The MLB off season is upon us, and that means free agency opens soon. It’s a weaker market in some areas, like starting pitching, but others, such as closers and right handed power, are excellent. Here are the top 20 free agents and where they may end up.
- Yoenis Cespedes- San Francisco Giants
It came as no surprise when Cespedes declined his option to stay with the Mets. The Giants need outfield depth and always seem to have a move or two up their sleeves. He’s likely to play the corner outfield, preferably left, and the Giants are in need of a left fielder specifically. He’s likely going to get a contract of five years or more, and the Giants have proven they are willing to go that length for players they like.
2. Edwin Encarnacion- Boston Red Sox
Rumored since the season ended, Encarnacion would certainly begin to fill the hole of David Ortiz in the Boston order. There’s enough uncertainty around Pablo Sandoval to make this move, even though Hanley Ramirez proved adequate at first base. Since Travis Shaw struggled, and Sam Travis tore his ACL last season and may not be ready for this coming year, there is a need for another corner infielder bat, and it can’t hurt to have another righty power hitter at Fenway. If this doesn’t happen, Matt Holliday could be a backup plan since he can play some outfield and first base as well.
3. Jose Bautista- Toronto Blue Jays
If the Jays are going to lose Edwin, they’ll have to keep Jose. If they keep Encarnacion, this might change, but as of now Toronto shouldn’t want to lose one of the stars that put them on the map.
4. Wilson Ramos- Baltimore Orioles
Ramos saw his stock rise dramatically in his season with Washington, but at this point, the catcher likely has some DH reps in his future. Playing at Camden Yards would bring him plenty of success, and he’s a huge upgrade over Matt Wieters. His injury should put him in the affordable range for the O’s as well.
5. Aroldis Chapman- Washington Nationals
The Nationals might have to replace Melancon, and they have the funds to sign Chapman, who is going to get a lengthy deal. The Yankees or Giants should also be in on Chapman, and maybe even the Cubs, but Washington has been trying to settle its back of the rotation for a while now. The hardest throwing pitcher in baseball is going to get an insane contract, and the Nationals continue to be a disappointment, even after making the playoffs this year. They can’t have another early exit, and as early favorites in the NL East, this is the best way to improve.
6. Justin Turner- Los Angeles Dodgers
Turner is going to get interest, but there’s no reason the Dodgers don’t keep the third baseman. Los Angeles is probably going to lose its other free agents, and they attempted to qualify Turner. The righty bat is one of the better hitters in that lineup, and he’ll be contended for, but he should be a priority for the Dodgers.
7. Ian Desmond- Baltimore Orioles
Desmond made a lot of noise with the Rangers this year following a disappointing contract, and he expanded his versatility in playing the outfield. If the Orioles can’t retain Mark Trumbo, who might get too pricey, Desmond would be a good addition so the outfield doesn’t take a hit. Baltimore probably wants to spend a lot on pitching, but Desmond would be a solid, affordable add to an already good lineup.
8. Dexter Fowler- Cleveland Indians
The Indians need another outfielder still, and they saw plenty of Fowler in the World Series. Fowler had a chance to take a multi year deal in Baltimore before choosing to sign a one year contract with the Cubs, and his value went even higher. The Indians are a couple of bats off, especially in the outfield, and Fowler would be a huge addition.
9. Michael Saunders- Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers need another lefty bat, and especially if they lose Reddick, Saunders is a good add. Saunders did not get a qualifying offer from the Jays, and they probably won’t retain him. He had a bad first half, and had a rough run overall in Toronto even though he had his moments.
10. Matt Wieters- Atlanta Braves
Before surprisingly staying in Baltimore last season, I had actually predicted Wieters to end up with the Braves. The catcher is a Georgia native, and after he rebounded from an elbow injury, his stock is high again. Wieters has massive potential as a bat still, and the Braves need all the thump in the lineup they can get. He’s a veteran but also young enough to be a core piece.
11. Kenley Jensen- New York Yankees
The Yankees are one of the teams who need a bullpen guy after trading away Chapman and Andrew Miller. New York, despite a rebuild effort at the trade deadline, is aiming to contend this year and have the pieces. Jensen is one of the best pitchers on the market in what’s actually a strong closers market.
12. Jeremy Hellickson- Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore’s downfall was starting pitching, and Hellickson is one of the better pitchers on the market. He wasn’t traded by the Phillies in the off season, and he tops what is an extremely weak class for starting pitchers.
13. Mark Trumbo- Astros
After his big year, the Orioles should want to keep Trumbo around. However, they might not be able to afford him, and could instead go with Ian Desmond who has more versatility. Trumbo’s market is interesting because if he’s not limited to a DH role, Miami and Colorado are perfect fits. The White Sox are, too, only they shouldn’t be looking at adding salary. If the Red Sox don’t sign Encarnacion, they could be in on Trumbo, and the Jays could be as well, but a team that needs another bat is the Astros, looking to contend in a subpar AL West.
14. Ivan Nova- Texas Rangers
Nova was solid with the Pirates, but Pittsburgh is known for revitalizing pitcher’s careers. Texas always seems to need more pitching depth, and Nova has had some success in the American league with the Yankees. Texas needs probably one more pitcher, and since its a weaker market, that means Nova is going to get overvalued. The Rangers are one of the teams with no choice but to overvalue him.
15. Mark Melancon- San Francisco Giants
The Giants are one of three teams that desperately need to add an end of the bullpen reliever. Melancon has only had success in the National League, but “Sharnado” pitched terrific with the Pirates to be one of the leading three relief pitchers to hit free agency.
16. Rich Hill- Los Angeles Angels
Hill was a bit of a disappointment late with injuries after he got off to a torrid start. The Yankees have shown some interest, and the Rangers will as well. Hill had a good run in Oakland before being sent to the Dodgers and has some serious upside and will probably be underpaid, even on a weak pitchers market.
17. Josh Reddick- Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays will need to replace some bats in the lineup, and the addition of Reddick, who should find success in a bandbox like Rogers Centre, would help the right-heavy order. The 30-year-old outfielder has plenty of power. His only issue has been he’s somewhat injury prone, but the Jays lineup is deep enough where they can afford him and get a lefty bat in there.
18. Carlos Gomez- Philadelphia Phillies
Gomez has had an odd couple of years. He’s looking for five years, which he probably won’t get, but a team like the Phillies could use the veteran presence. He played well to end the season with the Rangers after a disappointing stint in Houston, and that may have upped his value enough to not have to take a pillow contract.
19. Mike Napoli- Cleveland Indians
Napoli fit right in with the Indians and there’s no reason he won’t return. Seattle has shown some interest as well, and he’d honestly be a good fit with any American League club. Yet the Indians, coming off a World Series appearance, should be the favorites again in the Central and will want to keep the lineup together.
20. Kendrys Morales- Toronto Blue Jays
Morales feels like a perfect fit for the Jays looking for its lineup to keep pace. He can be a nice alternative to whoever doesn’t end up with Encarnacion. Since he doesn’t play in the field as much, it might make more sense for the Jays to end up with the switch hitter, and since the Royals did not qualify him, Toronto won’t have to surrender a draft pick.