The MLB Winter Meetings that begin (virtually) Sunday typically mark the start of the steamiest part of the hot stove season. The 2020 free agent class also includes some impressive prizes, such as the reigning National League Cy Young winner, Trevor Bauer, and Astros outfielder George Springer. But with finite funds and varying timelines for when they believe their team is ready to compete for a World Series crown, general managers aren’t just making decisions about this year’s free agent crop, but comparing their options with those in the years that follow. Look a little further out and the stars start stacking up, with a plethora of shortstops set to hit the market in 2021, led by the Dodgers’ Corey Seager.

Similarly, when evaluating a free agent class, it’s easy to look at what a player has done to that point in their career and rank them against the rest of the field. Teams offering megamillions contracts, though, are more interested in the production in the years to come. There’s a way to project that investment using some advanced metrics, and it allows us to compare and rank pending free agents across multiple years, helping show whether it may be better to spend now or for a GM to keep their powder dry for later.

Figuring out the future worth of any player isn’t an exact science, but a forecasting system created by baseball analyst Tom Tango, called WARcels, gives us a good estimate using only a player’s wins above replacement as its gauge of performance. The method is a modified version of Marcels, a deceptively simple projection system that uses a three-year weighted average to drive the results. The figures provided by WARcels are then regressed to the mean and adjusted for age, giving us an estimated value for a player over any length of time in the future.

We then stacked up the next three free agent classes to comprise our multiyear rankings. The more wins above replacement a player is expected to produce after his free agent year, the more expected value he should provide the teams that signs him and higher he climbs.

There are a few caveats by way of existing contract terms. In several instances below, either the player or the team hold the ability to trigger an option that would keep them on their current team. If the team controls that option, and the player continues to produce in a way that makes their current contract a shrewd use of money, you’d expect the player to be brought back and not hit the market. We’ve noted those instances to provide some contractual context. And of course some of these players may receive extensions before they reach free agency — such is the risk of waiting instead of signing a player now.

1. Corey Seager, SS (Free agent in 2021)

Projected value after free agency: 28 fWAR

Seager is coming off a career year, hitting .307 with a .943 OPS, creating runs at a rate that was 51 percent higher than average after accounting for league and park effects. He continued that torrid pace into the postseason, smashing eight home runs and driving in 20 runs en route to earning MVP awards in both the NLCS and World Series.

2. Jose Ramirez, 3B (Club option in 2021 and 2022)

Projected value after free agency: 26 fWAR

The Indians third baseman finished second in last year’s MVP voting, the highest by an Indians player since Albert Belle finished second in 1995, after batting .292 with17 home runs and 46 RBI in 58 games. He is also patient at the plate, averaging a league-high 4.5 pitched per plate appearance in 2020.

3. Francisco Lindor, SS (Free agent in 2021)

Projected value after free agency: 26 fWAR

The 27-year-old switch hitter has a .285 average with an .833 OPS in his career, flashing both power (138 home runs) and speed (99 stolen bases). He’s also a Gold Glove winner, saving 42 runs at shortstop over the past six seasons. Only Andrelton Simmons, Nick Ahmed and Brandon Crawford are better defensively since Lindor debuted in the majors in 2015.

4. Carlos Correa, SS (Free agent in 2021)

Projected value after free agency: 24 fWAR

He hit .264 during the regular season then flourished in the postseason by batting .362 with six home runs and 17 RBI in 13 games. He’s flashy with the glove, too, saving eight runs with his fielding in 2020, second only to Dansby Swanson among major league shortstops.

5. J.T. Realmuto, C (Free agent in 2020)

Projected value after free agency: 18 fWAR

Realmuto can produce at the plate — he’s produced runs at a rate that is higher than average in each of the past five seasons — and behind it via pitch framing. His ability to influence the count converted 52 percent of non-swing pitches into called strikes in the shadow zone (roughly one ball width inside and one ball wide outside of the zone), the second-best rate of any catcher in baseball in 2020. He also ranked sixth in 2019 (50 percent).

6. Trevor Bauer, SP (Free agent in 2020)

Projected value after free agency: 18 fWAR

Bauer is coming off winning the NL Cy Young Award where he led the league in ERA (1.73), WHIP (0.795), opponents’ batting average (.159), shutouts (two) and complete games (two). He ranked second in strikeouts (100) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.3).

His win-loss record (5-4) would have been much better if not for the 3.7 runs of support per start he received from the Cincinnati Reds, more than a full run lower than the average starting pitcher received in 2020.

7. Freddie Freeman, 1B (Free agent in 2021)

Projected value after free agency: 17 fWAR

Freeman is a powerful left-handed hitter who sprays the ball all over the field and destroys fastballs. The reigning NL MVP batted .341 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI while playing all 60 games in this year’s shortened season. The 31-year-old also hit a major league high .431 against fastballs in 2020 with 28 extra-base hits in 123 at-bats, per data from TruMedia.

8. Jacob deGrom, SP (Can opt-out in 2022)

Projected value after free agency: 16 fWAR

The two-time Cy Young Award winner and former rookie of the year will be 34 years old in 2022, giving him an incentive to opt out of his current contract and pursue a longer deal in free agency. In return, a team will get a hurler with a lethal fastball (36 percent strikeout rate since 2018 with an average of 97 mph), a wipeout slider (.189 average against over past three years) and an above-average curveball (23 strikeouts and no home runs allowed in 77 at-bats ending on the pitch).

9. Trevor Story, SS (Free agent in 2021)

Projected value after free agency: 16 fWAR

Story is a gem at the plate and in the field. Over the last three seasons he has hit .292 with a .909 OPS (22 percent higher than average) and averaged 38 home runs per 162 games played. He also led the National League in stolen bases with 15 steals in 18 attempts in 2020. His overall baserunning (stolen bases, taking extra bases, being thrown out on the bases, etc.) added four runs to the Rockies in 59 games last season, the second most in the majors.

10. George Springer, OF (Free agent in 2020)

Projected value after free agency: 16 fWAR

If you want someone to patrol center field, Springer is your man. He’s been an above-average hitter his whole career, producing an OPS that was at least 14 percent higher than average from 2014 to 2020. Only Mike Trout can make a similar claim among center fielders over that span.

11. Lance McCullers Jr., SP (Free agent in 2021)

Projected value after free agency: 14 fWAR

12. Michael Conforto, OF (Free agent in 2021)

Projected value after free agency: 14 fWAR

13. Nolan Arenado, 3B (Can opt out in 2021)

Projected value after free agency: 14 fWAR

14. Byron Buxton, OF (Free agent in 2022)

Projected value after free agency: 14 fWAR

15. Aaron Nola, SP (Club option for 2022)

Projected value after free agency: 13 fWAR

16. Trea Turner, SS (Free agent in 2022)

Projected value after free agency: 13 fWAR

17. Max Scherzer, SP (Free agent in 2021)

Projected value after free agency: 13 fWAR

18. DJ LeMahieu, 2B (Free agent in 2020)

Projected value after free agency: 12 fWAR

19. Aaron Judge, OF (Free agent in 2022)

Projected value after free agency: 12 fWAR

20. Kris Bryant, 3B (Free agent in 2021)

Projected value after free agency: 12 fWAR

21. Marcus Semien, SS (Free agent in 2020)

Projected value after free agency: 12 fWAR

22. Ketel Marte, 2B (Club option in 2022)

Projected value after free agency: 12 fWAR

23. Masahiro Tanaka, SP (Free agent in 2020)

Projected value after free agency: 11 fWAR

24. Anthony Rizzo, 1B (Free agent in 2021)

Projected value after free agency: 11 fWAR

25. Jose Berrios, SP (Free agent in 2022)

Projected value after free agency: 11 fWAR