A new year has begun, which means the meat of the Major League Baseball offseason is in the rear-view mirror. There are still some quality free agents on the board as we inch closer to spring training, but the league has likely handed out its biggest contracts of the winter. This free agent class was weak from the start, as evidenced by the fact that only one player – Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (four years, $110MM) – has netted a nine-figure contract. No one else has even gotten to $90MM (reliever Aroldis Chapman came close, granted), and nor will they.
Now, using the Top 50 free agent rankings that MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes put together entering the offseason, we’ll take a look at how much each division has spent on the best available players this winter. As of now, only 18 of the top 50 are unsigned. The 32 who have agreed to contracts – including those who accepted the qualifying offer – have combined to secure upward of $1 billion in guarantees.
Total = $157MM
A year after the Yankees abstained from signing a single major league free agent, they’ve reclaimed their spot as the AL East’s biggest offseason spenders with the acquisitions of Chapman and Holliday. The Blue Jays have doled out the second-most money in the division thanks to the signings of Morales and Pearce; plus, they could still re-up 12th-ranked free agent Jose Bautista, with whom they’re maintaining dialogue. While the Orioles haven’t picked up anyone from the top 50, that could change if they re-sign the No. 1-rated player left on the market, Mark Trumbo. The luxury tax-minded Red Sox have avoided big splashes via free agency, though they’ve done plenty of work via the trade route. And the low-payroll Rays, having already lured Ramos, remain on the lookout for another bat.
Total = $90.5MM
Encarnacion is surprisingly on his way to the Indians, who will finalize his contract this week, on a deal with a far lower guarantee than most expected he’d receive coming into the offseason. The rebuilding Twins signed the division’s second-priciest free agent, catcher/pitch-framing whiz Jason Castro, and the fellow non-contending White Sox brought a reclamation project into the fold in Holland. The AL Central’s other teams, the Tigers and Royals, could compete for playoff spots next season, but they’re trying to tamp down payroll. Thus, it’s no shock that they’ve been inactive in free agency.
Total = $114.5MM
The Texas-based Astros (Reddick, Beltran and Morton) and Rangers (Gomez and Cashner) have essentially monopolized free agent spending in the AL West this offseason. With Joyce in the fold, the A’s are the division’s only other team that has landed a top 50 free agent. The Mariners have a general manager, Jerry Dipoto, who has a penchant for making trades, so they’ve mostly gone that route to acquire talent this winter. The Angels, meanwhile, haven’t been quiet in free agency (Ben Revere, Jesse Chavez and Andrew Bailey) or on the trade market (Cameron Maybin and Danny Espinosa), but they also haven’t reeled in any big fish.
1. Yoenis Cespedes ($110MM)
7. Jeremy Hellickson ($17.2MM)
18. Neil Walker ($17.2MM)
27. Brad Ziegler ($16MM)
35. Sean Rodriguez ($11.5MM)
41. Bartolo Colon ($12.5MM)
47. Edinson Volquez ($22MM)
48. R.A. Dickey ($8MM)
Total = $214.4MM
While the Mets (Cespedes and Walker) have outspent everyone else in the NL East in free agency, the Braves lead the way with three top 50 additions (Rodriguez, Colon and Dickey). The Marlins have also inked multiple players (Ziegler and Volquez), but they originally had much loftier targets in mind in Chapman and Kenley Jansen. The reigning division champion Nationals haven’t signed any high-profile free agents yet (they did make a blockbuster trade, of course), but that could change if they go for one of the best relievers remaining on the market and/or catcher Matt Wieters. As is the case with the Nats, Atlanta’s in the mix for Wieters, who was MLBTR’s 16th-ranked free agent at the outset of the offseason. Hellickson – who, like Walker, eschewed free agency in favor of the qualifying offer – is the only Phillie on the list.
Total = $324MM
Thanks largely to the ultra-rich Dodgers, who re-signed three of their own in Turner, Jansen and Hill, the NL West is easily the highest-spending division in the majors this offseason. The Rockies unexpectedly added Desmond for the division’s second-largest guarantee, and they could make more waves if their ongoing interest in Trumbo leads to a deal. After witnessing far too many second-half bullpen meltdowns last season, including in October, San Francisco unsurprisingly nabbed Melancon. Finally, given their respective states, the Diamondbacks and Padres have only been in the market for scrapheap pickups.
Total = $163MM
Aside from the Cardinals, who bolstered their roster with Fowler and Cecil, the NL Central has spent modestly this offseason. The reigning World Series champion Cubs lost Fowler, whom they’ll try to replace with a Jay/Albert Almora platoon, while the Pirates brought back Nova after the market didn’t develop to his liking. The Brewers’ only top 50 signing has been the 30-year-old Thames, a first baseman who played in Korea from 2014-16 and put up videogamelike numbers during that span. As for the rebuilding Reds, they’ve completely avoided free agency.
This is an updated version of a Charlie Wilmoth post that ran Dec. 21, 2014.