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has been most strongly connected with the Orioles, who made a significant offer earlier this month that they later rescinded (although without ruling out the possibility of future discussions).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.
I personally think Red Sox should swoop in and give Cespedes another go… If his price drops and he could be had for 100 mil why not? This would re-open JBJ trade possibilities (maybe attach one of Hanley, Pablo or Porcello to a deal) and add another 35 HR to the lineup..
I honestly don’t think his market drops to 100MM (I think he gets around 120MM given the market surplus) and if it did, many teams would be involved I would imagine and as a result, the Red Sox wouldn’t win the bidding. Last year, the two seemed to leave on poor terms (however, I am not sure if that is only because of Beyeler, who has been replaced, or the whole coaching staff) making it a long shot. Also, I don’t think the Red Sox want to dish out another 20MM AAV contract and if they were willing, I would imagine Cespedes wouldn’t be there first choice. He has a lot of raw power but outside of this year, he hasn’t been viewed as a huge home run threat. Also, his defence is sort of wasted in LF and he has poor OBP skills. That strikes me as a very similar player to Sandoval. Honestly, if they were to dish out another 100MM+ contract, Upton would be my choice. He has good OBP skills, has shown some great power, and would do alright in LF. I think playing at Fenway and the AL East would be beneficial to him as well. Of course losing the pick hurts, but he would be a great addition to the lineup and he is young enough to where I think it is worth justifying him over Cespedes if he doesn’t cost too much more (I’m thinking 6/120MM vs. 7/140MM, which is the same AAV).
Great points, and comparing the two more closely now I definitely agree Upton is a better long term fit for the Red Sox. Even if they trade JBJ as a result that’s still a very dynamic outfield with Upton, Betts, Castillo/ Young.. and the pick isn’t a huge loss after they recently struck gold with Benintendi. Would a team take on Hanley to get JBJ?
I doubt it. I don’t think JBJ has that much trade value and in all honesty, I think the Red Sox should keep Hanley. I think he will be capable of playing a passable first base for a year and then be able to mash as a DH. He also is on a fairly decent contract if he rebounds. Same thing with Porcello. My preference would be to move Sandoval, but that likely wouldn’t be realistic either. I’d also like to keep JBJ too, and dump Castillo instead however, he literally has no trade value. The only way to make a Upton signing work I think would be to trade off Castillo to the highest bidder.and then go out and sign Upton. I don’t think it can be done any other way. It is just too much money if JBJ is the odd man out.
Wasn’t Big Panda slated to take over at DH when Big Papi left b/c Big Panda was too heavy to play the field(3B)?
Jon Hayman reported that Boston gave Cespedes a 5/$80MM offer and I assume his new agent fell over from laughing. DD got his “big fish” moment he was allowed in the Price signng. My guess is Boston will be out of the picture if the market for Cespedes does not fall that low. The floor will be close to 6/$108MM in my opinion, if his signing process ever gets that far.
Regarding Upton, you should check to see if Boston was on his no trade list. Fans in Detroit have been comparing these two but some don’t realize Detroit was on Upton’s no trade list. I doubt he would agree to sign with Detroit.
Most of the time no-trade list include big-market teams in order to create leverage for the player. Of course, that always isn’t the case, but majority of the time it is so. That is why it is very common to see the Red Sox and Yankees on plenty of no-trade clauses.
As a Tigers fan, I went and researched Justin Upton no-trade lists and found separate lists from 2012-2014. The Tigers were not a team on any of them. I did it after a Tigers beat reporter, Anthony Fenech kept saying over and over how Upton put the Tigers on one of the lists. But even then, after seeing those lists he’s put like half the league in there. I dont see it plausible now that if Detroit was willing to pay him, that he wouldnt play for them just because of that. Fans in Detroit seem to have focused more on Gordon and Cespedes anyway. But in some regards, Upton would also be a great fit. Although the Avila wants to rule out another big free agent signing. So its most likely none of those names will get signed by Det
Upton’s 4 teams that he could block trades to were the Mariners, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Cubs. prior to his trade to the Braves and then the Cubs, Brewers, Indians, and Blue Jays from that point forward through his tenure with the Padres. I don’t think he likes cold weather.
Really doesn’t matter, as Detroit has stated its done all the large signings it is going to. Upton, Cespedes and Gordon will have to look elsewhere. Still hoping they will improve their LF options but it will be thru trade or a lesser signing.
The GM stated that. He doesn’t matter. The owner said nothing of the sort and in fact implied the opposite.
Actually, what the GM says does matter. DD never said anything the owner disregarded. It would be a bad start to do so with Avila.
Fans always figure their preferred team should trade its back-up second baseman who just signed a ridiculous 8-year contract straight up for another teams #2 starter. Red Sox fans in particular.
Who is the back-up second basemen on the Red Sox with a 8-year contract? Certainly it is not Pedroia, who has proven to be a great player while healthy (and even when he is not). And it is not a ridiculous contract… It is below market value.
So they would load up to buy another championship?
How can the Angels not be in on one of the remaining outfielders? Despite Arte’s comments, I’m optimistic it’s just part of negotiation and they do something as prices drop.
I think the Angels are merely “keeping in touch” at this point just in case some of these guys are still available come late January. I believe he’ll jump on Kendrick and an outfielder if he can get them both for >$30 million AAV combined which is possible if they can’t find work that close to spring training. Daniel Murphy only got less than $13 million AAV and he was projected to make upwards of $20 million AAV.
Maybe because any premium free agent the Angels sign would put them over the luxury tax threshold, thereby increasing that players cost to the organization significantly more than the actual terms of the contract.
They can do it if they dump Wilson.
Good luck moving a 35 year old pitcher coming off an injury season who is still owed $20M in 2016. Wilson is arguably more valuable to the Angels who have a need for more quality and depth in their starting rotation, especially considering how much contract they would have to eat in order to trade him. He also possesses a limited no-trade clause in his contract, further restricting his potential market.
I would rather they add a Parra/Fowler type then a handcuffing costly player….despite having $40m drop off next season they still won’t have much room under $189m next season….
Ian Kennedy is coming back to San Diego. Not only do they have a need for him, surrendering a 1st round pick for a guy who is hardly an elite pitcher is just too much to ask of other teams.
I can’t imagine that there aren’t 2-3 teams “laying low” right now on Upton, Cespedes and Gordon.
Undoubtedly we will see agents starting to leak those names in short order in order to build a market.
The media will always play pawn to the agents, ignoring the team denials, and any actual facts to help create the market, which is why Baltimore is trying to figure out who they are bidding against.
If I’m LAA I prefer Span over the other available OF options. He’s basically Alex Gordon with more on-base skills but a bit less power. He also has no draft pick attached, won’t require a long term commitment, and will certainly cost less in both total $ and AAV.
You have to assume the Angels would be out on Upton or any other big-ticket player simply because of their finances. At the moment they look to be on target for an Opening Day payroll for at least $170 mil without any further signings and the team has to consider what will happen next year when Weaver and Wilson could leave the team creating two holes in the rotation. If any spendng comes from the Angels before the season starts I would expect something being added to the rotation and then moving Wilson to pay for the deal and adding a little cost-certainty to 2017 and beyond.
Wilson is a question mark, and Weaver is a sunk cost filler for next year. Once they are gone, then the Angels can spend. There has been absolutely no indication that they are willing to pay the luxury tax.
I expect the White Sox to be a major player for one of the top three free agent outfielders remaining, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon. I also anticipate them having heavy interest in top FA shortstop Ian Desmond should his long term contract demands shorten to 1-2 years, as has been speculated recently because of his subpar 2015 season in Washington.
I believe the White Sox top choice for their FA outfielder would be Cespedes, followed by Gordon and then Upton. All three figure to make at least $20M annually with their next contract, but Cespedes is the only one of the three who doesn’t come with draft choice compensation.
Justin Upton is the youngest at 28 and figures to get a contract up to 7 years in duration. He has never fulfilled the lofty expectations projected of him as the #1 overall pick in the 2005 amateur draft. His best season was 2011 and despite great tools, his defense has been below MLB standards based on the dWAR metric. He also strikes out with the most frequency of the trio. His good OBP numbers and power production would have him fit in nicely either just ahead or behind slugger Jose Abreu in the White Sox batting order. With Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera atop the order, Upton would be a nice option at #3, with Abreu dropping to cleanup and Todd Frazier hitting 5th.
Alex Gordon is the oldest, turning 32 in February. He’s expected to receive a contract in the 4-5 year range. Gordon is the best defensive OF of the three but also the most injury prone, which cost him a shot at a fifth consecutive Gold Glove award in LF. He also possesses the least amount of power of the trio but is the only one to bat left-handed, which would provide the White Sox with better balance in their lineup. Gordon would also slot in very nicely as the #3 hitter in their batting order with his high OBP numbers, ahead of both Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier.
Cespedes just turned 30 last October. His contract is expected to be for 6 years. He shows the least plate patience of the three but has the most power and is the best RBI producer. Cespedes’ production is also trending upward as he gains experience. He put up by far his best offensive numbers in 2015, while also winning his first Gold Glove in LF thanks to Gordon’s injury. As a free swinger, he might not profile as a #3 hitter like Upton or Gordon. If Cespedes were signed, Abreu would likely return to his accustomed #3 spot in the batting order. The White Sox would then have the option of using either Cespedes or Frazier at the #4 and #5 slots as productive power bats to protect him in the lineup.. A resurgent Adam LaRoche at DH might also factor in as a left-handed power bat to split the right-handed hitting trio of Abreu, Cespedes and Frazier when a rhp starts the game.
Of the three, Cespedes might be an easier sell to coming to the White Sox with Jose Abreu on board and the team’s favorably history with Cuban players dating back to Minne Minoso. Gordon might be more difficult having played his entire career for the division rival Kansas City Royals. With Upton, the White Sox face a potential early production problem with his transition from the N.L. to the A.L., a notion the organization is all too familiar with after signing Adam Dunn and LaRoche in recent years. The possibility also exists with Frazier coming over from the Reds, especially since his inter-league splits have been poor.
Despite the high price tag for each FA player, the White Sox should still be able to afford them by being creative with the structuring of their contracts. Similar to what the Cubs did with Jason Heyward, they could back-load the deal and offer a player opt-out clause further into the contract, especially in the case of Upton or Cespedes who are younger. Deferring money from 2016 to the following year would make sense with the Adam LaRoche and John Danks contracts still on the books for one more season. The opt-out is something the White Sox have done in the past. As Sox fans might recall, this tactic was used when they signed FA Albert Belle to a then record contract back in 1996. They also agreed to an opt-out into arbitration with the international free agent contract given to Abreu two offseasons ago.
All this being said, the White Sox can remain somewhat patient in their pursuit of an OF upgrade this offseason. This might allow for a drop in free agent market prices and also give the White Sox more time in which to try and deal one of their own high money contracts to free up some financial space in their budget. There might also be some trade options that could provide the club with equal or better overall value than any of the available free agents, including potential targets in Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler from the Cubs or Yasiel Puig from the Dodgers, among others rumored to be available.
In addition to an upgrade for a corner OF bat, the White have a need at the shortstop position for 2016. Ian Desmond could be a formidable pick up for the White Sox as an above average MLB defender who also provides plus hitting and power for the position, at least until the White Sox #1 rated prospect Tim Anderson is deemed ready for prime time.
Another SS option for the White Sox would be to re-sign Alexei Ramirez to a one year deal for less than $9M, the difference between the $10M option they declined on him and the $1M buyout they exercised following last season.
Javier Baez might be another SS choice worth pursuing in a potential deal with the Cubs..
The last resort would be to just have Tyler Saladino and Carlos Sanchez compete for the position in spring training. Imo, both profile better as versatile utility infielders than as starting MLB shortstops. Sanchez would also be an excellent late game defensive replacement for newcomer Brett Lawrie at 2B.
so what Jose Quintana for scwarber and Baez?
As a white sox fan I don’t believe some of those trades you speak of will ever happen this year. If push was gonna be dealt to the white sox it would have already happened in the 3 team trade most likely. Also I don’t think any team is willing to give much up for him, given the numerous cited issues. As far as schwarber, Baez and soler go, the Cubs will unlikely deal schwarber and Baez this year. Soler has been rumored but no chance they sell any of those guys anything short of a #2 SP. I agree with you that the white sox will be major players in the remaining FA OF’s. I can make a case for all of them not being good long term assets. I do like cespedes the most of three for his pop and no draft pick comp. white sox should stay far away from Desmond, his defense is below average and his bat has been declining for a few years now. White sox have to make up there mind with what they want to achieve. They seem to be confused with there direction. If anything go sign a FA OF of the top 3 but go sign numerous SP FA’s. Who you can flip at the deadline if things don’t go the way you anticipated. At least give the team some puts an opportunity to get some prospects back.
Heard that the Cubs internally think schwarber’s their best hitter… He’s not going anywhere
Have start questioning whether owners are colluding on the rest of the market to keep wages lower.
I doubt it’s collusion, per se. I think it’s more a case of trying to have common sense win out. There is a legacy of huge, long-term deals that have blown up in the owners/GM’s faces. I didn’t think that many would rush out to offer Chris Davis what Scott Boras wants. The Orioles will eventually sign him due to lack of interest. Cespedes won;t get his asking price, either. Some of these guys just aren’t worth even a tire-kick.
There are also GMs on new teams trying to make a good impression and GMs on the hot seat that will be very careful not to make a big signing that fails or overpays.That could result in them looking for a new job.
I find it hilarious that you have Kennedy as a top 20 free agent. He was well below league average in almost every stat except K/9, only threw 168 innings in an injury-plagued season and he was near the bottom among qualifying starting pitchers in WAR, ERA, and FIP as well as being the worst in baseball in HR/9. His last above average season was 2011. It will be interesting to see if he gets a multi-year offer at all and anything over $8-10 million per season would be a miracle for him. He should have accepted the Padres QO and hoped to rebuild his value a bit for next offseason when the FA market for starters is considerably smaller than this year. .
The Os have talked about signing a #2 type pitcher and Davis. I just don’t see the #2 available for the price they were expecting so it looks like Kazmir is now their best bet. Then sign Latos or Fister. I’m starting to think try to get Upton for 120 instead of Davis for 154. Then sign Latos and Fister instead of Kazmir. Pick up Pedro Alvarez to replace Davis at 1st.
The braves need to make a one more splash for a bat or 2 eaither fowler or cespedes would love for us to get one of the 2
Every day that goes by, it becomes more likely that Davis caves and resigns with the Orioles.