MLB Free Agent Rankings: Darvish’s value keeps rising with Dodgers

Yu Darvish strikes out 10 in seven shutout innings in his Dodgers debut, plus Mitch Moreland hits a walk-off home run for the Red Sox.

With just under two months left in MLB’s regular season, pending free agents are entering their own stretch drives with millions of dollars at stake.

How these players perform in August and September will have an enormous impact on the type of contract offers they’ll field this winter.

Here’s a look at our latest free-agent rankings, based on the total contractual earnings a player stands to make in the off-season.

Past FA Rankings: April | May | June

10. JONATHAN LUCROY

2017 Salary: $5,250,000
Age: 31
Position: Catcher
Bats: Right
4 HR | .242/.303/.340 | 0.3 WAR
 Previous ranking: No. 8

Why teams will want him: He has struggled mightily with the bat and glove this season, but the fact remains that Lucroy has a stellar offensive track record. He’s still in line to be the top catcher on the market and some team in need of a backstop will likely pay him in the hopes that he rebounds.
The latest: A July 30 trade to the Rockies — for just a player to be named later — could offer Lucroy opportunities to boost his value. There’s the obvious: playing in the hitter-friendly Coors Field. And the less obvious: a chance to prove his leadership ability as a catcher by guiding a mostly rookie starting rotation in a playoff race.

9. WADE DAVIS

2017 Salary: $10 million
Age: 31
Position: Closer
Throws: Right
2.31 ERA | 39 innings | 53 strikeouts | 20 walks | 94.4 mph average fastball
  Previous ranking: No. 9

Why teams will want him: One of the best closers in baseball, Davis is a tough-as-nails right-hander who’s got a World Series ring to go with his 0.84 ERA in 32.1 career post-season innings.
The latest: Davis is walking batters at a career-high clip, but his strikeout rate is the best it’s been since 2014. He still hasn’t blown a save this season and it’ll be interesting to see if the Cubs attempt to re-sign him after acquiring former Tigers closer Justin Wilson, who’s under team control in 2018, at the deadline.

8. LORENZO CAIN

2017 Salary: $11 million
Age: 31
Position: Centre field
Bats: Right
12 HR | .293/.356/.443 | 3.3 WAR
  Previous ranking: Not ranked

Why teams will want him: Cain’s a productive, near five-tool player who can instantly add a healthy dose of athleticism to any roster.
The latest: He’s long been criticized for his free-swinging nature, but seems to have improved on that in 2017: his 8.6 per cent walk rate is a career high, while his strikeouts are down considerably from last season.

7. JUSTIN UPTON

2017 Salary: $22,125,000
Age: 29
Position: Left field
Bats: Right
21 HR | .276/.363/.519 | 3.6 WAR
  Previous ranking: No. 7

Why teams will want him: If he opts out of his contract, leaving four years and $88.5 million on the table, Upton will be one of the top free agent sluggers available. He’s enjoying a very strong offensive season, with his 3.6 wins above replacement ranking fifth among AL outfielders.
The latest: The Tigers, who completed a slew of trades before the July trade deadline, appear to be in a retooling phase and it’s not certain how that will impact Upton’s contractual decision. “I haven’t thought about it, honestly,” Upton told the Detroit Free Press at the end of July. “But I mean, I came here to win, so I’d have to see what the landscape is like at the end of it.”

6. MIKE MOUSTAKAS

2017 Salary: $8,700,000
Age: 28
Position: Third base
Bats: Left
32 HR | .279/.314/.554 | 2.3 WAR
  Previous ranking: No. 6

Why teams will want him: Moustakas is a solid defender who’s on pace to top the 40-homer mark this season. Add in that he’ll be 29 next Opening Day and it’ll be enough to entice many off-season suitors.
The latest: Moustakas has been consistent all season but still doesn’t walk much, and that keeps his on-base percentage below the MLB average even though he’s hitting .279. His 4.8 per cent walk rate is the lowest of his career.

5. MASAHIRO TANAKA

2017 Salary: $22 million
Age: 28
Position: Starting pitcher
Throws: Right
4.92 ERA | 133.2 innings | 141 strikeouts | 33 walks | 92.2 mph average fastball
  Previous ranking: Not ranked

Why teams will want him: There were no performance questions about Tanaka until the start of this season. He hit rock bottom in mid-June and has allowed more homers than ever, but he has been steadily improving of late, posting a 3.00 ERA and a .214 opponents’ batting average over his past nine starts.
The latest: We swapped Tanaka and Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto in the No. 5 spot on this list. Both have opt-out clauses, but with Cueto currently on the DL with an arm injury, Tanaka is the more likely of the two to test free agency. He’s owed $67 million over the next three seasons and could seek a deal with more term.

4. JAKE ARRIETA

2017 Salary: $15,637,500
Age: 31
Position: Starting pitcher
Throws: Right
3.83 ERA | 134 innings | 129 strikeouts | 42 walks | 92.0 mph average fastball
  Previous ranking: No. 5

Why teams will want him: Arrieta cut his ERA from 4.68 on June 11 to its current mark of 3.83 and in the process added several millions of dollars to his potential value. He once again looks like an attractive front-of-the-rotation starter.
The latest: The right-hander seems confident as he approaches his first opportunity at a giant payday, telling Bob Nightengale of USA Today, “I haven’t had the year I would like, but it’s not over yet. How many people can do what I do, anyways? A handful of guys? … Everyone wants to have a career year, but if I stick to what I’m doing, I like my chances. I’ll be fine.”

3. ERIC HOSMER

2017 Salary: $12,250,000
Age: 27
Position: First base
Bats: Left
18 HR | .312/.371/.490 | 2.1 WAR
  Previous ranking: No. 3

Why teams will want him: Hosmer is having as good a contract year as one could hope for and may set career highs in home runs and OPS, among other offensive categories.
The latest: It’s easy to forget that Hosmer endured an atrocious April that left many questioning his swing and the type of hitter he was. All he’s done since April 25, though, is hit .337 with an excellent .936 OPS.

2. J.D. MARTINEZ

2017 Salary: $11,750,000
Age: 29
Position: Right field
Bats: Right
23 HR | .289/.377/.631 | 2.1 WAR
  Previous ranking: No. 2

Why teams will want him: There are defensive questions, but Martinez was the best hitter ahead of the July trade deadline and will be in the same position this winter.
The latest: Martinez has been solid since joining the Diamondbacks in mid-July, but recently told azcentral.com that he’s not happy with his production and attributes some of that to entering a new league where he’s not entirely familiar with opposing pitchers. “I’ve been frustrated for a little bit,” Martinez said. “I feel like I’m a better hitter than what I’m showing.” He homered Thursday against the one player ranked ahead of him on this list.

1. YU DARVISH

2017 Salary: $11 million
Age: 30
Position: Starting pitcher
Throws: Right
3.81 ERA | 149 innings | 168 strikeouts | 48 walks | 94.2 mph average fastball
  Previous ranking: 1

Why teams will want him: See above explanation for why teams will want Martinez and replace the word “hitter” with “pitcher.” Also, it’s been said that Darvish is good friends with Japanese free agent Shohei Otani and the team that lands the former this winter could have a strong shot at signing the latter, if Otani ends up coming to North America.
The latest: Darvish is now playing on the best team in baseball — maybe the greatest team ever — and he struck out 10 in each of his first two starts with Los Angeles. Prospective suitors will be watching this October to see how the right-hander holds up in the intense post-season spotlight.

BONUS: BLUE JAYS FREE AGENT TO WATCH

Marco Estrada
2017 Salary: $14 million
Age: 34
Position: Starting pitcher
Throws: Right
4.85 ERA | 135.1 innings | 140 strikeouts | 56 walks | 90.0 mph average fastball
  Previous ranking: Not ranked

Why teams will want him: Estrada has made strides on the mound since bottoming out earlier this summer. The narrative around the pitcher shifted as the July trade deadline passed — He was once thought of as someone the Blue Jays would deal, but is now a possible extension candidate.
The latest: Said Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins about Estrada on July 31: “We’re in the business of making this organization better and if a deal doesn’t present itself to do so, then we’re happy to keep Marco Estrada a Toronto Blue Jay and we’ll start thinking about not only how he impacts us now, but how he can potentially impact us beyond 2017.”

Other Blue Jays free agents

• Jose Bautista, OF
• Darwin Barney, UTIL
• J.P. Howell, RP