December 13, 2016

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When baseball season ends, it is time for players to rest and recuperate before spring training kicks off. However, an off-season is also a common time for players to secure new contracts and transition over to new teams. This year, there are some important free agents who have the capability to dramatically shake up the MLB landscape. The 2017 season is bound to be an interesting one! 

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Edwin Encarnacion 

Edwin Encarnacion is a designated hitter and first baseman who most recently played for the Toronto Blue Jays. As one of the top hitters in the game, he has averaged an OPS of over .900 throughout the last five years. He recently led the league with most runs batted in (RBI), coming in at 127. His defensive game doesn’t quite live up to his slugging skills, however. Because he is nearing 34, his reps at first will only continue to decline.

Predictions: Boston Red Sox, five years, $91M or St. Louis Cardinals

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Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes most recently played for the New York Mets as an outfielder. Although Cespedes signed a three-year contract with the Mets in 2016, the contract included an opt-out option after the first season. As expected, the former Detroit Tiger player opted out of the final two years of his Mets deal. This placed him in a lucrative position within a down free-agent market. He now has the leverage to get the longer contract that he was looking for during last off-season.

Prediction: San Francisco Giants, four years, $112M or Stay with the New York Mets

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Jose Bautista 

Another Blue Jays slugger and outfielder who might be saying goodbye to the Great North is Jose Bautista. Bautista was originally drafted by the Pittsburg Pirates back in 2000 and has an OPS of .861. His veteran status puts him in a position to get a nice contract -- though probably not quite as rich as he might be expecting. He is already 36 and has struggled with numerous injuries in the past. His glory days may be behind him.

Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays, four years, $80M

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Aroldis Chapman

Fresh from a stunning victory at the World Series with the Chicago Cubs, Chapman is looking at the possibility of a major deal for 2017. The left-handed relief pitcher currently holds the MLB record for fastest recorded pitch, clocking in at 105.1 mph.

The largest contract ever given to a closer was $61 million, which the Phillies gave to Jonathan Papelbon back in 2011. With his steady diet of 100-mph fastballs and a World Series win under his belt, Chapman is primed to shatter that record this new upcoming season.

Prediction: New York Yankees, five years, $86M - Completed!

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Kenley Jansen

Kenley Jansen is another relief pitcher (right-handed) making waves this off-season. The team that misses out on Aroldis Chapman is likely to immediately turn to Jansen. The former L.A. Dodgers player had a heck of a postseason in his own right.

He was selected to the National League team for the 2016 All-Star game and also won the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award. For 2016, he posted the best regular season of his career, with a minuscule WHIP of 0.670. He boasts 632 career strikeouts from 2010 to 2016.

Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers, five years, $80M - Completed

With all the exciting changes happening during this off-season, there’s no doubt that 2017 will be a season for the record books. These five free agents are all in the position to land lucrative contracts and change the face of the game for the coming years. One thing’s for sure: fans worldwide will be eagerly awaiting the outcome of this off-season shake up.

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