MLB free agency: Extension candidates for each team, including Astros' Alex Bregman and Cubs' Javier Baez

The climate for MLB free agents these past two winters hasn't, generally speaking, been very good. Sure, some like Eric Hosmer and Patrick Corbin made what many expected them to, but they have been the exceptions to the rule. The percentage of MLB revenue going to player salary appears ready to drop for the second straight season. Players are taking note. We've heard some start to voice concerns. David Price said it was easy to decline his opt-out clause. Likely as a result, we recently saw Luis Severino of the Yankees (four years, $40M) and Aaron Nola of the Phillies (four years, $45M) sign what probably will be club-friendly extensions. 

Both Nola and Severino signed deals that buy out their three arbitration years and one year of free agency. From the team perspective, there's cost certainty in the arb years and an extra year of control. The player, meanwhile, guards against major injury or negative regression hampering their future earnings, not to mention delaying free agency by a year, given the state of it these days. 

Let's run through every other team and see if there's a candidate for a similar deal either this offseason or next. 


How about Archie Bradley? He'll move into the closer role this season and they tend to get paid a lot more handsomely in arbitration. Bradley has two more years in arbitration before hitting free agency after the 2021 season. He's only 26 right now, so a deal makes a bit of sense.

In his first year of arbitration, Mike Foltynewicz is making $5.47 million. He's 27 years old this season. A framework similar to Severino would make a good deal of sense for both sides.

They are in for such a drastic rebuild that such a move might not make sense, but Dylan Bundy has two more arbitration years before hitting free agency and he's 26 years old. Maybe having a veteran mainstay in the rotation would help during the upcoming down years.

Andrew Benintendi hits arbitration for the first time next offseason. He went from 2.6 WAR to 3.9 WAR last season, his second full season in the bigs. With Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley set to hit free agency after the 2020 season, it might be time for the Red Sox to look for a deal with Benintendi.

Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez are all in their first season of arbitration and would hit free agency after 2021. Given that Bryant's a Boras client and the leap we saw from Baez last season -- not to mention his versatility and popularity -- it might behoove the Cubs to make a run at locking Baez up for a while.

The closest fit here would be Carlos Rodon. He badly faltered down the stretch, but in his first 17 starts last season, he pitched to a 3.10 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and held opponents to a .192 average. He has two more arbitration years before hitting free agency. There are enough red flags (4.95 FIP, 6.7 K/9 last season) here, though, that a deal like we're discussing is probably more in Rodon's interest than the White Sox's.

They already have several that might qualify, most notably Eugenio Suarez's seven-year, $66 million deal with a club option for 2025. If they wanted to do another one, Jose Peraza is the candidate. He was greatly improved last season, is hitting his age-25 season and enters arbitration next year.

They already have Jose Ramirez (five years, $26M with two club options) through 2023 for a ridiculously cheap price. Could they add Francisco Lindor to that list? The MVP candidate has two more arbitration years before hitting free agency after the 2021 season. He won't come too cheap. A four-year deal at this point probably has to be around $100 million. Lindor might even take it after watching these last two rounds of free agency.

If they missed their window on Nolan Arenado and lose him to free agency next offseason, they'll probably circle back to Trevor Story. He's 26 and is coming off a stellar season in which he finished eighth in NL MVP voting. He's two arbitration years away from hitting free agency after the 2021 season.

They should also think about talking extension with pitchers German Marquez (24 years old) and Kyle Freeland (26), both of whom start arbitration next offseason and could become free agents after 2022.

It's Michael Fulmer. Next offseason, he'll be exactly in the same area in terms of service time as Severino and Nola. Fulmer turns 26 this year and can anchor the Tigers rotation through the rebuild.

I'm eyeing the left side of the infield here. Carlos Correa is set to make $5 million in his first arbitration year this coming season. He's got two more left before free agency. Then there's Alex Bregman, who hits arbitration for the first time next offseason. Correa's a year younger but health has been an issue and he's already into arbitration. Maybe Bregman is the play.

Since Whit Merrifield is already locked up on the cheap, there isn't really anyone here who fits. Maybe Adalberto Mondesi builds off last season's partial breakout (75 games, but he had a 116 OPS+, 3.2 WAR and 32 steals). If that's the case, perhaps the Royals pounce; 2020 is his last pre-arb season and that's followed by three arbitration years.

The best candidate here is a tricky proposition. It's Shohei Ohtani. He's pre-arb again in 2020 before three arbitration years, but his situation is being heavily monitored by MLB to make sure the Angels didn't promise him an extension as part of recruiting him to sign out of NPB. By next offseason they are probably safe.

In the near-term, nothing really jumps out. Corey Seager is two seasons away from free agency and is a Boras client, for example. How about Cody Bellinger down the road, though? Bellinger is in pre-arb this year, but starts four years of arbitration next offseason. He's only 23 years old. This is a good long-term fit, especially with the versatility he has flashed.

I don't see anyone who works here.

Keep an eye on Orlando Arcia this season. Next offseason he hits arbitration for the first time. If the bat comes around, a good deal could be had. He did hit .329/.360/.443 in the season's final month and then .333/.353/.606 in the playoffs. He's headed to his age-24 season, so there's definitely time for an offensive breakout.

They just did something similar with Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco. Next? If Byron Buxton returns to 2017 form -- or even better, as the upside is there -- he's the pick. Next offseason he hits arbitration for the first time. In 2017, he hit .253/.314/.413, which is a 93 OPS+, but he's so good at defense and baserunning he posted a 5.2 WAR. Do that again and both sides should want to get a deal done.

If they are unable to reach an extension agreement with Jacob deGrom -- a matter that's been in the news of late -- perhaps they turn to Noah Syndergaard or Michael Conforto. Both are in their first year of arbitration and would hit free agency after the 2021 season. They are also both in their age-26 season in 2019. Everything lines up nicely, though Conforto's agent is Scott Boras and he generally likes to take his guys to free agency.

Also of note: Closer Edwin Diaz and outfielder Brandon Nimmo hit arbitration for the first time next offseason. The Mets definitely have options if they want to start looking at this type of deal.

Sean Manaea would have fit perfectly, but he's down after having shoulder surgery and that's something that ruins careers. I'm sure he would be open to a deal, but the A's probably wouldn't be. Maybe try to pounce on Jurickson Profar? He's 26 and has one more year of arbitration before hitting free agency after 2020. If the A's expect him to build off last season's breakout, locking him up now would be a great move.

Jameson Taillon broke out last season. He had a 3.20 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 179 strikeouts in 191 innings, posting 4.7 WAR. He now enters his age-27 season and hits arbitration next offseason. The Pirates have long valued cost certainty and we've seen as much with the deals Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte signed. Look for the Pirates to try and take the same route with Taillon before the 2020 season.

No one really works yet. File this idea away for the likes of Luis Urias, Francisco Mejia and Fernando Tatis Jr., though.

The Giants actually did a bunch of these back in their championship years and now those guys are playing the deals out on a non-contender. They don't really have any candidates that make sense for such a deal now. Maybe Dereck Rodriguez in two years.

Since they decided against trading him, maybe Mitch Haniger works? I also wonder about extending a 28-year-old player while in a rebuild. If he has a good 2019 season, J.P. Crawford might be a candidate. He's 24 years old and would be heading to his last pre-arbitration year. A club-friendly five-year deal might make sense, but, again, he'd have to prove himself at the big-league level this coming season.

Surely their top priority is extending Paul Goldschmidt, but this franchise has made a habit of the extensions I'm discussing, such as with Stephen Piscotty (before he was traded, obviously), Kolten Wong, Paul DeJong, Carlos Martinez, Matt Carpenter and many more. Harrison Bader and Jack Flaherty still have two more years of pre-arbitration left, so they are probably the next candidates to watch. Maybe next offseason.

Easy call here: Blake Snell. The 2018 AL Cy Young winner hits arbitration for the first time next offseason. From the sounds of it, such a deal won't be happening, but the Rays should really pursue something with Snell similar to the framework of the Severino and Nola deals. They might not act like it, but they could easily afford something like four years and $50 million.

Looking ahead to next offseason, closer Jose Leclerc makes sense. He's coming off a season in which he had a 1.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 85 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings. He's entering his age-25 season and hits arbitration next year with him being eligible for free agency after 2022. If he pitches this coming season like he did last year, the Rangers thinking about a four-year deal would make lots of sense.

I've got nothing here. Aaron Sanchez would've been a good candidate, but he hits free agency after 2020 and wasn't good in his 20 starts last season after an injury-plagued 2017. Maybe Teoscar Hernandez if he has a good 2019 season? Still, he's under team control through 2023.

Until Juan Soto gets closer to arbitration, the only real one to watch here is Joe Ross. He should finally be back to 100 percent this season after his Tommy John surgery. If he pitches like he did in 2016, maybe the Nationals take a look. He's otherwise eligible to be a free agent after 2021.
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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