Every offseason seems to bring with it a new crop of highly talented free agent players – and the 2016 list will be no different. There are plenty of great names that will be hitting the free agent market, and huge contracts are sure to be handed out all winter long. While you can’t necessarily buy your success in the offseason, you can certainly help your chances by bringing in one of the top names on the market. A front line starting pitcher or a middle of the order power hitter can mean the difference between making the playoffs and going home early next fall.
There are far more than three great players on the free agent market this winter, but the three below are likely to land some of the biggest contracts.
What makes Heyward unique is not just his set of skills, but also his age. Jason Heyward will only be 26 years old when the season starts next year, which is unusual for a free agent. Since he made his debut at such a young age, Heyward started the ‘clock’ on his free agency date younger than most. Also, unlike a player like Mike Trout, Heyward never signed an early contact extension, meaning he is hitting the market looking for his first big deal. Of course, he will have no trouble finding it. The power numbers haven’t really come along for Heyward like many expected, but he is still an excellent player. With plenty of speed, skill on defense, and the ability to get on base, somebody is going to write a big check to bring in this talented outfielder.
The Orioles slugger will be hitting the market this winter, and there are plenty of teams around both leagues that could benefit from a power hitting first baseman. Davis is picking an excellent time to have a good season, as his stock is certainly higher now than it was at the start of the year. Davis will be 30 when the 2016 season starts, which may limit the length of his contract slightly – but he should still be expected to command a large sum.
It just might be that David Price ends up with the biggest contract of all during the offseason. There simply isn’t anything not to like about what Price brings to the game. He throws hard, he works deep in games, and he has been durable to this point in his career. His stock doesn’t need to go up any further for him to command a $200 million deal, but his profile will be enhanced even more if he takes the Blue Jays all the way to a World Championship.
No team has waited longer between playoff appearances than the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays won the 1992 and 1993 World Series, only to see the 1994 World Series cancelled by a labor strike. While it didn’t seem likely at the time, those back-to-back World Series titles were the last playoff appearances period for the Blue Jays for more than two decades. While there have been plenty of bad Blue Jays teams over the past twenty years, they have also had the bad luck of playing in the same division as the Red Sox and the Yankees. However, that is all changing, as the 2015 version of the Blue Jays will head into the playoffs as a World Series favorite.
Josh Donaldson Coup
Getting Josh Donaldson from the A’s last offseason might be looked back on as the one transaction that changed the path of the Blue Jays for several seasons to come. Donaldson very well could wind up winning the AL MVP in 2015, as Mike Trout has faded from what was considered to be a two-horse race. Through 141 games, Donaldson has hit 38 home runs and driven in 119 runs – certainly MVP-caliber numbers. Add his high-quality defense to his proven offense and you have one of the very best players in the game. The players that Toronto gave up in order to get Donaldson – Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman, Brett Lawrie, and Sean Nolin – are unlikely to ever combine to produce the kind of impact that Donaldson has already had in Toronto.
Adding Mr. Price
As if having Josh Donaldson to go along with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion isn’t enough, the Blue Jays were also able to add free agent-to-be David Price to their rotation at the trading deadline. With Price heading the pitching staff and an offense that is unrivaled in terms of power, it is hard to see the Jays as anything but Series favorites heading to October. David Price will likely not be around for long in Toronto, but he will be remembered fondly if he is able to deliver the fans a World Series title.
Will the Power Disappear?
The big question for the Blue Jays heading into the playoffs is whether or not the power will continue to show up all the way through October. Teams that are highly reliant on the home run notoriously struggle in the playoffs for a variety of reasons. For one, the weather cools down, making it harder to hit homeruns. Also, in short series, managers can match up pitchers better to hitters, making at bats harder in general. While there is plenty of talent in Toronto on both sides of the ball, the Jays and their fans will need to hope there is no power outage when October rolls around.
The 2015 version of the New York Mets included a great pitching staff, but the offense didn’t seem to have enough punch to take the Mets to the next level. The Nationals were considered the clear favorite in the East, and the Mets appeared to have little chance of securing a Wild Card spot to get into the playoffs. At least, that was the story in the middle of July. In only a couple of months’ time, however, the story has changed, and the Mets are running away with the division title.
What happened? Yoenis Cespedes, mostly. A July 31st trade send Cespedes from the Tigers to the Mets, and the team hasn’t been the same since. In his first 41 games with the Mets, Cespedes has hit an incredible 17 home runs, to go along with 42 RBI and a .309 batting average. He has quite simply be one of the best players in the game for the second half of the season, and the Mets offense looks nothing like the light-hitting squad that played the first few months of the year.
Is He MVP Worthy?
The big question surrounding Cespedes is concerning his candidacy for NL MVP. There are strong arguments on both sides of the debate, but the argument really comes down to this – can a player win the MVP with only two years in the league? After all, Cespedes played the first four months of the season in Detroit, while Bryce Harper was already busy tearing up the National League. So, does Harper win the award for a year-long campaign, or should Cespedes get it for leading the Mets past Harper’s Nationals?
There isn’t an easy answer to this question. In the end, Harper will very likely win the award based on his full season of work. And it’s not like he isn’t deserving – Harper has had one of the best seasons by a player in any league for a long time.
Yoenis Cespedes probably isn’t worried too much about the NL MVP trophy, mostly because he is going to be getting paid big time in the coming offseason. As an impending free agent, there will be countless teams pursuing Cespedes to help them push for the playoffs. He has already proven what he can do for a team that needs some offensive punch, so there are sure to be plenty of 9-figure offers waiting for this powerful player.