The MLB offseason has been a slow one with not too many big moves to speak of. Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the New York Yankees early on as part of the Miami Marlins’ firesale and Yu Darvish recently signed with the Chicago Cubs. Otherwise, several big names remain on the open market. The DC sports staff discusses the most intriguing free agents left in this week’s edition of the roundtable.
Jake Arrieta is the most intriguing free agent left unsigned in my opinion. This free agent class has a distinct lack of starting pitchers with Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish as the only other aces who were on the market. Whichever team lands Arrieta will be pushed to the next level, whether it's a good team becoming a clear playoff-caliber squad (like the Brewers and Cardinals) or a great team becoming World Series contenders (Nationals). Arrieta has come back to Earth since his initial hot start with the Cubs four years ago, but an ERA hovering just above 3.00 will always be a hot commodity.
After setting a Kansas City Royals single-season home run record with 38 dingers last season, third baseman Mike Moustakas remains one of the best unsigned power bats in baseball. The 29-year-old has been linked to the Yankees, and if he were to ultimately sign with them, he would add even more power to a lineup that already includes sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez. Moustakas could fill a void at third base for the Yankees, but signing him to a pricy multi-year contract would hurt their chances of ever signing Manny Machado or developing young talent Miguel Andujar.
J.D. Martinez is not only the most intriguing but the best free agent still on the market. In only 119 games last season, Martinez had a slash line of .303/.376/.690, hit 45 home runs and knocked in 104 RBIs. However, his superstar potential is being hindered by his apparent inability to play a full season, as he has only played at least 75 percent of the season (about 121 out of 162 games) only twice in his career. The Boston Red Sox look to be the best fit, however they seem to be unwilling to offer him a contract to his liking, and it was reported that he is “fed up” with them. The Arizona Diamondbacks are interested in bringing him back and are looking more and more like the favorite because of the deteriorating relationship between Martinez and the Red Sox. Signing with the Diamondbacks could also give him the opportunity to continue playing the field everyday like he wants. If he were to sign with the Red Sox, he would most likely be transitioned into an everyday DH due to his poor defense and already having three quality outfielders. I am very interested to see how this offseason plays out for Martinez as there does not look to be much traction between him and either team. Ultimately, I believe he will most likely have to settle for less than he wants.
It might be predictable to pick the top free agent on the board, but J.D. Martinez is the most intriguing to me. Each major free agent has some baggage hurting their stock. Two examples that come to mind are Jake Arrieta inexplicably becoming a fly ball pitcher last season and Eric Hosmer’s career-long volatile (to put it kindly) production at the plate coupled by his awful defensive metrics. Martinez’ inability to play the outfield is a limitation as well, but it’s silly to believe that he can be lumped in with the rest of the free agents, none of whom can be argued to deserve anything more than a five-year contract. Historical comparisons on FanGraphs provide reason to believe that Martinez is absolutely worth a five-year commitment and certainly a good bet to be productive in six years. Despite this, the best offer Martinez has on the table is a meager five-year offer from Boston. Most contending teams can and should make room on their roster and in their budget for the player with the fourth-highest wRC+ in the league since 2014, most notably the Cleveland Indians, who currently have Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall penciled in for regular playing time at the corner outfield spots this year. With the way Martinez’ market is developing, we might see a truly elite free agent (and Boras client at that) lose big time at the negotiating table for the first time in years - which sets a dangerous precedent.
I’m not sure how he hasn’t been mentioned yet but first baseman Eric Hosmer is still on the market and is one of the best players available. Coming off his best season as a big leaguer, Hosmer has the ability to be a major contributor wherever he ends up going. Although he has not been the model of consistency at the plate and is searching for a big payday, the four time Gold Glover has just entered his prime at the age of 28 and shows no signs of slowing down after not missing a game this past season. While it may be likely he’ll end up back in Kansas City, the Padres have also been in contact with the former All-Star, but he obviously can end up anywhere (would’ve been great for the Mets but I guess Adrian Gonzalez was the preferred choice). No matter where he lands, his presence will be felt in the field, at the plate and in the clubhouse.