(Just missed: David Freese, Gerardo Parra)
Freese will never replicate the 2012 World Series performance he had for the St Louis Cardinals. However, he still had a solid season and might be the best third baseman on the market. He should get a decent deal somewhere and the Angels should look into retaining him.
Parra was one of the best acquisitions of the 2015 MLB trade deadline when the Baltimore Orioles acquired him from a Milwaukee Brewers roster that was falling apart.
1. Zach Greinke: Dodgers
Greinke didn’t opt out with the intention to leave Los Angeles. His opt-out was purely to test the market, and after a historic season with a record shutout streak, Greinke is going to get paid. The Dodgers have as much (or more) money than any team in baseball and after he and Clayton Kershaw, their rotation lacks depth. It wouldn’t make sense for there to be another match.
2. David Price: Cubs
The Chicago Cubs seemed just one pitcher away. Though Jake Arrieta had a historic season, and Jon Lester is an ace in his own right, the Cubs ran into a New York Mets team in the NLCS that prevented Chicago from advancing to the World Series. That extra pitcher would put them over that edge and they would surpass division rival’s St Louis Cardinals pitching staff. Current Cubs manager Joe Maddon also managed Price in Tampa Bay, which could be an advantage.
3. Alex Gordon: Royals
It wouldn’t make much sense to see the Royals and their former first overall pick go separate ways. Gordon had a stellar post season and, despite being injured for parts of 2015, he played well in the regular season. The former third baseman saw a second chance at his career once he moved to the outfield and he’s a perfect fit to stay in Kansas City.
4. Jordan Zimmermann: Diamondbacks
Arizona needs a pitcher to contend in a division where they may be able to fight for a wild card position. Zimmermann has proven that he can pitch after having Tommy John surgery and he could be overlooked in a market that boasts David Price and Zach Greinke. He’s not as much of a strikeout machine as other ace pitchers, but he still has the potential to be a number one starter.
5. Yoenis Cespedes: Giants
The Giants are behind the Dodgers now in terms of pennant contending NL West clubs. They need to make a splash and add to their anemic outfield, and Cespedes is just the bat to do it. He showed he can play in the post season with the New York Mets and had a monstrous second half after being traded from the Detroit Tigers.
6. Jason Heyward: Angels
The Angels need outfielders. We saw that at the 2015 MLB trade deadline when they brought in both David Murphy and Shane Victorino. Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun are both stars in this league (Trout with a slight edge… maybe) but Heyward would add a bat that puts them over the top, and the Angels have never been afraid to spend money. He could get a near north of $200 million since he is still just 26 years old.
7. Chris Davis: Astros
While the Astros had a strong 2015, they lacked a presence at the corner infield. Luis Valbuena provided some pop from third base but struggled to hit over the mendoza line, and the same is true for first basemen Brett Wallace and Chris Carter. Houston is close to being a contending team and if they are willing to spend, Davis would be a great left handed middle of the order complement to the right handed power hitter Evan Gattis.
8. Johnny Cueto: Giants
Cueto was not bad for the Royals. He was very much a part of the team that won the World Series. However, once again he is an example of a pitcher who benefitted from the National League with the Cincinnati Reds. Cueto could bolster the Giants staff that already contains Madison Bumgarner and a (hopefully) healthy Matt Cain. His value might have lowered from his mediocre second half, and he might get less than $130 million.
9. Ben Zobrist: Royals
Zobrist’s age of 35 might be a hindrance for him getting more than a three year deal. He fit so well with the Royals, and coming off of a World Series, it’s easy to see him returning. However, Zobrist being a super utility player means he could fit with so many teams and so many different deals. The Yankees and Astros could be runner ups.
10. Matt Weiters: Braves
The Georgia native would be a reasonable upgrade for the Braves behind the plate. Wieters bounced back nicely following tommy john surgery but the Orioles have to be happy with Caleb Joseph as well. That might force Weiters out of Baltimore’s price range. Atlanta can do better than AJ Pierzynski and Christian Bethancourt. Coming off of injury, the Braves should get a discount on the catcher.
11. Justin Upton: Indians
Cleveland needs a center fielder, and while Colby Rasmus might be more reasonably priced, the Indians have a chance to make a splash in the AL Central. Upton should be trying to aim for the same contract Jacoby Ellsbury got with the New York Yankees, and while the Indians might fall out of that range, its still a need and they should go for it.
12. John Lackey: Cardinals
Lackey pitched surprisingly well for the past three seasons following an atrocious 2012 showing in Boston. He pitched for the league minimum last season and bolstered the Cardinals rotation with Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright injured for parts of the season. He might be able to return on a two or three year deal at his age.
13. Scott Kazmir: Orioles
Baltimore could lose left handed pitcher Wei-Yen Chen this off season and their pitching staff is already one of the weakest in the American League. After having tremendous success in both Oakland and Houston, Kazmir is an affordable option to add a veteran to their staff.
14. Ian Desmond: Mets
Ruben Tejada is going to miss time next season and Wilmer Flores has proven to be a liability defensively. Since the Mets are likely to lose Daniel Murphy, moving Flores to second base and signing Desmond might make the most sense. He did struggle with a .233 average in 2015, the lowest of his career, but he also hit 19 home runs, which any team would take from its shortstop.
15. Hishashi Iwakuma: Mariners
An owner of a perfect game in 2015, Iwakuma has always been a great fit in Seattle. When healthy, he has always pitched well, pitching to an ERA of 3.54 in 2015. After Felix Hernandez the Mariners rotation falters, so they should want to keep Iwakuma around.
16. Yovani Gallardo: Rangers
While the Tigers or Red Sox could also be fits, Gallardo pitched well in Texas and a team that has historically struggled with pitching should be hard pressed to let him go. His qualifying offer might scare teams away as well, so a return to Texas seems fitting.
17. Daniel Murphy: Angels
Anaheim needs a left handed bat and some versatility. Second base was a position they struggled with all of 2015 between Tyler Featherstrom and Johnny Giavotella. Murphy can slide in at second base and provide some hitting for what was one of the weakest offensive middle infields in baseball in 2015. It’s hard to see Murphy getting more than four years at the age of 32.
18. Marco Estrada: Blue Jays
Estrada had an overwhelmingly underrated season in 2015. Price stole his thunder somewhat, but Estrada was the real ace of the Blue Jays and he continued to pitch well into the post season. The 32 year old is a late bloomer after being acquired from Milwaukee for Adam Lind, but he was a true shot in the arm. Oakland or Tampa Bay could make a play for the affordable pitcher, but it makes sense to remain in Toronto.
19. Colby Rasmus: Astros
Rasmus has always been an interesting case. He shows all the potential in the world but has never quite put it all together. 2015 with the Astros he showed what he can be, and he should draw interest from the Indians and San Diego Padres. However, this is a case where Rasmus is comforable in Houston and that may be the most important thing.
20. Darren O’Day: Red Sox
O’Day is the best relief pitcher on the free agent market. Surprisingly after a last place season, Boston does not have many holes. One glaring mark however is the bullpen. O’Day might be the best acquisition they can make other than potentially an ace pitcher via trade.