We are all aware the MLB offseason has officially arrived. It’s been trade after trade after trade, with projections and predictions galore. Then there’s the free agent class. We know the big names, most logical suitors, and the like.
So we’re going to do something a little differently. Today, with the focus being on position players, I’m going to select a full lineup of ninea��DH instead of SP, pitchers will have their own daya��of the best players representing their respective position.
If one or two positions are sorely lacking to others in comparison, that’s just the way it goes. Each player selected will also be assigned a contract value. Let’s get started.
C a�� Chris Iannetta
The 32-year-old catcher has endured a 10-year career between two clubs: the Colorado Rockies (6) and Los Angeles Angels (4). While his slugging percentage was significantly higher in his time with the Rockies (shocker), the rest of his batting line didn’t suffer too much after moving on.
With COL a�� .235/.357/.430
With LAA a�� .226/.342/.374
If you’re looking for a catcher that will put up big offensive numbers, those catchers are nowhere near the free agent market. Iannetta has generally been more than serviceable throughout his career, but 2015 was a rough one for him: .188/.293/.335 with 10 doubles and 10 home runs.
One other thing: the most games Iannetta played in during one season was 115 (2013). It dropped to 108 the following year, and 92 this past season. When on the field, and aside from 2015, he’s just about an average defender who gets on base a lot and flashes some power. It’s hard to ask for much more in a catcher.
Prediction: Iannetta picked the wrong time to put up the worst numbers of his career. He’ll be 33 in April, and perhaps 2015 was a sign of things to come, but he’ll find work. I can’t imagine him getting more per year than the $5.525 million he just made, but I believe a two-year deal worth $7 million seems fair.
1B a�� Chris Davis
2013 was great, 2014 was terrible, and this past season was exactly the kind of bounce-back season the slugging first baseman needed to re-establish himself as he hit the open market. Not turning 30 until April, Davis has become one of the biggest power threats in all of baseball.
Here’s how his last three slash lines played out:
2013 a�� .286/.370/.634; 42 doubles, 53 home runs*
2014 a�� .196/.300/.404; 16 doubles, 26 home runs
2015 a�� .262/.361/.562; 31 doubles, 47 home runs*
*led the league
I’d wager he’ll be closer to 2015 production levels across the boarda��if not just a little lowera��over the next couple seasons. If that’s the case, though, the acquiring club should be very pleased.
Prediction: Again, age and powera��plus his ability to stay healthy and on the field the past three seasonsa��all works in Davis’ favor. Oh, and Scott Boras is his agent, which hardly hurts. Let’s guess a number on contracts Boras was able to obtain for guys such as Shin-Soo Choo and Jayson Werth, which means I’m putting Davis somewhere in the area of seven years, $145 million.
2B a�� Ben Zobrist
To be fair, Daniel Murphy would have been picked for this position, but he had his own article earlier in the week. So we move on. In Zobrist, you have a 34-year-old utility man who can play just about anywhere in the infielda��primarily second basea��and outfield.
His career numbers show a .265/.355/.431 slash line, and he’s finished in the Top 20 of MVP voting on three separate occasions (’09, ’11, ’12).
After spending his first nine years with the Tampa Bay Rays, he made his way to Oakland where he spent half a season, slashing .268/.354/.447 over 67 games before being traded to the Kansas City Royals. In 59 games with the boys in blue, he slashed .284/.364/.453 with 16 doubles and seven home runs. Even at his age, he’s yet to show signs of slowing down.
Prediction: He’s going to get multiple years, whether it’s with KC or not. He’s got plenty of suitors, and in the end one of them will land him for three years at $37 million.
Fun fact: Zobrist has never made more than $7.5 million over the course of one season. Doesn’t that seem odd? He might top the list of the most under-appreciated player among actives.
3B a�� David Freese
I warned you there would be a position or two that came up a little thin. Enter third base, where Freese is your runaway champion, of sorts. I contemplated Juan Uribe, but at 36 years old, retirement is a real possibility.
Freese is 32, and coming off an okay seasona��his seconda��with the Angels. Since moving on from St. Louis, Freese has seen his offensive production dip and his defensive ability improve, though he remains a below average defender.
His career numbers show a .276/.344/.417 slash but his last two seasons look like this: .258/.322/.401a��a noticeable difference, I’d argue.
Prediction: Freese made just over $6.4 million last season, and I don’t believe he did enough in 2015 to earn more than that going forward. Therefore, I see him inking a two-year deal worth $8.75 million.
SS a�� Asdrubal Cabrera
In his final season with the Cleveland Indians, a 28-year-old Cabrera raked in $10 million. He was later traded to the Washington Nationals, then signed a one-year deal for $7.5 million with Tampa Bay in the offseason.
As the .267/.329/.412 career slash shows, he’ll never blow you away at the plate, but that’s not bad production for a shortstop. That said, his best days at the plate are lone gone. It gets worse.
Despite his ability to make flashy plays in the field from time to time, he’s generally rated out as a below average defender, per Fangraphs.
Prediction: With his most recent line of .265/.315/.430 and the fact that he posted negative numbers across the board in defensive runs saved, UZR, and UZR/150, I can’t imagine he’ll top the $7.5 million Tampa Bay gave him a year ago. That’s why I’m guessing one year at $5.5 million will be enough to get the job done.
LF a�� Yoenis Cespedes
Yes, I am aware Justin Upton is good. Yes, I am aware Upton is not on this list. Anything else?
There are several very good free agent outfielders, with Cespedes and Jason Heyward slated to most likely top the charts as far as contract value is concernced.
Cespedes has played for three teams (Oakland, Boston, New York Mets) in four years, boasting a line of .271/.319/.486. The OBP is low, but he brings plenty of power to the platea��hitting 22 or more home runs in each of his four seasonsa��and an incredible arm in the outfield.
In 57 games with the Mets in the second half of the season, he put up his best numbers since his rookie year (2012): .287/.337/.604 with 14 doubles and 17 home runs. He was a big part of the reason why NYM got to the World Series, but he’s bound to be very expensive. Therefore, I can’t imagine the Mets will bring him back.
Prediction: It’s not only the dollar amount that will be high, as he wants at least a six-year deala��what could be his last contract. And at the end of the day, if Chris Davis gets anywhere near what I predicted, Cespedes will ink a six-year deal worth $122 million.
Side note: I’d argue Justin Upton is a much smarter option.
CF a�� Dexter Fowler
Fowler’s peak yearly salary was $9.5 million this past season with the Chicago Cubs, and given his consistency over an eight-year career, we shouldn’t be surprised when his next contract tops that yearly.
He only turns 30 in March, holds a line of .267/.363/.418, and had an all-around solid season in terms of extra base hits in 2015: 29 doubles, eight triples, and 17 home runs (career high). He also stole 20 bases, something he hadn’t accomplished since 2009 when he swiped 27.
His 2015 was down offensively compared to his previous three seasons, but a .250/.346/.411 line shouldn’t have folks too worried going forward. Especially not in the next couple years.
Prediction: I’ve been wrestling with the idea of a four- or five-year deal, so here it goes. Fowler will sign a four-year contract for $52 million.
RF a�� Jason Heyward
Oh, Heyward is going to get paid. The former Braves and Cardinalsa��for now, anywaya��right fielder, is coming off a phenomenal season: his .293/.359/.439 slash line was right up there with one of his best years in the big leagues. He’s never hit for a higher batting average than this and the last time his OBP was higher was his rookie year back in 2010 (.393).
Heyward also knocked 33 doubles, four triples, and 13 home runsa��all while managing to swipe 23 bases, a career high. He’s never been able to replicate the power from his 2012 campaign (27 home runs), but 2015 was arguably his best overall year. With his speed, ability at the plate, and the fact that he’s so young while also being a great defender, Heyward should be come the richest position player in free agency this offseason. Perhaps Davis edges him.
Prediction: It’s going to be an outrageous deal, but what the heck? Seven years, $170 million. Hey, I never said I’m always right, did I?
DH a�� John Jaso
I could have gone with the aforementioned Justin Upton here, but that wouldn’t seem fair. Jaso’s catching days, if he is to remain in the American League, are behind him.
The 32-year-old started playing consistently in 2010, and has put up some very solid numbers ever since: a line of .263/.361/.406 is nothing to scoff at, but the unfortunate bit is that he’s not really renowned for his power. 10 is the highest total of home runs he’s hit over the course of a season, but Jaso is a consistently productive hitter who gets on base a lot. Can’t have enough of those guys around.
One issue isa��and this is when strictly becoming a DH becomes very importanta��the most games Jaso has played in is 109 (2010) followed closely by 108 (2012). Aside from those two seasons, he hasn’t made it past 99 games in the other four.
Prediction: Jaso made just about $5.5 million over the past two seasons between Oakland and Tampa Bay, which seemed about fair. I foresee another multi-year deal on the horizon for the 32-year-old, this time being two years in the amount of $7.25 million.
So, what did you think of the list? Would you have chosen anyone differently? How ridiculous did some of the contracts come off as?
I suppose we’ll see in due time, now won’t we?
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs