Headlined with young stars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.
The 2018 MLB season is over and now the real fun starts for many fanbases across the league. The offseason is here and with it brings hope for big moves in one of the best classes of free agents we’ve seen in decades.
This year’s group of free agents is headlined with young stars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Even past the elite names, teams coveting All-Star talent will find it in Patrick Corbin, Craig Kimbrel, Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson and many others.
Of course, there are a plethora of options who can contribute in significant roles available as well. It is one of the most memorable free agent classes in years, raising the excitement for all fanbases across the league at what is to come in the near future.
Here are 12 bold predictions for MLB free agency.
Manny Machado signs with Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia will go after every top free agent on the market and attempt to come away with multiple stars. In the end, the organization will celebrate when it lands its needed star to help turn the team into a playoff contender.
While Machado might come with some criticism related to his personality and style of play, he is also one of the safest stars on the market with a lengthy track record of production and health. Additionally, Philadelphia isn’t in a position to be picky when it comes to talent.
Philadelphia will hand Machado a franchise-changing contract, potentially in the range of eight-plus years with player options worked into the deal and an average annual value approaching $30-plus million. While the move might draw some criticism, it will provide Philadelphia with the star power it so desperately needs to become relevant again.
Patrick Corbin goes home to New York Yankees
While Machado and Harper will draw much of the attention this offseason, Corbin is the ace every team needs but only one will walk away with.
Plenty of teams will throw more than $20 million per year in his direction with a flurry of long-term deals to choose from. Among them, New York will have the massive advantage because Corbin grew up a Yankees fan and his family remains fans of the club to this day.
There may not be much of a hometown discount, but his ties to New York should help seal the deal and give the Yankees the co-ace they desperately need. Moving forward with Luis Severino, Corbin and Masahiro Tanaka, along with the potential to trade for another ace, could quickly turn New York’s rotation into one of MLB’s best units.
Craig Kimbrel goes back to where it all began
Now with a ring on his finger, Kimbrel can explore his options and the chance to land a mega contract. Among the numerous suitors to come calling, a return to Atlanta stands out.
The Braves are flush with cash to spend this offseason and in the coming years, which allows them to spend big on one of the best relievers we’ve seen in a decade. They also have a need in the ninth inning and are certainly very familiar with how dominant Kimbrel can be.
Kimbrel can cash in with Atlanta and could make upwards of $17M in AAV over four seasons, help this team compete for the World Series and start to chase after MLB’s all-time saves record for the team where his career began.
Yasmani Grandal becomes the steal of free agency
This year’s postseason, specifically the NLCS, proved costly to Grandal’s reputation. Now hated by much of Los Angeles’ fan base and known for his failures in October, Grandal might become the steal of free agency.
MLB is in an era where production from catchers is almost universally down, even among stars. Grandal has been a top-five catcher in the league in recent years and outside of Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, finding a highly productive catcher at the plate and behind it is nearly impossible.
This is the type of situation where teams like the Braves, Phillies, Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies can strike. Grandal would turn a weakness at catcher into a position of immense strength. He might even take a financial hit because of his struggles in October, but by every metric one team will be landing a gem in free agency with his arrival.
Nathan Eovaldi cashes in with San Diego
San Diego comes into the offseason with little to no attention, yet no one should be surprised if it spends heavily this offseason.
The Padres will chase after all the big free agents, especially starting pitchers given they received just 71 quality starts out of 162 games from their starters. In a position to overpay, the possibility of Eovaldi coming to San Diego emerges.
Eovaldi comes with medical concerns. However, he is coming off a dominant postseason with a 1.61 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in 22 1/3 innings. He has an electric fastball and the Padres will feel confident in its coaching staff to get the most out of him. San Diego’s need paired with ample money to spend could lead to a surprising AAV surpassing $16 million for Eovaldi.
Josh Donaldson lands in St. Louis
A year ago, Donaldson would have been mentioned as one of the top players available this offseason. Unfortunately, his 2018 season was largely wiped out due to injuries in a crippling blow to his value.
Donaldson will likely be looking around the market for one-year deals or a two-year contract with a player option for the second season. Several teams stand out as a potential fit, including a return to Cleveland. Ultimately, the place everyone expected to be the favorite a year ago could land him now.
A one-year deal would also be ideal for St. Louis. The organization can avoid a long-term contract with a guy with significant concerns medically and take a one-year gamble on a player with All-Star potential if he is healthy. He fills a need and his intensity for the game makes him a natural fit in St. Louis.
Nelson Cruz hunts for a ring in Houston
Few expected Cruz to last this long as one of the league’s most feared power hitters, and his accomplishments are even more remarkable because he did it at Safeco Field.
Now as he heads into free agency in the final years of his career, Cruz likely wants a chance to put up big numbers and compete for a title. Houston offers him the chance to do both on one of MLB’s best teams in a ballpark where he can routinely drive out home runs.
While Cruz is locked in as a designated hitter, it is an opening for the Astros. The potential departure of Evan Gattis creates a clear vacancy and Cruz offers a clear upgrade at the position. A two-year deal could work for both sides to give each of them what they want.
Dallas Keuchel lands with the Halos
Not much went right for Los Angeles last season with a plethora of injuries, and its rotation suffered the biggest hits of them all. The Angels desperately need a reliable starter who they can count on for 180-plus innings in a season. Keuchel is that guy.
Keuchel is very familiar with the A.L. West so there wouldn’t need to be any kind of transition. While he experienced a regression in strikeouts and allowed more fly balls, Keuchel also had the fifth-highest soft contact rate among qualified starting pitchers.
Keuchel would get to be the face of the Angels’ rotation, while they would get needed rotation stability and quality starts. While it will cost the Angels financially, they need to keep going for it with Mike Trout still in the lineup.
C.C. Sabathia follows his roots to Oakland
On the verge of reaching 3,000 career strikeouts, which would make him just the 17th player to accomplish it in MLB history, Sabathia’s milestone would be even more meaningful at home.
Rumors have swirled for years that he would like to play on the West Coast. Sabathia grew up in Vallejo, so a chance to finish his career in Oakland seems almost too perfect. This also isn’t a situation where he’d have to sacrifice competing for the playoffs either.
Oakland needs starters and while Sabathia has a track record of injuries, its bullpen could help ease things on Sabathia during the season. He could serve as a veteran in the clubhouse, help Oakland compete in the American League and the city could sit back and watch him become part of MLB history.
A.J. Pollock slides into Seattle
If the Mariners lose Cruz this offseason, it could actually help the team’s overall lineup construction. Seattle could shift Dee Gordon into his natural position at second base, while Robinson Cano settles in as the designated hitter.
Of course, this still leaves two gaping holes in the outfield. Pollock fits perfectly for this team with his defensive abilities in center field and his skills at the plate. The 30-year-old is capable of a 20-20 season when healthy, though injuries have limited him in recent years.
Seattle still wants to compete and with its infield largely set, addressing center field with Pollock could be the perfect solution. The top of Seattle’s lineup will be excellent. It will then come down to how it addresses the rotation.
Boston splurges on its bullpen
On the road to a title, Boston’s bullpen stepped up more than anyone ever anticipated. Now it heads into the offseason with Kimbrel, Eovaldi and Joe Kelly all headed for free agency.
Retaining Kimbrel and Eovaldi will be difficult, but the market is loaded with high-end relievers for the Red Sox to pursue. They could create a reunion with Andrew Miller, who was dominant before an injury-riddled 2018 season and would add a big left-handed weapon to this bullpen.
Of course, Boston doesn’t even need to stop there. It could bring in Adam Ottavino, who posted a 0.99 WHIP and struck out 112 batters in 77 2/3 innings last year, as its next closer. The Red Sox could also explore Zach Britton, another southpaw with great stuff who experienced a few struggles in 2018 but could return to his elite days as a closer. If Boston wants to repeat next year, it must aggressively address its bullpen in the coming months.
Bryce Harper heads for bright lights in Los Angeles
It is the biggest question of the offseason. What MLB team will give Harper the biggest contract in MLB history and lock in the superstar outfielder for years to come?
While there is some debate over the length of the contract, whether it will be a 12-plus year deal or a more reasonable eight-year contract, there is little doubt Harper’s expected AAV on the new deal will break records.
Moving past the numbers, Harper will have so many teams to choose from to define his legacy. He can play with his best friend in Chicago, become a star in New York City or a legend in Washington D.C. In the end, the chance to be a star and a hero in Los Angeles stands out.
The Dodgers are very careful with the contracts they hand out, but Harper turned 26 in October and can easily produce through the life of a 10-year contract. Harper would add another star to Los Angeles and if he brought a championship to the city, he would be a hero for the rest of his days.