Of the top 10 entries on MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agents list, half are already off the market. David Price, Jason Heyward, Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmermann and Johnny Cueto have all signed new contracts, though there’s obviously still lots of top-tier talent still available, particularly on the position player side. Indeed, the five remaining top-10 players are all everyday players — three left fielders, a shortstop and a first baseman. There’s also been a notable lack of clarity about each player’s market (compounded by the fact that several of the same teams are interested in these same names), leaving some question about exactly who might come off the board next. Here are the candidates, in the order of their ranking on MLBTR’s list…
Justin Upton: There have been surprisingly few solid rumors about Upton’s market, as the Angels and Orioles have both at least spoken with Upton’s representatives but there’s been little evidence of a serious pursuit. He carries a high projected price tag (MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes thinks Upton will get a seven-year, $147MM deal) and he’ll cost his new team a draft pick as qualifying offer compensation, though Upton’s main problem could simply be the glut of other quality outfielders on the free agent and trade markets. That said, it’s hard to believe Upton won’t eventually wind up with a lucrative deal given the number of potential suitors that could use a big outfield bat.
Chris Davis: The Orioles, Davis’ former team, made a $150MM offer to the slugger that has since been taken off the table. The Cardinals, Blue Jays and Red Sox have been speculatively linked to Davis but Baltimore is the only club known to be firmly pursuing him. If Davis and agent Scott Boras are really looking for an eight-year, $200MM offer, however, it’s hard to see any team taking the plunge at that price, despite Boras’ track record of scoring higher-than-expected contracts for his clients.
Yoenis Cespedes: Upton and Cespedes share many of the same issues clouding their market, though Cespedes is two years older but can be signed without draft pick compensation. (Cespedes, in fact, is the only player of these five who doesn’t have the qualifying offer hanging over his free agency.) The Orioles and Angels have also been lightly linked to Cespedes, with the Tigers, Royals and Giants also being involved. The White Sox have also been mentioned as a possible suitor for Cespedes or Upton, as they have a left field vacancy.
Alex Gordon: Though Gordon is four and two years older, respectively, than Upton and Cespedes, he’s been getting a lot more interest from a variety of teams — the Cardinals, Astros, Royals, Giants, Angels, Red Sox, Cubs, Orioles and Tigers have all been linked to Gordon at one time or another this winter. At least a few of those teams, however, can probably be eliminated from contention due to other moves; the Cubs signed Heyward and Colby Rasmus accepted Houston’s qualifying offer, for instance. Dierkes projected a five-year, $105MM deal for Gordon, so it’s not surprising that teams are exploring their options before deciding to give up a draft pick and give a nine-figure deal to a 32-year-old.
Ian Desmond: Whereas the other four names on this list had good-to-excellent walk years, Desmond headed into free agency burdened by a poor 2015 season (.233/.290/.384 in 641 PA, 83 wRC+, -3.7 UZR/150). It’s made for a slow market for Desmond, as teams with shortstop needs like the Padres and Mets have shown only marginal interest. What may help Desmond, however, is that he may not be limited to shortstop-needy teams, as his agents have been pushing him as a multi-position player capable of handling the outfield. The strategy seems to be working to some extent, as multiple teams are considering Desmond not just at short or the outfield but also at second and third.
With all these factors in mind, who will be the next member of MLBTR’s Top 10 to sign a new contract? (MLBTR app users can weigh in here)