This MLB off-season has seen some big money free agent contracts signed and sealed. In fact, this off-season has seen some of the most lucrative contracts in MLB history. This is no surprise considering the talent that was available in this season’s MLB free market.
With the teams warming up in the Cactus League and Grapefruit League, some of these players will look to hit the ground running. Spring training will be crucial in the build-up to Opening Day on 26 March. Most teams will have started to settle on their roster, while one or two might be checking the free agent market to see if there are still any players who could add just the right tweak to their machine.
For sports betting fans, the free agent market has moved some key players around the MLB, making some interesting sports betting lines on the online sportsbooks. It is difficult to call who will be in the World Series in October.
Few would have predicted the Washington Nationals would go all the way last season to their first franchise World Series title. Thanks to the MLB free market, the Nationals have lost one key player but retained another. The losing finalists, the Houston Astros have lost their key man to the Yankees, who have spent the last decade without a World Series appearance.
So who are the top players on the MLB free market as we approach the 2020 season?
Free but worth millions
This season, the free market contracts have been tied up early. Most of the big fish were signed up in December. That being said it’s still worth considering all the players who were in the MLB free market between 2019-2020, and what they could add to their teams. Looking at the odds on legal online sports betting sites will give you some indication of their impact. Here is our list of the top five free agents.
5: Josh Donaldson
Josh Donaldson is a three-time All Star and 2019 NL Comeback Player of the Year. After an excellent season with the Atlanta Braves, where he had a WAR rating of 6.07, Donaldson entered the MLB free market.
Donaldson had been struggling with injuries over the past few seasons, but 2019 showed that he still has many games in him yet. He hit 37 home runs last season and was solid on defense as well. Some pundits wondered if teams would take him on a long term contract, or if he would settle for another year contract with the Braves.
Ultimately, the Minnesota Twins decided to trust in his fitness, signing Donaldson to a four year contract worth $92,000,000. The Twins will be feeling slightly optimistic after retaining pitcher Jake Odorizzi for another year. They’ll be hoping the two will bring runs and strikeouts to Minnesota. For sports betting fans, the Twins are 15.00 to become the 2020 World Series winners. If Donaldson maintains his form, you never know.
4: Zack Wheeler
Zack Wheeler hasn’t always been the most consistent pitcher since arriving in the MLB in 2013, but over the last two seasons he has shown some of his best performances. Last season with the New York Metz, he had a WAR rating of 3.45.
Joining the MBL free market, Wheeler was an enticing player for many franchises. The Astros were favorites but ultimately Wheeler signed for the Philadelphia Phillies on a five year contract worth $118,000,000.
After a brief war of words with Metz GM Brodie van Wagenen, Wheeler will be hoping to inspire the Phillies to great heights this season. The Phillies, of course, have Bryce Harper on the roster as well. Even so, the Phillies are outsiders this season with sports betting odds of 19.00.
3: Stephen Strasburg
Stephen Strasburg is the first of the big three free agent signings. Not only did he win the 2019 World Series with the Washington Nationals, he was also selected as the World Series MVP. Strasburg ended the season with a WAR of 6.29.
After the World Series, Strasburg opted out of his contract and became a free agent. After much back-and-forth, Strasburg re-signed with the Nationals on a seven year contract worth $245,000,000. At the time, this was a record contract for a pitcher.
Strasburg will try his best to take the Nationals back to the World Series, but he’ll have to do it without Anthony Rendon this season. The Nationals have sports betting odds of 15.00. Strasburg may have to continue his form if the Nationals are to achieve the feat.
2: Anthony Rendon
Rendon was an integral part of the Nationals’ World Series title-winning team last season. He finished the season with a WAR of 6.33. Rendon has been one of the best positional players in the MLB and often flies under the radar.
Both Rendon and Strasburg became free agents at the end of the season, putting the Nationals in a tricky financial situation. The owner, Mark Lerner, accepted that he could only afford to re-sign one of the two star players. In the end, Strasburg re-signed with the Nationals and Rendon went to new pastures.
In December 2019, Rendon signed a seven year contract with the Los Angeles Angels worth $245,000,000. This is the highest contract for a 3B in MLB history. It also ties him with Strasburg for the sixth-highest free agent contract in MLB history.
Rendon joins one of the best players of the last decade, Mike Trout, at the Angels. The pair could bring some serious runs to Los Angeles. With odds of 34.00, the Angels might entice some online sports betting MLB fans to put down a wager.
1: Gerrit Cole
Gerrit Cole had an excellent couple seasons with the Astros, pitching them all the way to the World Series last season. Over the season, Cole had a WAR of 6.91. This put him on the radar of almost every team in the MLB.
Naturally, his contract would be a record-breaker, and not every franchise could pull him in. In December 2019, Cole signed with the New York Yankees on a nine year contract worth $324,000,000. This is the highest contract ever signed for a starting pitcher.
The Yankees will know all about Cole after the Astros beat them on the way to the World Series. The Yankees haven’t been to the World Series since they won it in 2009. Cole will want to help the Yankees go all the way this season. Judging by his live sessions in the off season, he looks to be in superb form.
The Yankees are the current favorites to win the World Series according to the sports betting odds. They are rated at 4.50. If Cole can handle the pressure of the price tag, he might be the right man to take them there.
Not all players on the free market sign contracts for hundreds of millions of dollars. For the most part there are some excellent baseball players who can put an essential tweak in a roster to bring success. Here are our top three bargain picks.
3: Collin McHugh
McHugh has been a good bullpen pitcher for the Astros over the last six seasons. His experience includes being part of the 2017 World Series-winning Astros team. He was also the starting pitcher for the Astros at the beginning of last season.
Last season, McHugh had a WAR of 0.41. At 32, he still has time on his side. While you might not find an online sportsbook change its odds if he signs, he will add depth to most rosters in the MLB.
2: Yasiel Puig
Puig might not be as much of a bargain as McHugh, as his value currently sits at around $17,000,000. He has been involved in brawls in games but is still arguably one the best hitters still available in the free market. It could be a risk worth taking.
Puig had a WAR of 0.85 in 2019 and will be hoping that he finds the right team to bring out the best in him. As time passes, he might consider lower contracts, which would make him a bargain if he maintains his discipline. He is the type of player who could influence sports betting lines for his team.
1: Andrew Cashner
Cashner recently became a free agent from the Boston Red Sox. He is yet to sign with a team, but at 33 could still have some prime years ahead. Cashner had a WAR of 2.69 for the 2019 season. This should make even the best online sportsbook take notice.
He won’t necessarily take you to the World Series, but he could play a supporting role in a team that could. Having Cashner as a relief pitcher can be the necessary depth that most teams lack.
Making the right picks
The next few weeks will indicate which teams have picked well from the free agent market. The performances in the Cactus League and the Grapefruit League will influence the odds on online sports betting sites. Come Opening Day, we might start to see who overpaid and who got a bargain.
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