Every year, MLBTradeRumors does a Top 50 MLB Free Agents with Predictions list, essentially picking where they think a player will sign this MLB Offseason.
MLB Free Agency is nary a week old, which makes it the perfect time to roll out my own set of predictions before any of the big moves get made:
1. Bryce Harper – Dodgers. Fourteen years, $420MM. (with multiple opt-outs)
With money to spend and an axe to grind after losing back-to-back World Series, I think the Dodgers ante up with biggest offer to Harper. By signing with Los Angeles, Harper gets to return to the West Coast, as he was a Las Vegas native growing up. He also joins an improved team that has made deep runs into the postseason for the last several years, and has a number of young stars to keep the team good for many seasons.
Harper would join 1B/OF Cody Bellinger and SS Corey Seager, who will return after Tommy John Surgery, to create a lineup with three lefty-mashers.
Currently, reports are that the market is pointing Harper to the Phillies. But as a Phillies’ Phan, I won’t truly believe the team has a shot at signing him until it’s a done deal, despite the reports that it’s a lock.
2. Manny Machado – Yankees. Thirteen years, $390MM. (with multiple opt-outs)
Machado has become a polarizing figure since his antics in the postseason, including his now infamous “Johnny Hustle” comments. While that may turn some teams off, Machado is still a generational talent that will command big money in the open market. And when I think big money, I think the New York Yankees.
New York has a need for Machado, with SS Didi Gregorious set to be out for half of 2019 after Tommy John surgery. However, he could also be slid over to third base, where he has proven to be an All-World defender. The Yanks have Rookie of the Year candidate 3B Miguel Andujar at the hot corner, but players could be shifted around the diamond to add Machado, and if a trade for a starting pitcher comes into play.
It has been long rumored that Machado wishes to join the Yankees, and I think he will be the latest to wear that #13 jersey in pinstripes.
3. Patrick Corbin – Yankees. Six years, $120MM.
Once the Bronx Bombers bring Machado into the fold, it will be time to improve the pitching staff. The team has already brought back P C.C. Sabathia into the fold for 2019. Corbin, who improved his stock dramatically in 2018, is the best left-handed pitcher on the market, and he, too, has been rumored to want to join the Yankees.
I expect the team to get a deal done.
4. Dallas Keuchel – Twins. Four years, $75MM.
Keuchel is a tough one to place.
First, the Houston Astros could use Keuchel, after two of the team’s starting pitchers from this year will not be in the fold for 2018. However, it isn’t likely that the team will be able to afford him.
Next, Keuchel is more of a fly-ball pitcher, limiting the amount of home ballparks he would fit best in.
Those factors lead me to Minnesota, who play their home games in cavernous Target Field, and need a top-of-the-rotation type pitcher. Keuchel could serve as the team’s best option as it attempts to get back to contending.
5. Craig Kimbrel – Braves. Four years, $65MM.
In a bit of a homecoming move for Kimbrel, I expect him to sign with Atlanta to become the team’s closer. Kimbrel spent the first five years of his career with the team, and put up stellar numbers.
Now, the team is on the verge of becoming a National League power, and needs a proven arm at the back-end of its bullpen. Adding Kimbrel deepens Atlanta’s pen, and gives them the bona fide stopper a contending team needs to win.
6. Yasmani Grandal – Mets. Four years, $44MM.
The Mets have struggled to find any consistency behind the plate since C Paul LoDuca played for the team over 10 years ago.
Current catchers Travis D’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki have struggled with injury and have not had any stellar offensive outputs, leading the team to sign Grandal.
If healthy, a four-year deal at $11 million per year, Grandal could be a steal for New York.
7. Nathan Eovaldi – Red Sox. Four years, $58.5MM.
A postseason hero for Boston, the team couldn’t let Eovaldi walk, right?
I don’t think the team will, and they will need to have depth in the rotation, making retaining Eovaldi an easy call.
The only way the hard-throwing righty will walk this offseason is if some team blows Boston’s offer out of the water, as the Red Sox won’t be able to break the bank for Eovaldi.
8. A.J. Pollock – Indians. Four years, $55MM.
Cleveland may lose a few of its free agent players this off season, which will open some payroll and a hole in the outfield.
Pollock seems like he would be a good fit in Cleveland.
Of course, he has struggled with injury issues in the past, but his right-handed bat, speed and superior defense would make him a great fit for the Indian’s lineup.
9. J.A. Happ – Astros. Three years, $45MM.
Happ will look to capitalize upon his late career resurgence by scoring one last contract.
Houston, which will be looking to add starting pitching depth, could be interested in a veteran like Happ.
He won’t command top-of-the-market money like Keuchel or Corbin would, but still provides solid value out of the rotation.
After being acquired by the Yankees in a midseason trade, Happ went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA before struggling in the postseason. His performance after moving to a winning team could catch the eye of a team like the Astros.
10. Michael Brantley – Braves. Three years, $45MM.
Brantley is a Braves’ kind of signing.
Coming off two lost years due to injury, Brantley rebounded in 2018.
A high on-base percentage, high average hitter, Brantley could slot into the corner outfield and provide Atlanta with another top of the order hitter to go in between young stars 2B Ozzie Albies and OF Ronald Acuna.
11. Andrew McCutchen – Blue Jays. Three years, $39MM.
McCutchen is coming off a so-so season he spent between the San Francisco Giants and New York Giants.
Due to his age, declining production and defensive abilities, I don’t expect McCutchen to have a huge market. A team like the Blue Jays, who will need a veteran guy in the clubhouse and a bat in the outfield, fit McCutchen. He can help the team develop many young prospects that will debut over the next few seasons.
12. Yusei Kikuchi – Phillies. Five years, $40MM.
I think the Phillies will make a splash in the Japanese market.
Kikuchi, a 27-year-old left-hander, has put up some impressive numbers in the Japan Pacific League, including a combined 30-10 record over the last two seasons. In 2017, Kikuchi had a 1.97 ERA over 187.2 innings, marking his best performance as a pro.
With a $20 million posting fee to proceed his signing, I still think a total $60 million investment ($40 million contract plus posting fee) for a much needed left-handed option in the rotation is better than shelling out the big bucks to pitchers like Patrick Corbin or Dallas Keuchel.
13. Josh Donaldson – Cardinals. One year, $18MM.
In a bit of a “prove it” deal, I think Donaldson finds a bit of a weak market for himself this offseason, and ends up having to take a one-year pact. The Cardinals, who had been long rumored in trading for the former Toronto star, would make the perfect landing spot for Donaldson.
He would have the chance to be a middle-of-the-order hitter on a contending team, while rebuilding his value by signing with St. Louis. Plus, it fills a hole the Cardinals have had for a few seasons now.
14. Charlie Morton – Astros. One year, $15MM.
Morton has become more of a necessity for the Astros since the season ended, as starter Lance McCullers will be out for all of 2019 after Tommy John Surgery.
Over the past two seasons, Morton, 35, has posted a 29-10 record in what are arguably the best years of his career. He is seeking to pitch at least one more season, and I’d be surprised if was anywhere but Houston.
15. Wilson Ramos – Astros. Three years, $38MM.
With C Brian McCann and Martin Maldonado likely out of the fold, Houston will need to add a catcher.
Ramos offers an offensive improvement, but does have durability issues. However, adding his bat at a decent price may be worth it to the Astros, who will have to outscore opponents next year after taking some blows to the pitching staff.
16. Marwin Gonzalez – Phillies. Five years, $40MM.
Marwin Gonzalez is the peak of today’s baseball.
By that, I mean he is a manager’s dream: he can play every position outside of catcher and pitcher, is a switch-hitter, and can bat anywhere in the lineup.
Houston threw Gonzalez all over the field and lineup over the past few years, and got solid results.
The Phillies, a team that has dove face first into analytics, are looking for a player of Gonzalez’s mold. Adding him on a deal like this would be solid value for the Phillies.
17. Jeurys Familia – Twins. Three years, $33MM.
This offseason features a multitude of relief options, making it hard for some to place.
Familia, a longtime Mets reliever, got moved to Oakland last season, and now will search for a more permanent location.
The Twins are in a precarious position, as a franchise that isn’t quite sure what direction they are moving yet, but one thing is clear: the team needs an anchor at the back of the bullpen.
Familia is another arm that won’t break the bank to sign, making him a fit for a smaller market team like Minnesota.
18. Zach Britton – Phillies. Three years, $33MM.
The Phillies were interested in acquiring Britton at this year’s trade deadline, so I think a union in the off season could be expected.
Of course, Phillies’ president Andy MacPhail is familiar with Britton from his days in Baltimore.
The team will be looking to add a back-of-the-bullpen arm to pair with P Seranthony Dominguez. Britton would provide a nice option for the left-hand side that wouldn’t break the bank.
19. David Robertson – Dodgers. Three years, $33MM.
Consistency is something Los Angeles will be seeking out of its bullpen.
After closer Kenley Jansen’s heart issues popped up again last season, I think it’s become clear the team needs to add another back-of-the-bullpen arm.
Robertson has closing and setup experience in both the regular season and playoffs, and adds an extra level of insurance of Jansen.
20. Hyun-Jin Ryu – Dodgers. Three years, $30MM.
Ryu has only played from the Dodgers since coming over from Korea, and has made a home with the team. Additionally, he has dealt with a number of shoulder issues over the past few seasons, and has a familiarity with the Dodgers training staff.
I believe the team will be able to convince Ryu to stay, at a price that fits both the team’s and player’s preference.
21. Adam Ottavino – Athletics. Three years, $30MM.
After acquiring back-of-the-bullpen help in Jeurys Familia last season, Oakland will need to sign another reliever this off season.
Familia is a free agent and expected to walk, and Oakland could look at a pitcher of Ottavino’s stature.
He has closing experience, set up experience, and is a veteran pitcher that won’t break the bank. Oakland seems like a solid fit for Ottavino.
22. Nelson Cruz – White Sox. Two years, $30MM.
The White Sox are a team on the rise, and adding Cruz will add a big offensive bat to the middle of the order.
While he would have to take the DH role most days, Cruz could be slotted in a corner outfield spot in a pinch.
Adding Cruz to a lineup with 1B Jose Abreu gives you some punch in the lineup and creates a veteran leadership group for young players like P Carlos Rodon, IF Yoan Moncada, and OFs Luis Robert and Eloy Jiminez to look up to as they contribute this season.
23. Jed Lowrie – Athletics. Two years, $20MM.
The veteran utilityman has made it clear he wants to stay in Oakland, and I can’t imagine the team wouldn’t want him back.
Now that Lowrie has hit his mid-thirties (35 before the start of next season), the Athletics should be able to retain him on a short-term deal that doesn’t hurt the team’s payroll.
24. Andrew Miller – Mets. Three years, $32MM.
I think the Mets will jump into the relief market, and come out with the tall lefty.
New York’s manager, Mickey Callaway, is familiar with Miller from his days with the Cleveland Indians, and I think that connection could come into play here.
Plus, the Mets are in dire need of a proven back-end option for the team’s bullpen, and Miller won’t cost as much as other arms on the market this offseason due to age, injury, and a so-so 2018 season.
25. Joe Kelly – Red Sox. Three years, $27MM.
Kelly was another one of Boston’s postseason heroes, and I expect him to be rewarded.
The hard throwing righty provides veteran experience and depth to the Red Sox bullpen, and won’t cost as much as some of the other options available.
I’d expect to see Kelly goggled up at Fenway next season.
26. Kelvin Herrera – Red Sox. One year, $8MM.
Herrera is an interesting case.
Following an outstanding career with the Royals, the team traded him to the Nationals last season, and Herrera struggled with both performance and injury.
Now, he will be looking for a deal to rebuild his value.
This is where Boston comes into play. After facing Herrera with the Royals for several seasons, GM Dave Dombroski is familiar with what a weapon he can be at the backend of a bullpen.
Combine that with the fact that Herrera won’t cost premium dollars, that makes him a great fit for Boston, who could score big at a low price.
27. Gio Gonzalez – Twins. Two years, $24MM.
Gonzalez is coming off a so-so year after being traded in August, concluding a long stay with the Washington Nationals.
As a member of the Brewers, Gonzalez shined in three late regular season starts, but struggled in the postseason.
A team like the Twins will be looking for arms to add to its rotation, and Gonzalez will need to rebuild his value.
Pitching in cavernous Target Field for a couple seasons could do well for Gonzalez’s numbers.
28. Anibal Sanchez – Braves. Two years, $20MM.
Before 2018, it looked like Anibal Sanchez’s career may be over.
Three straight seasons with ERAs around or above 5.00 make you think that a pitcher is done.
But somehow, someway, Sanchez caught on with the Atlanta Braves and rebounded with a sparkling 2.83 ERA over 24 starts for the team.
Despite the performance, Sanchez won’t command top dollar because of his age and past performance, making it easier for the Braves to keep him in the fold in the hopes that he continues to be that veteran innings-eater.
29. Matt Harvey – Reds. Two years, $25MM.
Harvey is still a bit of a reclamation project, even after having some success with the Reds last season. Acquired in a trade midyear, Harvey showed that he is still capable of being a Major League pitcher. Now, the Reds will hope that he continues to improve upon the promise he’s shown.
I wouldn’t expect Harvey’s market to be busting with suitors, allowing the Reds to keep him on a deal that fits both the team and player.
30. Trevor Cahill – Athletics. Two years, $22MM.
Cahill’s career began in Oakland, and saw him return to his first team last season.
He provided a 7-4 record with a 3.76 ERA in 20 starts for a team that was decimated by injury.
I think that his performance and familiarity with the team will incline Oakland to have Cahill return, and provide that veteran presence in the rotation.
31. Daniel Murphy – Angels. Two years, $25MM.
After returning from knee surgery midway through last season, Murphy started slow for the Nationals.
Moved in a trade deadline deal to the Cubs, Murphy’s bat came alive, as he finished the year batting .299 with 12 HR’s and 42 RBI’s.
It’s no secret that Murphy is no longer an option at second base, but should shift to a first base or DH role for a team.
Los Angeles has struggled to fill its first baseman role over the past few seasons, and would welcome a high average, high on base percentage bat to the team’s order.
32. Brian Dozier – Mets. One year, $10MM.
Dozier is coming off a down year in 2018, when he hit just .215. However, he did still blast 21 HR’s and drive in 72 runs.
I would expect a team to be able to fetch Dozier on a short term deal, and the Mets don’t have many options at second base, making Dozier a fit.
33. DJ LeMahieu – Nationals. Two years, $18MM.
With Daniel Murphy traded to Chicago last season, a hole opened at second base for the Washington Nationals.
Slide LeMahieu in there, where he could form a formidable top of the order duo with SS Trea Turner.
Washington should have money to spend after seeing OF Bryce Harper walk in free agency, and I think adding LeMahieu would be a good way to spread that cash out.
34. Joakim Soria – Mets. Two years, $18MM.
I don’t think the Mets will be done adding to the bullpen, even if they grab Andrew Miller.
Soria presents a veteran option with closing and set up experience that won’t cost a team a ton of cash. That makes him a good fit for the Mets.
35. Mike Moustakas – Royals. Two years, $16MM.
Moustakas has spent all but two months of his career with the Kansas City Royals, after being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers last season.
Similarly to his offseason market last year, I don’t expect Moustakas to land a big deal, which could lead to his return to his first team.
36. Lance Lynn – Blue Jays. Two years, $16MM.
Lynn struggled in his first season in the American League, posting a 4.77 ERA over 29 starts with the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees.
He will look to rebuild his value, and could be a fit for a team like the Blue Jays, that will seek veterans to eat innings.
37. Cody Allen – Indians. Two years, $16MM.
Cleveland can’t let all its free agents walk.
I believe the team will look to resign Allen, one of its longtime relievers.
He struggled through the worst year of his career in 2018, so the team will be betting on a rebound. However, that will also lead to a reduction in his price, which would fit Cleveland’s budget.
38. Nick Markakis – Orioles. Two years, $16MM.
Markakis is the kind of veteran outfielder that would fit a contending team. I just don’t
think he will find his perfect fit this offseason.
I don’t think the Braves will bring him back into the fold, which could lead him back to his first team, the Baltimore Orioles.
Markakis loved his time in Baltimore and still lives there in the off season. By re-joining the team, he would get plenty of opportunity as a corner outfielder and would be a veteran presence in a locker room that is sure to see its fair share of young faces over the next few seasons.
39. Derek Holland – Giants. Two years, $15MM.
The Giants struck lightning in a bottle with Holland, who had struggled for several years with injury and performance issues before coming to San Francisco.
In 2018, Holland pitched to a 3.57 ERA over 30 starts.
With the team cash-strapped and seeking depth options for its rotation, I’d expect them to be able to come to an agreement with Holland, who won’t break the bank for the Giants.
40. Bud Norris – Rays. Two years, $12MM.
The Rays are never huge players in free agency, as they are a small market team.
I do expect them to dabble in the pitching market, which could lead to an agreement with a reliever like Norris.
Tampa Bay lacks veteran options for the back end of its bullpen, and Norris has experience in both set up and closer duties. Last season, Norris saved a career-high 28 games for the Cardinals.
I think he could fit the Rays because he won’t break the bank.
41. Brad Brach – Cardinals. Two years, $14MM.
Brach is coming off a strange 2018.
He struggled in his first 42 appearances with the Orioles, but once he was traded to the Braves, Brach had a 1.52 ERA over his last 27 games.
His second half of the season should allow him to cash in, and even take on a closer’s role for some team.
In my opinion, the Cardinals could be a good fit, after they presumably lose former closer Bud Norris to free agency.
42. Wade Miley – Brewers. Two years, $12MM.
Miley’s career looked to be on life support, after back-to-back seasons of ERAs above 5.00. However, a move to the National League must have revived Miley, as he posted a 2.57 ERA over 16 starts with the Brewers.
I think the team will look to seize the lightning in a bottle it found, and bring back Miley on a cheap, two-year deal.
43. Garrett Richards – Reds. Two years, $15MM.
Richards has been a hard-luck pitcher, who keeps dealing with elbow injuries.
After undergoing Tommy John Surgery in July, Richards isn’t a lock to pitch until August or September in 2019, so this signing would really be for 2020.
However, when healthy, Richards has shown that he has ace-like stuff, which would make a gamble such as this palatable for the Reds, who are in dire need of starting pitching.
Other teams that could fit Richards would be teams like the Marlins, Nationals or Brewers, but I don’t think you can rule out a reunion with the Angels either.
44. Jesse Chavez – Cubs. One year, $5MM.
Chavez has said it’s pitch for the Chicago Cubs again or retire.
After posting a 1.15 ERA and a 42-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio since being acquired by the Texas Rangers in a midseason deal, it’s safe to say that Chicago won’t mind bringing him back.
45. CC Sabathia – Yankees. One year, $8MM.
Sabathia has re-signed already, but it was never really in doubt he would be a Yankee. (I’m 1 for 50, I guess!)
46. Adam Jones – Orioles. One year, $8MM.
Jones made it perfectly clear at this year’s trade deadline that he likes playing in Baltimore.
Now, the team has fully embarked on its rebuild, which may change Jones’ line of thinking.
However, I think his market won’t materialize in a big way either, making a return to the Orioles possible. Jones can serve as a veteran leader in the clubhouse while soaking up at-bats in the corner outfield.
47. Martin Maldonado – Rockies. Two years, $8MM.
Maldonado has proven to be a solid defensive catcher throughout his entire career, but lacks a big bat. A team with a young rotation, like the Rockies, could use Maldonado to handle its pitching staff, making him a fit.
A number of other teams, like the Nationals, Orioles, and Dodgers could be interested as well.
48. Kurt Suzuki – Braves. Two years, $10MM.
The Braves have had a good thing going the past two seasons with a platoon of Suzuki and C Tyler Flowers.
The team has already brought Flowers back into the fold, and I would expect Suzuki to make a return to Atlanta as well.
He provides a solid offensive punch at a cheap price, and with the situation in Atlanta (to start for a young, competitive team), I don’t think Suzuki would want to leave.
49. Ervin Santana – Twins. One year, $6MM.
Santana dealt with injury issues all last season, as a torn ligament in his finger left him able to pitch in only 5 games. In those contests, he posted an ERA over 8.00.
He will be looking to rebuild his value on a short term deal, and with his familiarity with the team, I think Santana fits as a return candidate for the Twins.
50. Drew Pomeranz – Orioles. One year, $6MM.
Pomeranz is coming off of the worst year of his career, after he posted a 6.08 ERA for the Red Sox in 2018.
That makes him the perfect buy-low candidate, and a team seeking veteran options for the rotation could pounce.
Baltimore could certainly add a few arms to its rotation mix, which is why I would expect the team to be interested in Pomeranz.
It’s definitely fun to run through these predictions each year, but the baseball marketplace can often be weird, and hard to predict.
This off season provides a unique challenge as a number of bullpen arms are available, and can almost be interchangeable for different teams.
Hope you enjoyed my predictions, and check out how I’m doing all off season long.