In a relatively weak MLB free agent class as compared to the 2018 offseason, three players stand out. Despite not being great at predictions as I mentioned in an earlier column, I’m going to try my best to predict where these players will end up.
Céspedes has traveled around a lot in his career. He’s played for four teams over his five-year career and re-signed with the New York Mets this past offseason on a three year, $75 million deal, which included an opt-out after the first year. As expected, Céspedes opted out following the conclusion of the 2016 season, making him a free agent once again.
Aptly called “La Potencia,” one of Cespedes’ best tools is hitting for power, mashing 137 home runs in five seasons with a career slugging percentage of .494. Teams could wait for other outfielders to sign to determine where Cespedes’ value lies, and I wouldn’t expect a deal to be struck until December. My prediction is that the Mets give Cespedes a long term home in the form of a five year, $120 million contract.
The Toronto Blue Jays’ designated hitter is set for free agency after failing to reach an extension with the team during Spring Training. With the Blue Jays signing Kendrys Morales, it seems implausible that they will also resign Encarnacion. So for teams looking to add a bat, Encarnacion is a top option. When you think of teams needing a DH, the Red Sox jump to mind. Following David Ortiz’s retirement, the Sox are left with a huge offensive hole, which I expect them to fill with Encarnacion.
I’m not a huge fan of the Sox signing Encarnacion, given his age and that the money he’s due will affect the Sox’s ability to extend their young superstars. Nonetheless, the Red Sox need a bat to try to replicate David Ortiz’s production. I’m predicting the soon-to-be-34 year old will get a four year, $90 million contract.
Chapman comes with his share of personal issues, namely allegedly firing gunshots and choking his girlfriend before the 2016 season. However, as we’ve seen, teams have the peculiar ability to overlook such acts, no matter how disgusting, if a player is skilled, which cannot be denied about Chapman. The Cuban Missile has been everything that was promised and more since he defected in 2009. He has the fastest fastball of anyone, ever, and has struck out 636 batters over 377 innings for a K/9 of 15.18. He’s reportedly seeking a $100 million deal which would be the largest in history for a reliever. Chapman’s greatness relies on his velocity and he’ll be 29 at the start of next year with seven seasons of major league wear and tear on his elbow, so there are some questions moving forward.
The list of teams that are able to afford Chapman and have the need in the bullpen are basically the Giants, Nationals and Yankees. With the Giants rumored to sign Mark Melancon, I’m predicting Chapman will go back to the Yankees on a five-year, $95 million deal.