2016 MLB Free Agent Predictions: For a couple of years now I've predicted where the top free agents would sign ahead of the heating of the Hot Stove. 80 guess in all and we've determined that I am probably not much of a soothsayer.
Two years ago, I correctly predicted three signees and made fun of the Mets for their prognosticated signing of Shin-Soo Choo. Whoopsadoodle. Last year I did a little better in guessing where folks would dot the i's and cross the t's by correctly guessing seven signees.
Then again, I also thought Torii Hunter would sign with the Rangers. Sometimes it's nice to be wrong.
Just as last year, I'm basing this list of the top 40 MLB free agents on Jeff Passan's ultimate free-agent tracker rankings (A note: I'm once again removing a few international players like Kenta Maeda, Dae-ho Lee, and Byung-ho Park just because who knows if they'll actually be available/sign).
Passan actually lists 191 free agents. In case you're wondering, Joaquin Arias is at No. 174. Munenori Kawasaki is at No. 189 and should be a Texas Ranger.
Why top 40? Because do we really care where Antonio Bastardo ends up? (Answer: Maybe. His name is pretty great but 40 is less than 50 which means I don't have to get ten more of these wrong.)
Here is where the top free agents will play next season:
1. David Price, SP - Cubs
I got burned by the James Shields/Joe Maddon connection last year when I predicted Shields would be heading to the North side. However, I think Price makes a lot of sense for the Cubs as they try to make that next step from exciting young surprise team to established powerhouse.
2. Zack Greinke, SP - Dodgers
When Greinke was a free agent a few years back, and the Rangers were runners up to the Dodgers, Greinke candidly admitted in a press conference that money was the ultimate reason he went to LA. No one has more money than the Dodgers. There's no reason to think that he won't return.
3. Chris Davis, 1B/OF - Astros
This makes too much sense. Crush is a Texas boy. He fits right into the Astros' dinger-fueled, K happy offense. And he's a pretty nice upgrade over Chris Carter or whoever else they've been running out there at first base. Doling out a big contract is right on schedule for the Astros after their surprising 2015 campaign.
4. Jason Heyward, OF - Cardinals
It feels like the Cardinals can't afford to let Heyward get away after just one season in St. Louis. The question, I guess, is if they're willing to pony up for a corner outfielder who gets most of his value from his defense.
5. Justin Upton, OF - Yankees
I guess Upton will always been the one who got away from JD. Of all the big ticket free agents, I imagine Upton is the one the Rangers would most likely splurge on if it comes down to it. However, unless they can unload a Prince/Choo/Elvis contract, I don't think they'll take the plunge on another corner guy at huge dollars. Therefore, the Yankees are going to spend on someone and they need someone who isn't in the Brett Gardner/Jacoby Ellsbury mold while also not being 46 years old.
6. Alex Gordon, OF - Mariners
I think he'll want to return to KC but the market will price him out of their range. Speaking of range, the Mariners are said to realize that range is a good thing under their new regime. Gordon is a premier defender in left field and I recall several games where the Mariners played Mark Trumbo at the position.
7. Johnny Cueto, SP - Red Sox
I think Boston realizes the mistake they made from last offseason when they thought that they could just bring in the Wade Mileys of the world, slap a "He's the Ace" shirt on them, and get away with a rotation of MORPs in the AL East. I don't know if Cueto is a bona fide top shelf ace in the American League like Price but he's dang good and would top the Boston rotation.
8. Yoenis Cespedes, OF - White Sox
Cespedes is another guy who will be linked to the Rangers as he's a middle of the order right-handed bat who plays at the one position the Rangers could most improve on in free agency. Then again, Josh Hamilton will play for the Rangers for free next year. Cespedes might be the hardest guy to figure out a landing spot. So, I'll go complete mystery team wild card and say he ends up in Chicago to try to pry open the Chris Sale/Jose Abreu window for the Pale Hose.
9. Ben Zobrist, UT - Dodgers
With Howie Kendrick back on the market, the Dodgers could use a second baseman. The Dodgers could use help at third base, too. Sometimes the Dodgers need a guy to play a few games in the outfield. I think Andrew Friedman knows a guy.
10. Matt Wieters, C - Angels
Catcher is such a strange position. Nearly every team could get better behind the plate, hardly any catchers ever reach the open market, and when they do, no one wants to pay for it. With Chris Iannetta on the way out, the Angels will pay for just about anything. Wieters could have been an attractive option for the Rangers but once Baltimore gave him the QO, I think that put Texas out on him.
11. Jordan Zimmermann, SP - Giants
The Giants will be in on every pitcher. I have them landing Zimmermann from the top of the not Price or Greinke-tier. Expect Zimmermann to go 4-0 in October as the Giants win another World Series next season because it will be an even year.
12. Ian Desmond, SS - Mets
The Mets need both a middle infielder and a bat to put in the middle of the lineup and Desmond is the best guy available who does both those things. This seems like the most slam dunk fit of all the free agents which means it's definitely not going to happen.
13. Mike Leake, SP - Cardinals
St. Louis just found out that they won't have Lance Lynn for the next 18 months as he was the latest pitcher to succumb to TJS. The Cardinals also have John Lackey on the way out and opt for a younger pitcher to soak up innings on their way to winning 100 games perpetually.
14. Dexter Fowler, CF - Cubs
The Cubs and Fowler seemed like a good one-year trial engagement. Might as well tie the knot.
15. Wei-Yin Chen, SP - Tigers
The Tigers have never been one to shy away from Scott Boras and they have a need in the rotation. Chen has quietly been a really good pitcher in the American League for several years now. He was QO'd so that might make teams back off a little.
16. John Lackey, SP - Astros
17. Howie Kendrick, 2B - Royals
Kendrick replaces Zobrist for the World Champs. He doesn't strike out that often and makes solid contact so he's already an honorary Royal.
18. Jeff Samardzija, SP - Blue Jays
Does Canada have sharks? They will now. Samardzija will be counted on to reclaim TORPdom with the Blue Jays as they'll be missing a ton of innings from David Price and Mark Buehrle next season.
19. Denard Span, CF - Mets
With Cespedes surely gone and Daniel Murphy NLCS-heroing himself out of the budget, the Mets pair Span with Ian Desmond as psuedo-replacements and then remember they have a rotation with like eight guys who throw 100 MPH and stop worrying.
20. Scott Kazmir, SP - Brewers
21. Brett Anderson, SP - Dodgers
He got the qualifying offer treatment so I don't know how likely it is that another team will give up a pick for a guy who can't stay healthy. There's a decent chance he just takes the QO.
22. Daniel Murphy, 2B - Angels
The Angels are going to sign Daniel Murphy this offseason.— Christopher Fittz (@apoplecticfittz) October 21, 2015
I'll stick with this.
23. Colby Rasmus, CF - Astros
I don't know, man. I think Rasmus might just do something crazy like become the first player to accept the QO in MLB history.
24. Hisashi Iwakuma, SP - Mariners
Nintendo wants the Mariners to do everything in their power to keep Iwakuma. The Mariners want to keep Iwakuma. It seems likely that he'll stay in Seattle. If he doesn't, I kind of hope the Rangers get involved.
25. Darren O’Day, RP - Dodgers
My favorite reliever ever. He's going to make bank because he's the best reliever on the market. I wish he could be a Ranger again but Texas isn't going to spend on a reliever. The Dodgers will spend money on a reliever because they have all the money.
26. Ian Kennedy, SP - Diamondbacks
It was kind of nuts for the Padres to offer him the qualifying offer but it would also be kind of be nuts for him to accept it because you know there's a team out there who will give him dumb money. The Diamondbacks seem like they're perpetually dumb and Kennedy already had some good years in Arizona.
27. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS - White Sox
Chicago is parting ways with Alexei Ramirez after what feels like 20 years at shortstop. Cabrera isn't an upgrade defensively, but he has a nice bat and The Cell is a good place to hit.
28. Yovani Gallardo, SP - Blue Jays
Toronto will need arms and Gallardo comes with the added benefit of not being able to inexplicably shut down the Blue Jay offense anymore if he's on their side. I think the Rangers would have liked to keep Gallardo at a reasonable price but reasonable prices don't really exist in the open market.
29. Gerardo Parra, OF - Angels
The Angels had the worst left field production in baseball last season. I think they sit out on the top outfielders, while going after Wieters and Murphy, and then settle on Parra who would be a pretty nice upgrade in left.
30. Ryan Madson, RP - Mets
Madson was a good story last season as he bounced back from several injury-filled years and won a ring with the Royals. The Mets saw the virtues of a lock down bullpen first hand in the World Series and can probably get the 35-year-old Madson for relatively cheap.
31. J.A. Happ, SP - Pirates
Happ had an excellent second half with the Pirates after coming over from the Mariners in a mid-season trade. The Pirates have a knack for retaining their pitching success stories and I'd imagine they'll want to hang onto Happ.
32. Joakim Soria, RP - Twins
Soria continues his trip around the AL Central with a stop in Minnesota where he'll give the Twins a solid setup man as they try to parlay a successful 2015 into a postseason appearance in 2016.
33. Marco Estrada, SP - Blue Jays
This is kind of cheating since it appears Estrada is close to re-upping with the Blue Jays already. However, it appeared super unlikely that the Blue Jays would let him get away given their needs in the rotation.
34. John Jaso, DH/OF - A's
I'm honestly surprised he ever left Oakland. He seems like Billy Beane's prototypical player.
35. Austin Jackson, CF - Nationals
Interestingly, besides Washington, the suitors for Jackson are most likely Detroit, Seattle, and the Cubs. Instead of a reunion with one of his former clubs, I have Jackson replacing Span with the Nats.
36. David Freese, 3B - Hell
Hell is where David Freese can go. Also, he's really got nowhere else to go but Anaheim so hell is where he'll remain.
37. Marlon Byrd, OF - Rockies
Byrd is still like third all time in career WAR for center fielders in Texas Rangers franchise history. He goes to Colorado to hit 25 dingers and perhaps end up with another nice payday.
38. Justin Morneau, 1B - Orioles
Morneau had a bounce back 2014 when he won the NL batting title in Colorado but then he followed that up with a tough 2015 as he battled injuries again. The Orioles could use him as a cheap alternative to Chris Davis should they lose their slugger.
39. Tim Lincecum, SP - A's
Big Time Timmy Jim goes across the Bay and revives his career at the O.Co Cavern because of course he does.
40. Doug Fister, SP - Rangers
Here's your Yovani Gallardo replacement. Fister is kind of a project after having a rough 2015 season but he's been one of the better MORPs in baseball over the last half decade so the Rangers hope he'll bounce back and give them a Gallardo-esque season for way less money.
The Rangers bring back Colby Lewis and Ross Ohlendorf. They sign Steve Pearce and let Mike Napoli go. They also sign Brandon Beachy, Domonic Brown, and Alex Avila to various one-year or NRI deals.
Oh yeah, they also sign a guy named Cliff Lee.
The Marlins sign Bartolo Colon.
There you go. That's where the top 40 free agents will be playing next season. Now we can just sit back and watch some hockey or something.