January is usually a quiet month on the baseball hot stove but this offseason, the first month of the year could be busier than many of us are used to. On Wednesday, the outfield market got a little bit smaller as the World Series champion Kansas City Royals brought back Alex Gordon on a four-year, $72 million deal.
Still, when looking at some of the names that remain on the board there is plenty of talent to be had and plenty of money to be spent on it as well. A couple of baseball's most feared hitters in Yoenis Cespedes and Chris Davis will be playing somewhere in 2016, but the question is where? The action is only getting started as the calendar flips to 2016 and teams look to bolster their rosters as spring training inches closer.
Below, we take a look at eight of the top MLB free agents still waiting to be signed:
Yoenis Cespedes, OF: Although teams like the Angels, White Sox, Orioles and Giants are rumored to be interested, its unknown whether he’ll still be able to get the six-year deal he seeks. So far, teams seem wary to commit those kinds of dollars and years to Cespedes but he is one of the few desirable free agents left without a qualifying offer attached. The Cuban outfielder hit .287 with 17 home runs and 44 RBI in 57 games with the Mets en route to the NL pennant.
Chris Davis, 1B: The Orioles offered Davis around $150 million over seven years but the left-hander turned it down, apparently holding out for more money . Davis is seeking an offer in the eight-year $200 million range, which could explain why his market hasn’t fully developed. Agent Scott Boras has done this before with Prince Fielder in 2012 and eventually got his client paid so it’s hard to imagine a compromise but Baltimore says it won’t budge. Davis’ 126 home runs over the last three seasons are the most of any player in baseball.
Justin Upton, OF: All the same teams in on Cespedes are in on Upton, namely the White Sox, Giants and Orioles. The compensatory pick could hurt Upton’s market but the 28-year-old has hit 26 or more home runs each of the last three seasons and can likely play either corner outfield position. If he’s not somebody’s top choice, the rumor mill for Upton could really start churning once one of the other big name sluggers comes off the board.
Ian Desmond, SS: Last season was a contract year for Desmond in Washington and he disappointed, hitting .233 with a sub-.300 on-base percentage and making the second-most errors (27) of any shortstop in baseball, although he did hit 19 home runs. The Padres and Demond have been in contact but there could be fits with the White Sox and Rockies depending on circumstances. Wherever he goes, Desmond will make much less than the $107 million over seven years that he reportedly turned down two years back.
Denard Span, OF: Span may need to wait it out but he is reportedly seeking a multi-year deal but teams seem wary of his durability or lack thereof. He did hit .301 with a .365 on-base percentage in 61 games last year but needed surgery to repair a left hip injury that derailed his season. He could help any team in need of a speedy outfielder that gets on base and hits for average plus he won’t cost anyone a draft pick. There's talk of him returning to Washington and that could continue as Kansas City, who was rumored to be interested, is likely out of the Span sweepstakes with the re-signing of Gordon.
Gerardo Parra, OF: Parra and Span are in similar positions and may need to wait until the big fish sign before getting a deal. He struggled being traded to the Orioles, but his first half in Milwaukee means he had a solid year altogether, hitting .291 with 14 home runs and 51 RBI. He can play all three outfield positions and has won two Gold Gloves. Colorado and Washington are said to be interested but there are another handful of teams considering the versatile outfielder.
Yovani Gallardo, RHP: Gallardo will cost a draft pick after turning down a qualifying offer but he had a strong year with the Rangers, going 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA. He’s made at least 30 starts every year starting in 2009, though he only topped 200 innings on two occasions. The Royals, Orioles and Astros have all been linked to the right-hander, who will be 30 when the season begins.
Wei-Yin Chen, LHP: The Nationals have been connected to the left hander on multiple occasions. In four years as a fly ball pitcher in Baltimore, Chen went 46-32 with a 3.72 ERA and made at least 31 starts three times. His turning down of a qualifying offer means any team that signs him will have to give up a draft pick but he could be a solid addition to a rotation. The Dodgers’ signing of Kenta Maeda takes him out of that picture but the Royals are also rumored to have interest.