The 2018 season may have come to an end, but Major League Baseball’s loaded offseason is now in full swing. The big names like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will be front and center during this winter, but this class of free agents is definitely heavy with game-changing pitchers as well. This winter may be the most expensive offseason ever, and because of this, many teams may not have the finances to re-sign all of their superstar free agents.
Certain organizations like the Brewers, the Indians or the Athletics are small market clubs and won’t be making any huge deals like big market New York, L.A. or Chicago will. Small market teams will have to allow some of their players to walk if they want to retain their home grown talent. However, financial woes isn't the only deterrent keeping organizations from re-signing their players. Poor play from certain potential free agents, young prospects on the way up from the minors to replace them or a desire to address other needs instead are all reasons why many free agents won’t re-sign with their current team.
While some players are clearly on the way out, other potential free agents aren't going anywhere. David Price and Clayton Kershaw had the option to opt out of their contracts, but these players aren’t going anywhere. In fact, some players like Adam Wainwright have already re-signed with their current team. Fantasizing about where Kershaw or Price could go is fun, but it's not realistic. In this article, we take a realistic look at 7 pitchers, infielders and outfielders that will change teams this offseason.
After pitching in two games and giving up only seven earned runs in 7.1 innings, Nathan Eovaldi shut up Alex Bregman and shut down the Houston Astros in the 2018 ALCS. Eovaldi has put together a great season with Boston after coming over from Tampa Bay, and his successful 2018 is going to grant him a nice payout in the offseason.
Eovaldi is arguably coming off of his best season, but throughout his career, he’s proven to be a reliable pitcher.
He may not be one of the premier pitchers available this offseason, but his career ERA of 4.16 should and his inhuman postseason performance will land him a nice offer. However, Boston will likely not be one of those teams, hoping to lock down Steve Pearce and other core players down the road.
The Phillies thought they had a chance at a playoff run in 2018 and acquired Asdrúbal Cabrera from the Mets. The New York infielder was hitting a solid .277 with 18 home runs before coming to Philadelphia. Unfortunately, Cabrera, like the rest of his teammates, completely folded by season’s end.
With the Phillies, Cabrera hit a miserable .228 with only five home runs and a slugging percentage of only .678. With Cabrera’s WAR at -0.7, it’s highly unlikely Cabrera will be returning to Philly. However, Cabrera still has a career batting average of .269 and hit .262 for the season. Cabrera will find another team and will likely post better numbers outside of Philadelphia.
What can be said about Bryce Harper that hasn’t already been said? Harper is going to get a huge payout, and the only questions are from whom and for how much? The only thing that's actually certain is that Harper won't be staying in Washington.
Harper’s a great player, but his attitude hasn’t endeared him to the Nationals organization.
Even ignoring Harper's benchings, his jogs to first base or the brawls in the dugout, Harper failed to push Washington to a World Series. The Nationals won’t be too upset to see that overly expensive headache leave their team and may actually have a better chance of making it to the Fall Classic without him.
The Milwaukee Brewers were a game away from the World Series, and their team has potential to be good for 2019 as well. An unsung hero of Milwaukee’s success was Wade Miley, who was a pivotal piece to their excellent rotation. Miley pitched only 16 games for the Brewers in 2018, but his ERA was a mere 2.57 and gave up only three home runs in the regular season. Miley’s success carried over into the post season pitching 14.2 inning, giving up only two earned runs.
Despite Miley’s success in Milwaukee, the Brew Crew isn’t going to pay Miley the price he’ll be asking for. The Brewers would rather stick with Gio González anyway, who is far more reliable and consistent than Miley.
Unlike Asdrúbal Cabrera’s disappointing time in Philly, Wilson Ramos continues to crush the ball no matter where he plays. Ramos hit .306 with 15 total homers on the year for Tampa Bay and for the Phillies and will be one of the most sought after free agent catchers for 2019.
Ramos is definitely the most offensively successful catcher in the league and will be paid accordingly by whomever picks him up.
Although the ball jumped off of Ramos’ bat, the Phillies already have a top catcher prospect waiting to come up full time. Ramos may be worth re-signing, but with more young players on the way for Philly and the possibility of taking a serious shot at snagging Manny Machado, Philadelphia can risk letting Ramos go to save money for other endeavors.
The Arizona Diamondbacks will be going through some major changes in the next couple of years. A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin are free agents this offseason, with their slugger, Paul Goldschmidt, set to be a big free agent after the 2019 season. Big decisions are going to be made this offseason and will affect Arizona moving forward in 2019, but rest assured, A.J. Pollock won’t be factoring into those decisions.
Pollock is definitely going to be looking for a different team this offseason. Of Arizona’s premier players, Pollock is low on the list of priority signings. His .257 average and 21 home runs will probably price him out of Arizona anyway, but that will also free up cash and effort that will be better focused on Corbin and/or Goldschmidt.
The Houston Astros had the best pitching staff in the league during the 2018 regular season, throwing for the lowest team ERA and highest strikeout total in all of baseball. Dallas Keuchel is credited for much of Houston’s success, but with the additional success of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, Keuchel is just another pitcher on a team of aces.
Keuchel’s win-loss record wasn’t great in 2018, but his ERA was below 4.00.
He has had a great career in Houston with an ERA of 3.54 with them, but Keuchel is going to a big market team for a big market payday. Honestly, Houston can afford to lose Keuchel with Verlander and Cole still locked down, and the Astros are going to want to save some of their cash to keep their core, particularly their young bats in the lineup.
Teams looking for a big bat at first base are going to be disappointed at the lack of available candidates this offseason. The only real free agent first basemen that won't be re-signed that will draw any interest would be Matt Adams. “Big City” came up through St. Louis before moving to Atlanta and then the Nationals. Adams would return to the Cardinals in 2018 after a rejuvenated second half for the Red Birds.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals sputtered in September and "Big City" looked more like a landfill. Adams batted only .158 for St. Louis with a minuscule home run total of three in 57 at bats. Needless to say, Adams didn’t push St. Louis back to the playoffs and won’t be helping them off the bench next year either.
The Houston Astros finished second in the AL in 2018 which left fans disappointed after winning their first ever championship the year before. Houston isn’t satisfied with only one ring and will be looking to improve this offseason. A glaring issue for Houston was the lack of offense at catcher, and with the Astros looking to lock their “core four,” re-signing utility player Marwin González probably isn’t happening.
González had a decent 2018, but Tony Kemp and Tyler White can totally fill González’s void. Houston’s focus will be on their young bats and improving at catcher, and if González, who wasn’t even an everyday starter, has to go, Houston can live with that.
J.A. Happ was the big trade for the Yankees and brought New York another game changing arm to their rotation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to push New York past Boston's juggernaut team, and Happ is unlikely to re-sign for next year. The Yankees are going to make a huge signing this offseason, and as good as Happ was for the Pinstripes, New York will be courting other big free agents.
Happ pitched a 2.69 ERA and went 7-0 with the Yankees. While those are great numbers, one number that hurts Happ is 36.
Happ isn’t getting any younger, and, despite being a great pitcher, for now, New York may want to go a little younger. There are plenty of equally strong, younger arms up for grabs this offseason, and the Yankees will let Happ walk to sign one of them instead.
"Mannywood 2.0" may have helped carry Los Angeles to their second straight World Series, but his postseason play hasn’t helped his 2019 cause. Machado’s dirty play and lallygagging down the line hasn’t endeared him to potential takers, and his .218 postseason batting average with the Dodgers, that includes batting .182 in the World Series, didn’t endear him to L.A. fans either.
Machado can be a great player, and he’ll still sign a big deal to a big market team. It just won’t be with the Dodgers. Machado didn’t push L.A. to a World Series championship and, with time running out, the Dodgers may look to sign multiple pieces for 2019 instead of one huge signing that failed to win them a ring in 2018.
Virtually the entire Cleveland outfield is up for free agency this offseason, and the Indians’ dilemma will be who to re-sign, who to bring in and who to let go. Out of all the Cleveland free agents, Leonys Martin is one that is the least likely to be re-signed.
Leonys Martin hit great for The Tribe but that was only for 17 plate appearances before a life-threatening bacterial infection sidelined him for the season. Even a healthy Martin is probably not the best choice for the Indians to re-sign. Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley are both better players, and the Indians may be looking to sign an All-Star caliber center fielder this offseason in addition.
During this offseason, for teams that are looking for an ace in their rotation, teams will be scrambling to make offers to J.A. Happ and Dallas Keuchel. However, Charlie Morton should be high on the list of free agents as well, despite getting virtually none of the media hype. Morton, arguably, pitched better than Keuchel, with an ERA a little above 3.00 and posted a ridiculous record of 15-3.
Unfortunately, Morton’s great 2018 may push him above what Houston is willing to pay for a 35-year-old pitcher.
Houston will retain Verlander and Cole for next season and with their offense, even without Morton, the Astros will still be a powerhouse next year.
Wilson Ramos is one of the premium catchers available this offseason, with Yasmani Grandal being the other. Ramos may be slightly better offensively, but Grandal isn’t far behind. Grandal has more upside in age, his health is better and his home run total is higher than Ramos's. With that said, both Ramos and Grandal will have high asking prices next year, but even with Grandal currently on a big market team, L.A. may still have to pass.
Like New York, the Dodgers will make a big play for one of the top free agents this winter. Grandal may be a great player, but he’s not at the level of a Harper or Machacho or even Keuchel. There are other teams desperate for a great catcher at the moment, and with L.A. going big for a top free agent, Grandal should be free to cash a huge paycheck for one of those teams lacking good numbers at catcher instead.
Andrew McCutchen ended the regular season well with the Yankees after looking like he was finished with the Giants. However, even with McCutchen rebounding late in the season, his overall offensive numbers remain in a slow decline. His power numbers are currently the lowest they’ve ever been, and his OPS slipped below .800.
“Cutch” can still be an excellent everyday player on a team in search of outfield help but that’s not going to be with the Yankees.
New York is going to make a huge signing in the offseason, and, unfortunately, McCutchen isn’t a top signing anymore. Many analysts predict he’ll land in Cleveland instead, where their entire outfield is up for free agency, and it's hard to see Cutch landing anywhere else at this point in his career.
In additional to their outfield, Cleveland's bullpen is going to take a hit as well with Cody Allen and Andrew Miller heading to free agency. The Indians’ success was largely due to their outstanding bullpen and the work of Allen and especially Miller. Still, 2018 wasn’t kind to either reliever, which will soften the blow should they both leave Cleveland.
It’s still possible Allen could re-sign, but Miller is gone. Despite coming off an injury year and posting an ERA of 4.24, Miller has been lights out for a majority of his career in relief. Looking at his entire body of work, Miller is still one of the best relievers up for grabs this offseason and will definitely get a big check from a top contending team, looking to bolster their bullpen for next year's playoffs.
Josh Donaldson is a bit of a risk. He had a great career in Toronto and hit well for his short time with the Indians. However, his injury prone 2018 caused his numbers to plummet and casts doubt on his effectiveness for 2019. Still, with the lack of free agent third basemen, Donaldson can still get a good sum of cash this offseason from teams looking for a power bat at third.
Donaldson’s 2018 hurt his free agency bid but that will also open himself to small market teams like St. Louis who are lacking production at third.
While that also opens the door for Cleveland to re-sign, the Indians have so many other holes to address going into 2019 that The Tribe is probably going to have to let Donaldson walk to patch up other more prominent needs.
A fan favorite in the clubhouse and among San Francisco Giants fans, Hunter Pence was on his last year of a five-year contract with San Fran. Although he was a three-time All-Star and a two-time World Champion with the Giants, Pence has likely seen his last year in a Giants uniform. However, his departure from the organization isn’t because he’s looking for a big payday elsewhere. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Pence had a miserable 2018, struggling to stay healthy, struggling to stay in the starting lineup and struggling to stay in the majors altogether. Pence hit .226 and ended 2018 with his lowest OPS ever at .590. Pence’s baseball future is definitely up in the air, but the Giants have seemingly already said their good-byes to him.
When healthy, Trevor Cahill can be one of the better pitchers in the league and helped Oakland to a surprisingly successful 2018 season. Losing Cahill will hurt the Athletics, but their starting rotation exceeded expectations all last year. If the A's can get a bargain at re-signing Edwin Jackson, who pitched one of his better seasons, that will definitely ease the sting of losing Cahill.
Cahill is still young and should get some good offers, but small market Oakland has other needs to address, specifically, re-signing Jed Lowrie.
With pitchers like A.J. Puk and Jharel Cotton also returning (hopefully), Cahill’s absence to Oakland won’t hurt them as badly as it could have.
The Cubs needed another power bat to help push them far in the 2018 playoffs and traded for Daniel Murphy, hoping to recapture his 2015 magic. However, his personal comments didn’t sit well with the Chicago crowd, and Murphy’s 0-4 National League Wild Card game performance didn’t help his appeal to them either.
However, the Cubs’ disappointing end to 2018 wasn’t all on Murphy. Chicago lacked offense from everybody, and big market Chicago is likely to remedy that with a big offseason signing. That pretty much rules out re-signing Murphy, but he’s still good enough to land a comfortable contract elsewhere.
José Bautista was one of many underperforming players from a sinking Philadelphia team in 2018. The Phillies will have young prospects on the way to replace him and therefore can easily afford to lose “Joey Bats" who can’t seem to hit in the National League anyway. Bautista isn’t getting any younger at 38, and may be permitted one more shot before retirement, hopefully on an AL team where all his past success originated.
Whether Bautista signs elsewhere or hangs up the uniform remains to be seen, but his time in Philadelphia is clearly over. Philly can move on and continue to build without him, and Bautista can now attempt a comeback in Toronto where he is still beloved by Blue Jays fans.