The first month of the 2016 MLB season is in the books, and we’ve got movement in our 2017 MLB Free Agent Power Rankings. These rankings apply to players projected to reach free agency after this season, and the players are ranked based on earning power. In the middle of April, the Rangers unsurprisingly extended Adrian Beltre, so he’s off the list. To see the full list of 2016-17 MLB Free Agents, click here.
1. Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg was dominant in the season’s first month, carrying over his success from last year. By measure of wins above replacement, only Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard have been better. With a full season of good health, agent Scott Boras could look to push a seven-year deal for Strasburg past $240MM. An opt-out clause or two will surely figure in as well. Strasburg doesn’t turn 28 until July.
2. Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes jumps up a spot after a huge April. In addition to seven home runs, he even managed to draw a few extra walks. A less streaky campaign than 2015, perhaps ending with around 35 home runs again, could net Cespedes the six-year deal that eluded him last winter. To take a shot at it, he’ll have to opt out of the remaining two years and $47.5MM on his current contract with the Mets.
3. Jose Bautista. Bautista continues to do his thing, hitting for power and drawing lots of walks. Last week, Jon Heyman tweeted that he believes Bautista will take less than his five-year, $150MM asking price but not less than $100MM. Something a bit north of $100MM on a four-year deal does seem plausible for Bautista, who told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe last month that he is willing to negotiate in-season with the Blue Jays.
4. Josh Reddick. Nothing out of the ordinary from Reddick in April. As a solid player who doesn’t turn 30 until February, Reddick could be a sneaky candidate for a five-year deal this winter. He told MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi that he’s not aware of any substantive extension talks with the A’s. In that column, Morosi had some interesting speculation about whether the Cubs could trade for Reddick this summer.
5. Carlos Gomez. Gomez is hitting .245/.303/.364 since June of last year, and I’ve dropped him three spots since our last rankings. The Astros’ center fielder is currently battling rib cage soreness and is trying to avoid the DL. For the Astros, Gomez just hasn’t looked like the player he was with the Brewers. Even if he performs to projections from here on out, which is a total unknown, Gomez could be limited to a four-year deal in the range of Alex Gordon’s $72MM. He carries further downside risk if this becomes a lost season.
6. Kenley Jansen. Business as usual for Jansen, who has allowed one run in his first ten appearances. If the save opportunities continue coming as they did in April, perhaps the Dodgers’ closer can top his career high of 44 saves. It would be interesting to see a reliever earn the second-largest pitching contract of the offseason. Jansen could make that happen with a precedent-shattering five-year deal.
7. Edwin Encarnacion. Like last year, it was a rough April for Encarnacion. The Blue Jays’ designated hitter has shown many times he’s capable of going on a tear. Still, my confidence in a four-year deal for Encarnacion is wavering a bit. He’ll turn 34 in January.
8. Aroldis Chapman. Chapman’s 30-game suspension for a domestic violence incident ends a week from today, and he’ll presumably jump right into the Yankees’ closer role. He’s been working out at the Yankees’ minor league complex, taking some time last week to become a U.S. citizen. I expect Jansen to do better than Chapman in free agency, but Chapman should still land a huge contract if he stays incident-free until free agency.
9. Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli makes his first appearance in our top ten. The Pirates’ backstop has stepped it up a notch after a stellar 2015, and ranks fifth in the NL with a .438 on-base percentage. As it stands now I could see a four-year deal worth $60MM, and I think he could have a shot at five years if his offensive success continues. Quite the transformation for Cervelli, who will turn 31 shortly before the 2017 season.
10. Dexter Fowler. Like Cespedes, Fowler could find the contract that eluded him after another year back with his old team. So far in 2016, Fowler has been the best player in baseball. The Cubs’ center fielder boasts an MLB-best .470 OBP. Though he’s never approached four wins above replacement, Fowler already has two in the books after one month. If he stays healthy and productive, Fowler should be able to get a four-year deal in free agency.
Neil Walker and Michael Saunders are both pushing for a spot in our top ten after stellar starts to their seasons. Walker has already crushed nine home runs, and could reach 30 this year. Saunders is healthy and hitting after a lost 2015. Typically weaker against left-handed pitching, Saunders smacked three home runs off southpaws in April, including two off Drew Smyly. Colby Rasmus, Mark Trumbo, Martin Prado, and Rich Hill are a few others off to hot starts in 2016. Andrew Cashner drops out of our top ten after a lackluster April.