With the 2015 season hitting the stretch run, it is never too early to look at how the free agent market is developing as the offseason approaches. Looking at how the market is shaping up, these five teams should be big stories in the winter, whether it is because of the players they have lost or the ones they have signed to replace them:
Notable contracts expiring after 2015: SS Ian Desmond, RHP Doug Fister, OF Denard Span, RHP Jordan Zimmermann
After a disappointing season, thanks in part to injuries, the Nationals will be forced to re-tool with several big names hitting free agency this winter. Washington will likely be looking for a short-term replacement for Desmond at shortstop with prospect Trea Turner likely ready for the show late next year or early in 2017 and Michael Taylor should take Span's starting job in center field, though the Nationals may be in the market for outfield depth.
Where Washington will really be shopping in the offseason is in the market for starting pitchers, as they look to round out their rotation behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Top prospect Lucas Giolito could fill a spot in the Nationals' rotation next year, but they will still need more depth at the start of 2016.
San Francisco Giants
Notable contracts expiring after 2015: RHP Tim Hudson, RHP Mike Leake, RHP Tim Lincecum
The three veteran right-handers account for more than $33 million coming off the Giants' payroll after 2015. Hudson is likely retiring after the season, though Lincecum may well be back at a reduced price from the $18 million he is making this year. If Leake is not re-signed, expect the 2014 champions to be major players for big names in the pitching market as they look to fill out their rotation behind ace Madison Bumgarner.
Notable contracts expiring after 2015: LHP Wei-Yin Chen, 1B Chris Davis, OF Gerardo Parra, C Matt Wieters
The Orioles traded several expiring contracts at the deadline, but still have several big names hitting the free agent market after the season. If Davis leaves, it will mark the second straight season Baltimore has lost a bat from the middle of its lineup after Nelson Cruz joined the Mariners for 2015. Additionally, if the Orioles fail to retain Davis and Parra, they would likely be strapped for outfielders as both have played quite a bit in the corner spots this season.
The biggest loss, however, could be Weiters, a 29-year-old, switch-hitting catcher who has three 20-plus home run seasons to his name. If he does not re-sign, expect the Orioles to go hard for a catcher at some point in the offseason.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Notable contracts expiring after 2015: LHP Brett Anderson, RHP Dan Haren (with Cubs), 2B Howie Kendrick, SS Jimmy Rollins
The team with the highest payroll in history could once again be big spenders in the offseason as four players with eight-figure contracts come off the books after the 2015 season, including Dan Haren, who the Dodgers are paying $10 million to play his last season with the Cubs. Middle infield is likely where the Dodgers will go shopping with Kendrick and Rollins headed to the free agent market and Hector Olivera traded to the Braves at the trade deadline.
Toronto Blue Jays
Notable contracts expiring after 2015: LHP Mark Buehrle, LHP David Price
One of the most active teams at the trade deadline could be one of the most active in free agency, as well, as they will lose two veteran left-handers from their starting rotation. Before their activity at the deadline, the plan in Toronto was likely to replace Buehrle in the rotation with fellow southpaw Daniel Norris, but with Norris swapped for Price, the Blue Jays now have two free agents to replace in the rotation and no Norris to replace them, that is unless they re-sign someone.