We’re now deep into the MLB offseason, and a number of the winter’s best free agents — David Price, Jason Heyward, Zack Greinke — are off the board. It has, however, been a quiet winter, at least in terms of the number of published reports, for many of the rest of the best players available. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal recently explored the reasons why, focusing on the qualifying offer, the lack of involvement in the market by some traditional big spenders (Yankees, Angels), the large number of rebuilding teams, and the robust trade market. Nonetheless, the free agent market is sure to pick up in the coming weeks. Here’s a look at the best ten free agents left, with their rankings from Tim Dierkes’ Top 50 free agents list from early November.
4. Justin Upton. Upton’s market has seemed quiet, with most recent news reports naming teams who aren’t likely to heavily pursue him (like the Angels, Cardinals and Giants). Upton’s agent met with the Orioles earlier this month (although their level of interest might be different now depending on their progress with Chris Davis and their deal with Hyun-soo Kim). The White Sox could perhaps enter the market for Upton.
5. Chris Davis. Davis has been most strongly connected with the Orioles, who made a significant offer earlier this month that they later rescinded (although without ruling out the possibility of future discussions). Beyond that, Davis’ market is unclear, not only from recent reports, but apparently also in the eyes of the Orioles themselves, who aren’t even sure who they’re bidding against.
6. Yoenis Cespedes. Like those of Upton and Davis, the rumor mill surrounding Cespedes has been relatively quiet. The Tigers reportedly have some interest, although perhaps only if Cespedes’ price drops. The Orioles have also been connected to Cespedes. The Mets have reportedly dropped out of the running.
9. Alex Gordon. The Royals have reportedly been told that there’s “no chance” they’ll re-sign Gordon if they don’t increase their offer, and recent comments from Arte Moreno seem to suggest that the Angels aren’t a likely destination either. The White Sox, however, have emerged as a possible suitor, and Gordon has been connected to a wide variety of teams this offseason.
10. Ian Desmond. It appears Desmond’s market has been slow to develop, which perhaps isn’t surprising given that he’s coming off a subpar season. The latest significant bits of news — and these are both over a week old — are that the Padres aren’t likely to make a large offer and that teams have at least some interest in using Desmond at second, third or outfield, even though he’s played shortstop almost exclusively in his big-league career.
13. Wei-Yin Chen. Many of the top pitchers in this year’s free agent market are off the board, with Chen as the top remaining name. The Dodgers might be a possibility, and the Nationals might as well. It’s unclear, however, whether any team will be willing to meet Chen’s reported five-year, $100MM asking price.
14. Kenta Maeda. On Christmas Day, the Orange County Register’s Bill Plunkett tweeted that, according to a source in the Japanese media, Maeda visited Dodger Stadium on Thursday. That remains unconfirmed right now, but if in fact the Dodgers were close to signing Maeda, it would certainly make sense — the Dodgers figure to be in on most of the top starting pitchers remaining after having missed out on Greinke and other pitching targets. The deadline for Maeda to sign is January 8.
16. Dexter Fowler. The team to which Fowler has been most heavily connected lately has been the Giants, with another report mentioning the Royals as a possibility. One might think, though, that the market for second-tier outfielders like Fowler and Denard Span won’t come into focus until some of the bigger names come off the market, even though Fowler’s skill set as a full-time leadoff hitter and center fielder is somewhat different than those of Upton, Cespedes and Gordon.
18. Scott Kazmir. In contrast with a number of other big-name free agents, Kazmir’s name has popped up over and over this offseason. Lately, he’s been connected to the Nationals, Orioles, Royals, Athletics and Astros. He has apparently received offers of three years, but might be holding out hope for four. That could be a sticking point for some teams — the Orioles, for example, might not be willing to sign Kazmir to a four-year deal.
19. Ian Kennedy. Kennedy lately has been connected to the Royals and Marlins. At issue for Kennedy, of course, is that, in contrast with some other mid-tier options, signing him will result in the loss of a draft pick. Of course, the qualifying offer has not prevented pitchers like John Lackey, Jeff Samardzija and Hisashi Iwakuma from finding homes.