MLB teams have only played around 9% of their regular season games, but we’ve got our eye on the next free agent class. The players referenced in this post are scheduled (or can elect) to become free agents after the 2017 season. These rankings are subject to change each month, as players drop off due to extensions, injuries, or poor performance, while others see their stock rise.
The first entry in this year’s Free Agent Power Rankings was published on March 14th. The pitchers have only made three or four starts, and the hitters have around 50 plate appearances. Naturally, there hasn’t been a lot of movement at the top of the rankings. We did see one player drop out of the running, as the Cardinals signed catcher Yadier Molina to a three-year, $60MM extension earlier this month. In hindsight, Molina should have snagged an honorable mention last time, but I underestimated his earning power.
That’s the goal here: to rank the upcoming free agents based on earning power. These rankings represent expected contract size, assuming each player reaches the open market and goes to the highest bidder. For the full list of 2017-18 MLB free agents, click here.
1. Jake Arrieta. Arrieta’s first three starts have gone well, as strikeouts are up and walks are down after 18 2/3 frames. There is a potential red flag, however, which was explained by Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs. Arrieta’s velocity appears to be down a few miles per hour in the early going, despite velocity tracking adjustments that have generally boosted readings across the game. After his second start, Arrieta told reporters, “There’s FanGraph articles. I don’t care about that.” As the pitcher put it, “When the 95-to-97 comes back, it’s going to be tough for teams. And it still is.” Arrieta is right in that it’s only April. But if he somehow stays at 91-92 miles per hour all year, his earning power will likely be lower. Back in Spring Training, Arrieta told Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, “I don’t think a six- or seven-year deal is out of the question.” We’ll stick with a five-year prediction for now.