2017 MLB Free Agency Preview

Rangers CF turned down a one-year qualifying offer to test the free agent waters. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs
Rangers CF turned down a one-year qualifying offer to test the free agent waters.
Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs

By Alex Gustafson

With the 2016 season having concluded with the Chicago Cubs ending the 108-year “Curse of the Billy Goat”, the 2017 free agency period is here. This year’s free agent class is hitter heavy, light on starting pitcher and has a select few top tier relief pitchers.

Aroldis Chapman had a productive season with the Yankees and Cubs and is looking for a maximum contract after helping the Cubs win their first championship since 1908. Kenley Jansen has been a consistent force in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen the previous for the previous four seasons and I see the former Dodgers closer receiving a two or three-year contract. Mark Melancon, after productive years with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Nationals the free-agent closer is looking for a term contract after multiple successful seasons.

The market for free agent hitters is lead by the top tier of Yoenis Cespedes, Edwin Encarnacion and Ian Desmond headlining the top tier. The second tier features Justin Turner and Dexter Fowler  and these players round out the market for free agent hitters which will be pursued aggressively. I see the first three hitters receiving multiple year contract offers from multiple teams including the teams which these players were a member of during the 2016 season as well as Fowler receiving attention from multiple teams as well.

Cespedes and Encarnacion will likely garner four or five year contracts, with both players likely be moving on to new clubs in 2017. These two Latin-American players performances offensively during the 2016 increases their free agency stock. Cespedes is the baseline in terms of the length of his next contract and the amount of money tied to it. Turner, who was a key piece offensively and defensively for the Dodgers. I see a two or three year contract for the third baseman who had a productive two seasons with the Dodgers to increase the market for his next contract.

The starting pitching market is the thinnest position market of all with few big names available for the 30 major league franchises this upcoming winter. Two notable starters are Rich Hill and Jason Hammel, two pitchers who raised their free agent stock during their 2016 seasons, respectively, with Hill leading the starting rotations of the Oakland Athletics and for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hammel provided depth to the back end of a championship Chicago Cubs. After veterans R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon signing short-term contracts with the rebuilding and young Atlanta Braves to thin the pitching market even more.

Overall, I see the position players getting the long-term big money contracts even beyond the five players I mentioned here. With the overall thin pitching market only the top performers to get top dollar. As for position players anything can go as with Josh Reddick agreeing to a contract with the Houston Astros and veteran first baseman/ designated hitter Kendrys Morales who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and leaving the Blue Jays’ other free agency plans up in the air going forward.