If it seems a little early to be looking ahead to the 2020-21 Major League Baseball free-agent market, that's because it is. The regular season isn't even over yet.
Still, we thought we'd get a head start on predicting which teams will claim the top talents.
Ahead are our preliminary projections for where this winter's top 20 free agents will ultimately land. This involved trying to match players' abilities with teams that figure to be in the market for said abilities. Though the league's financial situation is admittedly tricky right now, we also considered teams' likely budgets.
We'll start with some honorable mentions and then count 'em down.
1 OF 21
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Marwin Gonzalez, UTIL
Howie Kendrick, INF
Brad Miller, UTIL
Jonathan Villar, UTIL
Alex Colome, RHP
Kevin Gausman, SP
Ken Giles, RHP
Jake Odorizzi, SP
James Paxton, SP
Jose Quintana, SP
Robbie Ray, SP
Garrett Richards, SP
Blake Treinen, RHP
Taijuan Walker, SP
Brandon Workman, RHP
20. Kirby Yates, RHP
2 OF 21
2021 Age: 34
2020 WAR: Minus-0.3
Kirby Yates was arguably the best reliever in baseball in 2018 and 2019, across which he mustered a 1.67 ERA with a 6.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 125 appearances.
Alas, his bubble finally burst this season. Yates surrendered six runs through six appearances and then had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. In all likelihood, his season is over.
By way of this lost year and his relatively advanced age, Yates may have to settle for looking at one-year offers on the open market. If so, it wouldn't be surprising if he simply returned to the San Diego Padres.
But if there's one club that might swoop in and buy low on him, it could be the Seattle Mariners. They're going to need to improve a woeful bullpen, and Yates himself may like the idea of joining an ascendant contender, not unlike the team he's on right now.
Prediction: Seattle Mariners
19. Mike Minor, SP
3 OF 21
2021 Age: 33
2020 WAR: Minus-0.1
The Texas Rangers raised eyebrows when they signed Mike Minor, who had spent the previous season working as a reliever, as a starter in 2017.
By 2019, however, Minor was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He finished the season with a 3.59 ERA over 208.1 innings, the totality of which equated to an MLB-high 7.8 WAR.
Minor's encore has been...not great. He struggled to get into a rhythm after the long layoff and is now trending toward a dud of a year with a 6.35 ERA. Yet teams will surely be interested in him as a buy-low candidate, especially given that the spin on his fastball remains elite.
You know which team historically likes pitchers with high-spin fastballs? The Houston Astros. If they were to get Minor back into ace-like shape, he, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke would be quite the rotation trio for 2021.
Prediction: Houston Astros
18. Andrelton Simmons, SS
4 OF 21
2021 Age: 31
2020 WAR: 0.3
Andrelton Simmons' bat is arguably underrated. Though he's only a .269 career hitter, he's hitting .287 this season. That's in line with his solid .280 average since 2016.
Yet it's obviously Simmons' glove that's made him a star. He's a four-time Gold Glove winner at shortstop, and his 193 defensive runs saved since 2012 are by far the most of any defender.
Simmons is now on the wrong side of 30, however, and he's had trouble keeping his ankles healthy in the last two seasons. As such, it may be a red flag that he only has zero DRS this year.
Still, all it takes is one team that's desperate for a defensive upgrade at shortstop. This winter, that could be the New York Yankees. Gleyber Torres hasn't looked so hot at the position, so the Yankees could be keen on moving him back to second and placing Simmons' glove at short.
Prediction: New York Yankees