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2017 MLB Free Agents: Rumors and Predictions for Top Sluggers on Market

Rumors, rumors and more rumors. They are the fuel for baseball fanatics in the coldest months and the fodder for discussion when baseball is generally overshadowed by football, basketball and hockey.

Below, we'll break down some of the rumors surrounding the biggest sluggers on the market and predict their most likely destinations. 

    

Jose Bautista

If any Toronto Blue Jays fans were holding out hope that the team might reunite with slugger Jose Bautista, well, Jon Morosi of MLB Network likely splashed a big old bucket of cold water on those wishes:

 

Toronto's price may go up at some point and Bautista's down, of course. It's hard to say given how loaded the market remains with power hitters. Toronto likely took itself out of the Edwin Encarnacion market (more on him below), however, when it signed Kendrys Morales to be the team's designated hitter.

Encarnacion served as the team's designated hitter 86 times last season, more than any other player, per Nick Ashbourne of Sportsnet.

But there may yet be room for Bautista in Toronto's outfield, depending on how his cost settles in the market. It seems unlikely that Bautista will be back—if there was general interest from both sides, it's hard to imagine the Blue Jays wouldn't have made him a better offer—but it's probably not completely out of the realm of possibility just yet.

The Blue Jays, by signing Morales over Encarnacion, gave themselves financial flexibility, even if it was at the expense of lineup flexibility (Morales is not a position player at this point). That leaves a glimmer of possibility that Bautista might return. But it's just a glimmer.

I still believe Bautista could land with the Boston Red Sox if he's willing to sign a shorter deal and take less money than he might get elsewhere. After clearing some salary by trading Clay Buchholz to the Philadelphia Phillies, per Scott Lauber of ESPN.com, Boston has financial wiggle room. But that's wiggle room it would probably be wise to carry into the season, in case it needs to add a player via trade for a postseason run.

Prediction: Blue Jays

        

Edwin Encarnacion

The aforementioned Encarnacion remains the top hitter on the market, and several teams are still in the running, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Among them, somewhat surprisingly, is the Oakland Athletics:

It isn’t known whether the A’s are just one of the likely bargain hunters at this point, but they’ve occasionally stepped out of character, like when they made a bold run at Adrian Beltre, offering him $65 million before he went to the rival Rangers for $80 million plus an option that took him to $96 million.

The A’s would not lose a first-round draft choice should they signed a top free agent like Encarnacion since they finished with one of the bottom 10 records last year.

The Blue Jays also remain in the running, per Heyman, though they seem likely to be long shots at this point. Cleveland remains a possibility, per Heyman, but it is trying to get a bargain price for a player like Encarnacion, Mike Napoli or Chris Carter, so it's hard to say how serious their interest is in Encarnacion.

Morosi adds the Rangers to the list of possible suitors:

 

Joel Sherman of the New York Post took the Red Sox out of the running, however:

 

Encarnacion's big bat will land him a big payday. Thus far, however, the interest in his services isn't quite as frenzied as perhaps the slugger might have hoped it would be for a player with 34 or more home runs in five straight seasons.

Prediction: Rangers

      

Mark Trumbo

Mark Trumbo is the remaining domino in the slugger market, and a return to the Baltimore Orioles is hardly guaranteed, per Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com:

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the other logical suitor for Trumbo at the moment seems to be the Colorado Rockies, though "sources say that the Rockies’ chances of signing him—at least for the moment—are unlikely."

The team signing Ian Desmond might have something to do with that, though if it finds a trade partner for the talented Charlie Blackmon and slides Desmond back into the outfield—rather than play him at first base—Trumbo would make more sense in Colorado.

That's a lot of potential dominoes to fall, though. Which makes Baltimore the most likely destination for Trumbo at this point.

Prediction: Orioles

       

You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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