Ranking Top MLB Free Agents And Examining Potential Fit With Dodgers
Ranking Top Mlb Free Agents And Examining Potential Fit With Dodgers
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason is officially underway and as of Monday night at 9:01 p.m. PT, free agents became permitted to sign a contract with any club. Up until that point, they were limited to re-signing with the team they spent the 2016 season with.

Along with the proverbial doors unlocking, the General Manager meetings begin Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz. Whether any trades occur between then and Thursday remains to be seen, but framework for potential deals will certainly be in place for the Winter Meetings that commence in less than a month.

Ranked below are the top-10 free agents of the offseason and each player’s potential fit with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It’s worth noting that the Dodgers extended the qualifying offer to Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner. Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmond, Edwin Encarnacion, Dexter Fowler and Neil Walker were also tendered the qualifying offer.

Should a player that declines the offer sign with a new team, their previous team will receive a compensatory 2017 draft pick.

1. Yoenis Cespedes: Cespedes, 31, enjoyed another productive season in 2016. He batted .280/.354/.530 with 31 round-trippers in 543 plate appearances and posted 3.2 WAR despite some defensive concerns.

Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi played a pivotal role in signing the Cuban slugger during his tenure with the Oakland Athletics, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Los Angeles pursues Cespedes during the offseason.

At least one, if not both corner outfield positions will look to be upgraded, and a right-handed bat that crushes left-handed pitching in Cespedes more than fits the bill.

The New York Mets, Washington Nationals, Chicago White Sox and rival San Francisco Giants all have needs for another power bat in the middle of their lineup as well, so competition for Cespedes will be large.

2. Edwin Encarnacion: The Toronto Blue Jays’ designated hitter slashed a ridiculous .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs, 34 doubles and 127 RBIs over 702 plate appearances this season.

Encarnacion will turn 34 years old in January and is a liability on the defensive side, so he appears more suited to sign with an American League team during free agency.

Toronto will likely make a hard push to retain Encarnacion, but will undoubtedly receive competition from the rival Boston Red Sox, who are looking to replace the recently-retired David Ortiz. Other teams that could show interest are the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers.

There’s no doubt that Encarnacion would be a huge boost to the Dodgers lineup, but with the absence of the designated hitter in the National League, there doesn’t appear to be a position for him.

3. Justin Turner: The Dodgers’ third baseman posted career numbers across the board in 2016, including home runs (27), RBIs (90) and runs scored (79), while providing elite defense at the hot corner.

Of the 10 players on this list, Turner accumulated the highest WAR at 5.6, and is one of the best two-way players in all of baseball. The only concerns with giving him a lengthy contract are his age (he’ll be 32 in 2017) and the fact that Turner has just one season under his belt as an everyday player.

That being said, Turner will have a strong market from teams in need of a productive third baseman, including the Atlanta Braves and Dodgers, who lack a clear replacement in the organization should he depart.

4. Dexter Fowler: Fowler, 31 in March, is coming off a career campaign for the Chicago Cubs in which he posted 4.7 WAR and an .840 on-base plus slugging as the team’s center fielder.

The World Series champion recently declined a mutual option and elected free agency, where he should have plenty of suitors. Chicago doesn’t appear likely to re-sign Fowler, given that prospect Albert Almora Jr. is slated to become an everyday player in 2017.

In addition, the Cubs have other quality options already under contract, such as Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Jorge Soler.

Clubs that are interested in Cespedes will probably pursue Fowler as a fallback option, in addition to the Orioles, who nearly inked the switch-hitter last offseason.

5. Kenley Jansen: The Dodgers all-time saves leader was masterful in 2016, posting a 1.83 ERA and 1.44 FIP with 104 strikeouts and 47 saves in 68.2 innings.

Jansen especially impressed on a national level during the NL Championship Series, blanking the Cubs in 6.1 frames, and frequently logged multiple innings per appearance.

Teams in need of a closer this winter include the Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, Cubs and New York Yankees. Each will have Jansen at the top of their list, given that he hasn’t turned 30 years old yet and has consistently put up elite numbers since entering the league in 2010.

6. Aroldis Chapman: The polarizing closer posted elite numbers for the Yankees and Cubs in 2016, including a 1.55 ERA and stunning 13.97 strikeouts per nine in 58 innings during the regular season.

Chapman is one of many top relievers available in free agency this offseason, and clubs with interest in Jansen will likely pursue the hard-throwing lefty as well.

Despite his off-the-field problems, the Dodgers reportedly hold a high opinion of Chapman and could attempt to sign him if Jansen departs.

7. Rich Hill: Hill, who turns 37 years old in March, has evolved into an ace since re-entering the Majors at the end of the 2015 season.

In 110.1 combined innings with the Athletics and Dodgers this season, the lefty posted a 2.12 ERA and 10.52 strikeouts per nine innings ratio with a 3.8 WAR.

Despite his age, Hill is the best starting pitcher available in free agency and will have a plethora of teams interested in his services.

Hill recently stated that he wants to re-sign with Los Angeles, but there’s speculation he would prefer a return to the East Coast.

More specifically, his hometown Red Sox who Hill credits for his newfound success.

8. Wilson Ramos: The longtime Nationals catcher enjoyed a career year in 2016 and would rank higher on this list if it wasn’t for his unfortunate ACL injury at the end of the regular season that sidelined him for the entire postseason.

In 131 games, Ramos batted .307/.354/.496 with 25 doubles, 22 home runs and a 124 wRC+. He will miss the beginning of next season but should still earn a respectable payday.

Among the clubs that could show interest are the Nationals, Orioles and Colorado Rockies, who are all in need of an everyday catcher.

9. Neil Walker: In what’s one of the weaker free-agent markets in recent memory, Walker is inarguably the best free-agent second baseman available.

After spending seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Walker was traded to the Mets prior to the 2016 season, and posted one of the best seasons of his career.

In 458 plate appearances (113 games), he batted .282 with 23 home runs and improved vastly as a defender. Walker’s season was cut short at the end of August after suffering a back injury, but he should be completely healthy by Spring Training.

Should the Dodgers want to improve at second base, signing Walker is the best route to go (outside of a trade). The Mets will surely attempt to retain him, and mystery clubs hoping to make a splash could focus their efforts on adding him as well.

10. Ian Desmond: The former shortstop-turned center fielder seamlessly transitioned to an everyday outfield role and put up big numbers with the Rangers.

In 677 plate appearances, Desmond posted a solid .781 OPS with 22 home runs and 107 runs scored. He appeared in 156 games and was worth over three wins to his club.

Desmond won’t command the big dollars as fellow free agent outfielders Cespedes and Fowler, so teams that miss out could easily shift their attention to signing him instead. Given Desmond’s prior experience in the infield, his market could expand if teams want him to return to shortstop.

Other names that just missed this list include Mark Trumbo, who clubbed a league-leading 47 home runs for the Orioles, and Carlos Beltran, who is nearing his 40th birthday but still hits with the best of them.

The two posted respective WAR totals of 2.3 and 2.2 — both numbers falling short of the 10 free agents’ individual 2016 marks listed above.