Though Manny Machado has just signed a 10 year, $300 million contract with the Padres, Bryce Harper and many other top MLB free agents are still on the market with Cactus League and Grapefruit League action starting up. With Harper rumors really starting to heat up, I will be listing my Top 5 of the remaining MLB free agents and predicting their contracts. Feel free to comment with your thoughts. I’ll start with the obvious #1:
1. Bryce Harper, OF
2018 Team: Washington Nationals
If you’ve been following any kind of MLB off-season news, you’ve probably heard plenty about Harper, so I’ll keep this brief. The Nationals could still be in it to re-sign the 26-year old Harper after a strong start to his career in Washington. But the Phillies appear to be the current front runners. The latest rumors suggest that the Phillies are in Vegas with Harper and may have a deal done by Monday. But earlier this week, we heard the same thing about Friday, and it didn’t end up happening. Will Harper end up in Philly, or will a mystery team swoop in before the Phillies finalize things?
My Prediction: San Francisco Giants, 10 years, $330 million
I’ve heard things suggesting that the Giants aren’t up to offer a $300 million contract to Harper. But now that they are reportedly willing to offer a long-term deal, they could change their mind considering the mutual interest between Harper and San Fran. If the Giants came close to Philly’s offer, maybe Harper would sign there out of impatience. Plus, the Phillies are division rivals of the Nats, and the west coast is closer to Harper’s hometown.
2. Craig Kimbrel, CL
2018 Team: Boston Red Sox
Kimbrel’s agent made it clear that although Kimbrel has been stubborn about his contract, he will pitch in 2019. But with the late inning relief market already settling down, where does Kimbrel fit? Sure, he could re-sign with Atlanta. But you cannot discount Arodys Vizcaino as a closing option for the Braves.
My Prediction: Boston Red Sox, 4 years, $64 million
Kimbrel will eventually have to settle for a smaller contract, and if there’s any team who could still use relief help, it’s Boston. The Red Sox have been adamant about finding a closer internally. Who knows, Jenrry Mejia or Tyler Thornburg could bounce back. Matt Barnes could step it up. But I think the Red Sox will end up bringing back Kimbrel as a safety net once his price goes down. Barnes, Mejia, Thornburg, and others can set up Kimbrel.
3. Dallas Keuchel, SP
2018 Team: Houston Astros
Keuchel, like Harper, is a Scott Boras client, and Boras clients have tended to sign late into the off-season, so it’s not a huge surprise that Keuchel is still on the market. But unlike the relief market, there is still a handful of teams that could use starting pitching help. The Phillies, Braves, and Padres have been linked to Keuchel, but the Padres just signed Machado, and the Phillies aren’t going to turn attention to Keuchel unless they lose out on Harper. The Braves would be smarter to sign a lower-tier starter considering their surplus of SP prospects on the verge of a major league career. I see the Padres finding a cheaper option and a surprise team signing Kimbrel.
My Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays, 4 years, $68 million
The Blue Jays may have a decent rotation going with Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Matt Shoemaker, Clayton Richard, and Ryan Borucki. But they lack a true ace, and could use depth in case Borucki turns out to be a bust or Shoemaker and Richard are inconsistent or get hurt. Keuchel could help Toronto kill two birds with one stone. Why sign a top line starter with so many prospects about to crack the majors? Well, Toronto’s rebuild is a unique situation. With this legendary group of prospects, Toronto’s a pitcher or two away from contending during a rebuild.
4. Adam Jones, OF
2018 Team: Baltimore Orioles
When people think about all the quality players still on the FA market, they think Harper, Kimbrel, and Keuchel. But what about Adam Jones, who slashed .281/.313/.419 with 15 dingers despite a down year? Back in 2017, he put up a .787 OPS with 26 home runs. Though he is getting up there in age, I think he still has potential to succeed for the next few years to come. But where? He will likely end up with a team that needs OF help but cannot afford Harper. Maybe a small market team that hasn’t spent much this off-season could be a fit.
My Prediction: Cleveland Indians, 3 years, $48 million
The Indians spent a lot in 2016 and 2017, but after cheaping up by trading away Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion, they may have room for the outfield centerpiece they need. Jones would allow Bradley Zimmer, Leonys Martin, Tyler Naquin, Greg Allen, and Jordan Luplow to split time among the remaining two outfield spots. I don’t see any of them as full time starters, so this is a good depth signing. Maybe trading away one of their lower-end outfielders after could be a smart move. That way, the Indians will have less crowding and more talent.
5. Gio Gonzalez, SP
2018 Teams: Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers
Gonzalez is a cheaper SP option that teams who cannot afford Keuchel may go after. Gonzalez had a strong year in 2018, making the case for a decent sized contract. But he hasn’t received much interest from teams besides the Brewers, who traded for him at the deadline. Who will end up signing him?
My Prediction: San Diego Padres, 3 years, $39 million
The Padres aren’t going to want to invest in Keuchel after signing Machado. So I think it’s more likely that they save a few bucks and add Gonzalez. You could make an argument that the entire Padres rotation is wide open. There is no pitcher on their current roster that I see as a surefire starter. But Gonzalez will provide the Padres with the rotation stability they need, with the help of another low-tier free agent starter or two.
That’s all for today. Stay tuned for MLB predictions once Harper finally makes his decision.