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.

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 1: Pitchers

Welcome to Part 1 of my 2018 MLB Free Agent and Trade Predictions. Free agency has been off to a slow start, but it’s far from over. Players like 1B Eric Hosmer, SP Jake Arrieta, SP Yu Darvish, and 3B Todd Frazier will eventually be signed. But where will they go?  That’s the biggest question, and I’m about to try to answer it.  Today I will be predicting landing spots for the MLB’s best pitchers on the market.

Photo Credit: ESPN (ESPN updates the player photos when players sign with new teams, so once the off-season is over, you will be able to check back and see how I did.  It currently shows the player’s most recent team)

SP

Image result for jake arrieta Jake Arrieta

Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 4 years, $92 million

It would be crazy if Arrieta returned to Baltimore, but I think he’s a great fit. The O’s have serious rotation problems. They lack depth and they need an ace, and this helps resolve both of those problems. But Arrieta won’t be able to fix the Orioles rotation alone. They’ll need to sign a 5th starter to complete the rotation behind Arrieta, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, and Mike Wright/Alec Asher.

Image result for andrew cashnerAndrew Cashner

Prediction: San Francisco Giants: 2 years, $19 million

After the retirement of Matt Cain and the departure of Matt Moore, the Giants need some depth in the rotation behind Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija. Cashner will help do that as the Giants try to rebound from a rough season where they finished last in the NL West. However, more starters might not be enough to get the Giants into the playoffs and continue their even year success.

Image result for alex cobbAlex Cobb

Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 3 years, $42 million

There have been a lot of rumors about Cobb going to the Cubs, but I think the White Sox could also use an elite veteran starter as an influence for the younger guys. The White Sox could also use one more starter in case one of the younger guys struggles. I know the White Sox are in rebuild mode, but that doesn’t mean they can’t go out and sign a couple veterans to help their cause. That will be a theme throughout this series.

Image result for yu darvishYu Darvish

Prediction: Chicago Cubs: 5 years, $135 million

Darvish is another pitcher that the Cubs have been chasing after this off-season, and I do think they’ll pursue him. He will be Arrieta’s replacement in the rotation. But after playing the role of #2 starter on both Texas and LA last season behind Cole Hamels and Clayton Kershaw, respectively, can he step it up and become a reliable ace again?

Image result for matt garzaMatt Garza

Prediction: San Francisco Giants, 2 years, $17 million

Garza will also add depth to San Francisco’s rotation in an effort to bounce back from their rough season. With the additions of Cashner and Garza, their rotation will have a strong group of five veteran starters to guide the pitching staff.

Image result for ubaldo jimenez Ubaldo Jimenez

Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $33 million

After the departure of Lance Lynn and Mike Leake, the Cardinals will need another pitcher in the rotation. Alex Reyes should be in the rotation this year, but Jimenez will be the mid-rotation starter they need. As the Cardinals hope to return to the playoffs this year, they will need another veteran starter.

Image result for john lackey headshotJohn Lackey

Prediction: Kansas City Royals, 2 years, $32 million

I still think Lackey has a couple more years left in the tank, and despite the fact that the Royals are trying to rebuild, I think they could use a veteran starter to top off the rotation. They have a lot of young talent in the lineup, but I don’t know if all their pitching prospects are major league ready yet. They might need a couple more years, and that’s where Lackey comes in.

Image result for lance lynn Lance Lynn

Prediction: Miami Marlins, 2 years, $27 million

The Marlins need a couple more veteran starters to add to the depth of their rotation, even in rebuild mode. Lynn will help fill that role as well as Chris Tillman, who I also think will be signed by Miami.

Image result for chris tillman Chris Tillman

Prediction: Miami Marlins, 3 years, $30 million

Tillman will also help add depth to the Miami rotation. Neither will get more than a few years though because by then, there will be more pitching prospects ready to join the rotation.

Image result for jason vargas Jason Vargas

Prediction: San Diego Padres, 4 years, $62 million

The Padres could use a veteran influence in the rotation as well. Vargas had a career year last year, but can he repeat that? Either way, Vargas will be a leader in the Padres young rotation and he will be a role model for the younger starters on the rise.

 

Other Predictions:

Jesse Chavez (OAK, 3 years, $18 million)

R.A. Dickey (TEX, 2 years, $11 million)

Scott Feldman (TOR, 1 year, $7 million)

Jaime Garcia (NYY, 4 years, $26 million)

AJ Griffin (LAA, 1 year, $4.5 million)

Jeremy Hellickson (BAL, 2 years, $10 million)

Francisco Liriano (COL, 3 years, $24 million)

Wade Miley (TB, 3 years, $31.5 million)

Ricky Nolasco (MIN, 2 years, $15 million)

Hector Santiago (DET, 2 years, $17 million)

 

RP

Image result for joe blanton Joe Blanton

Prediction: Cleveland Indians, 2 years, $11 million

Blanton will add depth to the Indians bullpen. He will likely be their 7th inning guy or set up man if they sign him. They have signed Alexi Ogando and Evan Marshall to minor league deals, but in case those two don’t come through, I think the Indians will sign Blanton as a safe veteran option.

Image result for tyler clippard Tyler Clippard

Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates, 4 years, $28 million

The Pirates have good depth in the bullpen, but they need a closer and set-up guys who can lead the bullpen. Will Clippard be able to handle the role of closer? That is what must be found out. Pittsburgh might need to go for another late-inning reliever to help him out. Maybe they’ll even resign set-up man Joaquin Benoit.

Image result for jason grilli Jason Grilli

Prediction; Detroit Tigers, 1 year, $6 million

Grilli might be determined to keep pitching, but I doubt he was more than one or two more years left in the tank. I think Detroit will sign him as a closer until they find a younger replacement, which they will need as they enter rebuild mode.

Image result for greg holland Greg Holland

Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 5 years, $42.5 million

The Brewers are another team that could use a closer/late inning reliever, and Holland is a great fit in Milwaukee. Although they have been off to a slow start, expect the Brewers to be active buyers this off-season as they prepare to make a playoff run.

Image result for jj hoover J.J. Hoover

Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 3 years, $19.5 million

Hoover will be the late-inning reliever the Angels need. He will assist others like Cam Bedrosian to finish off games. The Angels may want a top tier closer like Greg Holland, but the combination of Hoover and Bedrosian may just do the trick.

Image result for boone loganBoone Logan

Prediction: Cincinnati Reds, 3 years, $16.5 million

After the departures of Drew Stanton (who I do think the Reds will also resign), Tony Cingrani, and J.J. Hoover, the Reds need depth in the bullpen and late-inning relievers to finish off the game.  This is the year where the Reds could start contending, and Logan will help their case.  He will be a part of their revised late-inning staff and add depth to the pen.

Image result for bud norrisBud Norris

Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies, 2 years, $8 million

The Phillies will sign Norris as a reliever, but knowing that he has started in the past, I wouldn’t rule out a role in the Phillies rotation for him.  If they sign him, he will make the roster either as another starter or someone to add depth to the bullpen, but will he beat out the younger players and make the rotation?

Image result for huston street Huston Street

Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $18 million

The Braves could use a reliever to set the stage for closer Arodys Vizcaino, and that’s what Street would be here for.  In general, the Braves could use some more veteran relievers to add depth to the bullpen so this signing will kill two birds with one stone.

Image result for tony watson Tony Watson

My Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks, 4 years, $30 million

The D-Backs lost a couple of their veteran relievers to free agency and trades, and I just feel that Watson would fit in well in Arizona.  Throughout the last couple of years, the Diamondbacks have lost J.J. Hoover, Evan Marshall, and David Hernandez.  They already lacked depth in the bullpen with those guys on board, so they need it now more than ever.

Other Predictions:

Joaquin Benoit (PIT, 3 years, $20 million)

David Hernandez (ARZ, 2 years, $15 million)

Zach Putnam (CWS, 3 years, $22.5 million)

Addison Reed (BOS, 2 years, $14 million)

Drew Storen (CIN, 2 years, $17.5 million)

 

That’s all for Part 1 of my MLB Hot Stove predictions.  Check back soon for Part 2, where I talk about catchers and infielders.

 

In Detail: Baltimore Orioles

This is my 9th post in my MLB In Detail post series this April.  The Orioles have lost many of their good players, but have still held on to some of them.  The rotation they had last year has clearly stuck around.  Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Bud Norris should still be effective this year.  They have plenty of good pitchers to help.  They’ve also held on to some of their big hitters.  Unfortunately, some of those guys are injured.  J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters are both on the 15 day disabled list.  Chris Davis is due for a much better year.  Adam Jones is still a huge hitter.  Manny Machado should be great, even coming back from his injury.  However, they’ve lost the player that led the big hitters last year to getting the Orioles a surprising division win.  Nelson Cruz was signed by the Seattle Mariners in the off season.  However, they’ve picked up some important lineup additions,  and are keeping some great backups and starters like Jonathan Schoop that I haven’t mentioned yet.  Travis Snider is important to fill in in the outfield, although the injured David Lough could later fill in at that position.  Alejandro De Aza also was added to the team in the off season, being one of the only White Sox losses, although they haven’t had too many additions either.  My final prediction for the Orioles is for them to be in 5th place in the AL East, having a 77-85 record, being ranked 22nd overall.  The Orioles still have some good in them to get them near .500, but they don’t have as much as they did last year, making it so they can’t make the playoffs.