The conditions surrounding the current state of the MLB free agent market has created one of the most buyer-friendly environments in recent years. Instead of flocking to lay money down for leading sluggers and aces, many teams are taking a more cautious approach to maintaining their payroll balance. In 2017, the staff at Canada Sports Betting consider the following free agents to be among the most important. These bats and arms have the potential to alter the balance of power in the majors, putting a contender over the top during the quest to secure a World Series ring.
When Masahiro Tanaka was successfully wooed by the Yankees in 2014, the pitcher’s agent arranged an opt-out clause on his $155 million deal after the fourth season. During the first three years of his MLB career, Tanaka has continually improved his stats, earning a 14-4 record on a 3.07 ERA last season, along with enough votes to finish seventh for the American League Cy Young race. The volume of his output has increased from 136.1 innings in 2014 to 199.2 innings pitched in 2016, showing that he’s capable of performing as an ace workhorse for any staff. Over his brief career, he’s earned a 39-16 record with a 3.12 ERA, resulting in a ridiculous .709 win percentage.
With a bit of good fortune, Tanaka could post 18 or more wins on a sub-3.00 ERA this season, which would make him one of a few of the most highly prized pitchers in the 2017 off-season. Considering the fact that he’ll be in his prime at 29 around his next contract, the opt-out clause could make Tanaka’s agent look like a genius in the long run.
After serving as the ace for a team that broke the worst curse in MLB history, Jake Arrieta can look forward to receiving a hefty pay raise over the next couple of years. What the Cubs decide to do over the next ten months will reveal plenty about Chicago’s pitching plans in the future. Should the Cubbies decide to play it safe and offer a modest raise instead of committing to a long-term extension, it would signal the front office’s belief that the Lester/Hendricks combo will be a more efficient one-two in the near future. Rather than splurge, the Cubs would rely on landing another option through trade, prospects or signings, which could lead to a Jake Arrieta free agency.
The list of suitors happy to throw money at Arrieta would include most of the MLB, although an outright bidding war would probably be won by the Yankees, who could use a boost to their starting pitching staff when Tanaka potentially exercises his player option. However, Arietta happens to be a decent hitter, which gives him a unique advantage over many hurlers in the National League. He could end up landing on the Giants or Cardinals if the top end of their starting staff experiences turnover.
Nearly halfway through January, nobody really knows where Jose Bautista will land. After a disappointing post-season and a regular season filled with injury and inconsistency, the slugger is entering free agency at the worst time possible, when many teams have already locked up the hearts of their batting order. Making matters more complex for Bautista, some clubs simply dislike Joey Bats, most notably the fans of Baltimore, which would have been a good fit under different circumstances.
The most recent team to kick the tires on the 36 year old six-time all-star is the Minnesota Twins, who are in the process of sorting out their lineup according to the results of negotiations with the Dodgers for Brian Dozier. Depending on those arrangements, Jose might find a more profitable one-year deal. In the middle of a rebuild, the Twins could use all the help they could get, and Jose would be able to guide youngsters in the clubhouse to assist with player development.
Worst case scenario, Jose will be welcomed back to Toronto, where the fans will embrace another year of Bautista swinging for the fences. If the 2016 season was a down year due to injury instead of a decline in skills, Bautista could prove to be a serious bargain in 2017.
The 2017 free agent market has been a bit unusual for sluggers, who haven’t been getting the same big deals as peers in the past. In previous years, hitters like Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion would be able to choose from a variety of inflated offers. Since the game has veered closer to generating runs through small ball in the post season, home run champs have seen a subtle decline in their value. Of course, the fact that many teams have already chosen their outfield, first basemen and DHs has created a buyer’s market.
What’s incredible about Mark Trumbo’s free agency is the fact that he lead the American League with 47 home runs while producing 108 RBI, and he still has trouble getting a deal done. In fact, Trumbo and the Orioles appear as if they’re finished with each other, with both parties seeking other options to fulfill their needs. One potential destination would be the Texas Rangers, who have the money and the space to fit a power DH who also plays first and outfield. In theory, the Colorado Rockies and Coors Field would be a superb match for the slugger, but the contract size and the lack of a DH position could be a deterrent.
He helped take the Cleveland Indians all the way to extra innings of game seven of the World Series, but still remains a free agent after a solid year of hitting 34 home runs and batting in 101 RBIs. Similar to other sluggers stuck on the market, Napoli had a low batting average of .239 and struck out 194 times – the most in his career. One of the main draws for Napoli would be the fact that he’s been to the post season eight times throughout his career, earning a World Series ring with Boston. Due to the glut of hard swinging, light fielding sluggers during the 2017 off-season, there’s a good chance that Napoli will end up being one of the better bargains for a team looking for power and experience.
Interestingly, the Baltimore Orioles might be in line to replace Mark Trumbo, who has reportedly been asking for up to $80 million for his services, leading to a rift between the American League home run leader and the front office. Napoli might prove to be a more cost effective option than Trumbo for the O’s, providing a bit less power for a lot less money.