| The Detroit News
Go through the gallery above to view Tony Paul’s top 50 Major League Baseball free agents for 2020. Click here if you have trouble viewing the gallery.
Unlike in the NHL, where free agency began with a flurry of moves mere moments after the signing period began, you can expect Major League Baseball to be more of a slow, deliberate process.
Free agency technically began for baseball at 5 p.m. Sunday. After all the club and player options were figured out and six qualifying offers were extended — at an $18.9 million price tag — 181 players now are free to sign with any team.
But none of them have yet, and, frankly, we might be waiting a while.
MLB, like every other sports league, still is trying to figure out how long COVID-19 will have a grip on its logistics and finances.
MLB played a shortened 60-game regular season and the first two rounds of the postseason with no fans allowed, and then played the championship series and World Series with limited capacity. It’s unclear when in 2021 crowds will be back, if they are at all.
With no gate in 2020, teams have long been feeling the budget crunch, with many, including the Tigers, having to lay off or furlough operations and scouting staff. And the penny-pinching certainly figures to carry over into free agency, where there are several players who, in a typical year, might be looking at nine-figure paydays, but now may have to settle for much, much less.
We also could end up seeing some one-year “pillow” contracts, or more players taking the qualifying offer — with players opting to go short-term now, and hope the world is back to normal in 2022.
We just don’t know how this all is going to play out. And, if they’re being honest, front offices all across MLB don’t have a clue, either. Heck, MLB still doesn’t know how many playoff teams there will be in 2021, and if the designated hitter will become universal, two big details that could determine how a team might approach its offseason.
That’s why for our annual ranking of the top 50 MLB free agents, we’ll still take our best (and, almost always, wrong) guess at a player’s landing spot — but we won’t even bother trying to predict the contract details, like years and money.
It’s too bad, really, because that probably was the most-fun aspect of this yearly project.
But it’s still 2020 — and fun, apparently, is not allowed.