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Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Impending Free Agents

Cam looks at which pending free agents you can keep an eye on in your keeper league drafts.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 19: Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros hits a two run triple in the first inning against the Texas Rangers during Game Four of the Championship Series at Globe Life Field on October 19, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

There are so many different types of fantasy leagues. And depending on which league you join, you have to be mindful of the nuances within that league. For instance, in a weekly league, you have to pay closer attention to two-start pitchers. In a dynasty league, you’ll want to pay closer attention to prospects. A 10-team AL or NL-only league isn’t as deep as a 12-team mixed league. 

And, in an AL or NL-only keeper league, you must be mindful of real life MLB contracts. For players who are in the last year of their MLB contracts, they are of course, eligible for free agency. If you have these players in a keeper league you are at risk of losing them. Instead of having them on your team, a little bit of research before your draft is imperative.

There are two risks at drafting these players heading to free agency. The first is, as I mentioned, you may lose them to free agency…(this offseason in one of my leagues, I lost Ohtani). The other risk is, you could lose these players during the season by way of a trade.

The biggest area where this occurs is when one of these players is on a bad team. Leading up to the trade deadline, more often than not, they get traded. If they are traded to team in the same league, you’re safe. But, if they are dealt to a team in the opposite league, you lose them.

To me, the 10-team AL or NL only keeper league is the most challenging format you can play in. Not only does it take a strong gameplan and strategy heading into your draft, but it takes tremendous discipline throughout the year. You must be mindful of a player’s contract…it could truly be the difference between winning a championship or falling short. 

Losing a player in a trade to the opposite league is even worse than losing him to an injury. At least an injured player in a keeper league could be of use and a valuable piece the following season. If you lose a player to the opposite league, you’ve lost him for good.

Of course, the better and more significant the player is, the greater the loss will be. Focus on the risk/reward of acquiring the player, and decide how badly you’ll be hurt if you lose him. 

Here is a list of the top 15 players who are in the last year of their contracts and slated to be free agents at the end of the season.

  • 3B Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
  • OF Anthony Santander, Baltimore Orioles
  • 1B Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks
  • 2B Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees
  • OF Juan Soto, New York Yankees
  • OF Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins
  • 1B Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals
  • 1B Pete Alonso, New York Mets
  • OF Teoscar Hernandez, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • SP Corbin Burnes, Baltimore Orioles
  • SP Max Scherzer, Texas Rangers
  • SP Shane Bieber, Cleveland Guardians
  • SP Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • SP Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies
  • RP Kenley Jansen, Boston Red Sox