The MLB offseason is here, which means free agency is now fully underway. While Clayton Kershaw may have dulled some of the excitement by re-signing with the Dodgers so early, there are still plenty of stars that need new homes. Take a look at some of the best who are currently on the market, and an early prediction of where they might end up.
Bryce Harper, OF
The six-time All Star, 2012 Rookie of the Year and 2015 MVP is hitting the market for the first time in his career and suitors are lining up around the block to lure him to their team. A career .279/.388/.512 hitter, Harper is coming off a down year where he hit just .249/.393/.496. However, he did hit 34 home runs and knock in 100 RBI, the latter being a career high. He has previously stated that he would like a contract worth at least $400 million and, while I don’t believe he will get one, there is a chance he comes close, especially as a Boras client. As one of the biggest free agents this decade, Harper is primed to get the biggest contract in MLB history.
Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are fresh off their second World Series loss in two years, and if they want to actually win it all in 2019, signing Harper will give them their best chance. They have room, as they could transition either Joc Pederson or Yasiel Puig into a fourth outfielder role similar to the one that Andre Ethier held for so many years. They also have shown they have no problem spending and haven’t been lower than third in Opening Day payroll since 2012. The current Dodgers team clearly needs another piece, and there is no one better for them than Harper.
Manny Machado, SS/3B
As Machado is easily the best position player on the market, he will be pursued by many teams. However, his market could be affected if he demands to play shortstop even though he is statistically a much better defender at third base. His recent character concerns could also negatively affect his value as GMs might be less willing to invest big bucks in someone who trips over and steps on opposing players. However, his talent and .282/.335/.487 career line can’t be denied and, regardless of his issues, he will still get a sizeable contract.
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are below the league average in payroll and have a promising young core and, after a late season collapse last year, adding a superstar could be the final piece to push them into the postseason. They have room at shortstop, so Machado could stay in his preferred position, as .226 hitter Scott Kingery is currently atop the depth chart. A top four of Hernandez, Hoskins, Machado and Santana would be deadly and with a few more improvements the Phillies could become one of the best teams in baseball.
Patrick Corbin, SP
Patrick Corbin bounced back in a big way after a couple of disappointing seasons, posting a 3.15 ERA, 2.47 FIP and 1.05 WHIP in exactly 200 innings pitched. In a relatively weak free agent starting pitching class, Corbin is the best one available. The Diamondbacks are eyeing a rebuild and have made everyone, even Paul Goldschmidt, available via trade. It’s very unlikely he returns to Arizona, and many playoff contenders in need of starting pitching will be eager to bring him on board.
Prediction: New York Yankees
Sorry Yankees fans, I do not believe you will be getting Harper or Machado this offseason. Frankly, you don’t need them. You desperately need starting pitching. Severino has shown signs of stardom, but his inconsistencies are concerning. Tanaka is a nice 3rd or 4th starter on a playoff team who is currently working as a No. 2. Then there’s Sonny “second deck” Gray, who might even be traded away from the Bronx before the season starts due to his immense struggles last season. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has made it clear that the Yankees are looking to sign two more starting pitchers aside from CC Sabathia to round out their rotation, and one will be Corbin. The second will be J.A. Happ, who they will bring back after posting a 2.69 ERA with Yankees last season.
Dallas Keuchel, SP
While Keuchel hasn’t nearly been as good as his 2015 Cy Young award-winning self, he has still been a very good starting pitcher. He posted a 3.74 ERA, 3.69 FIP and 1.31 WHIP last season for the Astros as a part of the best rotation in baseball. Like Corbin, he will benefit from a lack of premier starting pitching in this free agent class, so he will likely be highly sought after.
Prediction: Houston Astros
While Keuchel seems like a perfect fit for the Yankees, I just don’t believe that he will leave Houston. He’s spent his entire career there and was a key part of their historic rebuild and World Series winning team. The Astros will also likely want to bring him back as well, as 2018 All Star Charlie Morton is also a free agent and Lance McCullers just underwent Tommy John surgery, ruling him out for the 2019 season. If the Astros don’t want to lose over half of their rotation, they will need to re-sign Keuchel.
Craig Kimbrel, CP
Craig Kimbrel is one of, if not the best relief pitcher in the MLB and, for the first time in his career, he is hitting free agency. In fact, his agent is even calling him the greatest closer of all-time, so he certainly will not be signing for cheap. With a strong bullpen being valued more and more every year, Kimbrel could potentially become the highest paid relief pitcher of all time.
Prediction: Atlanta Braves
After a year in San Diego and three years in Boston, Kimbrel will be going back to Atlanta. This may be a bold choice but hear me out. The Braves won the National League East last season for the first time since 2013 and, with the Philadelphia Phillies right on their tail, they will be looking to make some improvements to keep their grasp on the division. They have a fantastic young core which allows them to remain low on the payroll rankings, giving them money to spend. What could be better than bringing Kimbrel back and pairing him with Vizcaino in the back of their bullpen? Add another starting pitcher, say Nathan Eovaldi or Charlie Morton, and the Braves become one of the easy favorites in the National League.
A.J. Pollock, OF
The injury-prone outfielder is on the market and could be the consolation prize for teams that miss out on the Harper sweepstakes. While he has had a rough past three years, playing no more than 113 games in a season and just 12 in 2016, he is still a talented hitter when in the lineup. Pollock hit .257/.316/.484 last season with 21 home runs and 65 RBI for the Diamondbacks and, like Corbin, is unlikely to return.
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies won’t stop at Machado this offseason, as they will be looking to seriously contend and keep up with the Braves. Odubel Herrera had some struggles last season and Nick Williams is still largely unproven, so adding a veteran bat to the outfield can’t hurt. I don’t expect this to be a long-term deal. Rather, it most likely will be a one-year “prove-it” type contract where Pollock will go somewhere for less than his current value in the hopes of performing well and increasing it going into free agency next season. The Phillies will take him on for their playoff push and hit him right behind Santana, furthering their already great lineup.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.