The MLB postseason is just about to begin, but for a number of teams, only the offseason approaches. And that means preparing for free agency.

Below, we’ll break down some of the latest rumors and speculation surrounding some of the top free agents set to hit the market.


Lourdes Gurriel

According to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball, 23-year-old Cuban Lourdes Gurrielwill hold about a half-dozen private workouts for interested teams in the near future,” with the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros and Miami Marlins set to hold workouts for the young talent and “one or two other teams” also expressing interest.

Gurriel is a shortstop but is likely versatile enough to play at third base or in the outfield. As Heyman wrote, “Over his six seasons spent with two different teams in Cuba, he is slashing .277/.362/.426 with 27 career home runs and 23 stolen bases.”

More importantly to clubs, perhaps, is that Gurriel won’t be subject to international bonus pools after Oct. 19, according to Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors, meaning any team can sign him for any amount.


Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion

The two Toronto Blue Jays sluggers, who are set to hit free agency this winter, will be linked in rumors until free agency opens, largely because Toronto won’t be able to keep them both and may not be able to retain either.

Edwin Encarnacion is going to be the more prized target for several reasons:

  1. He’s two years younger.
  2. While Jose Bautista has had a quiet year by his standards, Encarnacion has had a career year.
  3. Encarnacion is likely less of a liability in the field, even if he’s Toronto’s designated hitter.

Jeff Blair of Sportsnet has more on point No. 3:

[Encarnacion] is going to have a larger market than some expect because there are at least a couple of National League teams who view him as an everyday first baseman.

Truth is, more teams think Encarnacion can play first base every day than think Bautista can still be an effective right-fielder. The question for Encarnacion and [Paul] Kinzer is how much first base he wants to play. Folks in Toronto live in fear of Encarnacion ending up in Boston, but I’m with my pal Jon Paul Morosi: I can see the Houston Astros making a big play for his bat. He’s be a great fit in the team’s clubhouse and the fact Texas has no state income tax will help them since Encarnacion will want to keep as much as possible from what is likely his first and last big payday.

Heyman speculated that the Red Sox, New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners were all possible destinations. One prevalent theme has remained: The Blue Jays seem likely to get outbid, as Heyman wrote:

The Jays obviously have interest in retaining him. But the conventional wisdom has been that they will be outbid for both him and Bautista. The new regime doesn’t believe in tying up much of its payroll in only a select few players; they already have Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin on long deals, and the strong belief is that they are intending to get younger next year.

“He’s a great player, and a great clubhouse guy,” one rival executive says. “You can’t let this kind of guy go.”

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine the Blue Jays recovering from losing their top two sluggers, especially Encarnacion. But both are going to demand huge paydays, and they’ll be able to get them on the market. Encarnacion is arguably the top free agent in the 2016 class, so he’s going to get paid.

Bautista may not get the money he wants on the market after a shaky 2016, meanwhile, but teams will still be willing to pay him a hefty amount to solidify the middle of their lineups. 


Aroldis Chapman

No relief pitcher is likely to garner the interest that Aroldis Chapman will demand—and for good reason. Chapman has again been dominant this season, settling in nicely with the Chicago Cubs, and his 100 mph fastball sells itself.

One potential destination?

A return to the Yankees.

As Heyman wrote, “Dellin Betances hasn’t done as well as closer as he did as setup man. So word is the Yankees may go back after Aroldis Chapman as a free agent.”

Of course, Chapman’s return to the Cubs is always possible. But it’s hardly guaranteed, as Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune wrote:

Whether Chapman’s stay in Chicago will be a cameo or long term is a question for the offseason. He’ll be a free agent and is expected to seek the biggest contract ever for a closer. The Cubs hope to keep him—but not at any price. They always could move Hector Rondon back to that role if Chapman leaves.

While Chapman said he feels comfortable and accepted in Chicago, he wouldn’t hint at whether he’d like to stay.

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

Chapman will likely field as many offers as possible and evaluate his options. Many of those options will likely involve quite the pay raise. Returning to the Cubs will give Chapman an excellent opportunity to play for a World Series title, of course, but possibly at the expense of millions.


Kenley Jansen, Rich Hill and Justin Turner

In a mailbag column, Howard Cole of Forbes noted that Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen “has said that while he loves L.A., he would like to [test] the free-agent waters. Even with [a] qualifying offer attached to his name—and especially if he shines in October—the veteran closer will have his choice of suitors. The Dodgers will try to sign him, but they won’t break the bank to do so.”

As for Rich Hill, Cole wrote: “Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi love Hill, and I expect them to pay through the blister—uh, nose—to keep him.”

And then Justin Turner came into the mix as well.

“I take the club at its word that they would like to keep both Jansen and Turner, and I’m quite sure they will be generous in their offers,” Cole wrote. “They’ll try to re-sign both players, but if it comes down to one or the other, my guess is it’s JT.”

Retaining all three will be difficult. Heyman listed Turner as the sixth-best free agent this winter, while Hill was No. 8 and Jansen No. 9. And Heyman expects Turner to get paid quite handsomely this winter:

He’s turned into a great all-around player and would seem to be a must-have for L.A. (See below.) Word is, his side may bring up Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and Adrian Beltre’s deal. They also may note how Chase Headley, no Turner, got $52 million, and Ben Zobrist got $56 million while turning down $60 million. At this moment, I’d take Turner over all of ’em, except Beltre 

As for Jansen, Heyman noted, “Kenley Jansen loves L.A., but he’s noncommittal on his impending free agency.”

Meanwhile, Turner told Heyman“I’d love to stay here. I love playing here. I love playing at home.”

Losing all three would be a major blow to the team’s chances of repeating as NL West champions. The Dodgers will likely have a busy offseason. Josh Reddick is also a pending free agent, though his play down the stretch may diminish his market.

The Dodgers have traditionally had little issue splashing cash in free agency, but bringing back all four of their premier free agents may be even too expensive—and, honestly, not the best use of the team’s money—for Los Angeles. 

With other options in free agency, especially at closer, the Dodgers may turn elsewhere. However, they’ll likely put out feelers on all four players. 


You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

Read more MLB news on