The Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville are under way this week, normally signaling an uptick in action surrounding the free agency and trade rumor mill.
Plenty of free agent pitchers have already signed new contracts despite the offseason still being young. David Price signed a seven-year, $217 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, while the Arizona Diamondbacks raised eyebrows by signing Zack Greinke to a six-year deal worth $206 million. Jordan Zimmerman was inked to a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers and the world champion Royals locked up Chris Young on a two-year deal worth $11.75 million.
Although pitchers seem to be flying off the shelves, there are still a few available testing the market and awaiting offers from teams. Here are some of the top players expected to ink deals in the near future.
Johnny Cueto: The right-hander went 11-13 with a 3.44 ERA split between Cincinnati and Kansas City, where he eventually helped win a World Series. Cueto now stands as the top arm on the market after last week’s myriad of free-agent pitching signings, and already turned down a six-year deal worth $120 million from Arizona. Bryce Dixon, Cueto's agent, stated he believes the market is higher for a No. 1 starter.
Scott Kazmir: Although he posted a 7-11 record, a 3.10 ERA was good enough to rank Kazmir No. 4 in the American League. The Royals are interested in Kazmir, as are the Athletics, who inked the lefty to his previous deal of two-years, $22 million. He is likely set up for a pay increase this time around.
Mike Leake: Despite signing Greinke to a massive deal, there is mutual interest between the Diamondbacks and Leake, who went 11-10 with a 3.70 ERA split between Cincinnati and San Francisco. The Giants are also in on the conversation to bring Leake back but Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says the right hander lives in the Phoenix area and wants to stay home if the Diamondbacks can find room in their budget.
While the starting pitching options will begin to thin out, there are plenty of quality free agent bats that are still looking for homes.
Jason Heyward: The 26-year-old is extremely young for a six-year free agent and is due to make far more dollars annually than he ever has before ($7.8 million in 2015) as he enters his prime. He’s been a defensive showstopper for years already but hit .293 with a .369 on-base percentage and posted a Top 10 WAR (6.5) in his best offensive season since 2012.
Justin Upton: USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeted the Giants could be on a big bat such as Upton, who is more than likely leaving San Diego. San Francisco also has interest in Yoenis Cespedes but Upton may be a more affordable option to stick in the middle of their lineup. Upton is coming off a six-year deal on which he made $51.5 million and hit .251 with 26 home runs and 81 RBI in 2015.
Yoenis Cespedes: The Cuban outfielder is said to be searching for a six-year deal off the heels of a season in which he hit .291 with 35 home runs and 105 RBI, not to mention sparking the Mets to a National League title after coming over from Detroit in late July. It’s been deemed "unlikely’" he returns to New York by management, and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman says the Tigers could be interested in bringing Cespedes back to Motown. Cespedes can be expected to make more than $20 million per season.
Alex Gordon: Gordon, who has been a Royal for nine seasons, hit .271 in 104 games and will always be remembered for the ninth-inning home run that helped propel Kansas City to a world title. The Royals hope to keep Gordon but believe their stiffest competition may be the rival Cardinals while the Tigers are said to have interest as well. Gordon, now 31, is fresh off a four-year, $37.5 million deal.
Ben Zobrist: The switch-hitting utility man played 59 games for the Royals after coming over from Oakland and helped complete a team primed for a World Series run. The Mets, are in the conversation for his services along with the Nationals and Giants. The 34-year-old is said to want a four-year deal and is expected to make a decision on his future by Thursday.
Chris Davis: A market seems to still be developing for the 29-year-old slugger, who is coming off a season of 37 homers and 117 RBI. For the moment it appears that Baltimore is the frontrunner by default to bring Davis back since they are the only team with a serious connection to him. Davis made $12 million on a one-year deal last season.
Daniel Murphy: The Mets are expected to make a “legitimate bid” for Murphy, who has been with the organization since being drafted in 2006. Murphy’s earning power skyrocketed with a historic postseason that featured a record six straight games with a home run and New York could be priced out unless the longtime Met chooses to leave some money on the table. The 30-year-old infielder made $8 million last season and rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer.
Dexter Fowler: The switch-hitting outfielder scored 102 runs in 156 games while hitting .250 for the Cubs in 2015. Fowler, 29, made $9.5 million last season and turned down the $15.8 million qualifying offer from Chicago. The Mets expressed interest but are looking at other targets as the market for Fowler hasn’t fully materialized and it would cost them draft compensation to sign him.
Gerardo Parra: The Mets were linked to Parra at the deadline and still are due to their desire for a plattoon fit with Juan Lagares in center. Parra, unlike Fowler, can be signed without any compensation and fits a need for New York. Baltimore, who acquired the speedy outfielder at the trade deadline, has expressed interest in a reunion but may not want to go beyond a two-year deal, which Parra prefers. He hit .291 with 14 home runs and 14 stolen bases while splitting time in Milwaukee and Baltimore.