The free agents for Major League Baseball’s 2019 season will be one of the most star-studded classes in recent years. Players like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will be two of the biggest names up for grabs, while other big bats like Nick Markakis and Andrew McCutchen will also be available after the 2018 season. Big contracts are going to be signed this winter, and even players that can opt out of their contract, like Clayton Kershaw and David Price, will be eyed by the media to see whether or not they’ll be staying with their current team or gambling on themselves to go elsewhere.
Still, let’s be honest. Price and Kershaw probably aren’t going anywhere with the millions already guaranteed their way, and fans should expect some of the free agents to return to their team for next year as well. Whether it’s a short term deal for an outstanding veteran or a long term deal for a promising young star, almost every team has a free agent that they’d love to re-sign that can help them win now or down the road. Unfortunately, due to trades for win-now rentals and the big paychecks that players will be mediating, teams will also be letting some of their current players walk.
While teams watching stars leave their organization for that big contract elsewhere may appear detrimental, it could also allow organizations the ability to sign another big contract or multiple contracts down the road. This is the offseason risk all general managers will the faced with this winter, and thanks to this all-star free agency, there should be a lot of drama coming soon. To whet your appetite, here is a little preview of what this offseason could look like. Here, in this article, we look at 15 free agents who won’t re-sign with their current team, and 5 who will stay.
20 Won’t - Bryce Harper
There’s no free agent hotter than Bryce Harper coming into the 2019 season. His batting average dipped a little in 2018, but Harper still hit 34 long-balls with an OPS of .889. Speculation of who will land Harper has jumped from the Dodgers, to the Cubs, to the Yankees. Where Harper will go remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain, he’s not staying in Washington.
Harper has had a tumultuous time in D.C., with incidents in the dugout and benchings due to the lack of hustle.
Yet, even without Harper’s baggage, his offense with Washington's pitching wasn’t enough to push the Nats to a World Series. With his asking price, bringing Bryce back to Washington for 2019 and beyond for even more mediocrity simply won’t be worth it.
19 Won’t - Manny Machado
The hottest free agent, second only to Bryce Harper, is Manny Machado. Right now, the Dodgers are hoping that Mannywood 2.0 will push them to the World Series win that all the experts predicted. However, should L.A. come up short again, it’s likely the Dodgers will let Manny walk to address other needs.
Make no mistake, Machado is going to a big market team and will get a huge payout, but it probably won’t be with L.A. For whatever reason, Manny’s BA as a Dodger is the lowest it’s been since his rookie season and has an OPS of .825. Those aren’t terrible numbers by any means, but do the Dodgers really want to spend top dollar on Manny joining an already powerful offense or address other issues such as pitching which fatigued down the stretch of the regular season?
18 Won’t - Daniel Murphy
In 2015, Daniel Murphy was a Cubs killer when he single-handedly propelled the Mets over Chicago in the NLCS, hitting six consecutive home runs, with a BA over .500 and winning the NLCS MVP. After being traded from the Nationals to the Cubs in 2018, Murphy became a Cubs killer again by going a combined 1-8 in the 163 Central Division Title tie-breaker game and in the NL Wild Card.
Murphy hit well for the Cubs in the 35 total regular season games he was healthy. However, his WAR was -0.2 as a Cub, and his big playoff bat was a non-factor when the Cubs needed it the most. Murphy’s past insensitive comments didn’t endear him to the Chicago crowd either when he was first signed, and his end of the season performance certainly didn’t help dispel the boo-birds. Still, Murphy was likely gone after 2018 regardless.
17 Will - Gio González
Gio González had an amazing time with Washington with an ERA of 3.62 for the Nationals and a winning record of 86-65. Although it’s a small sample size, since being traded to the Brewers, Gio has gone 3-0 with an ERA of 2.13 in the regular season and was a big reason why Milwaukee won the NL Central.
The Brewers had the fifth best ERA in the major leagues, and González certainly helped contribute to that.
Gio isn’t going to come cheap, but with his arm in the rotation and in the absence of Wade Miley, who is also a free agent, the Brewers can have a solid rotation for 2019 as well.
16 Won’t - Craig Kimbrel
The Red Sox had no problem out-muscling their opponents, and with Craig Kimbrel as their closer, Boston won the close games as well. Kimbrel was sensational in 2018 with 42 saves and an ERA of 2.74. Unfortunately, Kimbrel’s great 2018 will mean a big payout, and Boston isn't going to want to spend all their cash on someone who pitches one inning.
Kimbrel deserves the money that’s coming to him, but Boston will surely have other top free agents to consider. In addition, Boston has key players that are far more important to their success than Kimbrel. Xander Bogaerts, Rick Porcello and Chris Sale are a free agents after 2019, all of whom have significantly greater impact on the Red Sox’s success than Kimbrel.
15 Won’t - J.A. Happ
One could argue the J.A. Happ was New York’s best pitcher since coming to the Yankees via trade. Since then, Happ has had eleven starts, going 7-0 with an ERA of 2.69. His numbers with the pinstripes are remarkable, and yet, he's likely just a rental for 2018.
Happ is going to get a huge payday, but, despite his excellent pitching for Brian Cashmen’s Yankees, the one thing hurting Happ is his age. Happ will be 36 next year, and one has to wonder how many good years they can still get out of Happ. The 2019 free agent class stacked with starting pitchers, and the Yankees will be spending some big money on one of them. However, if they're going to spend big money, they’re likely going to spend it on a younger pitcher with similar value.
14 Won’t - Dallas Keuchel
Like Evan Gattis, Dallas Keuchel isn’t coming back to Houston. Keuchel is looking for a huge payout and at only 31 (starting next season), he’ll likely get it. Houston is hoping to lock down their core players for years to come, and they won’t be able to do that by overpaying for Keuchel, especially when they already have several aces in their rotation. Houston will let Keuchel walk, and some big market team will gladly pony up with a nice long-term contract for him.
Although he isn’t viewed as the Houston ace anymore, Keuchel could be the ace of almost any team in the league.
He’s sporting a career ERA of 3.66 and has a career winning percentage of .547. Those are certainly numbers Houston would love to keep, but with their starting rotation the best in baseball, losing Keuchel won’t be the end of the world for them either.
13 Will - Adam Jones
Many fans and analysts were surprised that Adam Jones wasn’t on Baltimore’s trading block during their fire sale of talent. Jones was one of the few decent players on the lowly Orioles team and was coming up on free agency. Baltimore’s unwillingness or inability to trade Jones makes it likely that he’s going to be re-signed for 2019.
Jones isn’t a bad player. He hit 15 homers with a batting average of 281, but if Baltimore isn’t going to get anything out of Jones through trade, they almost have to re-sign him. They’ll still get some good years out of Jones even if his best days are behind him.
12 Won’t - Charlie Morton
All eyes will be on Dallas Keuchel after the 2018 season, but Charlie Morton shouldn’t be overlooked. Keuchel may be having a better career thus far, but Morton’s 2018 season has definitely outshined Keuchel’s. Morton is coming off of a 3.13 ERA and an obscene .833 winning percentage, going 15-3 for Houston.
Morton is looking at a huge sum of money, despite being 35 next season.
He’s likely going to a win-now team, and though that could be Houston, like Keuchel, the Astros aren't going to ante up for Morton either. Look for Morton to land on another one of next year’s contenders however.
11 Won’t - A.J. Pollock
The Diamondbacks will push hard to re-sign Patrick Corbin, but the same won’t be said for A.J. Pollock. He hit over 20 home runs, but injuries cut his season down and hampered his .257 batting average. When healthy, Pollock can be a good player, but, because of that, he’ll likely price himself out of Arizona.
Pollock is good, but he’s not that good. Arizona is going to want some money to make an offer to Paul Goldschmidt and that’s not going to happen if they re-sign Pollock. The Diamondbacks are going to try for a playoff push next year with Goldschmidt and presumably Patrick Corbin, but if that fails again against the might of Colorado and L.A., Arizona fans should brace themselves for a rebuild.
10 Won’t - Andrew Miller
One of the Indians’ biggest strengths in 2018 and years prior has been their bullpen. Andrew Miller has been a huge part of their bullpen success, but with that success brings a lot of money coming his way. Miller is likely going to leave Cleveland to sign with a big market contender, but losing Miller won’t be as damaging to the Indians as one might think.
Cleveland isn’t going to be able to pay Miller what he wants, and even with his past success, they won’t be losing sleep when he walks either.
Miller is coming off of a down year with an ERA of 4.24, not to mention that the Indians still have Brad Hand to anchor their bullpen in Miller's absence.
9 Will - Patrick Corbin
The Diamondbacks are in quite a jam. Do they want to go for it all now or rebuild? Two of their big stars are free agents this year, with their superstar slugger, Paul Goldschmidt, a free agent after 2019. Arizona has some big decisions to make, but the easy one is to retain Patrick Corbin.
Despite missing the playoffs, Arizona has one of the best pitching staffs in the majors in large part due to Patrick Corbin.
His 11-7 record doesn’t show it, but Corbin in 2018 has an ERA of 3.15 with 246 strikeouts and a WAR of 4.8. Corbin's not going to be 30 until the middle of next season, and the D-Backs can get plenty of good years out of him. Corbin will demand a nice payout, but Arizona should not be afraid to pay it.
8 Won’t - Josh Donaldson
The Indians knew they were taking a risk when they traded for Josh Donaldson, who has been injured for three months with a calf injury. Donaldson wasn’t exactly lighting the ball up in 2018 for Toronto, but The Tribe was hoping that a healthy Donaldson would help push them back into the Fall Classic.
Donaldson helped alleviate the Indians’ concerns by hitting three home runs with a .280 batting average and a massive .920 OPS in 16 games with them, but is he worth the risk for next year? Donaldson knows this may be his last opportunity for a big free agent contract, if his poor 2018 is any indication, and he'll be expecting some nice offers. Teams that have a need at third base will likely take a chance on Donaldson returning to his healthy form, but Cleveland won't be one of them.
7 Won’t - Asdrúbal Cabrera
The Philadelphia Phillies went from a team looking playoff bound, trading for big bats like Wilson Ramos and Asdrúbal Cabrera. Unfortunately, the Phillies would miss the playoffs and didn’t even finish above .500. Ramos played great for Philly, but Asdrúbal Cabrera was a massive disappointment.
Cabrera has solid numbers for his career and played well for the Mets, but in Philadelphia, Cabrera finished the season batting .228 with an OPS of .678. Cabrera didn’t work out for Philadelphia, but the Phillies will have their sights on a bigger free agent infielder anyway.
6 Won’t - Andrew McCutchen
Andrew McCutchen got his chance to play for a World Series contender, but he’s certain to be gone after 2018. “Cutch” has expressed desire to play for a contending team, and he’ll likely get the chance to do that, but it won’t be with the Yankees again in 2019.
McCutchen finished strong with the pinstripes in the regular season, but the Yankee outfield is pretty much set.
Even with the solid numbers with New York, McCutchen’s numbers in batting average, home runs and slugging percentage are sinking. New York is going to be spending money elsewhere to focus on signing a big free agent pitcher, and Andrew McCutchen’s numbers, while solid in New York, won’t justify the Yankees re-signing him for 2019.
5 Will - Nick Markakis
Free agent rightfielder, Nick Markakis is having a great four-year run with the Atlanta Braves. He hit just below .300 in 2018 and possessed an OPS .806. Makakis has always maintained solid numbers, he’s durable and has earned two Gold Glove Awards in his 13-year career. Markakis is going to be looking for dollar signs this winter, but there’s no reason why Atlanta shouldn’t pay it.
Out of all the free agent outfielders, Markakis is the best choice for the Braves. Unlike Andrew McCutchen, Markakis’ numbers haven’t slipped and Pollock isn't as good. He may be 35 next season, but Atlanta doesn’t need to give him a long-term deal. The Braves want to keep moving forward, and giving Markakis a short but sweet contract will only help keep Atlanta a contender for next season and beyond.
4 Won’t - Zach Britton
Like J.A. Happ, Zach Britton has been terrific for the Yankees. He posted a 2.88 ERA, with three saves in 25 regular season games with New York. Still, like Happ, Zach Britton won’t be remaining with the Yankees in 2019.
Britton helped bolster the Yankees bullpen, who occasionally finished games for New York, but the Yankees aren’t going to pay top dollar to re-sign a closer when they already have one in Aroldis Chapman. There are plenty of teams that are or will be in need of a closer. Because of this, Britton will receive a much better offer for his services from those teams than he will from the Yankees who can live without two closers.
3 Won’t - Neil Walker
Another bit of Yankee disappointment was Neil Walker. Walker signed a one-year deal but has only hit 11 home runs in 113 games with New York. His batting average is a mere .219 and his OPS is .664 which is the lowest it’s been since his rookie season.
It’s arguable whether or not Walker is better than Greg Bird at first, but New York isn’t going to waste money on Walker when Bird gives them almost the same production.
Walker could be a serviceable player for major league teams out there, and he has said he wants to be an everyday player. That’s unlikely to happen as a Yankee and why he's probably gone.
2 Won’t - Wilson Ramos
The Phillies had a promising season crumble before their very eyes, but Wilson Ramos played no part in their downfall. Ramos hit .337 with an OPS of .879 as a Philly and should be considered for an extension. However, it’s more likely the Phildelphia is going to push hard for Machado instead which hurts Ramos' chances of re-signing.
The Phillies have plenty of money, and Ramos not only could be a top offensive catcher but a top offensive player on any team. However, Philadelphia negotiating for Machado could buy time for another team to lure Ramos away. Failing to sign Machado could make re-signing Ramos a large possibility if he's still available, but then again, they also have their young stud Jorge Alfaro to take the catcher’s role should they lose Ramos as well.
1 Will - Adam Wainwright
Adam Wainwright has been a St. Louis Cardinal for his entire professional career. He closed out the 2006 World Series for the Cardinals, has been a three-time All-Star and a Cy Young Candidate during the 2009-2010 seasons and from 2013-2014. At 37, “Wain-O” has seen the last three seasons riddled with injuries and a climbing ERA. With his contract up, Wainwright’s future is completely in the air in St. Louis.
At Wainwright’s age and slipping performance, there won’t be much interest in the former Cardinals ace. While retirement has circulated, Wainwright isn’t ready to hang up the cleats just yet. Wainwright is beloved in St. Louis, and he’ll get resigned even if it’s a short-term deal. Hopefully, he returns to his Cy Young caliber self, but either way he’ll assuredly finish his career as a Cardinal.