Last offseason, 14 players received free agent contracts of four or more years, excluding international signings. Some of the borderline guys, like Ben Zobrist and Darren O’Day, successfully obtained the guaranteed fourth year. Others, such as Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy, were not able to get there, at least at an acceptable salary. This winter, Cespedes and elite relievers Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen seem locks for four-plus years. Everyone else, not so much. Here are 13 cases to consider, and vote on:
- Edwin Encarnacion, 34 years old in January. Encarnacion is having a great season, sitting second in MLB with 36 home runs. He’s hit 34+ home runs in each of the last five seasons. His market will likely be limited to the American League, though there is precedent with Nelson Cruz’s four-year, $57MM deal. Encarnacion is facing a lawsuit alleging he knowingly infected a woman with multiple STDs in February.
- Ian Desmond, 31 in September. Desmond has reinvented himself as the Rangers’ center fielder, though he has struggled offensively this month.
- Jose Bautista, 36 in October. Bautista recently finished his second DL stint of the year, and his production has been down this season. He’s the oldest player in this poll.
- Mark Trumbo, 31 in January. Trumbo leads MLB with 40 home runs, but he also sports a .317 on-base percentage and has struggled on defense.
- Wilson Ramos, turned 29 this month. The Nationals’ catcher has age on his side, and is in the midst of a breakout season.
- Justin Turner, 32 in November. Zobrist signed his deal heading into his age-35 season, so surely his contract will be considered a precedent by Turner’s agent. Turner has set a career-high with 24 home runs already, and is headed toward a career best in games played.
- Neil Walker, 31 in September. After being traded to the Mets in December, Walker is having the best season of his career. Chase Headley’s four-year, $52MM deal with the Yankees in December 2014 suggests Walker can reach the same term.
- Dexter Fowler, 31 in March. Fowler ranks eighth in the NL with a .389 OBP, though a June hamstring injury may keep him shy of 130 games played for the third time in the last four years.
- Michael Saunders, 30 in November. Like Desmond, Saunders has re-established himself but scuffled in August. As with a few others on this list, Saunders’ injury history will give teams pause.
- Josh Reddick, 30 in February. Reddick once seemed like a lock for four years, but he missed time earlier this year due to a broken thumb and has been terrible since joining the Dodgers in a deadline deal. It’s fair to question whether four years will be on the table for him.
- Mark Melancon, 32 in March. Though not as dominant with strikeouts as Chapman and Jansen, Melancon has a 1.75 ERA in 272 innings since 2013, and he’s been great for the Nationals. His agent will at least aim for four years.
- Jeremy Hellickson, 30 in April. Hellickson is one of the best free agent starters available this winter, and the weak market and his relative youth could theoretically push him to a four-year deal.
- Ivan Nova, 30 in January. Nova is a long shot for four years, but he’s been great since coming over to the Pirates, and teams can act irrationally in free agency.
Your turn: which of these free agents will get four or more years? Check all that apply, and click here to view the results. Those using our app or Safari on their cell phone can click here for the poll.