My Too Early MLB Free Agency Predictions
With the MLB season coming to an end in the coming days, I wanted to put out a list of my top free agents for the 2021 season. Now, this list consists of players who are guaranteed free agency in 2021. It does not consist of those who have options with their teams nor is it my total comprehensive list of free agents. If I decided to show the entire list, I would have a novel.
Quickly before I begin my list, one thing I would like to explain is WAR. Whenever I read about free agency, statistics, and just analytics in general, I notice there are many acronyms in the statistics. Acronyms that not everyone may know. A lot of them such as ERA is common knowledge. However, there is one that I will be mentioning many times and I want my readers to be able to understand what it is.
That acronym is WAR. WAR stands for “Wins Above Replacement.” Like all statistics, there is a formula that goes into determining this statistic. In a summary, it is the contributions that a player has given to their team. Things like baserunning, fielding, batting, and pitching have an impact on a player’s WAR. Certain positions on the field have more value than others. To put it in context, let’s take a look at Mookie Betts. Betts has a 2020 WAR of 3.4. That is the highest WAR in baseball for the 2020 season. The higher the WAR, the more valuable he is seen. Lastly, if a player has a high WAR, that can indicate a lot of playing time or success when playing.
I was able to find this chart used by FanGraphs to determine what a good WAR is:
Scrub: 0-1 WAR
Role Player: 1-2 WAR
Solid Starter: 2-3 WAR
Good Player: 3-4 WAR
All-Star: 4-5 WAR
Superstar: 5-6 WAR
MVP: 6+ WAR
Now that I have explained that statistic, the following is my (very limited) list of top free agents for the 2021-2022 class.
Trevor Bauer: With an ERA of just 1.74 and his WAR sitting at 2.7 in 2020 (17.5 overall), Trevor Bauer has made himself a top prospect. Despite injuries, he came back stronger than ever. The catch? He has mentioned that he is interested in one-year deals only. The idea behind one-year deals is to get the most money he can out of teams with deep pockets. One other hiccup for Bauer is that he is outspoken about many things such as his dislike for Robert Manfred. Though I love an outspoken athlete, some owners and managers might be put off by it. I personally would like to see him end up with the Los Angeles Angels or the Washington Nationals.
Alex Colomé: Colomé has made a name for himself as a closer for the Chicago White Sox. He has posted an ERA of 0.81 and a WAR of 1.0 in 2020. He has a career WAR of 7.5. Age could also play a factor in his free agency considering that he is over 30. But given his 2020 statistics, age could just be a number. Colomé has faced injuries, struggles on the mound, and even a suspension back in 2014. The guy has experienced it all. With that being said, I would like to see him stay with the White Sox.
J.T. Realmuto: Good catchers are hard to come by and Realmuto is arguably one of the best. I honestly don’t see the Phillies giving him up. They have the money to keep him and give him a relatively large contract. He has a career WAR of 19.5 (1.2 for the 2020 season), is one of the best framers in the league, and has a batting average of .266. In 2019, he had knee surgery and missed some games this year due to his hip. If he doesn’t stay with the Phillies, I can see him ending up with the New York Mets or the St. Louis Cardinals.
DJ LeMahieu: DJ LeMahieu will be one of the most sought-after infielders in free agency. He can play first, second, and third base. His WAR for 2020 is 1.9 while his batting average is .364. Overall, however, LeMahieu’s WAR is 24.8. With that being said, LeMahieu is over 30 and struggled with injuries this year but I don’t see that having too much of an impact on him getting a contract. Assuming the Yankees don’t keep DJ LeMahieu, I could see him going to the Dodgers or back to the Rockies.
Justin Turner: There has been a lot of talk surrounding Justin Turner. There are many that believe he is getting burnt out. However, looking at his 2020 statistics, he has a .307 batting average. Justin Turner’s overall WAR is 29.3 with his 2020 WAR being 1.3. For someone who is in his mid-thirties, he is hitting the ball well. He is first in Dodger postseason home runs. His defense isn’t what it used to be but he is a powerhouse in the batting lineup. I, for one, hope he stays with the Dodgers. Their lineup is stacked and he just adds to it.
Didi Gregorius: In 2020, Gregorius posted just a 0.9 WAR with a .284 batting average and 10 home runs. Gregorius’ total WAR is 18.5. Gregorius had signed a one-year deal with the Phillies after coming back from Tommy John surgery. I don’t see the Yankees trying to acquire him again. However, the Los Angeles Angels will be looking to fill a hole they will have in their infield once their shortstop, Andrelton Simmons enters free agency.
Marcell Ozuna: Ozuna signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves for the 2020 season and posted some pretty decent stats. He has a batting average of .338 and 14 home runs. In 2020, his WAR accumulated to 2.3 as his overall WAR is 20.8. Though defensively he could be a liability, he has proved himself worthy with his bat. With that being said, if the universal DH rule sticks around, he would be a high priority for many teams. I like the idea of the Braves keeping Ozuna. They came so close to getting to the World Series this year and they wouldn’t have done that without Ozuna in the lineup. If the Braves don’t sign him, he could go to the Marlins or the Rangers.
George Springer: George Springer has been a staple in the Houston Astros organization. In 2020, Springer had 14 home runs and a .265 batting average. His 2020 WAR is a 1.7. Springer’s career WAR is 27.3. His age and list of injuries will play a role in his future contracts. Another negative outcome for Springer is that he was part of the 2017 cheating scandal. Players who were involved in that fiasco have not faced warm welcomes from many people. The Houston Astros will need to keep at least one of their outfielders, Springer could be that guy. If not the Astros, he could end up with the Nationals who are needing to replace Anthony Rendon’s place in the lineup.
Michael Brantley: In 2020, Brantley had a .300 batting average, 22 RBI’s, and five home runs. His 2020 WAR is 1.1 while his overall career WAR is 30.2. With that being said, Brantley is injury prone and over the age of 30. Wherever he lands, I don’t see him getting more than a four-year deal. His injuries are a liability to whatever team he signs with. If the Astros don’t keep George Springer, then Brantley could very well end up sticking with the Astros.