Mariners and Mets Trade Talks Heating Up

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Closer Edwin Diaz, left, and second baseman Robinson Cano, right, are currently being packaged in trade talks. (Photo Courtesy: Seattle Times/AP Photos)

Well, the hot stove is on fire right now! In just the past two weeks, we’ve seen Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann sign with Atlanta, Garrett Richards sign with San Diego, and the Mariners sent catcher Mike Zunino to Tampa Bay, as well as starter James Paxton to the Yankees. Seattle is in talks with New York again – this time, it’s the Yankees crosstown rivals. That’s right, the Mets are getting in on the trade fun!

Now, nothing is set in stone just yet, but the rumors keep flying around involving a trade that would potentially send Cano and Diaz to Queens in exchange for a package of prospects, according first to Jeff Passan. Ken Rosenthal then got a little more detailed, saying that according to sources, the Mets would send outfielder Jarred Kelenic (their 2018 1st Round Pick) and pitcher Justin Dunn (their 2016 1st Round Pick) to Seattle.

Right off the bat, I like this hypothetical deal for the Mets. They get an elite closer who is coming off of a season in which he saved 57 games, had a 1.96 ERA, 1.61 FIP, 208 ERA+ and put up some insane strikeout numbers: 15.2 K/9IP and 7.29 K/BB Ratio. He is under team control for four more years, as well. Cano is now 36 and is coming off a season in which he only played in 80 games, thanks to an 80 game suspension for PEDs. Those problems aside, he is still a good hitter (.303/.374/.471 slashline with a 136 OPS+ and wRC+). Aside from his suspension, the lowest amount of games that he had played in from 2007-2017 was 150. To put it simply, the dude is durable. His defense is still above-average, as he 4 DRS last year at second base. The M’s also experimented with him at first base last year which went, eh, I guess alright. It wasn’t ideal, but what can you do? His range isn’t what it used to be, but he’s 36 and that’s come to be expected.

The problem is that he is still owed $120M over the next five years, and that’s why the Mariners want to deal him. The only way I see this trade going down is if Seattle eats about half that contract. I can’t see the Mets including those two first round picks otherwise. At the same time, Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto is probably including Diaz in an effort to sweeten the pot a little bit. Either way, this would work for both teams: Seattle gets two great prospects (Kelenic and Dunn both rank in the Top 100 on MLB.com’s list of Top 100 Prospects) and the Mets get an established bat and a fantastic closer under a team-friendly contract. The Mets can play Cano at second base for a few years until he breaks down and play Jeff McNeil at third base (he’s played there in 161 games professionally, so it wouldn’t be a terrible idea). Top prospect Peter Alonso would likely be the Opening Day first baseman. This could work out pretty well!

Except it can’t.

Shortly after the initial news broke out, Ken Rosenthal reported again that Jeff McNeil was being discussed in the trade, as well.

I hate this for the Mets. McNeil, the budding infielder who electrified the Mets offense after being called up on July 24, would be a great return for the Mariners, in my opinion. Keep in mind, after his call up, the Mets went 37-26. According to Fangraphs, he compiled 2.7 WAR in just 63 games, as well as slashing .329/.381/.471 with a 140 OPS+ and 137 wRC+. He is under team control for SIX MORE SEASONS after being a late bloomer and arriving to the majors at 26 years old.

The Mets have a decision to make, and it amounts on a few scenarios:

  • They need to seriously consider if McNeil’s hot streak after coming to the majors was a fluke. If they believe this to be the case, then they can sell high on him while his value is up. But there is a serious risk that this guy is for real and they will be trading him for an aging infielder with an inflated contract.
  • They need to seriously believe that Cano can continue putting up good offensive numbers. He’s 36 years old. It is not uncommon for hitters to begin breaking down at this point.
  • Do they believe that Cano will put them in contention where McNeil can’t? Fangraphs has Cano with 2.9 WAR in 80 games this season. To me, 2.7 WAR in 63 games from a 26 year old rookie is more valuable than 2.9 WAR in 80 games from a 35 year old making $24M per year.
  • Does the addition of Diaz make it that valuable for them that you add in a player of McNeil’s talent? Can they find another prospect that they can throw in?

To me, adding McNeil is a major risk for the Mets. He has major upside and has the type of contract that the Mets should be valuing right now, not throwing away. That is, if this trade even happens. Let’s wait and see.

By: Chris Perkowski

2018-19 Free Agent Predictions

A quick aside, I’d like to thank my readers for sticking with me over my year-long hiatus. I was figuring out some personal matters, including enrolling myself back into college and figuring out where I would be going. Now that that is sorted out, I am ready to hit the ground running with the blog. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Free Agency! Who is signing where? Who is getting underpaid? Who is getting overpaid? Which teams improve and which teams fail to make a splash? This is what baseball fans live for.

1. Bryce Harper

Baseball fans and insiders have been waiting for Harper to hit free agency ever since he was a fresh-faced 19 year old debuting in 2012. Now 26, Harper is considered by many to be one of the best talents in the game and he’s ready to cash in. He started a bit slow in 2018, but he finished the second half with a slash line of .300/.434/.538 with 11 HRs, 46 RBI. An on-base machine, he drew an insane 34 walks in September/October alone. Something that could hurt him, though, are his defensive numbers. Harper has never been known for his defensive prowess, but 2018 was by far the worst year of his career in that aspect. He had -26 defensive runs saved (Rdrs) and -3.2 dWAR. His WAR of 1.3 was his lowest total over a full season, as well. He led the league in walks (130) but also racked up 169 strikeouts, a career high. You can’t put too much weight into that, though, as strikeouts have steadily been up all across the league over the last few years. A concern of mine is if his 2015 MVP season was an anomaly. In the three seasons since, he hasn’t really come close to matching that level of offensive production. I’m not saying that he’s a bad player, but I do think he is a little overrated when you consider the fact that his .330/.460/.649 slash line in 2015 are the best of his career by a mile. His OPS+ and wRC+ that year nearly touched 200, but his career average OPS+ 128 and career average wRC+ is 129, otherwise. Those are good numbers, but I wouldn’t say they’re elite, although he’ll certainly be paid like an elite talent.

Harper already rejected an extension offer from the Nationals which did not include an opt-out clause (a favorite of many big name free agents). It seems that this offer was a “make good” offer by the Nats in order to save face in case they can’t retain their star right fielder.

That aside, what does his market look like? It doesn’t seem like the Dodgers, Red Sox or Cubs are going to spend this type of money, and the Yankees don’t have a fit in the outfield (plus inside sources have said a union between the two isn’t likely). I think the Nats will still be in on Harper, despite him rejecting their extension offer back in September. The Phillies are seen as the industry favorites, having saved a lot of money in recent years by letting big contracts expire. Their rebuild is going well, having finished in second place in the NL East despite an epic late season collapse out of playoff contention. The Braves or Cardinals could be interested, and I could see the Mets making a splash with a new GM hoping to prove that they will compete. Don’t be surprised, though, if a surprise team like the White Sox are able to lure him in (they even set up a big stage for him during a brief meeting last week).

Prediction: Phillies – 13 years/$350M (two opt-outs)

2. Manny Machado

Another 26 year old looking for a major payday, Machado comes off a career year, experiencing highs in batting average (.297), Home Runs (37), RBI (107), walks (70), OBP (.367), SLUG (.538), OPS+ (146), and wRC+ (141). Normally a very strong defender (the owner of two Gold Gloves at the hot corner), Machado was a liability in the field in 2018, his first at shortstop. He had -13 Rdrs playing SS between his time with Baltimore and the Dodgers. The lowest Rdrs he ever had at third base was 6. Machado insists that he wants to play shortstop, which may not be too smart considering his defensive weaknesses at the position (though he was considerably better once he went to LA).

Now, let’s get to the 800-pound gorilla in the room: “I’m not going to change, I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle.’” That comment was fairly troubling, considering the unwarranted attention he received on the biggest stage that he has ever been on in his career. He had several dirty plays in the playoffs, including kicking Jesus Aguilar’s ankle at first base and a controversial take-out slide into Orlando Arcia. The lack of hustle and dirty plays (he has had a history with the latter throughout his career, including once throwing his bat at third baseman Josh Donaldson in 2014) are sure to hurt his market, along with his shortcomings at shortstop, a position he insists on playing.

His market will be similar to Harper’s, I think. Look for the Phillies to have interest (they have the money available to add BOTH Harper and Machado) plus rebuilding teams like the White Sox or Padres. Many in the industry see the Yankees as the favorites, having an opening due to Didi Gregorius being on the DL until about July with Tommy John Surgery. Adding Machado would mean a trade of either Didi or Andujar, which I don’t think makes much sense as a Yankee fan, but that’s neither here nor there. The Yankees front office has been enamored with him for quite some time, and I don’t expect that to change.

Prediction: Yankees – 10 years/$290M (one opt-out)

3. Patrick Corbin

Corbin could not have picked a better time to have the most productive season of his career. Compiling a career best 3.15 ERA in 33 starts and 200 innings, he was one of the best starting pitchers in the NL this year, being rewarded with the first Top 5 Cy Young voting finish of his career. Racking up 246 strikeouts with just 46 walks (good for a 5.13 K/BB ratio) and 11.1 K/9IP, plus a 137 ERA+, a 1.050 WHIP and 2.47 FIP. To put it simply, he was lights out and should “make bank” as the top starter on the Free Agent Market. He’ll have several suitors, including some teams we’ve already discussed like the Phillies, Braves, White Sox, and Yankees. Don’t be surprised if the surging Brewers make a splash here, or the Twins, Nationals, Angels, or Giants. However, I’m expecting Corbin to sign with his boyhood team even with the James Paxton trade.

Prediction: Yankees – 6 years/$124M

4. Dallas Keuchel

Keuchel is a long way from his 2015 AL Cy Young season, but he was pretty rock solid in 2018 for the Astros. Given a 3.74 ERA over 204.2 IP and a 108 ERA+, he should do alright on a thin pitching market. Like I said, the soon-to-be 31 year old southpaw isn’t the pitcher he once was, but he is reliable. He’ll eat up innings (he’s surpassed 200 IP in three of the last five seasons) and his postseason success should make him an attractive target to pitching-needy teams (he’s got a 3.31 ERA over 10 postseason games). Given his composition, he should be in for a good payday and have a decent number of suitors. I imagine the interested teams will be the same as Corbin’s. Whoever loses the Corbin sweepstakes will likely turn to Keuchel right after.

Prediction: Twins – 4 years/$78M

5. Craig Kimbrel

What is there to say about one of the greatest closers of all-time? Whatever team signs Kimbrel is getting a man coming off of his fifth career 40 Save season (he has 333 career saves in nine years). He has only had an ERA over 3.00 once in his career. His career ERA+ is 211 and his career WHIP is 0.920. Kimbrel is as automatic as it gets, and is on his way to a Hall of Fame career. He has quite the résumé to go off of, and he will have any number of teams trying to lure him over. I could see a return to Boston or Atlanta, and I would also add the Cardinals, Angels, Phillies, Mets, Twins, or Cubs as interested parties as they all have a need at the backend of the bullpen. In the end, I’m expecting a major splash for the team who signs him.

Prediction: Mets – 5 years/$86M

6. Yasmani Grandal

A strong offensive catcher, Grandal has averaged 24 home runs per season over his last three years. He is coming off a season in which he had a career high 121 OPS+ and a 125 wRC+. He had a nightmarish October, however, hitting just .137 in the postseason with 15 K’s in only 29 AB’s. That certainly hurt his worth, but there are still some teams who need a catcher (the Mets, Braves, Phillies, Rangers, Astros, and Red Sox come to mind) who will likely base him off of his career pedigree. I would have listed the Nationals, but I think that the Kurt Suzuki signing takes them out of the running.

Prediction: Astros – 4 years/$56M

7. Nathan Eovaldi

Was there any story better than Big Nate’s resurgence this season? Following a midseason trade to the Red Sox, Eovaldi gave a jolt to Boston’s rotation, pitching to a 3.33 ERA over 12 games and 54.0 IP. He accumulated a 132 ERA+ and a 2.88 FIP. Those are all really good. Then you put into account the fact that he missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery. Well, he came back pitching better than he ever had before, especially in the postseason. I don’t think Eovaldi will be paying for many meals in Boston for a while, helping them win their fourth World Series title in the last 14 years (he had a mere 1.61 ERA over 22.1 IP in the postseason, striking out 16). I’d say that his market will be the same as Corbin’s and Keuchel’s. His durability is certainly a question, but he’s become a front of the rotation arm when healthy.

Prediction: Brewers – 4 years/$60M

8. A.J. Pollock

Pollock is an interesting case here. A former Gold Glove winner, he is a strong defensive center fielder. He amassed 6 Rdrs this season along with a decent 0.8 dWAR. Offensively, he has not matched the firepower that he showed in 2014-15. In those two years, he slashed .311/.363/.498 and a 131 OPS+ and 133 wRC+. This is not to say he was bad since then, the problem is that he just hasn’t been healthy. In 2016, he played 12 games. Then 112 in 2017, and 113 in 2018. He has surpassed 130 games just twice, and 150 games just once. Reliability is the major question mark with Pollock. Teams are going to ask the question: If I invest a lot of money in this guy, will he be worth it? There is no answer to that. He’s been great at the top of the Diamondbacks lineup for the past seven years, and put out a career high 21 HRs this year. Someone will pay him, but I can’t imagine he’ll get longer than a four year pact. A reunion with the Diamondbacks is probably out of the question as they’re trying to save some cash. Maybe he could fit with the Giants, White Sox, Phillies, or Indians as they all have space in the outfield and money to spend. The White Sox could easily bring him in while they wait for their top outfield prospects to continue developing (Eloy Jimenez, the consensus #3 prospect in baseball, should make the Opening Day MLB Roster, but Luis Robert and Blake Rutherford are likely to be down in High-A Ball or Double A, at the highest).

Prediction: White Sox – 4 years/$52M

9. J.A. Happ

The ageless wonder is one of the top pitchers available this winter. Happ, 36, was a fantastic pickup for the Yankees at the July trade deadline, pitching to a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts and a 163 ERA+. Happ is prone to giving up home runs (averages 24 HR’s against per year) but he had a career high 193 K’s this year. I’d look to Rich Hill’s contract (3 years/$48M through his age 39 season) to see what Happ can get. Again, there are plenty of teams who are looking for a reliable starter and he fits the bill. He’ll have the same suitors as Corbin, Keuchel, and Eovaldi.

Prediction: Braves – 3 years/$45M

10. Michael Brantley

The longtime Cleveland Indian reaches the open market heading into his age 32 season. Clearly, this affects the contract length that he will be able to procure. Like Pollock, here is a talented outfielder with trouble staying on the field. In 2016, he suited up just 11 times, and then 90 times in 2017. He did play 143 games in 2018, his highest total since playing in 156 contests in 2014. That said, he had a really strong season this year: .309/.364/.468 with 17 HR’s, 76 RBI, 123 OPS+ and 124 wRC+. As a corner outfielder, his market will be a little different than Pollock’s. I think he will be highly sought after as a cheaper, shorter term option for teams who can’t make a play for Harper. Look for the Cubs, Indians, Rays, Cardinals, Braves, White Sox, or Phillies to have interest.

Prediction: Braves – 3 years/$40M

11. Andrew McCutchen

The 2013 NL MVP finally hits free agency at his age 32 season. He is not the player he was from 2010-2015, but he’s still an extremely serviceable corner outfield and occasional DH option. He had a very solid year between the Giants and Yankees last season slashing .255/.368/.424 with a 120 wRC+. He has close to no range to play center field at this point (he had -28 and -16 Rdrs in CF in 2016 and 2017, respectively) so he has to be looked at as a corner outfield option. He was a strong pickup for the Bronx Bombers in August and probably showed some teams that he’s got some life left in his bat. He’ll get a multi-year pact, and will have similar suitors as Brantley. I do think that he gets slightly more money than Brantley, only due to Brantley’s injury history.

Prediction: Indians – 3 years/$42M

12. Yusei Kikuchi

Kikuchi, 27, is a left handed starter from Japan’s Seibu Lions. He’s had a good career in Japan with a career 2.81 ERA. He keeps the ball in the park, but does walk quite a bit of batters. He’s one of the top pitchers in Japan and will have plenty of suitors, I’m sure. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see a rebuilding team with money to spend make the right offer for him. Don’t rule out contenders though, either. Not to sound like a broken record, but he’ll have the same interest parties as Corbin, Keuchel, et al. Hey, those are the teams who need pitching! Sue me! (Please don’t sue me, I can’t afford it)

Prediction: Padres – 6 years/$40M

13. Josh Donaldson

Donaldson was a late bloomer to begin with, not becoming an established big leaguer until his age 26 season. Now 33 and coming off a lost year due to injuries, he’s going to have trouble getting a multi-year deal. He looked pretty good for Cleveland after being acquired in August, slashing .280/.400/.520 in only 60 PA. Still, he’s established himself as one of the premiere third basemen in baseball and teams will hope that they can count on that.

Also, I’m not sure when I’m going to talk about this again, but the Blue Jays are the dumbest. Last winter, they turned down a trade with the Cardinals that would have brought in Jack Flaherty in return. Can you believe it? The same team that traded Noah Syndergaard for R.A. Dickey made another bad decision? Flaherty, if you’re unaware, was superb for St. Louis in his rookie season, pitching to the tune of a 3.34 ERA and a 116 ERA+, striking out 182 batters in 151.0 IP and finishing fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Instead, they traded him for a Player to be Named Later. God, they’re so bad.

Anyways, I think Donaldson is going to get a one year “prove it” deal, or a two year deal at the absolute most. The Cardinals should be the favorites to land him as they’ve got some cash to spend and an opening at third base, but so do the Angels, White Sox, and possibly the Phillies or Braves.

Prediction: Cardinals – One year/$18.5M

14. Charlie Morton

I know I called J.A. Happ the ageless wonder, but man, what a year Charlie Morton had in Houston last year! The 35 year old hurler had the best year of his career by a mile. With a 3.13 ERA and 129 ERA+, he struck out 201 hitters, good for a 10.8 K/9IP (all career bests). Unlike Happ or even the recently re-signed CC Sabathia, Morton doesn’t have the track record to back it up, but two strong seasons in Houston should help him out. Morton has stated in the past the desire to pitch close to his wife’s family in Delaware. With this possibly being his final contract, that would seem to be happening now. With that information, we can assume that would narrow it down to the Orioles, Nationals, and Phillies. I don’t think the O’s are going to be signing anyone major, so let’s leave them out.

He has also hinted that he could simply retire, but let’s assume that he doesn’t.

Prediction: Nationals – Two years/$33M

15. Wilson Ramos

Ramos is, to me, the best catcher on the open market. Ramos’ breakout 2016 season ended a week early because of an ACL tear – he had torn the same ACL four years earlier. Because of that, he was forced to sign a two-year deal worth just $12.5M with the Rays. He certainly returned to form, slashing .290/.334/.473 over that time frame. He split time between the Rays and Phillies in 2018 and led all MLB catchers in wRC+ (131). Defensively, he’s pretty middle of the pack to below average. In 2018, he had -5 Rdrs and a 0.4 dWAR. His Caught Stealing% was 29% this season, though it was 44% in Philadelphia, a marked improvement in a limited time frame. Now, he’s only 31, but those dreams of a five year deal have probably evaporated. He should certainly get a three year deal and possibly a fourth year option. Expect his market to be the same as Grandal’s.

Prediction: Mets – 3 years/$38M

16. Marwin Gonzalez

Gonzalez is the premiere utility player in the league. He plays every infield position and both corner outfield spots, and plays them well, mind you. Now, his offensive numbers in 2017 were probably a flash in the pan (.303/.377/.530, 146 OPS+, 23 HRs, 90 RBI) as he came back down to earth this year with a .247/.324/.409 slashline, sporting a 103 OPS+ and 16 HRs with 68 RBI. Prior to 2017, he had never had an OPS+ higher than 109, so this past season certainly leans closer to that. His defense is fairly strong. He had a respectable 5 Rdrs between seven positions in 2018. Altogether, he had 2.5 WAR this season. His durability and flexibility in the field will earn him a nice payday. As well, because of his ability to play anywhere in the field, he will have his fair share of suitors. I could honestly see him drawing interest from close to twenty teams. Among those, I would expect the Twins, Cubs, Angels, Tigers, Nationals, Phillies, Blue Jays, and Rockies.

Prediction: Twins – 4 years/$39.5M

17. Jeurys Familia

In 2016, Familia solidified himself as one of the top relievers in baseball, pitching to a 2.55 ERA and 158 ERA+, while notching a league-leading 51 saves. 2017, however, was a different story. He missed the first fifteen games of the season after being suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy regarding a previous domestic violence arrest. Following that, he only pitched in 26 games after missing significant time due to an arterial clot in his right shoulder.

So, 2018 was a big year for Familia. He had to show that he was healthy and that his problems were behind him. He did not disappoint. He pitched to a very solid 3.13 ERA with a 125 ERA+ and 2.65 FIP. He appeared in 70 games between the Mets and A’s, and was used more as a set-up man. I don’t know what more you people want from me, he was pretty good, OK! He’ll get looked at primarily as a set-up man, I’d imagine, but someone may give him a shot as a closer. Look for him to be a back-up option for teams that miss out on Kimbrel.

Prediction:  Angels – 3 years/$30M

18. Zach Britton

Britton’s days as a closer may be done. Following his historic 2016 season in which he pitched to an insane 0.54 ERA and gave up just four earned runs over 67.0 IP with 47 saves. From May 5th until the end of the season, he had a 0.16 ERA! He had an 803 ERA+, and that is not a typo! It was unequivocally the best season by a closer possibly ever. From the start of 2016 to late August 2017, he converted 60 consecutive saves. That 2017 season, however, was marred by left forearm trouble. He missed the end of that season, as well, due to a ruptured achilles tendon. He did not pitch in 2018 until June 12th because of that injury, and was traded to the Yankees from Baltimore just before the trade deadline. If you look at his ERA and ERA+ with the Yankees (2.88, 153) you’d say he pitched well, but his FIP (4.08) says otherwise. He did not have a good K/BB ratio (1.91), but did settle down as the season went on. He also had a strong performance in the playoffs, throwing a 2.25 ERA in the ALDS against the Red Sox.

I can’t see anyone relying on him as a closer right now, but that could change. I think he will be a high-priced, high-leverage reliever, kind of like an Andrew Miller. I could see a return to the Yankees, but the Astros, Cubs, Twins, Mets, and Phillies are among teams who are looking for bullpen help.

Prediction: Astros – 2 years/$22M

19. David Robertson

The soon to be 34 year old Robertson was effective in 2018, but was a disappointment when compared to his 2017 season, though that is not particularly fair. After returning to the Yankees following a trade from the White Sox, he had arguably the best stretch of his career. Over 30 games with the Yankees in 2017, he had a 1.03 ERA, giving up just 14 hits in 35.0 IP and striking out 51 batters. He had a 442 ERA+ (again, not a typo) and a 0.743 WHIP. Not to mention, a crazy 13.1 K/9IP.

2018 was a different story. He had a 3.23 ERA, again very effective but just not up to the standards he had set over the last few months of the 2017 season. His strikeout numbers were great, as usual, as he struck out 91 batters over 69.2 IP. He did give up 25 ER, the second highest total of his career, and 7 HRs, tied for the highest total of his career. Still, it’s a strong season by anyone’s standards and I think he’ll get paid accordingly. The main factor in his free agency is his desire to pitch close to his Rhode Island home. That realistically leaves us with the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox.

Prediction: Red Sox – 3 years/$28M

20. Adam Ottavino

Ottavino was a major bright spot for the Colorado bullpen in 2018, pitching to a 2.43 ERA with 112 K’s over 77.2 IP. He had a 193 ERA+ and 2.74 FIP, and a wonderful 13.0 K/9IP. He gave up just 5 home runs, an impressive feat when you consider the rate at which balls fly out of Coors Field. All of this progress so late in his career (he will be 33 in 2018) is due to his reinventing himself in an abandoned shoe store in NYC. He was, to put it as simply as possible, one of the best relievers in baseball this past season, and he chose the exact right time to have the best year of his career. The Brooklyn native is going to be paid handsomely. I’d imagine he’ll have a market similar to Familia or Britton.

Prediction: Yankees – 3 years/$28M

So, that’s it! The top 20 2018-19 MLB Free Agents with Predictions on their landing spots. Let’s look back on this in March and see how many I got astoundingly wrong! What are your opinions? Who do you think will get the steal of the winter? Sound off in the comments!

By: Chris Perkowski

Woah, the Brewers Are Going For It!

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Christian Yelich rounds the bases. (Photo Courtesy: Rob Foldy)

Just a week after Christian Yelich’s agent said that his client’s relationship with the Miami Marlins was “irretrievably broken,” the Marlins have dealt Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Marlins got a pretty good haul in return (it only took Miami four major trades this offseason for that to happen), including outfielder Lewis Brinson, who was ranked as the Brewers top prospect.

As if that wasn’t enough, about two hours later, the Brewers agreed to sign free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain to a five year/$80M contract. Cain, who began his career in Milwaukee, slots in as the every day center fielder. The newly acquired Yelich would join him in left field, while Domingo Santana (fresh off of a 30 HR season a year ago) would be in right field. That’s a pretty darn good outfield, and could rank as one of the league’s best. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required and recommended) suggests moving Ryan Braun to first base where he could face LHP, which would give Eric Thames a rest. Last season, Thames slashed a very nice .265/.382/.551 against RHP, while slashing a gruesome .182/.270/.394 against LHP. Braun, on the other hand, slashed .264/.355/.516 against LHP last year. Braun is also a career .331 hitter against LHP. I believe that the oft-injured Braun could greatly benefit from a part-time role in a position that takes less of a toll on the body.

This leaves outfielders Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips as odd-men out. They could trade Santana for a pitcher straight up and keep Braun in the outfield. The Brewers have one glaring need: starting pitching. Now, to me they have two options: they can sign a starter or they can dangle the aforementioned Broxton and Phillips in a package for a starter. Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi of the Rays make sense, as would Zack Greinke of the Diamondbacks or Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays. This is a really wonderful problem to have for Brewers GM David Stearns.

Let’s look at Tampa Bay. The Rays would be able to deal Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi in return for Phillips, Broxton, and likely another prospect (perhaps shortstop prospect Mauricio Dubon or catching prospect KJ Harrison). This allows Corey Dickerson to be the Rays primary DH, with Phillips starting in left field. Phillips impressed in limited time in the majors last year, slashing .276/.351/.448. Broxton would be the fourth outfielder. On the Milwaukee side, Archer or Odorizzi instantly slot in the top of the rotation.

As for Toronto, they can pretty much do the same thing. Phillips would be the everyday left fielder, relegating Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera to utility roles and Broxton could platoon with Curtis Granderson in right field. However, instead of Dubon or Harrison, the Brewers would likely have to give up Top 100 Prospect Corbin Burnes, a RHP with quality stuff and a plus fastball. Likewise with Archer or Odorizzi, Stroman would easily be the staff ace in Milwaukee.

Then there’s the interesting case with the Diamondbacks. Zack Greinke is owed $138.5M over the next four seasons, so Arizona would have to eat roughly half of that monstrous contract in any trade, which hurts their return in terms of prospects. So for the Brew Crew, they could include one of Broxton or Phillips, and possibly pitching prospect Marcos Diplan, while taking on half of Greinke’s contract and allowing him to return to Milwaukee (where he lead the Brewers to the NLCS back in 2011).

There is one trade destination that I failed to mention: Cleveland. Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com has suggested that the Brewers have interest in hurler Danny Salazar. Salazar is a bit of a risky option, in my opinion. He has only pitched a full season once in his career. He has never thrown 200 innings, and has a career 3.82 ERA, which is pretty middle of the pack. Mind you, he has done this in a weak AL Central and would be moving to a more competitive NL Central where he would face the dominant Cubs and Cardinals multiple times per year. The suggested trade is Domingo Santana for Danny Salazar, straight up. Personally, the power that Santana offers is too important to give up for a pitcher who, in my opinion, is a major question mark. I like any of the other options for Milwaukee more than Salazar.

One last option for the organization is free agency. The Brewers may be looking at the free agent pitching market, most likely towards Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb, hoping that their asking prices go down as the market has been stagnant all offseason. In that case, they could swap Phillips and Broxton to another team for a top bullpen arm.

There are a lot of ways that the Brewers can go with this outfield surplus; with all of them having really positive outcomes. This is a big time for the franchise as they can be on the cusp of winning in the near future. If they play their cards right with the hand they’ve currently been dealt, their moment could come fairly soon.

By: Chris Perkowski

 

An Interview with Twins Prospect Tom Hackimer

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Minnesota Twins prospect Tom Hackimer while pitching for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. (Photo Courtesy: Steve Buhr)

Perhaps you don’t yet know the name Tom Hackimer, but you should. The right-handed side-armer has been electric out of the bullpen between two levels of A ball over the past two years, pitching to an 8-4 record with a 1.95 ERA and 97 K’s in 87.2 IP. The Floral Park native hopes to continue to rise through the minor league ranks in the Twins system as he readies himself for the 2018 season. He was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his schedule between training to talk with me about his experiences so far.

Charging The Mound: I know you came up as a shortstop in high school, when did you make the transition to pitcher?

Tom Hackimer: Pretty much, I ended my high school career as a shortstop and immediately started my college career as a pitcher?

CTM: How did that transition come about?

TH: More or less, the story that I’ve been told is that the head coach at St. John’s, Ed Blankmeyer, had seen me throwing across the diamond at a camp when I was in high school and said “this kid’s got kind of long arms and a lanky frame – he’d probably be a good side-arm pitcher.” My hitting coach at the time had overheard it, and eventually they ended up offering me an opportunity to go to St. John’s to walk-on, and be converted into be a side-arm pitcher.

CTM: Had you ever pitched at any other level before?

TH: I had pitched in little league in, like, Cooperstown tournaments, but I hadn’t really pitched since I’d gone to high school at all.

CTM: That’s crazy! So you went to St. John’s as a walk-on, but had any other school recruited you as a shortstop?

TH: No, my hitting coach was good friends with the coach at NYIT (New York Institute of Technology), and I probably could’ve been on the team there at least as a shortstop, but I don’t really know. I didn’t really have any offers.

CTM: Was there any level of discomfort changing positions?

TH: I honestly welcomed it! I will always miss playing shortstop; I would consider my defensive prowess the strongest portion of my game…but I could not hit to save my life, and it was just frustrating at that point. So I knew that the switch to the mound was coming if I wanted to continue to play…The lucky thing for me is that I always had a pretty good arm overall. I guess I just always liked throwing, so I did it a lot – I liked to long toss, stuff like that. I always had a good arm across the field. I’d always kind of like to throw it across the field as hard as I could…my first baseman didn’t like it [laughs].

CTM: You grew up in Floral Park, NY, were you a Mets or Yankees fan as a kid?

TH: It’s a really weird dynamic in my house. My dad was born and raised in Jamaica, Queens, and he is for some strange reason a Boston Red Sox fan, so you can try to figure that one out on your own; I still can’t after 23 years of being his son, it’s a mystery to me as much as anyone else. My brother, who is about nine years older than me, is a Mets fan, whereas I was always a Yankees fan. So we had a really weird dynamic there.

CTM: I ask that because in the 2015 Draft, you were selected in the Fifteenth Round by the Mets. What came into the decision not to sign with them?

TH: Trust me, it had nothing to do with my allegiance [laughs]. I hadn’t had a lot of exposure in the fall of my junior year because I was recovering from knee surgery, and prior to that I had been a non-prospect because I didn’t really throw very hard. I came back throwing harder, and suddenly that put me on people’s radars, but it was too late to get enough eyes on me to make a big decision. Like, I ended up going in the Fourth Round in 2016 (to the Minnesota Twins). Any decision like that…a lot of people have to crosscheck and consider before that trigger is pulled. I didn’t think that I had gotten enough exposure to say “alright, this is the best I’m going to get.” I didn’t think they had offered enough money to get me to leave school, as I wanted to finish my senior year and finish my degree or at least get closer to it…I ironically ended up not actually doing it. Really, the whole vibe of the situation sort of put me off. It worked out for the best overall, I’d say.

CTM: Was your brother a little bummed out that you didn’t sign with the Mets?

TH: Everyone was actually a little convinced that I was going to, but at the last minute I decided against it, but everyone was supportive and thought that I was making the right decision.

CTM: Can you explain what it was like when you found out that you were drafted by the Twins?

TH: It was very exciting! Around Draft time, you’re dealing with a lot of phone calls from different teams asking where I saw myself going or what I was expecting to get monetarily, which I don’t know how to answer so those are stressful questions! So leading up to it, Ed Blankmeyer, my coach from St. John’s, called me and said “hey, if a team were to take you for such and such money in the Fourth Round and start you in Low-A, would you take that?” and I was like “yeah, probably” and he goes “okay!” and he hung up the phone and I was really confused. Then, I get a call from the Twins scout from my area and said “hey, Blank just told us that you would take this” and I though that Ed had been talking hypothetically! So I got off the phone with him and then my agent called me and he was like “you said you would take that?!” He was really angry because you’re not supposed to ever say “yes” to anything because that’s their job. I told him that I didn’t know it was an actual offer! So my agent sorted that out with the head of scouting for the Twins. [My agent] called me again and said “it might be you here in the Fourth Round” and so I open up my laptop and I’m streaming the Draft and I see the pick come up and it says “with the 123rd pick, the Minnesota Twins select Tom Hackimer” and I screamed to everybody and then ran outside and called everyone that I had to.

CTM: Do you ever wonder what it would’ve been like if you signed with the Mets?

TH: Funnily enough, I realized that this year I would’ve played with Tim Tebow! But I had thought about it and I think it would’ve been different, and definitely a little bit slower than the route I’ve had with the Twins.

CTM: What goes into your side-arm delivery?

TH: I’ve had five years to refine it now…to me, it’s not much different than a normal delivery, aside from how the ball moves a little differently. It runs back arm-side, mostly, that’s most of my movement. My slider goes across the other way, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to get my change-up to drop a little bit, and I finally got that. With those three I should be good. After that it’s just figuring out how your different pitches work off of each other in terms of fooling a batter.

CTM: Well you had good strikeout numbers this year over two levels in A ball (71 K’s in 61.1 IP, 10.4 K/9) so I don’t think you’re really have trouble fooling batters.

TH: No, but it’s always fun to figure out more ways to do it!

CTM: What’s life like as a minor leaguer? Do you get an apartment with a teammate? Do you get a daily stipend, or anything like that?

TH: I’ve been really fortunate in the situations we’ve had so far. I was in Cedar Rapids from when I was drafted until the end of 2016 and then for the first two months of this past season, and there we have a host family system. So it’s really great, I was living with a really wonderful family out in Iowa. They didn’t charge us anything, and I had one roommate and we basically had the whole basement, which was like a two bedroom apartment, to ourselves. That was really nice! Then I went up to High A and the Twins basically have a dorm on the spring training complex, where the High A team plays out of. It’s free, it’s across the street from the field, and it’s really convenient.

CTM: You had the honor of being invited to pitch in the Arizona Fall League last year, where you pitched to a 2.31 ERA. How did it feel to receive that honor, and to perform as well as you did there?

TH: It was really, really exciting when I found out that I was going. It was something that I was hoping would happen, but I wasn’t really sure I’d get to do. But it was something I was really looking forward to. Overall, I threw pretty well and I was really happy with that because I figured that bodes well for me going forward. There’s always a little mystery right after you get moved up, or like right after I went to Arizona, I would get little nagging thoughts like “what if this is the line for me and these hitters are better than me? And they can just hit me even though I’m doing everything I need to do?” So it’s always sort of comforting to get in there, get the first out and everything sort of settles down.

CTM: What goals have you set for yourself going into the 2018 season?

TH: Honestly, I feel like I just got out of the 2017 season [laughs] so I haven’t given it too much thought. I really just wanted to take the time in the offseason to hammer down my change-up, being able to use it and locate it. So now I want to be able to go into the season with that and having all three pitches working off of each other.

CTM: I have one last question for you: How did it feel to get verified on Twitter?

TH: Uh, it was pretty cool (laughs) But then you look around and realize that pretty much every minor league baseball player has it. Not that that cheapens it or anything but, you know, at the end of the day I’m still the same as anyone else.

CTM: Well I really appreciate you taking out the time in your schedule to talk with me today, so thank you.

TH: Yeah, of course!

Tom reports to Fort Myers for Spring Training on February 12th. Once Spring Training is over, he will find out where he is reporting for the 2018 season. Until then, you can check him out on Twitter: @HackAttackimer or find his MiLB profile here, as well as his career stats on Baseball Reference. I’d like to thank him again for taking the time to talk with me. Here’s to hoping that big things are in the near future for him!

By: Chris Perkowski

An Argument for Steroid Users in the Hall of Fame

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Barry Bonds (left) and Roger Clemens (right), two of the greatest players of the last thirty years, and known steroid users.

Just over two weeks ago, Vice Chairman of the Baseball Hall of Fame Joe Morgan, a Hall of Famer himself, made a plea to voters asking that they not vote for players who failed drug tests, admitted to using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s steroid investigation. While on the surface, this letter is justified and reasonable. However, I’d like to get in the weeds with this issue. Let’s look further into this plea by wondering about: who is saying it, the generation he comes from, and steroids in sports in general.

In 2006, Mike Schmidt opened up in his book about the use of “greenies,” or amphetamines, in baseball. Schmidt insists that the use of the drug was well-known and that they were readily available in MLB clubhouses. Greenies were used to become more focused and enhance reaction times, and to stay healthy and energized. At a drug trial in 1986, John Milner claimed that Willie Mays had a bottle of amphetamines in his locker when they played for the Mets from 1972-1973. Now, if Mays was using the drug in that time frame, then surely Morgan was around for that era (he played from 1963-1984). I am not implying that Morgan took greenies, but if Schmidt, a Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest third baseman of all-time, insists that these drugs were rampant in that era and the aforementioned trial corroborated those claims, then it is all the more likely that Morgan knew what was going on.

If he knew about it, then this comment is extremely hypocritical. Are amphetamines not performance-enhancers? Again, they were used to help increase focus and reaction times, which are fairly important in a sport where a batter has fractions of a second to decide what pitch is coming and what to swing at. Likewise, it is very important for a fielder to react to a hard-hit groundball or a screaming line drive. The answer seems fairly obvious to me.

Going by Morgan’s logic, anyone who used performance-enhancers (in this case, greenies) should be ineligible from being in the Hall. That would mean that Willie Mays, who many consider the greatest player who ever lived, would not be a Hall of Famer, and who knows how many others. Morgan is so dead-set on criminalizing players of the 1990s and 2000s, but is hush on players of his own era who may have been using. I believe that’s something to consider.

Steroids, much like amphetamines, are used to increase muscle strength and increase healing rate. That’s…pretty similar to the benefits of greenies, in which they were used to stay healthy and energized. Many players have stated that they used steroids or Human Growth Hormone to stay healthy or come back from injury. How crazy! The same reason to take greenies! Also, if you know anything, you know that steroids don’t make you hit a baseball any better. What can make you see a baseball better, though?

::cough::

Greenies

::cough::

As far as steroids in sports go, the 1963 San Diego Chargers are the first known instance of steroid use in sports. So, if steroids were available in 1963, what would stop baseball players from getting a hand on them in the same time period? That time period, by the way, was Joe Morgan’s. So steroid use could have very well been rampant in that generation as well, but it was under the radar – just like greenies.

Additionally, if you are going to criticize steroid users and want them banned from the Hall, then you should feel the same way about Commissioner Bud Selig who oversaw the league during the Steroid Era. Selig, of course, was elected to the Hall of Fame this year. Many believe that he knew about steroid use and was complicit with it because steroids were good for baseball. Prior to the 1998 race to break Roger Maris’ single-season home run record, ticket sales were down before shooting up in time for the home run race. Likewise, television ratings were down before increasing during the Steroid Era. Steroids were good for baseball, and Selig knew it. So he kept quiet. At least, that’s what you would believe if you thought he knew about it. Which I do. But that’s neither here nor there. Like it or not, players in the Steroid Era helped save the sport because, to put it simply, people like home runs. With players like Mark McGwire hitting 70 long balls in a season, it brought a new level of excitement and attention to baseball. There is a major possibility that Selig knew this and allowed it to happen. If that’s the case, people like Joe Morgan should be rioting in the streets because of the fact that Selig is in the Hall of Fame.

Going back to Morgan’s request, maybe he should go after the players from his era who cheated before he goes after steroid users. Be fair. Be equal. If you are not going to discredit the players who used greenies as a performance enhancer, then you should not discredit steroid users when they were used for the same personal gains. Until you do that, steroid users should be allowed in the Hall of Fame. The players that Morgan is attacking played an integral part in the game’s history and the resurgence of the sport, and they deserve to be acknowledged for it, just as those players from the “Greenies Era” have been.

Both or none. That is what it comes down to.

By: Chris Perkowski

 

2017-18 Free Agent Predictions

The 2017 MLB season has come and gone. The Houston Astros are celebrating the first World Series Championship in franchise history while 29 other teams are going back to the drawing board and seeing what they can change. Some teams will take a swing at trades or aim towards the June draft, while others may ultimately lean towards Free Agency. With that, let’s take a look at the Top 20 Free Agents and see where they might end up this coming season (all rankings as per MLBTradeRumors).

1. Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish had a ghastly performance in the World Series. The Dodgers key mid-season acquisition accounted for a 21.60 ERA in the Fall Classic in just 3.1 frames of work, giving up nine runs on nine hits. Still, he remains the top-rated pitcher in free agency after five years of consistent work (a career 3.42 ERA and averaging 265 K’s per season). He should have plenty of suitors, mainly the Cubs who will likely lose Jake Arrieta to free agency, so they could be in the market for a top-line starter. Don’t be surprised if the rebuilding Phillies look to add the Ace, or if the Cardinals, or an unexpected team like the Twins get involved. The Cardinals could go after Darvish as they likely won’t retain Lance Lynn, and Adam Wainwright’s best days are behind him. Having Carlos Martinez and Yu Darvish as the one-two punch in St. Louis could be deadly in the NL Central. The Twins could use the rotation help, too, and adding Darvish would be a big splash. I can certainly see the Angels make a play for the Japanese right-hander, though that may be less likely after already committing $106M to Justin Upton early in the offseason.

Prediction: Cubs. Five years, $130M

2. J.D. Martinez

Where do we start with Martinez? He was arguably the best hitter in baseball in the second half of the year, hitting 19 HRs in a 29 game stretch from August 26 to September 27. He had the best year of his career to date, hitting 45 HRs for 104 RBI and a 166 OPS+ (all career highs). Still only 30 years old, teams will be clawing for a piece of the slugging corner outfielder. He has two detractors, though: his defense has declined drastically, amounting to a -27 Rdrs from 2016-2017, a trend that would likely force him to be limited to a DH within the next two or so years. That would likely eliminate most NL teams from courting him. The second detractor comes as reports have said that his agent, Scott Boras, is looking for a $200M contract for his client. That, again limits the possible number of teams who could go after him. The Red Sox could come calling, as they always love to add an impact bat to the line-up. The Giants seem to have a need for a power-hitting corner outfielder (they’ve been linked as a possible trade partner with the Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton). I think one particular dark-horse team could attract Martinez: the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto needs some protection for Josh Donaldson in the line-up, and a signing of Martinez could also convince Donaldson to work out an extension with the team before becoming a free agent next offseason.

Prediction: Blue Jays. Seven years, $180M

3. Eric Hosmer

As was mentioned in my previous post, Hosmer is coming off of the best season of his career, and is now a four-time Gold Glove Award winner, although I believe the win for this year is completely undeserved, considering his negative dWAR and Rdrs this past season. However, with a career high OPS+ (132) and wRC+ (135), he is primed for a big pay-day and has expected to turn down a Qualifying Offer from the Royals. I would not rule out the Royals making a strong push to keep him. I imagine that the Red Sox will make a run for Hosmer if they miss out on Martinez. I would have imagined that the Cardinals would be in on the first baseman, but Derek Goold of the St. Louis Dispatch suggests that the Cards are more likely to acquire an impact bat through a trade rather than free agency. The Mariners are another team that likes to spend and Hosmer could be the offensive piece that puts them over the hump.

Prediction: Red Sox. Six years, $165M

4. Jake Arrieta

Arrieta wasn’t great this season. He sported a respectable 3.53 ERA, but his strikeout rates are down while his hit, walk, and home run rates are up. Still, teams will come spending in hopes that he can get back to form and repeat his 2015 season in which he went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and 215 ERA+ en route to the NL Cy Young Award. He may not go too far from Chicago. The Brewers have money to spend and a young pitching staff who could benefit from a strong veteran presence. The Phillies, Rangers, Mariners, Braves, Twins, Cardinals, and Angels are all teams looking for a top-of-the-rotation arm. If they can make it work monetarily, someone will go after the Cy Young Award winner.. I imagine that Arrieta has more suitors than not.

Prediction: Phillies. Five years, $110M

5. Mike Moustakas

Coming off a knee injury this year, Moustakas hit a career high 38 HRs (also a Royals franchise record). His defensive work has always been average to above-average. He doesn’t walk all that much, which lends to a usually low on-base percentage. Still, his power from the left-side of the plate is something many teams will fight for. The Braves may be one of those teams, as they don’t have any prominent third base prospects coming up and have a major hole at the hot corner. The Angels could also look to add another bat to go along with Mike Trout and Justin Upton. In my opinion, the biggest fit is in Queens. The Mets need to accept the fact that David Wright’s playing career is over and they need to find a replacement at third base…and soon.

Prediction: Mets. Four years, $74M

6. Lorenzo Cain

The third Royals free agent on this list and we’re not even out of the Top Ten, yet. A career .290 hitter and a dynamic defensive center fielder, Cain could be in for a modest payday after another good year. Cain is a fantastic number two hitter, with a career .307 batting average and .361 BAbip (Batting Average on Balls in Play); I expect Cain’s agent to have a busy winter fielding calls and offers. The Mets, again, immediately stand out. Unless they view Brandon Nimmo as the center fielder of the future, I think Cain is a can’t-miss acquisition for the Mets. Otherwise, the Mariners, Rangers, and Giants make sense, as they all have money to spend and need major upgrades at center field.

Prediction: Mariners. Four years, $68M

7. Wade Davis

Though his walk numbers were a career high in 2017 and he was used in multiple innings several times in the postseason to less than stellar results, Davis finds himself as the top closer on the market. With the recent release of closer Trevor Rosenthal, Davis could find himself donning Cardinals red next season. Other than that, the rebuilding Braves could be an appealing fit, along with the Angels, Twins, Rangers, Nationals (further bolstering the bullpen and possibly moving closer Sean Doolittle to a set-up man role), or the World Champion Astros. All of those teams could look for a significant upgrade at closer.

Prediction: Braves. Five years, $70M

8. Lance Lynn

Lynn comes off a typically solid year with the Cardinals, and kicks off the second-tier of free agent starters behind Darvish and Arrieta. He reached 33 starts this year, one of only 12 pitchers to accomplish that feat. Though his strikeout and walk rates were career worsts. He somehow still managed a very respectable 3.43 ERA. He should have interest from some teams who can’t afford Darvish or Arrieta’s asking prices. Contrastingly, Lynn’s asking price is 5 years/$100M which seems incredibly unrealistic. I expect teams like the Rangers, Orioles, Twins, Braves, Brewers, and Phillies to have interest as all of those teams need rotation help. The Phillies have the money, however, to sign two starters. Therefore, I wouldn’t be totally surprised if that were to transpire.

Prediction: Brewers. Three years, $45M

9. Greg Holland

Holland is an interesting case. After spending a year away from baseball following elbow surgery, he returned to the league on a one-year deal with Colorado. He led the NL with 41 saves, though he had a 3.61 ERA thanks to a rough eight-game stretch in August. Still, he proved that he can be a very effective late-innings arm, and he should be paid handsomely for his efforts. Expect the same teams as Wade Davis to be interested in Holland.

Prediction: Cardinals. Four years, $48M

10. Alex Cobb

The 30 year old Cobb, to me, is one of the most interesting free agents. After finishing the season with a 3.03 ERA over his final 17 starts, he has momentum on his side. The question is whether or not Cobb can replicate that late success and translate it to a full season. I think he’ll have quite a few teams coming his way. The Orioles seem like the most obvious, as they have a desperate need for starting pitching. Again, I would add the Twins, Rangers, Angels, Mariners, and Braves to that list of teams.

Prediction: Orioles. Five years, $67M

11. Carlos Santana

Santana seems like the second-best Free Agent first baseman after Eric Hosmer, and could get a big payday once Hosmer is off the market. He averages 105 walks per year, with a great career .365 OBP. On top of that, he hits for power and plays a very good first base. Still, teams could look at him as a DH option. He’s not getting younger (32 in April, so his body could break down soon, but that remains to be seen). A reunion with Cleveland is certainly plausible, though he could be in for more money elsewhere. An interesting landing spot that I haven’t seen mentioned much: the Yankees. They have a clear need at DH and he could spell the young Greg Bird if he needs a day off at first base. On top of that, the Royals, Angels, Twins, or Red Sox could have major interest. The Angels will likely look to upgrade from CJ Cron at first base, while the Red Sox could also look at Santana at first base or DH.

Prediction: Yankees. Four years, $62M

12. Zack Cozart

Cozart could not have picked a better time to hit free agency for the first-time in his career. Coming off a 4.9 WAR and putting up the best offensive numbers of his career (a slash-line of .297/.385/.548 with a 141 OPS+), Cozart finally put it all together and became a complete player. Already known for his great defense at shortstop, he is now seen as a huge commodity: a power-hitting middle infielder (a career high 24 HRs in 2017). There are few teams with openings at shortstop, but if he opens up to the idea of becoming a utility infielder and playing second or third base as well, then the interest level could increase greatly. Those teams with interest could be the Mets, Blue Jays, Braves, Angels, Nationals and Padres. The Padres might want a veteran presence on a young rebuilding team. The Mets, Blue Jays, Braves, and Angels need second basemen, and considering there are not many free agent second baseman available, this makes Cozart more valuable if he plays multiple positions. The Nationals are an interesting case, as they don’t have a need at shortstop but they do have an opening in left field. Hear me out: they can move Trea Turner from shortstop back to center field, shifting Adam Eaton to left field and putting Cozart at shortstop. A little crazy, but it could work. Don’t forget about the Rays as a dark-horse candidate, though, as they too need an upgrade at second base (Brad Miller hit a measly .201 this season).

Prediction: Blue Jays. Three years/$42M (club option for a fourth year)

13. Jay Bruce

Bruce was a major part of the Indians run to a 22-game winning streak. He offers some versatility with the ability to play right field and first base, as well as DHing. I don’t expect him to go to an NL team, as he could be very useful as a DH in the coming year or two. What hurts him is his asking price: ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted that Bruce is seeking a five year deal worth $80-90M which I don’t believe to be realistic. This could hurt his chances of returning to Cleveland (where I believed he would re-sign). I wouldn’t totally rule out a return to the Indians, but I think the chances are much slimmer if that asking price is true. Perhaps some teams like the Royals, Orioles, Red Sox, or Giants could make sense for reasons mentioned prior.

Prediction: Royals. Five years, $75M

14. Logan Morrison

Morrison was probably the most surprising player in baseball in 2017. Following seven disappointing seasons in which he did not live up to his offensive potential, he finally broke out this year with Tampa in the tune of 38 long balls, 85 RBI, and a .516 SLG%. His offensive output will attract the same teams that will go after Hosmer and Santana.

Prediction: Twins. Three years, $38M

15. Addison Reed

Reed will be looking to get a contract similar to Andrew Miller. Having been one of the more dominant set-up men in all of baseball over the last two seasons, he has a good chance to do so. He has an extremely low walk rate, with a 1.6 BB per nine innings pitched. That kind of control makes Reed a very popular target for teams looking to bolster their bullpens. I would say the Astros, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Braves, Twins, Angels, and Red Sox could come with some big offers as all look to bolster their bullpens in the late innings.

Prediction: Cardinals. Four years, $40M

16. Todd Frazier

Frazier is a mid-level free agent option who will come in as a cheaper alternative to Mike Moustakas. I don’t believe Frazier has been very good over the last two years, slashing .220/.322/.448 from 2016-2017, though he offers above average defense at third base. What helps his market is that he is a great clubhouse leader, a reputation he has carried through his entire big league career. If the Mets don’t sign Moustakas, I think they would sign Frazier as a much cheaper back-up option. Otherwise, there should be interest from the Angels, Braves, and Royals. I don’t see a return to the Yankees being likely.

Prediction: Braves. Two years, $24M

17. Mike Minor

A former starter with the Braves, Minor recharged his career in the bullpen with the Royals in 2017. After missing two years due to a shoulder injury, Minor helped out the Royals to the tune of a 2.55 ERA, 10.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. To put it simply, he was excellent this past season and the 29 year old should be one of the highest paid relievers in the league. The Royals could look for a reunion, while teams like the Cardinals, Dodgers, Twins, Astros, and Nationals could make a strong push for the lefty.

Prediction: Twins. Four years, $32M

18. Brandon Morrow

Morrow is one of the best stories in baseball. A former pitching prospect with the Mariners, he never caught on in Seattle before being traded to the Blue Jays where he found some moderate success (even coming within one out of a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010). Injuries would pile up and force him to miss major parts of the 2012-2016 seasons. The Dodgers signed him to a minor league deal this past season and called him up in May, at which point he became the team’s set-up man to closer Kenley Jansen. Morrow pitched to a stellar 2.06 ERA with a 204 ERA+ and a 10.3 K/9 ratio. The 33 year old flamethrower will be paid handsomely, and he’ll have plenty of offers. Ryan Madson, another pitcher with an injury history who got a three year deal last year, probably set the stage for the type of contract that Morrow will get. Expect interest from the Rockies, Diamondbacks, Giants, Red Sox, Cardinals, Mets, or Braves.

Prediction: Giants. Three years, $26M

19. Jonathan Lucroy

Lucroy picked the worst possible time to have a bad season. From 2010-2016, Lucroy slashed .284/.343/.441, and was worth a 19.6 WAR over that timeframe. He was always an average defender behind the dish, but he was more known for his bat – being considered one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. That all changed this year, when he hit .242/.297/.338 with a 66 OPS+ with the Rangers before being shipped to Colorado. While he was better with the Rockies (.310/.429/.437 in 46 games after the trade), the power never showed up, only hitting 6 HRs this season. He’ll have to prove himself on a one or two year deal. If the Rockies don’t re-sign him, the Athletics or White Sox might give him a try as a veteran presence on a young, rebuilding team.

Prediction: Rockies. Two years, $20M

20. CC Sabathia

CC enjoyed a bounce back year in the Bronx, with a 3.69 ERA (his lowest since 2012) and some dominant performances in the postseason, putting up an ERA of 0.96 in the ALCS. Sabathia has stated that he would like to return to the Yankees, who could feasibly give him a one year deal while they wait for prospects Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield to continue developing. If the Yankees don’t want him back, he could go across town to the Mets or back home to California with the Angels.

Prediction: Angels. One year, $10M

In the coming weeks and months, we will see who stays and goes, who is wearing new colors, which teams are improved or worsened, and most importantly, if I got any of these right.

UPDATE:

Shohei Otani

“The Japanese Babe Ruth” is coming to Major League Baseball, as it was announced on Friday that the Nippon Ham Fighters would be posting pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani. Jon Heyman of FanRag tweeted that Otani would be posted for the $20M maximum, but there could be a hiccup in the posting process as the MLB Players Association could have a problem with that deal. In the new collective bargaining agreement, an international player cannot sign the same kind of deal as another free agent.

Otani has a career 42-15 record with a 2.52 ERA in the Japan Pacific League, as well as a career slashline of .286/.358/.500 with 48 HRs and 166 RBI. 2016 was his best season in which he hit 22 HRs and drove in 67 runs, while pitching to a 2.12 ERA. If Otani were to sign with an American League team, he could be used as a starter every fifth day, while playing the field or DHing the other days. It remains to be seen how he will be used, though. Still, because he can be offered so little, literally every team in the league will be in on this kind of talent. Though, only six teams have enough money in uncommitted international pool that can offer him seven figures: the Rangers ($3.535M), Yankees ($3.25M), Twins ($3.245M), Pirates ($2.2M), Marlins ($1.74M), and Mariners ($1.57M).

Prediction: I have none. This kind of free agent is completely unprecedented and it is literally anyone’s ballgame.

(All predictions as of 11/9)

By: Chris Perkowski