Just like last year, Patrick Nolan and I will attempt to guess where some of the top free agents will sign this offseason. Rumors have been plenty from the GM Meetings in Carlsbad which could be a good sign for a more active period than last year. Make sure to submit your selections by participating in the Sox Machine Free Agent Pick’em for a chance to win two tickets to the April 6th, 2019 White Sox game.
Before releasing our picks, Pnoles and I shared some of our thoughts about the offseason start.
Josh: Well, Pnoles, I thought I had a good feeling how this offseason was going down. Since my offseason plan: Manny Machado has said goodbye to LA, Chicago Cubs may not spend, New York Yankees are not interested in Bryce Harper, Seattle Mariners are tearing it down, the Dodgers are telling investors they have to stay below the luxury tax for four years, and the Cleveland Indians may trade Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, or Trevor Bauer. I’ll admit it – I have no idea what is going on, and I’m here to enjoy the ride.
With that being said, where is your head at with the MLB offseason as the GM Meetings wrap up?
Pnoles: This seems like it’s going to be one wild winter. The Indians and Mariners potentially adding some big names to the trade market is going to compound what was already an excellent crop of available players. The early rumors of the White Sox being connected to Harper and Machado lend some additional excitement to the proceedings. While I don’t see the Sox as the most likely suitor for either, their payroll space gives some credibility to the idea that they could surprise us and go further into the free agency pool than ever before.
Josh: I’m here for a wild winter. Would be much better than whatever happened last year. Who do you think will be the first free agent to make a splash and sign with a new ballclub?
Pnoles: I could see Craig Kimbrel being the first big domino to fall. I feel like the relief market might move faster than the others as negotiations with Harper and Machado (which will be complicated) might hold up the rest of the position-player field, and because relievers generally command less than starters, the reduced risk/reward might lend itself to quicker deals.
Josh: Good call on Kimbrel. I was thinking someone like Michael Brantley may not want to wait around and see what Harper signs for by taking the best deal at Winter Meetings.
We know about the smoke surrounding the White Sox in being a sleeper big spender this offseason. Let’s say that there is fire to those rumors. Which other teams do you see spending big this offseason?
Pnoles: I think that the Dodgers, Phillies, Braves, and Angels will be in the mix for big names. You can never count out the Yankees and Red Sox, either.
Josh: Before we release our guesses – what is your most bold prediction that will happen this offseason?
Pnoles: Hmm. Alright, how’s this: The Yankees will not make any huge splashes in free agency. This does not mean I think they will not pursue upgrades, but with Machado and Harper seeming like weird fits for their roster and the starting pitching market (their area of need) being less top-heavy than usual, I could see them look to acquire rotation pieces via trade (for example, if the Indians really are serious about selling Kluber or Carrasco) and largely sitting out the spending competition.
Josh: On that topic, we can start our guesses with my bold prediction. A complete reversal how I felt no more than a week ago.
Josh: Chicago White Sox – 9 years, $270 million
Alright, I’ll buy into the hype and rumors. The current smoke surrounding Manny Machado’s market reminds me of when the White Sox pursued Luis Robert. Almost a perfect storm where you have this uber talent available, plenty of cash on hand, and the list of competitors is limited. When I did my offseason plan, I really thought Machado would stay in LA. Then he said peace out to the Dodgers on Instagram, the Yankees are hinting they’re not pursuing him, the Cubs are cash strapped all of a sudden, and it sounds like the only two teams on Machado are the Phillies and White Sox. It’ll be a miracle, but the planets have truly aligned for the White Sox to sign Machado.
Pnoles: Philadelphia Phillies – 10 years, $350 million.
The Phillies have the most fitting combination of past spending history and need on the left side of the infield. The Phillies were merely average in last year’s National League due to a very good pitching staff but a comparably weak crop of position players. The Phillies could simply offer Machado the shortstop job, as neither Scott Kingery nor J.P. Crawford has made a compelling argument to keep it.
Josh: Philadelphia Phillies – 12 years, $375 million
I agree with Bob Nightengale that the Philadelphia Phillies will land Bryce Harper on a record deal. This is part need, part taking away a special player from a key rival. Harper won’t be much help for the Phillies poor outfield defense, but his bat could help swing the division in what should be a tight NL East race.
Pnoles: Los Angeles Dodgers – 10 years, $350 million
Placing Harper is tough if you want to put stock in the early signs from teams. The Yankees have said they’re out and the Cubs are signaling more financial concerns than we might have thought. The Dodgers have a crowded outfield, but they shouldn’t be too concerned about moving on from Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson at this stage. They’re already likely front-runners to win next year’s NL pennant and Harper would be a big help.
Josh: New York Yankees – 5 years, $85 million
Patrick Corbin will be a nice fit for several teams, maybe even the White Sox, but I see the Yankees making him their big splash this offseason. Even if Corbin pitches more like he did in 2017 (189.2 IP, 4.03 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 178 K, 61 BB) he’ll be a big boost for the Bronx Bombers. If he can repeat 2018, Corbin could be a sleeper Cy Young pick.
Pnoles: Los Angeles Angels – 5 years, $100 million
Corbin fits all over the map. I’m picking the Angels because their pitchers are constantly hurt and he would do wonders to solidify that rotation. The fighting Trouts are in the midst of an uphill battle, but they simply can’t let either of his last two seasons (before he becomes a Yankee) slip by without making a big push.
Josh: Houston Astros – 5 years, $80 million
In recent light of Lance McCullers missing the 2019 season because of Tommy John, I predict the Houston Astros will welcome back Dallas Keuchel. Yes, the strikeouts are down but he is someone Houston can depend on and slot as their #3 starter behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.
Pnoles: Minnesota Twins – 4 years, $80 million
Don’t ask me why, but this feels like the most Twins signing possible. I don’t have any more of a rationale than that.
Josh: St. Louis Cardinals – 2 years, $50 million
If Cleveland wasn’t worried about payroll I would say the Indians would make sense for Josh Donaldson, but instead I think the St. Louis Cardinals will make the leap. If, and that’s a big IF, Donaldson has overcome his injuries and can be the hitter he was with Toronto that might be the difference for St. Louis in making the postseason next season.
Pnoles: Los Angeles Angels – 1 year, $22 million
To clarify, I do not think that the Angels will land Donaldson AND Corbin, but individually I like the Angels as the most likely landing spot. The Angels desperately need help in the infield and I think that Donaldson will ultimately fail to land a long-term commitment on the heels of his injury-plagued 2017. With the Angels firmly needing to get into the mix this season or next, I could see them using Donaldson on their third base hole.
Josh: Atlanta Braves – 3 years, $42 million
Cleveland.com is reporting that Michael Brantley has offers from Philadelphia, Atlanta, and the White Sox. If the White Sox do sign Michael Brantley, I think that will be the end of Avisail Garcia’s time on the South Side. Instead, I see the Braves picking up the 31-year old to replace the departing Nick Markakis.
Pnoles: Philadelphia Phillies – 3 years, 42 million
“Nick Williams” was a replacement-level sinkhole (or worse) for Philadelphia in right field, and Brantley would be a big help in repairing their position player corps.
Josh: New York Mets – 4 years, $60 million
This might not be the most ideal landing spot for an oft-injured outfielder, but I see the Mets being sneaky this offseason and AJ Pollock could be a fit. A Pollock/Michael Conforto/Brandon Nimmo outfield is a pretty good trio – if they can stay on the field.
Pnoles: Cincinnati Reds – 4 years, $56 million
This might be a bit of a reach, as the Reds have a greater need for starting pitching, but I’ll take a dark horse here. Billy Hamilton is a year away from free agency and hasn’t been all that good, plus the Reds don’t have much in right field either. At some point, the Reds are going to need to make a push to get better. I don’t see a ton of other great fits for Pollock besides the White Sox.
Josh: Oakland Athletics – 2 years, $15 million
I can’t imagine Jed Lowrie playing for another ballclub.
Pnoles: Oakland Athletics – 3 years, $36 million.
There aren’t a great deal of landing spots available for second basemen and I’ll predict Lowrie just keeps riding the wave of the A’s hot season and returns to Oakland.
Josh: Philadelphia Phillies – 2 years, $20 million
Charlie Morton pitched in four games with the Phillies back in 2016 and I see reunion for 2019. If Morton can take what he learned in Houston it will help solidify the rotation behind ace Aaron Nola.
Pnoles: Washington Nationals – 2 years, $30 million
It was a bit of a surprise (to me, anyway) that the Astros didn’t extend a qualifying offer to Morton, so I’m sending him elsewhere. The Nationals are relatively close to home for Morton and they need to replace innings lost by the departures of Jeremy Hellickson and Gio Gonzalez.
Josh: Houston Astros – 4 years, $60 million
Pretty clear that the Astros could use some help behind home plate and will result in either the Astros trading for J.T. Realmuto or sign Yasmani Grandal.
Pnoles: Houston Astros – 4 years, $66 million
The analytically-inclined Astros will add one of the game’s best players at great value. They got good value out of Max Stassi at the position last season, but it was in limited exposure and for a player like Grandal, they’d be glad to relegate him to backup duties.
Josh: Boston Red Sox – 4 years, $56 million
I would love to see the White Sox sign Nathan Eovaldi, but Dave Dombrowski knows what he has with the flamethrower. I can’t see the Red Sox letting Eovaldi go to another team with how critical he was to their World Series winning efforts.
Pnoles: Houston Astros – 3 years, $45 million
The contract value of the enigmatic, hard-throwing Eovaldi is a tough one to peg. The Astros have been excellent at harnessing pitching talent of late and need to replace the innings thrown by Keuchel and Morton.
Josh: Los Angeles Dodgers – 1 year, $17.9 million (Accepts qualifying offer)
It makes sense for Hyun-Jin Ryu to accept the Los Angeles Dodgers qualifying offer to re-establish his value if he can stay healthy in 2019. Hard to see Ryu getting a multi-year deal when he hasn’t thrown 150 innings since 2014.
Pnoles: Los Angeles Dodgers – 3 years, $30 million
The oft-injured starter seems like a good candidate to stay put. The Dodgers are teeming with rotation options, but they’ve shown a willingness to shuttle even good starters to the bullpen and seem to be no worse for the wear.
Josh: San Diego Padres – 4 years, $50 million
Word out of San Diego is the Padres are starving for pitching. Watching YouTube highlights, Yusei Kikuchi is really intriguing pairing his 96-mph fastball with a sharp slider. Maybe a good alternative for teams that lose out on the Patrick Corbin sweepstakes.
Pnoles: Cincinnati Reds – 6 years, $48 million
Yusei Kikuchi would make for an interesting gamble for the pitching-starved Reds. Kikuchi’s relative youth (age 27), the length of his likely deal, and the lower projected average annual salary will make him an attractive option for rebuilding teams that can absorb the risk if the Japanese hurler doesn’t hit the ground running.
Josh: Tampa Bay Rays – 2 years, $30 million
With Carlos Gomez departing, Andrew McCutchen could be an upgrade in either corner for the Tampa Bay Rays. There’s a lot of young talent that will be joining the 91-win squad and this could be an ideal combination for the veteran McCutchen who can be a starter on a sleeper contender.
Pnoles: Chicago White Sox – 3 years, $45 million
As I’m writing this for a White Sox site, I want to clarify that I believe that chances are high that the White Sox wind up signing at least one of the 13 players listed above McCutchen here. However, I think McCutchen is the first one for which I find the White Sox individually more likely than any other team. To make room, the Sox would probably need to use him in center field, which is nuts, but this organization have started worse players in that position.
Josh: Milwaukee Brewers – 2 years, $25 million
Whether they want to admit it, Milwaukee could use help with starting pitching. I get it – they found a way in 2018 without having a marquee pitcher leading the staff. Lance Lynn is not a headliner but can be someone that the Brewers can count on to throw 170 innings.
Pnoles: Toronto Blue Jays – 2 years, $20 million
Lance Lynn showed a great deal down the stretch with the Yankees and the Blue Jays are in need of some rotation arms. Lynn can help them tread water until they inevitably fall out of contention, and on a shorter-term deal, he’s a decent flip candidate.
Josh: Los Angeles Angels – 2 years, $20 million
Even after acquiring former White Sox Kevan Smith, the Angels could use a starting catcher and I see a fit here with Wilson Ramos. The Angels could use another .800 OPS bat to help support Mike Trout, and if they can stay healthy, make a run for the Wild Card in 2019.
Pnoles: Oakland Athletics – 3 years, $40 million.
The A’s are losing Jonathan Lucroy to free agency and will likely move to acquire a catcher, unless they want to run Josh Phegley out there for 120 games. This is a hefty contract for the low-budget A’s, but one gets the feeling that Beane won’t play things conservatively on the heels of a 97-win season.
Josh: Chicago White Sox – 2 years, $25 million
It makes a lot of sense when rumors mentioned the Chicago White Sox as a team interested in the 36-year old JA Happ. An effective veteran can help carry the load while still being a guiding presence for the youngsters.
Pnoles: Chicago White Sox – 3 years, $36 million.
JA Happ could fit a lot of places, and I could totally see the White Sox bringing him in as the veteran mentor, James-Shields-but-better innings sponge. Happ reconfigured his craft with the Pirates in 2015 and undoubtedly has learned a good deal about the science of pitching, so the “good influence” narrative might fit here.
Josh: Colorado Rockies – 1 year, $10 million
I don’t know why the Colorado Rockies would sign Nick Markakis to replace Carlos Gonzalez, but the Rockies make plenty of head scratching decisions when it comes to position players. I’m predicting this will be another one.
Pnoles: Baltimore Orioles – 2 years, $18 million.
The Orioles have to play someone in the outfield, and I could see Markakis reuniting with the team he played with for nine years on a relatively cheap deal. There would probably be some understanding that he could be flipped to chase a ring somewhere.
Josh: Houston Astros – 1 year, $18 million
Houston could use one more power bat in their lineup to not only help defend their AL West stronghold, but also keep up with Boston and New York. Nelson Cruz, despite being 38-years old, can still wallop and the Crawford Boxes might help produce another 40 home run season.
Pnoles: Toronto Blue Jays – 2 years, $28 million
The Blue Jays already have an aging, expensive DH on their roster, but they’ve been linked to Cruz already, so maybe they want a better one!
Josh: Philadelphia Phillies – 3 years, $39 million
Flexibility to help in both the infield and outfield, Marwin Gonzalez could help maximize manager Gabe Kapler’s daily lineup.
Pnoles: Colorado Rockies – 4 years, $46 million
Where wouldn’t Gonzalez fit? The Rockies badly need some position-player depth, and Gonzalez offers the kind that can plug in anywhere.
Josh: St. Louis Cardinals – 3 years, $45 million
Bud Norris did an alright job helping the Cardinals in 2018 with high leverage situations, but he’s a free agent and this could be another opportunity for an upgrade. It doesn’t sound like Boston is all that eager to bring back Kimbrel, and if he’s looking for another chance to pitch for a contender, St. Louis could be a good home.
Pnoles: Boston Red Sox – 4 years, $66 million
Craig Kimbrel’s not quite at the level where a qualifying offer tanks his market, but as a closer, it’s not a total afterthought either. The Red Sox surely can look to their AL East rivals and see an incredibly loaded bullpen, and they’ll probably want to be careful to not fall too far behind in the arms race.
Josh: New York Mets – 2 years, $22 million
The Mets need bullpen help, and I’m envisioning a reunion with Andrew Miller and Micky Callaway.
Pnoles: Philadelphia Phillies – 3 years, $25 million.
The Phillies could use some bullpen help in their imminent push for contention, and they don’t have much in the way of dominant threats from the left side. Miller’s step-back in performance last season was concerning (he’ll be 34 next year) and I think it will hurt his ultimate price somewhat.
Josh: Chicago White Sox – 2 years, $16 million
Rick Hahn has made it clear that he’s looking for help with both starting and relief pitching. By signing Cody Allen, manager Rick Renteria has another pitcher paired with Nate Jones that has plenty of experience pitching in mid-to-high leverage situations.
Pnoles: Atlanta Braves – 1 year, $10 million
The Braves could be interested in an experienced right-handed arm for a bullpen that leans more to the left than most. After last season’s struggles, he might seek a 1-year deal to rebuild some value.
Josh: New York Mets – 3 years, $30 million
Representing himself, I’m interested in how this offseason works for David Robertson. I wouldn’t count out a return to the Yankees, or even the White Sox, but the Mets are my destination for Robertson. Any help to support Jacob deGrom could get the Mets above .500 in 2019.
Pnoles: New York Yankees. 3 years, $30 million
David Robertson has been excellent for the Yankees due to his extraordinarily low rate of hits allowed and there’s likely some interest in a reunion as the Bronx Bombers look to keep their legendary bullpen intact.
Josh: Minnesota Twins – 1 year, $9 million
No Eduardo Escobar or Brian Dozier, and I have no idea what’s going on with Miguel Sano, means the Moose will find a home with the Minnesota Twins.
Pnoles: Mike Moustakas – Royals. 1 year, $8 million
There’s no attached qualifying offer this time around, but Mike Moustakas is an unexciting option who wouldn’t add much to any contending rosters of note. There’s no real reason for rebuilding teams, which constitute an alarming percentage of the league, to hand a multi-year deal to an average 30-year-old third baseman. I’m only picking the Royals because he knows from experience that he might simply get dealt somewhere fun again.