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MLB Free Agency Begins November 8

Arturo Pardavila III via Wikimedia Commons
Cubs reliever Aroldis Chapman delivers a pitch in the eighth inning of Game 7.

Scott Neville, Contributor

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Now that the World Series is over, it is officially free agent season for Major League Baseball. On November 8, free agents can begin signing with any team that tenders them an offer. They will be the highest paid players this off-season, and deservedly so. Below are my picks for the top free agents along with a prediction of the teams they will sign with. 

Aroldis Chapman (closer) to the New York Yankees – Chapman was traded to the Yankees last off-season and posted an impressive 2.01 ERA in 31.1 IP before being traded to the Chicago Cubs at the deadline. He recorded 20 saves and struck out 44 opponents before being dealt to the Cubs for a slew of young players. This haul of prospects would make re-signing Chapman an absolute steal for the Yankees.

Why will he rejoin the Yankees? Any baseball fan knows that this flame-throwing lefty is about to get PAID. The Yankees are one of only a handful of teams able to pay up for a closer of his caliber. Chapman has indicated that he would be happy to come back, which would make sense for both parties. Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman would look like a genius. Chapman was suspended for 30 games for a domestic abuse incident last off-season. However, the Yankees were aware of the issue before trading for him last winter, so this should not stop them from signing him.

Yoenis Céspedes (outfielder) to the San Francisco Giants – Despite battling a lingering right quad strain in early August, Céspedes managed to rake in his first full season with the Mets. In only 132 games he mashed 31 homers while maintaining a .280 batting average and walking a career high 51 times. Céspedes drove in a team leading 86 RBI’s and scored 72 runs. While the Mets would love to keep him in Queens, the 2017 Free Agent Class is not as strong as years past, which means he will most likely enter free agency and go to the highest bidder. Céspedes has an opt-out clause on the three year, $75 million contract he signed last January. Céspedes has said he would like to finish his career in New York, but he will have many suiters this off-season, and the Giants should be one of them. The Mets will do what they can to retain the Cuban Slugger, but San Francisco seems like the perfect fit for him. Céspedes will be 31 soon, and the clock is ticking for him to cash in on a huge contract in the range of $100 million. San Francisco is a large market team that has been highly competitive, winning three World Series since 2010. They attempted to acquire fellow slugger, outfielder Ryan Braun at the trade deadline, but failed to do so. Braun is set to earn $79 million through 2020, with a mutual option worth $17 million in 2021. This shows that the Giants are willing to commit to paying up for a power outfielder. Céspedes may take a pay cut to remain in New York which would most likely lead to the Giants reopening trade talks with Milwaukee this winter. While this scenario could very well happen, the Giants would much rather sign a free agent than make a blockbuster trade and deplete their farm system, and Céspedes most likely would want to cash in on his best chance to sign a deal north of $100 million.

Encarnacion is a pure pull hitter which bodes well for him at Fenway Park.”

— Scott Neville

Edwin Encarnacion (designated hitter) to the Boston Red Sox – Edwin Encarnacion crushed 42 homeruns for the Toronto Blue Jays this season to tie his career high from 2012. He also drove in 127 RBIs, which was tied for the most in the league. The other player to hit 127 RBI’s this season was none other than David Ortiz, who Encarnacion could replace in the Red Sox line-up next season. He also batted a serviceable .268, and showed durability by playing in 160 games in 2016. Ortiz has endorsed Encarnacion in the past. Encarnacion has shown that he can play first base and DH, which would allow Red Sox skipper John Farrell to rest Hanley Ramirez and Encarnacion by rotating the pair between the two positions. He is projected to make over $20 million a year which puts most teams out of the running. The Yankees will not go after his services because they already have two catchers that will share time as the designated hitter. They also have an upcoming prospect at first base in Greg Bird who was injured in 2016. Right now, the Red Sox have a winning formula that includes a clutch power hitting DH, and they will pay up to continue their success. Encarnacion is a pure pull hitter which bodes well for him at Fenway Park, which means he might sign a four year, $89 million contract with the Red Sox based on calculated market value provided by spotrac.com. Although Boston is the most probable destination for Encarnacion, Dave Dombroski, the Red Sox President of Baseball Operations, might have second thoughts about signing a 33-year-old to the long-term deal Encarnacion will be asking for.

Ian Desmond (shortstop/outfielder) stays with the Texas Rangers – Ian Desmond signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Texas Rangers last year after making numerous mistakes approaching free agency. His latest mistake was turning down a one-year, $15.8 million contract with Washington to begin the 2015 off-season. Desmond is coming off a great year with the Rangers, and is expected to finally get a $100 million contract this winter. He turned down a seven-year, $107 million contract with the Washington Nationals in 2014 to enter free agency in 2015. After making the switch from shortstop to outfield, Desmond looks to be a priority free agent this off-season. He hit .285, with 22 homeruns and 86 RBI’s in 2016 and scored 107 runs, tied for 11th in the league in that category. The Rangers have the money, and need to keep Desmond in Arlington. He was a large part of a team that finished with the best record in baseball in 2016. Spotrac.com projects that Desmond will sign a six-year, $103 million contract. He proved he was an asset to the Rangers in 2016. However, his inconsistent production in the past, and the fact that the Rangers are forced to pay the now retired Prince Fielder $24 million a year through 2020, may give the Rangers front office second thoughts.

Mark Trumbo (outfield) to the Los Angeles Angels – Mark Trumbo is the best free agent outfielder behind Céspedes and Desmond. He had a breakout year in 2016, leading the MLB in homeruns with 47. He signed a one-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles in a redemption year to bet on himself this off-season. Trumbo made his year count by driving in 108 runs while scoring 94 himself. After a monster season, Trumbo should make around $20 million a year, because if you can hit for power, teams will pay up to sign you. Based on how things usually go during the free agency period, he will probably wait for Céspedes to sign, using the money he made as a bargaining tool for his own negotiation. The Angels seem like the perfect fit with their deep pockets and need for increased production from their corner outfielders. Trumbo spent four season in Los Angeles from 2010 to 2013, and had three great full seasons with them. He hit at least 29 homeruns each season, which makes him a reliable power threat. Trumbo will be paid too much, and the Angels are the team with money that need him the most. The Angels are fighting to be competitive while superstar center fielder Mike Trout is still in his prime. One reason against this happening: Trumbo may still be upset that the Angels shipped him to the Diamondbacks in a three-team deal including the White Sox during the 2013 season.

The Next Five

Justin Turner (third base) to the Los Angeles Dodgers – Turner is a team player who is loyal to the team he broke out with.

Wilson Ramos (catcher) to the New York Mets – The Nationals will low ball Wilson which will catapult him into free agency to find a team willing to take a bet on him. The Mets are a team with a lot of money that seem unwilling to spend it, but Ramos is the type of player they go after from season to season. 

Kenley Jansen (closer) to the Los Angeles Dodgers – Janson will make some dough this off-season as his projected salary is $13.2 million on a four-year deal per spotrac.com. Janson could end up going to another team like the Yankees if he goes to the highest bidder, but the Dodgers may be the only team qualified to outbid the Evil Empire.         

Mark Melancon (closer) to the San Francisco Giants – The Giants are a good fit for Melancon because they have gone years without acquiring a quality closer, and they will need a stopper in the bullpen if they want another successful post-season run. 

Carlos Beltran (outfield) to the Baltimore Orioles – Beltran is already 39, and will not be receiving a large contract, making the Orioles a good fit to continue his storied career. Baltimore will be losing Mark Trumbo and will need affordable replacement.

Stay tuned to see how it all shakes out.

 

 

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