MLB free agents: Ranking the top 57 of the 2018 class – USA TODAY

Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are the two most prized free agents this winter(Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

Major League Baseball’s most anticipated free agent class since 2000 has finally arrived – even if it’s not as potent as once imagined.

Still, a group led by a pair of franchise players should provide significant intrigue from the winter into the spring – and likely unearth more than a billion dollars in salary from franchises saving up for this very moment.

As the off-season begins in earnest, USA TODAY Sports takes a look at the top 57 free agents available, from the elite to those near the bubble to receiving a major league contract.

Rankings based on projected future performance and perceived market value:

(Age as of April 1, 2019; 2018 team)

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1. Bryce Harper (26, OF, Nationals): There is clearly a 1 and 1A in this class, and we’ll give Harper the edge over Manny Machado by the slimmest of margins, largely due to intangibles. The lifetime deals these men can expect – a decade or longer in term, more than a quarter-billion dollars in value – are almost as much about branding and marketability as production. And while Harper is not the LeBron of his sport – there is none, a problem for another day – he remains the game’s blue-chip endorser and among its most recognizable faces, particularly among younger fans. Oh, and he’s also hit 184 home runs with a lifetime .900 OPS through his age-25 season. The question: How many decline years will a club pay for in this era?

2. Manny Machado (26, SS/3B, Dodgers): Three months younger than Harper, Machado benefits from playing on the left side of the infield and near-robotic production: He’s hit between 33 and 37 home

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