Willy Adames Is the Top Free Agent That No One Talks About

With an impressive start to his 2024 season, Willy Adames is on track to headline the class of upcoming free agent shortstops this offseason.

Willy Adames #27 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts after hitting a double against the St. Louis Cardinals at American Family Field.
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 26: Willy Adames #27 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts after hitting a double against the St. Louis Cardinals at American Family Field on September 26, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

Willy Adames is putting together an All-Star-caliber season thus far, and he’s doing it at the most opportune time of his career to this point.

Set to hit free agency at the end of the year, Adames has been one of the top shortstops in the National League this season, and he has evolved into one of the more under-appreciated upcoming free agents.

When discussing the top names set to hit free agency this winter, players such as Juan Soto, Pete Alonso, and Alex Bregman commonly headline the conversation- and rightfully so. However, given his fantastic performance thus far, Adames deserves to be included in that discussion.

As it currently stands, Adames ranks 16th in Major League Baseball in fWAR (2.9). Of the players ahead of him, the only player set to hit free agency at the end of the season is Juan Soto.

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Adames has been one of the top shortstops in the National League this season, and his improvements in his overall approach has boosted his stock in a significant way.

Adames is walking at the highest rate of his career (12.1%), and he has slashed his strikeout rate by a whopping five percent from a season ago. More significantly, he’s made these improvements while maintaining the strong quality of contact that fans have become accustomed to seeing from him.

In turn, Adames has been a more well rounded hitter this season, and he has improved his performance in critical situations. For example, when hitting with runners in scoring position, Adames is slashing .263/.395/.568 for a .963 OPS and a 167 wRC+. Even futher, when hitting in high leverage situations, according to FanGraphs, Adames has a whopping 1.100 OPS and a 212 wRC+.

Adames can be a lethal hitter when he is comfortable at the plate, and he’s demonstrating that with more consistency and in important situations this season. As a result, his stock continues to improve, and he is on track to secure a luxurious deal come season’s end.

In a League of His Own

By his standards, Willy Adames struggled at the plate in 2023. It was his worst offensive season in terms of wRC+ (94), and he ended the year hitting a career-low .217 average to go with the worst OPS of his career (.717). Even still, he managed to launch 24 homers and drive in 80 runs, and he was still one of the Brewers’ most valuable run producers.

What’s more, despite his subpar performance at the plate, he still managed to put up a 3.3 fWAR thanks to his defensive prowess. He ended the year in the 99th percentile in Outs Above Average (OAA) with 16, which as the second-most among all qualified shortstops, according to Baseball Savant.

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Adames can provide value in so many different ways, that even if things aren’t clicking for him at the plate, he can still make an impact.

Alternatively, when Adames is producing both with his bat and his glove, he can influence the game in such a significant way. And so far this season, that is exactly what he has done with the Milwaukee Brewers.

It’s been a tremendous bounce-back season for Adames thus far, and he is on track to headline a wide open shortstop market this offseason.

Assuming Ha-Seong Kim of the San Diego Padres opts-out of his $7MM mutual option come season’s end, he and Adames will be the top shortstops on the free agent market this offseason. However, Adames’ metrics have out-paced Kim’s to this point in the season.

Beyond that duo, the shortstop market gets incredibly bare. Below is a table highlighting the upcoming free agent shortstops, along with their respective stats from the 2024 season thus far.

How Does Adames Stack Up?

Willy Adames (MIL)G/PA: 80/348Age: 28WAR: 2.9WRC+: 117BA: .241OPS: .762wOBA: .335ISO: .188
*Ha-Seong Kim (SDP)G/PA: 88/324Age: 28WAR: 2.3WRC+: 110BA: .223OPS: .721wOBA: .317ISO: .164
**Miguel Rojas (LAD)G/PA: 50/146Age: 35WAR: 1.3WRC+: 115BA: .277OPS: .753wOBA: .329ISO: .153
Paul DeJong (CHW)G/PA: 75/266Age: 30WAR: 1.2WRC+: 105BA: .235OPS: .735wOBA: .318ISO: .219
Amed Rosario (TBR)G/PA: 60/218Age: 28WAR: 0.5WRC+: 114BA: .301OPS: .742wOBA: .323ISO: .115
Nick Ahmed (SFG)G/PA: 42/136Age: 34WAR: 0.4WRC+: 78BA: .250OPS: .614wOBA: .272ISO: .073
*Kyle Farmer (MIN)G/PA: 55/135Age: 33WAR: 0.2WRC+: 72BA: .197OPS: .577wOBA: .267ISO: .077
Enrique Hernandez (LAD)G/PA: 57/178Age: 32WAR: 0.1WRC+: 67BA: .199OPS: .574wOBA: .259ISO: .106
Tim Anderson (MIA)G/PA: 61/225Age: 31WAR: -1.0WRC+: 35BA: .220OPS: .478wOBA: .216ISO: .014
*Players with a mutual option for 2025; **Players with a club option for 2025; Stats courtesy of FanGraphs

It’s a two-man race at the top between Adames and Kim, and Adames has separated himself from the pack with his strong play this season.

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On top of his impressive offensive production, Adames continues to provide strong defense as well. He sits in the 97th percentile in Outs Above Average (7), according to Baseball Savant, thanks to his incredible range and arm strength. Adames has finished in the 96th percentile or higher in Outs Above Average in each of his last two seasons, and he’s on track to do so again in his walk year.

Combine the improvements in his approach and bat-to-ball numbers with his reliable power production, and the 28-year-old will hit the open market at an opportune time. While it’s uncertain where Adames’ long-term future will be, there’s no doubt that he is going to earn himself a wealthy contract this offseason.

Milwaukee’s Best Course of Action

Assuming Milwaukee learned from the infamous trade involving Josh Hader two trade deadlines ago, Willy Adames will be a Brewer come season’s end, as an Adames trade would completely derail the strong start and good vibes the Brewers have built this season.

Since joining the Crew back on May 21 of 2021, Adames has been one of the ball club’s most valuable players. Over that stretch, Adames has accumulated 13.7 fWAR. No other player in the organization has more fWAR than Adames during that time, and the next closest position player is Christian Yelich at 9.0.

Since he joined the Brewers, Adames leads the club with 290 RBI, which is 73 more than the next closest player. Moreover, he also leads the club in homers (88) and doubles (104), all while racking up the second-most hits with 431.

Key Piece to the Brewers Winning Ways

More recently, Adames is a major reason why the Brewers currently hold a five game lead in the NL Central standings. He leads the entire ball club in fWAR this year, and his overall contributions have been integral to Milwaukee’s success this season.

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He leads the club in homers (13), RBI (54) and ISO (.191) while he’s got the fourth-best OPS (.772) on the roster. Even further, Adames has 10 steals on the year, already surpassing his previous career-high of 8 stolen bases, and we have yet to hit the halfway mark in the season. He’s truly leaving his mark in every facet of the game.

Adames’ leadership qualities have played a significant role in mentoring the young players around him as well. One example is rookie Joey Ortiz, who has put together a tremendous season at third base playing alongside Adames on the left side of the infield. Ortiz is likely the shortstop of the future in Milwaukee, and he has been able to shadow Adames ever since he arrived in Milwaukee this past offseason.

Likewise, second-year player Brice Turang is putting together an All-Star caliber season at second base, and he and Adames have evolved into a spectacular middle infield duo.

Adames’ importance to the Milwaukee Brewers truly transcends the diamond, and if the Brewers wish to compete this season, they need Adames in their lineup and in their clubhouse.