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Ideal landing spots for top remaining MLB free agents

Michael Dixon
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Two headliners and many others remain unsigned

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve seen some activity in MLB free agency. Still, the two headliners and many other key members of the class remain unsigned.

Both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper could go to a playoff team in 2018. But in each case, we think a team that had a losing record in 2018 is the better fit. In a bullpen heavy era, guys like Craig Kimbrel and Adam Ottavino have plenty of suitors. But while they don’t lack for good fits, each has an ideal destination.

We don’t know where the top remaining MLB free agents will go. But we do have a pretty good idea of where they should go.

These are the ideal landing spots for the top remaining MLB free agents.

 

Manny Machado, shortstop: Chicago White Sox

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Chicago has already traded for Machado’s brother-in-law (Yonder Alonso) and signed one of his friends (Jon Jay) this offseason. It’s a little hard to ignore that. And really, the fit is there. It’s not that current shortstop Tim Anderson (.240/.281/.406, 20 home runs, and 26 steals in 2018) is a weakness. But he’s not close to Machado (.297/.367/.538, 37 home runs, and 14 steals in 2018). Few are. The White Sox have made moves to signify that they want to compete in 2019. While they’re much improved, the gap between them and the contenders is still rather large. Machado would close that gap.

 

Craig Kimbrel, closer: Los Angles Angels

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Kimbrel saved 42 games in 2018, posting a 2.74 ERA, 0.995 WHIP, and 13.9 K/9 rate along the way. We’re not trying to glaze over what was an uninspiring postseason effort. But even with that considered, Kimbrel is still on a very short list of the game’s best closers. There’s some definite talent in the Los Angeles bullpen. But one thing that really jumps out is the lack of an anchor in the back end. Kimbrel would change that immediately. Fittingly enough for the Angels, this is a match made in Heaven.

 

Yasmani Grandal, catcher: Colorado Rockies

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The Rockies are certainly contenders. But with Nolan Arenado in the final year of his contract, it’s important that they take 2019 very seriously. That means fixing the holes on the roster. The catching position is one of them. Colorado backstops hit .206/.307/.349 with 15 home runs in 2018. As bad as that looks, it’s even worse when we remember that they put those numbers up despite playing at Coors Field. Grandal hit .241/.349/.466 with 24 home runs while playing at the spacious Dodger Stadium. We’d call that a big upgrade.

It’s worth mentioning that J.T. Realmuto can still be traded. Like many teams, the Rockies would be a sensible destination. But even if Realmuto is traded, only one team will get him. The rest will have to move on to Plan B. For Colorado, Grandal represents a solid option.

 

Jed Lowrie, second baseman: Los Angeles Dodgers

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Lowrie will turn 35 early in the 2019 season. So, the most sensible destination would be to a team that knows it can compete for a World Series this season. The Dodgers, who have won six-straight NL West titles and back-to-back NL pennants, would qualify. Los Angeles second basemen hit .209/.307/.332 with 13 home runs in 2018. Lowrie hit .267/.353/.448 with 23 home runs. He could either serve as a good table-setter at the top of the Los Angeles lineup, or as someone who adds length to the lineup hitting somewhere towards the bottom. He’s a fantastic fit for the Dodgers.

 

Dallas Keuchel, starting pitcher: Minnesota Twins

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While 2018 was a disappointment, the Twins reached the playoffs in 2017. Signing Nelson Cruz was a nice step towards getting back into contention. But if Minnesota really wants to make that happen, upgrading the starting rotation is a must. Keuchel may not be the Cy Young Award winner that he once was. But he posted a 3.74 ERA and 1.31 ERA in 2018. That’s not bad for a No. 2 starter behind Jose Berrios.

If the Cleveland Indians are really looking to deal Corey Kluber and/or Trevor Bauer, the AL Central is pretty open. Signing Keuchel would make Minnesota a viable contender in the division.

 

A.J. Pollock, centerfielder: New York Mets

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Trading for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz isn’t exactly a sign that you’re ready to rebuild. The Mets clearly have designs on contending in 2019. Pollock is an injury risk. That’s understood. But when Pollock is healthy, he’s one of the most talented centerfielders in baseball. He’s been a 20-20 guy in the past and even in an injury-plagued 2018, Pollock hit 21 home runs and stole 13 bags.

Given the horrible injury luck the Mets have had, we’d understand some hesitancy in regards to Pollock. But the bottom line is that for the Mets to contend in 2019, the offense will need to be much better than it was in 2018. That’s going to require some risks. Pollock is a risk worth taking.

 

Mike Moustakas, third baseman: Tampa Bay Rays

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Tampa had a nice season in 2018 but missed the playoffs in a very top-heavy American League. If the Rays are going to take the next step, improving on their 150 home runs and .406 slugging percentage is a must. Moustakas hit 28 home runs with a .459 slugging percentage in 2018 and is only one year removed from hitting 38 homers and slugging .521. In Tampa, he could easily slot in as the starting third baseman, first baseman, or DH. There’s absolutely room for him.

It’s worth noting that if they trade for Madison Bumgarner and give up top prospect Keston Hiura, Moustakas returning to the Milwaukee Brewers would probably be for the best. But Hiura is just about MLB ready and if he’s in the organization, room needs to be made for him. That would mean Moustakas moving on. Short of that scenario playing out, though, the Rays are a sensible destination.

 

Marwin Gonzalez, utility man: Washington Nationals

The Astros' Marwin Gonzalez is one reason the team is dominating this season.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Nationals have a lot of talent, but a lot of questions as well. Wilmer Difo is largely unproven, as is Victor Robles. Additionally, Adam Eaton, Ryan Zimmerman, and Anthony Rendon have all had issues staying healthy. That’s where Gonzalez fits in. He could essentially be to the Nationals what Ben Zobrist has been to the Chicago Cubs, or what Gonalez himself has been to the Houston Astros. He doesn’t have a set position. But as an insurance policy and utility man, Gonzalez can have an every day role for Washington as it looks to get back to the postseason.

 

Adam Ottavino, relief pitcher: Atlanta Braves

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The Braves are a very good team. Something they lack, though, is the stud reliever. The one man who a manager can go to and feel confident in, regardless of where the opponent is in its batting order. Ottavino is that guy. He has the confidence that is so desirable in relievers. And really, who could blame him? Ottavino posted a 2.43 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 13.0 K/9 rate for the Rockies in 2018. Mind you, he put up those numbers with Coors Field as his home park. Now, while Atlanta may be the ideal landing spot for Ottavino, there are plenty of other good ones. With that in mind, the Braves would do well to act fast.

 

Bryce Harper, right fielder: Philadelphia Phillies

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There’s going to be some hesitancy in giving Harper a long-term deal with the kind of money he’s asking for. That’s understandable. But ever since his MLB debut, Harper has consistently reached base at a high rate and hit for a great deal of power. And frankly, the thought of what Harper could do in Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park has to be terrifying for opposing pitchers. Fellow lefty Raul Ibanez hit 34 home runs in 2009 while calling this stadium home. That was in a much less power-friendly era than the one we’re in now. Additionally, with all due respect to Ibanez, he’s not Harper or anything close.

Even with the signing of Andrew McCutchen, the Phillies still have a real need to get more offensive production from the outfield. In the short term, Harper fixes that need. In the long term, this is a franchise-altering move. He’s only 26. The end is not near. We know that Harper and Philadelphia have mutual interest. Now, it’s time to put pen to paper and make this move happen.

 

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