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MLB free agency 2016: Predicting where the top free agents land


November 9, 2016

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With the five-day grace period over after the 2016 World Series, MLB free agency officially began on Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. Unlike the NFL and NBA where players tend to sign in the first couple of hours, nobody made any significant moves early on in the MLB free agency period.

It takes a little while before anyone of importance signs. Usually it’s after Thanksgiving and into the MLB Winter Meetings when you start to see some major movement from teams signing the top free agents, If you were watching the Presidential Election on Tuesday night and were wondering if you missed any major action in the MLB offseason, relax, you didn’t.

Where will the top players on the market land? We’ll make our predictions here.

1. Aroldis Chapman, closer, Chicago Cubs

He’s coming off winning a championship with the Chicago Cubs, and now, he’s looking to get paid and potentially, become the highest paid reliever ever. And even though he was gassed in Game 7, he’s still one of the most dominating closers in the game with exciting stuff.

Prediction: Yankees; 5 years, $90 million

2. Yoenis Cespedes, outfielder, New York Mets

Cespedes had another solid season in Queens with the Mets and decided to use his opt-out clause less than a year after he signed a 3-year, $75 million deal to remain with the team. He likes New York and most figure that he wants to stay. But he also wants to get paid. Do the Mets pay up or will another team try to swoop in and land him?

Prediction: Mets; 4 years, $105 million

3. Edwin Encarnacion, first baseman, Toronto Blue Jays

While Cespedes is the top outfield bat available on the market, Encarnacion is by far the best infield bat available to teams and even though at 34 years old, will likely command interest from teams who need right-handed pop in their lineup. Toronto wants to keep him, as they should since he’s been a big part of the last two Blue Jays teams who have reached the American League Championship Series. But it won’t be easy.

Prediction: Red Sox, five years, $102 million

4. Jose Bautista, outfielder, Toronto Blue Jays

Bautista has found a home with the Blue Jays after being a career journeyman for the beginning part of his career and has turned into a franchise icon for Toronto over the last five years. He’d probably like to stay given his success in Toronto, but he, just like Encarnacion, would like to get paid. He’s 36 though, so he’s not likely going to command a six or seven-year deal, but he’ll get paid this winter for the success he’s had.

Prediction: Blue Jays: four years, $89.5 million

5. Kenley Jansen, closer, Los Angeles Dodgers

Jansen had a tremendous season and if not for Aroldis Chapman being available and the best closer on the market, would be the top reliever available this winter. But his age is a bonus, as is his recent track record and success. The Dodgers know this too, and if they want to continue their success in the National League West, they’ll have to pony up to keep their young closer.

Prediction: Dodgers, four years, $68 million

6. Justin Turner, third baseman, Los Angeles Dodgers

Turner picked a heck of a time to have a career year with the Dodgers, in his walk season. The New York Mets may regret giving up on him too soon considering the infield struggles they had all last season with Lucas Duda and David Wright, but the Dodgers reaped the benefits of Turner looking for a second chance to succeed in the majors and rewarded them for that chance. Now, he’ll be rewarded in the wallet this winter.

Prediction: Dodgers, five years, $85 million

7. Dexter Fowler, outfielder, Chicago Cubs

Fowler was nearly part of the Baltimore Orioles this past Winter. However, at the very last second, he decided to remain with the Cubs on a one-year deal and had a heck of a season in Chicago that saw him win a championship

Who can forget how he started off Game 7 of the World Series in dramatic fashion with a lead-off home run against Corey Kluber? Fowler isn’t taking a one-year deal this winter and should have teams interested in his services.

Prediction: Rangers; four years, $56 million

8. Mark Trumbo, outfielder, Baltimore Orioles

A year ago, Trumbo was a struggling player for the Seattle Mariners who got shipped off to the Baltimore Orioles. That trade from Seattle to Baltimore may have been the best thing for Trumbo’s career, as he turned in the finest year of his season with a league-leading 47 home runs and an All-Star appearance for the 30-year-old slugger, who will get a decent payday. The Mariners may regret letting him slip away, but Trumbo may have finally found a place to call home.

Prediction: Orioles, four years, $78 million

9. Matt Wieters, catcher, Baltimore Orioles

Wieters shocked a lot of people last offseason when he was one of the first players ever to accept the qualifying offer, which kept him in Baltimore for one more season. Baltimore is likely moving on from Wieters, but considering this is a weak catching market, Wieters will draw interest from teams around the league and could end up moving to the National League with a fresh start.

Prediction: Mets; three years, $37.5 million

10. Mark Melancon, closer, Washington Nationals

Melancon is the third closer of the three top closers on the market this winter and just like Chapman and Jensen, Melancon, had a fine season pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Nationals. Top closers are at a premium this winter and teams paying top dollar for good relievers, especially for playoff teams who struggled late in games due to poor bullpen management.

Prediction: Giants, four years, $71 million

11. Rich Hill, starting pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s a very weak market for starting pitchers so that Hill will draw the most interest from teams in need of another veteran pitcher, but at 36, he’s not looking at a long-term deal, but he’s a left-handed starter who has rejuvenated his career after struggling to find work in the majors.

Prediction: Astros; three years, $48 million

12. Bartolo Colon, starting pitcher, New York Mets

At 43, Colon continues to defy the odds by continuing to put up solid numbers, and if it weren’t for Colon, the Mets might not have made the postseason. With Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz all going down with injuries, Colon became the team’s second-best starter in the second half of the season. A year ago, he accepted a one-year deal to be the fifth starter that would eventually get demoted to the bullpen. A year later, he may end up getting another two-year deal.

Prediction: Mets; two years, $24 million

13. Neil Walker, second baseman, New York Mets

Walker was having a great walk season in his first season in New York before he went down in the summer with a back injury; one that required season-ending back surgery and one that many thought would hurt his value on the market. He could end up having to settle for a one-year deal, which the Mets have offered with the qualifying offer. But do teams want to give up a first-round draft pick for a player who is coming off a major surgery? Wouldn’t count on it.

Prediction: Mets, one year, $17.2 million

14. Ian Desmond, outfielder, Texas Rangers

Desmond went from being a struggling shortstop who couldn’t find work and having to accept a one-year deal in Texas to looking like the former All-Star slugging player who was once offered a long-term deal to be the Nationals long-term answer in Washington. Yet, playing in Texas and going from the infield to the outfield really helped turn things around and just in time too for next payday, as he won’t have to accept a short-term deal.

Prediction: Rangers, four years, $60 million

15. Ivan Nova, starting pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates

Nova was a struggling starter with the Yankees who found a resurgence in his career with a trade to the National League and the Pirates and looked like the guy everyone saw in 2011 in New York that was bound to take the next step as a front-line starter. A year ago, Nova was recovering from Tommy John Surgery and hopeful to make it back to the major league and for the Yankees. Now, he’s likely going to strike a multi-year deal on the free agent market.

Prediction: Marlins, three years, $48 million

16. Wilson Ramos, catcher, Washington Nationals

Ramos was having one of his best seasons ever in the majors with Washington before a knee injury forced him out in September and may have hurt his value on the open market. But with a very weak catching market, Ramos is still one of the top catchers on the market. But will teams want to give him the money he once thought he was going to get? He’s still under 30 and is coming off an All-Star season with the Nationals, so he should be able to find work somewhere in the league, possibly with his team.

Prediction: Nationals, one year, $9 million

17. Carlos Beltran, outfielder, Texas Rangers

Beltran was tremendous for the Yankees in the final year of the three-year deal he signed with them after the 2013 season and at times, looked like he could be an MVP candidate for how well he played. Beltran still played well for the Rangers after he was dealt at the trading deadline and finished his season with 29 homers and 93 RBI; numbers that he has put up later in his career.

The 39-year-old All-Star is looking for one last payday in his career along with the chance to play for a contender and given his knees. He’s likely looking at an American League team where he can DH part of the time.

Prediction: Royals; two years, $26 million

18. Josh Reddick, outfielder, Los Angeles Dodgers

Reddick is four years removed since he was a 30/80 hitter for the Oakland A’s; injuries have been a major part of that, but he ended up becoming a part of the starting outfielder for the Dodgers late in the second half and found himself in the lineup once the postseason got going.

In an outfield market with mostly right-handed bats, Reddick is one of the few with left-handed power and could find himself getting a decent payday. He likely won’t be team’s first option for an outfielder, but he’s not a bad option as the fallback one.

Prediction: Astros; two years, $30 million

19. Colby Rasmus, outfielder, Houston Astros

Rasmus was another player who shocked people last winter by accepting the one-year qualifying offer to remain in Houston for one more season, but Houston will likely move on from the veteran outfielder, who hit for an extremely low average and was down in power from a season ago. He also dealt with injuries last season as well, so that might shed some years and dollars off his next deal, but as one of the few lefty bats who can hit for power, he’ll find a home somewhere, maybe even with one of his old teams.

Prediction: Blue Jays, two years, $22.5 million

20. Mike Napoli, first base, Cleveland Indians

Napoli is coming towards the later stages of his career, and the one-time catcher has now transitioned full-time into a first baseman. He’s still a 30/100 guy, which he was for the American League Champions and is a solid veteran presence to have that has a knack for coming up with big hits in clutch moments. He fits well with the Indians and at 34 he can play at first and serve as a DH when needed.

Prediction: Indians, two years, $27 million

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com