We’re about 45% of the way through the 2015 MLB season, and free agency looms for several of the game’s star players. It’s time for a new installment of the 2016 MLB Free Agent Power Rankings.
As a reminder, these rankings represent earning power in terms of total contract size, assuming everyone reaches the open market after this season and goes to the highest bidder. Here’s MLBTR’s full list of 2015-16 free agents.
1. Justin Upton. Upton hasn’t shown much power in the last month or so, but he still tops our list. He’ll need to pick the pace back up to exceed his career high of 31 home runs. The Padres’ playoff chances don’t look too promising, so Upton could become ineligible for a qualifying offer with a trade next month.
2. David Price. Price has been stellar in his seven starts since we last checked in, and his 2.42 ERA ranks fourth in the American League. He’ll turn 30 in August, and seems poised for a record megadeal. I’m not quite there yet, but I could see Price passing Upton on this list before the season is through.
3. Jason Heyward. With home runs in his last three games, Heyward reminded us that he does still have some pop in his bat. Here’s some cherry-picking: he’s hitting .304/.350/.489 since April 23rd. If this winds up being Heyward’s best offensive year since 2012, he could get $200MM.
4. Johnny Cueto. Cueto remains one of the best pitchers in the National League, but he went 13 days between starts in late May/early June due to a sore elbow. A May 26th MRI showed no structural damage. Cueto returned and looked fine in four starts, but then had his turn skipped earlier this week. The conspiracy theorist in me says the Reds are being a little cagey here, avoiding putting Cueto on the DL so far for the purpose of trade value. Still, it’s not as if suitors wouldn’t be fully aware of the state of Cueto’s elbow. What we know for sure: it’s not nothing. For now, Cueto’s free agent value takes a little dip.
5. Zack Greinke. It’s tough to move Greinke up this high, because his earning power is limited by his age. Greinke turns 32 in October, which may be too old for a six-year deal. Still, he leads all of baseball with a 1.70 ERA. Greinke will be a year older than Jon Lester was, but will have a better resume.
6. Alex Gordon. Gordon’s 2015 season looks a lot like his 2014, but with more walks and HBPs sprinkled in. He may not strike you as a superstar, but Gordon is probably the game’s best left fielder right now. One team might be willing to go well over $100MM for his perceived dependability.
7. Jordan Zimmermann. Zimmermann’s season, and free agent value, is still kind of up in the air. I’m not sure exactly what he is, though I know he’s not at the level of Price or Cueto. At 29, Zimmermann has youth on his side, but this year the strikeouts have been lacking and he’s allowed ten hits per nine innings. I wouldn’t want to go five or six years at $20MM+ for him. His market could be weird – his age should get him a better deal than James Shields, but he’s not going to be at the status Lester was.
8. Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes has been raking in the last month, and his 2.8 wins above replacement on the season ranks first among all free agent hitters. He’ll be just 30 in October, and could ascend a few more spots up these rankings with a strong second half. Bonus: he’s ineligible for a qualifying offer.
9. Ian Desmond. Desmond’s 2015 season has been a disaster so far. If he finishes the season as a replacement level player, how can a team place a value on him? One-year contracts have not been in vogue lately, even for free agents coming off disappointing seasons, but that might be best for Desmond.
10. Jeff Samardzija. The results haven’t been there for Samardzija, who sports a 4.53 ERA and has allowed 10.5 hits per nine innings. This month alone, he’s allowed 10+ hits in three different starts. But you have to wonder if Chicago’s defense has something to do with his .338 batting average on balls in play, and maybe he’d be a 3.50 ERA workhorse on a different team. A trade seems inevitable, giving Samardzija a chance at a midseason do-over.
Matt Wieters made his season debut on June 5th, having recovered from Tommy John surgery performed a year prior. The 29-year-old has looked good in a brief sample, serving as catcher in 11 of the Orioles’ 19 games. He’s definitely a free agent to monitor in the coming months. Wieters’ teammate and fellow impending free agent Chris Davis has also been playing well of late. On the pitching side, Yovani Gallardo, A.J. Burnett, and Scott Kazmir have been on a roll.