Baseball teams are set to bid on the free agent talent available this offseason, but where will that money be best spent?
This year’s crop has bona fide aces in David Price and Zack Greinke, as well as batters who can — and have — changed the fortunes of their former clubs, like Jason Heyward and Yoenis Cespedes. There are also plenty of quality middle-of-the-rotation starters or supporting pieces for any lineup.
Below you will find the top 50 free agents sorted by projected wins above replacement, courtesy of Steamer projections found on Fangraphs.
1. David Price, 30 years old, LHP
Price won the Cy Young award in 2012 and was even better in 2015, producing 6.4 wins above replacement while striking out 9.2 batters per nine innings pitched.
2. Jason Heyward, 26, RF
Heyward gets on base at a high rate (.359 OBP in 2015), shows speed on the base paths (three seasons of 20-plus stolen bases) and is arguably one of the best defensive outfielders in the game today, per defensive runs saved.
The only knock against him is a lack of power — he’s only hit over 20 home runs once in his career — but at 26 years old is going to be an intriguing offseason acquisition for many teams.
3. Zack Greinke, 32, RHP
Greinke dominated hitters this year, posting a 19-3 record with a 1.66 ERA and 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. His changeup was almost unhittable, holding batters to a .168 average against with just four extra-base hits over 209 at bats.
4. Alex Gordon, 32, LF
Gordon set a career high in on-base percentage (.377 OBP this year) plus hit with power to all fields.
5. Hisashi Iwakuma, 35, RHP
Iwakuma threw a no-hitter for the Mariners this year and had a fourseam fastball that keep hitters off balance all season, allowing just 14 hits over 94 at bats ending on the pitch with 35 strikeouts.
6. Yoenis Cespedes, 30, OF
Cespedes was one of the main catalysts behind the Mets’ postseason run. After New York acquired him at the trade deadline from the Tigers, he hit .287 with 17 homers and a .942 OPS.
7. Ben Zobrist, 35, IF/OF
Zobrist hit .284 with a .816 OPS for the Royals after being acquired from the Oakland A’s and turned that up in the postseason, where he went 20-for-66 with two home runs and six RBI.
8. Johnny Cueto, 30, RHP
We saw two Johnny Cuetos this year. The one who played for the Reds showed command of the strike zone with a 4.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 6.4 hits per nine innings. After being acquired by the Royals, his command eroded (3.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio) and he got hit hard (11.2 hits per nine innings).
He did perform when it mattered, pitching a complete game victory over the Mets in Game 2 of the World Series.
9. Justin Upton, 28, LF
Upton saw his production against left-handed pitching plummet this season, creating 42 percent fewer runs after adjusting for league and park effects (58 wRC+).
He’s only 28, and we can write off some of that poor performance to an unusually low batting average on balls in play (.265), his lowest mark against lefties since the 2011 season.
10. Jordan Zimmermann, 30, RHP
Zimmermann was good, not great, in 2015, and saw his strikeouts per nine innings decline from 8.2 to 7.3 in one season. His curveball, however, was as efficient as ever, striking out 48 batters in 111 at bats while holding hitters to a .198 average.
11. Jeff Samardzija, 31, RHP
Samardzija led the majors in two categories that would normally be a red flag to would-be bidders: hits (228) and earned runs allowed (118). However, ERA estimators like FIP (4.23) and SIERA (4.18) indicate some of that might have been due to bad luck.
12. John Lackey, 37, RHP
Lackey posted a career-best 2.77 ERA for the Cardinals this year, but his 3.57 FIP suggests he won’t be as effective next season. Still, his slider proved a reliable out pitch to both right-handed batters (54 strikeouts over 148 at bats) and lefties (32 strikeouts over 78 at bats).
13. Wei-Yin Chen, 30, LHP
Chen allowed 28 home runs this year, but that was primarily a function of a higher rate of fly balls leaving the yard, which isn’t usually replicable year to year.
For example, his home run to fly ball rate went from 10.5 percent in 2014 to 12.3 percent in 2015, but he actually allowed a lower percentage of hard hit balls year over year (29.8 percent to 28.2 percent).
14. Scott Kazmir, 32, LHP
Kazmir stumbled down the stretch after the all-star break, striking out two fewer batters per nine innings pitched. Projections see him bouncing back with 2.4 wins above replacement in 2016.
15. Chris Davis, 30, 1B/RF
Davis led the majors in home runs (47) and finished third in RBI (117) while setting career highs in walks (86) and strikeouts (208).
He hit the ball with authority and increased his propensity to pull the ball with power, which has been on a steady incline for years.
16. Howie Kendrick, 32, 2B
Limited to just 117 games due to injury, Kendrick is projected to create runs at an above-average pace next season (109 wRC+).
17. Denard Span, 32, CF
Span only played 61 games for the Nationals in 2015, but has a career .329 weighted on-base average when batting leadoff, slightly higher than average (.320 wOBA).
18. Matt Wieters, 30, C
Wieters had Tommy John surgery on his elbow in 2014, limiting him to a .741 OPS over 258 at bats this year. He is a switch-hitter who performs better against lefties.
19. Daniel Murphy, 31, 2B
Murphy hit .328 (19-for-58) with seven home runs and 11 RBI in the postseason for the Mets, with six of those home runs in consecutive games.
He made a huge improvement in his plate discipline, striking out in 13.4 percent of his plate appearances in 2014 but just 7.1 percent in 2015.
20. Ian Kennedy, 31, RHP
Kennedy is durable (six straight seasons with at least 30 starts) and strikes out over a batter per inning.
21. Brett Anderson, 28, LHP
Anderson pitched over 100 innings for the first time since 2010 and had the highest groundball percentage (66.3 percent) among starters who qualified for the ERA title.
22. Mike Leake, 28, RHP
Leake didn’t pitch well for the Giants (2-5 with a 4.07 ERA) but featured a slider that held opposing batters to a .138 average against last season.
23. Colby Rasmus, 29, OF
Rasmus hit a career-high 25 home runs during the regular season with almost an even split at home (12) and on the road (13). He didn’t steal many bases (just two in 2015) but his base running added 5.2 runs above replacement.
24. J.A. Happ, 33, LHP
Happ struck out three more batters per nine innings after joining the Pirates. That might not be sustainable in 2016, but his 2.41 FIP does indicate that his 3.61 ERA may have been a little high, which could lead to a slight improvement next season.
25. Yovani Gallardo, 30, RHP
Gallardo didn’t use his curve frequently against right-handed batters, but when he did, they were often fooled by the pitch down and away.
The Rest of the Top 50
26. Mat Latos, 28, RHP
27. Bartolo Colon, 43, RHP
28. Dexter Fowler, 30, CF
29. Ian Desmond, 30, SS
30. Mark Buehrle, 37, LHP
31. Juan Uribe, 37, IF
32. Chase Utley, 37, 2B
33. Bud Norris, 31, RHP
34. Chris Iannetta, 33, C
35. Rich Hill, 36, LHP
36. Doug Fister, 32, RHP
37. Austin Jackson, 29, CF
38. Alex Avila, 29, C/1B
39. Jimmy Rollins, 37, SS
40. Mike Napoli, 34, C/1B
41. Steve Pearce, 33, OF/IF
42. Asdrubal Cabrera, 30, SS/2B
43. David Freese, 33, 3B
44. Dioner Navarro, 32, C
45. A.J. Pierzynski, 39, C
46. Mike Pelfrey, 32, RHP
47. Colby Lewis, 36, RHP
48. Gerardo Parra, 29, OF
49. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 31, C/1B
50. Alexei Ramirez, 34, SS/2B