This list is of the top tier free agents in the upcoming free agent class. These players are about to make some serious dough, and deserve every penny. I will be making predictions on where I believe they will land, and explaining my reasoning behind it.
Yu Darvish: Los Angeles Dodgers
Yu Darvish has been an ace over the course of his career but has had a slightly down year for his own standards. Darvish went 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA over the course of 31 starts and 186.2 IP. He is also already 31 which is typically the age where players begin to regress. With that said, has a career ERA of 3.42 and has proven to be a very impactful player over his five-year MLB career.
Why the Dodgers?
Darvish was traded to Los Angeles at the deadline for three minor league prospects, 2B/OF Willie Calhoun, RHP A.J. Alexy, and SS Brendon Davis. Calhoun was the Dodgers 4th best prospect according to MLB.com as a former 4th round pick in 2015. He made his debut with the Rangers on September 13th, has hit .265 and got his first major league homerun off his bucket list. The Dodgers would not trade away a guy like Calhoun and more for a three-month rental. Darvish is expected to sign a deal worth roughly five-years, $114 million ($22.8 million/year) according to spotrac.com. A contract of that size is manageable for the Dodgers massive payroll, while still knocking many teams out of the running. It is also a major factor that the Dodgers will get to negotiate with him before he is an unrestricted free agent. He also has never pitched in a cold climate, going from Japan to Texas so a place like Los Angelis should be very appealing to him. The Dodgers are going to re-sign Yu Darvish to get the one-two punch with Kershaw that they have been missing since Grienke left for Arizona.
J.D. Martinez: Boston Red Sox
J.D. Martinez went on an absolute tear this season, especially since joining the Diamondbacks. Martinez hit .303 with 45 homeruns and 104 RBI’s in only 119 games played. 45 bombs and 104 RBI’s is a phenomenal season period. The fact that he only played in 119 games and put up those numbers cannot be understated. He had a .690 slugging percentage which was the best in the MLB this year. J.D. hit 29 homers and drove in 65 batters since joining the Diamondbacks post-season surge on July 18th. Had Martinez not switched leagues at the deadline he would be in the MVP discussion right now. J.D. is one of the most underrated players in the game and should finally get his big payday at some point this offseason. Martinez will be going into his age 30 season, so this will be his only shot to break the bank.
Why the Red Sox?
The Sox struggled mightily to get the ball out of the park in 2017, coming in last place in the homerun department for the American League. There is no better way to increase that number than to sign a guy that hits for power like Martinez. The Sox are sick of getting pummeled in the ALDS every year and proved that by firing John Farrell. Dave Dombrowski will be ready to make more changes, so don’t be surprised to see Jackie Bradley dealt to free up a spot for an offensive superstar.
Martinez is projected to sign a five-year, $130 million contract according to spotrac.com. Boston is one of a few teams that can afford to pay $26 million a year for a slugger like J.D. Martinez. Stick J.D in left, move Benintendi over to CF and keep Betts in right and we are looking at a Red Sox outfield that could produce around 80 homers, hit for average, and play above average defense. Martinez is often criticized for his lackluster defense, but having that short wall could really make up for his lack of range. Expect Martinez to draw a lot of interest from these teams: Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Giants, Cardinals, Angels and possibly even the Yankees.
Jake Arrieta: Texas Rangers
Jake Arrieta will hit free agency as a 32-year-old RHP which could be a problem for a long-term deal. However, the MLB pays people for what they have done, not what they are expected to do. Arrieta posted a 14-10 record and 3.53 ERA in 2017, logging 168.1 IP. While his numbers are not ace-worthy, his stats were inflated by a rough start of the season. Since May 21st, Arrieta put up a 2.68 ERA in 18 starts, which shows his ability to be frontline starter has not diminished. Since becoming a Cub in 2013, Jake has a 68-31 record and a staggering 2.73 ERA in 128 starts. Based on his large sample of success and his incredible 2015 Cy-Young season (22-6, 1.77 ERA) he should make a somewhere between $25 to $30 million a year. He is already 32 so a four to five-year deal should be expected.
Why the Rangers?
The Cubs and their entire fanbase seem to expect him to move on this offseason. Arrieta was born and raised in Texas and attended TCU before being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 5th Round of the 2007 MLB Draft. He currently lives in Austin, Texas in the off-season making the Rangers a perfect fit from Arrieta’s perspective. The Rangers need a new frontline starter after trading Yu Darvish at the deadline. Arrieta is the only free agent pitcher capable of replacing Darvish. Spotrac.com expects Arrieta to sign a five-year, $130 million deal.
Eric Hosmer: Boston Red Sox
Eric Hosmer is the by far the best option at first base this free agent period. He hit .318 with 25 homers with 94 RBI’s. He is a 28-year-old left-handed hitter that has had sustained success in the big leagues over the last seven seasons. Hosmer is a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, and 2016 All-Star. He is a legitimate five tool athlete. He is a career .284 hitter and hit 25 homers each of the last two seasons. Hosmer has 60 career stolen bases and is a premier defender which proves his ability as a five-tool machine.
Why the Red Sox?
The Boston Red Sox will have to be aggressive this offseason if they want to catchup to the 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros and edge out the up and coming New York Yankees for the division title. Hosmer would be a huge boost in the lineup without sacrificing any defense. He would be that guy in the middle of the order that scares a pitcher, something the Red Sox did not have in 2017.
Eric Hosmer’s agent is Scott Boras, who is known to go for the most money over all other factors. He will try to get a lot more money than expected for Hosmer meaning the big market teams are going to be the most involved. The Yankees are content with developing Greg Bird, The Dodgers have young superstar Cody Bellinger, and the Cubs have a perennial All-Star in Anthony Rizzo. Even the Giants have Belt locked down until 2021 and the Nationals have Zimmerman until 2020. I do not expect many other teams to get into the running except for the Royals who will be laughed at by Boras. Spotrac.com expects Hosmer to be worth six-years, $98 million, but expect Boras to get that number over $100 million. The Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski should make this negotiation a quick one as both sides should get what they want here.
Jay Bruce: Colorado Rockies
Jay Bruce is a three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner as a 30-year-old corner outfielder. He can also play first-base as he played the position 12 times in 2017. He hit .254 this season with an impressive 36 homers and drove in 101 baserunners. Bruce will provide a spark to the lineup wherever he lands and could have a major impact up in the Colorado mountains.
Why the Rockies?
The Indians do not expect to re-sign the 30-year-old left-handed power bat. They already have four lefty outfield options in Brantley, Chisenhall, Zimmer, and Naquin. Cleveland poses a great playoff atmosphere, but they are not a large market by any means, so they are not expected to retain Bruce or Santana this offseason.
The Rockies are not expected to re-sign Carlos Gonzalez after an abysmal season in 2017. Not only will that clear up Right Field, but it also frees up $20 million to spend this free agency. Greg Holland has already declined his option, so they will not be throwing $15 million his way, though he expected to get a qualifying offer. Holland will be searching for a multi-year deal meaning he is almost certainly moving on. The Rockies could use Desmond and Bruce interchangeably at 1B and RF. They could also platoon Desmond with Gerardo Parra in Left Field, and keep Bruce in Right Field to let top prospect Ryan McMahon play First-base. Regardless of how the lineup shakes out, Bruce should go to a contender after tasting the post-season with Cleveland this season. Jay Bruce is worth a contract of five-years, $113 million ($22.6 million per year). Every year there are certain players who have to wait out free agency and are forced to settle for less than what they deserve. Bruce has not garnered a ton of interest to this point and looks to be one of those unfortunate players. The Rockies have freed up money and could get Bruce for less than he is worth. He would maximize his value playing 81 games in the most hitter friendly ballpark in the league and could make a run at 40 dingers in Colorado.
Mike Moustakas: San Francisco Giants
Mike Moustakas is a fan favorite in Kansas City. He was part of the core that led the Royals to World Series Championship in 2015. Moose is a two-time All-Star who broke out in 2017. He hit .272 with 38 homeruns and 85 RBI’s. He shined in 2015, but was injured almost all of 2016 which halted his rise to stardom. He hit .284 with 22 homers and drove in 82 baserunners in 2015. Moose is a career .251 hitter with sporadic power numbers in his career but has shown that he is on the upswing of his career at 29-years-old. Moustakas is an above average defender and can provide some power in the middle of the order.
Why the Giants?
The Giants need a third-baseman, unless you believe in Pablo Sandoval long-term. For the record you shouldn’t. The Giants have a phenomenal market and currently own the second highest payroll in the Majors behind the Dodgers. While San Francisco had a terrible year, the team still has a strong core that includes the best catcher in the game (Posey), as well as one of the greatest post-season pitchers of all time (Bumgarner). The fans would love to get behind a workhorse like Moose and they would sell a lot of merchandise with the whole “Moose” brand, cite Panda years ago. If the Giants add a guy like Mike Moustakas to a lineup and get some outfield help, they will be contenders once again. Moose is projected to sign a six-year, $99 million contract ($16.6 million per year). San Francisco can afford this contract making Mike Moustakas a good fit for the Giants. The Giants should watch out for the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels.
Lorenzo Cain: Seattle Mariners
Lorenzo Cain was a 2015 All-Star with a career .290 batting average and is an elite defender. Cain hit an even .300 with 15 homers and 49 RBI’s. He is already 31-years-old and struggles to provide power and drive in runs which will hurt his chances of landing a large paycheck this winter. With that said, he is an elite contact hitter and can provide 25 to 30 steals a season with the potential to hit 15 homers. He will play elite defense even as an older free agent.
Why the Mariners?
Seattle will lose Jarrod Dyson to free agency, and need a boost in CF the get into the post-season. Cain could upgrade that outfield that already has Mitch Haniger and Ben Gamel in the corner spots as well as Guillermo Heredia coming off the bench. Cain can get on base for guys like Cruz, Cano, and Seager. Segura and Cain could swipe some bags with the power guys knocking them in and create a potent lineup. Lorenzo is expected to get a four-year, $59 million deal ($14.8 million per year). This is a reasonable contract for both sides and should get done this offseason.
Wade Davis: Chicago Cubs
Wade Davis has been a forced to be reckoned with since becoming a closer in 2014. As a reliever he has a 28-7 record,1.65 ERA and 79 saves in 87 attempts. In 2017 Davis posted a 2.30 ERA and converted 32/33 save opportunities. He has been an All-Star three times, from 2015-2017. The only remotely negative thing about Davis is that he is 32-years-old.
Why the Cubs?
Chicago will need a lock down closer to maintain dominance in the NL Central Division. There are rumors that the Cubs have Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Wilson waiting in the wings to replace the perennial All-Star, but I just do not buy it. Davis will not break the bank because he is handicapped by his age. Retaining Wade Davis is the easiest decision to make this offseason and Theo Epstein is known to be a pretty smart guy. Speaking of Theo, this is what he had to say when asked about Davis earlier this season: “We hope every good player we have now is back. But that’s a discussion for another day.” Well today is that day Epstein and Wade Davis, I’d say he’s a pretty good player. Spotrac.com has Davis valued at three-years, $44.9 million. That’s a contract that the Cubs can afford and would be quite the steal for a first-place team trying to get back in the World Series. If the World Series is not enough motivation by itself, the Cardinals would be the most likely landing spot outside of Chicago. Cubs fans would not love to see Wade Davis in a Cardinals uniform, neither should the players or the organization.
Lance Lynn: Houston Astros
Lance Lynn went 12-11 record with a 3.43 ERA in 186.1 IP. Lynn is a 30-year-old RHP. He has a career ERA of 3.38 in 183 games, 161 of which were starts. He has sustained success at the big-league level for six-seasons and can boost a rotation.
Why the Astros?
When asked if he would be making his last start as a Cardinal on September 28th Lynn responded with “it certainly looks that way”. The Cardinals know Lynn will be chasing a deal north of $15 million a year, which they do not want to pay. Spotrac.com expects Lynn to sign a four-year, $67 million contract ($16.9 million per year) this offseason with the Houston Astros.
If the Astros could roll out Verlander, Keuchel, Lynn, McCullers, and Brad Peacock they would be primed for another deep post-season. Lynn would be the perfect three on almost any team. The Astros need to have a stellar rotation if they are going to roll out an average at best bullpen and contend. Houston was very interested in Lance Lynn at the deadline and will continue to have interest even with the addition of Verlander.
Zack Cozart: Arizona Diamondbacks
Zack Cozart had a breakout season in his contract year. He hit .297 with 24 homeruns and 63 RBI’s. Cozart made his first All-Star game as a 32-year-old right-handed Shortstop. While this season was magic, he is a career .254 hitter and never hit more than 16 homers before this season. He has also never exceeded 63 RBI’s, but he has reached that mark twice. His lack of sustained success has affected his market, as no team has stood out as a team that will go after him this offseason.
Why the Diamondbacks?
I am basing this prediction purely on what I believe would be a good fit. The Diamondbacks used seven players at shortstop in 2017. Cozart would bring stability to the position. He is only expected to sign a three-year, $41 million contract according to spotrac.com. $13.6 million a year is reasonable to lock down the captain of the infield.
Scott Neville – WTF Sports