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10 best bets for a long-term extension

Beltre, Strasburg top list of those who could be locked up before free agency
March 11, 2016

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There was an abundance of quality free agents on the market this past offseason.Advantage: owners.The pickings are slim in looking at who could be on the open market next fall.Advantage: players.With the likes of Dexter Fowler, Yovani Gallardo and Ian Desmond having to wait until after camps

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There was an abundance of quality free agents on the market this past offseason.
Advantage: owners.
The pickings are slim in looking at who could be on the open market next fall.
Advantage: players.
With the likes of Dexter Fowler, Yovani Gallardo and Ian Desmond having to wait until after camps opened this spring to find deals, there were concerns raised by agents that the qualifying-offer system needed to be revised.
Check back next spring.
The next potential free-agent class is limited in terms of impact players.
And that would seem to signal efforts by teams in the next couple of months -- if not the next couple of weeks -- to sign contract extensions with those who could be key free agents at season's end. There will, after all, not be a lot of available options to replace those players if they decide to check out the open market.
Here are 10 who could sign before season's end:
• Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre will turn 37 on April 7, but there already has been initial talks about the future. Even with a thumb injury last year, he hit .287 with an OPS of .788, and he finished seventh in the American League MVP Award voting. Texas has highly-touted prospectJoey Gallo on the way up, but can the Rangers afford to cut ties with a man who has been the foundation of their success over the past six seasons?
• Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg doesn't turn 28 until July 20. The No. 1 pick in the 2009 Draft, who underwent Tommy John surgery during the 2010 season, Strasburg has gone 48-33 with a 3.17 ERA in the past four seasons. His agent, Scott Boras, likes to have his clients test free agency, but he has a history of making deals with Nats general manager Mike Rizzo.

• Mets second baseman Neil Walker was acquired in an offseason trade with the Pirates, and he will upgrade New York's middle infield. A run-producing switch-hitter, he has worked to become a solid second baseman after beginning his pro career as a catcher. The $10.55 million deal Walker agreed to in avoiding arbitration with the Mets could provide the foundation for a multiyear deal.
• Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner, who turns 30 in September, has settled nicely into the rotation in San Diego the past three years. Both sides know that Petco Park has been a welcoming home for the former Cubs right-hander. He is 15-17 with a 2.64 ERA at Petco, compared to 11-25 with a 4.25 ERA elsewhere.
• Orioles catcher Matt Wieters' 2015 season was limited by his return from Tommy John surgery, and he didn't hesitated to accept Baltimore's $15.8 million qualifying offer after he filed for free agency. Convinced he is now healthy, the O's have a starting point in place for multiyear negotiation thanks to the qualifying offer. The three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner started 55 games at catcher last year without any problems, and he also appeared at first base and DH.
• Royals closer Wade Davis has a club option in his contact for 2017 at $10 million (or a $2.5 million buyout). That, plus the fact he is making $8 million this year, would provide a nice starting point for Kansas City to put together a two- or three-year extension package that could fit nicely into the team's long-term budget, because part of the money could be given as bonuses for this year and next year to bring his value up. The re-signing of Alex Gordon off the free-agent market and signing of Salvador Perez to an extension -- even though he had an option for next year -- underscores the Royals' willingness to work on keeping the core of the current team together. In two years as a full-time reliever with Kansas City, Davis was 17-3 with a 0.97 ERA, and in mid-2015, he made a comfortable transition to closer, converting 17 of 18 saves opportunities in the regular season and all four chances in the postseason.
• Pirates closer Mark Melancon turns 31 the week before Opening Day, but he has a young body. During his three years with the Bucs, he has become an elite closer, converting 100 of 111 save opportunites while posting a 1.85 ERA that ranked fourth among all MLB closers in that stretch. Melancon led the Majors with 51 saves a year ago, failing to convert only twice.
• Extending outfielder Jose Bautista will be a challenge for the Blue Jays, but it could be done. The Jays would like to keep Bautista, and Bautista likes Toronto. Here's the rub: Bautista feels he has played for a hometown discount under the five-year, $70 million deal that expires at season's end. He wants to make up for that with a new deal, and he has given the club a proposal that would give him the contract with the largest annual average value among Toronto players.

• Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy would have to be traded for him to be realistically be on this list. Then, the team that acquires him would step up and give him an extension that, along the lines of Davis, could offset the below-market-value salary for this year ($4.25 million) and next year's club option ($5.25 million). Lucroy turns 30 on June 13, and he has averaged 134 games played the past three seasons.
• Fowler was one of the victims of the surplus of talent this offseason, and he wound up returning to the Cubs for $13 million on a one-year deal that includes a mutual option for next season. Given the quickness with which that deal was put together, the two sides have shown an ability to negotiate with each other, which could facilitate a longer-term deal and keep Fowler on the North Side, where he is comfortable.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for