• Hot Stove Tracker
Most top-level free agents will land multiyear contracts, and as such, teams will have to weigh their potential short-term value against their outlook over the length of a deal. But let's set aside those long-term concerns for now and consider which available players might make the most significant impact in their first season with a new club.
To that end, here is a look at the top 25 free agents, ranked by projected 2016 wins above replacement (WAR), according to FanGraphs' Steamer projection system.
1. David Price, LHP, 5.3 WAR
2016 projection: 32 GS, 15-9, 2.85 ERA, 215 IP, 9.5 K/9, 1.8 BB/9
Though Price is coming off a somewhat disappointing postseason, the left-hander offers almost everything a team could want. He's topped 4.0 WAR in each of the past six years and cleared 200 innings in five of those. However, Price will turn 31 next season and almost certainly will command a deal that stretches into his late 30s.
2. Jason Heyward, RF, 4.7 WAR
2016 projection: 138 G, 603 PA, .280/.357/.451, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 16 SB
Following a trade to St. Louis, Heyward stayed healthy and enjoyed a nice rebound year, finishing 11th among position players in WAR (6.0). At 26, he also is the youngest player on this list. Combined with Heyward's strong all-around game -- he tied for third among outfielders in defensive runs saved -- that sets him up for a massive contract.
3. Zack Greinke, RHP, 4.0 WAR
2016 projection: 32 GS, 13-10, 3.19 ERA, 206 IP, 8.3 K/9, 2.0 BB/9
Greinke, who opted out of the final three years and $71 million left on his contract, should command much more on the open market, despite turning 32 in October. After all, he did just produce the lowest ERA (1.66) since Greg Maddux in 1995, and he has made at least 28 starts in eight straight seasons.
4. Alex Gordon, LF, 3.5 WAR
2016 projection: 138 G, 598 PA, .265/.351/.428, 18 HR, 67 RBI, 7 SB
Because Gordon is nearly six years older than Heyward, he won't get nearly as long of a deal. But in the present, Gordon offers a fairly similar range of skills, with a high on-base percentage, 15- to 20-homer power and plus defense in an outfield corner.
5. Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, 3.4 WAR
2016 projection: 29 GS, 11-9, 3.39 ERA, 178 IP, 7.6 K/9, 1.7 BB/9
Iwakuma appears ahead of at least a few more high-profile pitchers on this list after posting a 3.09 ERA and 4.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 97 starts over the past four seasons in Seattle. However, this playing-time projection could be optimistic for a pitcher who averaged 154 innings from 2014-15 and turns 35 in April.
6. Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, 3.1 WAR
2016 projection: 138 G, 621 PA, .271/.352/.420, 13 HR, 62 RBI, 6 SB
There figures to be a lot of interest in Zobrist around the Majors, even though he will celebrate his 35th birthday in May. With big league experience at seven positions, the switch-hitter brings coveted versatility to a lineup, and he has exceeded a .350 OBP in five consecutive seasons.
7. Yoenis Cespedes, LF, 3.1 WAR
2016 projection: 146 G, 635 PA, .266/.312/.473, 27 HR, 89 RBI, 7 SB
Cespedes' post-Trade Deadline hot streak helped lift the Mets to the playoffs, but his postseason struggles (.222, one walk, 17 strikeouts) highlighted his limitations at the plate. Despite the strikeouts and low-OBP potential, the 30-year-old's power and defense in left should make him in demand.
8. Johnny Cueto, RHP, 3.0 WAR
2016 projection: 32 GS, 12-11, 3.53 ERA, 201 IP, 7.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9
The righty, who turns 30 in February, still could end up with one of the biggest deals of the offseason, even after a somewhat disappointing stint in Kansas City, which did end with a complete-game victory in Game 2 of the World Series. Since 2011, only Clayton Kershaw has a lower ERA than Cueto's 2.71.
9. Justin Upton, LF, 3.0 WAR
2016 projection: 146 G, 638 PA, .260/.343/.467, 28 HR, 87 RBI, 12 SB
Upton hasn't repeated the superstar-caliber season he put together for Arizona in 2011, but he's still only 28 years old and remains a solid producer at the plate. For three straight seasons, he has played at least 149 games, with at least 26 homers and a 121 OPS+.
10. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, 2.8 WAR
2016 projection: 32 GS, 12-10, 3.56 ERA, 192 IP, 7.3 K/9, 1.8 BB/9
Like Cueto, Zimmermann might have seen his stock slip a bit in 2015, as he posted his highest ERA (3.66) and FIP (3.75) in any of his five full seasons. Still, he enters his age-30 campaign with the Majors' 12th-best ERA and 14th-most innings since 2011.
11. Jeff Samardzija, RHP, 2.7 WAR
2016 projection: 32 GS, 12-11, 3.85 ERA, 200 IP, 7.4 K/9, 2.1 BB/9
Samardzija stayed healthy in 2015, but that was about the only good news for the right-hander, whose ERA (4.96) shot up while his strikeout rate plummeted. The bright side is that he enters his age-31 season having exceeded 210 innings three straight times, and he posted a 2.99 ERA as recently as '14.
12. John Lackey, RHP, 2.6 WAR
2016 projection: 31 GS, 11-11, 3.89 ERA, 190 IP, 7.3 K/9, 2.2 BB/9
After turning 37 last month, Lackey isn't going to command a long-term deal, but he also is coming off perhaps his best season since 2007 with the Angels. The big right-hander racked up 218 innings with a 2.77 ERA in his first full year with St. Louis.
13. Wei-Yin Chen, LHP, 2.6 WAR
2016 projection: 32 GS, 12-11, 3.63 ERA, 190 IP, 7.3 K/9, 2.0 BB/9
The Taiwan native, who will turn 31 next year, doesn't put up big strikeout numbers, but he produced a 3.44 ERA over 62 starts the past two seasons while pitching in the AL East. The southpaw held the opposition to three runs or fewer in 49 of those outings.
14. Scott Kazmir, LHP, 2.5 WAR
2016 projection: 29 GS, 10-10, 3.78 ERA, 169 IP, 8.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
The left-hander has put together three solid seasons since returning to the Majors in 2013, but while he posted a 2.43 first-half ERA in 2014-15, he also produced a 4.60 mark in the two second halves. Those splits could be an issue for Kazmir, who turns 32 in January.
15. Chris Davis, 1B, 2.4 WAR
2016 projection: 146 G, 630 PA, .236/.329/.466, 33 HR, 90 RBI, 3 SB
Davis hits the open market after clubbing a Major League-best 47 home runs, including 28 after the All-Star break. With an average of 40 bombs over the past four seasons, the left-handed slugger offers rare power -- but also boatloads of strikeouts -- as he enters his age-30 season.
16. Howie Kendrick, 2B, 2.4 WAR
2016 projection: 130 G, 563 PA, .290/.336/.417, 10 HR, 61 RBI, 6 SB
Kendrick is 32 and has battled some injuries, including this past season, when a strained hamstring helped limit him to 117 games. He also has provided an OPS+ of better than 100 (league average) for five straight seasons, and his 114 mark over that span ranks fourth among all second basemen.
17. Denard Span, CF, Nationals, 2.2 WAR
2016 projection: 122 G, 564 PA, .278/.337/.392, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 17 SB
Three DL stints limited Span to 61 games in 2015, and he had season-ending hip surgery on Sept. 1. But when he's healthy, the 31-year-old is a solid center fielder and productive leadoff man, with a .345 OBP and 62 steals in 75 tries (82.7 percent) during his three seasons in Washington.
18. Ian Kennedy, RHP, 2.1 WAR
2016 projection: 31 GS, 11-10, 3.89 ERA, 177 IP, 8.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
Kennedy is coming off a weird year in which he essentially matched his career-best strikeout rate from 2014 but nearly doubled his home runs allowed total, thanks to MLB's second-highest homer-to-fly-ball rate. Some better luck in that area could help bring his 4.28 ERA back down in his age-31 season.
19. Daniel Murphy, 2B, 2.1 WAR
2016 projection: 138 G, 612 PA, .296/.341/.430, 11 HR, 65 RBI, 7 SB
Murphy's postseason homer binge was uncharacteristic for a player who hit a career-high 14 in the regular season, but his defensive issues in the World Series were nothing new. Any team pursuing the 30-year-old will be interested primarily in his bat, which has produced a 109 OPS+ over the past four seasons.
20. J.A. Happ, LHP, 1.9 WAR
2016 projection: 26 GS, 9-9, 3.80 ERA, 146 IP, 7.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9
It wasn't considered a big move when the Pirates acquired Happ and his 4.64 ERA from the Mariners at the Trade Deadline. Then the lefty posted a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts for his new club, striking out nearly 10 batters per nine innings. How much of that improvement can the 33-year-old sustain?
21. Mike Leake, RHP, 1.9 WAR
2016 projection: 32 GS, 11-12, 4.14 ERA, 198 IP, 5.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9
Similar to Anderson, Leake doesn't get many strikeouts, but he keeps the ball on the ground. Yet the righty, who turns 28 this offseason, seems like a better bet for durability, having made at least 30 starts for four consecutive years. In six seasons, he has an almost exactly league-average ERA+ of 101.
22. Mat Latos, RHP, 1.8 WAR
2016 projection: 28 GS, 9-10, 4.00 ERA, 159 IP, 7.2 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
It was not a fun contract year for the right-hander, who was traded by one team, released by another and finished as a reliever for a third. Overall, Latos compiled a 4.95 ERA over 116 1/3 innings. Nonetheless, he will only be 28 this season, and from 2010-14, he averaged 29 starts with a 3.27 ERA.
23. Dexter Fowler, CF, 1.7 WAR
2016 projection: 130 G, 596 PA, .250/.347/.387, 12 HR, 50 RBI, 15 SB
Advanced metrics have not looked fondly on his work in center, but Fowler has notched an OPS+ of better than 100 in five straight seasons, compiling both double-digit homers and steals in three of those. His .363 career OBP is third among center fielders since he debuted in 2008, behind Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen.
24. Bartolo Colon, SP, 1.7 WAR
2016 projection: 29 GS, 10-11, 4.09 ERA, 177 IP, 5.8 K/9, 1.4 BB/9
Despite his physique and age (42), Colon managed to make 31 starts for the Mets for a second consecutive season in 2015. He also posted his second straight ERA over 4.00, but Colon eats innings, walks almost nobody (MLB-low 2.9 percent rate in 2015) and as a bonus takes the game's most entertaining at-bats.
25. Yovani Gallardo, SP, 1.7 WAR
2016 projection: 31 GS, 10-11, 4.22 ERA, 176 IP, 6.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
Gallardo is one of eight Major League pitchers since 2009 to record at least 30 starts each season, and he posted an ERA+ of better than 100 (league average) in all but one of those seasons. On the other hand, he turns 30 in February, and his strikeout rate has fallen six straight times; it ranked seventh lowest among qualifiers in 2015.
Other notable free agents include: SS Ian Desmond (1.6), LHP Mark Buehrle (1.6), C Chris Iannetta (1.5), 2B Chase Utley (1.5), OF Austin Jackson (1.4), RHP Doug Fister (1.4), C Alex Avila (1.4), 1B Adam Lind (1.3), SS Jimmy Rollins (1.3), SS Asdrubal Cabrera (1.2), 3B David Freese (1.2), 1B Mike Napoli (1.2), OF Gerardo Parra (1.0), SS Alexei Ramirez (0.9), OF Colby Rasmus (0.8), OF Nori Aoki (1.8) and RHP Marco Estrada (0.8). No relief pitchers were projected highly enough to be included.