Free agency won’t be quite as intriguing as in years past, but quite a few huge names are set to hit the market.

Below, we’ll break down some of the latest rumors or buzz surrounding a few of those players and offer predictions for where they might end up in 2017.


Yoenis Cespedes

Let the bidding begin.

Yoenis Cespedes exercised the opt-out clause in his contract with the New York Mets over the weekend, per James Wagner of the New York Times, passing up $47.5 million over the next two seasons in the pursuit of greener pastures in free agency. 

The move hardly comes as a surprise. He’ll be the top outfielder on the market and could be looking at a deal that will total over $100 million. Despite being 31, Cespedes has hit 30 or more home runs in each of the past two seasons and has consistently hit for power since joining MLB in 2012. 

The Mets extended a $17.2 million qualifying offer to Cespedes, per Adam Rubin of ESPN, but of course he’ll decline it. Still, Cespedes has thrived in New York, and even told reporters in August he wanted to finish his career with the team.

So it still seems like a very strong possibility—maybe the most likely possibility—that the Mets will offer him a big contract and Cespedes will return. It makes sense from New York’s standpoint, as the team still has the players in place to make a run at a World Series title.

Prediction: Cespedes re-signs with the Mets.


Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista

According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, “There have been discussions that the [Toronto Blue Jays’] ownership prefers to keep [Edwin] Encarnacion and would let [Jose] Bautista go unless he accepts a qualifying offer, which he is unlikely to do.”

In other words, Bautista is all but gone. If the Blue Jays can make a competitive offer on Encarnacion, however—which they’d be crazy not to do, given the talent they already have on the roster—he may just return.

Bautista would make a lot of sense for the Boston Red Sox, as Cafardo noted. Playing left field in Fenway Park isn’t exactly a strenuous task, Bautista has hit well in the park in his career and, per Cafardo, Bautista is “a fan of manager John Farrell and third base coach Brian Butterfield from their time together in Toronto. The feeling is mutual.”

Bautista could either play left field or fill in as the designated hitter to replace David Ortiz, and while he won’t come cheap, he’s unlikely to get Cespedes or Encarnacion money. 

Prediction: Encarnacion re-signs with the Blue Jays; Bautista signs with Red Sox.


Yankees Pursuing a Closer

The two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, will generate plenty of interest and ultimately even more money. So, where will they end up?

According to Cafardo, “There’s a sentiment that Aroldis Chapman could return as [the Yankees] closer.”

And Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reported:

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, having arrived at the General Managers Meetings, said he already has reached out to the representatives of free-agent closer Aroldis Chapman as well as reps for “other relievers.”

It’s clear the Yankees are targeting a top reliever, and Cashman’s admission of considering “other relievers” would seem to indicate the team will pursue Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon in addition to Chapman.

The Yankees also had two members of their organization watching former Royals closer Greg Holland’s showcase on Monday. Holland is returning from Tommy John surgery.

So the Yankees will be very, very busy pursuing a closer in free agency. Will they land a big name?

Maybe, but Chapman just won a World Series in Chicago, and the Cubs are built to win several titles over the next few seasons. Keeping Chapman around—even at astronomical prices—makes sense for the team.

And signing Jansen will cost any team a first-round pick as well, and the Dodgers may prioritize signing Jansen despite having a number of key players—don’t forget about Justin Turner and Rich Hill—hitting the market. The Dodgers are also built to compete in the short term, so keeping Jansen would make sense, even at a large contract.

But hey, it’s the offseason of the closer. So if the Yankees are determined to get a game-changer, there will still be one out there: Mark Melancon.

Prediction: Yankees sign Melancon; Chapman re-signs in Chicago; Jansen re-signs in Los Angeles.


Carlos Gomez

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported that Carlos Gomez will be a long-term commitment in free agency:

Free agent outfielder Carlos Gomez will be seeking a long multiyear deal—perhaps even five years—on the free-agent market despite an uncharacteristically rocky 2016 season. 

Gomez’s agent Scott Boras declined to discuss specifics, but others suggested he will seek a very long deal. 

“You just don’t find this kind of player on the market,” Boras said.

Gomez, 30, struggled throughout much of 2016, hitting just .210 with five home runs and 29 RBI in 85 games with the Houston Astros. But after joining the Texas Rangers, he turned things around, hitting .284 with eight homers and 24 RBI in 33 games down the stretch.

At his best, Gomez is an excellent combination of pop and speed. Between the 2012-14 seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, he hit at least 19 home runs and stole at least 34 bases in three straight campaigns. His inconsistency is a concern, however, and he may find it difficult to find five-year deals on the market. 

Nonetheless, the Rangers feel like a good fit. If the team decides against going after other big-name free agents—or can’t land any—bringing Gomez back would make sense.

Prediction: Gomez re-signs with Rangers.


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