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Also in this series: Part 2, covering free agents 21-50.

Welcome to Part 1 of Baseball Prospectus’ annual list of the top 50 free agents. The goal is disarmingly simple: rate every free agent based on their expected production and expected contracts. I’ve solicited no feedback from the rest of the staff, so if you’re mad that, say, Alcides Escobar or Tyler Chatwood isn’t on this (half of the) list, please direct your anger toward me or, better yet, a brick wall. While I used as much objective data as I could muster up, this is mostly a collection of my own thoughts, opinions, and contextual information. I’ve also predicted landing spots, which undoubtedly will be proven wrong.

As always, our intern “Randy”—who is very much not an intern but rather a random number generator—has made his predictions as well. Randy agreed with me on one destination in this installment of the list, but otherwise seems oblivious to reality. Sometimes I envy him.

1. Shohei Ohtani
Position (bats): RHP/DH (L)
Age (as of 4/1/18): 23
Former team: Nippon-Ham Fighters

Observations: Even though he’s not a true free agent, Ohtani lands the top spot on this list because he’s the most sought-after commodity available on the open market this winter. The Japanese wunderkind is a pitching talent to rival his hero Yu Darvish, capable of dialing it up to triple digits and dominating the NPB. He also happens to be an incredibly talented hitter, though whether he’ll be more than a Madison Bumgarner-esque curiosity in the majors is an open question. Barring a change in MLB’s rules, he’s only going to be due a minor-league contract like any international free agent under the age of 25, meaning he’d get paid peanuts compared to the rest of the free agents on this list.

Prediction: This is a complete wild card. Since every team can offer him roughly the same amount of money under the current rules, you’d have to think this depends almost entirely on which team can make the most compelling pitch to play. If you factor in window of contention, location, prestige, and existing talent, it makes a lot of sense for him to choose the Yankees.

Randy’s Prediction: Nationals

2. Yu Darvish
Position (bats):
RHP
Age (as of 4/1/18): 31
Former team: Dodgers

Observations: Darvish didn’t exactly cover himself in glory during his walk year. His strikeout rate dipped a touch to start the season in Texas, and his ERA limped over 4.00 for the first time in his career. However, DRA (3.02 in Texas) painted the picture of the same starter he was before blowing out his elbow, and he righted the ship for the Dodgers after a midseason trade. Of course, the thing many of us will remember is his collapse during the World Series, but that is a bump in the road for one of the game’s premier strikeout artists. No other starting pitcher in baseball has his ability to miss bats, and he’s been moderately consistent since coming to MLB. He’s well worth the enormous contract he’ll pull in this offseason.

Prediction: Darvish finds the right balance of cash and location in Los Angeles, as he remains with the Dodgers despite the ugly World Series. Look, I know you were hoping for something more exciting, but he loves it there, and the Dodgers are likely to focus on pitching. He’s the best starter available, he gives the team a great look, and it makes too much sense for him to stay.

Randy’s Prediction: Athletics

3. Eric Hosmer
Position (bats):
1B (L)
Age (as of 4/1/18): 28
Former team: Royals

Observations: My choice for the no. 3 spot between Hosmer and the next guy was the hardest decision of the whole exercise. Whether Hosmer deserves this spot is dependent on how much credence you give to his offensive improvement in 2017. Sure, he’s a Gold Glove-winning first baseman with a World Series ring, but to get a screw-you contract in free agency as a first-sacker, buddy, you better hit. Last year, Hosmer was pretty much the platonic ideal .300/.400/.500 hitter—it was .318/.385/.498, close enough—and if we were sure that was going to be his average production? No-brainer. But that was Hoz’s best offensive season, coming off one in which he was worth about half a win in WARP. He’s young and talented enough to think that the power might blossom out of K.C., and the ability to put him as a plus defender probably nudges him ahead of the next guy. His floor is high, but whatever team signs him would prefer he stay off it.

Prediction: Dave Dombrowski blows open the coffers and inks Hosmer to a tremendous contract, and his Red Sox career goes considerably better than Hanley Ramirez’s. Plenty of tears in Kansas City.

Randy’s Prediction: Astros

4. J.D. Martinez
Position (bats):
RF (R)
Age (as of 4/1/18): 30
Former team: Diamondbacks

Observations: Everyone loves right-handed power, and Martinez has plenty to spare. After what looked to be another ho-hum, quietly productive year in one of Comerica Park’s corners, J.D. took his talents to Arizona and things got a little out of control. I mean, 29 dingers in 62 games? A .350 True Average, helping put the Diamondbacks into the NLDS? Did not see that coming. What we should expect from Martinez, however, is a consistent ability to hit well above the league average, while also playing awful defense in an outfield corner. Honestly, he’s best suited for an AL team that can use him at DH, but no team in baseball will say no to his kind of power and offensive production. Dude can rake.

Prediction: I find this one particularly hard to peg, as there are more moving parts in the corner-bat market than you can shake a stick at. With former Tigers teammate Justin Upton staying in L.A., I think the Giants will be the team desperate enough to pay top dollar for Martinez’s brand of muscle.

Randy’s Prediction: Padres

5. Lorenzo Cain
Position (bats):
CF (R)
Age (as of 4/1/18): 31
Former team: Royals

Observations: First of all, I’m surprised that Cain is as old as he is. He’ll be 32 shortly after the season starts, but he plays like a much younger, more athletic man. Cain bounced back after a rough 2016, posting nearly six wins as the key cog in the Royals’ attack. Given that advancing age and his relatively short track record of high-end success, I’m not certain Cain will command the same stratospheric dollars as his teammate Hosmer. It’s for that reason, along with his combination of defensive and offensive skills as a center fielder, that I think he’ll not only be an excellent contributor in the next couple of years, but also a bit of a bargain. There’s also a dearth of center fielders in this market, so expect at least one team to be very happy raising Cain.

Prediction: Here’s a fun one. I think the Rangers need pitching even more than they need a player with Cain’s all-round skill set. However, don’t be shocked if Texas works other avenues to acquire the starter(s) they need, and adds Cain to their dynamic collection of offensive talent.

Randy’s Prediction: Phillies

6. Alex Cobb
Position (bats): RHP
Age (as of 4/1/18): 30
Former team: Rays

Observations: Is this a WWE-style heel turn? Am I begging for hot-take points? Nah. I just think Cobb will provide as much value as a couple bigger-name starting pitchers available, except at a slightly lower price tag. There’s a guy we’ll get to in a minute who’s similar but has a Cy Young award and all the baggage that comes with being a “staff ace,” but Cobb’s 4.06 DRA in 2017 outpaces many of the other starters on the open market. Look, he’s not a sure thing. The injury woes that felled him in 2015 and 2016 are a legit cause for some trepidation. But Cobb’s ability to rebound quickly and make adjustments on the fly leads me to think he might pay off for a team looking for a solid no. 2 or no. 3 starter.

Prediction: I literally only seem to hear about him heading to the Cubs or the Twins. Given his more middling strikeout rate and pinpoint control since his comeback, I see him landing in Minnesota.

Randy’s Prediction: Tigers

7. Jake Arrieta
Position (bats): RHP
Age (as of 4/1/18): 32
Former team: Cubs

Observations: There’s also something to be said for excellence when you’re looking for a pitcher on the open market. No one in this free agent class—Darvish included—has had a single season as good as Jake The Snake’s 2015 campaign. (Well, Jose Bautista has a case among hitters.) While the athletic right-hander has seen his performance dip down to more pedestrian levels over the past couple of seasons, he’s still a consummate competitor able to get strikeouts or ground balls as the situation demands. He’s used to being a star and the biggest moments, so I could certainly see some rising team looking to give their rotation a boost adding him to their staff.

Prediction: Literally any team with $20 million per season to spend and a hole in the rotation would go ga-ga over this guy. I sincerely want it to be the Cubs’ division rival the Brewers, but I’m going to say the Astros link up with Arrieta in an attempt to really hold serve in the AL.

Randy’s Prediction: Nationals

8. Lance Lynn
Position (bats): RHP
Age (as of 4/1/18): 30
Former team: Cardinals

Observations: One of the biggest surprises of this past trade deadline was that Lynn did not get moved in a deal. There was a market for starters, the Cardinals were flush with hurlers, and Lynn had a little bit of a risk factor in him, coming off a surgery that cost him the 2016 season. While his return in 2017 wasn’t on the same level as his previous performance, he still manages to make up for his occasional wildness by limiting dingers. If his command ticks up in his second year back, I think you could see him really return to his previous level of solid mid-rotation performance, with a chance to be a no. 2.

Prediction: Lynn would likely benefit a bit from a homer-suppressing park and a great defensive catcher, so let’s go with neither of those things and put him on the Rangers.

Randy’s Prediction: Dodgers

9. Carlos Santana
Position (bats): 1B (S)
Age (as of 4/1/18): 31
Former team: Indians

Observations: Santana’s very similar to Hosmer in many ways: your typical offense-first first baseman who reaches base a ton and plays solid defense. Santana’s got a longer track record of success and a little more power, but walks make up a huge part of his offensive game and he’s a career .249 hitter. He may struggle to draw half of the money that Hosmer does on the open market, so as a value pickup Santana could be one of the steals of the offseason.

Prediction: I’ll be very, very surprised if the Indians let him get away.

Randy’s Prediction: Indians (Go, Randy, go!)

10. Wade Davis
Position (bats): RHP
Age (as of 4/1/18): 31
Former team: Cubs

Observations: This guy posted a 2.30 ERA in 2017 and you could in some ways consider it a down year. The command slipped and he allowed an infinite-percent increase in homers—giving up six after zero in 2016—but the stuff is certainly still there. It’s hard to predict relief performance, but Davis is a bona fide stopper and he’s not yet falling out of his prime.

Prediction: Let’s get a little wild here. I know Scott Boras isn’t his agent, but I absolutely think the Nationals will pay big bucks in order to solidify the back of their bullpen in one of their last years in this contention window, even after adding expensive relievers at midseason. World Series or bust, baby!

Randy’s Prediction: Phillies

11. Zack Cozart
Position (bats): SS (R)
Age (as of 4/1/18): 32
Former team: Reds

Observations: Despite less-than-stellar FRAA numbers over his career, Cozart has a reputation as an above-average glove at the game’s second-hardest defensive position. As he ages, the defensive tools may have faded a bit with a couple of injuries, but something miraculous has happened at the same time. Starting in 2015, Cozart began to tap into his nascent power and really start developing as a hitter. Cozart wasn’t just good in 2017, he was great, with rate stats very close to Hosmer. Now, the expectation shouldn’t be that this will continue, as he’s more mature in his career, and more prone to injury. On the other hand, he’s a shortstop. Many teams don’t have a need at the position, especially for a player with perhaps a limited high-performance window, but he’s still a top-flight option in this class.

Prediction: The Padres’ infield is hideous, and needs an infusion of talent. Between that, and an ability to flip Cozart later in a deal if he continues to hit, perhaps this would be a good use of the Friars’ limited resources.

Randy’s Prediction: Rays

12. Mike Moustakas
Position (bats): 3B (L)
Age (as of 4/1/18): 31
Former team: Royals

Observations: I’m not afraid to admit my own weaknesses. One of them is this: I do not know even half of everything about baseball. So in a world where many smart and savvy talent evaluators talk about Moustakas as a top free agent, I listen. But for the life of me, I’m not sure why he’s in the same tier as some of his ex-teammates as one of the “top” free agents in this admittedly weak class. In the first draft of my list, Moustakas sat below more relief pitchers, a catcher who’s been terrible recently, and a guy I begged the Mets not to trade for. Yes, he’s a powerful hitter, but the issues with his approach are real. The saving grace for Moose is that third base is not a well-represented position this offseason, but I also think that this could bring frustration to the team that gets too free with its pocketbook, despite all the dingers.

Prediction: Things get dicey in Kansas City, and the Royals feel like they have to retain at least one or two of their free agents. Unfortunately, they’re outbid by the Braves.

Randy’s Prediction: Marlins

13. Greg Holland
Position (bats): RHP
Age (as of 4/1/18): 32
Former team: Rockies

Observations: It really is astonishing how many current and former Royals are on this list. Holland might be the least-reliable option of all the folks we’ve talked about to this point, but it’s hard to argue with the performance he displayed in Colorado. Despite the ugly pitching conditions in Denver, Holland showed flashes of the elite closer he once was. Nothing was quite the same in his peripherals from previous seasons, but his strikeout rate remains high and his ability to battle through injury and thin air speaks well of him. Riskier even than most pitchers, Holland’s track record earned him a qualifying offer, and it should earn him a premium contract this offseason.

Prediction: The Cardinals could really use a worthwhile back-of-the-bullpen stopper, and hey, it’s not like he’s unfamiliar with Missouri.

Randy’s Prediction: Tigers

14. Jay Bruce
Position (bats): RF (L)
Age (as of 4/1/18): 30
Former team: Indians

Observations: When Bruce was a younger man, he could pair some pretty compelling defensive numbers with his propensity for punching batted balls into the stratosphere (and out of the Great American Ballpark). Today, the range has faded and it’s all about the slugger’s heavy lumber. Yes, he’s a reliable source of homers (and RBIs, depending on his team and lineup position), but his difficulty with other forms of contact keeps him from being a premium hitter. Instead, he’s just your classic quality corner outfielder with value, just don’t mistake him for an elite hitter rather than a good one.

Prediction: He’s a seamless fit in Cleveland, where the Indians need offense. Maybe he’ll pass even more time in Ohio, but it’s also an excellent possibility that he moves on to a team willing to give him more money.

Randy’s Prediction: Reds

15. Todd Frazier
Position (bats): 3B (R)
Age (as of 4/1/18): 32
Former team: Yankees

Observations: For simplicity’s sake, I could just run down some of the talking points from his former teammate’s writeup above. Former Red! Power! Offense that’s above average, but not as transcendent as the homers would have you believe! But there are some big differences in the Toddfather’s profile, as well. Defensively, he’s superior to Bruce, playing a competent third base as well as being able to spell at first base. He’s older, which is not a factor in his favor, and overall he’s also probably a slightly worse hitter, with a .267 True Average during the past two seasons. There’s an awfully weak crop of position players this offseason, but Frazier is the type of hand that could probably fit in admirably for 20 teams.

Prediction: It would not shock me at all if the Mets bring this New Jersey native into the fold. It might be the only substantial money they could spend, but odds are that David Wright isn’t coming back, and Frazier could displace Dominic Smith in the off chance that he does.

Randy’s Prediction: Angels

16. Mike Minor
Position (bats): LHP
Age (as of 4/1/18): 30
Former team: Royals

Observations: Oh good, another Royals free agent! Minor finally made his comeback to the majors after missing two full seasons with injury, and boy did he come back in a big way. The former starter thrived as a reliever, posting a 2.86 DRA with an ERA and FIP even below that mark. Never an exceptional strikeout artist when opening games, Minor has found a way to eliminate opposing hitters at the end of them. Given his age and recent excellence, he could have a nice little run as a stopper.

Prediction: It would not shock me to see a contender with a bullpen hole reach out to Minor in an attempt to shore up a weak link. I was thinking at first the Astros, but my gut is telling me Cubs.

Randy’s Prediction: Dodgers

17. Jonathan Lucroy
Position (bats): C (R)
Age (as of 4/1/18): 31
Former team: Rockies

Observations: Lucroy’s fall from grace is as well-chronicled as it was surprising. One of the best catchers in the game and a shadow MVP candidate, this past season’s start in Texas was a nightmare. His once-vaunted defense has fallen hard, and his bat is no longer the potent weapon it once was. But in a down market almost entirely free of decent catching options, Lucroy still holds a lot of value, especially if you were heartened by his offensive performance after a trade to Colorado. There’s also the possibility that injury issues that hampered his performance might be mitigated, at least early in the contract, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he returns to a top-flight level of performance rather than the below-replacement run he had for the Rangers.

Prediction: Lucroy has value to many teams on the free agent market, but the need and the prior relationship means that the Rockies are the most snug fit.

Randy’s Prediction: Athletics

18. Brandon Morrow
Position (bats): RHP
Age (as of 4/1/18): 33
Former team: Dodgers

Observations: Like his teammate Darvish, Morrow didn’t exactly have the best World Series. But hey, what can you expect when your manager pitches you in all seven games of a series? The thing about Morrow is that he’s always had incredible talent, the trick was staying healthy enough to engage it. And though his 2017 re-breakout was unquestionably a surprise, the underlying skills could let one believe that there’s more to come now that he’s ensconced in a setup role. The health, age, and pop-up risks posed might cause Morrow’s price to be a little cheaper than your average top-end reliever, but if he continues along the line of his 2017 performance he’ll be a quality bullpen anchor.

Prediction: The safe bet is him tagging on with another contending team, whether it’s the Dodgers, Cardinals, Astros, Cubs, or Red Sox. Of that bunch, I like the fit with the Astros, and as they say, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Randy’s Prediction: Marlins

19. Jason Vargas
Position (bats): LHP
Age (as of 4/1/18): 35
Former team: Royals

Observations: I am stuck in a Groundhog Day situation when it comes to Vargas, and it makes me crazy. Thanks to his middling strikeout rate and inconsistent history of performance, there have been no fewer than four times in the past when I’ve second-guessed a team’s decision to acquire the lefty. This past season, he picked the best possible time to have a terrific comeback year, pitching to an 18-11 record despite a 3.83 DRA that’s in line with a no. 3 or no. 4 starter. I wouldn’t expect him to perfectly repeat his 2017 successes, but he’s one of the few available starters you might expect to offer above-average performance on a short-term contract.

Prediction: His age and the likely shorter contract he’ll command make him an ideal fit for a team with an abbreviated window for contention, and given his history he definitely should target a home in a homer-suppressing ballpark. If a return to Seattle wouldn’t be so awkward, I’d put him there, but instead perhaps the Twins?

Randy’s Prediction: Pirates

20. Addison Reed
Position (bats): RHP
Age (as of 4/1/18): 29
Former team: Red Sox

Observations: Though he didn’t get off to the cleanest start to the season, Reed’s ability to induce weak contact, limit mistakes, and command the zone make him a solid addition to any setup corps. He outperformed the story the peripherals tell when he was with the Red Sox, with an excellent 2.36 DRA after the trade. The floor on Reed’s performance is perhaps slightly higher than the average reliever, but he’s been a consistent arm even before he took the next step forward in 2015.

Prediction: The defending NL pennant winners will want to reload their late-game options, and Reed will be a solid support piece to go with Kenley Jansen in the Dodgers’ bullpen.

Randy’s Prediction: Pirates

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Steven Lapidus
11/10
Great article but at least to this reader the "Randy prediction" adds nothing but confusion.
Fred Owens
11/10
Braves won't be in on Moustakas unless he falls short of the valuations I've seen for him. Riley is coming and he's essentially Moustakas for fewer $$. Hosmer will be overpaid wherever he goes. Randy needs a strong cup of coffee, the Athletics aren't spending a lot of money of free agents, it would give Beane a heart attack
William Fletcher
11/16
I think there is considerable evidence to suggest that Seattle may be a lead choice of Ohtani. Strong history of Japanese players on the M's, proximity to Japan, fan base in Japan of the Mariner's, Mariner's strong need of pitching, certainty of future payroll allowing a big extension, etc.