MLB Column: Which remaining free agent will have the biggest impact on their new club?

In this Nov. 1, 2017, file photo, Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish, of Japan, throws against the Houston Astros during the first inning of Game 7 of baseball's World Series in Los Angeles. A person with direct knowledge of the discussions says the Chicago Cubs are having active talks with free-agent Darvish. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

The Major League Baseball hot stove has been quiet… too quiet. With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to camp by Feb. 12 for some teams, there are still plenty of stars without new homes.

Star pitchers Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, as well as solid starters Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are still free agents. Sluggers Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas J.D Martinez and Todd Frazier are also scouring the market for some cash. This begs the question: which star will make their new team’s general manager look like a genius?

Darvish probably has the most star power of the remaining free agents and it is easy to see why. The four-time All-Star has a career ERA of 3.42, 1.179 WHIP and 1,021 strikeouts in five seasons. However, clubs seem to be leery of giving a 30-year-old starter with an injury history, including Tommy John surgery and lingering back issues, a long-term contract. By the end of the offseason, one team will give in and offer Darvish five years at roughly $20 million per year.

Arrieta was the best pitcher in baseball only three seasons ago, when he won the Cy Young Award after going 22-6, with a 1.77 ERA, .865 WHIP and 236 strikeouts over 229 innings. But his production suffered last season with diminished velocity and his ERA rose to 3.53, while he only pitched 168.1 innings due to a leg injury. At 32 years old and his prime most likely behind him, it would be foolish for a team to pay him handsomely over the next five seasons.

Hosmer (28) decided to have his career year at the perfect time; heading into free agency. However, he has not been able to cash in just yet, but he will. He has already reportedly received an offer from the Padres, but has not pulled the trigger. Hosmer will most likely get the largest sum of all free agents due to his age and production. In 162 games, he hit .318/.385/.498, with 25 dingers and 94 RBI’s. While it is likely that Hosmer should produce at a high level, it is unlikely he will play up to the standards of a new lucrative contract.

The free agent who will make the biggest impact for his new team is former Royals center fielder Cain. Although I was tempted to give Martinez that title, Cain is just the better all-around player. Cain will provide his new team with speed, defense, intelligence and enough power. He is 31, so it would be a shocker to see him sign a contract for more than four years, which is team friendly. In 155 games last season, Cain hit .300/.363/.440, with 15 homers and 49 RBI’s. The team who lands this spark plug will be reaping the rewards for a few years to come.

It is likely that the reason this free agent market has been stagnant, is due to the upcoming free agent class after next season. The class will feature Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper, Orioles’ third baseman Manny Machado and Blue Jays’ third baseman Josh Donaldson, just to name a few. If teams can find a way to bring one of the big-ticket free agents from this offseason on the cheap, they could quickly forget about the historical 2019 class.


Michael Logan is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at michael.logan@uconn.edu.