Where Will They Land: 2016 MLB Free Agency
Zack Greinke is just one of many high profile MLB free agents this offseason. (Arturo Pardavila III: Flickr)
The leaves have fallen and the temperature has dropped. The dog days of summer are long gone and so is the 2015 MLB Season. It was an unbelievable season filled with shattered records and shattered hearts of New York Mets fans. With the end of every season comes the beginning of another, the offseason, and this free agent class is shaping up to be one of the best in a long time. There’s plenty of pitching to go around as well as power bats and veterans looking to play out their careers. Where else to start than arguably the most dominant pitcher in baseball today:
Greinke had a season for the record books. He finished the year with a jaw dropping 1.66 ERA, 19-3 record and 200 strikeouts in 222.2 innings pitched as well as a Gold Glove Award, which likely isn’t the last piece of hardware he’ll receive for his work. He opted out of his three year $71 million option which indicates that he’s looking for something in the range of $30 million per year. At 32-years-old this is likely his last long term contract. Teams that will be interested in signing Greinke will be the stereotypical big market teams: Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and even the Blue Jays are expected to be involved. Since he joined the Dodgers in 2013 he is 51-15 and his ERA is 2.33, and with Kershaw in that rotation the Dodgers are a force to be reckoned with.
Prediction: Dodgers. They have plenty of money this offseason and resigning Greinke is their number one priority. With the pieces they have right now they are the favorite to win the World Series in 2016, especially with Kershaw and Greinke in that rotation again. How much money are we talking here? After the type of season he had last year don’t be surprised if he signs for 5 years/$160 million.
The best left hander in baseball has jumped around from Tampa to Detroit and most recently in Toronto. Although his 18-5 record and 2.45 ERA might be good enough to earn him his second AL CY Young, everyone wants to talk about his kryptonite, the postseason. He has a 2-7 record and 5.12 ERA in a sample size of 63.1 innings. Price’s playoff woes are real, there’s no doubt about that. Although he should be earning what Greinke will get, those playoff numbers will shave off a few million but at 30-years-old and no signs of aging, expect him to get long term security. Possible suitors will be: Red Sox, Cubs, Yankees, Blue Jays, Tigers and Giants
Prediction: Red Sox. Dan Dombrowski has made it known that the Red Sox desperately need an ace, and with the recent addition of Craig Kimbrel, expect Boston to make a big splash this offseason. Price will be the newest member of the $200 million club. The Red Sox will look to sign him for seven years/$203 million.
Cespedes is the most intriguing bat in the free agent class. He was the spark plug that led the Mets into the postseason, and provides a ton of pop in the middle of any lineup and one of the most feared throwing arms in baseball. The market for Cespedes will not be the typical big market team, though. Cespedes likes to do his own thing and play the game in his style. Expect the teams in the mix to be the Padres, Mets, Tigers, Orioles, White Sox and Giants. Cespedes at 30-years-old will definitely be looking for at least six years and about 25 million per year.
Prediction: White Sox. I’m gonna go out on a limb here, Cespedes will go to the South Side and join the Chicago White Sox. Before the season, the White Sox were very hopeful and a favorite to win the AL Central. After finishing with a dismal 76-86, record they need to make some noise. They have young pieces like Jose Abreu and Chris Sale to build around, and I think the addition of Cespedes could make them a real threat in the AL Central. Although this may be above Cespedes’ value, as a Roc Nation client I think he’ll sign for six years/$114 million.
Coming off the best year of his career in St. Louis, Heyward will surely get a big pay day this offseason. At only 26-years-old and five-tool capability, he’ll also be looking for long term security in someone’s outfield. If you look up who is interested in Heyward the list is very, very long. Who wouldn’t want a .300 bat, cannon in the outfield and someone with the ability to fit in just about anywhere in the lineup. The shortlist of teams involved will be the Cardinals, Giants, Orioles, Mariners and Rangers. Don’t be surprised if he signs for about eight or nine years.
Prediction: Cardinals. Heyward will stay put in St. Louis. Remember, not too long ago the Cardinals gave up their ace of the future, Shelby Miller, in order to get Heyward in their outfield. The core of the Cardinals: Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Adam Wainwright are beginning to show age, and the next guys up are a solid group that Heyward will lead. Alongside Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha and Randal Grichuk the Cardinals show no signs of losing any time soon. Expect the Cardinals to break the bank for Heyward. I foresee eight years/$192 million.
Cueto has been considered one of the most underrated RHP in baseball up until he joined Kansas City. He struggled mightily in the AL posting a 4-7 record and a 4.76 ERA. What saved Cueto though, was his postseason, more specifically his complete game two hitter in the World Series. Many teams will be looking for Cueto to top their rotation and will be willing to pay him what he’s looking for. Those teams looking for Cueto to be their man will be the Royals, Red Sox, Yankees and Angels.
Prediction: Angels. The Angels are a front-line starter away from running away with the AL West. When you have the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, locked up you need to build around him. Although Garrett Richards is a solid arm (and my pick to win this past year’s CY Young), he needs to continue to work on his control and composure (2nd in the AL in walks allowed and 1st in the AL in wild pitches in both 2014 and 2015). To focus on Richards’ development, some of the pressure should be taken off of him, and Cueto would be the guy to do that. Cueto should receive a contract in the ballpark of six years/$132 million.
For most of his career Gordon has been mightily underrated, playing in a small market that never wins, until now. Gordon is the veteran that has stuck with the Royals through thick and thin, and that really says something about the type of guy he is. But, with all things considered, Gordon’s numbers are not good enough to earn $20 million per year. He’ll have a big contract but it won’t be for as many years, or for as long as he would hope. He’ll be 32 by Opening Day 2016 and hasn’t hit over .300 since 2011. In his 31 playoff games he’s only hitting .222 with 30 strikeouts. His gold glove defense in the outfield and solid track record of durability will earn him a big pay day. Teams interested in Gordon will be the Royals, Orioles, Indians, Red Sox and Mets.
Prediction: Royals. Gordon will return to Kansas City and finish his career with the only club he’s ever played for. The Royals like what they currently have, and I think they’ll do what they can to make sure Gordon returns. Although Gordon is looking for five years and the Royals are thinking three years at this point, it’s still very early, and I think they’ll come around. Expect Gordon to sign for five years/$90 million.
Let’s recap Daniel Murphy’s postseason. He batted .328 with seven HR and 11 RBI and posted a slugging percentage of .724. His lasting impression though is his .150 average and crucial errors in the World Series. The same thing kept coming up with him, “He’s a good hitter, with a bad glove, and a bad baserunner.” This is something I can’t disagree more with. Murphy is a good left handed hitter that can go just about anywhere in the lineup. He can play second base, third base and first base, and although it may not be Gold Glove defense, he is not a bad infielder. On the base paths, he’s no Dee Gordon, but he has the capability to steal 15 bases. With the Mets out of the picture, teams in need of an infielder, the Yankees, Orioles, Rockies and Dodgers, will be interested.
Prediction: Rockies. The Rockies will sign Daniel Murphy to be their first baseman. The team would then have an infield with Murphy, DJ LeMahieu, Jose Reyes and young superstar Nolan Arenado, who could be one of the best in the majors. Then, with Carlos Gonzalez in the outfield and add 82 games a mile above sea level to that equation, the Rockies could be a threat in the NL West. Many teams don’t believe Murphy will fit into what they’re looking for so I think the Rockies will get a steal here. Four years/$54 million.