MLB free agency: Way-too-early free agent rankings and predictions for 2019-20 hot stove season

We are approximately four weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training camps across Arizona and Florida. Baseball is coming. Slowly, but it's coming. Cactus League and Grapefruit League games are about six weeks away. I can't wait.

At the moment 20 of our top 50 free agents remain unsigned, including four of the top seven. Teams are again waiting out the market and squeezing free agents. Eventually those unsigned top 50 free agents will find work. They probably won't get the contracts they were expecting, but someone will pay them. Just not as much as they were hoping.

Even with so many free agents still unsigned this winter, it's never too early to look ahead to next offseason's free-agent class. That's what we're going to do here. After consulting with my fellow CBS Sports MLB scribes, I compiled a way-too-early ranking of the top 50 free agents for the 2019-20 offseason. Trying to predict baseball a year into the future is a fool's errand. That's never stopped us before.

Before we get to the rankings, I have to lay out some assumptions:

  • Many of this offseason's remaining unsigned free agents will sign one-year contracts and re-enter free agency next offseason. We did not include them in these rankings. We did not make any predictions regarding which currently unsigned free agents will sign a one-year contract for 2019 and become free agents against next winter.
  • We did have to make assumptions about club options. Among the 2020 club options we assumed will be exercised include Chris Archer ($9 million), Matt Carpenter ($18.5 million), Nelson Cruz ($12 million), Yan Gomes ($9 million), Corey Kluber ($17.5 million), Starling Marte ($11.5 million), Jose Quintana ($11.5 million), and Anthony Rizzo ($14.5 million). Club options we assumed will be declined are discussed throughout the rankings.
  • We also had to make assumptions about player opt-outs. Among the 2020 player opt-outs we assumed will not be exercised include Elvis Andrus (three years, $43 million), Jake Arrieta (one year, $20 million), Yu Darvish (four years, $81 million), Jason Heyward (four years, $86 million), and Stephen Strasburg (four years, $100 million). Player opt-outs we assumed will be exercised are discussed throughout the rankings.

Keep in mind future free-agent classes only get worse as time goes on. That's because far more players see their free-agent stock decline (injury, poor performance, etc.) or take themselves off the market (contract extensions) than increase their stock (breakout performances). The 2018-19 free-agent class was hyped more than maybe any free-agent class ever. By time it actually arrived, it wasn't nearly as strong or as deep as it once looked. That's just baseball. 

So, with all that in mind, here are our official early rankings of the top 50 free agents for the 2019-20 offseason. Make sure you bookmark this post and come back in about 10 months to marvel at its accuracy.

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1. Gerrit Cole HOU • SP • 45
2020 Season Age29

With all due respect to the great Zack Greinke, who was 32 when he signed with the Diamondbacks, Gerrit Cole will be the best right-handed starting pitcher to hit free agency since Max Scherzer four years ago. Cole will spend just about the entire 2020 season at age 29, and the Astros have helped him make the jump into ace territory by getting him to emphasize his four-seam fastball and slider. An ace-caliber righty smack in the prime of his career is going to be in extremely high demand.

2020 Team Prediction: Yankees. They drafted him in the first round once upon a time and they tried to get him from the Pirates last offseason. The Yankees won't miss another chance to acquire Cole, especially since it'll cost nothing but cash.

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2. Nolan Arenado COL • 3B • 28
2020 Season Age29

There are legitimate questions about what Nolan Arenado's numbers will look like outside Coors Field. I don't think it's as simple as taking his career road numbers (.263/.318/.469) and saying that's the real him. There's some evidence Rockies players perform worse than expected on the road after leaving altitude. Even with the Coors Field considerations, I think teams can still safely value Arenado as a 20-homer guy who plays Gold Glove caliber defense and almost never misses a game. My guess is the Coors Field thing will lead to Arenado being undervalued by the masses. There's been such a big swing in the "Coors Field boosts numbers" direction that Rockies hitters are being underrated.

2020 Team Prediction: Rockies. Colorado has a history of paying big to keep their own (Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, etc.) and I expect them to do it again with Arenado.

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3. Xander Bogaerts BOS • SS • 2
2020 Season Age27

A 27-year-old shortstop who can hit in the middle of the order? Where can I get one of those? Xander Bogaerts will be the youngest free agent on the market next offseason and he's already been part of two World Series championship teams, and he just now seems to be coming into his own. Bogaerts had easily his best season to date in 2018 and, given his age, it stands to reason he's about to enter what should be the best years of his career. The big question: How will teams rate his defense? The numbers were really down on Bogaerts in 2018. I don't think that'll be enough to scare teams away.

2020 Team Prediction: Mets. I had them signing Bogaerts when I ranked the top 50 players five years from now. Gotta stay consistent.

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4. Anthony Rendon WAS • 3B • 6
2020 Season Age30

Are we still calling Anthony Rendon one of the most underrated players in the game? I feel like he's been too good for too long for that to still apply. Either way, Rendon is a stud two-way threat at the hot corner, someone capable of hitting in the middle of the lineup for a contender, and someone you want to hit the ball to when the game is on the line. I have Rendon behind Arenado in these rankings because a) he's a year older, b) he's not as good defensively, and c) he had some serious injury problems earlier in his career, which could rear their ugly heads again as he progresses through his 30s.

2020 Team Prediction: Cardinals. Doesn't Rendon just feel like a Cardinal? Besides, Matt Carpenter at third base doesn't strike me as something that will last long-term.

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5. Madison Bumgarner SF • SP • 40
2020 Season Age30

There are some very real warning signs in Madison Bumgarner's game. His strikeout, swing-and-miss, and hard contact rates have all been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now. I think that, going into next offseason, it'll be clear Bumgarner is no longer a no-doubt No. 1 starter. I also think he'll still be a very good pitcher, someone a contending team can plug into their rotation and count on for above-average performance. Bumgarner's postseason track record is impeccable as well and that won't hurt his free-agent case.

2020 Team Prediction: Dodgers. Because some people just like to watch the world burn.

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6. Chris Sale BOS • SP • 41
2020 Season Age31

A few years ago someone told me Chris Sale is the left-handed Tim Lincecum and I can't get that out of my head. The comparison meant Sale would be overwhelmingly dominant for a number of years, which he has been, but things would fall apart quickly because he's so slender. There's only so much that frame can take. We might've been watching the start of Sale's decline last year, when he missed much of the second half and looked nothing like himself in the postseason. I am still pretty high on Sale long-term, hence ranking him sixth on this list. I do think he carries more long-term risk than most top free-agent pitchers though.

2020 Team Prediction: Angels. Sale will be part of their last gasp "look, we're trying" attempt to show impending free agent Mike Trout they are, in fact, trying.

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7. J.D. Martinez BOS • OF/DH • 28
2020 Season Age32

Fact I: J.D. Martinez is a brilliant hitter. Fact II: Martinez will turn 33 midway through the 2020 season and he's essentially a DH. Fact III: Martinez had trouble finding work last offseason. Sure, he still wound up with a nine-figure contract, but it wasn't close to what he and Scott Boras were said to be seeking. Martinez can opt out of the final three years and $62.45 million remaining on his contract next winter. My guess right now is that he'll do so. I don't think it's set in stone though. Not with free agency being what it is today. Even if they're as good as Martinez, teams don't want to pay big for soon-to-be 33-year-old players, especially when they're a DH.

2020 Team Prediction: Red Sox. They have to lock up their young players like Bogaerts and Mookie Betts at some point, but how could they let Martinez leave?

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8. Justin Verlander HOU • SP • 35
2020 Season Age37

Justin Verlander has never been a free agent and my hunch is the Astros won't let him become a free agent next offseason. I expect them to sign him to an extension, maybe a little two-year deal worth $40 million or so, at some point in the coming months. Right now though, Verlander is scheduled to become a free agent next winter, and he remains a capital-A Ace. He's also going to play the entire 2020 season at age 37. Verlander has defied the normal pitching aging curve this long. Father Time comes for everyone though. If he hits free agency, his market could be much less robust than you'd expect.

2020 Team Prediction: Astros. Like I said, I don't see Houston letting him become a free agent. Seems to me Verlander is going to finish his career with the 'Stros.

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9. Paul Goldschmidt STL • 1B • 46
2020 Season Age32

I don't like it, but I can see it now. We'll all be sitting here on February 1, 2020, wondering why in the world no team has signed Paul Goldschmidt. Clubs are staying away from players in their 30s, especially when they play a non-premium position like first base. Goldschmidt remains a thunderous hitter. One of the best in the game. That hasn't seemed to stop teams from keeping 30-somethings at arm's length in free agency. I have no dog in this fight but I hope Goldschmidt gets his huge payday after playing on that bargain deal all those years.

2020 Team Prediction: Astros. They wanted the Houston native this offseason. They'll get him next offseason.

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10. Yasmani Grandal MIL • C • 10
2020 Season Age31

You know free agency is broken when a player like Yasmani Grandal has to settle for a one-year contract. He's a flawed player, no doubt, and he had a brutal postseason as well. But a switch-hitting catcher with power and excellent pitch-framing ability? That is an impact player, through and through. The catcher position is very weak throughout baseball right now -- with all due respect to J.T. Realmuto, he's the worst "best catcher in baseball" since the pre-Mike Piazza days, right? -- and a guy like Grandal is a difference-maker.

2020 Team Prediction: Twins. It just fits.

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11. Kenley Jansen LAD • RP • 74
2020 Season Age32

Like Martinez, Kenley Jansen can opt out of his contract next offseason. He'd be walking away from two years and $38 million. I don't think there's any chance Jansen could match the $19 million average annual salary, but I bet he could walk away with more guaranteed money across three or even four seasons. I'm not going to lie though, the heart condition gives me pause. Jansen had another procedure this winter to treat an irregular heartbeat. You know teams will use that against him in contract talks.

2020 Team Prediction: Dodgers. I'll be surprised if Jansen ever plays for another team in his career.

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12. Nicholas Castellanos DET • RF • 9
2020 Season Age28

Why sign J.D. Martinez when you can sign Nicholas Castellanos and get a younger version of J.D. Martinez? It's not a crazy line of thinking. Castellanos is not the hitter Martinez is, but he's entering what should be his peak years, and he has same opposite field power stroke that makes Martinez so dangerous. Also, like Martinez, Castellanos is a liability in the outfield and likely best suited for DH. He's a very good hitter right now and, given his age, there's a chance he'll spend the next few seasons as one of the 10 best hitters in the sport. Castellanos is going to a popular free agent in a year. You watch.

2020 Team Prediction: Blue Jays. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are going to need a running mate.

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13. Aroldis Chapman NYY • RP • 54
2020 Season Age32

Should he exercise his opt-out clause, Aroldis Chapman would walk away from two years and $34.4 million next offseason. It seems to me he'll be able to beat that total guarantee on a three or four-year deal. Chapman does have some physical red flags, specifically a (relative) drop in velocity last year and a season-long knee problem, but he's still dominate at the end of games, and relievers are pretty much the only free agents getting paid nowadays.

2020 Team Prediction: Braves. Assuming they don't spend big to reunite with Craig Kimbrel this offseason first.

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14. Rick Porcello BOS • SP • 22
2020 Season Age31

There is value in durability and Rick Porcello is nothing if not durable. He's never made fewer than 27 starts in a season and he hasn't thrown fewer than 170 innings in a season since 2010. The Cy Young season is a huge outlier in his career thus far. Porcello is still a quality mid-rotation workhorse, and, given his age, there is reason to believe he still has a few seasons at his current level ahead of him.

2020 Team Prediction: Red Sox. I can't see them letting Sale and Porcello walk in the same offseason.

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15. Miles Mikolas STL • SP • 39
2020 Season Age31

Miles Mikolas is tough to pin down because he's had just the one above-average season since returning from Japan, and it was an unconventional season. Few strikeouts, few walks, and a good but not great ground ball rate. Does allowing that many balls in play work long-term in today's MLB? The bet here is Mikolas is an exception and he has another few good seasons coming.

2020 Team Prediction: Cardinals. No reason for either side to sever the relationship. It's working.

16. Didi Gregorius SS •
2020 Season Age30

He's going to have to show he's back to being himself following Tommy John surgery, but, assuming he does, Didi Gregorius will hit the market in his prime as a comfortably above-average two-way shortstop who thrived in a pressure situation in New York. Replacing Derek Jeter was not going to be easy and Sir Didi aced it. Good shortstops are awfully hard to find.

2020 Team Prediction: Yankees. The Yankees love Gregorius and Gregorius loves the Yankees. Don't be surprised if they agree to a contract extension before he becomes a free agent.

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17. Yasiel Puig CIN • OF • 66
2020 Season Age29

It's tough to gauge how teams view Yasiel Puig. He put up MVP caliber numbers in his first two years as a big leaguer and has since settled in as an above-average corner outfielder, which is obviously valuable. Does the "Wild Horse" thing give teams pause? The stories about him showing up late and agitating his teammates? I think that stuff gets overplayed. I also think some teams will use it as an excuse to look elsewhere for outfield help.

2020 Team Prediction: Athletics. The perfect fit. They'll let Puig be Puig in Oakland.

18. Aaron Hicks CF •
2020 Season Age30

Like Gregorius, the Yankees bought low on Aaron Hicks and watched him blossom into an impact player. Hicks is close to a five-tool player. He switch-hits, he gets on base, he has power, he runs and defends well, and his arm is a cannon. A case can be made Hicks deserves Dexter Fowler and Lorenzo Cain money, meaning a five-year deal at $80 million or so. The upcoming A.J. Pollock contract could change his market though.

2020 Team Prediction: Reds. Someone has to replace Puig, right?

19. Scooter Gennett 2B •
2020 Season Age30

Has there been a better waiver claim than Scooter Gennett over the last, I don't know, 10 years? I don't think so. Gennett's a complete offensive threat at second base who is much younger than Jed Lowrie and doesn't come with Coors Field questions like DJ LeMahieu, this year's top two free-agent second basemen. I get the feeling Gennett is going to be a popular free-agent target next year. Scooter can play.

2020 Team Prediction: Nationals. I am kind of surprised they didn't get a head start on things and trade for Gennett this offseason.

20. Michael Wacha SP •
2020 Season Age28

An oblique injury ruined what sure looked like a return to 2013-15 form for Michael Wacha last season. Wacha will be the youngest free-agent starter on the market next winter but it has been a few years since he had a full, healthy, above-average season. Do that in 2019 and he'll shoot up the free-agent rankings. Few players have as much to gain with a great season as Wacha this year.

2020 Team Prediction: Brewers: We're overdue for someone to follow in Jeff Suppan's and Kyle Lohse's footsteps and make the Cardinals-to-Brewers jump.

21. Dellin Betances RP •
2020 Season Age32

If Jansen and Chapman do not opt out, next winter's free-agent reliever class won't be anywhere close to as deep as this year's. Dellin Betances is the best reliever currently scheduled to hit the open market and he can be quite volatile. Last year he was the Yankees go-to reliever in high-leverage spots. One year earlier he pitched himself out of the Circle of Trust™ because he lost the strike zone. Still, Betances has top one percent stuff and he's been very durable throughout his career.

2020 Team Prediction: Yankees. If Chapman does not opt out, Betances goes. If Chapman does opt out, Betances stays. I have Chapman opting out, so Betances returns to his hometown team.

22. Alex Wood SP •
2020 Season Age29

Alex Wood is a tough guy to figure out. He's obviously really good. He's also worn down late in each of the last two seasons and wound up in the bullpen at various points, plus his velocity is trending down. I could see teams holding that again him. That said, Wood will play the entire 2020 season at 29 and he is a lefty with a knack for missing bats. That'll play.

2020 Team Prediction: Blue Jays. I think Toronto is going to spend some money next winter.

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23. Ryan Pressly HOU • RP • 55
2020 Season Age31

Last year Ryan Pressly made the jump from interesting reliever with the Twins to lockdown relief ace with the Astros, who harnessed his elite spin rates. If Pressly is able to pitch a similar level for the entire 2019 season, he would become the top free-agent reliever on the market next winter, and relievers are pretty much the only free agents getting paid these days.

2020 Team Prediction: Dodgers. Pressly feels like the free-agent reliever they've been waiting years to sign.

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24. Jose Abreu CHW • 1B • 79
2020 Season Age33

Among 30-somethings, Jose Abreu is as good a bet to remain an above-average hitter going forward as anyone. His position will hurt him -- teams aren't paying big for first basemen nowadays -- and I'm sure teams will nickle and dime him in free agency given his age and the fact he hasn't come close to repeating is monster rookie season. Abreu will get paid though. 

2020 Team Prediction: White Sox. They've resisted trading Abreu as part of their rebuild thus far and they continue to praise his leadership ability, so it stands to reason they'll look to keep him beyond 2019. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see the two sides work out a contract extension before Abreu actually becomes a free agent.

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25. Zack Wheeler NYM • RP • 45
2020 Season Age30

Few impending free agents stand to gain as much as Zack Wheeler this coming season. He was excellent in 2018 -- his second half numbers were better than teammate and Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom's -- but he also missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons, and most of the 2017 season, with Tommy John surgery and subsequent complications. Wheeler can pitch at an ace level or close to it. The injury history is awfully scary though.

2020 Team Prediction: Angels. See Chris Sale's comment.

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26. Cole Hamels CHC • SP • 35
2020 Season Age36

Cole Hamels is going to be the popular "quality veteran starter on a short-term contract" pitcher next offseason. He's still a workhorse, he's battle-tested, he's left-handed, and he still misses a lot of bats. In another era, contending teams would fight hard to sign him. In this era, they'll probably wait out the market and pretend Hamels doesn't make them better.

2020 Team Prediction: Phillies. Baseball is a flat circle.

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27. Marcell Ozuna STL • OF • 23
2020 Season Age29

Is Marcell Ozuna the star-caliber producer he was in 2017, or the good but not great player he was in 2015, 2016, and 2018? The 2017 version would cash in big in free agency. The 2015, 2016, and 2018 versions is a guy who gets stuck sitting in free agency until late January or early February in this market. Ozuna has a lot on the line in 2019.

2020 Team Prediction: Braves. GM Alex Anthopoulos loves shooting for the moon with high-upside types and Ozuna will play the entire 2020 season at age 29.

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28. Will Smith SF • RP • 13
2020 Season Age30

Will Smith's return from Tommy John surgery last year went better than anyone could've reasonably hoped. He was dominant -- better than he's ever been, really -- and he handled closing duties with aplomb. Plus he's a lefty who still has some peak years ahead of him. With good health in 2019, Smith will be looking at a very nice free-agent contract next winter.

2020 Team Prediction: Cubs. They're reportedly short on cash this winter, but they have some money coming off the books after the season, so they should be able to bolster the bullpen.

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29. Kyle Gibson MIN • SP • 44
2020 Season Age32

You know, Kyle Gibson is sneaky old. I mean, he's not that old, but I would've guessed he were 28 or 29, not 31. Gibson had his long-awaited breakout last season and he'll hit the open market at age 32. Another strong season in 2019 will set him up for a nice little payday as a second-tier starting pitcher next winter. Gibson could make himself a bunch of money this summer.

2020 Team Prediction: Astros. The breaking ball spin rates are very good and Houston will replace Cole with a pitcher who gives them 75 percent of the production at maybe 25 percent of the total cost.

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30. Francisco Cervelli PIT • C • 29
2020 Season Age34

Grandal's one-year contract with the Brewers means Francisco Cervelli will not go into next offseason as the best free-agent catcher on the market. Cervelli's defense has slipped a bit and he does have a concussion history, which is worrisome, but a catcher who's had a sub-.370 on-base percentage once in the last five years? Cervelli will get a nice little contract.

2020 Team Prediction: Brewers. They'll replace this year's Grandal with next year's Grandal, meaning a productive catcher on a smaller than expected contract.

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31. Josh Donaldson ATL • 3B • 20
2020 Season Age34

Did I rank Josh Donaldson too low? Very possibly. Maybe likely. But I worry about a guy closing in on his mid-30s who's had lower body injuries the last two seasons, and didn't really look like himself when he was healthy in 2018. I love love love the Braves taking a one-year chance on him in 2019. We're talking about 2020 Donaldson though, and I'm not sure I buy that guy being a difference-maker.

2020 Team Prediction: Rays. Next offseason Tampa Bay will get the big name DH bat on a one-year contract they missed out on this offseason.

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32. Jhoulys Chacin MIL • SP • 45
2020 Season Age32

After bouncing around for a few seasons, Jhoulys Chacin has turned in back-to-back seasons as a durable above-average starter. Another year of similar production would set him up for the largest free-agent payday of his career and put him in position to be one of the most in-demand starters next winter. Chacin is an under-the-radar guy no more.

2020 Team Prediction: Twins. Chacin seems right up their alley.

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33. Collin McHugh HOU • SP • 31
2020 Season Age33

The Astros will grant Collin McHugh his wish and move him back into the rotation this year. He's thrived as a reliever and performed well as a starter throughout his career, so whichever team signs him will go into the contract knowing McHugh could move back into the bullpen if things don't go well in the rotation. McHugh's going to be an interesting free agent to watch.

2020 Team Prediction: Mets. It would be a return to where it all started for McHugh, and he'd give the Mets rotation depth with Wheeler and Jason Vargas coming off the books next winter.

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34. Pedro Strop CHC • RP • 46
2020 Season Age35

Pedro Strop is a card-carrying member of the Underappreciated Relievers Club. Dude has been a rock for the Cubs in the late-innings these last few seasons. Strop is getting up there in age and his strikeout rate is slipping a bit, but, overall, he remains very effective and he should have no trouble finding work next winter.

2020 Team Prediction: Cubs. A match made in baseball heaven.

35. Arodys Vizcaino RP •
2020 Season Age29

Had he been able to show any semblance of durability the last few years, Arodys Vizcaino would rank much higher on this list. He's been on the disabled list seven times in the last five years, mostly with arm trouble, and only once in his MLB career has he thrown at least 40 innings in a season. Vizcaino is very good and he has the potential to truly dominate in the late innings. You can be sure those injury problems will give teams pause, however.

2020 Team Prediction: Padres. Given their farm system, we should be able to see the makings of the next contending Padres team come 2020, and that's when they'll begin to supplement the roster with shrewd free-agent pickups. Vizcaino qualifies.

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36. Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD • SP • 99
2020 Season Age33

Hyun-Jin Ryu has never not been excellent when healthy. He just hasn't been healthy often. You kind of have to expect him to miss time each season, but, when he's on the mound, he's very good. A lefty who misses bats, avoids hard contact, and has a reputation of pitching well in big games is a worthwhile add to a contender's rotation.

2020 Team Prediction: Dodgers. Ryu doesn't want to leave and his injury history will limit his earning potential to some degree. They're a good fit for each other.

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37. Khris Davis OAK • LF/DH • 2
2020 Season Age32

Khris Davis is exactly the kind of free agent who gets squeezed in the current marketplace. An over-30 one-dimensional slugger without much value beyond hitting the ball out of the ballpark. Granted, if you're going to be a one-tool player, 40-homer power is the best tool to have, and Davis most certainly has it. Teams have not been kind to free agents like this the last few years though. Lots of power and little else doesn't pay as well as it once did.

2020 Team Prediction: Athletics. Davis wants to stay and the A's want to keep him. He will earn $16.5 million in 2019 and don't be surprised if he has to take a pay cut next winter.

38. Corey Dickerson LF •
2020 Season Age31

One of the most surprising developments of 2018 was Corey Dickerson becoming a legitimate Gold Glover. The various defensive metrics hated his fielding work every season of his career prior to 2018, then he rated as a top of the line left fielder. Like someone flipped the defensive value switch. Dickerson's a solid hitter and, if he shows his defensive improvement is for real this coming season, he'll set himself nicely going into free agency.

2020 Team Prediction: White Sox. Some lower profile signings to advance the rebuild are on the horizon.

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39. Tanner Roark CIN • SP • 35
2020 Season Age33

I feel like the perception of Tanner Roark is greater than the reality of Tanner Roark. There is absolutely value in being a league average workhorse, don't get me wrong. Roark has posted a better than league average ERA only once in the last four years through, and moving into a hitter friendly ballpark in Cincinnati this coming season could exacerbate his recent home run issues. His next contract will be one of those deals that either looks like a total steal halfway through the season, or a total bust.

2020 Team Prediction: White Sox. Rebuilding teams always need someone to soak up innings.

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40. Ben Zobrist CHC • UTIL • 18
2020 Season Age39

A year ago at this time it looked like Ben Zobrist might be done. He had by far the worst full season of his career in 2017, and he did it at age 36, so it was fair to worry about his effectiveness going forward. Zobrist rebounded with a typical Ben Zobrist season in 2018, albeit without a ton of power, and a repeat of that in 2019 would set him up for a nice payday even as he closes in on his 40th birthday. Clearly though, the age is a concern here. Teams are steering clear of older players nowadays.

2020 Team Prediction: Nationals. Just a hunch.

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41. Ivan Nova CHW • SP • 46
2020 Season Age33

An ERA between 4.14 and 4.19 in each of the last three years and a career 4.26 ERA. Ivan Nova is nothing if not boringly consistent. He'll throw the occasional masterpiece, get his hat handed to him a few times, and generally pitch well enough to keep his team in the game. Nothing sexy about it, but it pays.

2020 Team Prediction: Reds. Even if some of their young starters begin to develop into impact pitchers, there's always room for a veteran innings guy at the back of the rotation.

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42. Steve Cishek CHC • RP • 41
2020 Season Age34

At this point of his career Steve Cishek is wading into the "he should never face left-handed batters" waters, but he is brutally effective against righties and he can pitch in high-leverage situations. Teams have signed lesser relievers to multiyear contracts worth eight figures annually.

2020 Team Prediction: Red Sox. A homecoming for Cishek, a Massachusetts native, and an obvious bullpen upgrade for the BoSox.

43. Rich Hill SP •
2020 Season Age40

Gosh, it's really difficult to predict the market for Rich Hill. He's effective when healthy but he hasn't thrown as many as 140 innings in a season since 2007. His ability to manipulate spin and arm angles suggests he could remain effective for several more seasons even as he closes in on his 40th birthday. Here's the big question: How much longer does Hill want to pitch?

2020 Team Prediction: Rays. Hill's numbers the third time through the batting order are terrible and he'd fit in nicely with a team that, well, almost never lets a pitcher go through the order a third time.

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44. Trevor Cahill LAA • SP • 53
2020 Season Age32

Trevor Cahill has reached the "veteran journeyman who could move to the bullpen if he struggles as a starter" phase of his career, but he's still young enough and shown enough strikeout and ground ball ability to keep teams thinking they can unlock the above-average starter within. On a one-year contract, which he's signed four offseasons running now, Cahill's a nice buy for a team looking for low cost starter flexible enough to move to the bullpen should a better option come along.

2020 Team Prediction: Pirates. How has Cahill not been a Pirate yet? It has to happen at some point.

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45. Justin Smoak TOR • 1B • 14
2020 Season Age33

He's not the player he was expected to be as a prospect, and I don't think he'll ever hit 38 home runs again, but a switch-hitter with power and a solid glove at first base? That's a nice little piece. Also a player likely to be undervalued in a market that shuns free agents. Smoak's a good candidate to sign a contract that leaves fans wondering their team didn't pounce at that price.

2020 Team Prediction: Yankees. Eventually Greg Bird is going to run out of chances.

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46. Sonny Gray CIN • SP • 54
2020 Season Age30

If the Yankees do indeed trade Sonny Gray, as expected, and he performs well outside New York, as expected, he could find himself much higher on the top 50 free-agent lists when they come out next offseason. Gray's stuff is very good, it grades out well analytically, and his pre-Yankees track record is strong. A potential sleeper.

2020 Team Prediction: Athletics. They know him, he knows them, and they love upside plays.

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47. Jedd Gyorko STL • IF • 3
2020 Season Age31

The assumption here is the Cardinals will decline their $13 million club option for Jedd Gyorko next offseason, and instead pay him a $1 million buyout. Even if that happens, Gyorko has enough offensive punch and defensive skill to be a worthwhile add for a contending team in need of infield help. Just not at $13 million per year.

2020 Team Prediction: Rangers. The post-Adrian Beltre revolving door at third base will continue.

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48. Edwin Encarnacion SEA • 1B/DH • 10
2020 Season Age37

As good as he was overall last season, 2018 was Edwin Encarnacion's worst season in several years, with his strikeout, walk, and power numbers down considerably. And at his age, with little to no defensive value, Encarnacion is entering the danger zone for free agents. Without a bounceback season in 2019, he could get left hanging next offseason.

2020 Team Prediction: White Sox. It just fits, doesn't it?

49. Addison Reed RP •
2020 Season Age31

The bet here is Year 2 with the Twins will go much better than Year 1. Addison Reed has a strong track record and he's capable of pitching at the end of games, and guys like that are still getting paid even during the free-agent freeze. The bet here is Reed looks much more desirable as a free-agent target next offseason than he does right now.

2020 Team Prediction: Angels. See Chris Sale's comment.

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50. Michael Pineda MIN • SP • 35
2020 Season Age31

Michael Pineda is the obvious candidate to be this year's Nathan Eovaldi. That great stuff/iffy results power righty coming back from Tommy John surgery who takes his game to another level with good health. Pineda has completed his Tommy John surgery rehab and is expected to be in the Twins' Opening Day rotation in 2019. He is currently the odds on favorite to go from free agent afterthought now to popular free-agent target after the season.

2020 Team Prediction: Padres. A soft landing spot for Pineda and a good upside play for the up-and-coming Friars.


Also considered (listed alphabetically): 1B Yonder Alonso; OF Kole Calhoun (club option declined); 2B Starlin Castro (club option declined); 3B Todd Frazier; OF Brett Gardner; RHP Matt Harvey; RHP Felix Hernandez; UTIL Brock Holt; 1B Jung Ho Kang; 2B Jason Kipnis; OF Matt Kemp; C Jonathan Lucroy; C Russell Martin; C Brian McCann; DH Kendrys Morales; RHP Brandon Morrow; RHP Jake Odorizzi; RHP Hector Rondon; RHP Trevor Rosenthal; LHP Drew Smyly; RHP Adam Wainwright

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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