The 2017 MLB season was a great one, but as we know, the landscape of the entire sport can change very quickly during the offseason, and with draft picks taking much longer to reach the big leagues in comparison to the NBA and NFL, the biggest changes will always come from free agency. Once the World Series is over, the rumor mill will be running in overdrive 24/7, so why not predict some of the signings that will be made heading into the 2018 season?
There are teams who can’t pay to keep some of their big names, and there are teams on the verge of the playoffs who need one big signing to put them over the top, so this could be an offseason that is impacting all of baseball for years to come. So here are our predictions for which free agents for the upcoming offseason will jump ship and which ones will stay with their team.
15 Change – Lorenzo Cain
The Kansas City Royals have fallen off quite a bit in the past two years, but they had a great run from 2014-2015, and that run culminated with a 2015 World Series victory, their first since 1985. The core of that run were Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Alceides Escobar, and with all of them coming off contract and likely looking for a big pay day, Cain will likely be on the way out. As the Royals are a small market team, it’s very likely that they will have to part with at least two, if not three out of four of those stars, and Cain will be desired by every team possible around the League, so he is one that is definitely going. San Francisco, Arizona, New York are all possible landing spots for the talented center fielder, but no matter where he lands, expect to see Cain playing for a contender in 2018.
14 Stay Put – Eric Hosmer
We’ve just talked about one of Kansas City’s stars who will be on the way out, and the reason for that is they only have the money for one, and from all indications, superstar first baseman Eric Hosmer seems to be the one that the Royals are most willing to give a max-contract too. Statistically, the 2017 season was the best of his career, so his value has never been higher, and with above-average defense at first, it’s crazy to think that the Royals would let him walk without offering as much as he wants. There is always the possibility that they go for Escobar, Moose or Cain, but given what we know about management and their feelings towards Hosmer, it’s hard to imagine him being anything but a Royal for life.
13 Change – Curtis Granderson
The Los Angeles Dodgers now have to be seen as the favorites to win the 2017 World Series, and that’s due to the sheer depth of talent they have in their lineup (their pitching staff isn’t half bad either), and when you have a former All-Star like Curtis Granderson sitting on your bench, you have to be confident in your team. Unfortunately, the Dodgers will only have use of Grandy’s talents for the year 2017, because he will be on the market again this offseason, and with guys like Puig, Seager and Bellinger all looking to get paid soon, they won’t have enough room to accommodate the former Yankees and Mets star. He won’t be on the money he got when he was last a free agent, but he is still certainly a serviceable outfielder, so there will be many teams after him, but it won’t be the Dodgers, that’s for certain.
12 Stay Put – Neil Walker
Neil Walker has been a very serviceable MLB player for quite some time with both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Mets, but in 2017, he took up a different challenge, and that was to be a key part in the Brewers lineup when he was traded from the Mets, and with the team seemingly on the rise, keeping a veteran like Walker could go a long way to seeing Milwaukee back in the playoffs. Their success will likely hinge on the improvement of their pitching and their young stars like Keon Broxton and Eric Thames, but having veterans like Walker and Ryan Braun will do just as much to help the team succeed. He isn’t going to be worth as much as some other free agents this offseason, so his signing will definitely go under the radar, but he could be a key signing for the Brewers in order to continue their rise in the NL Central.
11 Change – Lucas Duda
Lucas Duda was once one of the more feared hitters in the National League, but with the Mets gaining young position players, he was pushed out and eventually found his way to the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite not being the player he once was, he could still contribute to a team, so expect a contender to pick him up to be a valuable piece off the bench. His signing isn’t going to make waves, but Duda has been in the MLB for quite some time, so his veteran presence alone will be a key factor in a team picking him up, and although he won’t be getting a huge contract, he will be valued highly. Look for an American League team who needs depth at 1B/DH to bring him in during this upcoming offseason.
10 Stay Put – JD Martinez
The Arizona Diamondbacks were one of the biggest surprises in the entire MLB this season, and although they were swept by the LA Dodgers in the NLDS, they have plenty to look forward too in their future, and while they’ve got plenty of young stars on their team, it was the acquisition of JD Martinez that really solidified their playoff push, and they would be wise to bring him back in 2018. In Martinez, the D-Backs finally gave Paul Goldschmidt the protection in the lineup he deserved, and gives them more power threats, and if they can keep him and potentially add a new piece, they could contend with the Dodgers for the NL West crown. It may not be long term, as Martinez is definitely nearing the latter stage of his career, but it would be in the best interest of both parties to bring him back, and see if the team can sustain their success in a very tough division.
9 Change – Eduardo Nunez
Eduardo Nunez broke out in Minnesota during the 2016 season after failing to be Derek Jeter’s replacement in New York, but since that point he has bounced around to San Francisco during their disappointing 2016 season, and then with the Boston Red Sox in 2017. Expect 2018 to be no different, as he will likely be wearing another uniform for the new season. It’s tough to predict where Nunez will land, because he is such a versatile player, but any contender would be silly not to look at him, as he can hit for power and steal bases, and play several different positions. With the Red Sox having a hefty part of their salary paid towards guys like Chris Sale and David Price, it’s unlikely they’d be able to afford him, and with his talents, we should expect Nunez to go somewhere that he can play as a starter. We don’t know where that is, but it’s not Boston.
8 Stay Put – Johnny Cueto
It definitely wouldn’t have surprised anyone if Johnny Cueto were to opt-out of his contract with the San Francisco Giants after their struggles in the 2017 season, but from all reports he is very happy by the Bay, and if the Giants are to continue their even-year success, Cueto will be at the heart of that revival. With that being said, there is still a chance that Cueto will have a change of heart, especially if a team throws incredible money at him. But at this point in his career, he looks to have found a home in San Fran, and behind a hopefully healthy Madison Bumgarner, Cueto could still have one of his best years in 2018. As a Giants fan, it would be great to see them make a splash in free agency, as it would really add to the teams chances, as Cueto is likely to stay with the team that signed him before the 2016 season.
7 Change – Alex Cobb
Just a few short years ago, the Tampa Bay Rays were one of the elite teams in all of baseball, and that came on the back of their phenomenal pitching staff, led by David Price, Matt Moore and James Shields. One who flew under the radar was Alex Cobb, and with the Rays team now dwelling in the cellar of the AL East, he will look to seek greener pastures. He certainly isn’t the pitcher he once was, and with a year removed from Tommy John surgery, he can hardly be blamed. But if Cobb can return to his old form, a team will definitely benefit from bringing him on board. There are plenty of teams out there who need pitching depth, and if he gets back into form, Cobb could be a solid #2 in any rotation in the majors today, so expect to see a contender vie for his signature (it just won’t end up being the Rays).
6 Stay Put – Todd Frazier
Todd Frazier has had an up and down career so far in the majors, but he is still one of the best third basemen around, and with the Yankees stock only rising, he is the perfect veteran to have in the middle of the lineup, where he is the perfect compliment to the likes of Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge. His numbers weren’t too great this season, but after playing for years in Cincinnati and Chicago (unfortunately not the successful one), New York seems to be home for Frazier, and that isn’t going to change in the offseason, especially with the success the Yankees are having in the post season, in what was supposed to be a "rebuilding" year for the squad. He may need to take a slight pay cut to stay with the squad, but it’s the best place for him to be, for all parties involved, and everyone will see that when it comes to negotiations.
5 Change – Jake Arrieta
The Chicago Cubs have completely turned around their franchise in the past several years, and it’s mostly due to Joe Maddon coming on as manager, and draft picks like Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant turning out to be the stars they are, but unfortunately, that may be the reason that they lose a star pitcher like Jake Arrieta. With so many young stars looking to get paid quite soon, the Cubs won’t be able to afford Arrieta, and as he is coming to the end of his career, he will be looking to cash in on what’s been a stellar past few seasons. You have to think that the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants and other top teams would be after Arietta, and no matter what happens with the Cubs in this postseason, you have to imagine that they will have other priorities, and Jake will have no choice but to move on.
4 Stay Put – Jay Bruce
The Cleveland Indians had a year for the ages, and despite coming up short against the Yankees in the 2017 ALDS, they have plenty of potential to be a contender for years to come, and with Jay Bruce providing the left handed power he does in the outfield, no team fits him better than the current Indians squad. He has bounced around a bit over the past few years, but with the Indians it seems he has found a home, and with the young core building, he, alongside Edwin Encarnacion is the perfect veteran to lead this team. Who knows if the team will ever be able to hold a two-game lead in the playoffs, but with the strong mix of veterans and young players, they should be a force for years to come, so there’s no reason for Bruce to leave.
3 Change – Jose Bautista
Jose Bautista has been one of the more consistent power hitters in the game of baseball for the past several years, and was one of the driving forces behind the rise of the Toronto Blue Jays, but with his career winding down and a lack of World Series success, it’s likely that Joey Bats will move on for the season 2018. His defense is definitely slowing down, and his power numbers don’t stand out as much, especially when people like Aaron Judge are showing up, but he can still contribute, so expect to see him on a contender very soon. He’s definitely not going to get a max deal like other power hitters, as he is certainly on the back end of his career, but expect Joey Bats to be one of the biggest stories of this offseason, as his signing could have a significant impact on the entire MLB.
2 Stay Put – Yu Darvish
Yu Darvish came to the MLB with a lot of hype behind him, and while he may not show the consistency that fans would have expected, he has certainly lived up to all the promise, and behind Clayton Kershaw in LA, why on earth would anyone want to leave that? He may be seeking a huge contract, so LA may struggle to pay him like some other teams, but if they can go far in the playoffs in 2017, expect to see the Japanese sensation in Dodger Blue for some time to come. Obviously this won’t come cheap, as Darvish is an elite pitcher in the MLB, and he will be looking to cash in, but the Dodgers certainly have the money, and if they want him back, it’s unlikely he will leave that situation. We don’t know much about his personal preferences, but he would have to feel very strongly about another team to leave LA, and we just don’t see it happening.
1 Change – Carlos Gonzalez
Carlos Gonzalez has been fantastic for the Colorado Rockies for the better part of the last decade, but he has been slumping quite a bit over the past year, and with such a small amount of money to spend, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to bring him back, especially with young stars like Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story who will be looking for big contracts soon. It will be sad to see Car-go leave, as he has essentially been the face of the franchise since he arrived from Oakland, but it’s time to move on, and there will be many suitors lining up for a veteran like him, so expect teams like the Yankees, Indians and Giants to all make a push at him. It’s anyone’s guess where he ends up, but unfortunately for the Rockies franchise, they just don’t have the resources to bring him back as they look to climb the ranks in the National League.