Major League Baseball’s offseason has already seen some action, but things will pick up after Thanksgiving as every team and free agent prepares for the winter meetings in December. 

Even though players are free to sign deals right now, the marquee names are most likely to wait until everyone converges on Maryland, where it’s easy to get more people in a room to try to ignite a bidding war to drive up prices. 

While a lot of things will change even before the meetings start Dec. 4, here are the latest rumblings for some of this year’s top sluggers. 


Shopping at Napoli’s

Coming off two injury-plagued seasons in 2014-15, Mike Napoli’s days as an impact power hitter in the middle of a good lineup appeared to be over. 

After waiting until January to sign a one-year deal with the Cleveland Indians, Napoli proceeded to have a fine bounce-back season with career highs in games played (150), home runs (34) and RBI (101). 

Napoli has also become a cult figure in Cleveland thanks to the “Party at Napoli’s” rallying cry. With all of that going for him, it’s not a surprise the Indians want to bring him back next season. 

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported on Sept. 29 that the team hopes to work out a deal with Napoli, while he’s seeking a multiyear deal. 

With free agency now in full swing, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the Houston Astros are taking a look at Napoli to fill their void at first base and designated hitter. 

Napoli, who turned 35 on Oct. 31, will likely be looking for something resembling long-term security coming off a solid 2016 season. He is a player with limitations that could hurt his market, notably on defense. FanGraphs calculated he cost the Indians four runs at first base in 2016. 

The Astros have already shown they are going all-in to win in 2017 by signing Josh Reddick and trading for Brian McCann. Signing Napoli would be another indication they aren’t going to wait around for the rest of the American League West to strike.

The Indians know the value Napoli brings to the middle of their order and in the clubhouse, but they may opt to use whatever money they have to spend this offseason to address a more pressing needcenter field. 

With the Astros motivated and willing to spend money, they appear to be Napoli’s best bet for a new home in 2017. 

Prediction: Napoli signs with Astros


Encarnacion’s Market

The market for Napoli will surely be directly impacted by what happens with Edwin Encarnacion, who serves the same role as a power-hitting first baseman and designated hitter. 

The key difference is Encarnacion, despite turning 34 in January, is in position to ask for a deal of at least three or four years because he’s posted five straight seasons with at least a .350 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage. 

The Toronto Blue Jays, who have given Encarnacion a stage to showcase his hitting skills since 2010, appeared to be out of the market for the slugger after signing Kendrys Morales to a three-year, $33 million deal. 

However, per Heyman, the Jays have made Encarnacion an offer of $80 million over four years.

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told reporters last week (via Ben Nicholson-Smith of that Morales’ presence would likely impact what they were able to do with Encarnacion:

“It makes things slightly less likely for Edwin, but doesn’t impact us on Jose (Bautista) in any way. We still feel that both are realistic for us. When you sign someone like Kendrys Morales, that does decrease the likelihood of Edwin coming back to the Blue Jays, but it by no means eliminates that possibility.”

The bad news for Toronto—which is good news for Encarnacion—is Heyman mentioned the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have also been connected to the three-time All-Star. 

The Rangers, Red Sox and Yankees have three of the deepest pockets in MLB. If Encarnacion’s camp is able to open up a bidding war that includes at least two of those teams, the Blue Jays would likely end up exceeding what money they have available. 

The Red Sox have always made the most sense as a landing spot for Encarnacion because David Ortiz retired and they need to find someone capable of providing the production Big Papi did. 

One advantage for the Red Sox is they have so much young position player talent that they can rotate into the DH spot if they don’t want to spend big money on a player entering his mid-30s. 

The Yankees don’t really make sense unless they believe competing for a playoff spot in 2017 is viable. The Rangers did lose Prince Fielder to retirement last season and Mitch Moreland had a .298 on-base percentage as the primary first baseman. 

Given how aggressive the Astros have already been this offseason, the Rangers need to issue a response of their own.

Spending big money on players over 30 has gotten them into some trouble recently, like trading for Fielder and signing Shin-Soo Choo, but Encarnacion doesn’t have to play a position to provide value and he’s appeared in at least 140 games four times in the last five seasons. 

Prediction: Encarnacion signs with Rangers


Bye-Bye, Joey Bats

Sticking with the Blue Jays, Bautista is their other big free agent who could end up going elsewhere. 

Despite what Atkins told reporters, Heyman reported on Thursday that the Jays “do not seem at all interested in Bautista beyond the draft pick they’ll be getting if/when he signs elsewhere.”

Bautista’s free agency is one of the most fascinating test cases of any player available this winter. He’s still a star in name, but his performance and body have started to break down in recent years.

Another problem for Bautista is age. He’s 36 years old and virtually incapable of playing in the outfield anymore, costing the Blue Jays eight runs by FanGraphs‘ metrics last season.

In February, TSN’s Rick Westhead reported Bautista was seeking $150 million over five years on his next contract. Bautista denied the report, per Shi Davidi of

Whether Bautista wanted a deal like that, he will be lucky to get a contract with a total value of $50 million this offseason, and even that will only happen if he can find a team willing to give him three years. 

Heyman noted one rival agent told him Bautista should have accepted Toronto’s qualifying offer that would have paid him $17.2 million in 2017. It will likely be a higher average annual salary than the six-time All-Star will get elsewhere.

Trying to find a market for Bautista is especially difficult because if he can’t play a position—or even gets pushed to first base—the number of teams that might pursue him dwindles dramatically. 

Heyman reported on Nov. 10 that the Red Sox reached out to Bautista’s camp during the general manager meetings. 

Even though Bautista isn’t the hitter Encarnacion is at this point, he would actually be a better fit for the Red Sox. He likely isn’t going to cost as much in terms of years and dollars. He’s coming off an injury-marred 2016, so the Red Sox can shift him to DH in place of Ortiz and hope to catch lightning in a bottle. 

Plus, with all of Boston’s young talent already in place and other players like Yoan Moncada likely available at some point in 2017, the Red Sox don’t need Bautista to anchor their lineup because they can score 800 runs falling out of bed. 

Prediction: Bautista signs with Red Sox

Read more MLB news on