Major League Baseball’s 2014-15 offseason is only a month-and-a-half over, and big-name free-agent right-handers Max Scherzer and James Shields still remain unsigned. But what the hey? Let’s take a leap ahead and look at next offseason right now, based on what this one has taught us so far.


Next Year’s Russell Martin

Matt Wieters is the only big-time starting catcher set to hit the open market a year from now, which means the Baltimore Orioles star will be in almost the exact same position that Russell Martin was this time around.

Martin, of course, landed a five-year, $82 million pact from the Toronto Blue Jays, a deal that exceeded just about everyone’s expectations by at least a year and upward of $15-20 million.

Then again, that tends to happen when the demand is high and the supply is, well, one.

Fellow free-agents-to-be Dioner Navarro, Chris Iannetta, Alex Avila and John Jaso represent a better batch of second-tier options than what is available this year (read: Nick Hundley, Geovany Soto, A.J. Pierzynski, David Ross), but none of them are close to Wieters’ talent on both sides of the ball.

Provided Wieters’ recovery from Tommy John surgery takes, he’s in for a big payday.


Passing the Panda

With only third- or fourth-tier free agents left on the board by now, it’s safe to say that Pablo Sandoval’s five-year, $95 million deal with the Boston Red Sox will hold up as the largest contract awarded to a position player this offseason.

Perhaps the best candidate in 2015-16—but far from the only one—to surpass that in both years and dollars is Ian Desmond.

A 29-year-old shortstop with three straight 20-20 campaigns on his resume, Desmond already rejected a reported $90 million extension from the Washington Nationals last winter, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

“As of right now, I’m here until 2015 and I’m doing everything I can to work as hard and be ready and prepared for 2015,” Desmond said, via Todd Dybas of The Washington Times.

After that, though? Given his age, skill set and ability to play a premium up-the-middle position, Desmond easily should reach nine figures if he hits the open market—it’s just a matter of how much north of $100 million he’ll be able to get.

Oh, and the fact that Jimmy Rollins, 37 next November, is in line to be the next best option in a shallow shortstop class will only help Desmond’s case.


Not to Be Left Outfield

For that matter, however, Desmond won’t be the only $100 million position player in the 2015-16 class.

Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon*—all outfielders—are strong candidates to blast past that threshold.

(*Note: Gordon has a player option for $13.25 million, but it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t cast that aside when the qualifying offer itself is likely to be around $16 million.)

After an outfield class topped by the likes of Yasmany Tomas ($68.5 million), Nelson Cruz ($58 million), Nick Markakis ($44 million) and Melky Cabrera ($42 million), expect big bucks to be shuttled this way starting about 10 months from now.

In other words, teams that didn’t splurge on an outfielder who can hit for power or get it done on both offense and defense will have plenty of opportunities to do so come the end of next year.


Teams Will Keep Handing out Qualifying Offers, Players Will Keep Declining

Once Scherzer and Shields ink, there won’t be a single qualifying offer rejecter left, and none of the 12 who turned that deal down this time saw that potential draft-pick compensation anchor weigh down their market or price point.

Not even reliever David Robertson ($46 million) nor righty Ervin Santana ($54 million) nor Cruz, the latter two of which were going through the QO process for a second straight offseason.

Santana and Cruz, you’ll recall, got stuck waiting until spring training had started before having to settle for one-year deals in 2014, for $14.1 million and $8 million, respectively. Both scored $50 million-plus over multiple seasons this time around.

If those two examples, as well as the Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales debacles last offseason, weren’t enough motivation for players to accept in November, then why should teams think anyone will be agreeing in 2015?

In the three years since MLB created the QO system, players have gone 34 of 34 in saying thanks, but no thanks. At some point, that streak will end. But don’t bank on it happening next winter.


The Internationals Will Draw Interest—and Money

Just like Masahiro Tanaka last year and Yasmany Tomas this year, there’s likely to be at least one or two highly sought-after international stars from Cuba, Japan and Korea.

It’s hard to predict this market because so much of it is conjecture based on players either being posted by their club or defecting from their native country.

In fact, there’s still a chance that top right-hander Kenta Maeda could be posted by the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. But if not, the 26-year-old certainly would be at or near the top of any international class in 2015-16.

Other names undoubtedly will go from never-heard-of internationals to must-have next big things.


The Pitching Bottleneck Will Continue

It happened in 2013-14, in part because everyone was awaiting Tanaka.

It happened again this year thanks to all the speculation surrounding Jon Lester, who finally agreed with the Chicago Cubs for $155 million in the early-morning hours of Wednesday, Dec. 10, after which the winter meetings became an utter madhouse over the final two days.

Well, guess what? The trend is going to continue because there are so many high-end arms coming up on free agency after 2015 that it’s going to take a little while to have the top of the market set.

Just take a look at some of these names: David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello, Hisashi Iwakuma and Mat Latos.

That group also might include Zack Greinke, who can opt out of the final three years and $71 million of his deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Even in a pitching-rich market, the right-hander would do better on the open market, so that’s a possibility.

“What happens with Lester and Scherzer will say a lot,” Greinke told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times in July.

With $155 million in Lester’s pocket and almost certainly more going in Scherzer‘s bank account, it’s a good time to be a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.

Whether that’s this offseason or next.


Statistics are accurate through the 2014 season and courtesy of, Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. Information about 2015-16 free agents comes from MLB Trade Rumors.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11.

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