Opening Night is less than two weeks away, and none of the top ten free agents from the first installment of our Power Rankings seem close to an extension. It’s time for an update.
As a reminder, these rankings represent the earning power in terms of total contract size, assuming everyone reaches the open market and goes to the highest bidder. Here’s MLBTR’s full list of 2015-16 free agents.
1. Justin Upton. Padres GM A.J. Preller explained his Upton trade recently to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune, saying, “We made this deal with eyes open, knowing that this may be a long-term relationship and it may end up being a one-year relationship.” In December, Upton’s agent Larry Reynolds said they won’t be negotiating in-season, so the young slugger seems likely to reach the open market.
2. Jason Heyward. In contrast, Heyward seems willing to negotiate in-season. Check out Derrick Goold’s March 9th piece for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for an in-depth look at the Cardinals’ new outfielder. Heyward said of his contract, “The sooner that is done the better, for me,” while also hedging against any urgency in the comments that followed. But I found that comment telling, as well as his emphasis on comfort and a good fit. In February, I talked about Heyward potentially signing the largest contract in free agent history if his power returns. That’s the best case, open-market scenario, however. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports polled a bunch of GMs in March about Heyward’s next contract, and most felt he’ll fall short of $200MM.
3. David Price. Price is another top free agent who seems willing to sign an in-season extension, though there were no talks as of March 12th. Five days prior, the lefty had said he didn’t think the Tigers would wait until he nears free agency to open up discussions.
4. Ian Desmond. All is quiet on the Desmond contract front, as the shortstop prefers. Based on the currently available information, he seems headed for free agency after the season.
5. Johnny Cueto. Reds GM Walt Jocketty told Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM earlier this month, “We’ve had some discussions,” and said he wanted to let the team’s fans know they’re still trying. This seems like a case where the hometown team will make a valiant effort but won’t be able to afford the player.
6. Jordan Zimmermann. Zimmermann doesn’t intend to discuss a contract during the season, so it appears he’ll hit the market. If the Nationals allow Desmond, Zimmermann, and Doug Fister to leave, they’ll be in for an interesting offseason of retooling.
7. Alex Gordon. There has been “not one bit” of contract discussion between Gordon’s agent and the Royals, the left fielder told Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star last week. December wrist surgery delayed Gordon’s spring debut, and he’s only played in two games to date.
9. Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija told reporters earlier this month he’s in a “pretty intense situation with a lot on the line.” He told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports on March 5th that there were no contract talks with the White Sox, and he doesn’t want to talk in-season. Heyman feels it would be an upset to see the big righty sign an extension prior to free agency.
10. Yoenis Cespedes. The lone new entrant on this list, Cespedes told reporters in March he’d “like to be in a Tigers uniform for a lot of years.” The 29-year-old slugger is ineligible to receive a qualifying offer, it should be noted.
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters loses his spot at #10, as he’s likely to start the season on the DL. He is still on schedule in his recovery from June Tommy John surgery, but it would be good for his free agent value to see him behind the dish and firing on all cylinders before May.