When Stephen Strasburg signed his contract extension last week it began talk about how weak it left the rest of the starting pitching free agency class. It's only May and there is still a lot of baseball left to play but the contract status of the names mentioned below could have a significant impact on this year's trade deadline and pennant races. So while it is admittedly way too early to be doing this, let's preview the upcoming free agency bats.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Mets
Cespedes signed an extremely unique three year, $75 million contract this past off-season that includes an opt out after year one. After hitting a career high 35 homers in 2015 Cespedes' hot start looks like he could surpass that total this season. In 33 games so far he has hit 12 home runs with 32 RBI and a .287 batting average. His OBP (.365) and slugging percentage (.648) are much higher than his career averages of .322 and .494, respectively. Assuming Cespedes continues his career year he will likely opt out of his current deal and receive the long term deal he wasn't able to get this past winter.
Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays
Bautista has been underpaid for quite some time now so it is understandable why he wants to really cash in this winter. He is in the final season of a team-friendly five year, $65 million contract that he signed back in 2011. He has played full seasons the past two years and hit 35 and 40 homers, respectively. Despite never hitting for much of a batting average Bautista has always been a high on base guy, as evidenced by his career .368 OBP. That ability could be huge for teams wary of giving the 35-year-old a long term deal.
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Blue Jays
Toronto will have a tough decision to make when it comes to their two big bats. While it is unlikely they can re-sign both they will feel pressure from fans to keep at least one, especially after losing David Price to the division rival Red Sox this past winter. Many speculate the team will choose Encarnacion due to the fact that he is two years younger than Bautista and has shown to be more durable by playing in at least 128 games in each of the past five seasons. Since his breakout season in 2012 Encarnacion has averaged nearly 38 homers per season. After saying he will not negotiate in-season there are now rumors that extension conversations will take place over the all star break.
Cespedes, Bautista, and Encarnacion represent the big three bats available in this year's upcoming free agency class. Other names worth mentioning include Carlos Gomez, Mark Trumbo, Matt Wieters, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran. There will be plenty of coverage on those guys come November but the bottom line is it will be easier to find hitting this off-season, than it will starting pitching.