With Eric Hosmer, Yu Darvish and J.D. Martinez finally signed, the free agent market is heating up. As an MLB fan, it was just painful to see the lack of action that occurred for much of the off-season. From the end of December to the 2nd week of February, the free agent market was nearly silent. But once Spring Training started, it served as a wake-up call to the MLB teams who continued to wait on signing the free agents they were targeting. It’s free agency that keeps me following baseball during the off-season, so I’m glad that it’s finally getting going.
The only MLB news during those quiet weeks was rumors and predictions as to where these free agents would sign. The FA market may be in action, but there are still many high profile free agents out there, and I would be surprised if they are not signed by the start of the regular season. It’s still crazy that we’re talking about this on the first day of Grapefruit and Cactus League action.
Below I have listed the Top 15 remaining free agents and predicted where they will sign:
1. Jake Arrieta
2017 Team: Chicago Cubs
Original Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 4 years, $92 million
Revised Prediction: Washington Nationals, 3 years, $63 million
Now that the Orioles have signed Chris Tillman and Andrew Cashner, they do not seem to be in the market for a high profile starter anymore, although they may sign another lower tier pitcher for the #5 spot. Their rotation looks a little more respectable now between Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Cashner. Mike Wright, Miguel Castro and Alec Asher among others will compete for the #5 spot unless another starter is signed.
The Brewers appear to be the top suitor for Arrieta, but the Nats, Phillies and Twins have also shown interest. Although Washington’s rotation is already led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, Arrieta would be a good fit as the Nats have struggled to find a 5th starter. Many of Washington’s stars also share an agent with Arrieta. If Arrieta signs here, then Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark would line up as #4 and #5 starters, while Strasburg, Scherzer, and Arrieta could potentially go on to become one of the best rotation trios in the MLB. As for the Brewers, I think Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn would be a better fit for them.
2. Mike Moustakas
2017 Team: Kansas City Royals
Original Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $54 million
Revised Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $54 million
I’m standing by my original prediction here. I honestly think St. Louis is the best fit for Moose, although the Braves, White Sox or Yankees may be more likely to sign him. Of those four teams, I think the Cardinals and Braves are the most likely to sign a third baseman before Opening Day. The White Sox have plenty of depth in their infield, they were just considering a veteran third baseman to aid their rebuild. The Braves are also rebuilding, but they don’t have the same kind of infield depth, and I don’t know if Rio Ruiz or Johan Camargo are viable big league starters yet.
Meanwhile, the Yankees could use an upgrade, but seem satisfied with Miguel Andujar and Brandon Drury among others for 3B options. The Cardinals will sign Moose in order to give themselves more options in the infield. Rather than forcing Jedd Gyorko into the starting third base job, they can let Gyorko share time with Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong in the middle infield.
3. Alex Cobb
2017 Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Original Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 3 years, $42 million
Revised Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 4 years, $68 million
I had Cobb going to Chicago as a veteran influence who would let younger starters take more time to develop before jumping into the White Sox starting five. But with Yu Darvish signed, there are other teams that appear to want him more, such as the Brewers and Twins. I think he’s more likely to go Milwaukee than a rebuilding team. The Brewers would pay him more money, and he would be a leader to an improving rotation on a contending team. I’m sure Alex Cobb wants to sign with a winner if he can. The Brewers have the tools to contend, but need to add a #1 starter, and I think Cobb is capable of living up to Milwaukee’s expectations.
Now that the Twins acquired Jake Odorizzi before Milwaukee could, the Brewers have two options. They can try and get Cleveland to give them Danny Salazar in exchange for an outfielder or two (which the Indians could use), or they could sign a free agent pitcher. I think free agency is the safer option for the Brewers right now.
4. Lance Lynn
2017 Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Original Prediction: Miami Marlins, 2 years, $27 million
Revised Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies, 3 years, $45 million
The Phillies have a decent-looking roster after what I would call a successful rebuild. But in order to be a contender in coming years, it’s time to sign some veterans. Some of this can wait till next off-season, when the free agent class is much better than this year’s group, but if they even want to have a chance at landing top free agents next year, they need to start thinking about contention this year, starting by signing a high-tier starter to bolster their rotation. While they don’t need an ace just yet, Lynn would be a good fit as they could use a better #2 starter behind rising star Aaron Nola.
5. Greg Holland
2017 Team: Colorado Rockies
Original Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 5 years, $42.5 million
Revised Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 4 years, $40 million
Holland won’t be able to get as big of a contract now that he’s waited this long to sign, but I do think he will be the closer somewhere by Opening Day. Milwaukee’s late inning crew is all set now between Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel and Boone Logan among others. But St. Louis could use a late inning reliever to pair with Luke Gregerson, and Holland would be a great fit. In this case, Holland would be the full time closer with Gregerson shifting into the set up role.
6. Jonathan Lucroy
2017 Team: Colorado Rockies
Original Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 5 years, $57 million
Revised Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 2 years, $22 million
I’m standing by my prediction for where Lucroy signs, but I don’t think he can get a long term deal at this point in the off-season. In a couple of years, either Martin Maldonado or Carlos Perez will be ready to thrive as a starting catcher. Lucroy is a high-tier catcher, but it’s hard for any player to get a large contract at this point in the off-season, let alone a catcher. Lucroy will be a seasoned starter at catcher for the Angels, and he’ll make the lineup even stronger with his big bat.
7. Neil Walker
2017 Teams: New York Mets/Milwaukee Brewers
Original Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 4 years, $46 million
Revised Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 2 years, $23 million
Walker is in a similar situation to Lucroy here. I still think he’ll end up in the same place that I had originally thought, but his likelihood of a long-term deal decreases as the off-season progresses. The Brew Crew could use a second base upgrade beyond Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard, especially if they want to contend. They know Walker after he spent the second half of 2017 in Milwaukee, and he’s still a good fit.
2017 Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Original Prediction: New York Mets, 2 years, $12 million
Revised Prediction: Kansas City Royals, 1 year, $7 million
There hasn’t been that much interest in free agent first baseman that aren’t named Eric Hosmer this off-season, which could leave Morrison and Lucas Duda without a team to begin 2018. But there are a few teams who could still use a first baseman, like the Royals, who lost out on Hosmer, Rockies, who may need another option aside from the young Ryan McMahon, Athletics, and Mariners, who could each use a veteran influence at first to rotate with their young first basemen. I see Morrison, arguably the best first baseman left, signing in Kansas City to help fill the hole that Hosmer left. Although the Royals are rebuilding, they don’t have many prospects ready on the right side of the infield. Most of their young infielders who are ready to start will either play shortstop or third base.
9. Jon Jay
2017 Team: Chicago Cubs
Original Prediction: Oakland Athletics, 2 years, $22 million
Revised Prediction: Texas Rangers, 2 years, $17 million
I don’t think he can still get a $22 million deal, and I don’t think he’s going to Oakland anymore. Now that the Athletics acquired DH Brandon Moss, they have another veteran in the mix and will not need Jay. The Rangers will be looking for an upgrade over or platoon mate for CF Delino DeShields, and Jay could play either of those roles. Although Willie Calhoun will be MLB ready soon, the Rangers could use another veteran like Jay as a placeholder.
10. Lucas Duda
2017 Teams: New York Mets/Tampa Bay Rays
Original Prediction: Oakland Athletics, 2 years, $15 million
Revised Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 2 years, $18 million
I reconsidered this prediction because I do not think the A’s necessarily need a first baseman with Matt Olson ready for a full time job, and if they sign one, they will not chase the best first basemen left in Morrison and Duda. The Mariners may need another option at first base with Ryon Healy injured. He won’t necessarily be ready for a full time job either, and that’s why I see Seattle giving Duda more money and a 2 year deal. They could go with their other 1B prospects, but I see Seattle signing Duda and giving other prospects more time to develop before competing with Healy at first.
11. Brandon Phillips
2017 Teams: Atlanta Braves/Los Angeles Angels
Original Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 2 years, $14 million
Revised Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 2 years, $14 million
I’m standing by my original prediction here. The Tigers are rebuilding, but they could use a veteran infielder in case Dixon Machado or Jeimer Candelario don’t live up to their expectations in the big leagues. I don’t think Detroit will sign both Phillips and J.J. Hardy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they sign one. Phillips is the better fit of the two on this rebuilding Detroit team. Phillips is capable of being a starter, so if they start him in 2018, Jose Iglesias, Machado and Candelario will work out some sort of rotation at shortstop and third since Nick Castellanos is going to start in the outfield this year. But I don’t think the Tigers will necessarily start Phillips every day, and they may throw him into that rotation if he is signed.
12. Carlos Gonzalez
2017 Team: Colorado Rockies
Original Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 3 years, $34.5 million
Revised Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 1 year, $9 million
CarGo did not have a strong year in 2017, and I don’t think he can get more than a 1 year contract at this point. CarGo may still have power hitting abilities, but no team would dare risk more than a 1 year contract on him. I still see him going to the Mariners. They don’t know how Dee Gordon will fare as an outfielder, and the rest of their outfielders are inexperienced, failing to prove themselves as everyday starters. Gonzalez can play right field in Seattle, with Gordon playing center and Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia and Ben Gamel splitting time in left (and possibly playing in the place of Gordon or CarGo if they struggle).
13. Melky Cabrera
2017 Teams: Chicago White Sox/Kansas City Royals
Original Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $42 million
Revised Prediction: Miami Marlins, 2 years, $17 million
The Braves could use a veteran outfielder to fill in until Ronald Acuna is ready, but I think they can manage with Lane Adams and Preston Tucker until he cracks the majors. You never know, he could win the Opening Day starting job in left field if he has a strong Spring Training. The Marlins need some veterans in their outfield until guys like Magneuris Sierra, Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison are ready for full time jobs. The Marlins traded away all three of last year’s outfield starters.
They got some outfielders back, but not all of them are ready to start. Cabrera, along with the recently signed Cameron Maybin will help out until they are ready. Although the Marlins only need veteran outfielders for a year or so, while Cabrera wants two years. He can play alongside the younger guys in 2019, and he can serve as a veteran mentor.
2017 Team: Los Angeles Angels
Original Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 3 years, $39 million
Revised Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $27 million
The White Sox can probably manage with what they have at third between Yolmer Sanchez, Tyler Saladino and other prospects. But the Braves, another rebuilding team, are finally on the verge of contention. First, they’ll need a new third baseman after Adonis Garcia didn’t work out. Johan Camargo and Rio Ruiz will be considered, but I don’t know if they are ready for full time roles, so they may need to add a veteran in the hot corner. Escobar is a good fit. He’s not necessarily an everyday starter, so he can platoon with the Braves’ younger options at third.
2017 Teams: New York Yankees/Chicago White Sox/Houston Astros
Original Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates, 4 years, $28 million
Revised Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates, 2 years, $14 million
Clippard struggled last season with three different teams, so I do not think the Pirates will be willing to commit to a long term contract with Clippard. But I still think this is a good fit. The Pirates need more late inning relievers to support closer Felipe Rivero. Clippard may even be able to compete for the everyday closer job if he rebounds.
That’s all for this article. With some of the best free agents finally signed and Spring Training exhibition games around the corner, I will be posting more baseball articles soon, including my MLB Predictions, which will be out next week (I normally post them after the Super Bowl, but normally the Top free agents on the market are signed by then, so I had to wait until the market got going). I will also be posting my annual Ranking The Teams series, a detailed Red Sox Spring Training Preview, and a preseason Baseball Bits about new Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez. I will also be posting more March Madness and NFL off-season articles soon. Stay tuned.