The calendar flips to February tomorrow, meaning that only about two weeks remain until Spring Training. For most of us, that means counting down to a welcome distraction from winter doldrums. But for a certain few free-agent ballplayers, there’s considerably more at stake.
Nine days ago, MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth counted down the top-ten remaining free agents. Since that time, two members of the list have signed contracts. The remaining eight players, though, are among those who have yet to determine where they’ll play the 2017 season (and, perhaps, beyond). Just one other pre-winter top-fifty free agent, veteran second baseman Chase Utley, has yet to sign. We’ll throw Chris Carter into the mix, too. (He wasn’t considered because the list came out before he was non-tendered.)
As we wait to see how it all shakes out, I thought it would be interesting to see how MLBTR’s readers are reading the market. Things always look different at the end of the offseason than they do at the beginning, for a wide variety of reasons. So, our original rankings don’t necessarily hold at this point.
- Jason Hammel — A surprise addition to the market, Hammel hasn’t garnered nearly as much interest as expected. Potential concern over his elbow health may be a factor. Still, he has a strong track record and could provide a serious boost to a lot of rotations.
- Matt Wieters — It’s anybody’s guess how this situation will play out. It’s possible that the veteran catcher overplayed his hand early on, but agent Scott Boras has found money late in the offseason before.
- Mike Napoli — There has been a lot of attention on Napoli, but he remains unsigned and seems uncertain to achieve a second guaranteed season.
- Travis Wood — The southpaw reportedly has offers to work as a starter, but it’s unclear just how much cash is being dangled. He could fit in quite a few places and provide quite a bit of function as a swingman.
- Joe Blanton — Though he’s getting up there in age and faded a bit in the postseason, Blanton was largely outstanding last year.
- Sergio Romo — Teams interested in a late-inning reliever with experience as a closer may see Romo as the top remaining target.
- Fernando Salas — The earned-run results haven’t always been there, but Salas carries intriguing peripherals and was dominant in his late-season turn with the Mets.
- Boone Logan — The walk tallies aren’t encouraging, but Logan continues to compile top-of-the-line swinging-strike rates. He’s still competing with other high-quality southpaw relievers, including Wood, Jerry Blevins, and J.P. Howell.
- Chase Utley — It’s said that Utley is nearing a decision, with multiple offers on the table. It’d be surprising if he lands truly significant money, but teams may place added value on this proven grinder.
- Chris Carter — Though Mark Trumbo may have fallen a bit shy of expectations, he still earned a big payday. The highly comparable Carter likely won’t come anywhere near Trumbo’s earnings, but it’s fair to wonder why there’s such a divide in their markets.
So, here’s your chance to weigh in. Which of those players (randomized in the poll) will earn the biggest contract over the coming weeks? (Link for mobile app users.)