Early ranking of 2019 MLB's top free agents
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With the focus squarely on this year's crop of free agents - and rightfully so, it's probably the best of all time - not much respect is being shown to the forthcoming open market of next winter.

While it lacks big-name hitters like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, it makes up for it in elite-level pitchers. Here's a way-too-early look at the 2019-20 class, ranked:

1. Chris Sale, SP

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IP K/BB WHIP ERA FIP
158 6.97 0.86 2.11 1.98

If Sale continues on this trajectory, he might wind up being one of the best pitchers to never win a Cy Young. Last year was the first time the left-hander didn't reach the 200-inning plateau since 2014, so health really hasn't been a concern with Sale, despite a recent shoulder issue. Since he became a starter in 2012, only Max Scherzer has thrown more innings and posted a better strikeout rate. Sale will be heading into his age-31 season in 2020, but he'll be the most sought-after ace since David Price in 2015 - and the Boston Red Sox paid him $217 million.

2. Gerrit Cole, SP

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IP K/BB WHIP ERA FIP
200 1/3 4.31 1.03 2.88 2.70

Cole will be heading into his age-29 season when he hits free agency, enticing teams who don't want to pay a pitcher who has already hopped over that 30-year-old threshold. He's also coming off of what has been by far his most productive season, leading all of baseball in strikeouts per nine innings (12.4). The 2019 campaign will be telling, though, as he didn't really wrap up his 2018 breakout season in the best way, posting a 3.50 ERA after the All-Star Game.

3. Anthony Rendon, 3B

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GP AVG HR SB OPS
136 .308 24 2 .909

Rendon is criminally underappreciated, but won't be when he hits the open market heading into his age-30 season. The Washington Nationals have deemed it a top priority to extend their star third baseman, and while that seems realistic - the Nats did this with Stephen Strasburg - Rendon is less than 12 months away from being the most coveted position player on the market.

4. Nolan Arenado, 3B

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GP AVG HR SB OPS
156 .297 38 2 .935

Arenado has won the Gold Glove at third base every season of his career except his 2013 rookie campaign and finished top five in MVP voting three times. He'd be heading into his age-29 season and has posted an OPS north of .900 in three straight seasons, helping shepherd the Rockies to the postseason in two of those years. Playing in the friendly confines of Coors Field may have helped him, though, as league- and park-adjusted numbers like wRC+ indicate that he's been a worse hitter than Justin Turner, Kris Bryant, Matt Carpenter, and Jose Ramirez, among others, since 2015.

5. Xander Bogaerts, SS

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GP AVG HR SB OPS
136 .288 23 8 .883

Bogaerts has had some trouble with consistency, but he's had health on his side. Despite being sidelined briefly with a wrist injury, only Alcides Escobar and Brandon Crawford have played more games at shortstop than Bogaerts since the beginning of 2014. Even further, only Manny Machado, Francisco Lindor, and Andrelton Simmons have accrued more WAR.

6. J.D. Martinez, DH

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GP AVG HR SB OPS
150 .330 43 6 1.031

Following the 2019 season, Martinez can opt out of his contract - his first of a pair of opt-outs after years two and three. So, depending on how 2019 goes, Martinez may not hit the open market. However, if it resembles his 2018, the slugger may look to capitalize on his value and seek a more lucrative payday than the three-year, $62.45-million remainder he has with the Red Sox.

7. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B

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GP AVG HR SB OPS
158 .290 33 7 .922

Goldschmidt has proven to be one of baseball's best hitters and will get to showcase his talent on the Cardinals this year. The six-time All-Star will be heading into his age-32 season when he becomes a free agent next winter, which doesn't bode well for his value. But a strong platform year in the heartland could still earn him a handsome deal.

8. Khris Davis, DH

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GP AVG HR SB OPS
151 .247 48 0 .874

You want a hitter to bat exactly .247 and give you a ton of home runs? Khrush Davis is your guy. Since the beginning of 2016, nobody has hit more home runs. The A's have been open about their desire to work out an extension with their star designated hitter, but if the cash-strapped club can't nail down the slugger, Davis could be a great addition to the top of any lineup.

9. Justin Verlander, SP

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IP K/BB WHIP ERA FIP
214 7.84 0.90 2.52 2.78

Once considered a shell of his former MVP and Cy Young seasons, Verlander has seemingly found the fountain of youth. The seven-time All-Star will be heading into his age-37 season and can't possibly continue his current dominance over 200-plus innings every year. Or can he?

10. Josh Donaldson, 3B

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GP AVG HR SB OPS
52 .246 8 2 .801

This winter, Donaldson bet on himself by signing a one-year, $23-million contract with the Braves, so you know he believes he'll receive offers next winter. He'll be heading into his age-34 campaign, four years removed from his MVP season. But if he even repeats his 2017 season - .944 OPS with 33 home runs over 134 games - then suitors will form a queue.

11. Madison Bumgarner, SP

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IP K/BB WHIP ERA FIP
129 2/3 2.53 1.24 3.26 3.99

Bumgarner has an astonishing resume, but just hasn't been himself over the past two seasons. From 2011-16, the left-hander posted a 3.00 ERA, made four All-Star rosters, and won World Series MVP - all while pitching more than 200 innings in each season. Since then, injuries have held him to 240 2/3 innings total, with a diminishing strikeout rate and swelling WHIP. His forthcoming season as a 29-year-old could move him much higher or much lower on this list.

12. Didi Gregorius, SS

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GP AVG HR SB OPS
134 .268 27 10 .829

Gregorius will be coming off of Tommy John surgery when he eventually hits the field for the 2019 season, which hampers his value. However, if the 29-year-old proves his April from last season (1.156 OPS, 10 HRs) was more than a mirage, he'll be a highly sought-after talent.

13. Marcell Ozuna, OF

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GP AVG HR SB OPS
148 .280 23 3 .758

After being shipped out by the Marlins, Ozuna's 2018 was disappointing to say the least. Recapturing his 2017 form (.924 OPS, 37 HRs) will be crucial before hitting the open market prior to his age-29 campaign.

14. Scooter Gennett, 2B

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GP AVG HR SB OPS
154 .310 23 4 .847

Gennett has quietly proven to be one of the most productive and underappreciated hitters at second base since being released by the Brewers. Since the Reds picked him up before the 2017 season, the 29-year-old ranks third in wRC+ among qualified second basemen, behind only Jose Altuve and Jose Ramirez.

15. Miles Mikolas, SP

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IP K/BB WHIP ERA FIP
200 2/3 5.03 1.07 2.83 3.28

Mikolas is a rarity in today's game, and whatever he's doing - including striking nobody out - it's working. One season of that might make teams skeptical he can do it long term and into his 30s, so the right-hander needs another strong 2019 to leapfrog MadBum on this list. However, there's always a market for healthy arms that can log 200 innings.

16. Yasiel Puig, OF

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GP AVG HR SB OPS
125 .267 23 15 .820

When Puig is on, he's one of the most entertaining sluggers in the game. The problem is that he tends to hit cold streaks too often. One full season in the short-porched Great American Ball Park could do wonders for his value, though.

17. Zack Wheeler, SP

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IP K/BB WHIP ERA FIP
182 1/3 3.25 1.12 3.31 3.25

After being lauded as a top prospect for so long, it seemed like Wheeler would never live up to the hype, due in part to injuries. However, the right-hander quietly burst onto the scene in 2018. Another campaign like that and Wheeler could easily slot into the middle of a contender's rotation, hitting the open market before his age-30 season.

18. Rick Porcello, SP

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IP K/BB WHIP ERA FIP
191 1/3 3.96 1.18 4.28 4.01

By the time he hits free agency, Porcello will be nearing his 31st birthday and be another year removed from his 2016 AL Cy Young Award - which probably should've been awarded to Verlander. The facts remain: While he doesn't necessarily make it look effortless, the right-hander gets it done despite a waning proficiency for inducing ground balls.

19. Dellin Betances, RP

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IP K/BB WHIP ERA FIP
66 2/3 4.42 1.05 2.70 2.47

Following an offseason loaded with a ton of top-tier relievers, Betances is the only potential closer on the market next winter. The right-hander has notched 36 total saves, working primarily as a setup man, but his workload and strikeout rate both scream elite relief.

20. Jhoulys Chacin, SP

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IP K/BB WHIP ERA FIP
192 2/3 2.20 1.16 3.50 4.03

Chacin has had a largely unremarkable career, but he's coming off perhaps his best season yet with the division-winning Brewers. The right-hander will turn 32 next winter, but he seems to have found a way to suppress home runs without elite ground-ball or strikeout rates. If it's sustainable, Chacin could be a nice addition in a deep pitching market.

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Early ranking of 2019 MLB's top free agents
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