B/R MLB Offseason 100: Top 100 Free Agents, Trade Targets Available
Over the past week, Bleacher Report has been going position by position and rounding up the top 100 players available in free agency and trades in the 2016-2017 MLB offseason.
Now it's time to put them all in one basket.
Each player was subjected to a scoring system that weighed his desirability in terms of talent, durability and value. Position players and starting pitchers could get as many as 100 points. Relief pitchers could get as many as 85 points.
For more on how the system worked, you can check out any of the individual position slideshows:
- Top 15 Corner Infielders
- Top 10 Catchers
- Top 15 Middle Infielders
- Top 25 Starting Pitchers
- Top 15 Relief Pitchers
- Top 20 Outfielders
Some things have required updating since the publications of the individual positional rankings. New players have joined the list. Others have had their situations updated. But on the whole, we're mostly here to present a list of 100 players to keep an eye on this winter.
So take it away.
100. Derek Holland, SP, Free Agent
Derek Holland was outstanding in 2013, posting a 3.42 ERA in 213 innings. Things have been rough since then, though. He's battled injuries and ineffectiveness, particularly in posting a 4.93 ERA over the last two seasons. His fastball velocity has been all over the place, and he's lost faith in his once-trusty slider.
For teams that are interested in trading for Holland, the hope will be that he can stay healthy and be energized by a change of scenery. This isn't a hopeless leap of faith. Holland's stuff likely peaked in 2013, but he still throws in the low 90s with a slider that hasn't gotten considerably worse at missing bats. Health permitting, these tools could at least make him a decent back-end starter.
A prolonged recovery from left knee surgery limited Holland to just six appearances in 2014. In the last two seasons, problems with his left shoulder have limited him to 32 appearances.
Put another way: The guy has been a wreck in the last three seasons. And while his left-shoulder woes would be concerning in any context, they're slightly more concerning now that he doesn't have youth going for him. He recently crossed the age-30 threshold.
There had been reports about the Texas Rangers looking to trade Holland rather than pick up his $11 million option. That didn't pan out, so they paid him a $1.5 million buyout and made him a free agent.
This means a team can name its own price for taking Holland on as a reclamation project. The going rate for guys like that has been in the range of $5 million-$7 million. Suffice it to say these are better rates with which to gamble on him than $11 million.
99. Brett Anderson, SP, Free Agent
Brett Anderson reminded everyone what he can do when healthy in 2015, posting a 3.69 ERA in 180.1 innings. But then came the injuries again. He made only four appearances in 2016. It didn't help that he wasn't any good in them, allowing 15 runs in 11.1 innings.
It won't be lost on prospective suitors that Anderson has been healthy in only two of his eight major league seasons. And yet, he's still only 28 with talent that's still attractive. He keeps the ball low as well as anyone, which feeds his career 58.2 ground-ball percentage. Health permitting, he could provide good value in the back half of a rotation.
You name it, Anderson has had it. Tommy John surgery. Foot problems. Hand problems. And most recently, back surgery.
While it may still be possible to be optimistic about his talent, the time to be optimistic about his durability is long gone.
Anderson pulled a fast one on the Los Angeles Dodgers when he accepted their $15.8 million qualifying offer last year. Suffice it to say he won't get this year's $17.2 million qualifying offer.
And Anderson is not likely to get another $10 million deal like the one that put him in L.A. in the first place. He's due for a reclamation-project price. Something like $5 million-$7 million. That would be a good deal if he stays healthy, but...yeah.
98. Santiago Casilla, RHP, Free Agent
Santiago Casilla had a strong run between 2010 and 2014, but he spent much of the last two seasons infuriating San Francisco Giants fans. He blew six saves in 2015 and nine in 2016. He fell out of favor with Giants skipper Bruce Bochy throughout 2016, which reduced Casilla to tears in the end.
Despite the bad times, Casilla looks like a good change-of-scenery candidate. The 36-year-old still has a good fastball, sitting at 93-94 mph in the last two seasons. He's also coming off a career-high rate of 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings while walking only 2.9 batters per nine. The blown saves thus overstate how bad he was in 2016 and shouldn't convince any teams not to stay away.
Casilla at least managed to stay on the mound the past two years, with at least 60 appearances in each season. But the only other time he's made that many appearances was in 2012.
That's not many for a 13-year veteran reliever. Casilla has been on the disabled list five times, mostly with lower-half injuries. It's fair to assume that, at his age, he's probably not out of those woods.
Casilla is coming off a four-year, $20.5 million contract that paid him $6.5 million in 2016. This sort of money does not await him on the open market.
Still, once-respected veteran relievers like Steve Cishek, Jason Motte, Jonathan Broxton and Oliver Perez landed two-year deals in the $7 million to $10 million range last winter. Casilla could end up there too and provide a good return if he just keeps doing his usual thing.
97. Daniel Hudson, RHP, Free Agent
Daniel Hudson had a rough time in 2016. He appeared in 70 games but pitched to a 5.22 ERA in only 60.1 innings. His Tommy John troubles between 2012 and 2014 ended any notions of him being a starter. Now there seems to be a question of whether he's even cut out for relief work.
However, he's here for a reason. He still has a live arm, averaging 95-96 mph on his fastball. He also had a changeup that collected one of the top whiff-per-swing rates of any relief changeup in 2016. He used these weapons to strike out one batter per inning over the last two seasons. Despite what his 2016 ERA may say about him, Hudson has the goods to be a late-inning reliever.
Hudson basically missed three seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. There have been no ill effects from that in the last two seasons, but an injury-related gap that wide will always loom large.
Plus, Hudson is not young anymore. He's going into his age-30 season in 2017. His durability isn't in clear and present danger, but we can't take it for granted either.
After earning $2.7 million in 2016, Hudson is going out onto the open market as more of a reclamation project than a tried-and-true reliever. Going off what Fernando Rodney and Tommy Hunter got last winter, the going rate for a pitcher like that should be in the $2 million to $3 million range.
In other words, pennies by today's standards. Durability questions aside, Hudson has the talent to make good on such a low-risk deal.
96. Andrew Cashner, SP, Free Agent
Andrew Cashner looked like a budding ace when he put up a 2.87 ERA across 2013 and 2014. But since then, he has posted a 4.72 ERA over the last two seasons. His velocity has fallen short of the high-90s peak he once enjoyed. Plus, his control has also diminished and produced ugly walk rates.
So, yeah. The 30-year-old is a yet another reclamation project. But he is one worth tackling. Even if his stuff isn't what it once was, he still has a good fastball (93-94 mph) and good breaking stuff. There may yet be a way to translate this stuff into production in a starting role. Failing that, he could be let loose in a relief role.
The book on Cashner used to be that he had a lot of talent but no durability. Go figure that he's lost the former and gained the latter, making 31 starts in 2015 and 28 in 2016.
But he's still not out of the woods. Cashner's trip to the disabled list with a bad neck this season was the fifth DL stint of his career. That's a lot for a guy who only recently turned 30. Even if the worst of it is behind him, his durability is still no sure thing.
Although Cashner doesn't have much production to lean on as he makes his case in free agency, you can bet his talent will draw a crowd anyway.
He could even get a nice raise on the $7.15 million he made in 2016. Justin Masterson and Brett Anderson both landed in the $10 million range on one-year deals under similar circumstances two years ago. If that's where Cashner ends up, there will be a risk factor.
95. Alexei Ramirez, SS, Free Agent
He was an All-Star in 2014, but recent times have not been kind to Alexei Ramirez. His offensive output has plunged to cringeworthy levels in the last two seasons. And while they could be an aberration, his terrible defensive ratings from 2016 could also be his 35 years catching up to him.
One positive is that Ramirez at least managed a .769 OPS against left-handers in 2016. That's in keeping with a positive history in that department. And while he shouldn't be an everyday shortstop anymore, he could be converted to a part-time shortstop and second baseman in a short deal.
Ramirez's talent is on its last legs, but his literal legs and everything else are just fine. He played in 145 games in 2016, marking the eighth straight season he's played in at least that many games.
Assuming he's transitioned into a part-time role on a one-year deal in 2017, staying on the field will become even easier for him.
Ramirez wasn't a good investment at $3 million in 2016, so he'll probably have to take even more of a pay cut in a major league contract this winter. He may even have to settle for a minor league contract.
Either way, he'll come with virtually zero risk.
94. Stephen Drew, SS, Free Agent
After two lost seasons in 2014 and 2015, Stephen Drew re-emerged with an .864 OPS in 2016. He also held it down at shortstop, third base and second base. As such, he'll get a few looks as a guy who can make an impact as a platoon player in 2017.
Rightfully so. The 33-year-old was crushing the ball in 2016, posting a career-high 41.4 hard-hit percentage. Taking only 17 plate appearances against left-handers helped. Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports also pointed to a change in Drew's approach that worked wonders. If he has more of the same in him for 2017, he'll be a solid bargain buy.
Drew has taken a beating in his career. The worst of it was the gruesome ankle injury that he suffered on a slide into home in 2011. Further injuries since 2013 have helped limit him to 410 total games.
Chances are his next contact will require him to stay healthy for only one year. But given his history, even that may be a challenge.
Drew made good on a $3 million contract in 2016, so he's probably looking at a pay raise this offseason. Nothing too crazy, though. It's hard to imagine him going too far over the $5 million threshold.
His health would determine whether he lives up to that. But if he were to stay healthy and pick up where he left off in 2016, he would once again be a nice find.
93. Koji Uehara, RHP, Free Agent
Koji Uehara is now several years removed from a magical 2013 season in which he couldn't be touched. The 41-year-old's velocity is down. And with it, so is a swinging-strike rate that peaked at 19.1 percent and fell to 15 percent in 2016.
However, Uehara still struck out 12.1 batters per nine innings. He also walked just 2.1 batters per nine innings. The command-and-deception act he puts on with his fastball and splitter has seen better days, but it is still alive and well. Provided he wants to keep pitching, he still has the goods to be an effective late-inning reliever in a one-year contract.
This is the bigger reason to worry about Uehara. He's been limited by injuries to 93 appearances over the last two seasons. One injury was a broken wrist on a batted ball, while another was a pectoral strain.
All this for a guy who had been on the disabled list five times even before the past two seasons. At his age, putting all this behind him and staying healthy in 2017 is no sure thing.
Uehara earned $9 million in each of the last two seasons. He'll have to take a pay cut if he wants to keep pitching. A good guess would be something like $5 million with incentives.
That could prove to be a nice deal if Uehara were to stay healthy. It's a shame that's such an iffy proposal.
92. Daniel Descalso, UTIL, Free Agent
Any team that gives Daniel Descalso a call will mainly be interested in his versatility. He can play all four infield positions and can venture into the outfield in a pinch. He's not a great defender at any one position, but he's good enough that he can play anywhere without embarrassing himself.
Descalso has been a below-average hitter his whole career, but it does stand out that his career-best .773 OPS from 2016 wasn't heavily influenced by Coors Field. He had a .765 OPS on the road. In light of his career-high line-drive rate and solid 29.3 hard-hit percentage, that could be worth reading into.
With 99 games played in 2016, Descalso fell just one game short of playing in at least 100 games for a sixth straight season. That speaks to how he's been able to keep himself on the field.
Of course, being a part-time player helps. He's well-preserved for a 30-year-old and should stay on the field in a short deal.
The Colorado Rockies picked up Descalso on a two-year, $3.6 million deal two winters ago. That ended up having a solid-enough payoff that he can probably get a raise on this winter's market. Say, $3-4 million on a one-year deal or $6-8 million on a two-year deal.
He wouldn't be a steal at those rates, but he could be a good investment simply by being himself.
91. Kelly Johnson, 2B, Free Agent
Kelly Johnson got off to a slow start with the Atlanta Braves in 2016, but then he looked more like himself in putting up a .787 OPS with nine homers in 82 games with the New York Mets. And while he mainly played second base, he also filled in at third base, first base and left field.
More of the same should be in the cards for 2017. Johnson, 34, isn't a great defender, but the fact that he can play anywhere is valuable. He's not a great platoon hitter, either, posting merely average numbers against right-handers. What matters, though, is that he can still pop the occasional homer.
Johnson has been around for a while now, but his relegation to a platoon role in recent seasons has helped keep him healthy. He's played in more than 100 games in each of the last four seasons.
With 2017 set to be his age-35 season, there is some built-in doubt about whether Johnson can keep this up. Not too much, though.
Johnson's last two free-agent deals have been for $1.5 million and $2 million, respectively. So let's take a wild guess and say he'll sign for $2.5 million this winter. It probably won't be for much more than that, anyway, which means it'll be nigh impossible for him to be a bust.
90. Doug Fister, SP, Free Agent
Doug Fister's attempt at a comeback in 2016 started well enough. He had a 3.55 ERA at the All-Star break. But then came a 6.20 ERA after the break. The once-reliable starter now has a 4.48 ERA over the last two seasons. With his age-33 season due up, his best days look behind him.
While still short of his peak, one silver lining from 2016 is how Fister's velocity rebounded somewhat. That and his always-good control give teams something to work with. And if nothing else, the 180.1 innings he logged in 2016 are proof he can still handle a workload at the back end of a rotation.
Of course, the notion that Fister can eat innings is slightly misleading. He either can or can't. He's topped 180 innings three times since 2011. In the other seasons, various strains laid him low.
At 6'8" and 210 pounds, there's a lot of Fister for the injury bug to bite into. And again, he's nearly 33 years old. His durability is at once his best selling point and something that can't be taken for granted.
The Houston Astros picked up Fister on a $7 million contract last winter, hoping to luck into a renaissance season from him. That didn't pan out, leaving Fister's stock largely unchanged from a year ago.
Still, he offers some name value and a half-decent promise of innings. He might be able to make like Mike Pelfrey and snag a two-year, $16 million deal. Best of luck to any team that takes the plunge.
89. Steve Pearce, 1B/OF, Free Agent
Steve Pearce experienced a rough season in 2015 but got back to doing what he does best in 2016: crushing left-handed pitching. His 1.032 OPS against lefties made it two seasons out of three he's had an OPS over 1.000 against them. He also played everywhere except shortstop, center field and catcher.
With Pearce heading into his age-34 season, there's worry about whether his production will regress again. As it is, there's more right-handed pitching in the league than left-handed pitching. By default, he doesn't get to use his best talent that often.
After playing in more than 100 games in 2014, Pearce has played in less than 100 in each of the last two seasons. Some of that is his role being limited. It's also because he's battled both nagging and more serious injuries.
Obviously, this isn't such a great look for a guy who's in his mid-30s. Pearce's limited role will make it easier for him to stay on the field, but it's also no guarantee that he will.
Pearce found a $4.75 million deal while coming off a down year last winter. He should do better than that in another one-year deal this winter.
But not too much better, given his limited usefulness. Say, $7 or $8 million. It's hard for money like that to go to waste in today's MLB, but Pearce would be hard-pressed to be a bargain at those rates.
88. Nick Hundley, C, Free Agent
It looks all well and good that Nick Hundley followed an .807 OPS in 2015 with a .759 OPS in 2016. But those are Coors Field numbers. And defensively, Hundley struggled with throwing out runners (14 CS%) and with framing in 2016. Per StatCorner, he was one of the worst at the latter.
Still, the 33-year-old hasn't harmed his reputation as a dependable semi-regular catcher. If nothing else, he can be put in the crouch for 80 to 100 games per year. In a weak catching market, this reality is appealing enough to earn a few looks.
Hundley is a typical catcher in this department. He's been injured for a good portion of his career, suffering everything from a broken wrist to elbow and knee surgeries to a couple of concussions.
Through it all, he's still averaged 83 games per season since 2008. That goes back to his quality of at least being a warm body that teams can strap catching gear on. That should continue in what will likely be a short-term deal.
Hundley's deal with the Colorado Rockies was for two years and $6.25 million. Between him, David Ross, Brayan Pena and Tyler Flowers, that seems to be the going rate for solid non-everyday catchers.
So expect him to land in roughly that same territory.
87. Matt Holliday, OF/1B, Free Agent
Matt Holliday looks the part of an aging veteran. Now 36, he's having trouble staying on the field. Even when he is on the field, he has even less business playing left field now than he did before. And this past season, his .246 average marked the first time he had hit under .270 in his entire career.
However, he did keep his OPS above average in 2016. His ability to not only put the ball in play but also aim well-hit batted balls gives him a good safety blanket to rely on. His power is still good too. He hit 20 homers in 2016 by way of an average of 96.9 mph on fly balls and line drives. It doesn't come with anything extra, but this is a bat that teams should want.
Holliday was prone to nagging aches and pains before 2015 and 2016. His aches and pains have since become more serious. A quad strain, a broken thumb and other hurts have limited him to 183 games over the last two seasons.
Between this recent track record and his advanced age, teams shouldn't eye Holliday for anything too strenuous.
Holliday's defense and durability issues may limit his market to American League clubs that can give him time at designated hitter. That would force him into competition with the market's other DH types, and Holliday won't be as hotly pursued as the others.
As such, somebody should pick him up for cheap in a one-year deal. Either $10 million guaranteed or less with incentives would do it. For that kind of money, he could be a good find.
86. Edinson Volquez, SP, Free Agent
For the second time in four years, Edinson Volquez led his league in earned runs allowed in 2016. He put up a 5.37 ERA. The .794 OPS he allowed marked a 102-point increase from his 2015 figure of .692. These numbers are even more cringeworthy when you recognize he pitched half his games at Kauffman Stadium.
Still, the 189.1 innings Volquez pitched will stand out to inning-needy teams. And it's possible the bad numbers he put up are a mere blip after quality seasons in 2014 and 2015. Volquez was still throwing 93-94 mph and finished with his best ground-ball percentage since 2011. He could be due for the good kind of regression in 2017.
Volquez's career hit snags when he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009 and was suspended for performance-enhancing drugs in 2010. He's bounced back since, making over 30 starts in each of the last five seasons.
At 33 and with over 1,400 innings on his arm, Volquez is hardly fresh. We also can't ignore that his arm slot is dropping, which could lead to trouble. Nonetheless, he's in solid shape for a veteran hurler.
Seeking to save money, the Kansas City Royals declined to pick up Volquez's $10 million option for 2017 and instead paid him a $3 million buyout. Now he looks to find employment elsewhere.
He could be picked up on a one-year reclamation-project deal at the going rate of around $6 million-$8 million. But in this market, it seems more likely he'll make like Mike Pelfrey and find a two-year deal to eat innings at around $8 million per year. Not ridiculous, but not risk-free either.
85. Drew Smyly, SP, Trade
Drew Smyly doesn't throw hard. His average fastball is only 90-91 mph. And yet he's struck out nearly one batter per inning in his major league career. One of his secrets is an elite amount of rising action on his four-seamer. It's not easy to hit even if the hitter is sitting fastball.
But then there's the 4.88 ERA that Smyly put up in 2016, not to mention the 43 home runs he's allowed in 242.0 innings over the last two seasons. He gave up 36 of those to right-handed batters, who have him pretty well figured out. A team that solves that problem would have a gem on its hands. If not, Smyly may be limited to back-end duty or perhaps a demotion to a lefty specialist.
Smyly made 30 starts in 2016, but what happened in 2015 still looms large. He was limited to 12 starts that year by left-shoulder problems.
At 27, Smyly is still young enough to put that behind him. But it would be easier to believe he could if he had a track record of durability before and after. He has neither. Further trouble in his last two years before free agency should not be ruled out.
Smyly is part of a starting pitching excess that Polishuk thinks the Tampa Bay Rays could deal from this winter. They don't seem interested in rebuilding, so any deals they make would have to bring major league or major league-ready talent.
It's a good question as to how much value Smyly has, however. He's not only coming off a rough season but is also projected by MLB Trade Rumors to go from a $3.75 million salary to a $6.9 million salary. Any team that gives up something of value for him would be making a risky play on his upside.
84. Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Trade
Source: Buster Olney of ESPN.com
In the first year of a five-year, $110 million contract, Jordan Zimmermann was limited by injuries to 18 starts and struggled with a 4.87 ERA. It's especially alarming that both his velocity and his ability to strike hitters out continued to trend in the wrong direction.
But this doesn't necessarily mean the 30-year-old is finished as an effective pitcher. He at least maintained his control in walking 2.2 batters per nine innings. His command could come back with improved health, as his neck injury affected his release point and barred him from throwing his customary high fastballs. If he can get those things back, he'll get by as a quality finesse pitcher.
The injuries Zimmermann has dealt with in 2016 make this part an obvious source of concern. It's possible his body is just worn out after being tasked with handling nearly 1,000 innings between 2011 and 2015.
As such, this is a case where just one injury-plagued season could well lead to more trouble in the coming years. It's not a given that Zimmermann will get back to making 30-plus starts per season.
If Olney is right about Zimmermann being available when the Detroit Tigers open for business this winter, my guess is he could only be moved in a bad-contract swap that would give the Tigers some payroll relief and the other team a lottery ticket.
Whether that would work out for Zimmermann's next team depends on his health. That's something I'm not sure about.
83. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Trade
Source: Jason Martinez of MLB Trade Rumors
Brandon Phillips is past his prime. His once above-average power is now safely below average, and his 35-year-old legs look their age on the bases and on defense. There's also a real chance that his weak defensive ratings in 2016 are no mere blips on the radar.
But let's give Phillips some credit. He's keeping his OPS around the league average. That has to do with how he's an outstanding contact hitter with an eye on all fields. And even if he's no longer elite on defense, he's still a capable defender. He's no longer a star, but he should be no worse than an average regular in the final year of his contract in 2017.
Phillips' body has aged well. He's suffered various aches and pains along the way but has played in more than 140 games in all but one year since 2006.
His age makes it fair to question how much longer this can continue. But with his contract up after 2017, it doesn't need to continue much longer.
Phillips' age and diminished talent equate to little value on the trade market. His contract could further complicate things; it includes a $14 million salary for 2017 and partial no-trade protection that he could again use to try to negotiate an extension.
As such, even trying to take on Phillips' contract while sending little to Cincinnati in return figures to be a headache for any suitors for the veteran second baseman.
82. Vince Velasquez, SP, Trade
Source: Todd Zolecki of MLB.com
Vince Velasquez burst out of the gate in 2016 with a 2.42 ERA through his first eight starts. He struck out 59 batters in 48.1 innings mainly through the use of blazing heat. But then his heat began to tail off. And then the injury bug found him. He ultimately finished with a 4.12 ERA in 24 starts.
As such, the 24-year-old still hasn't answered the question of whether he's cut out to be a starter. Optimistic suitors will view 2016 as a jumping-off point to better things. Pessimistic suitors will view him as a guy who may need to come out of the bullpen. Which is the right diagnosis remains to be seen. But if nothing else, one thing remains true: Velasquez isn't lacking in talent.
Velasquez has been struggling with durability since high school. He's racked up a list of injuries that includes a stress fracture, a couple of ligament strains that led to Tommy John surgery, a groin problem and, most recently, a strained biceps.
The good news is that Velasquez has the youth and a sturdy enough build (6'3" and 205 lbs) to put all this behind him. Even still, there's a debate to be had about whether he should be starting.
Zolecki didn't report that Velasquez is on the block, but he did say the Philadelphia Phillies, who have a ton of young arms, will be open for business. Zolecki also noted Velasquez was involved in trade talks over the summer.
If the Phillies do trade him, it would probably be for a similar player: a talented but somehow flawed young talent. In a deal like that, both sides would be looking for a lottery ticket.
81. Jason Hammel, SP, Free Agent
Jason Hammel has reinvented himself since bombing with a 4.97 ERA back in 2013. Nothing too complicated—he just turned his slider from a secondary pitch into his primary offering, and he's done so without sacrificing too much control. Thus, he's put up a 3.68 ERA since 2014.
Of course, Hammel's heavy slider usage helps distract from his steadily declining velocity. It also hasn't changed the fact he's a fly-ball pitcher who's prone to home runs. Because of these things, the 34-year-old doesn't belong atop anyone's rotation. But in a market as thin on starting pitching as this one, even a crafty back-end type like him sticks out as a guy worth signing.
Hammel has topped 30 starts in each of the last two seasons, but prior concerns about his durability haven't evaporated entirely. He was rolling right along until his elbow started barking late in 2016.
That plus a previous elbow scare in 2013 will give suitors pause. So will the simple fact that he's a pitcher in his mid-30s with plenty of mileage on his arm.
The Chicago Cubs pulled a fast one on everybody when they declined Hammel's $12 million option for 2017. In so doing, they freed him up to do notably better than that in a multiyear deal.
The best comp for Hammel from recent winters is J.A. Happ, who got $36 million over three years. In such a barren market, Hammel might get a couple of extra million in a three-year deal. That would make him a tad overpaid.
80. Mike Napoli, 1B, Free Agent
Mike Napoli rebounded from a rough 2015 in a big way in 2016. He upped his OPS from .734 to .800 and clubbed a career-high 34 home runs. Just as important, he played in a career-high 150 games.
However, we can't overlook that Napoli is now 35 years old. His power spike may be short-lived, which would force him to rely on other talents. To that end, his swing-and-miss habit regressed in 2016 after taking steps forward the prior two years. His poor defensive ratings could also be a sign of things to come.
Given he had undergone a gnarly surgery to correct his sleep apnea the previous winter, it's no wonder Napoli had a down year in 2015. By that same token, perhaps it's no wonder he was fully recovered and productive this year.
Still, this is a guy in his mid-30s with lots of mileage on his body. Said body has also been prone to nagging injuries. It's best not to count on him playing in 150 games again.
Napoli was a candidate for the $17.2 million qualifying offer, but it's not surprising that the Cleveland Indians chose not to risk it. That's a lot of money for an aging one-dimensional player.
Not being tied to draft-pick compensation will make it easier for Napoli to find a raise over the $7 million he made in 2016. Something like the two-year, $25 million deal Adam LaRoche signed in 2014 could be in order. Given all we've discussed, that would likely prove to be an overpay.
79. Joe Blanton, RHP, Free Agent
Joe Blanton's major league career seemed finished as recently as 2014. His reinvention as a reliever since then has gone well. He's made 111 appearances and posted a 2.65 ERA with 9.2 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings.
Blanton's trick has been to make his slider his primary pitch. His velocity has also ticked up. He sat at a career-high 91.2 mph with his heat in 2016. I wouldn't call him overpowering, but these are good reasons to be sold on his reinvention. There's also his ability to go more than one inning at a time, which is a valuable skill in today's MLB.
Blanton's big injury scare came in 2011 when he ran into trouble with his right elbow. But that's pretty much been it in a career that's now spanned 12 seasons.
This doesn't erase the fact that Blanton is a 35-year-old with a lot of mileage on his arm. But in what's likely to be a short-term deal, he's a better bet to stay healthy than many veteran pitchers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Blanton for just $4 million last winter. After making good on that, he has a Mark Lowe vibe that could lead to a similar deal: two years at $5 million to $6 million per.
Money like that wouldn't be buying a classic shutdown reliever. But it would be a fair price for an effective reliever who can succeed in a variety of roles.
78. Greg Holland, RHP, Free Agent
Greg Holland was having a rough time when he was last on the mound in 2015. After managing a 1.86 ERA from 2011 to 2014, he had just a 3.83 ERA. He was dealing with a significant velocity loss, which not surprisingly had an effect on his strikeout rate.
Then Holland had Tommy John surgery. Teams interested in the soon-to-be 31-year-old will be wondering if that could restore some of his lost velocity. That would give him a plus-plus fastball once again, to be paired with a slider that's been great at missing bats regardless. He wouldn't be the first to regain velocity after Tommy John, so he's an intriguing option.
Holland had a track record of durability before 2015, appearing in more than 65 games each year between 2012 and 2014. But 2015 brought a pectoral strain even before it brought the Tommy John surgery.
Holland should be fully recovered from that by the time Opening Day rolls around, but nobody will know for sure until he starts airing it out like his old self.
What do you give a reliever who's coming back from Tommy John surgery? Well, Ryan Madson once got $3.5 million plus incentives less than one year removed from Tommy John surgery.
But since Holland is a formerly elite reliever who's represented by Scott Boras, that could be the bare minimum for his asking price. Boras may have a Brian Wilson deal ($10 million salary) in mind, possibly over two years rather than just one. Even if he doesn't quite get his wish, whoever signs Holland will be risking more than a little.
77. Kurt Suzuki, C, Free Agent
With just a .704 OPS in 2016 and a .683 OPS for his career, Kurt Suzuki's value is not in his bat. With sub-20 caught-stealing percentages the last two years, it's not in his arm. With routinely below-average framing numbers, it's not in his glove either.
Rather, Suzuki's value is his dependability. He's generally good for 100 games in the crouch. You take what you can get from a guy like that. To that extent, it's actually a positive that, while it's not good, his offense isn't terrible. The 33-year-old should be able to keep it up in a short deal.
Suzuki's dependability comes from his durability. He's been on the disabled list only once in his career, a rare feat for a catcher several years into his 30s.
Of course, catchers can be durable right up until they're not. And with more than 1,100 starts at catcher on his record, Suzuki's durability could be near its breaking point.
After making $6 million per year in each of the last three seasons, Suzuki is likely poised for a salary bump in free agency. The going rate for steady veterans has been $4-5 million per year over two years, but he could get $7 or $8 million per in a similar deal.
That's not a lot of money in today's MLB. And while Suzuki is not an especially talented player, his reliability would make it money well spent.
76. Brian McCann, C, Trade
Source: Mark Bowman of MLB.com
Brian McCann was solid in OPS'ing .752 with 46 home runs in 2015 and 2016. The catch is how much help he got from Yankee Stadium, as he put up an .811 OPS there and a .693 OPS on the road. With his age-33 season on deck, there's also the question of how much longer he can be an everyday catcher.
Still, McCann at least has value as a veteran-presence type. He's also still useful when he does catch. Per StatCorner's metrics, he was one of the top strike-framers in baseball in 2016. Past his prime though he may be, he's still a good guy to have on a roster.
McCann's 1,510 career games include 1,310 starts in the crouch. Along the way, he's racked up an injury history about as long and daunting as James Joyce's Ulysses.
The worst may be behind him, however. McCann has played in at least 130 games three years in a row. The Yankees made that happen by giving him spot starts at first base and DH. Wherever he goes next, more of the same could keep him on the field in the final two years of his contract.
Bowman's article cites only the Atlanta Braves as a possible suitor for McCann. Because the Yankees would have to eat some of McCann's contract in order to move him, there may well be more suitors.
The downside? The Yankees won't eat any of McCann's contract unless they get worthwhile talent in return. It won't be top-tier talent, but giving up any talent for a player of McCann's caliber would create some risk.
75. Chase Utley, 2B, Free Agent
Chase Utley says he wants to keep playing. That's fine, but the borderline future Hall of Famer isn't the player he once was. He's OPS'd just .679 over the last two seasons and is far from the game-changing defender he was in his prime, per the metrics.
There's still a role for the 37-year-old to play, though. His defense is no longer great, but it's still adequate. And if he were to be confined to a platoon role against right-handed pitching, everything in his track record suggests he would stand out as an above-average hitter.
The fact that Utley is still playing is a small miracle. He's taxed his body to the extreme with his aggressive style of play and has racked up numerous aches and pains along the way. His knees, in particular, seemed destined to end his career not too long ago.
And yet, he played in 138 games in his age-37 season and in 155 games as recently as 2014. This doesn't mean he's been made whole again, but it's a positive sign he could hold up in a short deal.
The Los Angeles Dodgers re-signed Utley for just $7 million last year. He provided good return on that investment. That plus the weak crop of free agents on this year's market could mean a bump to $10 million or more even if a team plans on using him in a part-time role.
Utley likely wouldn't turn a deal like that into a bargain, but it wouldn't be money down the drain either.
74. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS, Trade
Source: Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald
Adeiny Hechavarria's defensive potential has become reality in the last two seasons. He's gone from having below-average metrics to well above-average metrics. According to Inside Edge data, this past season in particular saw him become good at making both the easy plays and the difficult ones.
However, Hechavarria owns just a .627 career OPS. He's a throwback to middle infielders from the old school. He's a good contact hitter but struggles to make good contact. He's also not much of a baserunner. Chances are he'll continue being a glove-only player in his last two years before free agency.
Hechavarria played in a career-high 155 games in 2016. In so doing, he avoided the elbow and hamstring issues that had plagued him in recent seasons.
Those could still reappear, but it shouldn't be considered a major concern either way. Even with those issues, Hechavarria still averaged 141 games per season between 2013 and 2015.
Jackson reported Hechavarria will be on the table as the Miami Marlins look to fill out a starting rotation that was thin even before the death of Jose Fernandez. He's not going to get them an ace on his own, but they could dangle him for a mediocre mid-rotation arm or a solid back-end guy.
If a team has pitching to spare and is in need of some defense to finish an otherwise complete roster, then sure. If not, Hechavarria is not worth the trouble.
73. Jose Iglesias, SS, Trade
Source: Buster Olney of ESPN.com
Jose Iglesias entered 2016 as a .287 career hitter, but the .255 average and .306 OBP he posted this year are truer reflections of his offensive talent. Although he's an excellent contact hitter, he makes a ton of soft contact and doesn't pad his OBP with walks.
On the other side of the ball, there's good and bad. Iglesias has elite defensive tools in his quick feet, quick hands and strong arm. His metrics have been all over the place, though. That's a good reflection of his inconsistency on defense. He's thus less Andrelton Simmons and more Adeiny Hechavarria.
Iglesias needs to prove himself in this department as well. He missed all of 2014 with bad shins and has been limited to 257 games over the last two seasons by further trouble with his legs.
The bright side: Iglesias is still only 26. Good health may finally find him in his final two years before free agency.
The Detroit Tigers will be selling low on Iglesias if they trade him. There's no chance of them replicating what the Atlanta Braves got in the Simmons trade—which featured top prospect Sean Newcomb—last winter. Iglesias can probably only fetch low-level prospects or perhaps a promising reclamation project.
Given that Iglesias' bat isn't strong and his glove is a mixed bag, I'm not sure he could be a steal at either price. Nonetheless, buying low on him now is a good idea.
72. Pedro Alvarez, DH, Free Agent
After flaming out as an everyday position player in 2015, Pedro Alvarez quietly thrived in his new role as a part-time designated hitter in 2016. He put up an .826 OPS and hit 22 home runs in only 376 plate appearances. He had an .848 OPS and hit 21 of those 22 homers against right-handers.
Alvarez's dominance against right-handed pitching is nothing new. Neither is his power, which comes from his huge raw pop and steady pull habit. As teams eye him for a short-term deal, they will focus on these things and downplay that Alvarez doesn't bring much else to the table.
As you'd expect from a big-bodied player, Alvarez has struggled with lower-half aches and pains over the years. The most serious was a quad strain that put him on the DL for nearly two months in 2011.
However, Alvarez has mostly been healthy as a big leaguer. And now that he's settled into a role as a part-time DH, it will be easier for him to stay healthy after he crosses the age-30 plateau in 2017.
After providing solid return on a $5.75 million investment by the Baltimore Orioles in 2016, Alvarez is due for a raise this winter. But while there have been some lucrative multiyear contracts handed out to DHs in recent winters, teams won't be quick to rain money on a platoon DH.
The best hope for Alvarez is something like the two-year, $17 million contract Kendrys Morales signed off a down year two winters ago. Alvarez could live up to that, but one doesn't imagine a player who's limited to hitting for power in a platoon role would exceed any expectations.
71. Mitch Moreland, 1B, Free Agent
Mitch Moreland is good for a couple of things. He handles right-handers well, OPS'ing .778 off them for his career. Power is his other main calling card, as he's cranked 20-plus homers in three seasons out of four. And per both the metrics and the eye test, he's a quality defender at first base.
Moreland is only good against right-handers, however. His career OPS against southpaws is .673. He's also failed to post an OBP over .300 in three out of four seasons. And while his power is good, his modest ability to get the ball airborne holds it back. Now that he's 31, that may only get worse.
Moreland has topped 145 games in two of the last four seasons but played in just 184 total games in the other two. He missed significant time with an ankle injury in 2014 and an elbow injury in 2015.
The bright side is that he otherwise hasn't been too beat up while playing primarily at first base. But between his age and injury history, there's no guarantee he'll be healthy in a short-term deal.
Moreland is coming off a year in which he earned $5.7 million. He could have trouble matching that salary on the open market but shouldn't see too big of a pay cut because of the general lack of talent on the market.
A possible comp for Moreland is John Jaso, who signed for $8 million over two years last winter. Moreland could find a similar contract and be similarly useful as the lefty part of a first base platoon.
70. Neil Walker, 2B, Free Agent
Neil Walker has been a consistently above-average hitter, posting an OPS no lower than .740 since 2010. He combines a quality approach with good power, which in 2016 led to 23 homers and a .476 slugging percentage. One of his best-ever hard-hit rates backed up those things.
However, Walker's age (31) and recent back surgery cloud the future of his power. There's a good chance it could regress and render his bat less dangerous. Per the metrics, he's already a below-average defender on the other side of the ball. This is a case of a good player with an iffy future.
Walker's back surgery isn't the only concern. His past contains an expansive collection of other health woes. It's because of those that he's averaged just 133 games per season since 2012.
Heading into his age-31 season, Walker isn't at a point where he's easily able to put these issues in the past and keep them there. His durability is another question mark for the future.
In a not-quite-shocking turn of events, the New York Mets made Walker a $17.2 million qualifying offer. He's likely to reject that and try his luck on the open market despite ties to draft-pick compensation.
Walker's goal is sure to be something like the four-year, $56 million contract Ben Zobrist got last year. His back surgery may force him to settle for a three-year version of that deal, possibly with an option. That wouldn't be bad for a healthy Walker. But about that...
69. Brad Ziegler, RHP, Free Agent
Brad Ziegler has a better adjusted ERA+ over the last two seasons than Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen, Dellin Betances and a smattering of other big-name relievers. He was effective long before 2015 and 2016, too. His career ERA in 604 appearances is 2.44. Not too shabby.
One catch is that Ziegler is dominant only against right-handed batters. Another is that he's a 37-year-old who throws only in the low 80s. Nonetheless, he gets it done. His funky submarine delivery makes it tough to track the ball, and he throws low and lower. That's where his career 66.3 ground-ball percentage comes from. As long as he keeps those coming, he'll keep doing his job.
You can only be so comfortable with a reliever in his late 30s who has more than 600 appearances. But Ziegler hasn't been overworked. He may have over 600 appearances, but he's logged less than 600 innings.
Plus, one reason he's been so prolific is that he hasn't been injured that often. He had a scare when he needed microfracture knee surgery in 2014, but it's otherwise been smooth sailing.
Ziegler's last contract paid him $15 million over three years, a respectable sum for a reliever. His reliability should pay him at a similar rate this winter, albeit for one or two years rather than three.
With the prices about to be paid to the big-name relievers on this year's market, that doesn't sound so bad for an unspectacular yet reliable reliever like Ziegler.
68. Yunel Escobar, 3B, Trade
Source: Chris Cotillo of SB Nation
Yunel Escobar had a stretch where he couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat. He hit .256 with a .668 OPS between 2012 and 2014. Now he's a .309 hitter with a .768 OPS over the last two seasons. He's always been a great contact hitter. What he's developed is a fantastic ability to aim the ball.
Getting base hits is all Escobar can do, however. He doesn't hit for power. He's not a good baserunner. He has three straight seasons of terrible defensive metrics behind him. A team that trades for him can expect to get a good table-setter in his age-34 season in 2017, but not much else.
The last injury Escobar suffered was a freak occurrence. He suffered a concussion when he fouled a bunt off his face in August. That sidelined him for a couple of weeks.
Even apart from that, Escobar isn't one to stay in the lineup throughout an entire season. A steady string of aches and pains have limited to less than 140 games in seven of his 10 seasons. And at his age, staying healthy won't get any easier.
Before they decided to pick it up, Cotillo was theorizing about the Los Angeles Angels trading Escobar rather than pay his $7 million option for 2017. Even after picking it up, he may still be on the block.
The Angels would probably have it in mind to trade Escobar for a starter who could help repair a rotation that managed just a 4.60 ERA in 2016. As long as a team is willing to give up only a back-end type who's short on team control, there's a fair deal to be struck.
67. Derek Norris, C, Trade
Source: AJ Cassavell of MLB.com
On the bright side, Derek Norris ended up with good framing numbers at the end of 2016, according to StatCorner. But everywhere else, he was bad. Just...bad. He posted a career-low .583 OPS with a huge strikeout rate. He also threw out just 21 percent of base stealers and allowed 51 passed balls and wild pitches.
The hope for prospective suitors is that a move to a contender would inspire Norris to get back to his All-Star form from 2014. And if nothing else, they can hang their hat on his bad splits against lefties in 2016 being an aberration that will correct itself. Given that he's only 27, either hope has merit.
This is where Norris is doing just fine. His 125 games played in 2016 make it three years in a row he's played in at least that many. And most of these games (358) have come in the crouch.
Norris' youth and clean injury history are two good promises that he can keep this up in his final two years before free agency.
Cassavell is right about Norris being expendable now that the San Diego Padres are poised to install Austin Hedges as their everyday catcher. The trouble is that Norris has little trade value after 2016. The further trouble is that teams won't be quick to trust general manager A.J. Preller following the controversy over the team's handling of medical information.
As such, Norris can probably be had on a discounted price in a trade. Given his bounce-back potential, teams should go for it.
66. Howie Kendrick, 2B/OF, Trade
Howie Kendrick was forced out of his comfort zone in 2016. The long-time second baseman was turned into a utility player who logged time in left field and third base. Meanwhile, his typically reliable stick fell apart. He hit just .255 with a .691 OPS.
The concerning trend with Kendrick's offense is how many ground balls he's been hitting. Otherwise, he remains a good contact hitter who loves to inside-out the ball to right field. And while he may not like it, his defensive versatility is a good asset now that the metrics aren't rating his second base defense as well. The 33-year-old can at least be a solid utility guy in the last year of his contract in 2017.
With over 1,300 games on his record, Kendrick has put a lot of mileage on his body. It's beginning to show. A hamstring injury helped limit him to 115 games in 2015 and he suffered a calf injury before 2016 even began.
This is another reason for trade suitors to look at Kendrick as a utility player. A few breathers here and there can only help him.
Heyman reports that Kendrick prefers to be traded rather than return to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2017. The Dodgers have enough depth to oblige his wishes.
If they do, they'd probably seek out a one-for-one swap that would bolster their major league roster. A deal for a similarly valued player with limited controllability would do the trick for both sides.
65. Sean Rodriguez, 1B/UTIL, Free Agent
Since 2010, Sean Rodriguez has had seasons where he's played mostly second base, mostly shortstop, mostly third base, mostly in the outfield and, in 2015 and 2016, mostly first base. And per the advanced metrics, he's competent wherever he plays. These are good selling points.
Rodriguez's new trick in 2016 was being productive on offense, posting an .859 OPS with 18 homers. It's not often guys break out like that in their age-31 season. However, he earned it with a hard-hit percentage of 43.1. That's by far the highest of his career. His extreme whiff habit will limit how much he shows off his new power going forward, but it's a nice extra selling point to go with his versatility.
Rodriguez has never been a full-time player, so it's no wonder he comes with a relatively clean injury history for a guy heading toward his age-32 season.
And because he hasn't been a full-timer, he's indeed well-preserved for a guy his age. He should hold up fine in what's going to be a short-term deal.
After the year he just had, Rodriguez should find a nice raise over the $2.5 million he made in 2016. If Steve Pearce could get $4.75 million last year, Rodriguez might be able to land a multiyear deal worth at least $5 million.
That wouldn't be too bad for a versatile defender who can provide some pop.
64. Chris Carter, 1B, Trade/Free Agent
Chris Carter co-led the National League with 41 homers in 2016. And so it goes. Only five players have cleared the fence more often than him since 2013. He's made to hit home runs, combining tremendous raw power with an ability to get the ball in the air.
But home runs are all Carter provides. He has a good eye, but a strikeout habit and an aversion to BABIP undermine his on-base skill. He also doesn't run or field his position, consistently rating as a below-average defender. In the event his power declines after he crosses the age-30 threshold in 2017, he may be useful only in a platoon role against left-handed pitching.
There's always a concern about big guys breaking down physically, but the concern doesn't weigh as heavily with Carter as it does with other guys.
He didn't become an everyday player until his age-26 season. His body has also been preserved by DH and first base duty. That explains his clean injury history and average of 146 games played over the last four seasons.
Given MLB Trade Rumors' projected salary raise for Carter from $2.5 million to $8.1 million, Heyman isn't the only one wondering whether Carter will be non-tendered. Even if he's not, the Milwaukee Brewers figure to shop him to teams that are looking for affordable power.
If Carter is non-tendered, he could possibly be signed for less than $8.1 million on a one-year deal. If he's traded, the Brewers could replicate the Mark Trumbo trade and target organizational depth. Either way, he should have an affordable price tag that reflects his limited set of skills.
63. Trevor Plouffe, 3B, Trade/Free Agent
Trevor Plouffe has been a perfectly serviceable player. Since 2012, his OPS has hovered between the low and mid-.700s. He's had two years (2012 and 2015) in which he topped 20 home runs. And since 2013, his defensive ratings have been mostly good.
However, what the future holds for Plouffe is unclear. He hasn't had any standout skills in his prime, and his prime may already be over now that his age-31 season is on deck. His best role may be in a platoon gig where he can make good use of his career .809 OPS against left-handed pitching.
Plouffe's durability is another reason he could be ticketed for a platoon role. He played in 152 games in 2015, but injuries have limited him to an average of 124 games in the last five seasons.
The bright side is that he's played in only 723 games, which is not that many for a guy his age. But what he lacks in mileage, he makes up for in dings and dents. This is something for suitors to be wary of even with only short-term commitments being in the cards for Plouffe.
Plouffe is another one for the "non-tender or trade?" pile. MLB Trade Rumors projects $8.2 million for him after he made $7.25 million in 2015, a rather larger expense for a Minnesota Twins team that doesn't need him.
If Plouffe is non-tendered, he could probably be picked up on a deal worth less than his expected arbitration payout. If he's traded, he could come at a discount after a rough 2015 season. Even if he only does it in a platoon role, he could have a chance to provide a good return on a small investment.
62. Zack Cozart, SS, Trade
Source: Jason Martinez of MLB Trade Rumors
Zack Cozart boasts outstanding defensive metrics, accounting for 54 defensive runs saved and a 42.2 ultimate zone rating. And because his defensive prowess is based as much (or more) on his technique as his athleticism, he should keep it up in his age-31 season in 2017 before becoming a free agent.
Cozart doesn't have as much to offer on offense, but he does have more to offer now than he used to. His OPS has hung around the league average the last two seasons. This has involved him chasing more power, posting lower ground-ball rates and putting up higher hard-contact rates.
And now for the bad news. A season-ending knee injury in 2015 and further knee trouble in 2016 have limited Cozart to just 174 games over the last two seasons.
This is not the best sign for a guy heading into his age-31 season. Cozart may only require a one-year commitment, but his health for this one year should be considered up in the air.
The Cincinnati Reds' rebuild has already gutted most of the team's veteran resources, but Martinez is right on in thinking that Cozart's a remaining resource that could be moved.
He would be one of the lesser options on a trade market that will have some good middle infield options. Further, his recent injury woes likely limit his value to lesser prospects. Health permitting, trading for him could yield a solid bargain.
61. Ivan Nova, SP, Free Agent
When Ivan Nova left the New York Yankees this summer, he had a 4.90 ERA that had bumped his career ERA up to 4.41. Then Pittsburgh Pirates pitching coach/whisperer Ray Searage got his hooks into Nova and squeezed a 3.06 ERA and 17.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio out of him.
Nova's always had a good arm, maintaining fastball velocity in the 92-93 mph range. As Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs broke down, all Searage did was get Nova to stop nibbling and be more aggressive. That resulted in a lot more strikes without harming the marketable skill Nova already had: his ability to get ground balls with a 50.8 career ground-ball percentage. These things should have suitors intrigued.
The big red flag on Nova's track record is the Tommy John operation he underwent in 2014. Even before that, he had landed on the DL in 2012 and 2013 with arm and shoulder injuries.
These are things to be wary of as Nova heads for his age-30 season in 2017. He's going to attract a crowd of teams that want innings as much as production. His track record doesn't make many promises.
J.A. Happ's name came up a lot in Charlie Wilmoth's breakdown of Nova's free-agent prospects at MLB Trade Rumors. That would mean a contract in the range of three years and $36 million.
In September, however, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Nova had five years and $70 million in mind. Now Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is echoing those figures. It's not surprising, given the lack of talent available, but it sure seems like the stars are aligning for Nova to be insanely overpaid.
60. Rajai Davis, OF, Free Agent
There's still a slight tremor in the earth from Rajai Davis' home run in Game 7 of the World Series. But it's his legs that have kept him in the majors over the years. Although his 43 steals in 2016 were his first time leading his league, they marked his seventh season out of 11 with at least 30 steals.
Davis, 36, is short on standout tools outside of his speed. But what he lacks in upside he makes up for in dependability. On offense, he hits lefties and can put up an OBP close enough to the league average for government work. On defense, he can play all three outfield positions. He's a rare case of a guy who is only an OK player but is also a very valuable guy to have around.
Why are Davis' legs still working so well in his mid-30s? At least in part because he's never been a true full-time player. He's been spared a lot of wear and tear throughout his career.
There are no guarantees of continued durability at his age. But in what's sure to be a short-term deal, he's as good a bet to stay healthy as a guy his age can be.
Davis' modest $5.25 million salary in 2016 was the highest of his career. And even after leading the league in steals, the league is still likely to view him as a complementary player rather than a star worthy of big bucks.
As such, Davis may only get a slight bump over his 2016 salary. Knowing what he can bring to a team, he's a good value buy waiting to happen.
59. Jason Castro, C, Free Agent
Jason Castro had an All-Star breakout in 2013. Since then, he's put up just a .660 OPS, as he's increasingly struggled with strikeouts and, most recently, the shift. He's also not a traditional strong-armed catcher, throwing out just 26 percent of would-be base stealers for his career.
Now 29, Castro is best looked at as a solid half of a catching platoon. He has a .753 career OPS against right-handed pitching. And per StatCorner's metrics, he once again rated as an elite strike framer in 2016. Provided he's used the right way, these things will help him earn his keep.
The early portion of Castro's career was marred by right knee problems. He's remained relatively healthy ever since his 2013 breakout, averaging 116 games per season. This is in part because he hasn't been tasked with everyday duty.
As such, his 617 career games aren't much mileage for a catcher heading toward his age-30 season. Provided he's kept in a non-everyday role, Castro should keep playing in north of 100 games per season.
Castro isn't an especially sexy option, but there could be heavy interest in his services now that the catching market no longer features a healthy Wilson Ramos. He should also come without ties to draft-pick compensation, as he'd be a candidate to accept the qualifying offer if he gets one.
As for what a light-hitting, strong-framing catcher like Castro could get, Francisco Cervelli's three-year, $31 million extension with the Pittsburgh Pirates could be the model. A deal like that would make sense in this market but would probably be an overpay in the long run.
58. Kendrys Morales, DH, Free Agent
Kendrys Morales watched his OPS drop from .847 in 2015 to .795 in 2016. All the more alarming is how this happened in his age-33 season. Prospective suitors are going to wonder whether this particular designated hitter won't be much of a hitter in his next deal.
In support of that idea, the spike in Morales' strikeout rate is worth worrying about. Otherwise, that's about it. It shouldn't be lost in the shuffle that Morales hit 30 home runs in 2016. He backed those up with a career-high 41.1 hard-hit percentage. Even if he is diminished, he's still dangerous.
Nobody will soon forget the time Morales broke his leg when he jumped onto home plate back in 2010. That injury cost him two years of action.
What everyone should also realize, though, is that Morales has played in over 150 games in three of the last four seasons. The one exception in 2014 had nothing to do with injury. His age comes with some built-in doubts about his durability, but the worst is probably behind him.
This winter's weak free-agent class should convince Morales not to take his $11 million mutual option for 2017. And given that it could require cutting him a $17.2 million check, the Kansas City Royals presumably won't make him a qualifying offer.
Morales could look to target the four-year contracts signed by Nelson Cruz and Victor Martinez after the 2014 season. Since he's not as good as them, however, something closer to the three-year, $30 million contract signed by Billy Butler is more likely. Either way, Morales is an aging DH who won't come cheap.
57. Brandon Moss, OF/1B, Free Agent
After a rough time in 2015, Brandon Moss found himself again in 2016. He OPS'd a solid .784 and cranked 28 homers. Those came courtesy of his raw power and his elite ability to get under the ball, according to Baseball Savant. The 33-year-old was versatile, too, logging action at first base and in both corner outfield spots.
Of course, Moss isn't a standout defender at any position. He's also a platoon hitter whose production is further held in check by strikeouts and shifts. It's therefore a good thing for him that teams are always looking for power and that his figures to be some of the more affordable power available on the open market.
After playing in over 145 games each year between 2013 and 2015, Moss was limited to 128 games in 2016 by an ankle sprain that sidelined him for a few weeks.
He doesn't have many other noteworthy injuries on his track record, but that only does so much to ease any concern. Moss is an older player who's racked up quite a bit of mileage in recent years, so there may be more injuries to come.
Moss might have had a shot at a $17.2 million qualifying offer, but his second-half slump nixed that. Not being tied to draft-pick compensation will make it easier for him to get paid.
His age and assorted limitations should limit his prospects to two- or three-year offers. And with big-name boppers like Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Mike Napoli and others set to hog all the money, it's easy to imagine Moss being limited to an affordable per-year rate in the $10 million range.
56. Michael Saunders, LF, Free Agent
Michael Saunders earned himself an All-Star nod in 2016 with a strong first half punctuated by a .923 OPS and 16 home runs. His second-half regression after that was harsh. He managed just a .638 OPS and eight home runs while striking out in 30.4 percent of his plate appearances.
Based on his history, whoever signs Saunders must be ready for the whiffs to continue. But the 29-year-old could still get back on the track he was early in 2016. His whiffs come with plenty of walks, and he's been very good at making hard contact when he's been healthy in the last three seasons. Good defense may not be part of the equation based on the metrics. But, rest assured, the bat is legit.
This is the real question mark for Saunders. He set a career high just by playing in 140 games in 2016. In previous years, he had struggled with shoulder, abdominal and knee injuries.
This isn't the kind of track record you want to see on a guy who's about to hit the big 3-0. Even if a team seeks to downplay these issues by platooning Saunders, they could still crop up.
Saunders will be helped by the fact that he didn't have to tie himself to draft-pick compensation by rejecting a qualifying offer. Even still, he has a complicated sales pitch to make: Who wants a quality hitter who was last seen struggling and who has a crowded injury history?
There's not much precedent for a player like this. That puts me in shrug-and-guess territory. I'll go three years and $10 million per. Saunders would be a good get at that price if he were to stay healthy, but...yeah.
55. Victor Martinez, DH, Trade
Source: Buster Olney of ESPN.com
Victor Martinez was arguably the best hitter in baseball when he hit .335 with a .974 OPS two years ago, but the 37-year-old has looked his age the last two seasons. He OPS'd .667 in an injury-marred 2015 and only rebounded to a solid but unspectacular .826 OPS in 2016.
Even still, V-Mart might be the best full-time DH in baseball now that David Ortiz is gone. And if nothing else, he proved in 2016 that his left knee issues from the prior year aren't a permanent drain on his production. He had an .832 OPS when batting lefty that he backed up with a much-improved hard-hit rate. If that continues, he'll still be a consistent hitter with good power to offer.
It's not just Martinez's left knee, which has undergone two major surgeries since 2012, that raises concerns. He's an older player who's played in over 1,700 career games. That's a lot of mileage.
Getting to serve as a DH helps preserve Martinez. So does the fact that he doesn't push himself on the basepaths. But in the final two years of his contract, a team should not take good health for granted.
Olney claims the Tigers are willing to trade anyone and would "probably love to move" Martinez in particular. But as a full-time DH with $36 million remaining on his contract, his trade value is limited by default. It could be even more limited by this winter's market, which is loaded with DH types.
As such, a team might be able to get Martinez by agreeing to pick up his contract and giving little back in return. Even with his question marks, that would create the potential for him to become a bargain.
54. Matt Wieters, C, Free Agent
After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and struggling to find his form in his return in 2015, Matt Wieters looked more like himself in 2016. He cranked 17 home runs and was the bane of opposing baserunners. He gunned down 35 percent of base stealers.
There are things for buyers to beware, however. Wieters' production was boosted by Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where he had a .740 OPS to buoy an unspectacular .711 overall OPS. And as per usual, his strong arm didn't come with good framing, according to StatCorner. He thus has more name value than actual value at this point, and the disparity should only grow as he gets further into his 30s.
It was hard to take Wieters off the field between 2010 and 2013. It's gotten easier in the last three seasons. His Tommy John surgery was obviously a factor, but even a fully recovered Wieters played in just 124 games in 2016.
And unlike other catchers his age, it's hard to see Wieters' next team rushing him into first base or DH duty. He's going to stay in the crouch. His durability could thus be an ongoing concern.
Wieters was a candidate for a qualifying offer, but the Baltimore Orioles not surprisingly declined to make him one after he accepted the offer last winter.
With Wilson Ramos injured, Wieters could now be the most attractive catcher on the open market. That doesn't mean he'll get Russell Martin or Brian McCann money ($80-plus million over five years), but he's likely looking at a long-term contract worth $12-15 million per year. That'll be a lot for a catcher who's not actually that good.
53. Luis Valbuena, 3B, Free Agent
Luis Valbuena put himself on the map in 2013 and has been productive ever since. He's OPS'd .761 with 66 home runs while playing defense that, per the metrics, has mostly wavered between good and not terrible. And since he's a late bloomer, his fast-approaching 31st birthday isn't too big a concern.
If there's a fear, it that's Valbuena's near future may look like his 2015 season, when he put up just a .310 OBP. He sells out for power by pulling everything and trying to crush every ball he hits, which can be a dangerous mix. If his OBP falls again, his power and defense will only be so valuable.
Valbuena had been relatively dependable between 2013 and 2015, but he's now coming off a year in which he played in only 90 games before having season-ending surgery on his hamstring.
Teams will be right to be wary of Valbuena's durability in pursuing him this winter. Hamstrings are tricky. And while he may be well preserved for a guy his age, he's not young either.
Valbuena would have been in line for a multiyear deal if he hadn't gotten hurt. Now he's in line for a one-year pillow contract that he can use to re-establish his value for next winter.
After he earned $6.13 million in 2016, such a contract could land in the $10 million range. Despite reservations about his health, that could be a solid deal for a guy who's been underrated the last couple of years.
52. Danny Espinosa, SS, Trade
Danny Espinosa has done a little bit of everything in his seven-year career. He's been an everyday second baseman and an everyday shortstop. He's been a good hitter. He's been a very bad hitter. Most recently, he tried out being a home run hitter with a career-high 24 home runs in 2016.
Teams that eye Espinosa as a trade piece this winter will mainly focus on his defense. It's not only versatile but has also rated well at both short and second. Anything he does on offense has to be considered a bonus. But if nothing else, he has the raw pop and the pull habit to keep the dingers coming. There's solid value to be had in the 29-year-old's last year before free agency.
Espinosa averaged just 92 games per season between 2013 and 2015. But that had more to do with his inconsistent production than problems with injuries. He's otherwise proved he can handle an everyday workload, topping 157 games in 2011, 2012 and 2016.
That and a relatively clean injury history provide little reason to worry about Espinosa in 2017.
If the Washington Nationals do look to deal Espinosa, the idea would be to upgrade their major league roster while opening the door for Trea Turner to go back to his natural shortstop.
The Nats could flip Espinosa for a defensive-minded center fielder to take over for Turner, or for a good bat that could take over in right field so Bryce Harper can move to center. If he were flipped for a player with similar value and controllability, it would be a fair deal for both sides.
51. Melky Cabrera, LF, Trade
It seems like we don't use the term "professional hitter" much anymore, but that's what Melky Cabrera is. He's been posting above-average batting averages on a regular basis since 2011. That's what you can do when you're an excellent contact hitter with a line-drive stroke.
Cabrera's value is otherwise limited. The 32-year-old doesn't play a good left field and has become more of a station-to-station baserunner. He's good for 10 to 15 home runs but no more. Nonetheless, teams should be attracted to adding his bat. And it would only be for one year. The three-year, $42 million contract he signed two winters ago is up after 2017.
Cabrera's health took a dark turn in 2013 when he missed time with a left knee strain and needed surgery for a tumor in his back. Since then, the only major injury he's suffered was on a slide.
Considering that Cabrera has been an everyday player since he was 21, this is only so much of a guarantee of future durability. But it's better than nothing.
I'm not buying Sherman's notion that the Chicago White Sox could trade Adam Eaton. Cabrera is more likely to be moved. In a market dominated by expensive power bats, his affordable and consistent bat should attract some suitors.
Cabrera's not the kind of guy who would return a big prospect haul to the White Sox in a trade, so they'd have to mainly be content to offload his salary. If they do so, that would be a low-risk deal that could turn out well for his new team.
50. Ian Kennedy, SP, Trade
Ian Kennedy was pretty good in the first year of a five-year, $70 million contract that not everyone was a fan of when he signed it last winter. The 31-year-old logged a 3.68 ERA in 195.2 innings, striking out 8.5 batters per nine innings. He continued a pattern of leaning on a fastball that keeps getting faster.
The downside is that Kennedy is continuing to work around the middle of the zone with that fastball. That contributes to his ongoing problem with home runs. He gave up over 30 for a second straight season. If that's a problem at Kauffman Stadium, it'll be an even bigger problem elsewhere. And that's before even getting into the possibility of him losing velocity as he gets deeper into his 30s.
Kennedy hasn't been on the disabled list since 2008. A few aches and pains aside, it's been smooth sailing, as he's made 30 or more starts in each of the last seven seasons.
However, that is indeed a lot of work on an arm that's no longer young. You also wonder if he's expending valuable energy to maintain his late-blooming velocity. His durability may not be built to last.
Kennedy is one of several Royals trade targets Sherman referenced but probably the most realistic. Trading him would be a good way to clear some badly needed payroll space.
Trouble is, he likely doesn't have much value beyond the $62.5 million he's still owed. And outside of Kansas City, it will be more difficult for him to be worth that much. Even if a team were to give up nothing in return and just take on his remaining contract, the risk would be great.
49. Bartolo Colon, SP, Free Agent
Bartolo Colon just keeps rolling along. The fluffy 43-year-old made it four straight seasons with at least 190 innings in 2016. He also put up a 3.43 ERA. And in walking 1.5 batters per nine innings, he maintained a walk rate that's second to only Cliff Lee (remember him?) since 2012.
That 3.43 ERA should be taken with a dose of skepticism. Everyone knows Colon's approach is to pound the zone with fastballs in the mid-to-high 80s. The different movements keep batters on edge but don't overpower them. Colon is prone to hits and home runs. That makes his ERA prone to fluctuate.
Colon is several years past 40 with a long list of injuries, the body of a sumo wrestler and exactly 3,172.1 innings on his arm.
This information should send teams running for the hills. But Colon has been a solid workhorse in recent years despite it all. There's a limit to how much this can be trusted, but it does bode well for a short-term deal.
Colon was overlooked on last year's market, allowing the New York Mets to bring him back on a cheap $7.25 million deal. He won't be as overlooked this winter, as teams will gladly take a solid innings-eater in lieu of better options.
There's not much precedent for a free-agent pitcher like this, so I'll take a wild guess and say Colon will be picked up on a one-year deal worth $10 million to $12 million. That would be a fair rate for 190 or so solid innings.
48. Josh Reddick, RF, Free Agent
Josh Reddick's big breakout happened in 2012 when he established himself as a quality power hitter and a Gold Glove-caliber right fielder. His power and his defense have since fallen off. He's also wading into the free-agent waters fresh off a rough finish to 2016 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Reddick still has attractive qualities, however. He's become lethal against right-handed pitchers, doing no worse than an .826 OPS against them in the last three seasons. Meanwhile, the 29-year-old's power has been replaced by greater consistency that stems from a much-improved contact habit. And even if his defense is no longer great, it's still good. He's going to be useful in a multiyear deal.
A platoon role doesn't just sound like a good idea for Reddick from a production standpoint. It could also help spare him from his all-too-frequent need for the disabled list. It's largely because of injuries that he's been limited to 115 games or fewer in three of five seasons.
Even if Reddick does land a job as a platoon player, these issues may not be entirely behind him. He will be past age 30, after all. Rarely does life get easier for ballplayers once they get into their 30s.
Reddick might have been a candidate for a qualifying offer, but the trade that sent him from the Oakland A's to the Los Angeles Dodgers nixed that. Not being tied to draft-pick compensation will help him.
What should push back, however, are his platoon splits and the poor numbers he put up in Los Angeles. He could settle for Gerardo Parra money in the three-year, $30 million range. If he were to keep mashing right-handers, he could turn that into a nice little steal.
47. Jose Bautista, RF, Free Agent
Jose Bautista went backward in a number of ways in 2016 even beyond being limited to 116 games (more on that in a moment). He also OPS'd an unspectacular .817 with 22 home runs. The 36-year-old also seems finished as a capable right fielder, posting subpar metrics for a second straight season.
But Bautista should still appeal to teams that need a good bat. He still has superb plate discipline that will allow him to boost his OBP with walks. And while his power did indeed decline in 2016, that's misleading. His 41.0 hard-hit percentage was the best of his career. The market may be crowded with bat-only players, but he's one of the best bat-only players in the game.
Bautista played in over 150 games in 2014 and 2015, but a bad knee got in the way of him continuing his run of durability in 2016.
This makes it three seasons out of five in which Bautista has been taken off the field by injuries. This isn't even counting the bad shoulder that held him back in 2015 and which still seems to be limiting his throwing. As he gets even older, good health won't become any easier for him to find.
Unless he decides $17.2 million for one year sounds pretty good, Bautista will be tied to draft-pick compensation once he rejects his qualifying offer. Then he'll likely be gunning for the four-year, $68 million contract that Victor Martinez got coming off his age-35 season two years ago.
Bautista's rough 2016 and durability questions will get in the way of him matching the length of that deal. But even in a three-year deal, he should still land in that $17 million per-year range. That plus a lost draft pick for a one-dimensional player would be a big price to live up to.
46. Gio Gonzalez, SP, Trade
Source: Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors
Gio Gonzalez went into 2016 with a 3.31 ERA over the six prior seasons. He didn't live up to that, posting a 4.57 ERA in 177.1 innings. That's the kind of thing that puts one in search of answers. For him, the one that can't be missed is how much his velocity has fallen from its 2012 peak.
Gonzalez has at least had the good sense to respond to his diminished velocity by varying his pitch mix. He's done so without costing himself any control or pushing his strikeout rate below the league average. So despite his 2016 performance, the 31-year-old is actually aging well and could be a good get for the next two years in a trade.
This is one thing Gonzalez hasn't had a problem with. He's made at least 30 starts in all but one year since 2010. The one exception was when he was sidelined for a month with a bad shoulder in 2014.
Still, this is a case where past durability may be no guarantee of future durability. Gonzalez is headed for his age-31 season with over 1,400 innings on his arm. That mileage could catch up to him.
Todd brought up Gonzalez as a possible trade chip in running down the Washington Nationals' options for the winter. They have plenty of pitching depth, and he's an expendable piece that could draw interest amid a thin free-agent market.
The Nationals won't trade Gonzalez unless they get a piece that could help them win in the immediate future. They'd also be looking to offload $12 million in salary for 2017 with another $12 million possibly on the way in 2018. Nobody's going to steal him from Washington.
45. Ervin Santana, SP, Trade
Source: Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors
In the wake of assorted challenges in 2014 and 2015, Ervin Santana had one of the better under-the-radar seasons of 2016. He put up a 3.38 ERA in 181.1 innings with a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio at 2.8. With his age-34 season due up in 2017, this looks like proof he's not done being effective just yet.
Despite his age, Santana has maintained his velocity while also reinventing himself. He used to be all four-seamers and sliders. He's since made his sinker and changeup bigger parts of his arsenal. This and his reliable control have helped him downplay a home run problem that used to be a lot worse. He should be a solid mid-rotation guy in the last two years of his four-year contract.
Despite a bad back that landed him on the disabled list in April, Santana made 30 starts for the eighth time in his career in 2016.
Still, you wonder about when his durability will finally run out of life. Various concerns about his elbow have popped up here and there over the years. With nearly 2,200 innings on his arm, it may be just a matter of time before that smoke leads to some fire.
Santana is only mentioned in passing as a trade target for the Yankees in Adams' breakdown of their offseason. But it's reasonable to expect him to be a target for other teams as well. Moving him would indeed be a way for the Minnesota Twins to exploit a market that lacks good free-agent starters.
Santana is still owed $28 million, however. He likely won't have excess value beyond that, so any team that surrenders talent for him and agrees to take on all or most of his contract will be taking a risk.
44. Carlos Beltran, RF/DH, Free Agent
Carlos Beltran seemed to have run out of production when he OPS'd just .703 back in 2014. The 39-year-old has since rebounded with an .830 OPS and 48 home runs over the last two seasons.
Of course, Beltran's bat is really all he has anymore. His legs are shot, restricting him to either being a bad right fielder or a good designated hitter. The good news is there aren't any glaring reasons to worry about his bat. He doesn't walk as much as he used to but is still a good contact hitter who makes quality contact to boot. He should be fine in what's likely to be a one-year deal.
Beltran hasn't had the easiest time staying healthy in recent seasons, but that's only so relevant where 2017 is concerned. He figures to be a primary DH for the first time in his career. That should help him stay healthy in what will be his age-40 season.
The trade that sent Beltran from the New York Yankees to the Texas Rangers blocked him from a qualifying offer. The only things limiting his earning power this winter will be his DH status and the deep collection of fellow DH types on the market.
Nonetheless, don't be surprised if Beltran matches the $16 million that David Ortiz just made in his age-40 season. He's not going to be as good as Ortiz, mind you, but Beltran could be worth that money if he keeps producing.
43. Brad Brach, RHP, Trade
Source: Rich Dubroff of CSN Mid-Atlantic
Brad Brach was something of a hidden gem before 2016. Now he's an All-Star. He put up a 2.05 ERA in 71 appearances in 2016, with strong peripherals to boot. He struck out 10.5 batters per nine innings and, just as important, finished with a career-low walk rate at 2.8 per nine innings.
The 30-year-old did regress a bit in the second half but not enough to ruin his trade value. Teams can still look at him and see a reliever with upward-trending velocity that seems to play up even more thanks to his funky delivery. Right-handed batters are especially flummoxed, managing just a .399 OPS against Brach in 2016. He's going into his last two seasons of club control with momentum.
Unless I'm totally missing something, Brach's injury track record is a clean sheet.
Of course, relievers are known to randomly flame out. But that's a relatively minor concern with Brach. Even beyond being healthy, he's also been relatively well preserved during his career. The 288 appearances on his record aren't that many for a reliever his age.
Zach Britton is the reliever everyone wants the Baltimore Orioles to trade. But Dubroff makes a good case in suggesting Brach as an alternative. Brach's value is up after his All-Star season and could draw a crowd of teams that don't want to pay top dollar for an established closer.
The Orioles won't be giving up Brach for spare parts, though. A team that wants him better be prepared to part with a major league or major league-ready piece. Nobody's going to steal Brach.
42. Wade Davis, RHP, Trade
Wade Davis owns the lowest ERA (1.18) and OPS allowed (.456) of any reliever with at least 100 appearances since 2014. He's done it with electric stuff, sharp control and a mean competitive streak. The only thing he's been missing is a Bane mask.
Butttttttttt some warning signs did arise in 2016. Davis, 31, missed time with an arm injury. He also lost a mile per hour off his fastball and cutter and watched his strikeout rate dip accordingly. It was another successful season despite all of this, but these could be reminders that elite relievers can stop being elite very quickly. Teams eyeing a trade for his walk year in 2017 should proceed with caution.
The injury that kept Davis out from late July to early September was a flexor strain in his right forearm. In what may be a related story, his release point dropped after he returned. That could be a bad sign.
It's also worth remembering that the 185 appearances Davis has made in the past three seasons aren't the whole story. He also made 20 appearances in the postseason. That's a lot of mileage in a relatively short amount of time. His durability should be approached with caution too.
Heyman reported that the Kansas City Royals want to cut payroll. In a mission like that, it does make sense to offload a reliever with a $10 million salary.
But since the Royals aren't about to rebuild, they're going to need at least one piece of established talent in return for Davis. Probably for their starting rotation. For a reliever who's starting to show some cracks, buyers should beware.
41. Brett Gardner, LF, Trade
Source: Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors
Brett Gardner is no longer the speed demon he once was, going from a peak of nearly 50 steals in 2010 and 2011 to just 16 in 2016. He's also regressed as a power hitter after making a run at 20 homers in 2014 and 2015. He hit only seven in 2016.
Gardner remains a good guy for on-base percentage and defense. Despite the fact he just won his first Gold Glove, the metrics claim he's played a good left field his whole career. And while his power is gone, he's still a tough out because of his ability to draw walks and his revitalized ability to put the ball in play. Teams should eye the 33-year-old as a good complementary piece to put atop a batting order.
Although Gardner's only DL stint in the last seven seasons came when an elbow injury sidelined him for nearly all of 2012, it sounds like he needed a DL stint with a wrist injury in 2015.
None of this is too concerning as far as his future goes. What's more concerning is the simple fact that he's an older player with a lot of mileage on his body.
Adams is right about Gardner being a reasonable trade target, especially relative to fellow New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. The $26 million remaining on Gardner's contract isn't too much.
After their recent purge loaded up the farm system and got the team headed in the right direction, the Yankees would probably have it in mind to trade Gardner for an immediate upgrade. A starting pitcher would do it. As long as it's a modestly talented starter, that would be fine for both sides.
40. Carlos Gonzalez, RF, Trade
Source: Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors
Carlos Gonzalez's athleticism used to stand out as much as his sweet-yet-dangerous swing. That's not the case anymore. He's done stealing bases and has seemingly lost a step in the outfield. It's a good thing the 31-year-old's bat is still going strong, producing an .855 OPS and 25 homers in 2016.
The question interested parties need to answer is if said bat will play away from Coors Field. Gonzalez's career OPS on the road is 233 points lower than his career OPS at home. Since his ability to hit the ball hard will travel fine, it's up to him to start hitting the ball more frequently and overcome his career 24.9 strikeout rate on the road. For what it's worth, the successful post-Coors Field careers of Matt Holliday, Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith and others allow for some optimism.
After a string of injuries limited him to an average of 110 games between 2011 and 2014, it's a minor miracle that Gonzalez has topped 150 games in each of the last two seasons.
Even still, the best hope for Gonzalez's durability is to move to an American League team where he could DH and/or make good on his apparent desire to play first base again. Since a move to an AL team is not a given, his durability for 2017 is best considered a toss-up.
Todd thinks the Colorado Rockies should trade Gonzalez now. He's right. The $20 million he's owed in 2017 is not an immovable figure now but could become immovable if they wait.
With the Rockies well off in terms of young hitters, they should use a Gonzalez trade to add to their growing stable of young arms. Getting him would likely require a team to either give up a top arm and take less of Gonzalez's salary, or a lesser arm and take on more of his salary. Either way, it would be risking something on a guy who's a roll of the dice outside of Coors Field.
39. Stephen Vogt, C, Trade
Source: Connor Byrne of MLB Trade Rumors
Stephen Vogt was an All-Star for a second straight year in 2016, but it was still a disappointing year after his 2015 breakout. His OPS fell from .783 to .711, and he wasn't much of a presence on defense. He was average (28 CS%) at throwing out runners and, per StatCorner, rated as a poor framer.
But the 32-year-old still has qualities for teams to gravitate toward. Vogt is durable and versatile, having played in over 130 games each of the last two years and playing some first base when he hasn't caught. And with a .759 career OPS against right-handed pitching, he's at worst a good platoon hitter.
Catchers headed for their age-32 seasons usually come with great big red flags where their durability is concerned. Vogt is the exception to the rule.
For one, he's remained healthy since becoming a key member of the Oakland A's a few years ago. For two, he comes with little mileage. He's played in just 422 major league games, and only 241 of those have been starts at catcher. He's good bet to stay healthy in his final three years before free agency.
Vogt's name has been a constant in trade rumors in recent seasons, and now he's up for arbitration for the first time. Byrne was right to touch on the possibility of him being moved this winter.
Unfortunately for Oakland, Vogt's value is lower now than it was after 2015. But he's still a cheap and talented catching option in a market that has few of those. The A's could probably get one good prospect back for Vogt. For his new team, more of the same would be enough payoff.
38. Yangervis Solarte, 3B, Trade
Source: Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports
The initial hype from Yangervis Solarte's breakthrough with the New York Yankees in 2014 has long since worn off. But he's developed into a quality player in San Diego. He went from a .748 OPS in 2015 to an .808 OPS in 2016. On defense, he's logged time at third base, second base and first base.
Solarte isn't a standout defender at any position but competent wherever he's playing. He's always had a good ability to put the ball in play on offense. What he's gotten better at in the last two years is getting under more balls and upping his hard-hit rate. All this is happening in his late 20s but better a late bloomer than a never-bloomer. His last three years of club control should bring more of the same.
Solarte got his chance to be an everyday player in 2015 and made it into 152 games. He couldn't keep it up in 2016. He was limited to 109 games in part thanks to hamstring and thumb injuries.
Going back a bit further, Solarte also missed big chunks of action in the minors with injuries in 2009 and 2010. He's not damaged goods, but there's a history here that's hard to ignore.
There are much bigger names on the trade market than Solarte, but Rosenthal is right about the San Diego Padres being in a position where they can't rule anything out.
If the Padres do deal Solarte, it wouldn't be for a mega-collection of prospects. One or two good ones would do the trick. That and Solarte's relative affordability (MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn $2.7 million in arbitration) make him a potential value buy.
37. Jeff Samardzija, SP, Trade
Jeff Samardzija recovered from a 4.96 ERA in 2015 to post a 3.81 ERA in his first season in San Francisco in 2016. Boosting his strikeout rate was key, and helping him do that was velocity that increased as the season moved along. All the while, he maintained strong control with a rate of 2.4 walks per nine innings.
What won't be lost on suitors is that Samardzija was better at AT&T Park than on the road. They should also worry about whether a velocity spike at age 31 can last, as he has yet to prove he can survive without electric stuff. His chief problems are a struggle to change speeds and no interest in changing eye levels. He may not be more than a quality innings-eater in the last four years of his contract.
Samardzija has yet to have any trouble with the injury bug and has therefore had little trouble crossing 200 innings in each of the last four seasons.
With his age-32 season due up in 2017, Samardzija is at an age where past durability is usually no guarantee of future durability. But because he's a sturdy 6'5" and 225 pounds with solid mechanics and a clean injury history, he's a better bet than most to stay healthy.
Sherman is stretching the limits of believability in wondering if the Giants will make Samardzija available. But he's right about them having needs to fill and trades being the best solutions in a weak free-agent class.
A team would have to give up established talent to get Samardzija. Presumably, trading for him would also require taking on some of the $79.2 million he's still owed. In all, a big price for a guy who's only an innings-eater.
36. Mark Trumbo, OF/1B, Free Agent
Mark Trumbo ran into some hard times in 2014 and 2015. He OPS'd .739 with 36 home runs, numbers not quite good enough to make up for his lack of value elsewhere. But then came 2016, in which he had an .850 OPS and led MLB with 47 home runs.
This proves his power is still legit, but other concerns persist. Trumbo's consistency crumbled in the second half of 2016. The 30-year-old hit just .214 with a .284 OBP. He's not fast and is without good walk and contact habits. And according to the metrics, he's only a capable defender when he's at first base. The bottom line is that Trumbo's career year didn't make him a better player.
The only real injury scare Trumbo has gotten in his career is when he missed 71 games with a stress fracture in his foot in 2014. He's otherwise been a picture of health.
Whether this can continue will hinge partially on where his next team plays him. He'll age better at first base and/or DH. And given that his outfield defense is no reason to bar him from either position, my guess is that's how he'll be used. His durability will reap the benefits.
Trumbo will surely reject the $17.2 million qualifying offer he got from the Baltimore Orioles. After the year he just had, ties to draft-pick compensation won't block him from a major payday.
A good comp for Trumbo is Nelson Cruz, who got four years and $57 million despite his similarly limited skill set. Trumbo is younger and just as powerful, so an updated version of that deal could be a year longer and/or a couple of million per year more expensive. So yeah, he's going to be overpaid.
35. David Robertson, RHP, Trade
David Robertson earned his $46 million payday with the Chicago White Sox by putting up a 2.20 ERA in 268 appearances between 2011 and 2014 with the New York Yankees. He hasn't been as good in Chicago with a 3.44 ERA in two seasons. He's coming off a year in which he struggled with his control, walking 4.6 per nine innings.
That could be a mirage, however. There aren't any notable red flags with the 31-year-old's arm slot. Meanwhile, his stuff is just fine. Robertson is still working in the low 90s with his fastball velocity and missing a ton of bats with his curveball. This is where his rate of 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings since 2015 comes in. He should be productive in the last two years of his contract.
Robertson has appeared in at least 60 games every year since 2010. He's had injuries here and there, but they've mostly been to his lower half. His arm and shoulder have remained largely intact.
Robertson's age and the 500-plus innings he has on his arm mean continued durability is only so much of a certainty. But compared to other relievers his age, he's in A-OK shape.
Robertson is one of several White Sox players mentioned by Sherman as candidates to be traded this winter. A team in their position doesn't need a closer who's owed $25 million.
Given the glut of relief options on the open market, it will be difficult for the White Sox to offload Robertson's contract and get something back. They might be convinced to merely get his contract off their hands, which would make him a solid get for a contender.
34. Carlos Gomez, CF, Free Agent
Carlos Gomez was an elite player in 2013 and 2014. Then he was just an OK player in 2015 and a bad enough player early in 2016 to earn his release from the Houston Astros. Then he became a great player again, OPS'ing .905 with eight homers in 33 games with the Texas Rangers.
Gomez was energized and, more importantly, focused with the Rangers. He took better at-bats, cutting down on his swings (48.6 Swing%) and whiffs (11.4 SwStr%). He also made better contact, lowering his soft-hit rate and raising his hard-hit rate. What happened with the Rangers looks like the start of a more cerebral phase of the 30-year-old's career, and it looks good.
Here's some solid evidence that Gomez is past his physical prime: He's needed the disabled list in each of the last two seasons, limiting him to a total of 233 games.
Even before this, Gomez wasn't especially durable. He hasn't played in over 150 games since 2008. Now you wonder if he can be counted on to get there again.
Teams are going to be wary of buying into Gomez's small-sample-size success with the Rangers. But in a market dominated by one-dimensional sluggers, he should draw a crowd.
Denard Span got a three-year, $31 million deal last winter despite questions about his health and productivity. Gomez could land in that range. If his stint with the Rangers was indeed a new beginning, he could be the bargain buy of the winter.
33. Justin Upton, LF, Trade
Source: Buster Olney of ESPN.com
Justin Upton's first season in Detroit was a disaster right up until the end. He OPS'd 1.160 with 18 homers in his final 37 games, boosting his final OPS to .775 and matching his career high with 31 home runs. All told, another successful season for the 29-year-old.
However, that Upton needed that torrid final stretch is a reminder of how streaky he is. That's life when a player either hits the ball hard or doesn't hit it at all. Elsewhere, he's become noticeably thicker over the years and has slowed down on the basepaths and, per the metrics, on defense. He remains a solid player now, but it's hard to be optimistic about his immediate and long-term future.
This is an area where Upton has been doing just fine. He's averaged 152 games per season since 2011. Going back even further, his last trip to the disabled list was in 2009.
There have been many minor aches and pains along the way, however. And while Upton is still a year south of the big 3-0, he has mileage worthy of a guy in his mid-30s. Remember, he debuted in his age-19 season. As good as his track record is, it may only promise so much durability.
If Olney is right about Upton being one of many Tigers stars on the block this winter, he figures to be the hardest to move. His value isn't sky-high coming off his up-and-down 2016. There's also $110.6 million remaining on his contract.
The best the Tigers can hope for is a bad contract swap that would save them some money. Upton's new team would be glad it did that if his 2016 season looked like an aberration. But from my view, it's likely the start of Upton's new normal.
32. Evan Longoria, 3B, Trade
Source: Jon Morosi of MLB Network
Evan Longoria didn't forget how to hit in 2014 and 2015, but he did lose a lot of power. That power made a roaring comeback in 2016. The 31-year-old slugged .521 with a career-high 36 home runs. This came from him getting under the ball more often to post a career-low 0.68 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio.
That and Longoria's natural power should keep the home runs coming. What else he has to offer as he ages is a good question. His on-base talent has declined sharply. His legs don't work as well as they used to. That's affecting his defense, which doesn't rate as elite anymore. This is to say he's already a one-dimensional player now. He should become even more so in the final six years of his contract.
Longoria ran into injury trouble in 2011 and 2012, particularly in the latter when hamstring problems limited him to 74 games. Since then, however, he's appeared in over 160 games each season.
That's as clear a sign as any as he's over that brief bout with the injury bug. But at his age and with over 1,200 games on his body, it is fair to wonder if his durability has lasting power.
Morosi reports the Tampa Bay Rays will listen to offers for Longoria this winter. As well they should. They're in need of a stronger foundation. Moving him and the $99 million he's still owed would help.
If the Rays were willing to eat some money, they should be able to flip Longoria for prospects rather than settle for a bad contract swap. Since that's likely the only way they're moving him, there's a chance here for a team to get a talented veteran without surrendering any limbs.
31. Marcell Ozuna, CF, Trade
On the surface, Marcell Ozuna's 2016 season was a return to the form of his breakout 2014 season. He OPS'd .773 after struggling with a .691 OPS in 2015. He was especially good with an .892 OPS in the first half, which earned him his first All-Star nod.
Then the breaking balls came. That was a way for pitchers to exploit Ozuna's tendency to swing and miss and downplay his ability to make hard contact. Elsewhere, he's not an especially productive baserunner, and the metrics confirm his defensive value is tied to his arm. Talented as he is, teams should be wary about his ability to translate his talent into results in his final three years of club control.
Ozuna had some injury trouble earlier in his career, including a series of injuries that mangled his left arm between 2010 and 2013.
But in the last three seasons, Ozuna has largely avoided trouble with the injury bug. This is a good way for him to head into what will only be his age-26 season in 2017.
According to Jackson, the Miami Marlins would prefer not to trade Ozuna as part of their effort to rebuild their rotation in the wake of Jose Fernandez's tragic death. But between his talent, his youth and his controllability, he may be the best trade chip they have to do so.
A good guess is that Ozuna would bring back either an established starter with a similar amount of club control or a younger starter who's less established but with more upside. Either way, a team would be taking a chance on a player who could have trouble living up to his All-Star reputation.
30. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Trade
Source: Rob Biertempfel of TribLive.com
Andrew McCutchen's run of brilliance finally ended in 2016. After averaging a .926 OPS with 25 homers and 19 steals over the four previous seasons, he OPS'd just .766 with 24 homers and six steals. Per the metrics, his defense in center field went from questionable to begin with to downright awful.
McCutchen is past 30 now and has been struggling to be himself ever since he opened 2015 with a bad left knee. That's the kind of thing that would affect his defense. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate is trending up, and both his soft-hit and hard-hit percentages got worse in 2016. These are real red flags that should have teams wondering whether he's still a superstar.
Staying on the field is one thing McCutchen hasn't struggled with in the last two seasons. He's played in 310 total games, bringing his per-season average since 2010 to 155 games.
That is a lot of mileage, however. Paired with suspicions about his knee, there is a question of how much longer McCutchen can keep this up in the last year or two (depending on his 2018 option) of his contract.
McCutchen's value may be down but not enough to make the max of $28.75 million he'll be paid over the next two seasons sound outrageous. He's far from immovable.
The bigger difficulty is his price tag. The Pittsburgh Pirates are not in a position to rebuild. Rather, they need starting pitching to keep contending. Moving McCutchen could be just the ticket they need to avoid taking chances on a thin free-agent market. And given McCutchen's reputation, he could probably bring back a talented starter with some control left. A high price for a roll of the dice.
29. Derek Dietrich, 2B, Trade
Source: Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald
Derek Dietrich is a "second baseman" only because that's where he's played the most in his major league career. He also plays third base, first base and a bit of left field. At a time when versatility is all the rage, this alone should earn him some looks on the trade market.
On the other side of the ball, one's eye is drawn to the .800 OPS Dietrich has put up over the last two seasons. That's come courtesy of his ability to hit right-handed pitching. At worst, he can be a good bench player for a team over the next four seasons. At best, he can be a good semi-everyday player.
Dietrich was sidelined for a couple of months by a wrist injury back in 2014. Otherwise, it's not because of the injury bug that he's maxed out at 128 games in a season.
That plus the fact he's only 27 years old makes him a good bet to stay on the field in his final four years before free agency.
The Marlins don't have a starting role for Dietrich, so Jackson's report that he's among the players they're willing to move for starting pitching makes sense.
For any interested suitors, this is a classic case of a player who could blossom if given more regular playing time. That's worth surrendering what would presumably be something less than a front-line starter in a trade.
28. Jake Odorizzi, SP, Trade
Jake Odorizzi is in the "better than you think" club. He has a 3.53 era over the last two seasons, in which he's struck out 8.0 and walked only 2.5 batters per nine innings. He changes eye levels as well as anyone, throwing a ton of high fastballs and keeping everything else around the knees.
The trouble with high fastballs, however, is that they make it easy for hitters to get the ball in the air. Odorizzi has yet to post a ground-ball rate over 40 percent. He also has a home run problem. Said problem could get worse at a ballpark smaller than Tropicana Field. Any teams that eye Odorizzi's last three seasons of club control better have a big ballpark to put him in.
Odorizzi landed on the DL with an oblique strain for a few weeks in 2015, but he's otherwise been healthy as a major leaguer. He's also still just 26 with fewer than 600 major league innings on his arm.
Between his track record and the fact his mechanics don't require too much effort, there's little reason to believe Odorizzi won't stay healthy over the next three seasons.
Along with Smyly, Odorizzi is another of the starters Polishuk wonders about the Rays trading this winter. If they do, they'll be shopping a young, talented and cost-controlled starter.
With the Rays "hellbent" on getting back to contention, they probably wouldn't deal Odorizzi unless it meant getting an immediate upgrade. This upgrade would probably have to be for an offense that finished 14th in the American League in runs in 2016. But if it's a straight-up swap of young, cost-controlled talents, both teams could walk away happy in the end.
27. Todd Frazier, 3B, Trade
Todd Frazier is one of the more well-rounded third basemen in baseball. The 40 homers he hit in 2016 marked the third time in as many years he's set a new career high. He also stole double-digit bases for the third straight season. And while he rated poorly in 2016, the metrics tend to like his defense.
But playing off that last point, Frazier struggles with consistency. The 30-year-old's power and athleticism are all well and good, but he has swing-and-miss and pull tendencies that lead to OBP struggles. On defense, Inside Edge data confirms he has trouble with the easy plays. Any team that trades for his walk year can bank on getting a talented but flawed player.
Frazier has had no trouble staying on the field, playing in at least 150 games in each of the last four seasons. He's had some aches and pains but nothing serious.
Frazier's age and all-out style are reasons to believe his past durability isn't necessarily a guarantee of durability in his age-31 season in 2017. But in the grand scheme of reasons to be worried, these are minor.
After the Chicago White Sox finished no higher than fourth in the AL Central between 2013 and 2016, Sherman may be right that they're blowing it up this winter. Frazier will be a big trade piece if they do, as few free agents can match his all-around game.
However, that means there could be a bidding war that drives up his price tag. He's also projected to earn $13.5 million in arbitration in 2017. He's unlikely to be a steal.
26. Ryan Braun, LF, Trade
Source: Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors
Things were bleak for Ryan Braun in 2013 and 2014. He was suspended as part of the Biogenesis investigation in 2013 and came back from that to post a career-low .777 OPS in 2014. But it turns out the end was not nigh. Braun has OPS'd .879 with 55 homers and 40 steals over the last two seasons.
Good stuff for a guy who's about to turn 33, and a solid promise that he can live up to a contract that has four years and $80 million remaining on it. His age means there's some built-in doubt about his future, but none of his individual talents are really aging poorly. His decline should be slow and steady rather than quick and painful.
Braun's talent is aging well. His durability? Less so. He's averaged 137 games over the last three seasons, struggling with assorted aches and pains that have required frequent breathers.
At his age and with so much mileage on him, it's fair to assume more of the same is in store for Braun.
The Brewers would no doubt prefer to move Braun in a market with fewer quality outfielders on it. Nonetheless, they would be wise to move the veteran now before his value has a chance to drop.
Nobody should give up on the Braun-for-Yasiel Puig swap that was supposedly on the table in August, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Even if that doesn't come about, it's a window into what a Braun trade would look like: He and his contract would leave, and young talent and a bad contract would come back. It's a good thing he figures to age well, as such a deal would involve some risk for the acquiring team.
25. Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Free Agent
Jeremy Hellickson crumbled with a 4.86 ERA between 2013 and 2015. Now he's back after a 3.71 ERA in 2016. This despite the 29-year-old's strikeout rate staying where it's been in recent years, with no evident changes in the quality of his stuff. Hmmm.
But while the quality of Hellickson's stuff didn't change, his usage of it did. He diversified his pitch mix, downplaying his four-seamer for more movement from his sinker and cutter. Combined with good control that delivered a career-low walk rate, batters suddenly had a hard time squaring Hellickson up. His soft-hit and hard-hit rates were his best in years. This is a guy ready for his 30s.
Hellickson's bumpy ride through 2013 and 2015 also included a health scare. He needed surgery to clean loose bodies out of his elbow in 2014, costing him most of the season.
He's otherwise been able to stay on the mound. And while that long absence obviously played a role, it's hard to say Hellickson's been overworked. He's never topped 190 innings in a season and has just 975 total innings on his arm. Many guys his age have had it worse.
Not surprisingly, the Philadelphia Phillies extended the $17.2 million qualifying offer to Hellickson. He'll reject that and take his chances on the open market despite the draft-pick compensation.
Hellickson will probably be gunning to match or exceed the five-year, $80 million contract given to fellow pitch-to-contact specialist Mike Leake last winter. The lack of other options makes that a realistic possibility. As much as I like Hellickson, even I would be skeptical of a deal at that rate.
24. Rich Hill, SP, Free Agent
For starters with at least 130 innings over the last two seasons, the best ERAs belong to Clayton Kershaw (1.96) and Rich Hill (2.00). The 36-year-old has struck out 10.7 and walked only 2.5 batters per nine innings. He's surrendered just a .507 OPS. This is real dominance, folks.
The details are just as impressive. Only Phil Hughes has hit the strike zone more often than Hill since 2015. And in 2016, Hill was the king of spin rate. His fastball and curveball are electric, and not to be overlooked is how well he uses location to disguise the latter as the former. In short, his tools aren't the reason to be skeptical about him.
This is the reason to be skeptical about Hill. His career is riddled with scars, ranging from Tommy John surgery to shoulder surgery to groin and blister troubles that limited him to 20 starts in 2016.
This would look bad on any pitcher. It looks worse on a 36-year-old whose one year as a workhorse happened back in 2007. Nothing should be taken for granted with his durability.
The trade that sent Hill from the Oakland A's to the Los Angeles Dodgers barred him from qualifying offer consideration. He'll head into free agency without ties to draft-pick compensation. He'll also be sharing the market with very little top-tier talent.
All this could allow him to beat the two-year, $32 million contract that John Lackey got off his age-36 season last winter. I doubt anyone would go to four, but it's easy to picture three years for $45-50 million. That would be risky with a lost draft pick. Without one, it would be fair.
23. Wilson Ramos, C, Free Agent
Wilson Ramos couldn't have had worse timing when he tore his ACL in late September. He was due for a huge free-agent payday after putting up an .850 OPS and 22 home runs in a breakout 2016 season. Now the market for his services is up in the air.
Ramos won't be out forever, though. His six-to-eight-month recovery time will allow him to return sometime next season. And at 29, it bodes well for him that he's still relatively youthful. Rather than damaged goods, teams can view him as a strong-armed (34 career CS%) catcher with a dangerous bat. In other words, a rarity.
Ramos' youth is indeed a positive, but he can still expect teams to take a close look at his right knee. It's now undergone two serious operations. Elsewhere, teams could also take issue with his history of hamstring injuries.
Put simply, the guy's pretty beaten up for a catcher who hasn't even hit the big 3-0 yet. Whether in a long-term contract or a short-term contract, his durability is a question mark.
Since Ramos may not be back healthy until the middle of next season, it doesn't make sense for him to seek a one-year "prove it" deal this winter. As such, it's also not surprising that the Washington Nationals didn't extend him the $17.2 million qualifying offer.
Not being tied to draft pick compensation will make it easier for Ramos to find the four-to-five-year deal he desires, as Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reported. But that may be a stretch in his current situation.
Rather, he may be forced to settle for a two-year deal that would allow him to get back on his feet and reenter the market after his age-30 season in 2018. Given his high upside in even one healthy year, that could be a good deal for everyone.
22. Ian Desmond, CF/LF, Free Agent
After a rough 2015 killed his free-agent value, Ian Desmond needed a rebound season in 2016 in the worst way. He got it. He OPS'd .782 with 22 home runs and 21 stolen bases. And despite bad defensive metrics, his transition from shortstop to the outfield was largely successful.
The elephant in the room is that Desmond's great year was only a great half. He went from an .899 OPS in the first half to a .630 OPS in the second half. Teams can nonetheless focus on how the 31-year-old's athleticism is aging well, and on how he made strides at the plate by cutting down his strikeout rate. Despite his inconsistencies, he's a quality all-around talent who will be paid well.
Desmond had to go on the disabled list with an oblique strain in 2012. I bring this up only because it remains the only DL stint of his major league career. He's otherwise topped 150 games in six of the last seven seasons.
To repeat a familiar refrain, Desmond is old and well-traveled enough that his past durability is no guarantee of future durability. But if nothing else, it does bode well for a long-term deal.
Desmond is surely going to reject the $17.2 million qualifying offer the Texas Rangers made him and head out onto the open market. He'll no doubt be looking for a $100 million contract after blowing a chance at one two years ago.
The market could treat him more like Alex Gordon, who signed for $72 million over four years last winter. Even still, a four- to five-year deal worth roughly $20 million a pop is in store. That plus a lost draft pick is a huge price to pay for a player who's not known for consistency.
21. Dexter Fowler, CF, Free Agent
Dexter Fowler didn't get what he wanted in free agency last winter, so he went back to the Chicago Cubs and had an even better year in 2016. He put up a .393 OBP with 13 homers and 13 stolen bases in the regular season. He added three more dingers in the postseason.
At 30 years old, Fowler is past his physical prime. But he's aging well thanks to what's between his ears. He's always had a smart approach at the plate, working counts and drawing plenty of walks. His 13 steals in 2016 only scratch the surface of his baserunning value. And by playing deeper in center field, he earned solid metrics for a change. I'd say he's now an underrated all-around talent.
The one thing Fowler did in 2015 that he couldn't in 2016 was stay healthy and play in over 150 games. A hamstring strain helped limit him to 125 games this season.
This is a trend. Fowler has been an everyday player since 2009 but has averaged just 131 games per season in this span. At his age, that number is unlikely to go up in a long-term contract.
Rejecting a qualifying offer from the Cubs didn't work out last winter. But that won't stop Fowler from doing it again this winter, and this time it should work out in his favor.
Melky Cabrera—a fellow quality top-of-the-order, switch-hitting outfielder—got $14 million per year in a three-year deal two winters ago. Fowler could get that with an extra year and a few million per year. That plus a lost draft pick is a big price. Good thing he's a good player.
20. Mark Melancon, RHP, Free Agent
Mark Melancon first showed promise as a shutdown reliever in 2011, but it's in the last four seasons that he's made a name for himself. He's appeared in 297 games and put up a 1.80 ERA with a 6.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has a great handle on the movement of his cutter and curveball.
The red flag is how the 31-year-old's velocity has fallen off in the last two seasons. It's not by accident that he's remained effective, however. Over the last two seasons, he ranks behind only Zach Britton in soft-contact percentage. This is a skill that should allow him to age well in a multiyear deal.
Melancon does have a Tommy John operation on his injury record. But literally nothing else. He's been healthy enough to make over 70 appearances four years in a row and five years out of six.
Of course, his age and that kind of workload could attract the injury bug eventually. But there are relievers his age in much worse shape than he is.
Melancon was barred from a qualifying offer when he was traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Washington Nationals. Not having ties to draft-pick compensation will help his market.
Still, he'll be plan C behind Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. So much so that he may settle in the Andrew Miller-David Robertson range ($35 million to $45 million) rather than in the $50 million-plus range. Considering that he's nearly as good as Chapman and Jansen, this would make him a bargain.
19. J.D. Martinez, RF, Trade
Source: Buster Olney of ESPN.com
J.D. Martinez is proof that a top-to-bottom swing change can work wonders. He's gone from an afterthought with the Houston Astros to a guy with an .898 OPS and 83 home runs in three seasons in Detroit. The metrics aren't sure about his glove, but his bat has been legit.
The big flaw with Martinez's bat is the rate at which he strikes out. He has just the things to downplay that, though. One is improving plate discipline that's driving up his walk rate. The other is hard contact. The only active player with a better hard-contact percentage since 2014 is Giancarlo Stanton. All things point to a hitter still on the rise as he heads into his walk year in 2017.
Injuries contributed to Martinez's exit from Houston, as he landed on the DL twice in 2013. This past season, an elbow injury limited him to 120 games.
His latest injury isn't one to fret over too much. It happened when he crashed into a wall. Unlike basic wear and tear, that can be avoided. And at 29 with relatively little major league action in his past, he's not at high risk of being felled by wear and tear in his last season before free agency.
Of all the Tigers singled out by Olney as trade bait, Martinez is arguably the most attractive. He's still young and will be paid a reasonable $11.75 million in 2017. He's obviously a talented hitter to boot.
The Tigers could deal Martinez's walk year for a basket of prospects, a la the Justin Upton trade from two winters ago. They could also go for one or two established players with controllability and upside. Either way, a team won't rob the Tigers blind in a Martinez deal.
18. Charlie Blackmon, CF, Trade
Source: Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors
Charlie Blackmon was an All-Star in 2014, but it wasn't until this year that he became a true star. He OPS'd .933 with outstanding production at and away from Coors Field. He also made it three straight seasons with double-digit homers (29) and steals (17). Per the metrics, only good defense was missing.
Now 30 years old, Blackmon may not have any more upside to tap into. What's there is legit, however. He's a good contact hitter who's getting better at making hard contact. And because he didn't start playing regularly until 2014, his athleticism should age well. All this ought to sound good for teams that want to trade for his last two seasons of club control.
Along with his defense, Blackmon's durability is another thing that didn't have a great year in 2016. He had to go on the disabled list with turf toe, limiting him to 143 games.
Teams should be a little wary of the fact this was the second time Blackmon has battled turf toe in his career. All the same, they should focus more on how he's played in over 140 games in three straight seasons and how he wasn't overworked before then.
Todd is right about Blackmon being the most appealing trade candidate in the Colorado Rockies' outfield. He's talented and relatively affordable in the next two years.
Since the Rockies have enough young bats, a trade of Blackmon would have to bring back some young arms. They would have to be good young arms, too. No small asking price for a guy a team would only have for the next two years.
17. Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Free Agent
Aroldis Chapman has done nothing but dominate since becoming a closer in 2012, putting up a 1.84 ERA in 314 appearances. He also owns a rate of 15.2 strikeouts per nine innings for his career, the highest of any pitcher who's ever made over 300 appearances.
The knock on Chapman, 28, used to be about his wildness. He corrected that in a big way in 2016, finding the strike zone with 52.3 percent of his pitches. This narrows the list of concerns down to how age will impact an arm that's produced more 100 mph fastballs (by far) than any pitcher on record. To this extent, his velo has actually gotten better over time. Even if age robs him of a mph or two, he'll still be throwing very hard throughout his inevitable multiyear deal.
Chapman went on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation in 2011. Since then he's only had to go on the DL after a scary line drive to his face in spring training in 2014.
The natural concern is whether his arm only has so many high-velocity fastballs left. But since he's still relatively youthful, his breaking point may still be a couple of years away, if it even comes at all.
The trade that sent Chapman from the New York Yankees to the Chicago Cubs barred him from a qualifying offer. Without ties to draft-pick compensation, it should be that much easier for him to top the four-year, $50 million contract that Jonathan Papelbon got five years ago.
Would that be fair based on Chapman's track record? Sure. Is any reliever worth that kind of money? Probably not, no.
16. Kenley Jansen, RHP, Free Agent
It's astounding that Kenley Jansen didn't make his first All-Star team until 2016. He's been dominant from Day 1 in 2010, compiling a 2.20 ERA and striking out 13.9 batters per nine innings in 409 appearances. Since he's done all this with a filthy cutter, comparisons to Mariano Rivera are valid.
In fact, it's a good sign that the 29-year-old has remained dominant despite his cutter's velocity going up and down. It doesn't need to light up a radar gun to miss bats or miss barrels. He's efficient with it, too, throwing over half his career pitches in the strike zone. Everything points to a rarity: a reliever whose elite talent should age well.
Jansen has had some injury scares in his career, including shoulder inflammation, foot surgery and heart problems that required him to undergo a procedure in 2012.
Fortunately, those heart problems appear to be behind him. And through it all, it's a positive that he's appeared in at least 65 games in four of five seasons. It's fair to have some unease about his durability, but not too much.
Not surprisingly, Jansen got a $17.2 million qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He's a lock to reject it and take his chances on the open market.
The goal for him will be to try to beat Papelbon's 2011 contract. His ties to draft-pick compensation will complicate that somewhat, but likely won't stop him from beating it. He's awfully good, but all that money plus a draft pick is a big price.
15. Zack Greinke, SP, Trade
Today in "Things That Look Bad," we have Zack Greinke going from a 1.66 ERA in 2015 to a 4.37 ERA in the first year of a six-year, $206.5 million contract in 2016. He was also limited by injury to 26 starts. And by the way, he's headed for his age-33 season.
And yet it's not all bad. Greinke's velocity is just fine, and he continued to have sharp control in 2016, walking just 2.3 batters per nine innings. His command slipped as more pitches drifted toward the middle of the zone, but that can be corrected. With the right battery mate, so can his diminished ability to draw strikes outside the zone. Don't write him off as a fallen star just yet.
That Greinke missed any time with an injury in 2016 is the bad news. The good news is that he wasn't felled by an arm injury. It was a bad oblique that did the deed.
In fact, Greinke's arm and shoulder have been largely healthy throughout his career. That's a benefit of his consistent, low-effort mechanics. He may be at an age where good health can't be taken as a given, but he likely won't become damaged goods in the final five years of his deal.
In the wake of a disastrous 2016 and with new management now in town, Sherman isn't the only one speculating that the Arizona Diamondbacks could put Greinke on the trade block.
Of course, moving him means moving most or all of his (very complex) remaining contract. Besides which, Greinke's the type of guy who could use his limited no-trade protection to try to add extra money to his deal. So while he's an attractive reclamation project, he would be a costly one.
14. Justin Verlander, SP, Trade
Source: Buster Olney of ESPN.com
After it all fell apart in 2014, Justin Verlander showed signs of life in 2015 and got back to being a true ace in 2016. He put up a 3.04 ERA and led the American League in strikeouts. Most encouraging of all, he did so with his best average fastball velocity since 2012.
With Verlander headed for his age-34 season, that can't last forever. But he also may not need vintage velocity to be effective. He fell back in love with the high fastball in 2016, allowing him to change eye levels once again. We also know now that he gets an elite amount of spin on his pitches. These are solid safeguards against Father Time's dirty tactics.
Things were dicey in this department in 2014 and 2015. Verlander was slow to recover from core muscle surgery after 2013 and ran into an arm injury in 2015. In 2016, he put these issues behind him and threw 227.2 innings.
Nonetheless, Verlander's age and past workload mean the possibility of further trouble can't be dismissed. And with a contract that runs through at least 2019, there's plenty of time for said trouble to crop up.
As Olney suggests they could, the Tigers would be wise to shop Verlander while his value is high once again. This could be their best chance to offload the $84 million left on his contract.
Knowing them, however, the Tigers won't do a deal unless they can get rid of at least the bulk of that contract while also getting some major league-ready talent in return. Trading for Verlander would thus cost a team a lot of money and some valuable talent. That's a big price to pay for an aging ace.
13. Yoenis Cespedes, LF, Free Agent
Yoenis Cespedes' outburst from 2015 carried over into 2016. His power stayed the same and perhaps should have been even better in light of his never-better hard-hit rate. He also took his walks for a change. And while he struggled in center field, it's not to be overlooked how well he rated in left field.
All this leaves just two concerns. One is Cespedes' consistency, or lack thereof. There are times when he becomes invisible at the plate and visible in a bad way in the field. And now that he's 31, there is the question of how much longer he'll remain such a gifted athlete. All the same, teams will get the message they didn't get last winter: He's worth taking a chance on in free agency.
Cespedes played in over 150 games in 2014 and 2015 but was limited to 132 games by a bothersome quad in 2016. That required the third trip to the disabled list of his career.
Even when Cespedes is "healthy," he never seems to be healthy. Not many players specialize in nagging injuries like he does. At his age, you have to wonder whether said nagging injuries will start becoming more serious.
Cespedes was barred from getting a qualifying offer last winter. Not this time. Once he rejects that, he'll be tied to draft-pick compensation that will hinder his market.
He should still do better than the three-year, $75 million contract he just opted out of. Teams will no doubt still have some reservations but probably not enough to block him from $25 million per year in a four- to five-year contract. That plus a lost draft pick will be a lot to pay for an unpredictable player.
12. Dee Gordon, 2B, Trade
Source: Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald
Who's the real Dee Gordon? The breakout star from 2014 and 2015, or the guy who struggled before and after an 80-game PED suspension in 2016? We'll find out no matter where the 28-year-old lands this winter. But teams thinking about buying low on him have the right idea.
If nothing else, Gordon is still fast and, per the metrics, a good defender. He also remains an outstanding contact hitter who sprays ground balls to all fields—a good combination for a speedy player. Teams are rolling the dice on him bouncing back and earning the money he's owed between now and 2020.
Gordon has twice suffered serious thumb injuries on slides, in 2012 and 2015. That's something for suitors to be wary of, as he's not going to stop running the bases just to keep himself healthy.
Gordon otherwise doesn't offer too much to worry about. He's still relatively youthful, and it's important that he's kept his legs healthy throughout his career. He should stay healthy in the final four (or five, if his option is picked up) years of his contract.
According to Jackson, the Marlins would prefer not to make Gordon part of their search for starting pitching. That's understandable given what he would mean for them if he bounces back.
Then there's the matter of his trade value. Between what happened in 2016 and the $46.7 million remaining on his contract, Gordon's value is in a tough place. If a team can convince the pitching-needy Marlins to give him up for something less than an ace, a Gordon trade could be a steal.
11. Zach Britton, LHP, Trade
Source: Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports
Zach Britton was superb in 2014 and 2015. He was something else entirely in 2016. His 0.54 ERA is the lowest ever for a reliever who appeared in over 60 games. With that in the bag, he now owns a 1.38 ERA in 204 appearances over the past three seasons.
The 28-year-old should keep this up in his final two seasons before free agency. His sinker has 96-97 mph velocity and absurd movement, and he's very good at keeping it below the knees. His rewards are strikeouts and lots and lots of ground balls. And as a former starter, he may have the ability to make like Andrew Miller and start stretching himself out more if he's asked.
Britton had some trouble with his left shoulder earlier in his career, missing a substantial amount of time in 2011 and 2012. It's been smooth sailing ever since he moved into a relief role.
The fact that Britton is still new to relieving and also relatively youthful are two things that bode well for his durability in the two years of club control he has left.
Kubatko is far from the only one to wonder aloud if the Baltimore Orioles will trade Britton. It would be a good way to take advantage of his sky-high value and avoid the massive raise he's going to get in arbitration. MLB Trade Rumors has him projected to go from $6.75 million to $11.4 million.
This summer's trade of Miller would be a good template for the Orioles to follow if they were rebuilding. But they're not. They're only likely to entertain offers that would substantially improve their major league roster. A team that trades for Britton would be out of some valuable pieces and would also be on the hook to pay him a lot of money. That's a lot for a mere relief pitcher to live up to.
10. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH, Free Agent
Behold one of the best power hitters in baseball. Only Chris Davis (197) has hit more home runs than Edwin Encarnacion (193) since 2012. Only Giancarlo Stanton and David Ortiz topped him in isolated power. And while he may be headed for his age-34 season, his power is showing no signs of decline.
There are some things to be wary of, though. Encarnacion is a bat-only player, contributing little on defense or on the bases. And with strikeouts and shifts starting to slow him down, his bat may devolve into a power-only tool. His next five years likely won't be as good as his last five years.
Encarnacion played in 160 games in 2016, making it four seasons out of five in which he's topped 140 games. A strained quad sidelined him for a while in 2014, but he's been mostly healthy since.
At his age, there's not a 100 percent guarantee that Encarnacion will keep this up. But it bodes well that action in the field hasn't worn him out. He's spent the last five years rotating between first base and designated hitter. Short of full-time DH duty, that's as good a way as any to preserve a player.
Encarnacion will presumably reject his $17.2 million qualifying offer from the Toronto Blue Jays. That will tie him to draft-pick compensation, but that shouldn't hold him back too much in the open market.
He'll look to match or beat the deals Victor Martinez and Nelson Cruz got two winters ago. That would call for a contract of at least four years worth somewhere between $15 and $20 million per year. That plus the lost draft pick would be a heavy price for a guy who may not match his recent production.
9. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Trade
Source: Buster Olney of ESPN.com
You know him. You love him. He's Miguel Cabrera. He hit "only" .316 in 2016 but still leads all active players with a .321 career average. Seemingly fully healthy for the first time since 2013, he also revived his power in hitting 38 home runs with a .563 slugging percentage.
As always, the caveat with Cabrera is that he's a bat-only player. And with his age-34 season on deck, his excellent 2016 shouldn't erase concerns about the inevitability of his decline. His power is still likely to be the first thing to go. As it is, it's curious that he drastically improved his HR-FB ratio from 15.8 in 2015 to 22.1 in 2016 without drastically improving his hard-hit rate (40.1 to 41.1).
It doesn't get as much attention for obvious reasons, but Cabrera's durability is as big a hallmark of his career as his production. Since 2004, he's averaged 155 games per season!
All those games have taken their toll, though. Cabrera underwent core muscle surgery after 2013 and missed significant action with a leg injury last year. Those issues seemed to be the start of his physical decline. In that sense, this is another area where what happened in 2016 shouldn't be taken as a promise that all is well.
It seems unthinkable that the Tigers would move Cabrera, but the time is right to do so. The hard part will be finding a taker for his contract, which still owes him $212 million over the next seven years.
If Cabrera is moved, chances are it would be in a bad contract swap that would save the Tigers money rather than in a deal that would bring them oodles of young talent. While that would be preferable for his new team, it would still be on the hook to pay a lot of money to an aging star.
8. Brian Dozier, 2B, Trade
Source: Joel Sherman of the New York Post
It will be hard for Brian Dozier to keep up the trend after launching 42 home runs in 2016, but he's increased his home run total each season he's been in the majors. To boot, he's also a capable baserunner and defender.
With his age-30 season on deck, there is some concern as to whether Dozier will decline in the last two years of his contract. But he is well-preserved, as he didn't become an everyday major leaguer until his age-26 season. And if nothing else, his power is built to last. He excels at getting the ball in the air, pulling it and hitting it hard.
Here's another reason to believe Dozier can age well: He hasn't been hurt yet, playing in at least 147 games in each of the last four seasons.
The only worry is if Dozier's style of play could open the injury floodgates. He does like to go all-out on defense and on the basepaths. But in the scheme of things, this is a minor worry.
Sherman is the latest to speculate about the Minnesota Twins trading their star second baseman but not the first. Even Dozier seems aware that he's a great piece of trade bait for a team that's trying to take the next step toward contention.
Thing is, the Twins probably wouldn't be interested in unproven prospects. They're in a position to add to a young core that's already in place. Any team that wants Dozier should be prepared to part with major league or major league-ready talent. Two years of Dozier won't come cheap.
7. Chris Archer, SP, Trade
Chris Archer was a breakout star in 2015, finishing with a 3.23 ERA and 252 strikeouts in 212 innings. He regressed in 2016. Despite continuing to strike out hitters at a rapid pace, he struggled with the long ball and finished with a 4.02 ERA in 201.1 innings.
There's a good chance this will be just a blip on the radar. Archer's struggles were all in the first half. In the second half, he rode improved velocity and more aggressive slider usage to a 3.25 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 91.1 innings. With only his age-28 season on deck for 2017, he should put 2016 behind him and pitch like an ace in a contract that controls him through 2021.
Archer has been a picture of health since settling into Tampa Bay's rotation in 2013. In all, he's made 122 starts and logged 736.2 innings.
One reason to worry about Archer's health coming into 2016 was the way his arm slot had dropped throughout 2015. That might have turned out to be an early indicator something was wrong. But that didn't carry over into 2016. That narrows the list of reasons to worry about him down to nagging suspicions about his high-velocity and slider-heavy pitching style.
If Polishuk is indeed right about the Rays looking to upgrade their roster by trading a starter this winter, Archer will be their best hope for a blockbuster. He's not only very talented but controlled for five more seasons at slightly less than $40 million.
My best guess is that an Archer trade would have to be constructed around a legit bat and a young up-and-coming starter. That would be a big price to pay, but Archer's talent and cheap contract could make it worth it.
6. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Trade
Source: Buster Olney of ESPN.com
Ian Kinsler is 34 but seems to be ageless. He's been underrated his whole career and is now coming off a 2016 season in which he OPS'd .831 with 28 home runs while, per the metrics, playing characteristically terrific defense at second base.
The power spike Kinsler experienced in 2016 should raise questions, but it's actually believable. His swing is made to get the ball in the air to his pull side, and he earned his power with a career-best hard-hit percentage. And even if his power does regress, he'll still have enough talents to continue producing in the final two years of his contract (including his 2018 option).
As further proof that he might actually be ageless, Kinsler has gotten more durable as he's gotten older. He's averaged 153 games per season since 2011.
With Kinsler headed for his age-35 season with over 1,500 career games in his past, there's a limit to how much his track record of durability can be trusted. It does bode well, though.
Olney reported Kinsler is one of many stars the Detroit Tigers could move this winter. Given that he's still really good and owed a maximum of $23 million over the next two seasons, he might be the only guy they can move for real young talent.
Even then, Kinsler would be a good get for any team that pays Detroit's price. He would only need to continue being one of baseball's best second basemen for two more years.
5. Joey Votto, 1B, Trade
The best pure hitter in baseball? Probably this guy right here. Joey Votto leads all active players with a career .425 OBP. And just when he seemed to be hitting a wall early in 2016, he took off and ultimately hit .326 with a .434 OBP while keeping his power at strong levels.
In other departments, Votto looks his age. The 33-year-old is not the baserunner he once was. While it could prove to be a one-year thing, the poor defensive metrics he posted in 2016 are worth worrying about. The bright side where his future is concerned, however, is that his value comes as much from his smarts as his physical talents. He should be a long-term OBP merchant.
Votto ran into leg trouble that limited him to 111 games in 2012 and more leg trouble that limited him to 62 games in 2014. This isn't a good look on an aging player.
In seasons when he hasn't been hurt, however, Votto has been a lock for 150-plus games. There's also the reality that first base is the best position to preserve an aging player. And this is assuming he doesn't move to the American League, where he could live out his remaining days as a DH.
Heyman's article specifically cites the Toronto Blue Jays as a possible suitor for Votto, but they wouldn't be the only interested party if the Cincinnati Reds put him out there this winter.
Votto's contract, which owes him at least $179 million over the next seven seasons, puts the Reds in the same boat the Tigers are in with Cabrera. They're likely only moving Votto in a bad contract swap. A suitor would rather do that than give up young talent for Votto, but there would be the same problem as Cabrera: paying a lot of money for an aging star.
4. Justin Turner, 3B, Free Agent
All Justin Turner did in his three years in Los Angeles was put together an .856 OPS with 50 home runs, topping out at a career-high 27 in 2016. He's not one-dimensional either. He went to L.A. as a utility guy and, per the metrics, evolved into an above-average defensive third baseman.
With Turner coming off his age-31 season, it's natural to question how long he can keep up his offensive awakening. It does appear legit, however. He's spent the last few seasons making more hard contact than he did earlier in his career and hasn't sacrificed his contact habit to do it. Even if age does chip away at his skills, he'll go from a great player to a quality one.
There are red flags on Turner's record. The most recent is the leg trouble that limited him to 126 games in 2015 and made it four seasons in a row with a trip to the disabled list.
Still, this is a guy who's only played in 704 major league games. Injuries have played a part in that, but it's mostly due to him not earning regular playing time until the Dodgers picked him up. He's relatively well-preserved for a guy his age.
Turner will reject his obligatory $17.2 million qualifying offer, tying himself to draft pick compensation on the open market. Nonetheless, he'll be an obvious standout in a weak free-agent class.
He'll seek at least Chase Headley money ($52 million over four years) and could try to parlay his leverage into something more like Adrian Beltre money ($80 million over five years). One way or another, it'll be fair to worry about a late bloomer with such a big contract to live up to.
3. Alex Bregman, SS, Trade
Source: Joel Sherman of the New York Post
After OPS'ing .986 with 20 home runs in the minors, Alex Bregman was one of baseball's elite prospects by the time he got called to Houston in 2016. He then shook off a slow start to post a .791 OPS with eight homers in 49 games. Defensive runs saved claims he played a good third base, too.
Bregman is a shortstop by trade, however. And a real offensive threat at the position, to boot. He showed a good approach and was among the elites at keeping the ball off the ground with pop to all fields. The 22-year-old should develop into a front-line talent in the six years he has left until free agency.
A hamstring injury in September derailed Bregman's rookie breakout. This after a hamstring injury had landed him on the minor league disabled list back in April.
This is a small worry where Bregman's future is concerned, though. He isn't even two years removed from being the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, and he should be better prepared for the 162-game grind after his first full season in the pros this year.
Sherman merely wondered if the Astros could shop Bregman this winter, with the idea being that he could be used to land an ace. He's a valuable piece of property but superfluous in Houston next to Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and Cuban import Yulieski Gurriel.
The Astros would surely only part with their young, cost-controlled infielder for a young, cost-controlled ace. Such a deal would be risky, but Bregman's youth and upside could indeed make it a good deal in the long run.
2. Jose Quintana, SP, Trade
It's a crime that 2016 was Jose Quintana's first All-Star season. He's been one of the best pitchers in the league for a while now. For example, three pitchers have four straight seasons of at least 200 innings and an ERA+ over 110: Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner and this guy.
Quintana can keep this up in a contract that runs through 2020. His game depends less on stuff and more on location and sequencing. There's a big disparity between his fastball and curveball velocity that he accentuates by working both sides of the zone and changing eye levels. He doesn't overwhelm hitters, but he can get outs by missing bats or by missing barrels.
Quintana has made over 30 starts in each of the last four seasons. His body hadn't betrayed him even before then. He owes that to clean mechanics that allow him to put little effort into each pitch.
Of course, pitchers can be durable right up until they're not. But at just 27 years old and with such a clean injury history, Quintana shouldn't have to worry about his breakdown just yet.
If Sherman is right about the White Sox putting Quintana on the block, there will be many interested parties. He's a great pitcher who's under contract for four more seasons at just $37.85 million.
And yet, he'll probably come a lot cheaper than fellow White Sox ace Chris Sale. A team will have to surrender some blue-chip talent for Quintana but not all its blue-chip talent. That would be a sweet deal considering Quintana isn't much worse than Sale, if at all.
1. Chris Sale, SP, Trade
Behold one of the best pitchers in baseball. Chris Sale has a 3.04 ERA over the last five seasons, in which he's allowed just a .635 OPS and collected five strikeouts for every walk. The 27-year-old has some of the best stuff in the game, so it borders on being unfair that he also has plus command.
The thing to be worried about is Sale's velocity drop. That may be permanent now that he's nearing 30. And yet, he showed in the second half of 2016 that he can get strikeouts regardless of that. He did a better job of changing eye levels and also developed more velocity differential between his heat and his changeup. More of this will allow him to keep being an ace in the last three years of his contract.
In part because the Chicago White Sox have kept a close eye on Sale's elbow and shoulder, he's only gone on the disabled list once as a major leaguer. The breakdown everyone has expected hasn't happened yet.
But it still could. Sale's slim 6'6" frame forces him to put a lot of effort into each pitch. And with 1,110 innings to his name, he's thrown many pitches. His durable track record isn't necessarily a guarantee of future durability.
Sale is one of several White Sox players who Sherman thinks might find their way to the trading block this winter. This kind of speculation is nothing new where Sale is concerned. Neither is any speculation about what it would take to acquire him. It's going to take a collection of elite prospects.
However, he could be worth it. Despite reservations about his body holding up, he's an elite starting pitcher who could be the missing link for a team with championship aspirations.