With Major League Baseball’s General Managers Meetings in full swing, teams officially are in offseason mode. And that means evaluating who’s free for the taking.
This year’s free agent market is one of the most stacked in recent memory, and it’s highlighted by some serious aces and quality bats. Let’s see how the top 25 guys stack up.
1. David Price, LHP: Price is the big prize in this year’s MLB offseason. He’s a left-handed ace, he’ll be 30 on Opening Day, he hasn’t seen any decline in his velocity and he can give you 200-plus innings with 200-plus strikeouts pretty easily. Price finished 2015 — which he split between the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays — with an 18-5 record and 2.45 ERA and was instrumental in getting the Jays to the postseason.
As an added bonus, Price wasn’t eligible for a qualifying offer and won’t cost the team that signs him a draft pick.
2. Jason Heyward, RF: Heyward very well could earn the most money of all this offseason’s free agents. The right fielder provides a consistent left-handed bat with Gold Glove-worthy defense. Heyward’s not a power hitter — he had 13 home runs and 60 RBIs with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015 — but his .293 average, .359 OBP and 23 stolen bases speak for themselves. And at 26, his best years could be ahead of him.
3. Zack Greinke, RHP: Greinke could have been No. 1 on this list, but it’s likely he’ll remain with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Other teams certainly will come calling, but the Dodgers have plenty of money to offer the National League Cy Young candidate.
4. Alex Gordon, LF: Gordon has a World Series ring now and is likely to collect his fifth straight Gold Glove soon. Like Heyward, he’s not a power hitter, but his .271 average and .809 OPS definitely will catch the eyes of teams looking for a player similar to Heyward who’ll come cheaper at 32 years old.
5. Justin Upton, LF: Upton is your first power hitter on the list, due in large part because he’s 28 years young. The left fielder didn’t have his best season with the San Diego Padres, but he still came out of it with 26 home runs and doubles, 81 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. Expect him to go to a team that already has a pretty well developed lineup.
6. Johnny Cueto, RHP: Cueto didn’t show his best stuff with the Kansas City Royals (besides a complete game in the World Series), but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the most coveted free agent starters. An elbow issue early in the 2015 season could turn some teams away, but Cueto definitely is worth the risk.
7. Chris Davis, 1B: Davis is the best pure power hitter on this list, but his value slips a little thanks to a bad 2014 and a whole lot of strikeouts. Davis batted .262 with 47 home runs and 117 RBIs this season to go with a whopping 208 Ks, and that followed a season in which he went .196 with 26 home runs. Still, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives, easily earning Davis a top-10 spot.
8. Yoenis Cespedes, CF: What’s not to like about a .291 average, 35 home runs and 105 RBIs to go with a cannon arm? Cespedes will provide power to any lineup, but it’s hard to say him being on four teams over two seasons isn’t at least a little concerning.
9. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP: Zimmermann is another guy who shouldn’t have a problem giving you 200 consistent innings. The 29-year-old didn’t have a perfect 2015, going 13-10 with a 3.66 ERA, but his career 70-50 record and 3.32 ERA are solid. Zimmermann could wind up being a bargain for whichever team picks him up.
10. Howie Kendrick, 2B: Teams are pretty much guaranteed to get production out of Kendrick, who’s a career .293 hitter. The 32-year-old isn’t a power hitter by any means, but he’ll make a solid addition to a team that already has a pretty established lineup.
11. Ian Desmond, SS: Desmond started off 2015 pretty horribly, going .211 with a .589 OPS and 20 errors. He picked himself back up post-All-Star break and gave teams reason to believe he really is a three-time Silver Slugger with a 2012 All-Star nod. As one of the better shortstops in the league, Desmond could be willing to take a one-year, bounce-back contract.
12. Ben Zobrist, 2B: Zobrist gets a sneakily high ranking thanks to the fact that he has it all. He’s a switch hitter who can get on base, and you can throw him pretty much anywhere on the field. The fact that he’s 35 might work against him, or it might get a team a productive player who’ll likely come at a discount.
13. Mike Leake, RHP: Leake isn’t the sexiest option in a rotation, but he’s posted consistent numbers for the past three seasons and can give around 200 innings. Leake will be 28 on Opening Day, which makes him a low-risk, high-reward signing as long as he doesn’t command an overpriced contract.
14. John Lackey, RHP: Who thought we’d see the day when a 37-year-old Lackey was someone teams wanted? Lackey seems to have only gotten better after returning from Tommy John surgery in 2013 to become a key piece of the Boston Red Sox’s World Series-winning rotation. He also posted a career-best 2.77 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015.
However, Lackey could wind up becoming the first player ever to accept a qualifying offer, because one year at $15.8 million sounds a lot better than the $507,500 he made last season.
15. Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP: Hisashi Iwakuma is another pitcher who seems to have benefited from getting older. Iwakuma will be 35 in April, but in four MLB seasons, he’s posted a 47-25 record with a 3.17 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He also threw his first no-hitter last season. Teams could be reluctant to lose a draft pick for Iwakuma after the Seattle Mariners gave him a qualifying offer, but he could be a good No. 3 starter with No. 2 potential for a club in need.
16. Wei-Yin Chen, LHP: Chen has only shown improvement in four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and could provide some nice left-handed depth to a rotation. Chen finished 2015 with an 11-8 record and a 3.34 ERA, and at 30 years old there’s reason to believe he could stay on the trajectory he’s on now.
17. Matt Wieters, C: Wieters could be considered a risk after missing most of the 2014 season and the beginning of 2015 following Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. However, Wieters is an above-average defensive catcher with power from both sides of the plate, and those don’t exactly grow on trees in the MLB.
18. Jeff Samardzija, RHP: Make no mistake, Samardzija had a bad 2015 season, going 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA in his first year with the Chicago White Sox. But this actually makes Shark appealing. There’s no reason to think Samardzjia can’t bounce back, so if he’s willing to go to a team on a one-year deal to prove his worth, that club could hit the jackpot.
19. Daniel Murphy, 2B: Forgive us if you believe the legend of Daniel Murphy, but the second baseman might be a little overrated. Murphy’s record-setting six straight home runs in the postseason prove he has some intangibles going for him, but he’s not that kind of power hitter in the regular season. His career .288 average is appealing, but his below-average defense will make it hard for him to get the $75 million contract one American League general manager thought he could command.
20. Colby Rasmus, CF: Rasmus might be the ultimate low-risk, high-reward signing. His average has been mediocre at best for the past few seasons — he hit .238 last season with the Houston Astros — but he can hit for power, slugging a career-best 25 home runs in 2015. The only catch is, Rasmus might ultimately accept his qualifying offer from the Astros, as it’s hard to believe he could fetch a deal larger that $15.8 million for a single season.
21. Scott Kazmir, LHP: Kazmir definitely isn’t going to be No. 1 on any team’s wishlist, but the lefty, who’ll be 32 on Opening Day, could be a good value pick-up. Kazmir didn’t show up after being traded to the Houston Astros, but the 2.38 ERA and 101 strikeouts he posted for the Oakland Athletics in the first half of the season means he still has some gas in the tank.
22. Marco Estrada, RHP: Estrada had a breakout year with the Blue Jays in 2015, but he was 31 years old. Like Kazmir, Estrada could provide good value to a team that already has an ace or picks one up in the offseason.
23. Yovani Gallardo, RHP: Gallardo has gone 102-75 with a 3.66 career ERA in two of MLB’s hitter-friendliest ballparks between the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers. He’s still pretty young at 29 years old (he’ll be 30 on Opening Day), so he could wind up being something special for a team whose confines are pitcher-friendly.
24. Doug Fister, RHP: Fister had a down year, but he still has good command. His career ERA-plus is above-average at 117, so Fister could provide a team with some serious value, especially if he’s willing to take a one-year deal.
25. Darren O’Day, RHP: It’s not common to see a reliever toward the top of the power rankings, but O’Day isn’t common. The submariner has been consistently good for eight seasons, excluding his first in 2008 and in 2011, when he was limited to 16 2/3 innings with injuries. Bolstering bullpens is a crapshoot, but O’Day’s numbers suggest he’s worth the gamble.
Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the third inning at PNC Park.
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