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Strike Zone

Top 111 Free Agents

by Matthew Pouliot
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Presented today is a look at this winter’s top 111 free agents. I’m excluding players whose options are expected to be picked up, a group that includes Jose Altuve, Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner, Andrew McCutchen, Craig Kimbrel, Logan Forsythe and Asdrubal Cabrera. Also excluded are Johnny Cueto, since he seems unlikely to opt out of the four years and $84 million left on his contract, and Shohei Otani, who isn’t a free agent and who wouldn’t get a fair contract anyway if he’s posted and signs with an MLB team.

Players are ranked based on how I expect teams will view them, not on how I view them myself. Essentially, they’re ranked from predicted biggest contract to smallest.

All ages are as of April 1, 2018.

1. Yu Darvish (31, SP, Dodgers): It was an inconsistent regular season for Darvish in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery, but he rebounded at the very end and initially kept it going in the postseason, only to turn in two disastrous outings in the World Series. His strikeout rate was still the lowest of his career, but he jumped back up to 11.1 K/9 IP with the Dodgers after coming in at 9.7 with the Rangers. While he’s not at all a sure thing, he’s the biggest talent available in free agency and the one guy worth giving $30 million per year, though preferably on a three- or four-year deal rather than a lengthier pact.

2. Eric Hosmer (28, 1B, Royals): Hosmer picked a great time to have the best offensive season of his career, finishing up at .318/.385/.498 in his walk year. He went from striking out 132 times in 2016 to 104 times in practically the same number of plate appearances. The danger, of course, is that Hosmer has been a league average hitter (and a below average regular) two of the last four years. His career 111 OPS+ is worse than that of fellow free agents John Jaso, Adam Lind and Seth Smith. Defense isn’t a strength, either, although some would beg to differ. On the plus side, at 28, he’s younger than most free agents and still very much in his prime. He likely has some quality offensive seasons still in front of him. Unfortunately, it’s going to take at least $22 million and maybe $25 million per season for six years to sign him, and it’s highly unlikely that he’ll live up to that kind of deal over the long haul.

3. J.D. Martinez (30, OF, Diamondbacks): Martinez’s homer barrage will make him maybe this winter’s riskiest free agent, at least on the position player side. He was a great hitter from 2014-16, too, slugging from .535 to .553 each season, but he took it up a couple of notches after returning from a foot injury last season, hitting .303/.376/.690 with 45 homers in just 119 games. No one with 200 plate appearances had slugged .690 since Barry Bonds came in at .812 in 2004. The issue here is that Martinez is a bad defensive outfielder who has had difficulty staying healthy of late. Since the production would seem to guarantee that he gets at least a four-year contract, he makes a lot more sense for an AL team with the DH available than an NL squad. He’s probably looking at $25 million per season.

4. Justin Upton (30, OF, Angels): Upton ended up with new career highs in homers, RBI and OPS, so he’s expected to opt out of the final four years of a six-year deal that’s paid him $22.125 million annually. He’s not necessarily looking at a big raise in free agency, though. While he’s coming off a better season now than last time around, the simple fact that he’s 30, rather than 28, makes him a weaker bet going forward. Still, a four-year, $100 million contract seems reasonable. He can’t match his ex-teammate Martinez homer for homer, but he’s a better defender and he’s stayed exceptionally healthy in his career, playing in 149 games in seven straight seasons.

5. Masahiro Tanaka (29, RHP, Yankees): Tanaka’s poor season made his opt out a tough call; he can earn $67 million over the next three years or take his chances in free agency. One of the AL’s best pitchers in 2016, Tanaka wound up with a 4.74 ERA last season, though he did strike out a career-best 9.8 batters per nine innings. He also really impressed at the end of the year, striking out 15 in his final regular-season start and allowing just two runs over 20 innings in the postseason. That final burst, combined with him making 30 starts for the second year in a row, should ensure that he can do at least a little better as a free agent, even if teams are still going to be worried about his long-term health.

6. Jake Arrieta (32, SP, Cubs): Since winning a Cy Young in 2015, Arrieta has seen his effectiveness wane; his ERA jumped from 1.77 to 3.10 to 3.53 and his FIP simultaneously increased from 2.35 to 3.52 to 4.16. His velocity dropped by about two mph last season, though he was stronger at the end of the year than at the beginning. The team that signs him this winter might be getting a No. 3 starter, rather than someone capable of leading a team’s rotation into the postseason. He’ll probably command a higher annual salary than a couple of the players above him here, but it would be a bad idea for anyone to offer up more than three years.

7. Mike Moustakas (29, 3B, Royals): Back from a torn ACL that limited him to 27 games in 2016, Moustakas set a Royals franchise record by hitting 38 homers last season. He was largely a bad hitter his first four years in the league, but his 117 OPS+ in 322 games the last three seasons isn’t far off what Hosmer (119) and Upton (120) have done. Still, one big concern here is that his defense didn’t come back all of the way back after the knee injury. If he was permanently robbed of some quickness, he might have to make the move to first base in a couple of years. Regardless, a four-year contract seems likely, and he’s probably due in the neighborhood of $20 million per year.

8. Lance Lynn (30, SP, Cardinals): Without ever getting a lot of credit for it, Lynn has pretty remarkable career numbers, going 72-47 with a 3.38 ERA. He and Darvish are nearly the same age, and both had Tommy John surgery a couple of years ago. Lynn has a 129 ERA+ in 97 starts since the beginning of 2014, while Darvish is at 125 in 70 starts over the same timeframe. Lynn, though, had rather ugly peripherals to go along with his nice 3.43 ERA in his first year back from surgery; his strikeout, walk and homer rates were all career worsts, leaving him with a 4.82 FIP. Maybe some of that was rust, and he’ll be stronger next year. He’s remained exceptionally healthy aside from the Tommy John. He seems like a safer bet on a four- or even a five-year contract than most of the other top pitchers available.

9. Lorenzo Cain (31, OF, Royals): Among all position players, Cain ranks 16th in rWAR the last three years. The next highest free agent is Upton at No. 34. Still, as a long-term bet, Cain seems pretty shaky. While he hit above his career average at age 31 last season, finishing at .300/.363/.440, his defensive numbers continued their steady decline. He graded out as an elite center fielder from 2013-15, but he’s trending toward average now and he might not stop there for long. Look at how quickly Denard Span went from being a quality center fielder to a big-time liability. If Cain is forced to settle for a two-year deal, he could still be a good get. Since he’s clearly the best center fielder available, someone still might go four years at $20 million per season or more.

10. Carlos Santana (31, 1B, Indians): Santana offers a steady bat and a fair glove at first base, but his offense never blossomed after he was moved out from behind the plate; he had a 129 OPS+ while acting primarily as a catcher his first 3 1/3 years in the majors and a 115 mark in four years since. He’s also about to turn 32, so some decline should be expected these next few years. He’s finally due to earn the $20 million per year he’s always been worth just as he’s due to cease being that kind of player.

11. Wade Davis (32, RP, Cubs): Davis put in a full season in 2017 after missing time in 2016 with a flexor tendon strain, and he was very effective, even posting the second best strikeout rate of his career, but his velocity was down some and he gave up six homers, twice as many as he had allowed in 183 innings the previous three seasons combined. Davis’s cutter is good enough that he could likely withstand some additional velocity loss and remain a quality closer. He’s not going to reach Aroldis Chapman heights with his contract, but three years for about $50 million could get it done.

12 Alex Cobb (30, SP, Rays): Cobb wasn’t quite the same pitcher he was in 2013 and ’14 in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery, but he was an above average starter while achieving new career highs with 29 starts and 179 innings pitched. His strikeout rate was well down early, but in the second half, he was throwing as hard as ever and getting some more strikeouts as a result. He’s the fifth of six starters here who seems like solid bets on multiyear contracts, and it would be a surprise if he didn’t get at least $45 million for three years.

13. Zack Cozart (32, SS, Reds): Despite being limited to 122 games, Cozart was 12th in the NL in rWAR last season. Of course, he was a lifetime .246/.289/.385 hitter before surprising everyone with a .297/.385/.548 line at age 31. Still, he’s always been a strong defender, and if one averages everything out, he’s basically been a 3 WAR guy in his career, even if had never topped that mark in a season before 2017. For 2018 anyway, he’s worth at least the qualifying offer amount of $17.4 million. If he wants a three-year deal, he should have to settle for a smaller annual salary.

14. Jonathan Lucroy (31, C, Rockies): If it were just the off year offensively, Lucroy would still look like a pretty good investment this winter. Unfortunately, his defense -- or, more specifically, his pitch framing -- has also become a big issue, and unless he can recover there, he’ll likely be a bad regular going forward. He was once one of the game’s best framers, so maybe he can get it back, at least to an extent. The team that signs him to a three-year contract will be betting he can be fixed or is just ignoring framing numbers.

15. Todd Frazier (32, 3B, Yankees): Frazier’s tumbling batting averages will hurt his case in free agency -- he’s hit .225 and .213 the last two years -- but he might be one of the better value picks. He remains above average defensively at third base, and he doesn’t strike out as much as the poor averages suggest. One imagines there’s been some bad luck in him posting .236 BABIPs in consecutive years; he was at .288 in his five years with the Reds. There’s some talk of him perhaps settling for a one-year contract, but he’s not at an age where it makes sense for him to try to “rebuild his value” and he’s worth $45 million for three years anyway.

16. Jay Bruce (30, OF, Mets): No one was much interested in acquiring Bruce last winter even though he was coming off a year in which he posted a 113 OPS+ and was due $13 million for one season. This winter, though, there will likely be considerable demand for him, even though he had a similar 115 OPS+ and he’ll require a multiyear deal. It’s partly because he struggled down the stretch with the Mets in 2016, yet he played well down the stretch for the Indians last season. Although he’s a 10-year veteran, Bruce is one of the younger position player free agents (he turns 31 on April 3). He’s not a big OBP guy and his defense in right field draws mixed reviews, but he’ll probably have a few more 30-homer seasons before he’s done.

17. Addison Reed (29, RP, Red Sox): Because he was traded to the Red Sox, Reed didn’t finish last season as a closer, and he has recorded just 24 of his 125 career saves since the beginning of the 2015 season. Still, he figures to be treated as a closer this winter. He’s been far more effective these last two years than he ever was saving games for the White Sox and Diamondbacks, amassing a 2.40 ERA with a 167/28 K/BB ratio in 154 innings. He also has youth on his side, and he’s never been on the disabled list in his career. If any reliever is going to get a four-year contract this winter, Reed would make the most sense.

18. Tyler Chatwood (28, SP, Rockies): Here’s the toughest call in free agency. A 28-year-old starter with a 119 ERA+ over the last five years sounds like the recipe for a $150 million contract. Chatwood, though, has made just 76 starts in those five years. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014 and missed all of 2015. He was really good in his first year back, going 12-9 with a 3.87 ERA for the Rockies, but he was less effective last season and found himself shipped to the pen for a time, though he still finished with a solid 107 ERA+. Away from Coors, he had a 3.49 ERA in 77 innings. In 2016, he had a 1.69 ERA in 13 road starts. So, Chatwood is a fine starter, albeit one who has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. Given the price of pitching, I think it would be a great gamble for some team to sign him to a three-year deal at $30 million-$40 million, if that’s possible. But if Chatwood feels good about himself, he could stand to make a whole lot more money in the future by signing a one-year contract now.

19. Eduardo Nunez (30, INF-OF, Red Sox): It’s going to be easy to sell Nunez this winter: he can play a bunch of positions and he’s been a good hitter three years running, amassing a 106 OPS+ in 1,208 at-bats over that span. The flip side is that Nunez doesn’t play any one position well, and he’s batting average dependent to the point at which he’s a weak regular if he’s only hitting .270 or so. He’ll get a three-year deal and a starting job, but he might find himself back in a utility role come year two.

20. Greg Holland (32, RP, Rockies): Despite an August hiccup, Holland led the NL with 41 saves in his first year back from Tommy John surgery, and he’ll head back into free agency after declining his $15 million player option for 2018. While it hasn’t cut into his effectiveness, Holland’s velocity isn’t what it was before he got hurt, leaving him without much hope of success when he doesn’t have his slider, which was the root of his difficulties in August. He’s a perfectly fine bet for 2018, but any contract for longer than two years would be too risky here.

21. Andrew Cashner (31, SP, Rangers): Cashner somehow coaxed a 3.40 ERA out of an 86/64 K/BB ratio and a somewhat above average groundball rate last season. His FIP was 4.61. His xFIP, which factors in a league-average HR/FB rate, was 5.30. Cashner has managed to stay relatively healthy three years in a row, which is a nice change. Still, his stuff is getting worse by the year, and he had previously shown no ability to outpitch his peripherals. He should take the $17.4 million qualifying offer if the Rangers give it to him. As pitching starved as several teams are, he’s still going to be a really tough sell on a multiyear deal.

22. Neil Walker (32, 2B, Brewers): Walker missed about a quarter of 2016 with a back injury that required surgery and a quarter of last season with a hamstring tear, but when he’s been in the lineup, he’s done his usual thing. In eight seasons as a regular, he’s never posted worse than a 106 OPS+. He’s come in at 121 and 111 the last two years, putting his career mark at 114. Walker’s defense was never great and he figures to be solidly below average going forward, but he should still be viable at second for two more years, which is probably how long his contract will be anyway. $13 million-$15 million per year should get the job done.

23. CC Sabathia (37, SP, Yankees): Only 13 pitchers have made at least 25 starts and posted sub-4.00 ERAs the last two years, and Sabathia is one of them (the other free agent in that group is Arrieta). Of course, Sabathia is 37 and has bad knees. He also finished with a 4.49 FIP to go along with his 3.69 ERA last season. One imagines a bunch of contenders would love to have him on a one-year deal anyway. It’ll probably take two years to have any chance of luring him away from the Bronx.

24. Carlos Gonzalez (32, OF, Rockies): Gonzalez struggled mightily for four months last season before finally showing signs of life in August (.279/.333/.419) and really putting it together in September (.377/.484/.766). Even so, he still finished with an 87 OPS+. He hit 40 homers in 2015 and finished with an .855 OPS in 2016, but he’ll enter 2018 five years removed from his last outstanding offensive season. I think many would guess he’s in his mid-30s, rather than having just turned 32 in October. Gonzalez is still decent in right field, and despite all of those injuries as a youngster, he’s averaged 146 games the last three years. It might make more sense to sign him to a one-year, $15 million deal than to sign Bruce or Santana for three years.

25. Carlos Gomez (32, OF, Rangers): Coming off a rough year, Gomez bet on himself last winter, taking a one-year, $11.5 million contract to stay with the Rangers. There will be a payoff, though it should be modest. The problem here is that Gomez hasn’t played in more than 120 games since 2014; he missed time with hamstring, shoulder and ankle injuries last season. Fortunately, Gomez did perform well when healthy, hitting .255/.340/.462. He’s probably not getting a long-term contract this winter, but two years at a slight raise from $11.5 million is realistic. Alternatively, he could take another one-year deal.

26. Michael Brantley (30, OF, Indians): The Indians are trying to decide whether it’s worth it to pick up Brantley’s $12 million option for 2018 after he underwent ankle surgery that might sideline him for Opening Day. I imagine they’ll ultimately end up keeping him; Brantley might never get back to what he was before these last two years of injuries, but he was still effective when healthy last season and he’s just 30 years old.

27. Welington Castillo (30, C, Orioles): Not only did Castillo turn in his best ever offensive performance in 2017, but he graded out as an average pitch framer after years of languishing at the bottom of the league. He was limited to 96 games by a few different injuries, but he batted .282/.323/.490 in his 341 at-bats, even though it was essentially his first stint in the AL (he played in six games for the Mariners in 2015). Now he’ll surely turn down his $7 million player option, and he should be in line for at least a two-year, $20 million contract to serve as some team’s starting catcher.

28. Jason Vargas (35, SP, Royals): Vargas made his first All-Star team and led the AL in victories last season, but those things aren’t going to count as much in the eyes of bidders as his 6.38 ERA in the second half. He opened the year on a surprising strikeout binge, but over the final five months, he fanned a modest 6.2 batters per nine innings. As a flyball pitcher with a below average strikeout rate, his market should be limited to a handful of teams that play in big ballparks. He’ll probably still get $10 million-$14 million on a one-year deal.

29. Bryan Shaw (30, RP, Indians): The secret weapon in the Cleveland pen, Shaw has led the AL in appearances three of the last four years. Dating back to 2013, he has a 3.11 ERA while averaging 72 innings per year. He’s also been excellent in the postseason, amassing a 2.45 ERA in 22 innings. Maybe the workload will begin to catch up to him at some point, but he’ll get at least three years and maybe four from a team looking to beef up its setup corps. It will be interesting to see if the Indians try to keep him; they have both Cody Allen and Andrew Miller eligible for free agency after next season and Shaw should be significantly cheaper to retain than either of those two.

30. Mike Minor (30, SP-RP, Royals): Minor rebounded from years of shoulder problems to serve as one of the AL’s most valuable relievers last season, finishing with a 2.55 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 77 2/3 innings for Kansas City. Now he has to decide whether he wants to try a return to the rotation or carry on as a reliever. The former scenario has the potential to be more lucrative over the long haul, but he could secure a nice multiyear deal now if he wants to stick with relieving. Considering that he’s already earned $19 million in his career and can probably get around $10 million on a one-year deal, he could afford to roll the dice if he prefers starting.

31. Yonder Alonso (30, 1B, Mariners): Alonso was at best an average regular previously and simply a bad one in 2016 before busting out and making the All-Star team at age 30 last season. Still, the greatness lasted a mere 2 1/2 months; after June 15, he hit .239/.342/.403 with 11 homers in 268 at-bats. My opinion is that he belongs in the crowd of one-year options at first base, but someone might believe in the breakout and give him two years. He did revamp his swing to hit more flyballs, and while that strategy obviously paid dividends in Oakland, it could work out even better in a big home run park.

32. Brandon Morrow (33, RP, Dodgers): There was nothing fluky about Morrow’s 2.06 ERA; he’s throwing 98 mph with a 92 mph cutter that gets in on the hands of left-handers. It’s just a matter of health for him, as this was the first time he’s been able to put in a full season since 2011. The Dodgers can afford to give him a two-year, $16 million contract in the hopes that he’ll be healthy when it matters. Most teams can’t.

33. Jaime Garcia (31, SP, Yankees): After 11 seasons in the Cardinals organization, Garcia played for three teams last season, going 5-10 with a 4.41 ERA in 27 starts. Oddly enough, the bad results have come with better health; an oft-injured Garcia had a career 3.31 ERA through 2015, but he’s come in at 4.55 while avoiding the DL the last two years. Garcia’s stuff seems intact and he still offers a strong groundball rate to go with a league-average strikeout rate, so he’s not a bad bet on a one-year deal. I’d take my chances with him over Cashner next season.

34. Jake McGee (31, RP, Rockies): With his velocity well down, McGee struggled to a 4.73 ERA in his first year in Colorado in 2016. He got his fastball back last season and posted a 3.61 ERA with an impressive 2.93 FIP. McGee never has come up with a legitimate complement for his mid-90s fastball, but it hasn’t stopped him from posting a 3.15 ERA as a major leaguer. He’s even more effective against righties than lefties, so he can be a true eighth-inning guy for a team, rather than a matchup play. He should be in line for the biggest contract among lefty relievers this winter.

35. Logan Morrison (30, 1B, Rays): Morrison finally decided to just cut loose and swing for the fences last season. It worked. His strikeout rate was about 50 percent higher than his marks from a couple of years back, but his home run rate doubled. He also avoided any big slumps; his worst OPS in any month was .798 in July. How he’ll be rewarded is anyone’s guess; it’s a crowded market for first basemen and Morrison’s track record is spotty overall. He also doesn’t have Alonso’s defensive reputation at first base, though the numbers say there’s little separating them. My guess is that he ends up on another one-year deal, though I think $20 million for two years would be fair.

36. Juan Nicasio (31, RP, Cardinals): The Pirates’ decision to cut Nicasio after five months with a 2.85 ERA was one of the surprises of the season. He ended up with the Cardinals after a waiver claim and a trade and allowed just two runs in 11 innings down the stretch. Overall, he had a 2.61 ERA in an NL-high 76 appearances. He was just about as good after moving to the pen in 2016, finishing with a 2.96 ERA in 54 2/3 innings. Teams might not view him as a closer this winter, but he’s in line for an ample contract as a dynamic setup man. At worst, he should get $14 million for two seasons.

37. Francisco Liriano (34, SP, Astros): Liriano was a big flop in Toronto’s rotation, amassing a 5.88 ERA in 18 starts before being traded to Houston, where he finished out the year as a reliever. An ugly August followed, but Liriano did a nice job in September, just not nice enough to get any run as a late-game option in October. One assumes Liriano will market himself as a starter this winter. Outside of a strong finish in 2016, he’s really struggled these last two years. Still, his velocity hasn’t gone anywhere and the right pitching coach could have some luck with him. He has as much upside as any of the potential one-year rotation options.

38. Matt Holliday (38, DH, Yankees): For nearly three months, Holliday gave the Yankees everything they hoped for from the DH spot, hitting .275/.379/.536 in 65 games. At that point, Holliday began struggling with a viral infection, and though he returned right after the All-Star break, he never regained his stroke and hit just four of his 19 homers in the second half. A healthy Holliday still seems like a perfectly suitable DH, but given that he’s 38 and has made more than $150 million in his career, he might be content to hang up his spikes if the right offer doesn’t come along.

39. Jhoulys Chacin (30, SP, Padres): A $1.75 million bargain for the Padres, Chacin quietly went 13-10 with a 3.89 ERA for one of the league’s worst teams. He had a 2.93 ERA in his final 20 starts. It’s not at all likely that Chacin will take it up another notch, and he’s had trouble staying healthy in his career, so he’s not a good idea on a multiyear deal. Still, he should be in line for a far more significant one-year deal this time around.

40. Howie Kendrick (34, 2B-OF, Nationals): Injuries helped limit Kendrick to 305 at-bats last season, but he made the most of his playing time, hitting .315/.368/.475. Kendrick seems finished as a starting second baseman, but he proved adequate in left and the fact that he can slide to second when needed is still a nice bonus. He’d work nicely on a one-year, $8 million deal on an AL team with lots of moving pieces, like the Yankees or Orioles.

41. Austin Jackson (31, OF, Indians): No team was very interested in Jackson as a starter last winter, but he rebuilt his value by hitting .318/.387/.482 in 280 at-bats as a part-timer in Cleveland. It’s unlikely that anyone will bet big on an encore performance, but he should be a starter somewhere on a one-year contract in the $8 million range.

42. John Lackey (39, SP, Cubs): Lackey appears to be leaning towards retirement after a rough season in which he had a 4.59 ERA and gave up a whopping 36 homers in 171 innings. Still, if he wants to keep going, there would be several interested parties. Lackey’s velocity slipped some for the first time, but he’s still throwing about as hard as he did in some of his prime years (for the most part, he’s thrown harder in his 30s than he did in his 20s). His swing-and-miss rate was one of the best of his career, and his strikeout rate was fine. A modest rebound would certainly be in play.

43. Curtis Granderson (37, OF, Dodgers): Unfortunately, the lasting memory of Granderson’s 2017 will likely be his four-pitch strikeout against the Cubs in the NLCS. Granderson was outstanding for 3 ½ months, hitting .259/.384/.578 in 270 at-bats from May 3 to Aug. 24. Unfortunately, he was so dreadful the rest of the time that he hit just .212/.323/.452 in 449 at-bats overall. He still seems like a perfectly fine option as a starting left fielder against right-handers, but the streakiness will scare some off.

44. R.A. Dickey (43, SP, Braves): In five seasons since turning 38, Dickey has averaged 32 starts and posted ERA+s in the 96-105 range every year. Incredibly, last season’s 100 ERA+ came with some of the best knuckleball velocity of his career. Dickey is believed to be leaning towards retirement anyway, but from a performance standpoint, there wouldn’t seem to be any reason for him to quit now. He should have his pick of $8 million contracts if he wants to keep pitching.

45. Jon Jay (33, OF, Cubs): It didn’t seem like the Cubs needed Jay when they gave him $8 million last winter, but the deal worked out swimmingly, as he posted a career-best .374 OBP in 379 at-bats. Because of the lack of power and merely average defense, Jay still wasn’t a particularly valuable player from a WAR perspective. Ideally, he should be more of a fallback than someone a team would want to give 400 at-bats to next year. Still, since he can play all three outfield spots and hit at the top of the order, he’s about as good of a fallback as there is. He’ll probably get another $8 million or so.

46. Jarrod Dyson (33, OF, Mariners): Finally getting a chance to go into a season as a starter for the first time at age 32, Dyson was a perfectly solid player for three-quarters of the year before succumbing to a sports hernia. His bat doesn’t figure to get any better at this point, but his defense remains so strong that he’s a solid choice against righties anyway. Of course, it’s worth wondering how much longer that will last, given his age. A two-year, $12 million deal sounds about right, whether he’s a fourth outfielder on a good team or a starter on a weaker club.

47. Matt Wieters (31, C, Nationals): While Wieters never met the high expectations everyone had for him offensively, he wasn’t actually a bad hitter until last season, when he came in at .225/.288/.344 in 422 at-bats for the Nationals. That’s a 63 OPS+ for a guy who hadn’t ever done worse than an 89 previously. Wieters’ defensive reputation has also taken a huge hit, and even though he’s just 31, his future as a starter should be in some doubt. He should go ahead and exercise his $10.5 million player option to return to the Nationals, since it’s highly unlikely that he’d do better elsewhere.

48. Jeremy Hellickson (30, SP, Orioles): If not for the qualifying offer from the Phillies last winter, Hellickson would be entering the second year of a three- or four-year contract that some team would already regret having given him. Hellickson, though, banked the $17.2 million last season and will now shop himself around at a reduced rate after going 8-11 with a 5.43 ERA for the Phillies and Orioles. If it was back troubles that caused the downturn in his stuff, maybe he can get it back and reemerge as a useful fourth starter next year.

49. Cameron Maybin (30, OF, Astros): Yeah, 30. Maybin will turn 31 on April 4, but as long as he’s been around – he debuted with the Tigers in 2007 -- most would probably guess he’s at least a couple of years older. Maybin had a rough year offensively, hitting .228/.318/.365, and his defense isn’t what it was when he was younger, so he might get the same kind of treatment Austin Jackson did last winter and have to settle for a backup gig.

50. Alcides Escobar (31, SS, Royals): Escobar has been one of the league’s worst hitters three years running, his defense has gone from very good to average and he was even thrown out on seven of his 11 steal attempts last season. Still, the Royals had him start all 162 games at shortstop, even as it meant heir apparent Raul Mondesi sat glued to the bench in September. That’s why I’m still so skeptical that they’ll really let him depart this winter. It’s not like he figures to have a bunch of suitors in hot pursuit; it’s pretty easy to imagine Escobar settling for a one-year, $5 million deal in January. We’ll see if anyone jumps the gun and gives him $12 million for two years before then.

51. Brandon Kintzler (33, RP, Nationals): Left for dead a couple of years ago, Kintzler turned himself into a closer in Minnesota before assuming a setup role after a trade to the Nationals. He ended up with a 3.03 ERA last season after coming in at 3.15 in 2016. That should be enough to price him out of the “cheap closer” category this winter and instead get him signed to a two-year deal to set up for a contender.

52. Doug Fister (34, SP, Red Sox): Fister faded in the end and got lit up in his ALDS start, but he still looked like a legitimate starter after joining the Red Sox. He demonstrated his best velocity in five years, his best ever strikeout rate (83 K in 90 IP) and a strong groundball rate that was better than his career mark. It doesn’t mean he’ll ever have another season like his 2011 or 2014, but he’d fit nicely at the back of a bunch of rotations.

53. Lucas Duda (32, 1B, Rays): Duda rebounded from a 2016 ruined by a back injury to hit .246/.347/.532 in 252 at-bats for the Mets last season. He wasn’t nearly as productive after a trade to the Rays, hitting .175/.285/.444 in 171 at-bats, but it was his first stint in the AL and it’s hardly unusual for players to struggle initially after switching leagues. With a 124 OPS+ the last four years, Duda has a better track record than Alonso and Morrison. He is older and he’s a bigger injury risk, but since he should require only a one-year deal, he might be the best short-term fix among the free agent first basemen.

54. Tony Watson (32, RP, Dodgers): Watson was the game’s best left-handed setup man and perhaps the best setup man overall a couple of years ago, but the results haven’t been quite the same of late. From 2013-15, he had a 1.97 ERA while averaging 74 2/3 innings per year. The last two seasons, he’s had a 3.22 ERA while averaging 67 innings. Worse, his FIP during that span is 4.41. It still doesn’t look like he’s about to fall apart, but at this point, it wouldn’t make sense to give him a Brett Cecil contract ($30.5 million for four years).

55. Alex Avila (31, C, Cubs): Avila has always been a starting-caliber catcher, but his body hasn’t been able to handle the grind. The Tigers found the sweet spot for him last season, and he ended up starting 70 games behind the plate and 11 more at first base between Detroit and Chicago. His .264/.387/.447 line was better than anyone should have expected, but he does have a lifetime 105 OPS+. That he needs to be paired with another solid catcher reduces his value somewhat, but he should still be in line for a nice two-year contract.

56. Anthony Swarzak (32, RP, Brewers): Velocity spike produced 2.33 ERA, 91 K in 77 IP. $12MM for 2 yrs?
57. Pat Neshek (37, RP, Rockies): 1.59 ERA in 62 IP. That’s worth $7MM for 2018.
58. Melky Cabrera (33, OF, Royals): .285/.324/.423. Bad stint in KC will cost him $$, but he’ll be someone’s LF.
59. Miguel Gonzalez (33, SP, Rangers): Limited upside, but still a nice fifth starter. 109 ERA+ in 2016, 95 in 2017.
60. Chris Iannetta (34, C, Diamondbacks): Surprising .865 OPS in 272 AB could make him a starter somewhere.
61. Steve Cishek (31, RP, Rays): Career-best 2.01 ERA in 45 IP should put him in line for two-year contract.
62. Tommy Hunter (31, RP, Rays): Underrated setup man. 2.61 ERA, 64/14 K/BB in 59 IP.
63. Brandon Phillips (36, 2B, Angels): Maybe one more year as a starter? .285/.319/.416 in 2017.
64. Fernando Rodney (41, RP, Diamondbacks): Stuff’s just about as good as ever. 3.03 FIP to go with 4.23 ERA.
65. Joe Smith (34, RP, Indians): Should be a popular setup option. 3.33 ERA, 2.10 FIP, 74 K in 54 IP.
66. Mitch Moreland (32, 1B, Red Sox): .246/.326/.443. Should get another $5MM as a platoon first baseman.
67. Yunel Escobar (35, 3B, Angels): .274/.333/.397 in 89 games. Still perfectly adequate when healthy.
68. Brian Duensing (35, RP, Cubs): Could be in line for 2-yr deal after 2.74 ERA, 61 K in 62 IP for Cubs.
69. J.J. Hardy (35, SS, Orioles): Still solid defensively, but .217/.255/.323. Limited to 73 games by broken wrist.
70. Andre Ethier (35, OF, Dodgers): 58 AB in 2 years, but he might surprise as a DH and occasional LF in AL.
71. Jose Reyes (34, INF, Mets): .246/.315/.413. Ended up hitting OK, but subpar defense an issue as a regular.
72. Yoshihisa Hirano (34, RP, Japan): 2.67 ERA, 29 Sv, 47 K in 57 IP for Orix. Likely a setup man in MLB.
73. Jose Bautista (37, OF, Blue Jays): .203/.308/.366. Nothing about his 2017 suggests a big rebound is on the way.
74. Seth Smith (35, OF, Orioles): .258/.340/.433. Very consistent platoon bat with little defensive value.
75. Clay Buchholz (33, SP, Phillies): 2 GS in 2017. Looking at incentive-laden contract after forearm surgery.
76. Chase Utley (39, 2B, Dodgers): .236/.324/.405 in 309 AB. Probably will have a job for as long as he wants one.
77. Wade Miley (31, SP, Orioles): ERA up four straight years, but probably still a decent No. 5 for an NL team.
78. Luke Gregerson (33, RP, Astros): Suddenly homer-prone, but velocity intact and still gets plenty of strikeouts.
79. Carlos Beltran (40, DH, Astros): Possibly headed off to retirement. OPS down from .850 in 2016 to .666 in ‘17.
80. Chris Tillman (29, SP, Orioles): One-year deal likely after shoulder problem produced 7.84 ERA.
81. Matt Albers (35, RP, Nationals): 6.31 ERA, 5.3 K/9 IP in 2016, 1.62 ERA, 9.3 K/9 IP in 2017.  
82. Huston Street (34, RP, Angels): Limited to 22 IP in 2016 and then 4 IP in 2017 due to lat/groin/shoulder.
83. Bud Norris (33, RP, Angels): Unexpected closer stint boosted profile. 4.21 ERA, 74 K in 62 IP.
84. Rajai Davis (37, OF, Red Sox): .235/.293/.348. Strictly a backup going forward, but still a useful one.
85. Seung-Hwan Oh (35, RP, Cardinals): ERA jumped from 1.92 to 4.10, but velocity fine and never walks anyone.
86. Trevor Cahill (30, SP, Royals): Fell apart in Kansas City, but 3.69 ERA, 10.6 K/9 IP in 11 GS for Padres.
87. Adam Lind (34, 1B, Nationals): Showed why he should still be a starter while hitting .303/.362/.513 in 267 AB.
88. Nick Hundley (34, C, Giants): Tried holding out for starting job last winter. Should be content as backup now.
89. Colby Rasmus (31, OF, Rays): Unclear if he’ll return, but .281/.318/.579 in 121 AB before stepping away.
90. Craig Stammen (32, RP, Padres): Former Nationals middle man revived his career with 3.14 ERA in 80 IP.
91. Danny Valencia (33, 1B, Mariners): .256/.314/.411 in 450 AB. Bad regular, but useful as a starter against lefties.
92. Kevin Siegrist (28, RP, Phillies): Velocity down, walks up, but still young enough to turn it around.
93. Chris Young (34, OF, Red Sox): .235/.322/.387 in 243 AB. Will look for a platoon gig elsewhere.
94. Joaquin Benoit (40, RP, Pirates): 4.65 ERA in first bad season since 2008. Velocity still about as good as ever.
95. Boone Logan (33, RP, Indians): 11 K/9 IP six years running. Missed second half with strained lat.
96. Ricky Nolasco (35, SP, Angels): Because someone needs to start games for the Padres next season.
97. Nori Aoki (36, OF, Mets): .274/.319/.402. Solid reserve for a team with injury-prone outfielders.
98. Michael Pineda (29, SP, Yankees): Tommy John surgery in July makes any return in 2018 iffy.
99. Sergio Romo (35, RP, Rays): 1.47 ERA in 31 IP for Rays after Dodgers gave up on him.
100. Mike Napoli (36, 1B, Rangers): As bad of a 29-homer season as a guy can have: .193/.285/428.
101. Koji Uehara (42, RP, Cubs): Injuries piling up, but still fanned 50 in 43 IP while throwing 87 mph.
102. Brett Anderson (30, SP, Blue Jays): Two lost years in a row, but probably still solid if somehow healthy.
103. Matt Belisle (37, RP, Twins): Still gets job done. 4.03 ERA overall, but 1.41 in final 36 appearances.
104. Jayson Werth (38, OF, Nationals): .226/.322/.393 in 252 AB. Should be bench guy if he wants to keep going.
105. Zach Duke (34, RP, Cardinals): Lefty specialist made it back from Tommy John in 9 ½ months.
106. Tyson Ross (30, SP, FA): First year back from thoracic outlet surgery was a disaster; 7.71 ERA in 49 IP.
107. Tyler Clippard (33, RP, Astros): Finally had a bad year (4.77 ERA), but still fanned 72 in 60 IP.
108. Daniel Descalso (31, INF-OF, Diamondbacks): Arizona loved him, so $2MM option probably gets picked up.
109. David Hernandez (32, RP, Diamondbacks): Had best year since 2012.  3.11 ERA, 2.76 FIP in 55 IP.
110. Fernando Abad (32, RP, Red Sox): Lefties hit .153 in 2016, .227 in 2017.
111. Jorge De La Rosa (36, RP, Diamondbacks): Held lefties to .194 AVG, 1 HR in 65 G after move to bullpen.

Matthew Pouliot

Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of NBC Sports Edge and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.