Top 25 MLB free-agent rankings: Are Juan Soto, Alex Bregman and Pete Alonso helping or hurting their future paydays?

Free agency is more than 5 months away, but today's performances will shape this winter's contracts

In baseball, money is committed in the winter but earned in the summer.

We’re still five-and-a-half months away from the start of MLB free agency, but today’s statistics are tomorrow’s contracts. Here’s a first look at the upcoming free-agent class and how their performances this season are impacting their stock heading into the offseason.

Note: Whenever you see a number, a slash and another number, that’s a reference to contract years and total earnings. For instance, the shorthand for Bryce Harper’s 11-year, $330 million deal would be “11/330.” Ages listed are for the 2025 season.

Does this need explaining? Soto is one of the best hitters in the world, and he’s reaching free agency at a preposterously youthful 26 years old. Every walk, every homer, every shuffle, every viral moment with the Yankee Stadium crowd drives his price higher.

Since 2021, only Aaron Nola has logged more innings than Burnes, only Zack Wheeler has a higher fWAR, only Dylan Cease has more strikeouts, and nobody has more quality starts. That bulk edges Burnes above Max Fried in these rankings. Burnes has been predictably sensational for the Orioles after a February trade from Milwaukee. The 7/172 Nola received from the Phillies this past winter is a reasonable baseline.

The Braves left-hander has had no-hit bids in two of his past three starts. He is one of the best pitchers in the league and has shown no signs of slowing down. The 6/162 fellow lefty Carlos Rodón got from the Yankees in December '22 is a good place to start, but expect Fried to approach Nola’s number.

Adames is putting together quite the walk year for the Brewers. The gregarious shortstop has always showcased above average power, but so far this season, his plate discipline has significantly improved. The 28-year-old Dominican is running career-low chase and strikeout rates to go with excellent shortstop defense. He’s also one of the more respected and beloved clubhouse presences in MLB. If this reminds you of Dansby Swanson’s final year in Atlanta, bingo. Adames will be striving for the 7/177 Chicago gave Swanson.

Bregman made it through all of April without a home run, which ... uh ... isn’t great. The swing decisions are still outstanding, he’s still walking as much as he’s striking out, and he has showcased better at-bats in recent days. The track record of durability is impressive and puts Bregman in line for a hefty deal despite the 2024 struggles, but his Antarctic start to this season has likely driven his number down. A strong bounce-back could put him in the range of Marcus Semien’s deal with the Rangers (7/175), but Bregman is slipping toward Trevor Story with the Red Sox (6/140).

Is Pete great or just very good? Last season and so far this season, he has been the latter. In 2022 and his Rookie of the Year in 2019, he was the former. Alonso probably wants something near what the Dodgers gave Freddie Freeman (6/162), but teams will use Nick Castellanos’ Phillies contract (5/100) as a starting point. How Alonso plays the rest of this year — he has an adjusted OPS 19% above league average right now — will push his number closer to either Freeman’s or Castellanos’.

After three years of intense sucking in Los Angeles, the Dodgers non-tendered Bellinger, and he took a one-year, pillow contract with the Cubs. Then he reshaped his entire offensive approach, trading power for contact, which worked perfectly and earned him a top-10 NL MVP finish. Agent Scott Boras couldn’t find Bellinger the mega-deal he wanted — teams were skeptical about Bellinger’s drastic shift — which led to a Chicago return for 3/80 with an opt-out after 2024, which he’ll certainly exercise if he continues to hit well (134 OPS+). If Bellinger can recapture the pre-’23 power without sacrificing the ‘23 contact skills, a big payday should come. George Springer’s 6/150 with Toronto feels about right.

Kim and the Padres have a $7 million mutual option for next year that Kim will decline unless he gets hurt. The Korean infielder took a big step forward offensively last year, adding average pop to elite baserunning, defense and plate discipline skills. That power has carried into 2024, though Kim’s overall line is being chilled by some bad batted ball luck. He’s a unique player and should be highly sought-after this winter.

After a consistent stint as a middle-of-the-order threat with Toronto, Hernández turned in a mediocre contract year with Seattle last season. That led to a $23.5 million, one-year pillow contract with the Dodgers. So far, that has been a mega-bargain for Los Angeles, with Hernández rediscovering his pre-Seattle form. Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s 3/42 from last winter is the floor here; Castellanos’ 5/100 is the ceiling.

Unless something drastic happens, Holmes will be the best reliever available this winter. The skyscraping sinkerballer has a 2.38 ERA since the start of 2022 and has yet to allow an earned run this season. He’ll want (and, I think, get) a pricey, four-year deal. The 4/58 Raisel Iglesias got from the Angels after 2021 is a good starting point, given Holmes’ incredible numbers since he broke out.

He’s set to hit free agency at an older-than-typical age, but teams will love his consistency and durability. Walker has been a top-10 first baseman for going on three years, offering elite defense, plus pop and great plate discipline. He was horrendous in Arizona’s October soiree last year, but we’ve all had bad months, and Walker has bounced back swimmingly in ‘24. Anthony Rizzo got 2/40 from the Yankees after 2022 as a first baseman of similar age, but a strong season might earn Walker the extra year Carlos Santana got from Philadelphia in 2018 (3/60).

The Orioles acquired Santander as a Cleveland cast-off in the 2016 Rule 5 draft. His time in Baltimore has been a huge success; José Ramírez is the only switch-hitter with more home runs since the start of 2020. Santander’s game has limits — his footspeed, corner-outfield defense and on-base ability are all league-average or worse — which makes him a player who can help you win but can’t carry you. However, switch-hitters with 30-homer pop don’t grow on trees. Gurriel’s 3/42 is a starting point, but Santander could match the 4/60 AJ Pollock swindled from the Dodgers.

He has been a spark with the Yankees. Fireworks aside, Verdugo’s offensive game hasn’t meaningfully improved in 2024. There are more walks, but his swing decisions in New York are almost identical to what he did in Boston last season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Verdugo has been about a league-average hitter his whole career, and there’s value in that, especially if his outfield defense keeps improving. The lack of offensive ceiling will limit his market unless he finds another gear.

Minnesota’s German outfielder recently missed two weeks due to a left-knee contusion. Since returning April 22, he has been the hottest hitter in baseball. No, seriously: Kepler’s unsustainably good 224 OPS+ since that date is tops in MLB. He won’t stay that hot all season, but he should earn a hefty chunk of change if he replicates his .260/.332/.484 line from last year.

Both dudes were free agents this past winter. Both were represented by Scott Boras. Both expected major, long-term deals. Neither got one. Both signed late. Neither has gotten off to a great start. Fair or not, both need to come close to replicating 2023 if they are to get the big contracts they’re looking for.

Kikuchi was frustratingly mediocre for his first four MLB seasons, posting a 5.02 ERA across 90 starts and 466 1/3 innings. But dating to last season’s All-Star break, Kikuchi has the fourth-best FanGraphs WAR among pitchers, behind only Tarik Skubal, Tyler Glasnow and Zack Wheeler. What changed? A refined curveball and improved fastball command. Each good Kikuchi outing in 2024 — his ERA is 2.60 after nine starts — pushes the lefty further up this list. Seth Lugo was a similar age last winter and got 3/45 from Kansas City. That feels like Kikuchi’s floor.

Buehler got Tommy John in August 2022 and wasn’t back in the bigs until a few weeks ago. He was an annual Cy Young candidate before he got hurt and should rocket up this list with each healthy, effective outing. It’s worth noting that Buehler has looked shaky in his two starts since his return, but it’s early.

The Yankees second baseman was primed for a big payday entering this season. He has struggled mightily in the early going, with just two homers and a .574 OPS. His youth is a huge asset — not a lot of 27-year-olds hit the open market — and Torres has been a well-above-average hitter his whole career before this season. The difference between his best-case scenario (he rediscovers old Gleyber) and his worst-case scenario (he’s punchless all season) is tens of millions of dollars. This is one of the most volatile, unpredictable, fascinating free agents to watch.

It has been an absurdly hot start for the comically muscular outfielder, who has whopped 10 homers in his first 143 plate appearances. O’Neill has a spotty track record of staying healthy, which will give some teams pause. He should get a multi-year deal anyway, thanks in part to his recent power surge.

Jansen has shouldered an every-day load behind the dish only once in his career, and that was way back in 2019. Otherwise, he has either been hurt or in a timeshare with Alejandro Kirk. Here’s the list of catchers with a higher OPS than Jansen since the start of 2021: William Contreras. Availability is the best ability, especially for backstops, but Jansen is a sneaky good player who, with a strong platform season, could ask for James McCann’s 4/40 from the Mets. He has been great so far this year, even if in limited time.

Flaherty was once one of the game’s best young pitchers, then a dip in velocity and ineffectiveness derailed his path to the top. Detroit gave him a one-year, $14 million chance to rediscover himself, and that’s exactly what has happened. Flaherty’s velocity is back up around 94 mph, and the command of his slider has significantly improved. His ERA is meh at first glance (3.88), but everything looks great under the hood: His strikeouts are up, and the walks are down. A full year of this will make Flaherty a very rich man.

Bieber’s velocity was up in spring training, but he underwent Tommy John surgery just two (scoreless) starts into the season. He won’t be ready to pitch again until next April at the earliest. He will surely garner a ton of interest nonetheless, considering his track record. Bieber was a top-10 pitcher from 2020 to 2022 and is young enough that you can envision him ascending back to those heights.

After missing all of 2023 due to a torn ACL, Hoskins signed with Milwaukee on a two-year, $32 million contract that includes an opt-out after Year 1. Before that injury, he was one of the league’s most consistent hitters, with similar production to Christian Walker, albeit with way worse defense. This season, prior to hitting the IL this week due to a strained hamstring, Hoskins was raking, with numbers in line with his pre-injury averages. If he gets off the shelf soon and keeps his OPS+ in the 125-135 range, he’ll opt out and cash in. Like Walker, he’s between Rizzo’s 2/40 and Santana’s 3/60.

Goldschmidt won the NL MVP just two years ago, but he looks outrageously washed this season. A deal in the José Abreu range (3/58.5) once looked possible — remember, Abreu was still amazing before he signed with Houston — but feels out of reach now. If Goldy keeps swinging it this poorly, there’s a shot he ends up with a one-year flier to prove he isn’t cooked. Nobody has fallen further faster.