While two teams spend the next week battling for the 2015 World Series title, 28 other organizations are focused on finding ways to get to that point next season.
The good news for those looking to improve their rosters is the upcoming class of free agents features a bunch of impact players who can instantly turn around fortunes. The challenge will be getting those stars to sign with plenty other competition for their services.
There is a lot of time for negotiations, and a lot can change over the next few weeks and months. But here is an early look at some top free agents and the latest buzz surrounding them.
David Price, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
He was a key cog for the Toronto Blue Jays' surge to the postseason, but the future is unclear for David Price. General manager Alex Anthopoulos, who acquired the ace at the trade deadline, said he wants to keep him north of the border:
However, Anthopoulos could be departing Toronto, with ESPN's Buster Olney reporting he has the GM has turned down an extension with the club.
While both sides have said the right things, it seems the chances of Price actually staying in Toronto are not high, at least according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
"No matter how many times someone with the Blue Jays says David price may return, sorry, I'm having a hard time seeing Price and the Jays getting back together," Heyman wrote. "The smart money has the Cubs and Dodgers as the most likely teams for Price."
ESPN Insider Jim Bowden noted the Los Angeles Dodgers would be interested in signing either Price or Jordan Zimmermann if Zack Greinke were to opt out of his current contract. Meanwhile, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago also predicted the Chicago Cubs will be interested in adding another top-level pitcher this offseason.
There will likely be a lot of interested teams in Price after he posted a league-leading 2.45 ERA this season. Playoff question marks aside, he is a perennial Cy Young Award candidate who eats up innings and strikes out a ton of batters.
With big-market teams like Chicago and Los Angeles in a bidding war, Price could end up with a huge payday.
Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles were hoping Matt Wieters would be behind the plate with the team for 15-20 years, but it seems like he is now on his way out after six.
Although the three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner has obviously shown in the past he can be an elite backstop, he missed about a year with Tommy John surgery and only played in 75 games this season. In that time, he only hit .267 with eight home runs with a caught-stealing rate that was below league average, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Despite the down year, there is still interest from around the league. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, "The Braves, Dodgers, Rays, Astros and Mariners could bid for Wieters."
One of the big questions will be whether the Orioles want to give him a qualifying offer (one year for $15.8 million) and whether Wieters will accept it. Steve Melewski of MASN broke down why he might consider it:
Some believe there is no way that Wieters - a Scott Boras client - would accept a qualifying offer. No player has yet accepted one. But Wieters could be a unique case. If he took the offer, he could then use the 2016 season to re-establish himself as a top catcher and, if he can do that, he would hit the market after next year with potentially much more bargaining power than he has right now.
Most players will choose more guaranteed money and future pay over a one-year risk, but this makes a lot of sense for Wieters as he tries to get back to his old form. At least he knows there is interest on the open market if he does test the waters.
Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Another player looking to bounce back from a bad year is Jeff Samardzija. The former Cubs ace came to the Chicago White Sox on a one-year deal that turned out to be a disaster.
Samardzija finished the season 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA, allowing the most hits, earned runs and home runs in the American League. Despite these struggles, he still has interest from teams that don't want to spend big on a pitcher. Surprisingly, this includes the New York Yankees.
According to Heyman, "The Yankees are interested in a right-handed bat, middle-relief help and perhaps one starter. Jeff Samardzija could be that guy, though apparently not Price, Johnny Cueto or Greinke. They aren't high at the moment on $200 million deals for pitchers."
New York isn't known for being thrifty on the free-agent market, but this could make a lot of sense as a low-risk, high-reward deal for a team already spending money in other places.
For all of his problems in 2015, Samardzija did pitch 214 innings, marking the third year in a row he reached 210 for a season. He also had two complete-game shutouts and has shown plenty of brilliance throughout his early career.
The potential for a big season is there, with a worst case being a solid end-of-the-rotation starter who gives a team a lot of innings. The Yankees—or any team—would be smart to sign him at the right price.
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