Jim Duquette

Educated guesses for top 20 free agents

Educated guesses for top 20 free agents

The Hot Stove season is getting warmer by the day, and the industry's attention has turned to the top free agents. Below is my ranking of the top 20 players, with an estimated prediction (based on comparable past signings and team needs) of the contract terms and signing club (ages listed are 2017 season age, which means as of July 1, 2017):

1. Yoenis Cespedes, 31, OF
Cespedes is the best outfield bat on the market, though he should probably be limited to left. He might wear out his welcome on a struggling team, so buyer beware. That said, I think Cespedes will get a five-year deal in the $125 million range.
Interested teams: Mets, Giants, Yankees, Cardinals
Duquette's prediction: Mets

2. Edwin Encarnacion, 34, 1B/DH
Encarnacion is one of the game's elite middle-of-the-order bats, and he can hit good pitching. He is also more than adequate at first base, which means he isn't limited to designated hitter. Encarnacion will likely get a deal similar to Cespedes' in terms of years and total value.
Interested teams: Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Astros
Duquette's prediction: Red Sox

Encarnacion hits free agency

3. Justin Turner, 32, 3B
It's hard to find power-hitting right-handed bats who also play average defense at third, and Turner is the only free agent available who fits those criteria. He'll likely get a four-year deal at more than $15 million per season, which was unthinkable when he signed a Minor League deal with the Dodgers three years ago.
Interested teams: Braves, Dodgers, Giants, Padres
Duquette's prediction: Dodgers

4. Kenley Jansen, 29, RHP
Over the past three years, no reliever has been more consistent than Jansen, and his ability to pitch multiple innings in the postseason increased his value to most teams looking for a closer. He will likely set a record for biggest contract given to a closer, with Jonathan Papelbon's four-year, $50 million deal from 2011 currently the standard bearer.
Interested teams: Nationals, Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Giants
Duquette's prediction: Cubs

Jansen hits free-agent market

5. Aroldis Chapman, 29, LHP
No one throws harder than Chapman, which has been helped by the fact that his workload has been closely monitored. However, this postseason he showed he can go multiple innings when needed. Chapman will challenge Jansen for biggest contract for a closer, and he might get it. Because unlike Jansen, he was traded this season and was ineligible to get a qualifying offer.
Interested teams: Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, Yankees, Nationals
Duquette's prediction: Nationals

6. Ian Desmond, 31, SS/OF
Desmond's versatility and willingness to play infield or outfield should help him sign a contract similar to Ben Zobrist's a year ago (four years, $50 million), though the qualifying offer could drag down his market for the second straight offseason.
Interested teams: Indians, Astros, Rangers, Braves, Orioles
Duquette's prediction: Astros

7. Mark Trumbo, 31, 1B/OF/DH
Timing is everything, and Trumbo will cash in after leading the league in home runs. Look for him to get Nelson Cruz-type money (four years, $57 million) with an American League club that can use him at DH. Like Trumbo, Cruz also used a one-year deal in Baltimore as a springboard to a career payday.
Interested teams: Blue Jays, Orioles, Yankees, Braves
Duquette's prediction: Orioles

Trumbo hits free-agent market

8. Dexter Fowler, 31, CF
Fowler's market was hindered by a qualifying offer last year and he signed a deal with the Cubs that allowed him to opt out this offseason. After posting a career-high .393 OBP, he'll get the multiyear deal he seeks (perhaps $60 million over four years) despite having another qualifying offer.
Interested teams: Cubs, Cardinals, Rangers, White Sox, Braves
Duquette's prediction: Rangers

9. Mike Napoli, 35, 1B/DH
Napoli's 30-homer power, postseason experience and lack of a qualifying offer will help him get a three-year deal at roughly $15 million per season. The fact that he plays a decent first base also helps.
Interested teams: Blue Jays, Indians, Twins, Mariners
Duquette' prediction: Indians

10. Mark Melancon, 31, RHP
Melancon might be the most underrated of the closers over the past three seasons, having ranked fourth in WAR for relievers in that time. His midseason trade from Pittsburgh to Washington also means he couldn't get a qualifying offer and he should get a four-year deal in the $50 million range.
Interested teams: Dodgers, Nationals, Giants, D-backs
Duquette's prediction: D-backs

Melancon enters free agency

11. Josh Reddick, 30, OF
Reddick will have plenty of teams knocking on his door, because he has no qualifying offer attached to him after being traded to the Dodgers in July and because he is productive when healthy. He'll get four years at more than $12 million per season.
Interested teams: Braves,Twins, Indians, Cardinals
Duquette's prediction: Cardinals

12. Rich Hill, 37, LHP
No pitcher has increased his value more than Hill over the past year. His 2.12 ERA was second only to Clayton Kershaw among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. Look for Hill to get a two-year deal at more than $30 million in total.
Interested teams: Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs
Duquette's prediction: Red Sox

13. Wilson Ramos, 29, C
There is a lot of uncertainty around Ramos now because of a late-season ACL injury that will likely leave him out for the first month or two of next season. Still, he put up career numbers in almost every offensive category in 2016 and doesn't have a qualifying offer. Given the lack catching on the market, Ramos could get up to $60 million over four years.
Interested teams: Nationals, Braves, Angels
Duquette's prediction: Braves

14. Jose Bautista, 36, RF
Bautista has been one of the most productive hitters in MLB over the past few years, but left toe and knee troubles limited him to 116 games and just 22 homers in 2016. His resume will create plenty of interest, but his age and injuries will likely limit him to a short-term deal, likely $35 million or so over two years.
Interested teams: Royals, Rangers, Rays, A's, Mets
Prediction: Royals

Bautista hits free-agent market

15. Matt Wieters, 31, C
It's hard to find a switch-hitting catcher with 20-homer power and multiple Gold Gloves on his resume, which is why Wieters -- who doesn't have a qualifying offer -- could get something in the range of $15 million per year over four years despite his underwhelming .243/.302/.409 line in 2016.
Interested teams: Braves, Nationals, Angels, Astros
Duquette's prediction: Astros

16. Neil Walker, 31, 2B
An unfortunate back injury and subsequent surgery cut Walker's season short, as the switch-hitter was well on his way to a career offensive season. That said, the Mets gave him a qualifying offer, which suggests they feel good about his prognosis. Martin Prado's recent three-year, $40 million deal with Miami is a good benchmark.
Interested teams: Mets, White Sox, Angels
Duquette's prediction: Mets

17. Jeremy Hellickson, 30, RHP
Hellickson had a rebound year in Philly, reminiscent of his rookie season with Tampa Bay, as the National League seemed most suitable for him. That said, given his inconsistent path, he's a good bet to accept the qualifying offer.
Interested teams: Phillies, Royals, Braves, Twins, Angels
Prediction: Phillies (accepts qualifying offer)

Hellickson hits free agency

18. Michael Saunders, 30, OF
Saunders' season went downhill after making the All-Star team, posting a .638 OPS in the second half after putting up a .923 mark in the first. That drop-off -- coupled with an extensive injury history -- is why he didn't get a qualifying offer from Toronto, but a two-year deal in the $25 million range is still a possibility for him on the open market.
Interested teams: Royals, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
Duquette's prediction: Orioles

19. Ivan Nova, 30, RHP
Nova looked like a new man after a midseason trade to the Pirates, posting a 3.06 ERA with 52 strikeouts and just three walks in 64 2/3 innings. He'll get at least a two-year deal with an average annual value of $12 million or more.
Interested teams: Pirates, Blue Jays, Royals, Angels
Duquette's prediction: Pirates

20. Doug Fister, 33, RHP
While in Houston, Fister had a tale of two seasons. His first half was dominant with a 3.55 ERA, and his second half was rough, with an ERA over 6.00. Fister can still be a solid No. 4 starter for a lot of clubs, and he should get a similar deal to Nova, with a slightly lower AAV.
Interested teams: Phillies, Braves, Pirates, Royals, Angels, Marlins
Duquette's prediction: Marlins

Jim Duquette, who was the Mets' GM in 2004, offers his opinions as a studio analyst and columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.