Which MLB Free Agent Signings Will Have the Biggest Impacts in 2020?

By Michael Wynn in MLB
| May 4, 2020 1:32 am PDT
Biggest MLB Free-Agent Acquisitions

Gerrit Cole’s record-setting deal pushes the Yankees out in front of the Astros as the favorites in the American League. The Phillies are hoping Zack Wheeler can give their pitching staff a major boost, while some think Anthony Rendon could be the missing link in Los Angeles.

We’ve seen a flurry of transactions since the Nationals were crowned as the 2019 WS champs — many of which could have a substantial impact on how the 2020 season plays out.

After tracking the top MLB free agents and where they wound up, let’s take a look at the most significant moves. 

Gerrit Cole – New York Yankees

A $324 million contract for a single player is hard to fathom. Then again, Brian Cashman and the Yankees have the deepest pockets in baseball, and Gerrit Cole was the most coveted starting pitcher in the league.

With Cole coming off of a scintillating year in which he won 20 games and struck out a whopping 326 batters, nobody should be surprised that the Bronx Bombers were willing to set a new benchmark to ensure they lured him in.

Aaron Boone’s batting order is unmistakably potent, and James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka are valuable pieces in the rotation. Adding Gerrit Cole to the staff made the Yanks an easy choice as the AL representative when I generated my 2020 World Series prediction.

Anthony Rendon – Los Angeles Angels

Cody Bellinger might have been awarded the trophy for the NL’s Most Valuable Player, but that’s only because Anthony Rendon got robbed. Bellinger fluttered down the stretch of the season while Rendon turned into the most clutch hitter in the Majors.

When it was all said and done, Anthony hit .319 with 34 homers, 44 doubles, and Major League-leading 126 RBI. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Rendon drew 80 walks and struck out just 86 times.

Mike Trout has longed for protection in the Angels’ lineup, and you can bet your bottom dollar Joe Maddon is going to hit Rendon directly behind Trout in the order. Arte Moreno’s decision to sign the former Nats third baseman gives the Halos two of the five best hitters in the game, plus Mike Trout is going to see more pitches to hit.

I call that killing two birds with one stone.

Zack Wheeler – Philadelphia Phillies

The top MLB sportsbooks might not be treating the Phillies as a sincere threat to emerge out of the National League, but don’t tell that to Joe Girardi and the individuals in his clubhouse. Aaron Nola is a viable ace, Jake Arrieta is a proven commodity, and Spencer Howard is a legitimate NL ROY sleeper.

Does the addition of Zack Wheeler make Philly’s starting rotation one of the best in the league?

Before you answer that question, know that Wheeler is coming off career highs in strikeouts (195) and innings pitched (195.1). Most importantly, he is as healthy as he has ever been in his injury-plagued career.

If you think the $118 million seems a bit steep for what Wheeler provides, it’s time to start thinking like Phillies GM Matt Klentak. His belief is that Zack’s best days on the mound are ahead of him.

Josh Donaldson – Minnesota Twins

All you have to do is check out the AL Pennant odds to understand that the Twins are for real. Jose Berrios is a total stud, and the back end of the rotation was solidified over the winter (traded for Kenta Maeda, signed Jhoulys Chacin and Homer Bailey).

The fact that a team that just set a single-season record for the most home runs in MLB history is adding Josh Donaldson to the mix is a scary, scary thought.

The 2015 AL MVP blasted 37 dingers for Atlanta in 2019 and plays rock-solid defense at the hot corner. Minnesota appears to be head and shoulders above their counterparts in the AL Central Division, meaning their road to the postseason could be rolled out on a red carpet.

Donaldson’s bat might be the catalyst that can get the Twinkies over the hump.

Madison Bumgarner – Arizona Diamondbacks

Once heralded as the top southpaw in the MLB, Madison Bumgarner can still be extremely effective for the Diamondbacks. It was hard to win games in San Francisco over the past few seasons, but “MadBum” ate up 207.2 innings and K’d 203 batters for the Giants in 2019

The 30-year-old lefty still has plenty left in the tank.

Arizona got lost in the shuffle last year while the Dodgers were busy running away with the division, but Torey Lovullo quietly led this club to 85 wins. What if LA takes a step back and the D-Backs make progress? It’s not likely, but taking a stab on Arizona to win the division might not be the worst idea.

After all, the NL West odds are incredibly juicy if you decide to invest in the Diamondbacks.

MLB’s Biggest Free Agents in 2020 – Honorable Mention List

I highlighted who I believe are the top MLB free agent signings heading into the upcoming campaign, but I left off lots of contenders.

The table below showcases some of the other “new faces in new places” worth keeping tabs on.

Name Position New Team Old Team Deal
Yasmani Grandal C White Sox Brewers 4 years/$73 million
Hyun-Jin Ryu SP Blue Jay Dodgers 5 years/$80 million
Cole Hamels SP Braves Cubs 1 year/$18 million
Mike Moustakas 2B/3B Reds Brewers 4 years/$64 million
Marcell Ozuna OF Braves Cardinals 1 year/$18 million
Nick Castellanos OF Reds Cubs 4 years/$64 million
Edwin Encarnacion 1B/DH White Sox Yankees 1 year/$12 million

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