Baseball players like to change teams. Or at least it seems that way. It’s doubtful that if you ask a player if he would like to uproot his life and move across the country that he’d say yes, but it never stops them. Seemingly more so than in any other sport, baseball players get relocated.
Around the trade deadline in July, it’s not uncommon for the number of players getting traded to hit double digits in just one day! Free agency is a whole other monster. In this past offseason, of the 51 MLB players who earned a contract above $5 million, only 8 of them remained on the team they were on in 2016. And that includes the likes of Rich Hill and Carlos Gomez who joined their teams over halfway through the season.
Team loyalty seems to be a thing of the past, gone the ways of Derek Jeter and David Ortiz. By 2018, the MLB will have a whole new look to it. Here are 15 stars who will be on a different team by then.
15 CC Sabathia
In 2008, the Yankees had missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. The front office dedicated that offseason to fixing the team and bringing the franchise back to its glory days. Amongst their major acquisitions that winter was former Cy Young winner CC Sabathia. The signing worked out as planned and the Yankees ended the 2009 season raising a 27th World Series banner. It’s been seven seasons since then and Sabathia is the only remaining star from that season left on the team.
However, this may be the last season that you’ll be able to see the old ace in Pinstripes. CC will likely not receive an offer from his current team following the 2017 season as they would be wise to save the roster spot for a younger talent. He has been injured a lot over the past few seasons and hasn’t won more than 10 games since 2014. Barring a miraculous bounce-back, Sabathia could only find a place on a team desperate to get some fans in their stands. If CC bounces back, he still isn’t anything more than trade bait for the rebuilding Yanks.
14 Jayson Werth
Jayson Werth’s enormous contract from the Washington Nationals was their way of announcing, “We’re ready to play with the big boys, but not win a championship.” Werth had one All-Star selection and a handful of underappreciated seasons, but the Nats gave him the 14th richest contract in baseball history. Through his contract, Werth has played respectfully, but with less than 100 homers and a batting average of .267, fans can’t be thrilled about their $126 million-dollar-man. Werth will be looking for a new contract at the end of this year, and he’s likely to get one, but it will likely be anywhere but Washington.
The Nats top two non-pitching prospects are outfielders, and with the much younger Adam Eaton, and Superstar Bryce Harper also being on the team, Werth could just lose his spot. The Nationals may attempt to move Werth to another team around the trade deadline as a lot of teams may covet a veteran with playoff experience. If they opt to keep the veteran through the playoff push, it will likely be his last in DC. Werth will get another contract with another team in 2018 and MLB fans will be able to watch him play for a bit longer.
13 Jake Arrieta
The Cubs are in for a rude awakening when they realize how easy they’ve had it. Through a series of brilliant moves, the Cubs roster is stacked with some of the cheapest talent that the MLB has to offer. MVP Kris Bryant makes $652,000 a year, Kyle Hendricks makes $541,000 a year while Kyle Schwarber makes $522,000. These players are going to be asking for some pay raises ASAP. However, the team needs to worry about losing ace Jake Arrieta. Arrieta is a free agent following this season and while The Cubs have reportedly spoken with the Cy Young winner about an extension, the two remain far apart.
It seems as though Arrieta is going to test the free agent waters at the end of the season, and come out with a large paycheck. The Cubs will need to decide where they spend their money, and if they see Arrieta as a greater long-term investment than some of his teammates. With so much money already tied to other players, and younger stars looking to cash in, the chance of Arrieta heading elsewhere is high. He would be the number one free agent of 2017 and some big money teams may be looking for a pitcher (Yankees, Angels, Rangers). That’s a tough concept for anyone to pass up.
12 Curtis Granderson
Granderson is one of the most confusing players in the MLB. Outside of a handful of seasons, Granderson’s numbers can be described as average, but he receives the fanfare of a superstar at times. The 35-year-old is making a lot of money to platoon in one of the deepest outfields in the MLB, and his “star” status is a big reason why the Mets won’t move him. Once the Mets re-signed Yoenis Cespedes it appeared that they would be moving on from either Granderson or Jay Bruce to make room for youngster Michael Conforto. We are less than 3 months away from Spring Training and both veterans are still Mets.
The aging outfielder has failed to produce 100 RBIs since 2012 and hasn’t hit above .260 since 2011. He may bring veteran leadership, but that’s all he can really provide for the Mets who already have a steady veteran presence. Granderson could be used in a trade to bring in a new group of relievers or a new third baseman to New York. Even if he’s not, it’s very unlikely that the Mets give him a new contract at the end of the year. Expect to see Granderson in a new jersey by 2018.
11 Ubaldo Jimenez
Ubaldo Jimenez is a magician. He has somehow turned one 19-win season into a $50 dollar contract within a four-year span. The former ace has had some decent seasons, but hasn’t had an All-Star appearance since that phenomenal 2010 season. The Baltimore Orioles, who gave Jimenez his large contract, cannot be happy with the production they got out of him. In 2016, he went 8-12 with a 5.44 ERA, his career high. The Orioles attempted to move Jimenez many times over the past three years, but frankly no team wanted him.
Now that he is playing on the final year of his contract, there is a chance that Baltimore can find someone to pawn him off on, but only if that team was desperate. Someone will give Jimenez a chance come 2018, he will only be 34 and may play for cheap if a contender shows interest. The best spot for Jimenez would be with his old squad in Colorado. The Rockies have almost no one who can start a game for them and they are desperate for fans to come back. They may be intrigued to see the former CY Young winner take the mound again.
10 Eric Hosmer
The Kansas City Royals are going to find themselves in a tough spot come 2018. After giving fan-favorite and three-time All-Star Alex Gordon to a lucrative deal, the Royals may have tied their hands for a while. The Royals, who have never been known as a team that can spend money, had to watch their best free agents switch teams this past summer. Kansas City simply couldn’t afford them. This is partly because much of their money is tied up with Gordon (who thanked his team with a career-worst season), but also because 2017 is going to be a rough winter one for the Royals’ pocketbook.
At the end of this season, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, third baseman Mike Moustakas, shortstop Alcides Escobar, and first baseman Eric Hosmer will all be free agents. All four men were important pieces to the Royals back-to-back World Series runs and could be the top available players at their respective positions. There is no way that the small-market Royals are going to be able to pay for all four; they will have to let someone go.
Hosmer, the 2016 All-Star game MVP will be the hottest bat on the market in 2018 and may demand the most money. However, the Royals can do without him as they have multiple prospects who play at first base. They will need to retain Cain and Escobar as they have no one ready to play either position. While they may lose him as well, Moustakas should be the higher priority because he can actually field his position. Hosmer’s below average glove makes him an expendable piece for the defensive-minded Royals, they may have to let him walk.
9 Carlos Gonzalez
It wasn’t long ago when National League fans were watching for a Triple Crown winner. Before Miguel Cabrera hit for the first Triple Crown since 1967, there was a three-man race between Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun, and Carlos Gonzalez to see who could do it. It looked like the offensive prowess of the National league was never going to end. Then they all ran into a metaphorical "brick wall". Pujols went to the Angels and forgot how to play, Braun became one of the most hated names in sports, and Gonzalez‘s body just broke down. The Rockies’ slugger is coming up to the end of a 7-year $80 million contract and the question still remains: can he make a comeback?
While he doesn’t put up the mind-boggling numbers that he used to, Gonzalez is still a top-level hitter in the MLB and could be a valuable asset to any team. The Rockies have always been tentative to part with him because of his potential, but the struggling squad could find themselves rich with prospects if they trade the free agent-to-be in July. Even if they don’t, it is likely that Gonzalez follows in Pujols’ footsteps and makes a move to the American League. His health is always in question and so he may want to spend some time as a DH to lengthen his career. Contenders like the Astros and Yankees will be looking for a bat in 2018 and Gonzalez might be just that.
8 Michael Pineda
Michael Pineda has been called a lot of things. Phenom, fireballer, and All-Star come to mind, but he is most known as a hot-head. The young pitcher has had what can be described as a colorful career in the MLB. Following an All-Star rookie season in Seattle, the Mariners dumped him onto the Yankees where he has gone through some ups and downs. He gets into clubhouse spats, then gets injured, then gets caught cheating, then throws nearly perfect games. His talent is unquestioned, but his personality has been tough to manage.
Many teams would be happy to put up with his attitude if he could just be consistent on the mound. In 2016, he averaged 10 strikeouts per 9 innings, a career high and best in the AL. However, he also had an ERA of 4.82, also a career high. The Yankees may try to trade Pineda in July if they find themselves out of contention again, and chances are they could find someone willing to take a shot on him. When Pineda finds himself on the open market, he will go to whoever pays him the most, no questions asked. We expect to see him putting on a Rangers jersey by 2018.
7 Kyle Schwarber
After his unbelievable World Series performance it may be a bit surprising to hear that the Cubs are considering parting ways with young slugger Kyle Schwarber, but the rumors are real for a reason. After missing all of the 2016 season, Schwarber proved that the Cubs do not need him to win. Yes, he helped in October, but he played a very small role in the team’s curse breaking run. At best, he was a nice surprise. We already touched on the Cubs’ future financial woes, but they could help alleviate that by trading Schwarber. The 23-year-old can’t field. In fact, his poor fielding was a huge reason why the Mets beat the Cubs in the 2015 playoffs. He was out all of 2016, and the Cubs were still clearly the best team.
There are many more reasons to part with him than keep him. Why the Cubs should keep him: he’s 23. That’s about it. Why should they trade him? Two of the Cubs top five prospects are outfielders who have better gloves than Schwarber. Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both have great bats—most of the time—and are better fielding options. Plus, the Cubs could trade Schwarber for a All-Star catcher or a slew of bullpen arms to fix their problem areas. Not to mention, it would be in Schwarber’s best interest to play for an AL club where he could be a DH. We think the choice is clear.
6 Adrian Beltre
Adrian Beltre is on the borderline of a Hall-of-Fame career. He is widely thought of as the best-fielding third baseman in the game, and his bat is still one of the best the sport has to offer. Despite not making an All-Star team until his 13th season, Beltre has been a premier player in the MLB for close to 20 years now. Like a fine wine, Beltre has gotten better with age. The Captain seemed to have hit his stride after going to the Texas Rangers at the age of 32, and this year they gave him a two-year, $36 million contract to end his career.
However, there is a good chance the Rangers choose to part ways with the Captain sooner than expected. 2017 will be Beltre’s 20th season in the MLB, and despite hitting .300 last year, rarely do hitter keep producing after that long. With future stars Jurikson Profar and Joey Gallo both looking for a starting role on the teams and the Rangers looking at some of their top player nearing free agency, opening up the third base spot and unloading a large contract may be the Rangers best hope to stay competitive long term. Beltre would be very missed by the team, but that’s the business of Baseball. Don’t be too shocked if Beltre is playing in Washington by 2018.
5 Andrew McCutchen
One of the unanswered questions from 2016 is “what the &^$* happened to Andrew McCutchen?” The former MVP was downright bad for the Pirates last year. He had a career-worst batting average of .256, a career low 6 stolen bases, a career high 143 strikeouts, and his lowest RBI total since 2010. His fielding was also below average and the Pirates announced they would be moving him from center field to right field for 2017. With the Cubs and Cardinals equipped to battle for the NL Central crown for the foreseeable future, it may be time for the Pirates to rebuild.
Their top prospect Austin Meadows is one of the best outfielder prospects in the MLB and Pittsburgh already have young fielders Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte locked up long term. They’ll either need Cutch to learn a new position, or play on a new team soon so that they can get their future started. McCutchen has two years left on his contract, so he could command a lot on the trade market, assuming he has a bounce-back season. Expect the Pirates to be active in July shipping big names around the country, and Andrew McCutchen will certainly be one of them.
4 Brett Gardner
Sabathia may be the last remaining star for the Yankees last World Series, but Brett Gardner is the last remaining “good" player from that team. Sabathia may have deteriorated, but Gardner is still a serviceable option for any team. Gardner’s fame—if you can call it that—has greatly benefited because he plays for the Yankees. He is far from a star, but don’t make the mistake believing he is no good. Gardner has the potential to hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases, and win a gold glove for any team in the league.
If the Yankees can move Gardner come July, they should. Three of their top five prospects are outfielders and that’s not including Mason Williams and Aaron Hicks, who are both younger than Gardner. Young contenders may want Gardner to add a veteran into their clubhouse for the playoff push. Teams like the Mariners, Mets, or White Sox could overspend for a player with Gardner’s history and ability. The Yankees will pull the trigger quickly to open up a spot in the field to see what their youngsters can do at the highest level.
3 Todd Frazier
Todd Frazier was one of the brightest young stars in the game. The third baseman was a phenom in Cincinnati, knocking homers out of the park while playing solid defense. He became a household name when he won the 2015 Homerun Derby. Last offseason, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox in a move that was meant to push the team into playoff contention. It didn’t work out that way. The White Sox continued to be a mediocre team, and Frazier’s production was partly the reason why. He may have had a career high 40 home runs, but he also had his lowest career batting average (.225).
Frazier is coming up to the end of his current contract and will be looking for a big pay-day in 2018. The White Sox have 11 players hitting free agency so they may not be willing to give Frazier the money he will demand, which will easily surpass $80 million. If the White Sox aren’t fighting for a playoff spot in July, Frazier will be among the biggest names on the trade block and most teams would be interested in a third baseman capable of hitting 40 home runs and driving in 100 RBIs. Moving Frazier would open up a spot for the White Sox to bring up top prospect Yoan Moncada, which would be a better option for the young squad.
2 Jeremy Hellickson
Despite winning Rookie of the Year, Jeremy Hellickson has yet to replicate the dominance he showed back in 2011. Injuries have greatly affected the man’s career, but if last year was any indication, Hellickson is going to be a player to watch. In 2016, Hellickson had double-digit wins and an ERA below four for the first time since 2012. He is in a contract year in 2017 so there is incentive for him to play even better. We expect him to have a career year as it’s the first time in his career that he will be healthy.
The Phillies have a surplus of young starters eyeing a spot in the rotation, and with both Clay Buchholz and Hellickson hitting free agency they will need to find their future ace. The Phillies are a few years away from competing, and signing a 31-year-old injury prone veteran is not the way to build a team. Expect Hellickson to find a new home after this year. If he stays healthy, he’ll be worth the price tag, but chances are that he’ll become the same Jeremy Hellickson we’ve known for the past half-decade.
1 Yu Darvish
Yu Darvish is the epitome of the Texas Rangers organization over the past few years. He came to the team as a high priced free agent with all the potential in the world. He did not disappoint. Since coming to the MLB, Darvish has been one of the most dominating pitchers. Every time he takes the mound, it feels like there’s a chance of a no-hitter. Despite all of that, Darvish has been inured for much of his time in Texas, and with his contract running out following 2017, Yu might be looking to move.
Part of the reason Darvish picked the Rangers was due to their back-to-back World Series appearances while having one of the better young squads in the game. Now, despite still being a playoff contender, the Rangers haven’t been past the first round of the playoffs since Darvish joined the team. While he is one of the most talented pitchers in the league, the Rangers may let him walk as he will demand a lot of money and they may prefer to lock up the more experienced Cole Hamels. Darvish will be the most demanded free agent and it’s unlikely that a team like the Yankees or Dodgers will let him get through free agency and wind up back in Dallas.