With the end of the MLB regular season only days away, teams around the league can start to make plans about how to attack a free-agent market that is light on starting pitchers but loaded with impact relievers.

Clubs in dire need of upgrading their rotations should not expect to add anything more than a No. 3 starter. However, contenders looking to solidify their pitching staffs with a stud reliever could be in luck with several players available who could make a difference in tight games. These types of players are certainly valuable, as they were centerpieces in some high-profile deals at this year’s trade deadline.

With that in mind, take a look below at a list of notable pitchers with expiring contracts who could draw significant interest in the 2017 class, along with predictions and breakdowns for three of the top options available.

A full list of the upcoming free-agent pitcher class can be found at Spotrac.com.


Andrew Cashner

As one of the biggest names available at this season’s trade deadline, Andrew Cashner has been a bust with the Miami Marlins.

Since being traded to Miami from San Diego on July 29, the 30-year-old is 1-4 with an abysmal 5.73 ERA. Making matters worse, the team ended up giving starter Colin Rea, also involved in the deal, back to the Padres after medical issues, and the Marlins are without promising pitching prospects Carter Capps and Jarred Cosart and top first baseman prospect Josh Naylor, which WINZ Radio’s Andy Slater noted:

After the 2013 and 2014 seasons, where he posted 3.09 and 2.55 ERAs, respectively, Cashner has not been the same guy who looked like a potential power pitcher who could help anchor a rotation. He hasn’t posted an ERA under 4.00 since 2014 while also accumulating double-digit losses in every season in that span. The Marlins still gave up plenty to bring him in, but that relationship could end this offseason.

Cashner has not been a good fit, which is evident by his subpar numbers. There are also other issues with him and the team, as he is not thrilled by the Miami policy that forced him to shave his full beard, per the Miami Herald‘s Barry Jackson.

“Cashner said ‘I still hate’ the Marlins’ no-beard rule and ‘that is a big deal to me in free agency,'” per Jackson, which could indicate some personality clashes as well. 

The Marlins would probably be wise to use their money elsewhere, and Cashner would benefit from a change of scenery. Expect him to sign with a different club in free agency.


Aroldis Chapman

Unlike Cashner, closer Aroldis Chapman is continuing his dominant ways in a new home.

Chapman was a star reliever, along with Andrew Miller, whom the New York Yankees used to acquire a slew of young talent at the trade deadline. Since joining the Chicago Cubs, Chapman has been electric with a 1.09 ERA and 16 saves in 18 opportunities. He is 36-for-39 on save attempts for the season.

Chicago has been the best team in baseball throughout this season, which is why it brought in Chapman to secure its bullpen for a World Series run. However, the team is not completely sold on re-signing the hard-throwing closer. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune indicated on Monday that Chapman is expecting to field the biggest contract ever for a closer, which the Cubs may not be willing to dish out.

The 28-year-old insisted he is not paying much attention to his pending free agency, per Sullivan.

“I haven’t really thought about it,” he said. “Everyone in the world is asking me, but right now I don’t really know.”

While Chapman is not focusing on his future, one team certainly is:

Today’s Knuckleball’s Jon Heyman originally reported this news, but Chapman also said he would be open to a return to New York after he was traded, per NJ.com’s Brandon Kuty. This move makes sense for both parties.

With Mark Teixeira set to retire and CC Sabathia’s contract expiring after next season, the new youth-powered Yankees have plenty of money to spend. Giving a monstrous deal to a sensational closer who could anchor the bullpen for the next seven or eight years seems like a strong investment.

As the New York Post‘s Ken Davidoff notes, Dellin Betances has not been outstanding as the Yankees closer, and having him in a setup role for Chapman could be a more ideal situation for the New York bullpen.

Chicago already has several big contracts on its books, and with young stars like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell soon needing substantial deals, the team could opt against paying up for Chapman. The Cuban is already comfortable in New York, and the team has the funds and the fit to add him to the exciting mix of talent within the organization. Look for the Yankees to emerge as the favorite to land this big fish in free agency.


Kenley Jansen

In one of the more unknown pending free-agency situations, Los Angeles Dodgers star closer Kenley Jansen has proven to be noncommittal regarding his offseason plans.

Jansen is arguably the top closer in the National League, including Chapman, as he is posting career highs in ERA with 1.86 and saves with 47 and counting. Jansen has posted at least 35 saves in each of the past three seasons. Yet he did not seem fully on board with returning to Los Angeles when speaking with Heyman on Sept. 15.

LA’s nice. LA’s great. LA gave me the opportunity. LA converted me when I failed as a catcher. I’m grateful about it, and will never forget LA. But at the same time, we’ll have to see what’s good for the family. …

It’s going to be a tough decision. It’s not going to only be me.

The Dodgers have made it known to Jansen that he is a top priority for them this offseason, per the Orange County Register‘s Bill Plunkett, and the 28-year-old gave slightly more encouraging comments on Sept. 17.

“That means they showed respect, that they know it’s up to them to keep me here,” Jansen said, per Plunkett. “After we hold up that trophy at the end of the year, we can all sit down and talk.”

Los Angeles’ current roster gives the team NL pennant hopes for the next few seasons, and keeping Jansen would enhance that sentiment. Yet the team does have other free agents to account for this offseason, including Justin Turner, and big contracts on the horizon for Joc Pederson and Corey Seager.

Expect Jansen’s playoff performance to have a significant impact on where he lands. He allowed two runs in only 4.1 innings in Los Angeles’ run to the National League Championship Series in 2013, but he did not give up any runs in 4.1 combined innings in the last two postseasons. If Jansen plays well during a long playoff run, he could stay. If not, he very well could be in a different uniform in 2017.


Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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