This year's MLB free agent class isn't exactly full of mega superstars, but it's loaded with a ton of B-level pitchers, outfielders and hitters. Okay fine, there are a few superstars that are going to set the market with dozens of teams trying to win over their services.
We are currently in a time where power hitters aren't getting paid as much as they used to (see Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo, they'll tell you). We're in a time where relief pitchers are making way more bank than what any one could have imagined five years ago (see Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Brett Cecil).
But with a limited amount of relief pitchers on the market this year, you can expect teams to pony up a lot of cash for the best starting pitchers and for the best power hitters.
Right now, it's anybody's guess where the top 15 MLB free agents of 2017 land. I thought now would be a good time to play the fun guessing game.
*Stats courtesy of ESPN.com, MLB.com and BaseballReference.com. All stats are through May 20th*
15 Chris Tillman: Seattle Mariners
Former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez hasn't been himself over the last few seasons. His ERA has gone up and his control has gone down. He's battled injuries in recent years and is unlikely to perform like that true ace for the Mariners again. Seattle doesn't have much depth in their rotation, so adding former 16-game winner Chris Tillman would be an ideal offseason move.
As of this writing, Tillman owns a 4.12 career ERA, but it's been under 4.00 in three of his last four seasons. Tillman is a great innings eater (over 170 in the past four years), and would instantly improve the Mariners pitching staff which is among the most inconsistent in all of baseball.
And given how much they willingly overpaid Robinson Cano, you have to believe they'll be willing to overpay a pitcher like Tillman in free agency.
14 John Lackey: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels have one of baseball's most feared hitting duos in Albert Pujols and reigning American League MVP, Mike Trout. However, the Angels don't have a true ace on their pitching staff, and it's held them back from contending despite fielding two of baseball's top players in history.
If the Angels want to rebuild around Trout, they will have to add another pitcher. Going for old friend John Lackey (who played for them from 2002 to 2009), in free agency makes the most sense.
Given his age (39 in October), Lackey isn't going to command anything ridiculous. He's won double-digit games every year since 2002 and is always a threat to eat up 200-plus innings. If the Angels could get Lackey on a one-year deal worth around $10 million, they just might see enough improvement on the mound to get into the postseason.
13 Jeremy Hellickson: Detroit Tigers
The Tigers have a great-looking rotation with Justin Verlander, 2016 AL Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer and standout Jordan Zimmerman. But their rotation has not lived up to expectations in 2017. The Tigers (as of this writing), own a 4.78 ERA -- tied for third-worst in all of baseball.
Though this team's core is ageing (Verlander and Miguel Cabrera are each 34), the Tigers have shown no willingness to rebuild just yet. If they want to keep this rapidly closing championship window open, then making a bargain shopping move to add a guy like Jeremy Hellickson would help.
Hellickson pitched well for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016, going 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA. He's off to a great start in 2017, going 5-1 with a 3.44 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 49.2 innings pitched. If the Tigers can land Hellickson on a two-year deal worth around $30 million, it could be that one move that takes them back into October ball.
12 Marco Estrada: Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays traded away fan favourite Adam Lind to the Milwaukee Brewers for pitcher Marco Estrada, and it's paid huge dividends. As of this writing, Estrada has gone 24-19 in his tenure with Toronto. His ERA was 2015 in 3.13, followed by 3.48 (though he was dealing with a back injury for much of 2016), and is 3.60 right now.
The Jays extended him in the 2015 winter for two years worth $26 million. With Estrada set to turn 34 years of age and enjoying himself in Toronto, you have to believe he will do another team-friendly deal.
Toronto is in the midst of a miserable 2017 season, but there's no reason not to bring back Estrada. He's quietly one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball with an excellent changeup and devastating fastball. Estrada will surely give Toronto first dibs on his services, and they should repay him on a three-year deal worth around $30 million.
11 Todd Frazier: San Francisco Giants
Only so many franchise-changing third basemen exist in the majors, but current Chicago White Sox star Todd Frazier happens to be one of the few from that rare breed. The two-time All-Star will get paid a lot of money in the offseason, and the San Francisco Giants should be right on top of that.
Giants' third basemen Christian Arroyo is batting just .222, and this team ranks second last in the majors in runs scored. Catcher Buster Posey can't provide all the offence, so the Giants should be aggressive in finding another quality bat to their lineup.
Frazier has hit 29, 35 and 40 home runs over the last three seasons. He provides solid defence and owns a career .774 OPS. He's everything the Giants need in a pitcher-friendly National League West. They will have to overpay to get him, but it could very well put them over the top in 2018, 2020 and 2022 (everyone knows the Giants don't compete in the odd years).
10 Wade Davis: Washington Nationals
You know how I mentioned that relief pitchers are getting more money today than ever before? Well, Chicago Cubs star closer Wade Davis could easily land himself a contract worth $70-$90 million. If there's one team that really needs him that's also willing to throw a lot of money around, it'll probably come from Donald Trump's current home city.
Jon Heyman from FanRag Sports reported that the Nationals have been looking at a closer in the trade market, with Roberto Osuna, Alex Colome and A.J. Ramos among the targets. But why gut the farm system for a closer when you can wait until the offseason?
Davis recorded 27 saves in 2016 and was instrumental in the Kansas City Royals winning the 2015 World Series. He owns a career 3.46 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 711 strikeouts in just 794 innings pitched. The Nationals know what they'd get in Davis, and he would shore up the only remaining weakness on a team that has baseball's best rotation and the highest-scoring lineup in 2017 thus far.
9 Jake Arrieta: Milwaukee Brewers
It's unlikely the Cubs maintain Jake Arrieta, who is probably going to (rightfully), seek top dollar, and he's not the only great pitcher on the defending World Series champions. Jake Arrieta, the 2015 NL Cy Young winner, has gone a combined 40-14 over his last two seasons with ERAs of 1.77 and 3.10. He's fallen back to earth in 2017 thus far, going 4-3 with a woeful 5.44 ERA.
The Brewers are off to a good start in 2017, but they're going to need a legitimate ace if they're going to get through NL Central juggernauts like the St. Louis Cardinals and Cubs. Signing a pitcher like Arrieta would be a double-whammy; making Milwaukee better while severely weakening the Cubs' rotation depth.
Given Arrieta's age (31), and the fact he's only had two great seasons, he's unlikely to get overpaid. If the Brewers can get Arrieta for around $60 million on a four-five year deal, then they'll instantly turn into contenders.
8 Mike Moustakas: St. Louis Cardinals
With a rebuild looming in Kansas City, expect Mike Moustakas to be traded at the deadline before cashing in this winter. Moustakas has struggled as a hitter since batting .284 in 2015 (when he won a World Series with the Royals), but he's a good enough defender and solid contact hitter with good speed.
The Cardinals do have a solid lineup, but Jedd Gyorko and Jhonny Peralta simply aren't producing enough as hitters. St. Louis needs to add more speed and contact to their lineup -- something they lack that the Cubs have.
Moustakas would cost quite a bit of money, since he's among the few quality third basemen in the game. But the time for the Cardinals to win is now, and signing Moustakas would address their biggest weakness on the roster.
7 Eric Hosmer: Seattle Mariners
Yes, the Mariners should add to their payroll and make a couple big moves. They have plenty of power in the lineup with Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz. But they a contact batter to complement those power hitters, and Royals stud first baseman Eric Hosmer is an ideal fit.
Hosmer is a career .278 hitter, and his batting .299 this season. He's coming off a career high in home runs (25), and is just two years removed from an .822 OPS. Hosmer would be an upgrade over first baseman Danny Valencia, who is struggling with a .239 batting average this season.
Seattle has failed to live up to expectations for far too long, so this upcoming winter is their chance to go all-in. Hosmer would add another important bat to the Mariners lineup, and could be that last ingredient to turn this squad into a playoff contender.
6 Carlos Gonzalez: Colorado Rockies
With the Rockies finally in contention (at least through the first month and a half of 2017), there is no excuse to let star slugger Carlos Gonzalez find a new home in free agency. Carlos Gonzalez has hit a total of 65 home runs and 197 RBI over his last two seasons, and is a career .289 hitter.
Guys who can hit well for contact and for power do not grow on trees. The fact Gonzalez plays at Coors Field in The Mile High City also contributes to his terrific stats. He's playing in baseball's most hitter-friendly ball park, and it makes sense for both sides to maintain this partnership. CarGo is a top player on a young Rockies team that is finally ready to contend. They should simply tell him to fill out a cheque and sign it. Boom, problem over.
5 J.D. Martinez: New York Mets
J.D. Martinez is going to get paid a TON this offseason. The Detroit Tigers star outfielder has hit 23, 38 and 22 home runs over his past three seasons. Martinez owns a career .283 batting average and .828 OPS. The only problem is that his defence in right field is far from inspiring -- but teams often overlook that part and only look at the offensive numbers.
Well, the New York Mets could use another big hitter in the lineup. Power-hitting outfielder Jay Bruce is set to become a free agent and almost definitely won't be coming back to New York. The Mets have plenty of young stars and need to start being more aggressive in the offseason.
A lineup that would consist of Yoenis Cespedes, J.D. Martinez and Asdrubal Cabrera would be off-the-charts amazing. Signing Martinez is a necessity for the Mets to get over the Washington Nationals in the NL East.
4 Lorenzo Cain: Chicago Cubs
If my calculations are correct, the Cubs will be losing Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Wade Davis in free agency. This just may come a year after they lost star centre fielder Dexter Fowler to the arch rival St. Louis Cardinals in free agency.
The Cubs are going to have to make a splash this offseason, and going for centre fielder Lorenzo Cain is exactly what I'm talking about. Cain is a career .287 hitter and is a constant threat to steal 20-plus bases in a season.
He brings blazing speed, great contact and terrific defence. The Cubs haven't been able to fill the void left by Fowler (yet), but they'll have the chance this winter to do so. Cain is a perfect fit for the Cubs who can give him plenty of cash and a chance to win many more championships. It's a match made in Heaven.
3 Carlos Santana: New York Yankees
The Yankees decided to rebuild at the 2016 trade deadline, and it's paid off huge dividends. Youngsters Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Starlin Castro and Ronald Torreyes have formed the third-highest scoring team in the majors. But the Yankees could use an upgrade at first base over the tandem of Chris Carter and Matt Holliday -- and Cleveland Indians slugger Carlos Santana just might fit the bill.
Santana is coming off a career-best 34-home run season, helping Cleveland reach the 2016 World Series. Given that Yankee Stadium is among the most hitter-friendly ball parks in the majors, Santana would absolutely love playing in The Bronx. The Yankees always, always throw money around too.
It's not hard to see the Yankees giving Santana a deal worth $70 million-plus. Don't be surprised if the hard-hitting first baseman decides to put on the Pinstripes in 2018.
2 Yu Darvish: Texas Rangers
There is no place like home for Texas Rangers star pitcher, Yu Darvish.
Since signing the Japanese phenom to a $60 million deal over six years in 2012, Darvish has placed himself among the MLB's elite pitchers. Darvish owns a 50-32 record with Texas, to go along with 873 strikeouts and a whopping 3.25 ERA. Darvish has made the Rangers one of the top teams in the majors, as he guided them to the playoffs in 2012, 2015 and 2016.
Texas will undoubtedly do everything possible to keep their ace. Darvish will be just 31 in the winter, so it's not unreasonable to believe he can get $80-100 million. But the Rangers love Darvish and vice versa. There's no reason to believe they won't be keeping him around after this season.
1 Jonathan Lucroy: Boston Red Sox
There aren't that many franchise players who crouch behind home plate in the majors. Jonathan Lucroy is one of them. The Texas Rangers star owns a career .283 batting average and .781 OPS. The two-time All-Star is also among the league's best defensive catchers, and he has everything you could ask for in the position.
Because there aren't that many star catchers, Lucroy is going to get paid big time. The Boston Red Sox are traditionally one of the highest-spending teams in free agency (hello, $217 million man David Price), and they need a catcher. Sandy Leon and Josh Rutledge are mediocre hitters and merely average defenders at the position.
Lucroy will want the chance to win now plus a lot of money. Boston is going to compete for many years, and they have so much cash to spend. Look for Lucroy to take his talents over to Beantown in the winter.
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