1. Zack Greinke
This is an obvious choice. The guy was 19-3 with a 1.66 earned run average (ERA). Greinke has a legit chance at winning the CY Young award for the NL for his 2015 season. His main rivals to that award are his own teammate Clayton Kershaw and Chicago Cubs’ Jake Arrieta. Greinke signed a six-year, $147 million free agent contract with the Dodgers before the 2013 season. In that contract he required the Dodgers to put in an opt-out clause for after the 2015 season. There was 3 years and $71 million left on his contract. The Dodgers are the early front runners to sign Greinke because why fix what isn’t broken right? Regardless, expect Los Angeles to extend the qualifying offer to Greinke which he will decline. This gives the Dodgers something in return if other teams are able to buy his services. He is being talked about in the $200 million range.
2. Jason Heyward
Heyward is entering his age 26 season. Heyward is a wizard out in right field. He is known for his defense, but don’t let the offense fool you. This year he hit .293 in 547 at-bats with the St. Louis Cardinals. Heyward has power but not enough to rely his whole game on. Heyward isn’t afraid to walk either, working 56 walks this past year. Speed gives him another tool. Heyward doesn’t run too much, but he did have a career high 23 stolen bases while only being caught 3 times. Proving when he decides to go, he’s usually safe. Jason Heyward is an all around player with room to improve in all facets of the game. Expect him to get a good sized contract this postseason.
3. David Price
Another top of the line ace is available for pick up this offseason. David Price was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline. The Blue Jays acquired LHP David Price from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for LHP Daniel Norris, LHP Matt Boyd & LHP Jairo Labourt. Giving up three left-handers means the Blue Jays really wanted David Price. With Toronto this season he earned a 2.30 ERA in 74.1 innings pitched (IP). Price pitched well in the regular season; leading the Blue Jays to a division crown and one game out of first place overall, but Price struggled in the playoffs. Again, David Price went winless in the postseason. For his career, David Price has had a 5.12 ERA in 63.1 IP in October. Price is set to be paid 9 figures going into his age 30 season. He could be one of those guys that leads a team to their championship aspirations. But almost definitely will be the guy that his contract kills the team by 2020.
4. Alex Gordon
Alex Gordon has been the left fielder for the Kansas City Royals for most of his career, although he started as a woeful third-basemen. The switch to the outfield seems to be what Alex needed to jumpstart his career. In left field Gordon has been to 3 straight all-star games and has earned 4 straight gold gloves with the great chance of a 5th for this season. What he brings to the field is very similar to Jason Heyward. Great defensively, with an above average swing. Gordon is a little older though. Gordon is 31 and Heyward is 26. Gordon will get paid, but expect Heyward to be picked up before Gordon.
5. Johnny Cueto
Johnny Cueto was traded to the Royals because the Royals believed he could pitch them to a World Series title in the postseason. Cueto’s lackluster 2nd half of the regular season can be deemed a fluke. It’s pretty difficult as a pitcher to just come from a losing culture and be thrown into a contender. Getting a new catcher is tough on a pitcher mid-season as well. But after the regular season ended, the Johnny Cueto we all know came out. In the postseason Cueto pitched very well after his not-so-good ALDS game 2. He pitched gems in ALDS game 5 and in the World Series game 2. Some red flags in getting Cueto is in 2013 he pitched 60 1/3 innings to 243 2/3 innings in 2014. There is a fear that he could fade down the stretch. But if he goes to the right team, and the right manager, Cueto could stay fresh and be one of the best pitchers in the game again next year.
6. Justin Upton
Upton is young, 27 years old to be exact. Upton has been to 3 all-star games and has won 2 silver slugger awards. In 9 major league seasons Upton is hitting .271 with and averages 70 walks per 162 games. He carries a good glove in the outfield and an above average bat. He will be paid like a guy that’s the building block of a team, but there is a chance he won’t be that guy. The best bargain for Upton is one that you won’t break the bank for him. Having talent around him so he doesn’t have to carry a team will help his play tremendously as well. But because he is young, there is that prospect value to his name. Expect Justin Upton to be vastly overpaid.
7. Yoenis Cespedes
Cespedes was a 3 win player this year, and a 4 win player last year. He will get paid this off-season regardless of what people think of his postseason performance. Rightfully so. The expectation right now for his contract is somewhere in the 5-year, $100 million range. He will make whatever team he goes to very happy his first couple years, then in the tail end of the contract he won’t be worth the money. The best way to structure his contract would to make it front heavy. Put most of the money in the first couple years to avoid the overpaid years in the back of his contract. Cespedes looks to finally get to the .300 mark this season as he has been hovering around .290 a lot of his career. It just won’t be in Citi Field. Sorry Met fans.
8. Jordan Zimmermann
Zimmerman has flown under the radar most of his career. Mainly because he’s pitched on the Nationals for all of his 7 years. He has been overshadowed by multiple pitchers within the rotation throughout the years. Max Scherzer was that guy this year and in the past it was Stephen Strasburg. Zimmermann pitched 200+ innings for the 2nd time this season and had a 3.66 ERA. As long as a team doesn’t overpay Zimmermann, he could be a bargain of a pickup for that team’s rotation and would be an ace on 80% of the teams in the league.
9. Marco Estrada
Every year this guy just keeps getting better; and this postseason Estrada proved he could pitch on the big stage. Every season he has pitched more innings. While Estrada has yet to reach the 200 innings mark there’s no reason to believe he can’t. His ERA and WHIP were the best in his career. Estrada is going into his age 32 season so expect him to get paid. He will be quality add to any rotation in baseball.
10. Darren O’Day
The bullpen in baseball is the most important it ever has been. Credit the Royals for bringing the bullpen importance to light. Darren O’Day is the best reliever on the market. In his 8 year career he has been deemed almost unhittable. His sidearm delivery is almost unfair. He has a 1.92 ERA from his past 4 years combined and earned an ERA of 1.52 this past season. That was among the best in baseball. The importance of the bullpen is huge right now, and O’Day can slide right into the back end of any bullpen. Making him very valuable.
Notable Mentions: Chris Davis, Ben Zobrist, Hisashi Iwakuma, Scott Kazmir, Howie Kendrick, Daniel Murphy, Colby Rasmus, Jeff Samardzija, Mike Napoli, Denard Span, Chris Young, Ryan Madson, David Freese, Justin Morneau
Credit to baseball-reference.com for all the stats in the above article.