MLB Spring Training on the Horizon

firefoxscreensnapz003The winter shopping season begins for all baseball teams at midnight Monday when free agents are, well, free to sign with any club.

Let the roster reshaping begin in earnest, though teams looking for starting pitching might have better luck on the trade market, since free agent pitching is weak. Need a closer? You’re in luck, there are three elite ones for sale.

If any executives need a crib sheet, we humbly offer our Daily News Free Agent Rankings, a glance at the top 10 available players, topped by someone the Mets should do everything they can to keep in Queens.

1. Yoenis Cespedes, OF

Age: 31

2016 numbers: Slash line (Batting average/On-base percentage/Slugging percentage) of .280/.354/.530, 31 homers, 86 RBI.

The skinny: Dynamic slugger was ninth in the NL in homers and RBI and changed the complexion of the Mets lineup when he was in the middle. His throwing arm is a defensive prize. His golf hobby often doesn’t make for good “optics” (Sandy Alderson keyword) and he seems to attract bumps and bruises, but he should make a pile this winter. He’s said he wants to finish his career with the Mets, but let’s see what other teams are offering.

2. Edwin Encarnacion, DH/1B

Age: 34 in January

2016 numbers: Set career high with 127 RBI, tied for first in AL with David Ortiz and matched a personal best with 42 homers. Slashed .263/.357/.529.

The skinny: With 193 homers since 2012, he’s probably the best pure power source available, since he’s proven it longer than, say, Mark Trumbo. He’s no asset with the glove, so maybe he’s more likely to stick in the AL as a most-of-the-time DH and occasional first sacker.

3. Aroldis Chapman, Closer

Age: 29 in February

2016 numbers: He served a domestic violence suspension and still got into 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs, notching a 1.55 ERA and 36 saves. He struck out 14 per nine innings.

The skinny: The most significant number when it comes to Chapman is 100-plus, as in his triple-digit fastball. On July 18, he threw on 105.1 mph to Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy, according to’s Statcast. It wasn’t always clean in the postseason, but he showed he’s an October asset when he was the only reliever Joe Maddon really trusted en route to a championship. He’s ranked highest among closers because he can’t get a qualifying offer and thus there’s no draft-pick compensation attached.

4. Mark Melancon, Closer

Age: 32 in March

2016 numbers: Had 47 saves between Pittsburgh and Washington, a 0.897 WHIP and a 1.64 ERA.

The skinny: He’s made the All-Star team in three of the last four seasons and he had four scoreless appearances in the playoffs this year against the Dodgers. That’s the kind of thing that makes contenders salivate, so he’ll get a nice payday this winter. Plus, he was traded mid-season, just like Chapman, so he can’t be given a qualifying offer.

5. Kenley Jansen, Closer

Age: 29

2016 numbers: He had 47 saves and a 1.83 ERA and struck out 13.6 per nine innings.

The skinny: The first-time All-Star probably made himself a lot of cash with a strong NLCS against the Cubs when he was a vital, multi-inning weapon for Dave Roberts. His WHIP has been 0.846 or less in four of the last five years, which is ridiculous. The only reason he’s ranked below either Chapman or Melancon is because he’ll be getting a qualifying offer from L.A., so whatever team signs him will lose a draft pick.

6. Justin Turner, INF

Age: 32 later this month.

2016 numbers: Personal-best 27 homers and 90 RBI. Slashed .275/.339/.493 in 151 games.

The skinny: No longer the scrappy hustler Terry Collins loved when he was a part-timer on the Mets, Turner has bloomed into a star with thump. Was last season just a career year or the start of something? Either way, Turner can do damage in the postseason — he’s got a career 1.078 playoff OPS.

7. Rich Hill, LHP

Age: 37 in March

2016 numbers: In 20 starts, he was 12-5 with a 2.12 ERA for the A’s and Dodgers. He had 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings.

The skinny: Which Hill does this winter’s suitor get? The one who made the Cubs uneasy with his NLCS brilliance or the brittle, blister-plagued question mark? If he’s healthy, he’s the best starter available, no question.

8. Dexter Fowler, OF

Age: 31 in March

2016 numbers: Slash line of .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers and 13 steals.

The skinny: Had a huge year getting on base, finishing sixth in the NL with a .393 OBA, and then reminded the world he’s got some pop, too, by slamming three postseason homers. One of those came leading off Game 7 of the World Series. He may have even proven he can play center field regularly.

9. Mark Trumbo, OF/DH

Age: 31 in January

2016 numbers: 47 homers, tops in the majors, 108 RBI and a .256 average.

The skinny: Man, he can hit the long ball — he bashed one more in the AL wild card game, remember. But here’s something weird for a righty swinger: He slashed .173/.223/.385 against lefties with 10 homers in 156 at-bats last year. Anyone who signs him better hope it’s a one-year thing and there’s evidence it is — his career OPS against lefties is 179 points higher than last season’s .608.

10. Jose Bautista, OF/DH

Age: 36

2016 numbers: Slashed .234/.366/.452 and had 22 homers and 69 RBI.

The skinny: Sure, that was an injury-plagued down year for Bautista. But he hit 75 homers over the previous two years while notching an OPS over .900 both seasons. Not bad. Teams may worry about his age and ability to stay healthy, but there’s no doubt he slugs when he’s fit. He’s got 249 homers in 944 games since 2010.



Click here to read the full story.

Leave a Reply