Ian Desmond, Shortstop
Former Team: Washington Nationals
Perhaps the most interesting player who still finds himself available on the free agent market, Ian Desmond, comes with a qualifying offer attached, which has really hindered his overall market value. Coming off a poor season in Washington, one in which he struggled to perform consistently as well as stay healthy, and with the qualifying offer attached, Desmond’s value has torpedoed even further, leaving him with no team into February. At the end of the day, Desmond is still a talented player who is worthy of a contract for the 2016 season, but the question remains, who will give him that contract at this point?
Some of the teams that seemed like the most likely landing spots, including the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres, appear to have moved on to other pursuits, leaving Desmond with no realistic fit. Coming off a down year and with draft pick compensation attached, it’s hard to see any team giving Desmond a long term deal for the kind of money he wants. For similar reasons, most teams would be wary of getting him on a short term contract as well, considering the signing team would have to give up a draft pick. If the White Sox truly aren’t interested in giving up their pick, the Colorado Rockies provide an interesting option. The team appears to have some delusions of competing in 2016, and Desmond could provide impact, while rebuilding his own value on a short term deal in hitter-friendly Coors Field. It’s unclear if the Rockies would be interested, even at a discounted price, but, at this point, what other option does Desmond have?
Prediction: Colorado Rockies
Dexter Fowler, Outfielder
Former Team: Chicago Cubs
While Ian Desmond seems to have no market at all at this point, at least on the surface, the next player has an interested team that seems to be the likely destination. Dexter Fowler is coming off a year in which he was an above average, albeit slightly, major league player. In a contract year, it was good for Fowler that he had a relatively strong season. However, it appears Fowler may have performed either too well or not well enough depending on who you ask, as he ended up being offered a qualifying offer, which he obviously turned down. That left him with draft pick compensation attached to his name. For players like Jason Heyward and others, that added compensation does not affect their value too significantly. For Fowler it’s a whole different story.
While many of sound mind projected Fowler to easily get a contract in the four year, $60 million range, that figure appears almost impossible at this point in the offseason. The Orioles have been the team most often attached to Fowler, although the White Sox also remain in play, at least to an extent. Teams like the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels should also be in, but for different financial reasons, that remains an unlikely result. While he was originally expected to get that four year, $60 million contract rather easily, it is now looking like Fowler will settle for a contract in the two year, $20 million range. Quite a precipitous decline in price for a good enough player. At this point the Orioles seem like the logical fit, especially with their all-in philosophy for next year and apparent weaknesses in the outfield.
Prediction: Baltimore Orioles
Yovani Gallardo, Starting Pitcher
Former Team: Texas Rangers
Another free agent, another similar offseason story. Yovani Gallardo was not stellar in 2015, but he was good enough to help the Rangers get into the postseason and, more importantly, good enough to be offered a qualifying offer this offseason. He turned down the offer and, similarly to both Desmond and Fowler, finds himself stuck without a job more than halfway into February. Even stranger for Gallardo is the fact that pitchers and catchers are already starting to report while he still finds himself in need of a team to play for next season.
Originally, Gallardo was expected to garner a contract in the three year, $40 or $50 million range. Even with the qualifying offer attached, it still seems like Gallardo should be able to get at least at or near the bottom of that range. It’s been a pretty clear trend this offseason that teams are willing to pay for starting pitching, and Gallardo should be no different. At this point, he is all but confirmed as a Baltimore Oriole, with contract specifics being the only thing holding up the deal. While the specifics of the contract discussions are unknown, it seems likely that the disagreement is in a potential opt-out that the Orioles may be unwilling to give. Even so, it appears all but a sure thing that the Orioles will sign Gallardo to a three year deal, perhaps with a fourth year or opt-out, for somewhere in the range of $40 to $45 million. Draft pick or not, not a bad deal at all.
Prediction: Baltimore Orioles