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Which contract year players are performing the best?

You’ve seen our 2021-22 MLB Free Agent Power Rankings, but which contract year players are actually performing the best at this point in the young season? These are the top 2021-22 free agents ranked by FanGraphs WAR. Note: I’m using Baseball-Reference’s excellent Span Finder frequently in this post. For the full list of 2021-22 MLB free agents, click here.

Hitters

  • Kris Bryant – 1.8 WAR, 180 wRC+ in 124 PA. As good as Bryant has been, this level of production has plenty of precedent for him. He’s hit more than eight home runs in a 29-game span many times, including 12 in a stretch in 2019. It’s not going to be hard to make a case for a huge free-agent contract for the 29-year-old Bryant, who may be traded by the Cubs in July.
  • J.D. Martinez – 1.8 WAR, 215 wRC+ in 126 PA. Like Bryant, the odd 2020 season is the only recent blip in Martinez’s career. As Boston’s DH continues to light up Statcast, the question becomes whether he should opt out of the remaining $19.375M on his contract for 2022, which will represent his age-34 season. The universal DH would help.
  • Buster Posey – 1.4 WAR, 218 wRC+ in 78 PA. The last time Posey hit seven home runs in 20 games? Late in the 2014 season, when he finished sixth in the MVP voting. He hit seven home runs in 114 games in his previous season in 2019. Clearly, a year off did the 34-year-old Posey good. A multiyear deal is materializing for the Giants legend.
  • Nick Castellanos – 1.4 WAR, 166 wRC+ in 114 PA. Castellanos’ early mashing this year is reminiscent of his brief stint with the Cubs, in which he posted a 154 wRC+ in 225 PA. If he keeps it up, the 29-year-old right fielder might find it easy to opt out of the remaining two years and $34M left on his contract with the Reds after this season.
  • Starling Marte – 1.0 WAR, 151 wRC+ in 70 PA. Things were looking up for Marte until he fractured a rib a couple weeks ago, potentially knocking him out until June. Assuming a healthy return, trade partners will begin knocking on the Marlins’ door at that point.
  • Other impending free agents playing well in the early going: Yadier Molina, Nelson Cruz, Chris Taylor, Josh Harrison and Corey Dickerson.

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