Jason Heyward has positioned himself as one of the top free agents available this offseason
Major League Baseball’s hot stove is already at full boil. New Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski is already making his mark in Boston, swapping four prospects with the Padres for closer Craig Kimbrel.
Meanwhile, Kimbrel’s former club, the Braves, continue to make their fans say, “They did what!?” by trading away Andrelton Simmons, the best defensive shortstop in the game, for Erick Aybar and two pitching prospects.
And Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus became the first player in the history of the compensation system to accept the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer. Rasmus’ compensation agreement was soon followed by Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters and Dodgers’ pitcher Brett Anderson accepting their own qualifying offers.
All of this front office action happened before any free agent has inked a new deal. With the Winter Meetings in Nashville quickly approaching, millions upon millions of dollars are bound to be spent for players’ services next summer starting this week.
Here is a list of the 10 of the top free agents from this year's class and where they may end up.
1. Zack Greinke, SP
Greinke is likely to be this year’s NL Cy Young Award winner after posting a 1.66 ERA in 32 starts. After noticing the absurd amount of money that other aces were earning on the open market (ex: Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer) Greinke opted out of the final three years of his contract, forfeiting $71 million in the process. Don't feel too bad for Greinke, however, as his next deal will likely resemble the one Lester signed with the Cubs last winter, close to six years and $155 million. Many high-profile teams need an ace, but the free-spending Dodgers are the likeliest to re-sign Greinke.
Potential Teams: Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, Cubs
2. Jason Heyward, OF
Heyward is bound to cash in on a $200 million mega deal at the young age of 26. This season was arguably Heyward’s best as a pro, hitting .293/.359/.439 in his first as a Cardinal. Heyward rejected the Cards' qualifying offer, but St. Louis still has a chance to re-sign him. Heyward’s defensive prowess and athleticism make him a hot commodity, especially for teams who desperately need to improve their outfield. Rare is it that top-trier free agent is on the market at such a young age, but Heyward is now in a position to be the cornerstone for a franchise for a long, long time.
Potential Teams: Yankees, Angels, Cardinals, Astros
3. David Price, SP
Price has proven that he is one of the game’s best workhorses and teams are paying top dollar to innings eaters. Price is very much in the prime of his career and in the running for the AL Cy Young after a brilliant second half with the Blue Jays after being traded for the second straight season. Don't forget that Price also is a left-handed starter, which makes him an even more appealing commodity.The Cubs are rumored to be the front-runners for Price, hoping the appeal of working with his former Tampa Bay manager, Joe Maddon, lures him to the North Side. No matter where Price signs, he is going to command at least six years and at least $180 million to be the ace.
Potential Teams: Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cardinals
4. Justin Upton, OF
Upton will likely sign after Heyward sets the market, but will still command upwards of $140 million. Upton provides a solid source of power from the right side of the plate and is a plus defender in terms of runs saved. Whoever missies out on Heyward will likely pursue Upton, which gives Upton a lot of negotiating power. Upton would play well opposite of Bryce Harper in Washington or Mike Trout in Anaheim.
Potential Teams: Nationals, Angels, Yankees
5. Yoenis Cespedes, OF
Cespedes did himself a favor in the second half of 2015 when he hit 17 home runs and knocked in 44 runs in just 57 games with the Mets. He is now primed to sign for at least $120 million over five years. Cespedes could go almost anywhere as a corner outfielder, but look for teams who struggled to score runs to be the highest bidders.
Potential Teams: Mariners, White Sox, Giants
6. Chris Davis, 1B/OF
After a tumultuous 2014, Davis reminded everyone in 2015 that he can still mash, leading the league in home runs (47) for the second time in three seasons. Predicting where Davis ends up is a crapshoot — he could go anywhere. Davis’ high strikeout numbers and his willingness to play a corner outfield spot could be the deciding factor where he signs.
Potential Teams: Orioles, Mariners, Giants, Cardinals
7. Jordan Zimmermann, SP
Zimmermann isn’t necessarily an ace, and won’t command ace money, but he is a near-top of the rotation arm who eats innings. His numbers last season (3.66 ERA, 3.75 FIP) were higher than they’ve been since 2010, but Zimmermann is still bound to make upward of $110 million. With David Price leaving Toronto, the Blue Jays could be quick to overpay for Zimmermann’s services.
Potential Teams: Blue Jays, Tigers, Cubs, Diamondbacks
8. Alex Gordon, OF
Gordon isn’t going to blow you away with his offensive numbers, but his defense certainly will. He’s a good enough left-handed bat with decent power to keep somewhere in the heart of the lineup and to garner a $100 million deal. Reports indicate Gordon’s heart is in Kansas City, but how willing is he to give a hometown discount, especially with so many teams needing defensive outfield help?
Potential Teams: Royals, Cubs, Red Sox
9. Johnny Cueto, SP
Cueto’s second half run with the Royals was less than stellar, as the veteran ace posted a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts. Typically, Cueto is among the most reliable arms in baseball and that should still earn him a $100 million contract this winter. Teams looking to rebuild or reload will both be throwing themselves at Cueto.
Potential Teams: Astros, Red Sox, Tigers, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Giants
10. Ian Desmond, SS
If Desmond’s 2015 season had been anything remotely close to his previous three, he might be one of the top hitters available period. But unfortunately, Desmond’s .233/.290/.384 showing this season certainly hurt his case to cash in a big way as a free agent. Teams vying for Desmond are hoping that his poor summer was an outlier and that the three-time Silver Slugger gets back to his hitting ways. Teams looking for offense from their middle infield are sure to be calling Desmond soon.
Potential Teams: White Sox, Mets, Padres
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. An avid baseball fan, Rose also takes time to do some play-by-play work for the radio broadcasts of Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider baseball games. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.