Early Free Agents Beating Crowdsourced Salary Predictions

For the third consecutive year, I am comparing actual free agent salaries against FanGraphs’ crowdsourced predictions for the top 50 free agents. My spreadsheet compares both average annual value (AAV) and total contract value ($Total) to best judge accuracy. Of note, JD Martinez declined to opt out of his Red Sox contract and Jake Ordorizzi took a qualifying offer and thus never truly hit free agency.

The free agent market has been brisk thus far, with five of the 48 top players already signing contracts. The early results even suggest that owners may be losing the upper hand after sluggish winters that saw many holding out until well into spring training and beyond. To wit, AAV has averaged $720,000 higher than predicted and $Total has been $5.82 million above predictions. Only Adam Wainright, who was determined to stay with the Cardinals, took a deal below predicted value.

Some other interest initial observations of the numbers can be found in the predictions themselves. Most of the top 20 free agents are predicted to have larger contracts than their 2019 counterparts. Conversely, the mid to low tier free agents (21-50) in 2020 have significantly lower predictions than their 2019 counterparts. The crowd seems to believe the 2019 market was deeper, but perhaps lacking in top talent after Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

This year’s class is likewise extremely top-heavy, led by the likes of Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon, but there’s quite a bit of solid depth from 4-20 on the list. Feel free to keep track of the market via that linked spreadsheet above, which will be updated throughout the winter.

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