MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Welcome to my 2nd annual MLB free agency predictions.  Last off-season, things took a long time to get going due to a relatively dull free agent market.  This year, that is not the case.  We might have the best MLB free agent class in the history of my blog, and it’s bound to get going any minute now.  That’s why I’m releasing my predictions in November and December this year rather than January.  I wanted to get these out before the Winter Meetings, where a lot of big moves could occur.

Today, I will be sharing my predictions for free agent pitchers.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Below is my tentative schedule for my 2018-19 MLB free agency coverage.

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MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Coverage – Tentative Schedule

Week of November 19: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Week of November 19 or 26: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers & Infielders

Week of November 26 or December 3: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders & Trade Ideas

Week of December 3 or 10: Baseball Bits #11: Big Free Agent Contracts

Starting Pitchers

Top Tier

Note: These were made BEFORE the James Paxton trade

The Jays have a lot of infield prospects on the rise.  But their starting rotation needs some help if they want to contend.  They will surely go after the market’s top starters.  They are open to bringing back J.A. Happ, but I think Dallas Keuchel and Ervin Santana fit their mold better.  Keuchel will serve as Toronto’s ace, where they will need an upgrade with Marco Estrada leaving.  Santana isn’t what he used to be, but will still boost their rotation, especially if he rebounds fully from his injury in 2018.  Meanwhile, Happ will head to the Angels to provide stability in an injury prone rotation that will be without Shohei Ohtani.  The Yankees will pursue a younger starter like Patrick Corbin to upgrade the rotation in the long term, and an older starter to supplement the rotation until younger Yankees pitchers are ready to take over.

Jerry Dipoto had intended to rebuild this off-season.  But they have too much talent on the rise to just start over now.  It would be a Marlins-like move to rebuild now.  I think it would be smarter for them to add a mid to high tier starter such as Gio Gonzalez or Nathan Eovaldi and an outfielder or two to supplement the young talent.  Charlie Morton will leave Houston for and sign with the Nationals, who could use a #3 starter to replace Gio Gonzalez and add depth to the rotation.

High to Mid-Tier Starters

Shields will return to the White Sox.  They will seek to be led by young talent, but need Shields back for depth.  The Padres will also bring back their veteran starter, Tyson Ross for similar reasons.  I could also see them adding Garrett Richards among other veterans as future investments to guide their return to contention.  Richards will miss 2019, but hopefully, he’ll come back as a better pitcher in 2020.  I think Jason Hammel is a good veteran fit for the Yankees.

If the Rays want to make the playoffs, their “committee day” in their rotation isn’t going to fly.  They’ll need to add rotation depth, and Estrada seems like a good fit for them.  He has experience in the AL East, and a mid-tier starter or two is just what Tampa needs.  The Orioles could also use another starter.  They aren’t signing anyone too expensive as they start a rebuild, but Yovani Gallardo has been on the team before and could be a good bargain signing for them.

Mid to Low Tier Starters

Eovaldi really boosted his free agent profile in the playoffs.  But I think the Red Sox will be willing to offer him a long term contract after his playoff performance.  The Rays will add Derek Holland as another option for the rotation.  Holland, Tyler Glasnow, and Brent Honeywell will likely fight for the final two spots in the rotation.  I think Ryan Yarbrough fits best as a long reliever.  Similar to the O’s, the Royals and Tigers will look for affordable rotation depth.  I think Lynn and Santiago are good fits.  I could see Chris Tillman joining the Braves, who may seek a veteran starter to fill in until their pitching prospects are ready.  I think the Giants should sign a lower tier starter, such as Jaime Garcia to give them options if young starters Chris Stratton, Tyler Beede, and Ty Blach struggle.

Relief Pitchers

Top Tier Closers and Late-Inning Relievers

There has been a lot of hype surrounding Kimbrel after he turned down the qualifying offer, but I think he will return to the Red Sox.  He just wanted a longer term deal.  The teams that were in the running for Kimbrel such as the Angels and Phillies will settle for other top closers such as Mark Melancon and Zach Britton.  I think Jeurys Familia, another top closer will go to the White Sox as they try to take steps toward contention.  I could see the Mariners keeping active in the free agent market by adding another bullpen arm in Miller.  The Reds could also use a bullpen arm to replace Drew Storen, and Brach seems to be a good fit.  He can close or set up, and he and Raisel Iglesias could make a strong veteran-younger player late-inning combo.

Mid-Tier Closers

Pittsburgh’s #1 hole right now is their bullpen.  They’ll look to add multiple quality relievers.  As they rebuild, they are not in the running for the market’s top closers.  But Herrera is a reasonable closing option for them.  Some other rebuilding teams who need closers, such as the O’s, Royals, and Rangers, will have to settle for lower-tier closers such as Tyler Clippard and Cody Allen.  Meanwhile, I see veteran closer Greg Holland headed to Tampa, hoping to rebound from a rough 2018.  Holland is an affordable option for a Rays team that wants to make the jump from mediocre to playoff contender.  Storen, another seasoned veteran, could make for a good duo with fellow late-inning reliever Addison Reed for Minnesota.

Low Tier Closer-Mid Tier Set-Up

Herrera isn’t quite enough to fill Pittsburgh’s late inning hole.  Romo could be a good fit.  The Brewers could also use another late inning arm.  They don’t need a top tier guy, but someone like A.J. Ramos or Santiago Casilla could definitely help.  I think Casilla will return to the A’s though, and Zach McAllister, another mid-tier reliever, will return to Detroit, where he spent just about a week in his final MLB stint of 2018.  The Rockies could resign Adam Ottavino, but I think they will go for a slight upgrade, Justin Wilson, with the Indians adding Ottavino to supplement Brad Hand and replace Andrew Miller.

Low Tier Late Inning Relievers

The Braves have been a rumored suitor to bring back Craig Kimbrel, but they should trust Arodys Vizcaino as their closer and add a lower tier late inning reliever to support him (I see them adding Maurer).  The White Sox will sign Tony Sipp as a slight upgrade over Jeanmar Gomez, who I have going to Detroit.  Gomez and McAllister will set up closer Shane Greene.  The Royals will also look for an affordable bullpen arm.  They should be set in the late-inning department with the duo of Clippard and Boone Logan.  The Mets will be active in this free agent market, and they need late-inning help.  Aaron Loup is a good addition, but I don’t have them adding a closer. Jenrry Mejia is eligible to return in 2019, and the Mets should be hopeful he can close.  Duke will play a similar role in Toronto, setting up closer Ken Giles.

High Tier 7th Inning Relief

If the Red Sox bring back Kimbrel, they should be fine to let Carson Smith and maybe even Joe Kelly test the market.  I think Smith will find a destination despite his injury, as the Twins sign him to supplement the late-inning duo of Storen and Reed.  The Angels, who will still look for more bullpen help beyond Britton, will sign Kelly.  If he’s having a good year, Kelly can become the full-time set up man in LA over Cam Bedrosian.  Norris, a former starter, can provide the Rays with a trustworthy 7th inning arm.  Jake Diekman should play a similar role in San Francisco.  The O’s and Reds could also use bullpen help, but cannot afford the top guys in the market.  They will settle for Axford and Warren, respectively.

That’s all for Part 1 of my MLB FA Predictions.  Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will evaluate the catcher market and the infield market.  This comes in good timing, as Kurt Suzuki just signed in Washington, and J.T. Realmuto trade rumors are reaching their peak.

Note: I think the Marlins will end up trading Realmuto to Atlanta with Kurt Suzuki off the table.  The Marlins should sign another catcher to supplement Chad Wallach.

Ranking The Teams 18-13: My Version: Who’s Weaker Than You Think?

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Alright, welcome to Part 3 of my preseason power rankings.  Most of the bad teams have been mentioned, but there are 18 teams left.  The rest of these teams are playoff contenders, but what teams have unclear weaknesses that will cause them to just miss the playoffs?

18. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

So, the Giants did all this stuff in the off season to improve their team and attempt to win their fourth straight even year world series, but what happened?  They have holes.  The rotation has really improved between Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.

However,  the bullpen is short on people and the lineup has some missing aspects.  They have a solid closer and set-up crew but beyond that, what is there?  Especially after losing Yusmeiro Petit the Giants are short on extra bullpen insurance.

The lineup also has some issues.  The lineup has some really bold players, like Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Denard Span, but the rest of the lineup lacks power.  Sure, Matt Duffy, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford are all right, and they make up for it on defense, but in the lineup, they aren’t major contributors.  They needed to sign some powerful hitters if they wanted to win another World Series.  So, the Giants may look good on paper, but when it comes to game-time scenarios, they are somewhat deprived.

Projected Record: 84-78

 

17.  houston-astros Houston Astros

I know what you’re thinking.  “The Astros?”  “They’re stacked, and they’re going to be a contender”.  Yes, the rebuild helped this team escape insanely bad times but sometimes there’s such thing as too young.  They don’t have enough veterans.  I think that the young, short duo of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are overrated.  Some aspects of the lineup are short on power.  Sure, they have a very strong outfield, but the infield players are overrated hitters and don’t contribute as much of the lineup.

The rotation is mixed between very good veteran pitchers and young new guys to the rotation,  The rotation is really good but they do have their weaknesses.  The bullpen needs depth and the lineup is lacking power.  This team looks similar to the Giants, but younger, and some of these once prospects aren’t paying off. causing them to be worse.

Projected Record: 79-83

 

16. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

The Yankees had a decent 2015, but besides a few trades, they haven’t changed or improved much.  The pitching staff is stacked.  After adding closer Aroldis ChapmanAndrew Miller and Dellin Betances will serve as strong set-up men.  The rotation is also really good but it lacks an ace.  Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, maybe even CC Sabathia may have to share the role.

The lineup is a bit of an issue.  First things first, it again lacks power, they don’t have any all star players to lead the lineup.  Also, the lineup has no youth to it.  It is made of a bunch of washed-up older players.  This whole team is a very old team, the players, even the franchise itself.  Unless they rebuild, working with their strong farm system, it looks like the Yanks will be stuck in this position for a while.

Projected Record: 85-77

 

15. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks

The D-Backs were very bold in the off season.  They went from one of the most horrible teams just after a rebuild to a middle ground team that could potentially be a playoff contender.  They now have some foundation to their pitching staff, a good front three starters, and a good closer and set-up man.  New additions to the Diamondbacks pitching staff include Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller and Tyler Clippard.  They already had a strong closer in Brad Ziegler who will now take the spot of A.J. Schugel, helping Evan Marshall in the 8th inning.  The rotation is looking a lot better, with Greinke, Miller and Patrick Corbin taking the top, and young pitchers with lots of potential, Robbie Ray and Rubby De La Rosa, in the back end.  However the lineup still lacks power.

They might have Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, with David Peralta and Yasmany Tomas making some contributions but there are no solid hitters besides that.  Neither Jean Segura nor Chris Owings have learned to hit much.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, I’ve never been fond of young D-Backs stars Jake Lamb and Chris Owings, and I might be underrating them.  I might  be underrating this team.  If you D-Backs fans and players think I am, show me what your team can do and I’ll give them more credit mid-season.  Could the D-Backs be world series champs of the future, and playoff, even division contenders now?

Projected Record: 88-74

 

14. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners were a very sucky, disappointing 2015 team.  But, they made a bunch of off season moves that made them look a whole lot better.  The lineup still doesn’t have enough strength in it between Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, newcomer Norichika Aoki and others, but they really improved their pitching.

Their bullpen looks a lot better, now led by Steve Cishek and Joaquin Benoit.  Justin De Fratus is another contributing factor along with Charlie Furbush.    The rotation looks better too.  The Mariners re-signed Hisashi Iwakuma and acquired Wade Miley and Nathan Karns to help.  Taijuan Walker also has a lot of room to grow and develop into a high level pitcher.

Between a mediocre lineup with a new look and a completely revamped pitching staff it looks like the Mariners could be contenders.  Their not necessarily going to dominate the postseason, but they could snag a wild card for their first playoff appearance in ages.

Projected Record: 87-75

 

13. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays had the best lineup in baseball going into 2015 but didn’t really have much pitching until the trade deadline.  They lost their ace David Price but have a strong back end to the rotation and an acceptable bullpen.  But the Blue Jays lost more than just their ace this off season.  They lost outfielder Ben Revere, and some reserves in their lineup.

Their bullpen still lacks back of the bullpen pitchers and is mostly filled with middle relievers and long relievers who missed the rotation.  Their lineup is a little too old despite a decent farm system ready to take over some of the team and their rotation has no clear SP1 or ace that can be a leader in the pitching staff.  This team has some good players, but what they have doesn’t quite fit their specific needs.  It’s a great team if they have other players to fill the holes and all a stars have a position to play.

Projected Record: 89-73

 

 

So, that’s all for this portion of my preseason power rankings.  Who will be in Part 4?

Porcello Bounces Back, Red Sox Sweep Marlins

The Red Sox won their fourth in a row last night against the Marlins.  They started out defensively, but rallied in the third.  Ryan Hanigan walked and Mookie Betts went to second on a throwing error by starting pitcher Tom Koehler, and Ryan Hanigan went to third.  Then Holt grounded out, scoring Hanigan and getting Betts on third, scoring first and making it 1-0.  Then Xander Bogaerts got another all star quality infield single to score Betts.  But they weren’t done.  Big Papi crushed and opposite field 2 run homer over the monster to give the Red Sox a 4-0 lead.  Ortiz had his fifteenth on the season, and is only nineteen shy of the 500 home run club.

Porcello was caught in another middle inning jam though.  It was first and second from singles by Dietrich and Michael Morse.  Realmuto knocked in a run with a third single.  1st and 3rd.  Cole Gillespie hit a fourth straight to knock in a second run.  1st and 2nd, 4-2 Boston.  But Miami wasn’t done, although they almost were.  Suzuki’s single loaded the bases, but Porcello got two clean outs to end the inning and got some strike outs in the other middle innings of the game.

In the 6th, Ortiz led off with a ground rule double.  Hanley Ramirez singled as he advanced to third.  Then Sandoval grounded into a double play, but that didn’t stop the Sox.  Ortiz scored, emptying the bases and extending the Sox lead to 5-2.

The 7th inning brought more offense.  Dyson had a throwing error, causing Alejandro De Aza to reach.  He went to second on the first out.  Then Mookie Betts struck out, and De Aza took off, and the third baseman couldn’t catch it, and De Aza scored on the left fielder’s throw.

Michael Morse homered solo in the 8th to make it 6-3.  But the Red Sox held on, and Uehara earned his 21st save of the season.  Breaking 20 saves is big for him, bringing him close to the best of closers.  The Red Sox swept the Marlins in a mini series.  They need to take at least 2 out of 3 from the Yanks to be for real.  Can they, with Jacoby Ellsbury and Andrew Miller, former Sox returing from the DL?