Major League Baseball's 2018 regular season is coming to a close with surprising trades, impactful games and wide speculation on where free agents will go after this season is over. This offseason will be ripe for free agents, with all eyes on superstars like Manny Machado and even Clayton Kershaw, should he choose to opt out of his contract. Many of these signings could be game changers for any team, and naturally most fans are expecting the big spenders like Los Angeles and New York to make huge purchases for these players. However, if you were expecting to see Kershaw or Machado in pinstripes next year, you're sadly mistaken.
That's right, not every huge free agent is changing teams, with Kershaw coming off an injury prone 2018, and Machado, who can get big money in L.A., fitting in nicely. Other stars like Charlie Blackmon and Asdrubal Caberera are likely remaining with their teams as well. However, there are still plenty of free agents that won't be with there current team next year, either because they will be asking for too much money, problems with management, the desire to be on a World Series contender, or because they're coming off a down year and won't be getting resigned.
So, if your team is out of the playoff race for 2018, there's still reason for excitement this offseason, with heavy hitters and dominant starters on the market. For fans who will be enjoying playoff baseball and for fans drowning your sorrows after another losing season, here's what could change come next season.
20 Bryce Harper - Chicago Cubs
Fans and experts alike peg Bryce Harper to sign a humongous deal with a big market team; either the Dodgers or the Yankees. I’m going with neither. Machado is likley staying in L.A., and the Yankees have enough offense (when healthy). With New York and L.A. out, the situation is perfect for the Cubs to swoop in and make a huge deal for Harper.
Harper is definitely not staying in Washington with all the inner turmoil there.
Plus, Harper wants to win and make the most money doing it. Harper will land in Chicago which will be a huge improvement for the Cubs, coming off of an underwhelming year for power offense. Unfortunately, this may mean shedding fan favorite, Kyle Schwarber, but dealing Schwarber could net some important pieces later in the Cubs’ 2019 World Series push.
19 David Price - Washington Nationals
Wait, what? Yes, David Price may have signed a seven-year deal with Boston in late 2015, but he will likely opt out after the 2018 season. Price has been dogging his critics on Twitter, yelled at Dennis Eckersley and has been subjected to ridicule for his embarrassing postseason performances.
Because his time in Boston hasn’t been a pleasant one, Price will likely opt out and see a nice payday from the Nationals, who would have a dominant starting rotation with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and avoid the pressure of playing in Boston. The Nats will need another pitcher with Gio Gonzalez gone, and Price could be that pitcher to ease the sting of Harper, Murphy and Gio leaving.
18 José Bautista - San Francisco Giants
The Phillies are all-in this year with the huge trade for José Bautista. Philadelphia is banking on Bautista meshing with their young superstars, returning to the “Joey Bats” of old and pushing them to a World Series.
Unfortunately, Bautista hasn’t been tearing it up in the NL. He has a lower batting average in the NL and has been hitting below .200 since leaving Toronto. He won’t be staying in Philly, but if he hits half as well as he used to, many teams would show interest in Bautista’s big bat down the road.
With that said, Bautista could end up in San Francisco for a one-year deal. The Giants need a lot more than outfield help, but when they have another mediocre season, they could always trade away Bautista for some much needed prospects.
17 Dallas Keuchel - Boston Red Sox
Dallas Keuchel has been great for the Astros. Unfortunately, Houston isn’t a big market team and won’t spend top dollar on a pitcher like Keuchel. Houston has a stellar rotation, and they don’t want to miss out on signing other key players in favor of a pitcher they may not need.
With Keuchel’s agent, Scott Boras, you know Keuchel is going to get a huge long term deal and that sets him up perfectly for a big payday from the Yankees or Red Sox.
The Yankees are likely re-signing J.A. Happ, so much of where Keuchel goes will depend on whether or not Price stays in Boston. I’m personally predicting Price walks which means Boston will land Keuchel to replace him.
16 Wilson Ramos - Milwaukee Brewers
Will one of the best offensive catchers in baseball stay in Philly? The answer is no. Ramos will be asking too much money, and the Phillies already have prospects ready for next year. The Phillies are hoping to get everything they can out of their big trade because Ramos is going to be a rental.
So, where does Ramos go from Philly? I’m going to make the bold prediction of Milwaukee. The Brewers are a surprise, and if they want to keep moving forward against The Cubs and the pesky Cardinals, the Brew Crew needs a big signing like Ramos. For Milwaukee, Manny Piña isn’t getting the job done, Stephen Vogt’s career may be over, and Kratz, who’s doing better than expected, is still posting a poor WAR for 2018.
15 Gerrit Cole - Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers have an explosive offense, but their pitching has been an issue from top to bottom with injuries or poor performances down the stretch. The Dodgers will solve this problem by signing Gerrit Cole. He isn’t staying in Houston and will definitely demand big money from a big money maker like L.A.
With Gerrit Cole strengthening their starting rotation with a dependable arm, the Dodgers will also have a pitcher with a better WAR than any of the Dodgers starters at the moment. Cole is one of the better pitchers, if not the best, on the market. If the Dodgers fail again to win the World Series again in 2018, I predict they’ll make Cole a great offer.
14 Josh Donaldson - Atlanta Braves
The Braves are in the playoff hunt much sooner than expected. With the National League up for grabs, and the Nationals and Mets looking lost, Atlanta has a strong chance of competing for the NL East title for years to come.
Time will tell how well the Braves will do in 2018, but assuredly their issue at third base will be addressed this offseason.
With the Braves’ playoff time being now, Atlanta will go big and bring in Josh Donaldson. Donaldson is one of the better third basemen free agents, and Atlanta needs to address that position. With Donaldson having an injury prone 2018, Atlanta may get him for a bargain price and see him return to form for a healthy 2019.
13 Andrew McCutchen - Cleveland Indians
It was a safe bet that Andrew McCutchen wasn't going to be in San Francisco next year. The Yankees trade was somewhat of a surprise, but he's not staying in New York either. Instead, he’s going to Cleveland in 2019. McCutchen is going to want to play for a playoff team, but most contenders aren’t going to sign a declining “Cutch.” However, the Indians are contenders and could use an outfielder. Thus, even an aging McCutchen would fit perfectly with Cleveland.
With Cutch’s numbers low, and Cleveland being a small market team, it just makes sense for McCutchen to go there. Additionally, McCutchen, while seemingly on the downside, can still come through in the clutch. The Indians need some offense. If McCutchen can return to form or pick up a clutch RBI, the Indians could definitely live with that signing.
12 Cody Allen - Seattle Mariners
Speaking of Cleveland, Cody Allen likely isn’t returning. He’s been a disappointment this season, and the Indians already have Brad Hand to fill Allen’s spot if needed. However, Allen, with his terrible season, isn’t going to be asking for top dollar either. He’s likely going to another low market team that needs relief help, and Seattle will likely be one of the few teams that actually makes him an offer.
The Mariners could use an upgrade in the bullpen. While Cody Allen is having a down year, Seattle could make a realistic offer in hopes Allen resurrects his dominance and cleans up the back end of their bullpen.
11 Bud Norris - Colorado Rockies
Cardinals fans groaned when St. Louis signed Bud Norris to patch up their bullpen, but surprisingly, Norris has been consistent all year for the Red Birds. That’s more than anyone can say for Greg Holland.
With the Cardinals bringing up young arms who are performing well, re-signing Bud Norris may not be necessary.
However, the Colorado Rockies are in need of bullpen help. Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw have been disappointing for Colorado, and Wade Davis has been only slightly less so. Norris isn’t the most dominant closer but he’ll at least give the Rockies some much needed consistency.
10 Daniel Murphy - Boston Red Sox
With Dustin Pedroia likely done for 2018, his offensive effectiveness will be a huge question mark for next season as well. Pedroia isn’t getting any younger, and this recent injury could be a sign of his body breaking down. The Red Sox don’t necessarily need more offense, but Daniel Murphy could provide another huge bat alongside Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez.
Should Pedroia return and play as well as he did before the injury ridden 2018 season, Daniel Murphy could always bat DH to keep him in the lineup. Either way, the Red Sox are going to be in the playoffs for a number of years to come, and with Daniel Murphy and his super human postseason numbers, Boston could see another dynasty on the rise.
9 Andrew Miller - Los Angeles Dodgers
This will be a huge missed opportunity if the Los Angeles Dodgers fail to win the World Series this year. They traded for the hottest free agent, but if the results are anything less than a ring, one big finger can be pointed at the Dodgers' bullpen. The Dodgers will rectify their pen issues by signing Andrew Miller.
Miller is going to be looking for big money after the 2018 season but isn't going to get it from Cleveland. That makes Miller a great fit for the Dodgers. He’s one of the best bullpen pitchers available after this season, and L.A. will be willing give Miller a nice payout. The Dodgers aren't going to let another year slip past if indeed the pitching prevents yet another World Series pennant.
8 Kelvin Herrera - Philadelphia Phillies
Nationals fans haven’t had much to cheer about this season, and Kelvin Herrera was no help. Herrera was pitching well for the Royals in 2018, with a microscopic ERA of 1.05. Hoping to stay in the hunt, Herrera was traded to Washington, and naturally his performance went downhill from there. Herrera was posting a 4.34 ERA, allowing four homers in just 18 and 2/3 innings with the Nats, but just to add a little salt in the wound, Herrera had season-ending surgery.
With the balance of power shifting in the East and his struggles with Washington, the Nationals likely won’t be keeping Herrera.
However, Philly will be looking to bolster their bullpen even further. Herrera would be a nice fit for the Phillies, and despite his struggles in Washington, still retained an ERA of 2.44 for the year.
7 Mike Moustakas - Chicago White Sox
This move may sound silly, but Mike Moustakas signing with the White Sox isn’t that far fetched. Not many teams are desperate for first basemen, and, if they were, they’re not going to spend a lot of money on “Moose.” Moustakas is a .250 hitter, who can still crank out some homers, but he isn’t getting any younger.
While Moustakas’ days of 30 homer seasons may be coming near an end, he still retains a great deal of veteran experience. That experience can go a long way with a young team in the same way that Jason Heyward’s presence affected the Cubs. Moustakas will likely get a fair deal from the White Sox, who are rebuilding, and Chicago may even still get some good years out of Moose.
6 Gio González - Arizona Diamondbacks
With Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer dominating most of Washington's starting rotation headlines, it’s easy to overlook Gio González, who put together a great season in 2017. His 2018 season hasn’t been as successful, but with Washington selling this year, there’s still a lot of value in Gio for teams who are in need of starters.
The Brewers were just such a team, and Gio González found himself traded there. A change of scenery will do González some good, and the Brewers filled a major need. However, it'll be tough for Milwaukee to pay him big money, especially if they fill other needs with free agents. Gio will likely find himself signing with the Diamondbacks instead. Arizona needs a pitcher above all else and will likely sign Gio as their big offseason pick-up.
5 Zach Britton - Houston Astros
The Astros don’t have many needs for their team, however, closer is one of them. Ken Giles was very ineffective in 2018 to the point where he was demoted to Triple-A and eventually traded. However, the trade brought Houston Roberto Osuna, who has just come off of a suspension, to fill the closer role.
The Astros have a solid bullpen with a number of players with saves this year.
Still, this offseason may be time to sign a full-time ninth inning guy that doesn't have Osuna's baggage. While closer is the Astros' only real issue, Houston remains a small market team. They’re not going to sign an expensive Craig Kimbrel but could sign a cheaper Zach Britton. With Britton, the Astros have a legit closer who will become unhittable again once fully healthy.
4 Evan Gattis - Washington Nationals
Speaking of the Astros, Evan Gattis won a World Series with Houston in 2017 and is having a nice 2018 as well. Gattis is going to be getting money, and small market Houston isn’t going to pay top dollar for a pinch-hitter. Gattis is more likely going to a team that needs a full-time catcher.
The whole year has been a disaster for the Nationals, but Matt Wieters has been particularly disappointing. Washington is shopping this offseason, and one of their purchases will be a catcher. With Gattis likely going on the open market this offseason, the Nationals would love to add a player like Gattis that can provide some much needed pop in their lineup.
3 A.J. Pollock - Oakland Athletics
A.J. Pollock is having a nice season with the Diamondbacks and may get a nice offer from them. Still, it’s more likely that Pollock will get more elsewhere, especially if he continues to have moderate success. On the other hand, Pollock isn’t exactly a 30-30 player either. He’ll ask for more than the D-Backs are willing to spend, but he may still be affordable for a small market team that needs a centerfielder.
Oakland always keeps their spending under control, but Pollock won’t break the bank either.
Dustin Fowler really hasn’t produced like the Athletics were hoping he would, and Pollock can provide at least some pop that the A's don't get from Fowler or Chad Pinder. Look for Oakland to be a contender for Pollock.
2 Craig Kimbrel - Cleveland Indians
Unless Cody Allen resigned for peanuts, Cleveland is going to lose much of their once vaunted bullpen. The Indians will retain Brad Hand but will likely see Andrew Miller and an ineffective Cody Allen walk. While Hand can easily fill the closer role, the Indians pride themselves on their bullpen. They could easily refill the void left by Miller and Allen by making a reasonable offer to current Boston closer and free-agent-to-be, Craig Kimbrel.
With the Sox probably making some huge moves on the expensive free agents available this offseason, Kimbrel may be a bit too expensive for them to keep. This opens to the door for the Indians to swoop in. If the Indians get McCutchen at a reasonable price, look for them to fill their eighth and ninth inning pitchers with Hand and Kimbrel.
1 Nick Markakis - Los Angeles Angels
The Angels are in a tough spot. They’re hovering around .500 not knowing whether to tear it all down or build on their existing foundation. If you’re an Angels fan, you have to hope that L.A. makes some good moves soon in the years they have Mike Trout, but thus far, no such luck.
Angels fans should prepare themselves for another year of disappointment, but there’s a good chance L.A. will at least improve their outfield. Nick Markakis will be available in 2019 and, despite being 35 by the 2019 season, would be a massive upgrade in the outfield over Cole Calhoun or Eric Young Jr.