Below I have listed the top 20 available free agents. The teams and contract numbers are mere predictions I have set forth. Enjoy!
1. Yoenis Cespedes (OF) – Mets. Five years, $130MM. Last year Cespedes, 30, bet on himself by signing a short term contract and now he’s headed to the cashier with an armload of chips in toe. I peg him to be the highest paid free agent this offseason by at least 20 million dollars. And while the Mets let him reach the open market, look for them to be the highest bidders. They known just how valuable he is to their offense. Meanwhile other suitors will include: the Nationals, Giants, Dodgers, and Astros.
2. Edwin Encarnacion (DH) – Red Sox. Four years, $92MM. Encarnacion, 34 in January, is every bit the top offensive player available this offseason. However given his age and positional limitations, look for Eddy to get somewhere in the range of 3-4 years at 20-24 mil per. I feel extremely confident that I’ve got the correct team here though. With David Ortiz retiring after the Red Sox fell to the Indians last fall, a huge hole in their lineup exists at the DH spot. Encarnacion
would allow the youthful Sox to not miss a beat offensively. Other suitors: Rangers, Orioles, Astros, and Yankees.
3. Aroldis Chapman (RP) – Nationals. Five years, $85MM. Chapman, 28, has stated that he wants to become the first 100 million dollar relief pitcher. Join the club bro. I don’t think he’ll get that much money, but I do think he’ll get paid. Nobody on the planet can throw a baseball faster than Aroldis Chapman. The lefty’s electric fastball has led to eye-popping numbers since 2012: a 1.84 ERA with a ridiculous 15.7 K/9 in 313 2/3 regular season innings. The interesting aspect here is what happens to Kenley Jansen. The two are elite relievers, both in the open market of free agency, and if one of them gets an irrational offer then the other has serious bargain-ability. I don’t see it going down that way though. I feel like there are 5 teams vying for three top tier relievers (Mark Melacon included.) And when that happens, typically the teams quell their insanity and rationalize taking the other guy if negotiations fall through. For years now the Nationals have tried to figure out the back-end of their ‘pen. I think they finally take what many believe is the sure thing and ink Chapman to the largest contract in relief pitcher history. Other suitors: The Cubs, Giants, Yankees, and Dodgers.
4. Kenley Jansen (RP) – Dodgers. Five years, $80MM. Jansen, 29, is the 1b to Chapman’s 1a this off-season. The Dodgers brought him up through the minors after they converted the former catcher down at the single-a level. I know that there are rumors floating that he’s going elsewhere but I don’t buy it. The Dodgers love him. Let me re-phrase that. The highest budget team in the game loves him. Granted, they were unsuccessful in getting a deal done this past year. Therefore should the Dodgers balk at a ridiculous contract for Jansen, the Cubs, Giants, Yankees, and Nationals will be next in line.
5. Justin Turner (3B) – Dodgers. Four years, $76MM. Turner blossomed into a star for the Dodgers after they signed him to a minor league deal. Turner, 32, finally took the long awaited step of turning his double proficiency into a barrage of 27 home runs. His defensive efforts, along with the power surge, allowed him to post a free agent best 5.6 WAR. The Dodgers basically have to re-sign him as they have no other alternative option. Other suitors: The Giants, Angels, Red Sox, and Nationals.
6. Jeremy Hellickson (SP) – Angels. Five years, $70MM. Hellickson, 29, was the Phillies’ best pitcher this past year with a 3.71 ERA in 189 innings. They opted not to deal him at the deadline and just offer him the qualifying offer in hopes of a first round pick instead. If you need a player comp for Hellickson just look at Ian Kennedy. He’s a guy with good stuff that will eat innings from the starting rotation. And just like Kennedy, Hellickson’s main bugaboo is the long ball. If he can find himself a spacious ballpark he could be in for a real solid career. Given that he is probably the best pitcher in this uber weak free agent class look for Hellickson to draw more money than he’s actually worth. The Angels are in desperate need of starting pitching and have a little bit more money to spend this year as some of their dead money is finally off the books. If they don’t snag him I’d expect the likes of: the Braves, Rangers, Astros, Marlins, Orioles, and pretty much any other team in the game to come calling.
7. Dexter Fowler (OF) – Giants. Four years, $58MM. Fowler, 30, is re-entering free agency this year after signing just a one-year deal with the Cubs last year. He led all free agents with a .393 on-base percentage in 2016 and was a central cog to the potent Cubs offense this past year. Fowler does have a qualifying offer attached to him (so any non-Cubs team to sign him would have to relinquish their first round pick for the upcoming 2017 draft) which could dock his value slightly. The Cubs very well could offer Fowler a multi-year contract in the aftermath of their historic World Series Championship, but I believe they are willing to let him walk and give their young outfielders a chance to prove themselves. That’s why I have Fowler tentaively pegged with the Giants. He fits the mold of the outfielders that Bochy loves to have and he would definitely lengthen a lineup that was somehwhat limited this past year. Other suitors: The Cardinals, Nationals, Blue Jays, Rangers, White Sox, Indians, Dodgers, Mets, Phillies, and Mariners.
8. Mark Trumbo (OF/DH) – Rockies. Four years, $62MM. For whatever reason this 30 year-old reigning AL home run champion doesn’t get any love from gm’s throughout the game (contract-wise.) Trumbo hit 95 home runs from 2011-13 and 47 this past year, yet he’s played on 3 different teams now over that 5 year span. He has the defensive capability to play a corner outfield spot as well as spot start at first base. This is why i’m able to hypothetically throw him out west. Can you imagine all the trumbombs in Coors Field!? It’s not as crazy as you would think. The core of the Rockies are hitting their prime right now and if they want to get any serious run at the playoffs with Arenado, Blackmon and Lemahiue they need to spend in free agency. Other suitors: the Orioles, Red Sox, Rangers, A’s, Giants, and Royals.
9. Ian Desmond (OF) – Rangers. Four years, $60MM. The Rangers took a calculated gamble on Desmond this past year by signing the former shortstop to a one-year/8mil contract. The gamble was that they were going to make him into an outfielder. It paid off in a big-time way to the tune of an offensive triple slash of .285/.335/.446. Now Desmond re-enters the market as a quality center fielder, rather than a defensively-challenged shortstop. Desmond’s stock has clearly risen in the last year, though he will again bear the burden of a qualifying offer. The Rangers will try and re-sign him but look for the Orioles, Astros, Angels, Mariners, White Sox, Giants, Cardinals, Indians, Dodgers, Phillies, Royals and Braves all to be in the mix as well.
10. Ivan Nova (SP) – Rangers. Four years, $52MM. Let me say this, Ivan Nova is not worth 52 million dollars. You can’t spin it to me any possible way. But given this putrid free agent starting pitcher crop, a 50+ million dollar contract is a likely outcome. Nova, 29, has a career ERA of 4.30. However a trade from New York to Pittsburgh this past season may have pushed his stock up to the second best available free agent. In his 11 starts with the Pirates Nova posted a 3.06 ERA with 3 complete games. One of these days I’m going to have a really good stretch of 11 days and make 50 million because of it.
11. Mark Melancon (RP) – Giants. Four years, $52MM. Melancon, 32 in March, is the 1c reliever available in free agency this winter. He’s not going to strike out guys at the same rate as Chapman or Jansen, but he’s equally as effective. Unfortunately for Melancon the lack of strikeouts will cost him money. A smart franchise realizes this isn’t a huge issue given the strong track record he possesses. This is where the Giants strike. San Francisco believes they would’ve eliminated the Cubs had their bullpen done its’ part. They’ll lock that up with this move right here. If they fail, the Cubs, Dodgers, Nationals, and Yankees would be among the top suitors.
12. Jose Bautista (OF/DH) – Blue Jays. Three years, $51MM. With the Blue Jays already inking Kendrys Morales to a multi-year deal they will have to be sure that Bautista is healthy enough to play RF for an entire season before completing this deal. Bautista is the counter argument to betting on yourself. In February, massive numbers were floated regarding Bautista’s asking price for an extension with the Blue Jays. Regardless of the slugger’s exact demand at that time, the 36-year-old now faces an uphill battle in getting a fourth year on his next contract. Bautista, 36, played in only 116 games this year. His power numbers declined, his right field defense remained an issue, and he comes with a qualifying offer. Still, Bautista served as the face of the Blue Jays in crushing 227 home runs from 2010-15. He’s their guy but if the Jays don’t pay, teams like the Red Sox, Orioles, Royals (!) or White Sox will enter the sweepstakes.
13. Wilson Ramos (C/DH) – White Sox. One year, $12MM. Ramos, a 29-year-old catcher, was in the midst of a breakout season when he tore his ACL and meniscus in late September. I believe he is American League bound given his knee injury. I think the White Sox take the one-year flyer and possible look to turn him into prospect at the deadline. Other suitors: the Angels, Rays, Twins, and Orioles.
14. Rich Hill (SP) – Dodgers. Three years, $45MM. Hill, 36, is awesome. His story is incredible. The former independent league pitcher completely resurrected his career when the Red Sox took a chance on him at the end of the 2015 season. He is now one of the game’s elite and is possibly the most intriguing player in free agency. His dynamic curveball is one of the best in the game, but how long will the battered arm hold up. He is fortunate to be part of this class as it should lead to a multi-year deal. With bidding wars imminent I tend to lean on the team with the most money. If the Dodgers aren’t able to pull the trigger look for the likes of the Yankees, Royals, Angels, Astros, Marlins, Red Sox, or Rangers to join in.
15. Jason Hammel (SP) – Mariners. Three years, $42MM. Hammel, 34, was posted a 3.79 ERA over two seasons for the Cubs. Yet in a surprise turn of events Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, declined the 12mil option to bring Hammel back in 2017. This is great news for Hammel as he is able to hit the watered-down pitching market this winter. Hammel is a flyball pitcher and his strikeout numbers are trending downward. I like the fit for him in the spacious confines of Safeco Field. The Mariners need to move the (space) needle towards the postseason and Hammel, at the back end of the rotation, would certainly help. Other suitors include: the Braves, Astros, Angels, Dodgers, Marlins, Phillies, Yankees, Mariners, and Rangers.
16. Matt Wieters (C) – Nationals. Three years, $39MM. Wieters, 30, is a former first round switch hitting catcher. He’s played his entire career in Baltimore but I believe that will change next spring. The O’s were reluctant to negotiate with Wieters and by not slapping the qualifying offer on him it appears they are now looking to move on. This opens the door for teams with catcher needs. Insert the Nationals. Wilson Ramos appears to be AL bound and Wieters were fill that hole immediately. If the Nats don’t get a deal done: the Braves, White Sox, Rockies, Angels, Twins and Orioles will be next in line.
17. Neil Walker (2B) – Mets. Two years, $24MM. Walker, 31, was trading to New York last winter. He went on to have a really good offensive season filling the shoes of the illustrious Daniel Murphy. A back surgery in September still lingers for Walker but the Mets appear to not be worried about it as they offered a qualifying offer to him at season’s end. The risk of a first round pick for a player coming off back surgery will loom large. The Mets are the only team I see Walker landing on.
18. Carlos Gomez (OF) – Cardinals. Three years, $36MM. Gomez, 31 in December, is a special talent. The former Twin/Brewer/Astro/Ranger is in search of a multi-year deal. He was brutal for Houston over two seasons, hitting .221/.277/.342 in 486 plate appearances while dealing with oblique, rib, and hamstring injuries. So brutal that Houston released him last August. Gomez joined the Rangers and experienced a renaissance, hitting .284/.362/.543 with eight home runs in 130 plate appearances. The Cardinals make sense here given his familiarity with the NL Central as well as their desire to stockpile outfielders. Other suitors: the Rangers, A’s, Blue Jays, White Sox, Nationals, Orioles, Indians, Dodgers, Phillies, Giants, and Mariners.
19. Michael Saunders (OF) – Orioles. Three years, $33MM. Saunders, 30 in November, was traded from the Mariners to the Blue Jays in December 2014. Saunders lit the American League on fire in the first half, making the All-Star team and hitting .281/.366/.536 with 19 home runs in 396 plate appearances through July. The opposite happened in the waning two months though, in which he hit just .186/.267/.338. Saunders is also a bad defensive outfielder. The Jays didn’t offer his a qualifying offer though, so at least he won’t cost a draft pick to sign. The Giants, Blue Jays, Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Astros, Dodgers, and Athletics are potential suitors.
20. Carlos Beltran (OF/DH) – Royals. One year, $12MM. Beltran, 40 in April, has always had an innate ability to hit. This past year he tore it up with the Yankees, but cooled off once he was traded to the Rangers. Now 17 seasons removed from his Rookie of the Year campaign in 1999, I think there’s a decent possibility he reunites with the Royals as they make a push towards a third World Series in four years. Beltran still has the ability to play right field, which has long been a need for Kansas City. However once or twice a week slotting him into the DH role would make more than enough sense for the 40 year old fringe Hall of Famer. Other suitors: the Indians, Orioles, and White Sox.
Have your own predictions? I’d love to hear them. Comment below!