Most players have about 30 remaining regular season games to add to their free agent bona fides. Postseason heroics don’t always change a free agent’s valuation, as Daniel Murphy can attest. Still, the majority of players on this list will see their seasons extend into the playoffs, providing a chance to shine on baseball’s biggest stage. The players below are ranked on their expected earning power in free agency. To view the full list of 2016-17 MLB free agents, click here.
1. Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes aggravated his quad in early August, but returned to close out the month with five home runs in 11 games. He’s showing more power than ever and has even started drawing walks. Cespedes, who turns 31 in October, told reporters recently he’d like to spend the rest of his career with the Mets, but he has not made a decision about his opt-out clause. Barring a large extension with the Mets, it is a virtual lock Cespedes opts out of the remaining two years and $47.5MM left on his contract in search of a bigger commitment.
2. Aroldis Chapman. Aside from a laborious save last night at Wrigley, Chapman had a fine month for the Cubs. He appears in line to score a record contract for a reliever this winter.
3. Kenley Jansen. Jansen had a few rare blips in August, but he’s still right there with Chapman as one of the game’s dominant ninth inning forces. Chapman, Jansen, and Mark Melancon are poised to take the free agent relief market to new heights in a few months. Of the three, only Jansen will be subject to a qualifying offer, if that system remains in place.
4. Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion had another fine month with the bat, slugging eight more home runs to bring his total to 36. His career-high of 42 bombs is within reach. Unfortunately, Encarnacion has drawn attention for a lawsuit in which a woman alleges he knowingly infected her with sexually transmitted diseases in February. Any team considering signing Encarnacion this offseason is going to have questions and concerns about this situation.
5. Wilson Ramos. Ramos had a respectable August, with his career-best home run total climbing to 20. Among full-time catchers, that mark ties him for second in all of baseball. Ramos celebrated his 29th birthday in August, and his youth opens up the possibility of a five-year deal in free agency. If the bidding results in a contract near Russell Martin’s five-year, $82MM pact, Ramos could be the second-biggest earner among all free agents. For more on Ramos’ market, check out Jeff Todd’s Free Agent Stock Watch.
6. Ian Desmond. Desmond hit a bump in the road in August, batting just .241/.276/.276 in 123 plate appearances for the Rangers. He’s no longer the free agent WAR leader. Desmond’s overall resurgent campaign still justifies a four-year deal, with strong contributions in hitting, baserunning, and defense.
7. Justin Turner. At 4.3 WAR, Turner is the most valuable free agent currently. The 31-year-old has combined his typical above average third base defense with newfound power at the plate. Turner’s 24 home runs marks a career high, though his batting average has slipped from the lofty heights of 2014-15. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd dissected Turner’s season and market position at length in this recent Free Agent Stock Watch.
8. Mark Trumbo. Trumbo leads all of MLB with 40 home runs, after adding ten more in August. It was an all or nothing month for the 30-year-old right-handed slugger, who hit .181/.280/.500 in 107 plate appearances. Oddly, Trumbo has struggled against left-handed pitching this year, after hitting .272/.328/.542 off southpaws from 2013-15. His poor defensive season is less of a surprise. Unlike a player like Desmond, Trumbo can only help a team in one area: power. I still think he has a reasonable chance at a four-year deal, though about 58% of MLBTR readers don’t think he’ll get one.
9. Jose Bautista. Bautista, 35, missed a chunk of August due to a knee sprain. While his offensive rate stats are down, the bigger concern is his health and defense moving forward. In the aforementioned survey, less than 13% of MLBTR readers think Bautista will get a four-year deal this winter. I agree with that assessment.
10. Josh Reddick. Reddick held the third spot on this list a month ago. Since being traded to the Dodgers, he’s hitting just .161/.223/.172 in 94 plate appearances. One month may not torpedo his free agent value entirely, and he still has September and October to build it back up. MLBTR’s writing team has debated whether Reddick can still land a four-year deal, with Jeff Todd’s Nick Markakis comp suggesting it’s possible. The ever-pessimistic MLBTR readership gives only a 26% chance of a four-year deal for Reddick. If they’re correct, he won’t hold a spot in the top ten.
An honorable mention goes to Mets second baseman Neil Walker, who held the tenth spot on this list until news broke that he’s likely to undergo season-ending back surgery. I would not rule out a four-year deal for Walker, who set a career-high of 3.8 WAR in just 113 games. Others who are not too far from cracking the top ten: Dexter Fowler, Michael Saunders, and Mark Melancon. The market will also feature power bats Mike Napoli, Brandon Moss, and Carlos Beltran, great speed and baserunning in Rajai Davis, and high contact hitter Martin Prado.
You may have noticed the complete lack of starting pitchers mentioned. The free agent market for starting pitching looks historically bleak this winter, with Jeremy Hellickson, Ivan Nova, and Rich Hill as the top-ranked arms.