Wong agreed to a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers on Feb. 3.
8. Alex Colome
Colome still being available is one of the biggest surprises in baseball.
It’s hard to find a better closer over the past two seasons, including a 0.81 ERA in 2020. However, the White Sox chose not to re-sign Colome and instead gave Liam Hendricks a three-year, $54 million contract.
In theory, Colome should be worthy of a similar contract in terms of years and money. Recent reports indicate that there are several teams still interested in him, so it should only be a matter of time until he signs somewhere. Right now, Colome is the best reliever still available, and it’s not particularly close.
UPDATE: Colome signed a one-year, $6.25 million pact with the Minnesota Twins on Feb. 3.
7. James Paxton
After an injury-plagued 2020 season, it’s not surprising that James Paxton remains on the market in February. However, he did hold a showcase earlier this winter to prove that he’s healthy and can still pitch.
The problem is that there is a bit of risk involved in signing Paxton because of the injuries. That likely has teams holding out hope that they can sign one of the other starters available before taking a shot on Paxton.
6. Jackie Bradley Jr.
We can’t say that we’re surprised that Bradley remains available this deep into the postseason. While he’s unquestionably talented, he had some disappointing years offensively before hitting much better in 2020.
On the other hand, he’s on the wrong side of 30, and so his speed and athleticism may not hold up much longer. With George Springer signing with the Blue Jays, teams in need of a center fielder have no doubt focused on Bradley as their top target. That should lead to him signing relatively soon, with the Mets, Phillies, and Astros being Bradley’s most likely destinations.
5. Justin Turner
At 36, it’s understandable why teams are a little skeptical of signing Justin Turner. Plus, Turner is hoping to reunite with the Dodgers, who don’t necessarily need to re-sign Turner given the young talent they have in their organization.
Recent reports suggest that there are four teams with interest in Turner, so he has suitors if he can’t reach an agreement to stay with the Dodgers. However, there is no sign that a resolution on Turner will happen anytime soon.
4. Nelson Cruz
Nelson Cruz has been so successful with the Twins over the past two seasons that we’re a little surprised he didn’t re-sign with them early in the offseason. After all, he’s been an invaluable part of Minnesota’s lineup for the past two years. However, the league and the union are still negotiating the possibility of the DH staying in the National League in 2021, which could potentially double the number of teams interested in Cruz. Specifically, there appears to be mutual interest between Cruz and the Dodgers. Of course, both parties have to wait for a resolution one way or another on the DH issue.
If not, the Twins still remain a viable option for Cruz.
UPDATE: Cruz inked a one-year, $13 million to return to the Twins in 2021.
3. Jake Odorizzi
Injuries and poor performance in 2020 have no doubt helped to stall the market for Jake Odorizzi this winter. The fact that Trevor Bauer has yet to set the market for starting pitchers hasn’t helped either. However, Odorizzi’s track record speaks for itself.
Just two years ago, he was a 15-game winner and a frontline starter for the Twins. There will be plenty of suitors for Odorizzi, but how many will be willing to give him a multi-year deal after injuries held him back in 2020? Ultimately, we may not know where the market is for Odorizzi until Trevor Bauer signs.
2. Marcell Ozuna
Like Cruz, Marcell Ozuna might be awaiting clarity when it comes to the DH in the National League.
Obviously, Ozuna is still capable of playing the outfield and has been a strong defensive player in the past. However, he’s far more valuable if the DH is a possibility in the National League, as he excelled in that role for the Braves last season. Oddly enough, the Braves and Cardinals, his two most recent teams, don’t appear to have a ton of interest.
Also, the 30-year-old Ozuna appears to be seeking at least a four-year commitment, leaving several teams to debate whether he’ll be worth it.
1. Trevor Bauer
The biggest fish in the pond is still out there as we head into February. Part of the issue could be Bauer hoping to match the type of deal Gerrit Cole last winter despite the market being a lot more tepid after so many teams lost money in 2020. Meanwhile, a few teams that could have been viable suitors for Bauer have filled their starting pitching needs elsewhere.
At the moment, the Mets are reportedly the only team to have made a formal offer to Bauer, although he’s clearly holding out for more. There have been conflicting reports about the level of interest from both the Dodgers and Angels, which is important because Bauer is a Southern California native.
Right now, the Mets appear to be the most likely landing spot, although nothing is certain as it relates to Bauer.
UPDATE: Bauer has agreed to a deal with the Dodgers.
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