As the 2018-2019 free agency gets under way there are a lot of storylines that surround top players, wild card signings and almost every major league club.
Bryce Harper: The man who will undoubtedly get the biggest contract this year and quite possibly of all time. Harper has had inconsistencies throughout his career but at his best he is a perennial MVP candidate, as evident in 2015. Despite 7 years in the majors with the Washington Nationals, Harper is just recently turned 26. With the track record he has before really hitting his prime someone will pay him big time money for around 10 years. I really like the prospect of him signing with the White Sox, being talented enough to speed up the rebuild but young enough to tank another year or so to get that last piece to contend. The Phillies are also interesting It’s a little crowded in Philly with Herrera and Hoskins, since he is forced to the outfield with Santana at first base. But Harper could be the missing piece in a Phillies lineup that needs some pop in the middle of their order.
Manny Machado: “Johnny Hustle” will hustle some team for big money as well. He won’t command the big money Harper, he has less of a career resume, but he is only 26 as well. A bit of an above average defender at shortstop but elite at third base, the willingness to play either position may open the door to new suitors. He is a top of the line hitter and hopefully will hustle if he can get his money. I think Machado is the better fit for the Phillies because they have a lot of money to spend and spending on Machado leaves plenty of room to fill up some other holes. Harper leaves cap space but Machado leaves more. Machado could also fit in Chicago as another big bat option.
The pitching market: An interesting pitching market will shape this offseason. The only real front of the line starter is Patrick Corbin who will command a nice deal from a pitching needy team. Nathan Eovaldi is a wildcard pitching well in Tampa then pitching excellent for Boston, in the postseason especially. Eovaldi undoubtedly has the best velocity on the market in terms of starters to go with some nice offspeed pitches he will be a hot commodity despite the health concerns with two tommy john surgeries under his belt. Some solid middle of the rotation pitchers are available, like Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, J.A. Happ, Hyun-Jin Ryu. My sleeper of the offseason pitching market is Drew Pomeranz. Coming off an All-star caliber 2017 season, hopes were high for him but injuries derailed his 2018. He has been good most of his career, and with an offseason to get his elbow right he could be a very worth while signing since he will come cheap. Health will restore fastball velocity thus making his nasty curveball much more effective. The reliever market is top of the line, Craig Kimbrel is an elite closer with nasty stuff on his pitches, physics says fastballs cant rise but physics has never seen Kimbrel throw a fastball. David Roberson, Adam Ottavino and Andrew Miller are to top of the line late innings guys who have consistently produced no matter where they are or how they’re used. If Miller can get is knee right he will be a big factor where ever he signs. Zach Britton and Jeurys Familia are also reliable late inning guys and Britton seems to have reclaimed his pre injury form but he wants to be paid like an elite closer no matter what role he plays. Even versatile guys like Joe Kelly and Sergio Romo will get good money, especially after Joe Kelly’s elite playoff run. It’s a deep market for relievers for this year and their are elite ones who may not come around every year.
Tampa Bay Rays: With more cap flexibility than normal the Rays are primed to add to a successful 2018 team. Surprising the world and winning 90 games while being in playoff contention most of the year Tampa can fill a few holes to contend for a wild card spot. They just filled a big hole at catcher by making a trade with Seattle centered around Mike Zunino for Mallex Smith. Zunino is a great defensive catcher with an above average throwing arm. He has 20-25 home runs a year potential at the dish and now that he is in a division with more hitter friendly fields that number can potentially jump to 30. I think they should go all in on slugger Nelson Cruz. He fills the DH hole and is a great hitter despite his age of 38. His putting up stats similar to David Ortiz in his age 38-40 seasons. Getting back in the AL East will help him, once again it traces back to hitter friendly ballparks. If they can get Cruz and a little pitching, between the bullpen and cheap starters the rays can contend for a playoff spot.
Seattle and the rest of the trade market: Jerry Dipoto has made it clear that the mariners are ready to sell off some pieces, but he’s not ready to break the club’s long streak of seasons without a playoff appearance apparently. After trading the aforementioned Zunino, players like James Paxton, Dee Gordon and Jean Segura will definitely interest rival teams. They will probably be stuck with Robinson Cano and his $24 million dollars however. Other players could hit the market, star players at that. Depending on the deals Manny Machado and Bryce Harper receive the Rockies are in a tough spot with their superstar, Nolan Arenado. 2019 will be his last season under contract and he will command a lot on the open market that the Rockies may have trouble giving him. The Giants may rebuild, which would explain the big deal they gave new GM Farhan Zaidi, and suddenly that may put Madison Bumgarner on the market. Who has a great regular season track record and a legendary postseason one. The Indians may listen to trade offers on some of their starting pitching in attempts to patch up their weaknesses to get back to the World Series, while I don’t see any reason why they may trade Kluber someone like Carrasco or Bieber, the pitcher not the singer, may get them a nice return without harming their World Series aspirations. Last but certainly not least, I think it is time the Angels move on from Mike Trout. They are incapable of giving him any help and that must be frustrating for him. He has 2 years left on his deal and he will without a shadow of a doubt get the biggest deal ever. He is a once in a lifetime talent. Despite the $33 million a year on his current deal someone will want him, that can almost be considered a bargain for someone of his talent. The Angels should sell high on Mike Trout to jumpstart a rebuild because he will certainly get the Angels an impressive return.