Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon headline class

Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon headline class

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As major league franchises and their approach toward evaluating free agents evolves, so, too does baseball’s process of free agency, once a free-for-all and now an often grim and protracted affair.

It is equal parts sprint and marathon and death march, depending on where a player lands on the spectrum.

Sprint – for the nearest available deal if you’re a veteran on the wrong side of 30, knowing there’s a finite number of guaranteed jobs available with a cheap and unproven workforce ready to replace you.

Marathon – for the very upper crust of the class, who once enjoyed a glorious process called a bidding war and now find themselves on the business end of a reverse auction, confined to “letting markets develop” while front office actuaries battle splash-seeking owners.

And death march – for the player in between, who knows that the new year, or the start of spring training, or Opening Day, or perhaps even draft day may not be the signpost that marks them an employable commodity.

For the rest of us, the parlor game is on – who signs where, and for how much? As free agency opens, USA TODAY Sports examines the top 79 free agents available, from the very elite to those with a reasonable shot at landing a major league contract.

Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon are two of the top free agents on the market this winter.

Rankings based on projected future performance and perceived market value:

(Age as of April 1, 2020; 2019 team)

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1. Gerrit Cole (29, RHP, Astros): The Nationals and Astros just battled for the World Series by emphasizing elite starting pitching, and other teams fell short by trying to cut corners on their rotation. And you’re saying there’s a right-hander hitting the market who just struck out 326 batters, led the AL in ERA (2.50) and FIP (2.64) and is just now coming into his own? You don’t need a Boras Corp. hat on your noggin to realize David Price’s record $217 million contract for a pitcher will be a mere starting point for Cole. SIGNED:Nine years, $324 million with Yankees, Dec. 11



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