The 2016 free agent class is filled with great closing pitchers, but other than that the free agent market is rather weak especially with starting pitchers. Either way, here are my top 10 free agent rankings and where I predict that they will land this offseason.
- Yoenis Cespedes – Outfielder – Former Team: New York Mets
It isn’t a shock that Cespedes opted out of his contract with the Mets considering that he is in line to receive a big long-term contract that is surely going to be worth more than $100 million. Cespedes has tremendous power as evidenced by his 31 home runs last season for the Mets. However, he isn’t the type of player that can carry a team on his shoulders, so he’ll likely land with a contender this offseason. The Yankees could make a strong push for Cespedes since they always want to make a big splash in free agency. However, the Mets will have an awful offense without him and they’ll likely do anything to re-sign him which is why he’ll likely return to the Mets despite the many offers that he’ll receive.
Prediction: Returns to the Mets
2. Edwin Encarnacion – 1st baseman/Designated Hitter – Former Team: Toronto Blue Jays
Edwin Encarnacion struck out a lot of times last season, but he proved why he is a dangerous hitter as he hit a whopping 42 home runs along with 127 RBI’s. He can play a decent 1st base, but at 34 years old he is most likely to be a full-time designated hitter. I don’t see a return for Encarnacion to Toronto after they just signed Kendrys Morales. However, the Red Sox, Yankees, and Astros are all in the mix for a big-time middle of the order bat like Encarnacion. Boston is a team in need of a designated hitter after the retirement of David Ortiz and they have the money to be able to pull a deal for Encarnacion off, so ultimately he will land with the Red Sox on a 2 or 3-year deal.
Prediction: Signs with the Red Sox
3. Justin Turner – 3rd Baseman – Former Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Justin Turner is a really good 3rd baseman that just happens to really benefit from a poor market at the 3rd base position. He has always had a good batting average, but he took his offensive abilities to the next level last season with 27 home runs for the Dodgers. Also, he is an average defensive 3rd baseman, so that adds to his value even more. The Braves, Padres, and Giants are teams that will have interest in Turner. However, the Giants seem like the team that will challenge the Dodgers the most for him. Turner could get around $15-20 million per season and the Dodgers have the money and the desperation in order to re-sign him.
Prediction: Returns to the Dodgers
4. Kenley Jansen – Closing Pitcher – Former Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Kenley Jansen is one of the top closers in MLB and yet he is only 29 years old, so he could be in line for a substantial long-term deal this offaseason. He is a hard-thrower and he has a cutter pitch that rivals that of Mariano Rivera. Also, he has had consistent production in recent years including last year when he had a 1.83 ERA and 47 saves for the Dodgers. There are many teams interested in Jansen and the Dodgers would certainly would like him to come back. However, the Cubs have a need for a closer since they don’t seem like they will retain their closer Aroldis Chapman. Chicago could use a consistent closer like Jansen that can pitch multiple innings especially in the postseason.
Prediction: Signs with the Cubs
5. Aroldis Chapman – Closing Pitcher – Former Team: Chicago Cubs
Chapman is extremely difficult to hit at times because of his 100+ MPH fastball that hitters can’t catch up to. He proved valuable for the Cubs in the postseason as he could pitch multiple innings and he handled the workload well. Also, his 1.55 ERA and 36 saves last season was extremely impressive. The Cubs could be interested in a reunion with Chapman this offseason. However, the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, and Nationals all could make a significant push to sign him. Any of those teams could make a case to sign him, but ultimately I believe the Washington Nationals will pull it off. Washington won’t re-sign Jonathon Papelbon after his terrible 2016 season which means the team has a need for a big-time closer like Chapman. Washington seems one piece away from being a world series contender and Chapman could be the guy to finally get them there.
Prediction: Signs with the Nationals
6. Ian Desmond – Shortstop/Outfielder – Former Team: Texas Rangers
Nobody rebuilt their free agent value more than Desmond did this past season as he hit .285 in 22 home runs in his one season with the Rangers. He has played shortstop most of his career, but he was an everyday center fielder for Texas last season. It is his powerful bat that teams desire, yet his position versatility will certainly help him as well. The Indians, Astros, Rangers, Orioles, and Braves all will have interest in Desmond. I could certainly see him returning to the Rangers or even bolting for the Astros or Indians. However, Baltimore seems like the team that could make the strongest push for Desmond. The Orioles don’t necessarily have a need in center field or at shortstop, but Desmond did play some left field last season and the Orioles have a big need at that position. I don’t see Desmond replacing Adam Jones in center field, yet Desmond could be an upgrade at shortstop or in left field for Baltimore.
Prediction: Signs with the Orioles
7. Mark Trumbo – Outfielder/Designated Hitter – Former Team: Baltimore Orioles
Mark Trumbo smacked a whopping 47 home runs last season which majorly improved his free agent value for this offseason. He does bring a lot of offensive ability and he was a starting outfielder last year for the Orioles, but his limited defensive capabilities make him a likely candidate for a full-time designated hitter job. There won’t be too many teams interested in him this offseason as basically only the Blue Jays, Yankees, and Braves are in the mix. The Orioles could try and re-sign him and Trumbo would likely come back, but the question is if Baltimore really wants him back that much. The Blue Jays are certainly a team to watch out for because they like power bats and they have a need at both right field and 1st base. Trumbo could play either of those positions and he would be a good signing for the Blue Jays because he is a solid middle of the lineup hitter.
Prediction: Signs with the Blue Jays
8. Dexter Fowler – Outfielder – Former Team: Chicago Cubs
Fowler is a tremendous leadoff hitter because of his tremendous speed and ability and to get on base. He had a solid year with a .276 average and 13 home runs for the Cubs which puts him in line to get paid a pretty good contract. The Cardinals, Rangers, White Sox, and Braves all could have interest in Fowler this offseason. However, I don’t really see him leaving the Cubs. He seems to like playing for Chicago and they won’t be the same team without him leading off their lineup.
Prediction: Signs with the Cubs
9. Mike Napoli – 1st baseman – Former Team: Cleveland Indians
Mike Napoli really helped his free agent value by proving that he still has tons of power as he hit 34 home runs for the Indians last season. He also is a terrific defensive player which will help give some confidence to teams about signing him. Toronto, Minnesota, and Seattle could have interest in Napoli on a short-term deal. However, Indians manager Terry Francona has a good connection with Napoli and the team will likely have a lot of interest in bringing him back. His offensive consistency is a little bit concerning, but I don’t see much of a scenario where Napoli leaves Cleveland.
10. Mark Melancon – Closing Pitcher – Former Team: Washington Nationals
Mark Melancon doesn’t have the power arm that Jansen and Chapman have, but if you look at the stats Melancon has been just as productive as those guys have been in recent years. Melancon had a 1.64 ERA last season and 47 saves with the Pirates and the Nationals and the Dodgers, Nationals, Giants, and Diamondbacks all could have interest in him. The Nationals probably want to sign either Jansen/Chapman since they are younger and they are harder-throwing closers. However, I believe the Giants could make a strong push to sign Melancon. It’s no secret that the Giants bullpen was terrible last season and it’s also no secret that the Giants are going to try to sign either Jansen, Chapman, or Melancon to fill their closer’s role. I can’t really see the Giants spending outbiding the Nationals, Dodgers, and Cubs for Chapman and Jansen, so it appears they’ll be stuck signing Melancon and I’m sure they’re fine with that.
Prediction: Signs with the Giants