It’s Feburary 12th, which means that pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training! However, the game’s top free agents remained unsigned, and as of now it’s unclear where any of them will sign. Still, let’s use the few clues we have to predict the landing spot for the top six remaining free agents!
3B Mike Moustakas
Coming off a 2.5 WAR season, Mike Moustakas seemed like a lock for a multi-year deal. However, for the second straight offseason, the 30-year-old has struggled to generate strong interest on the free agent market. The Philadelphia Phillies may see Moustakas as a Plan B if they can’t sign Manny Machado, yet they may just give Maikel Franco another chance rather than sign Moustakas. The Brewers are interested in bringing Moustakas back on a one year deal, per Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic, but that would bump Travis Shaw and block top second base prospect Keston Huira. That leaves us left with one terrific fit, the San Diego Padres. They’re “going after” Moustakas, per AJ Cassavell of MLB.Com, who also states that San Diego has prioritized acquiring a third baseman. Currently, Ty France would be the team’s starting third baseman, which isn’t a great look for a team that is trying to improve and become more attractive for future free agents. Moustakas is also from Southern California, so he also may be interested in reuniting with former teammate Eric Hosmer in San Diego. Moustakas is a perfect short-term solution for the Padres, who are an appealing destination for him. It make too much sense for it not to happen.
Prediction: Moustakas Signs 2 Year, $18 Million Deal With Padres
CP Craig Kimbrel
Heading into the offseason, it looked like Craig Kimbrel was destined to earn a monster contract in free agency, and for good reason. The 30-year-old closer has 333 career saves and a career 2.74 ERA. However, concerns about regression following a second half in which he posted a 4.77 ERA and a shaky postseason, combined with the fact that he reportedly is still seeking at least a five-year deal, has left him unsigned on the open market. Unfortunately for Kimbrel, there aren’t a lot of suitors for him. The Red Sox could re-sign them, but they seem unwilling to go over the $246 million luxury tax threshold. Kimbrel’s first team, the Braves, make some sense, but they also appear to be reluctant to spend significant amount of money on a closer. The Phillies have been linked to Kimbrel, but they’re currently occupied with trying to sign Bryce Harper or Machado. Therefore, Kimbrel’s best bet is actually with the Minnesota Twins. Minnesota is interested in the closer on a short-term deal with a high annual value, according to Dan Hayes of The Athletic. That’s the type of deal that Kimbrel will likely have to sign, and it makes a lot of sense for a young team with plenty of money to spend. With the Indians cutting salary, the Twins see a chance to make a run at the division. Signings of Nelson Cruz and Jonathan Schoop have upgraded the offense, while their rotation could use a veteran arm, but looks set for the most part. However, their bullpen is a major issue with no clear-cut closer on the roster, and Kimbrel would give them much-needed stability in the late innings. Kimbrel may also enjoy feasting on a weak division with three rebuilding teams (White Sox, Tigers, Royals), where he may find even more success than he had in the AL East. It will end up being a disappointing offseason for Kimbrel, who I project will have to settle for a two-year deal, but the Twins may actually be the perfect spot for him.
Prediction: Kimbrel Signs Two Year, $37 Million Deal With Twins
UTIL Marwin Gonzalez
There may be no free agent as unique as Marwin Gonzalez. The 29-year-old can play virtually every position, and had a .907 OPS in 2017. However, he regressed to a .733 OPS, and apparently came into the offseason seeking a deal worth around $60 million, according to Buster Olney of ESPN. Due to his versatility, he’s a fit for practically every team, which made this the toughest prediction to make. The Indians, Rockies, White Sox, and Phillies could all use reinforcements in the outfield and would benefit from Gonzalez’s versatility. However, the first two look unwilling to spend much this free agency, and the other two haven’t been linked the utility man. It’s also possible Gonzalez could end up back with the Astros, yet it’s unclear where he fits after the team signed Michael Brantley this offseason. There may be no perfect fit for Gonzalez, but the best one is without a doubt the San Francisco Giants. It looked as though the 73-89 Giants would undergo a rebuild under new President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, but it looks like they’ll try to go for more of a retool instead. That means they’ll try to build up the farm system while trying to remain relevant and in the Wild Card race. If that’s the case, they could use Gonzalez for a variety of reasons. For starters, their outfield currently consists currently of Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, and Austin Slater. Duggar is a solid, young player, but it’s no surprise Zaidi has claimed that he’ll add two outfielders prior to the start of the season. Outside of Harper, Gonzalez is the top remaining free agent. Plus, San Francisco’s aging infield has dealt with injuries last season, as three of their four starting infielders (Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Evan Longoria) missed significant time due to injuries last season. Gonzalez would give them the insurance they’ve lacked in that department as well. The Giants seem to be interested in making short-term commitments as they attempt to continue to make some sort of attempt to win with their World Series core. Gonzalez’s maximum contract length would likely be three years, and San Francisco has signaled that they’ll make the financial commitments necessary to attract a player of Gonzalez’s caliber.
Prediction: Gonzalez Signs Three Year, $31 Million Deal With Giants
SP Dallas Keuchel
Similar to his former teammate in Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel’s reason for being unsigned is less to do with him rather than his asking price. Onlney reported that Keuchel was looking for six to seven year contract worth at least $25 million per year, and it’s not a surprise that no one was met that asking price for 31-year-old. After all, his ERA soared to 3.74 last season, and he’s no longer the pitcher he was when he won the AL CY Young in 2015. Still, he remains a quality pitcher who can provide a rotation with stability and innings, so many teams would definitely love to have him at a cheaper price. A reunion with the Astros makes sense, yet they look to be satisifed with giving opportunities to some of their young pitchers, while other pitcher needy teams like the Angels and Reds look to be done with spending this offseason. That leaves us with the Phillies. Philadelphia’s rotation isn’t bad, it ranked in the upper half in ERA last season, but they could use a third quality pitcher behind Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Furthermore, they don’t have a lefty in the rotation, nor anyone they can count on to pitch around 200 innings. Most importantly though, they have the finances to sign Keuchel to a three to four-year deal, and also have enough to continue to pursue Machado and Harper. The Philles are going all in in 2019, as they showed with the JT Realmuto acquistion, so expect them to do what it takes to add Keuchel to form a very strong rotation.
Prediction: Keuchel Signs Three Year, $50 Million Deal With $14 Million Player Option For Fourth Year With Phillies
SS Manny Machado
At last, we’ve reached the two “big dogs” available on the open market. After posting a strong 5.7 win season with a .905, Machado came into free agency demanding a contract worth more than the $325 million Giancarlo Stanton signed for with the Marlins a few offseasons ago. However, if the rumors are true, he’ll be lucky to get $200 million. For the 26-year-old, there’s three teams in on him: the Whitesox, Phillies, and possibly the Yankees. It’s unclear if a reported seven year, $220 million deal with New York is actually still on the table, and considering the amount of spending they’ve already done this offseason, it’s safe to say that they likely won’t come close to the other two bidders for Machado. That leaves us with Philadelphia and Chicago,and it’ll likely comes down to who will spend the most money. The White Sox are apparently sitting on a seven year, $175 million offer, and don’t seem willing to go overboard for Machado. Meanwhile, the Phillies are at risk of not signing Bryce Harper, so they’re more likely to get desperate and overbid for Machado with their “stupid money”. With the Phillies, Machado gets to go back to the east coast, which is what he perfers, and gets to play for a contender who offered the most money. Plus, unlike Moustakas, Machado is a major upgrade over Franco, and would turn Philadelphia’s offense into a lethal unit. It’s a great fit for both sides, and one was to wonder how long the Phillies will wait before turning their attention to Machado on a seven to eight-year deal.
Prediction: Machado Signs Eight Year, $244 Million Deal With Phillies
RF Bryce Harper
And finally, we reach the crown jewel of free agency, Bryce Harper. For Harper, picking a new team for him is easier than the rest, as it looks to be down to two teams: the Phillies and the Giants. Since the Phillies have already signed Keuchel and Machado in this scenario, you can guess where this is heading. Out of nowhere, the Giants have emerged as a legitimate suitor for Harper. Zaidi described the interest between the club and player as “mutual interest”, while Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Harper prefers the Giants, and if the money is close, he’ll choose them. San Francisco needs a star to continue to increase attendance, and Harper may be the most marketable star in baseball. Additionally, Harper is just 26-years-old, so he’s a long-term fit for the Giants even if they aren’t ready to win now. Harper is also one of the few sluggers who actually wants to play in their big ballpark, so San Francisco also should feel as though they ned to capitalize on this opportunity. It’s clear that Harper wants to play on the west coast and not for the Phillies. The only thing stopping the Giants from signing Harper is themselves, and although reports have said they prfer a shorter deal, I think they’ll be willing to go to eight or nine years on a front-loaded deal with some opt outs. Can Harper be the next Barry Bonds in SF? That remains to be seen. Still, it’s an excellent fit for both sides and a deal that should and probably will get done at some point.
Prediction: Harper Signs Nine Year, $282 Million Front-Loaded Contract With Opts Outs After Third and Fifth Year With Giants