With Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo now off the market, the focus now shifts to the remaining free agents still capable of significantly improving a team's roster before Spring Training.Given Bautista was arguably the best offensive piece available, his return to the Blue Jays could have a ripple effect on
With Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo now off the market, the focus now shifts to the remaining free agents still capable of significantly improving a team's roster before Spring Training.
Given Bautista was arguably the best offensive piece available, his return to the Blue Jays could have a ripple effect on the rest of the free-agent class.
Below are my updated predictions for five of the top free agents still up for grabs:
1. Mike Napoli
The Indians admitted recently that parting ways with Napoli was a difficult decision. That's not hard to understand, considering his track record of production at the plate and reputation in the clubhouse. The slugger has been to an incredible eight postseasons and three World Series in his 11-year career, winning it all with the Red Sox in 2013. And while Napoli's defensive metrics do not score high -- he was a minus-4 in Defensive Runs Saved at first base in 2016 -- he is more than adequate at the position.
Strong fit: The Rangers have room at first base after Mitch Moreland's departure. But with Texas' 2017 payroll likely to exceed last year's franchise record of $158 million, the club is trying to find the right deal to land Napoli. Look for the two sides to reach an agreement sooner rather than later.
2. Matt Wieters
Normally, the market is pretty clear when a top-notch catcher like Wieters hits free agency. But despite being a four-time All-Star and a two-time Gold Glove Award winner, he has seemingly had difficulty finding a suitor willing to come close to what Brian McCann and Russell Martin signed for in recent offseasons. While questions about Wieters' arm could be a factor, the backstop finished with a strong 35 percent caught-stealing rate in his second season removed from 2014 Tommy John surgery. He appears to be fully healthy and ready to handle a full-time workload in 2017.
Strong fits: Potential postseason teams with top pitching staffs like the Mets or the Nationals could use Wieters' ability to control the running game. Moreover, young or developing staffs -- such as the Braves, Rockies and White Sox, as well as the Angels -- could use a stabilizing force behind the plate. Whether Wieters finds a multiyear deal or has to accept a one-year pillow contract remains to be seen.
3. Jason Hammel
Coming off an elbow injury that caused him to miss the entire 2016 postseason, Hammel has been met by a lukewarm market for his services after the Cubs decided not to exercise their club option at the end of 2016. His new representation, ACES, has had its hands full in trying to overcome those fears despite Hammel's success over the past three seasons -- when the right-hander averaged 30 starts and pitched to a 3.68 ERA.
Strong fits: As Spring Training draws closer, Hammel should find interest from clubs like the Orioles, Angels, Marlins and White Sox (if they trade Jose Quintana).
4. Greg Holland
Close to 10 teams are reportedly interested in the former closer, who is attempting to return from Tommy John surgery in 2015. If not for the injury, he may have already landed a lucrative free-agent contract. The right-hander ranked second in baseball with 125 saves from 2013-15, a span in which he also posted top-10 marks (minimum 100 innings) in ERA (1.97) and K/9 rate (12.5). Given his previous success and current interest, Holland could command a two-year contract. However, he may be better off agreeing to a one-year deal and re-establishing himself as a top late-inning reliever, with an eye on landing a better contract next offseason.
Strong fits: The Royals, Nationals, Marlins and D-backs are just a few of the teams that should have interest.
5. Chris Carter
Though Carter is undoubtedly a powerful bat, he has had trouble finding a long-term landing spot thanks to his persistent contact woes. Of the 117 hitters with at least 1,500 plate appearances since the outset of 2014, Carter has posted the lowest average (.218) with the second-highest strikeout rate (32.2 percent). However, Dave Stewart -- the former D-backs GM and Carter's current agent -- recently told me that he had four interested teams who were waiting until some of the other top-tier free agents signed before moving on Carter.
Strong fits: Look for the A's, Rays and Rangers to show interest, depending on what happens with Napoli.
Jim Duquette, who was the Mets' GM in 2004, offers his opinions as a studio analyst and columnist for MLB.com.