With the bulk of the big name free agents already locked in with big contracts following a busy offseason, the focus will soon shift to spring training and what to expect this coming season. However, there are still a handful of key free agents that have yet to ink new deals. It will be very interesting to see how things play out and where those players end up. Here is a look at the most intriguing remaining MLB free agents available.
OF: Jose Bautista
Bautista is coming off a brutal injury-plagued season in which he posted his worst OPS since his pre-breakout year in 2009 and his worst batting average since his days in Pittsburgh. After hitting 40 home runs and batting .250 in 153 games played with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, Bautista hit just 22 home runs with a .234 average in 116 games last season. The drop off in his production combined with the fact that he is 36-years-old and was never an above average defensive player has soured his market value. Suddenly there are major question marks about where he will end up.
There have been rumors that negotiations are off and on between him and the Jays, but it could be just the Jays front office blowing smoke. Bautista wants big money and he wants to be paid for previous performance in Toronto. The Jays brass is on the frugal side to begin with, so they’re just looking to bring him back on a team-friendly deal. Someone else will likely pay him more money.
There is no doubt that Bautista still has the potential to put up a big season but based on the fact that he hasn’t signed yet, it’s clear that teams are very hesitant to sign him to give him the contract that he wants right now.
OF: Mark Trumbo
Trumbo is coming off an absolutely monster year in Baltimore in which he hit .256 with a league-high 47 home runs and 170 RBI to crush his career-high numbers. The Orioles reportedly offered him a four-year deal but withdrew it after he made them wait too long and while it seems like the best fit on paper there has to be more suitors for a hitter that just led the majors in home runs last season. Trumbo will be 31-years-old when the 2017 season starts and while he isn’t a quality fielder by any means the fact that he can still hit home runs at the rate he did a year ago should make him an intriguing free agent that eventually gets a big deal.
OF: Mike Napoli
Napoli is another home run hitter coming off a monster 2016 season in which he hit 34 home runs with 101 RBI and 92 runs scored, which marked career-highs across the board. Napoli is a lot like Trumbo in that he can really hit the ball but he isn’t an outstanding defender and he is asking for a significant amount of money. There have been reports that the Texas Rangers are the most likely destination for Napoli and he is certainly familiar with the organization after playing there in 2011 and 2012. Globe Life Park in Arlington is a hitter’s park so it should be an excellent fit on a team with World Series aspirations.
C: Matt Wieters
Wieters is extremely talented but he has really struggled to stay healthy since 2013 and he will turn 31-years-old this spring. The consensus is that he is one of the best options out there at the position but the fact that he has played in just 225 games over the last three years has made some teams hesitant to give him a deal. Wieters hit .243 with 17 home runs and 66 RBI last season so while he hasn’t received the contract he wants just yet it should only be a matter of time before he signs. As of now, the latest rumors suggest that the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals are his only suitors. The Braves could be an ideal landing spot for Wieters as he played his college baseball at Georgia Tech. As for the Nats, they are looking for someone to replace Wilson Ramos, so he could be an option. The Nats would be the better choice for Wieters if he wants to play for a contender. It’s been a relatively cool market for a player that was once deemed among the best prospects in baseball.
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