Major League Baseball’s winter meetings have kicked off, and the free agent market is rife with players that could make a team a contender in 2018. The two biggest names on the free agent list are already off the market. Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani has signed with the Los Angeles Angles. The Japanese pitcher is only set to make a little over $2 million a year with the Angels. A fraction of his price if he had waited two more years to come stateside.
The other big name off the free agent market is Giancarlo Stanton. The slugger is now a New York Yankee. Stanton is on a 13-year contract and he will earn around $155,000 per game. In all, the Yankees will pay Stanton $265M. Anything short of two or three World Series trophies makes the deal seem ludicrous. Although the team will most likely recoup much of the money through merchandise sales with Stanton’s name on it along with tickets for fans to see him.
While the two biggest names are off the market now, there are a number of players looking for a new home. From game changers to role players, MLB’s winter meetings will see a lot of players moving cities ahead of spring training.
15. Lance Lynn – Milwaukee Brewers
Starting pitcher Lance Lynn posted just a 12-11 record in 2017, but it can be argued his win record would have been higher had the Cardinals’ bullpen better. Despite Lynn being the Cards’ most reliable starter during the season, the club has made no attempt to keep him. Plenty of teams are eyeing up the right-hander, but only one can land him. Toronto is interested, but the AL East could be full of dangerous hitters, especially New York and Boston. The Baltimore Orioles are believed to be very interested, but the Milwaukee Brewers look like the more likely landing spot for Lynn. The team will be without rotation ace Jimmy Nelson, so signing Lynn should be more important than ever for in his career.
14. Zack Cozart – San Diego Padres
Zack Cozart is thought of as the best shortstop available this winter by many baseball insiders. The 2017 season saw Cozart hit .297 for the Cincinnati Reds while registering a .385 OBP. Cozart had his best professional season as a hitter last year, and his .933 OPS makes him a dream player by modern general managers. Cozart is attracting plenty of interest from San Diego this winter, and he will most likely be playing shortstop at Petco Park next summer. Cozart is expected to make “good” money wherever he lands. However, there are those in Cincinnati that hope he may stay in Ohio. However, the Reds won’t be able to offer him the same kind of money others could, if he stays.
13. Eduardo Nunez
Several teams are being linked with former Boston Red Sox shortstop Eduardo Nunez. The middle infielder started the season with San Francisco before being traded to Boston in late July. Nunez had only spent about 12 months with the Giants before being traded, and there are plenty of Giants fans that want Nunez back. Last season, he hit a combined .313, stole 24 bases and had 33 doubles. Nunez was able to showcase his skills to the AL East during the latter half of the season.
That is why the Toronto Blue Jays are so high on the shortstop. Speed, reliable hitting and a .320 OBP make him a great signing for the Blue Jays this winter. He’ll be on his third team in less than a year.
12. Jonathan Lucroy – Houston Astros
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy spent the last to MLB season splitting time between teams. In 2016, he was traded mid-season from Milwaukee to Texas, and in July this year, he was sent back to the NL to the Colorado Rockies. Capable of playing behind the plate or at first base, Lucroy hit .310 after making the move to Coors Field. Although he only played 46 games, it was his best batting average since 2012 when he hit .320 for the Brewers. The former All-Star had 30 assists from behind the plate for the Rockies and tallied a .991 fielding percentage. Lucroy looks likely to go back to the AL.
The world champion Houston Astros have Lucroy on their wish list, and it is a deal that would suit both parties. The Astros don’t need to make many changes this offseason, but adding Lucroy is just one way the team can strengthen before spring training.
11. Lorenzo Cain – San Francisco Giants
Lorenzo Cain is a highly rated defensive center fielder and he could be patrolling the outfield for the San Francisco Giants in 2018. Reports indicate Cain is high on the wish list of Giants general manager Bobby Evans. San Francisco needs to improve its defensive quality in the outfield, which is why Cain is a natural fit at AT&T Park. Cain had 12 assists in 2017, and his ability to cover ground is lacking in the Giants’ current lineup. Cain played 155 games last season for the Kansas City Royals and has proven himself as incredibly durable. He stole 26 bases and went yard 15 times for a team that finished below .500. The Giants finished dead last in the NL West last season, and Cain’s pop, speed and defense are massive upgrades to a team that had the fewest wins in the NL in 2017.
10. Wade Davis – St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals are desperate to improve several areas. One of which is the bullpen, but there is help on the way. The team is interested in signing closer Wade Davis. Last season, Davis posted a career high 32 saves for the Chicago Cubs. A three-time MLB All-Star and World Series winner, Davis has been clutch in the last few years pitching for the Kansas City Royals and the Cubs combined. In 2015, he saved 17 games for the Royals on the team’s way to winning the World Series. He posted a minuscule 0.94 ERA that season. The Cardinals need Davis to get them that much closer to the Cubs in the NL Central. St. Louis finished nine games out of first, and the team’s bullpen blew 17 saves.
9. Jay Bruce – New York Mets
Jay Bruce was shipped from the New York Mets to the Cleveland Indians in 2017 after the former fell away from playoff contention. Bruce’s batting average didn’t adapt to the change in pitching, although he did hit seven home runs in 169 plate appearances. Four teams are courting Bruce at the moment and it is likely he could end up back in New York with the Mets. Despite looking shaking around the field and having a pitching rotation that can’t stay healthy, the Mets want to contend in the NL East. So, getting Bruce back makes plenty of sense as he never had a full season in the Big Apple. Baseball insiders project Bruce to earn a multi-year contract worth around $12m a season. Expect Bruce to land back in New York unless a team out west makes a big money offer to the outfielder.
8. C.C. Sabathia – New York Yankees
Baseball teams always need starting pitching. That is why C.C. Sabathia is still kicking around the big leagues despite being 37. The big hurler has been with the New York Yankees for the last nine seasons, and it looks likely that the team will bring him back for at least one more. The 2017 season was Sabbathia’s first winning campaign in four years. He posted a 14-5 record and a 3.69 ERA. It was his lowest ERA since 2012. By re-signing Sabbathia, the Yankees can continue to focus their attention on adding power hitters to their lineup. The 17-year veteran earned $25m in base salary last year. That number will drop no matter which team signs him. But don’t expect him to leave the Big Apple. The Yankees will do whatever it takes to keep him in pinstripes for one last year.
7. Todd Frazier – New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are desperately trying to re-sign third baseman Todd Frazier. After joining the Yankees in July from the Chicago White Sox, Frazier hit .222 and 11 home runs in 66 games. The Yankees recently traded Chase Headley to make cash space for Frazier to stay in New York. Headley was due $13M, but the move gives the Yankees flexibility in their signings this offseason. Frazier is a year removed from hitting 40 home runs for the White Sox. He could add protection in the line-up for new slugger Stanton. If there is an aspect of his game to be cautious about it is his play at third. Frazier committed six errors in 66 games for the Yankees. He did post a .962 fielding averaging, however.
6. Mike Moustakas – Atlanta Braves
The Kansas City Royals look likely to lose both corners of their infield this offseason. Third baseman Mike Moustakas is one of those players, and expectations are the slugger will fetch a fair price on the free agent market. Moustakas missed nearly all of 2016 with a knee injury. He rebounded in 2017, slugging a career high 38 home runs. He added another career high in RBIs with 85. However, his 94 strikeouts make him an all or nothing player at the plate. Some baseball insiders believe Moustakas is hurt by a low OPS, but in today’s baseball money market, there are plenty of teams that will pay for his power.
The Atlanta Braves are in desperate need of a third baseman and power in the heart of their lineup, and Moustakas would be right at home in the NL East. The only problem is some of the pitching he will come up against. It could see his strikeout total for 2018 hit triple-digits.
5. Carlos Santana – Cleveland Indians
According to baseball insiders, the winter is starting to become a hot period for Carlos Santana. The Cleveland Indians first baseman is attracting several offers from teams around MLB. The switch-hitting corner infielder hit .259 with 23 home runs and 79 RBIs last season. It was a down campaign in homers and RBIs compared to 2016, but Santana is an upgrade for a number of teams at first base or as a designated hitter.
Santana is considered the second best first baseman on the market behind Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer. He could be an alternative to the Los Angeles Angels or Boston Red Sox, if those teams can’t sign Hosmer. There is still a chance Santana could remain a member of the Tribe. Cleveland has already made a qualifying offer of $17.4m for a one-year deal. Santana should stay with the Indians, but the team will need to go a bit higher in his new deal than just $17.4M a season, if they want to keep Santana long-term.
4. J.D. Martinez – Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox are hot on the trail for free agent slugger J.D. Martinez. The outfielder could be the perfect addition to the heart of Boston’s lineup. Martinez hit 45 home runs between stints with Detroit and Arizona in 2017. Add in a career high 104 RBIs, and Martinez is the most sought-after hitter on the market at the moment. Martinez won’t get a deal anywhere as big as Stanton’s New York Yankees contract. Martinez’s numbers are comparable to Stanton’s, but the latter is far more dangerous in the batter’s box. The AL East is now an arms race since the Yankees are not going to be as fiscally reined in as previously believed. The Red Sox will land Martinez and the AL East will be a pitcher’s hell in 2018.
3. Eric Hosmer – Boston Red Sox
If there is one truth in baseball dating back over the last 30 years, it is that the Kansas City Royals can develop some great players. The problem is, those players will leave and be stars elsewhere. First baseman Eric Hosmer could be the next former Royals player to become a big star. The ironman played all 162 games for Kansas City in 2017 and recorded a career high .318 batting average. Hosmer also tied his career high-mark in home runs with 25. He won a Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger award, and should command a massive contract. Despite his great 2017, early projections for next year see Hosmer taking a major step backwards in batting average, RBIs and home runs. Some baseball insiders are projecting Hosmer to get a $100m deal. San Diego is interested, but the team probably won’t be a major contender in the NL West next season.
2. Jake Arrieta – Philadelphia Phillies
Jake Arrieta become a major star playing for the Chicago Cubs, but the Scott Boras repped player is now set for a big money move elsewhere. Arrieta is two seasons removed from being the National League Cy Young winner. He followed that season up by helping lead Chicago to a World Series win. The 2017 season wasn’t Arrieta’s best, and in fact, it was his worst since he arrived from Baltimore in 2013. He posted a 14-10 record with a 3.53 ERA; his highest as a Cub. Arrieta could command big league dollars, and eclipsing Max Scherzer’s $210M deal in 2015 is possible.
The Philadelphia Phillies are ready to make a move for Arrieta. The team is believed to be a contender in the NL in 2019. But the team could sign Arrieta for 2018 and get him settled for a big push the following season.
1. Yu Darvish – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Yu Darvish managed just a 4-3 record with the Los Angeles Dodgers following his July 31st trade to the City of Angels. Darvish’s poor outings in the World Series against the Houston Astros will be what a lot of baseball fans remember about the pitcher’s season. Dodgers’ fans will be happy to see him leave, as the baseball club isn’t being linked with Darvish returning to team. Despite his overall 10-12 record and 3.86 ERA, Darvish still ticks a lot of boxes for teams needing starting pitching. At 31, Darvish is one of the top pitcher free agents on the market along with Arrieta. Darvish made a reported $11 million in 2017, a price that is extremely manageable for a starting pitcher in the modern era. The Los Angeles Angels are the front-runners to sign Darvish as the team is in a win-now mode.
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