After the intense collective excitement experienced during this past offseason, many are already looking to future ones. But the future, to many, is the free agent class after the 2018 season.
That winter, teams will be bidding on players like Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, A.J. Pollock, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Jason Heyward, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, Trevor Rosenthal, Craig Kimbrel and much, much (no seriously) more.
But, there are still two offseasons before that one, and a lot more games to be played first. And if I know anything about baseball, teams are going to need athletes to play in those games, and at least some of them are going to come from free agency.
At MLB Trade Rumors, Tim Dierkes has already started to analyze the upcoming 2016-2017 free agent class, by creating a set of power rankings. And while his work is fantastic, the results are uninspiring. Consider, the top spot on the rankings goes to Stephen Strasburg. Don’t get me wrong, Strasburg is a big talent, will be just 28, and has as much upside as nearly any pitcher in the game. Unfortunately, he’s very rarely found himself in the game, having thrown just 127 innings last season and an average of just 142/year since his first full season in 2011. He’ll still get paid, and he’s certainly the crown of next year’s class as we sit here today, but 2016 will go a long way to determine just how much he costs.
Following Strasburg is Carlos Gomez. While he had excellent seasons in 2013 (7.4 WAR) and 2014 (5.7 WAR), he did take a pretty significant step back last year (2.6 WAR). Following 2016, he’ll be one year older – 31 years total – and one more year removed from his breakout in 2013. While he, too, will be a perfectly good player, 2016 seems to be hugely impactful of his overall price tag.
3. Yoenis Cespedes
Might not opt-out, but even if he does, he’ll also be 31 and only has one season of elite performance to date.
4. Jose Bautista
Is going to be 36 years old and is reportedly demanding an extension worth well over $150 million.
5. Edwin Encarnacion
Will also be relatively old, 34, at the time of the 2017 season, and is looking for something around four years and $100+ million as a DH/first base type.
So, take a pen paper, check out Dierkes 2016-2017 free agent power rankings, and create your shopping list. You shouldn’t need a huge budget, there isn’t much there to buy.