Looking At The Fantasy Implications of 2017 Free Agent Landing Spots, Part 2
Last week, I looked at the potential fantasy implications of a few different landing spots for some of the top Free Agent hitters on the market. This week I’ll be doing more of the same, just taking a look at another pair of Free Agents. If you haven’t read last weeks article, I recommend you do so here. I’ll break down what I believe to be the players three most likely landing spots, and analyze the potential pros and cons of the player landing there.
If Encarnacion isn’t the biggest free agent of this class, he’s number two at the lowest. Coming off a career year in which he set or tied career highs in home runs, RBI, runs, and hits, Encarnacion is going to be pursued by quite a few teams, despite what will undoubtedly be a very high asking price.
Returning to Toronto would be a great move for both parties, as Toronto would get to keep their highly effective offensive core mostly together, and Encarnacion would get to continue raking in the potent Blue Jays lineup he’s been slugging in for eight years. We have yet to see if the Jays are willing to invest a huge sum of money in an aging DH/Defensively Suspect 1B.
Houston has been linked to Encarnacion’s name a ton this offseason this season, and with good reason: he would likely shore up one of their remaining problems, having already addressed their lack of depth in the OF and making up for the loss of catcher Jason Castro. After a surprise playoff appearance in 2015 the Astros were poised for a big season this year, and fell utterly flat. Houston is still going to need major improvements to their rotation to be a contender, but adding Encarnacion to a lineup that already contains Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer is a downright scary thought. Minute Maid park isn’t particularly friendly to RH hitters, but hey, neither was The Rogers Centre, and Encarnacion strung together quite a few good seasons there.
I strongly debated between the BoSox, the Yankees and the Rangers for this spot, but I settled on Boston. Despite the Red Sox saying they are not looking for a full-time Big Papi replacement, it would make more sense for the Sox to open their massive wallet to lure Encarnacion to Fenway than to roll with a Pablo Sandoval-led platoon. This is a team with a spectacular offense as we saw last year, and if Edwin went to Boston, you could almost guarantee the Red Sox could come close to if not surpass the success and offensive potency they saw last year. No one can replace Papi in the hearts of baseball fans, but Encarnacion might be able to replace his offensive production.
After Yo and Ian Desmond, there is a definite lack of outfield talent in this free agent class, at least in my opinion. Fowler is a unique option in the market, though, profiling as a very good leadoff man and CF. So what it really comes down to is that if a team wants a leadoff hitter and/or centerfielder, Dexter Fowler is their option. At age 31, Fowler is likely looking at a 3-4 year deal worth around $12M a year.
In a similar vein to Encarnacion and the Blue Jays, Fowler may want to stay in Chicago, considering the potency of Chicago’s offense and the fact that they’re fresh off of a World Series title. Playing leadoff with hitters like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber isn’t a bad gig, and Chicago definitely needs him in CF, with their only other options to switch Heyward (one of the best-fielding RF in baseball) to CF, or turn the keys over to an unproven and weaker offensive OF like Albert Almora Jr. or Jorge Soler. The Fowler-Cubs relationship is a symbiotic one, and the option that all fantasy owners should be crossing their fingers for.
Though the Mariners have been rumored to be interested in Fowler for a while now, I wasn’t buying into it until the blockbuster Jean Segura trade showed that the Mariners were in win-now mode. Why not invest good money into a leadoff hitter of Fowler’s caliber if you’re the Mariners, whose excellent core of the lineup (Cano, Cruz, Seager) is hampered by the weakness in the first two slots (Leonys Martin and Seth Smith). Adding Fowler would help an already solid unit, and hopefully give the M’s the last little push they need to get into the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
December 15, 2015. The Cubs announce their 8-Year, $184M deal with RF Jason Heyward, stealing the J-Hey Kid away from their hated rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. With this move, Heyward became Public Enemy #1 for Cardinals fans (Go look at some of the tweets they sent, I’d place a link here if the explicit language wouldn’t lose me my spot here at TDG), and further fanned the flames of the Route 66 Rivalry, a lopsided affair this season that resulted in the Cubs lifting the Commissioner’s Trophy while the Cardinals watched the playoffs from the comfort of their homes. How sweet would it be for both the fans and members of the organization to steal Fowler from the Cubs, weakening the Cubbies at CF while also making much needed improvements to their roster in the leadoff spot? Very sweet. Very, very sweet, and it’s foolish to think that John Mozeliak wouldn’t leap at this opportunity if it presented itself.