Baseball's 2016-17 free-agent class is pretty awful, but it isn't completely devoid of stars. If you like closers, you have a few good ones to choose from. But let's face it: You can't build your whole team around a closer; they're the dessert -- not the main course.
Besides the closers, the icy grasp of entropy awaits. Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Turner are nice players, but both are on the wrong side of 30 and unlikely to be superstars, and the quality of free agents drops off immensely after the top handful.
That makes this winter a dangerous one for MLB execs. Just because the talent level available is weak doesn't mean the money dries up and baseball is awash in cash. A lot of bucks will be chasing very few prizes, and in such an environment, some noodle-scratcher contracts will come to pass. Stephen Strasburg got a pretty nice contract extension from the Nationals, but I think if he hit free agency under these circumstances, someone might have just given him their team.
Below we have the players with the top 25 free-agent valuations, as projected by the ZiPS projection system. This is not necessarily what each player will get paid or what he should expect to get paid, though there's obvious correlation. Rather, these are estimated valuations of what a player's contribution in wins is worth. In other words, this is how much ZiPS says the player is worth. Keep in mind that not every team is concerned with being the most efficient; teams in win-now mode with an obvious hole might rightly overpay to enhance their current core as much as they can.
Players are ranked by their average yearly salary, or A.A.V. (average annual value), beginning with the most expensive.
1. Justin Turner, 3B
Age: 31 | B-T: R/R
Years in league: 8
2016 WAR: 4.9
ZiPS' projected value: Five years, $107.7 million (A.A.V.: $21.54M)
Go back five years, and this would seem to be an odd name to see at the top of such a list. Turner was 26 and showed signs of becoming a journeyman jumping from Triple-A city to Triple-A city, especially after he started at second for the desperate Mets and posted results near replacement level. The Dodgers gave Turner a chance, first as a role player and then as a regular starter, and he didn't disappoint. Turner hit .296/.364/.492 in his three seasons in L.A. for a 136 OPS+. That would be very good for a first baseman, but he isn't one. Although he might be stretched as a shortstop or second baseman, he has proven to be a more than competent third baseman.
There will be a lot of money chasing not a lot of talent, and Turner is a rare position player who isn't on the easy side of the defensive spectrum.
Declined qualifying offer; SIGNED with Dodgers (4 years, $64 million)