2019 NFL Free Agency Predictions Part 3: Linebackers and Defensive Backs

Welcome to the final article of my 2019 NFL free agency prediction series!  Today, I’ll be sharing my predictions for where the best linebackers and defensive backs end up signing.  Where will Justin Houston, C.J. Mosley, LaMarcus Joyner and other top defensive free agents end up?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and you check out my tentative schedule for the entire series below with links to previous articles.

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2019 NFL Free Agency Predictions

Series Schedule

Monday, March 4: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 1: Offensive Skill Positions

Sunday, March 10: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 2: Linemen

Monday, March 11: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 3: Linebackers and Defensive Backs

 

Note: Predictions as of March 10, 2019.

Linebacker Predictions

OLB

Top Tier OLB

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Matthews may not be the best defender in the game anymore, but he is still a high tier talent at linebacker who will sign a multi-year deal.  I have him going to Buffalo, who has a huge hole at outside linebacker.  After being released by the Chiefs, Houston will head to another LB needy team – Detroit.  Look for Suggs, Bucannon, and Barr to resign with their former teams, who will end up with similar holes without their star linebackers.  McPhee will head to San Francisco, playing next to Malcolm Smith and providing experience to a young defense.

Cheaper OLB Options

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Kendricks and Wright will leave a crowded Seahawks front seven, with Kendricks providing depth in Green Bay and Wright playing across from second year star Darius Leonard in Indy.  Morgan will head to Miami to help out the pass rush in Wake’s absensce.  DE Charles Harris and Morgan could lead their 2019 pass rush.  Smith will serve as a veteran presence on a young Jets defense similar to McPhee in San Fran, while Worrilow returns to Philly for another year despite missing much of 2018.  Ray will fill a lingering need at linebacker for the Pats.

ILB

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Mosley and Alexander will wind up back with their 2018 teams despite interest from many others.   But Barron, who was just released, and Williamson will leave their former teams – with Williamson replacing Barron in LA and Barron heading to Philly as additional LB depth.  Te’o will also leave his 2018 team, heading to Arizona, close to his first NFL home in San Diego.  Brown will return to the Bengals after maintaining a starting job there in 2018.

Defensive Backs

Cornerbacks

CB1s

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There aren’t any top tier corners on the open market, but there are a handful that will score 2-3 year deals.  Claiborne will head to Cleveland after one year on the Jets for 3 years, and Scandrick will resign with Kansas City for 3 years after getting settled there in 2018.  Verrett may have missed 2018 with a torn ACL, but prior to that, he was a star on the rise, and he may benefit from a fresh start with the Colts.  Grimes will replace Jimmie Ward in San Fran on a 2-year deal.  Roby has established himself as a trustworthy starter in Denver, so I see him returning.  Darby, on the other hand, got hurt during his stint in Philly.  He underperformed leading up to that, but he could thrive in Tennessee as an upgrade over some of their current CBs.

CB2-Nickel Options

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Johnson and the young Shaquill Griffin could make for a good CB duo in Seattle.  I have J-Mac and Ward replacing him in Houston.  Gaines will head to Miami and battle against Minkah Fitzpatrick for the #2 CB job, while Skrine and Lippett will return to their New York teams for the same purpose.

Safeties

Top Tier S

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Honey Badger will head to San Francisco, filling a hole the Niners have had at safety since Eric Reid’s departure.  I originally thought Joyner would return to LA joining Mathieu on the west coast, but the Rams signed Eric Weddle recently.  That probably implies that Joyner’s moving on.  Hopefully, the young Packers secondary can follow by his example.  Bethea is not what he used to be, but should still score a one year deal with a safety-needy team.  Thomas may be injury prone, but the Cowboys have been linked to him and should give him a try in 2019.  Iloka can replace Thomas in Seattle, even though they were fine with Thomas on the sidelines in 2018.  Collins will return to New York after other teams don’t want to invest too much in him.

Cheaper S Options

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Amos will return to Chicago, maintaining a dynamic safety duo alongside Eddie Jackson.  Clinton-Dix will join J-Mac and Ward in a changing Houston secondary.  Vaccaro will head to Jacksonville after a year in Tennessee, while an aging Corey Graham provides depth to a strong Ravens secondary.  Exum will play alongside Eric Berry in Kansas City, and Nelson will return to Oakland as they give him one more chance to prove himself despite a decline during his time in Oakland.

That’s all for my NFL free agency predictions.  Stay tuned for more NFL coverage after free agency settles down.

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2019 NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 1: Offensive Skill Positions

Welcome to the first article of my 2019 NFL free agency prediction series!  Today, I’ll be sharing my predictions for where offensive skill position players (QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs) end up signing.  Where will Le’Veon Bell be headed after a year away from football?  Where will Nick Foles find himself a starting job?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and you check out my tentative schedule for the entire series below.  In later articles, I will include links to the previously posted articles:

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2019 NFL Free Agency Predictions

Series Schedule

Monday, March 4: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 1: Offensive Skill Positions

Wednesday, March 6: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 2: Linemen

Saturday, March 9: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 3: Linebackers and Defensive Backs

 

QB

In my eyes, Foles is the only viable starter that’s currently on the free agent market. Blake Bortles or Ryan Tannehill could eventually be released/traded, but for now, the choice is targeting Foles or waiting for the draft. Unlike other QB needy teams, the Jags could easily return to the playoffs with the right QB leading them. That being said, a veteran QB makes sense. The Giants, Redskins, and others will go for a combo of a rookie and a veteran mentor.

For Washington, Alex Smith will not be able to serve as a veteran mentor considering his severe knee injury in 2018. Colt McCoy isn’t a viable starter in my eyes either. However, Teddy Bridgewater is a free agent who has experience starting, so he could serve as Washington’s bridge starter (no pun intended) until their young QB, whether it be Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, or someone else, has time to develop.

The Bucs and Dolphins will also be on the lookout for veteran backups. Look for them to resign their 2018 backup QBs, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brock Osweiler. The Bills could also use some depth at QB behind Josh Allen, so bringing back their former QB, Tyrod Taylor, could be smart.

That would leave Josh McCown as the best free agent QB left. I have him going to LA to backup Philip Rivers until they draft Rivers’ successor.

RB

Viable Starters

Bell might be the best player on the open market in a long time. The Steelers refused to pay him what he wanted. But who will be up to pay him? He reportedly wants $25 million annually. I don’t think anyone will give him that, but I think he’d settle for $20 million/year if he ever wants to play again. If the Eagles free up enough cap between Foles’ departure and a release or two, they will be willing to pay for him for some answers at RB. Right now, they have a surplus of RBs, but no clear cut starter.

I see Ajayi, Philly’s last starting RB, leading a refined RB committee in Tampa. Expect an aging Adrian Peterson to do the same in Indianapolis. On the contrary, Ingram and Coleman will leave RB committees to become full time starters on RB needy teams. Coleman will replace Kareem Hunt, while Ingram will replace Marshawn Lynch (I see him retiring). The Ravens’ backfield is getting pretty crowded after the emergence of Gus Edwards, but I think Alex Collins will wind up back in Baltimore.

RB2 Options

The 49ers may have Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida at RB, but a veteran mentor like 3-time Super Bowl champion LeGarrette Blount could be helpful if they resort to an RB committee.  Yeldon will serve a similar role in Green Bay, playing alongside young RBs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.  The Steelers could also use a veteran in their backfield behind new starter James Conner, and I think Martin could be a good fit.  Despite leading the Rams in the playoffs, Anderson may have to settle for a backup/committee role as well.  He could be a good replacement for Coleman in Atlanta.  Murray was successful in Minnesota, and there’s room for him in the backfield, so I see him coming back.  With Coleman headed to Kansas City, the Chiefs will move on from Spencer Ware as he heads to Dallas to backup Ezekiel Elliott.

WR/TE

Top Tier WRs

Sam Darnold showed flashes of talent in his rookie year.  I think a better RB and a #1 receiver could make all the difference for him.  They should chase after Tate aggressively if they cannot land Antonio Brown (I have him going to San Fran).  Bryant barely played last year, but he still could serve as a WR1.  The Bills could be a fit, but if they pass up on Bryant, they could also take D.K. Metcalf in Round 1 of the draft.

Cobb looks to be leaving Green Bay, and the Steelers may seek depth options at receiver after Antonio Brown leaves.  Cobb could be a fit to play across from JuJu Smith-Schuster.  The Lions have no clear cut WR1 after Tate’s departure, but if they sign a lower tier option like John Brown, Matthew Stafford could look evenly split targets among Brown, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay.

Moncrief and Wallace aren’t viable #1 receivers at this point, but they could still be a big help for WR needy teams.  Moncrief could be a good option for the Pats, rather than overspending for Golden Tate.  I have Wallace returning to the Eagles to play alongside Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor.  This trio never played together despite being lined up as Philly’s top 3 receivers on the depth chart in 2018 training camp.

WR Depth Options

The Bills need more than just Bryant or Metcalf – maybe they can pair up Bryant with Beasley, his former teammate.  The Ravens could also use some more depth at WR.  Funchess isn’t a top tier option, but if they cannot land or draft someone top tier, he will have to do.  Maybe they can pair Funchess with a rookie WR1.  The Chiefs may not bring in anyone new, but they could bring back Conley to play behind Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins.

The Colts could use some more experienced options across from T.Y. Hilton – Matthews could be a good choice.  They could always draft someone to split time as the #2 receiver with him.  Williams upped his value this season, but I still cannot see many teams paying him WR1 money.  The Jets could use another depth option behind Tate, especially if Robby Anderson leaves.  The Patriots need all the quality WRs they can afford, so Dorsett could be a good option to bring back considering his developing chemistry with Tom Brady.

Top Tier TEs

Eifert has a concerning injury history, and I think it’s time for Cincinnati to move on.  But Detroit could pair him with a drafted TE to ensure security at the position.  Kroft will return to Cincy with Eifert on his way out.  Kroft will return to Cincy with Eifert on his way out.  The Saints could also use a veteran TE alongside the young Dan Arnold, and Cook might be the most consistent veteran on the market.  It would be smart for the Texans to target Noah Fant or T.J. Hockenson in the draft, but signing a veteran in the meantime couldn’t hurt, and James could be a good mentor for their new TE.

Lewis and Rodgers are not cut out to be a team’s #1 tight end at this point.  But they can provide depth as a TE2, with Lewis backing up Vance McDonald and Rodgers backing up Chris Herndon IV.

WR/TE Depth Options

Darnold needs more consistent receivers, so I could see the Jets moving on from Robby Anderson.  Anderson could be a good depth piece in Cleveland, serving as the WR2 over Antonio Callaway.  Humphries is also going into free agency expecting WR2 money.  But I think he will have to settle for a little less, and if his price drops, the Pats may be willing to pay for him for additional depth.  He is a good fit in New England.  Despite a disappointing 2018, I could still see Benjamin contributing behind Davante Adams in Green Bay.  They’ll need to draft a younger receiver to play alongside them though.

If the Lions sign anyone else at TE besides Eifert, I don’t think it will be their 2018 tight end Luke Willson.  Josh Hill has a slightly better track record and could be a good bargain for the Lions.  I see Willson returning to Seattle to compete for playing time with Will Dissly, Ed Dickson, and others.  Kendricks was the most consistent of Green Bay’s tight ends this year, so look for them to retain him alongside Jimmy Graham.

 

Wow, that’s a lot of quality free agents.  The madness will begin in a little over a week.  Stay tuned for more predictions later in the week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Remaining MLB Free Agents and Where They’ll Sign

Though Manny Machado has just signed a 10 year, $300 million contract with the Padres, Bryce Harper and many other top MLB free agents are still on the market with Cactus League and Grapefruit League action starting up.  With Harper rumors really starting to heat up, I will be listing my Top 5 of the remaining MLB free agents and predicting their contracts.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.  I’ll start with the obvious #1:

1.Image result for bryce harper headshot Bryce Harper, OF

2018 Team: Washington Nationals

If you’ve been following any kind of MLB off-season news, you’ve probably heard plenty about Harper, so I’ll keep this brief.  The Nationals could still be in it to re-sign the 26-year old Harper after a strong start to his career in Washington.  But the Phillies appear to be the current front runners.  The latest rumors suggest that the Phillies are in Vegas with Harper and may have a deal done by Monday.  But earlier this week, we heard the same thing about Friday, and it didn’t end up happening.  Will Harper end up in Philly, or will a mystery team swoop in before the Phillies finalize things?

My Prediction: San Francisco Giants, 10 years, $330 million

I’ve heard things suggesting that the Giants aren’t up to offer a $300 million contract to Harper.  But now that they are reportedly willing to offer a long-term deal, they could change their mind considering the mutual interest between Harper and San Fran.  If the Giants came close to Philly’s offer, maybe Harper would sign there out of impatience.  Plus, the Phillies are division rivals of the Nats, and the west coast is closer to Harper’s hometown.

2. Image result for craig kimbrel headshot Craig Kimbrel, CL

2018 Team: Boston Red Sox

Kimbrel’s agent made it clear that although Kimbrel has been stubborn about his contract, he will pitch in 2019.  But with the late inning relief market already settling down, where does Kimbrel fit?  Sure, he could re-sign with Atlanta.  But you cannot discount Arodys Vizcaino as a closing option for the Braves.

My Prediction: Boston Red Sox, 4 years, $64 million

Kimbrel will eventually have to settle for a smaller contract, and if there’s any team who could still use relief help, it’s Boston.  The Red Sox have been adamant about finding a closer internally.  Who knows, Jenrry Mejia or Tyler Thornburg could bounce back.  Matt Barnes could step it up.  But I think the Red Sox will end up bringing back Kimbrel as a safety net once his price goes down.  Barnes, Mejia, Thornburg, and others can set up Kimbrel.

3. Image result for dallas keuchel headshot Dallas Keuchel, SP

2018 Team: Houston Astros

Keuchel, like Harper, is a Scott Boras client, and Boras clients have tended to sign late into the off-season, so it’s not a huge surprise that Keuchel is still on the market.  But unlike the relief market, there is still a handful of teams that could use starting pitching help.  The Phillies, Braves, and Padres have been linked to Keuchel, but the Padres just signed Machado, and the Phillies aren’t going to turn attention to Keuchel unless they lose out on Harper.  The Braves would be smarter to sign a lower-tier starter considering their surplus of SP prospects on the verge of a major league career.  I see the Padres finding a cheaper option and a surprise team signing Kimbrel.

My Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays, 4 years, $68 million

The Blue Jays may have a decent rotation going with Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Matt Shoemaker, Clayton Richard, and Ryan Borucki.  But they lack a true ace, and could use depth in case Borucki turns out to be a bust or Shoemaker and Richard are inconsistent or get hurt.  Keuchel could help Toronto kill two birds with one stone.  Why sign a top line starter with so many prospects about to crack the majors?  Well, Toronto’s rebuild is a unique situation.  With this legendary group of prospects, Toronto’s a pitcher or two away from contending during a rebuild.

4. Image result for adam jonesAdam Jones, OF

2018 Team: Baltimore Orioles

When people think about all the quality players still on the FA market, they think Harper, Kimbrel, and Keuchel.  But what about Adam Jones, who slashed .281/.313/.419 with 15 dingers despite a down year?  Back in 2017, he put up a .787 OPS with 26 home runs.  Though he is getting up there in age, I think he still has potential to succeed for the next few years to come.  But where?  He will likely end up with a team that needs OF help but cannot afford Harper.  Maybe a small market team that hasn’t spent much this off-season could be a fit.

My Prediction: Cleveland Indians, 3 years, $48 million

The Indians spent a lot in 2016 and 2017, but after cheaping up by trading away Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion, they may have room for the outfield centerpiece they need.  Jones would allow Bradley Zimmer, Leonys Martin, Tyler Naquin, Greg Allen, and Jordan Luplow to split time among the remaining two outfield spots.  I don’t see any of them as full time starters, so this is a good depth signing.  Maybe trading away one of their lower-end outfielders after could be a smart move.  That way, the Indians will have less crowding and more talent.

5. Image result for gio gonzalez Gio Gonzalez, SP

2018 Teams: Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers

Gonzalez is a cheaper SP option that teams who cannot afford Keuchel may go after.  Gonzalez had a strong year in 2018, making the case for a decent sized contract.  But he hasn’t received much interest from teams besides the Brewers, who traded for him at the deadline.  Who will end up signing him?

My Prediction: San Diego Padres, 3 years, $39 million

The Padres aren’t going to want to invest in Keuchel after signing Machado.  So I think it’s more likely that they save a few bucks and add Gonzalez.  You could make an argument that the entire Padres rotation is wide open.  There is no pitcher on their current roster that I see as a surefire starter.  But Gonzalez will provide the Padres with the rotation stability they need, with the help of another low-tier free agent starter or two.

That’s all for today.  Stay tuned for MLB predictions once Harper finally makes his decision.

MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders and Trade Ideas

Welcome to Part 3 of 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 outfielders, including Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley, and A.J. Pollock, as well as some trade ideas.  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 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

Note: These predictions were made before Seattle’s trades on December 3 and Pedro Alvarez’s deal on December 5.

OF

Top Tier

The Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers and Nationals have been as Harper’s top suitors.  But if you saw MLB.com’s free agent matrix for Harper, you’d see that the Indians have money to spend and desperately need an outfielder.  Harper would be a good investment for them.  Brantley, the former Cleveland Indian, will head to Houston to provide an upgrade over the combo of Derek Fisher, Tony Kemp, Marwin Gonzalez, and co.

Jerry Dipoto is not rebuilding in the same way Miami did.  They will still sign cheaper free agents, and outfield is a major need.  Look for them to add one or two.  Adam Jones is a good fit, and Hunter Pence will also give Seattle a boost, as he has not fully declined yet in his upper 30’s.  The A’s don’t have much money to spend, but if they’re looking to contend, Andrew McCutchen would be a worthwhile investment who fits well in Oakland.  If the Cubs miss out on Harper, A.J. Pollock could be a good fit.  Albert Almora Jr. is not a viable CF option in my book, and they could use some outfield insurance even with Ben Zobrist helping out there.  Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward have not met expectations either.

Secondary Options

If the Rays want to make a playoff push, they have to be aggressive this off-season.  Markakis is an affordable, but elite outfield upgrade option for the Rays.  After getting rid of C.J. Cron, they will need to add another bat to the lineup.  Meanwhile, Jon Jay could be a good fit in St. Louis.  He can share time with the young Harrison Bader in center.

The Rockies are unlikely to bring back both Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez.  The rise of Ryan McMahon may push Ian Desmond into the Rockies outfield.  They will re-sign Parra for OF insurance though.  CarGo could fit as a platoon outfielder in Atlanta.  I could see a pretty even time share in the Braves outfield if they add CarGo.  If the Phillies miss out on Harper, they will also still need an outfielder.  Carlos Gomez would be a good fit.  If Rhys Hoskins still gets time in the outfield, they will not want to commit to a top line outfielder like Harper.

Granderson could be afforded by a smaller market team with a need for an outfielder.  Look for the O’s to add him on a one-year deal while Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins develop.

DH

Cruz will return to Seattle, who could still use 1B/DH help.  The Tigers could use another bat to replace Victor Martinez, and preferably another veteran to anchor the rebuild.  Gattis is a perfect fit.  The Royals are also in the market for another bat, and Matt Joyce is an affordable option.  I have Holliday returning to the Yankees on a 1-year deal to provide insurance for the outfield.  Alvarez will head to Minnesota to help out Tyler Austin at first base/DH.

Trade Ideas

Cleveland Indians trade SP Trevor Bauer to the Houston Astros in exchange for RP Brad Peacock, OF Kyle Tucker, C prospect Garrett Stubbs

Everyone says that Corey Kluber is going to be traded.  But I think trading SP Trevor Bauer is a safer option.  In return, they get Brad Peacock, who could be utilized as a starter or a reliever as well as some outfield insurance in Kyle Tucker.  C prospect Garrett Stubbs will provide depth at catcher after the Yan Gomes trade.

Los Angeles Dodgers trade SP Rich Hill to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for RP Corey Knebel

The Dodgers have been in the market for top-line starters including Kluber, but I find this fact ridiculous.  They have an abundance of starters!  Clayton Kershaw is still here, Walker Buehler is a star on the rise, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill are solid mid-tier starters who are returning, and that leaves Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling competing for the #5 spot.  After bringing Ryu back, they have the flexibility to trade one of their starters, as I see Wood as a completely capable starter, and Stripling and Maeda should get the chance for a rotation spot.

Hill is a good trade nugget, and the Brewers could use some better pitching, so they’d be willing to give up one of their many late-inning relievers for Hill.  Knebel will help set up for Kenley Jansen alongside Tony Cingrani and provide depth in a weaker bullpen.

Toronto Blue Jays trade C Luke Maile to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for LHP prospect Lewis Thorpe, RHP prospect Jhoan Duran

This is a smaller trade, but worth it for both sides.  Jays C Danny Jansen is MLB ready and can split time with C Russell Martin.  That puts C Luke Maile in an awkward position.  If they trade him to Minnesota, who needs a backup catcher, they could get some valuable pitching prospects to boost a weak rotation down the road.

That’s all for my MLB free agency predictions.  But my Baseball Bits on overly expensive free agents is up next.  Stay tuned.

MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers and Infielders

Welcome to Part 2 of 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 catchers and infielders, including Wilson Ramos, Josh Donaldson, and Manny Machado.  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 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

Note: These predictions were made before Atlanta’s signings of Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann on November 26.

C

The Nationals signed C Kurt Suzuki this week, and the Mariners dealt off C Mike Zunino to Tampa Bay. That should cause the catcher market to keep moving quickly. The Angels need a catcher upgrade desperately. They will be in the market for top options Wilson Ramos and Jonathan Lucroy. The A’s will also look for a catcher after losing Lucroy. I could see them adding Ramos. I have Grandal returning to the Padres, where his career started. He will split time with C Austin Hedges. Wieters will head to Seattle. The Mariners are looking for a cheap option at catcher to support C David Freitas. I have the Marlins signing McCann after trading C J.T. Realmuto (I think he’s going to either Atlanta or Milwaukee). That leaves Devin Mesoraco, who will sign with the Phillies and split time with C Jorge Alfaro. The Mets will miss out in the catcher market and stick with Travis d’Arnaud at catcher.

Corner Infielders (Combined 1B and 3B due to shortage of options)

The Braves’ biggest hole is at third base. They are doing whatever it takes to add a top line third baseman to help their contention efforts. Donaldson is a great fit. I think the Yankees will pass on Manny Machado and use Didi Gregorius in the long term. But they will add 3B Mike Moustakas to give them flexibility in the infield, whether Gregorius is hurt or not.

The Marlins are looking for a cheap replacement for Justin Bour, and Duda is a strong fit. That will cause Matt Adams to return to St. Louis, and the Royals will add Logan Morrison with Duda signed. The Orioles do need free agent help, but they will look for bargains. Valbuena could be a good bargain signing. He can provide support at second and third.

2B

The Twins are in it to win it, and reuniting with Dozier after a deadline deal will help fill one of their biggest holes: middle infield.  They may need a shortstop next to Dozier.  I also have LeMahieu returning to Colorado.  If the Rockies part ways with LeMahieu, they may have a hard time finding a replacement.  They definitely need a second baseman, and LeMahieu is the best fit.  I have Murphy heading to the A’s, who will be able to afford him.  It was a down year for Murphy, and it could make for a bargain signing for a small market team with a hole at second like Oakland.  That leaves Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, and Logan Forsythe as the top 2B options remaining.  The Angels will sign Cabrera as an upgrade over Ian Kinsler.  Lowrie and Forsythe could be afforded by rebuilding/small market teams like the Tigers and Rays.  The Tigers desperately need middle infield help.  They will look for bargains as they find their free agents.

SS

Whoever signs Machado will need to offer a lot, and the Phillies have enough to sign Machado with money to spare for Mike Trout or another big free agent in a couple years.  The Phillies are ready to make the jump to contention, and Machado plus some cheaper free agents might be enough to do it.  The Twins will add Mercer to support Dozier, and Alcides Escobar will go to the Padres, who will seek veterans as insurance for their younger players.  That leaves guys like Adeiny Hechavarria, Jose Iglesias, and Freddy Galvis for rebuilding teams.  I have the Royals adding Hechavarria as another infield option, the Tigers reuniting with Iglesias, and the Marlins adding Galvis to support the young J.T. Riddle.

That’s all for today’s predictions.  Stay tuned for Part 3, where I will predict where the top outfielders and designated hitters sign.  I will also add some ideas for trades.  Unlike others, I do not have many big stars being traded, but I could see some smaller trades occuring.

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.

Free Agent Market Finally Heating Up: Where Will The Remaining FAs Sign?

With Eric Hosmer, Yu Darvish and J.D. Martinez finally signed, the free agent market is heating up. As an MLB fan, it was just painful to see the lack of action that occurred for much of the off-season. From the end of December to the 2nd week of February, the free agent market was nearly silent. But once Spring Training started, it served as a wake-up call to the MLB teams who continued to wait on signing the free agents they were targeting. It’s free agency that keeps me following baseball during the off-season, so I’m glad that it’s finally getting going.

The only MLB news during those quiet weeks was rumors and predictions as to where these free agents would sign. The FA market may be in action, but there are still many high profile free agents out there, and I would be surprised if they are not signed by the start of the regular season.  It’s still crazy that we’re talking about this on the first day of Grapefruit and Cactus League action.

Below I have listed the Top 15 remaining free agents and predicted where they will sign:

1. Image result for jake arrieta Jake Arrieta

2017 Team: Chicago Cubs

Original Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 4 years, $92 million

Revised Prediction: Washington Nationals, 3 years, $63 million

Now that the Orioles have signed Chris Tillman and Andrew Cashner, they do not seem to be in the market for a high profile starter anymore, although they may sign another lower tier pitcher for the #5 spot.  Their rotation looks a little more respectable now between Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Cashner.  Mike Wright, Miguel Castro and Alec Asher among others will compete for the #5 spot unless another starter is signed.

The Brewers appear to be the top suitor for Arrieta, but the Nats, Phillies and Twins have also shown interest.  Although Washington’s rotation is already led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, Arrieta would be a good fit as the Nats have struggled to find a 5th starter.  Many of Washington’s stars also share an agent with Arrieta. If Arrieta signs here, then Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark would line up as #4 and #5 starters, while Strasburg, Scherzer, and Arrieta could potentially go on to become one of the best rotation trios in the MLB.  As for the Brewers, I think Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn would be a better fit for them.

2. Image result for mike moustakas Mike Moustakas

2017 Team: Kansas City Royals

Original Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $54 million

Revised Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $54 million

I’m standing by my original prediction here.  I honestly think St. Louis is the best fit for Moose, although the Braves, White Sox or Yankees may be more likely to sign him.  Of those four teams, I think the Cardinals and Braves are the most likely to sign a third baseman before Opening Day.  The White Sox have plenty of depth in their infield, they were just considering a veteran third baseman to aid their rebuild.  The Braves are also rebuilding, but they don’t have the same kind of infield depth, and I don’t know if Rio Ruiz or Johan Camargo are viable big league starters yet.

Meanwhile, the Yankees could use an upgrade, but seem satisfied with Miguel Andujar and Brandon Drury among others for 3B options.  The Cardinals will sign Moose in order to give themselves more options in the infield.  Rather than forcing Jedd Gyorko into the starting third base job, they can let Gyorko share time with Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong in the middle infield.

3. Image result for alex cobbAlex Cobb

2017 Team: Tampa Bay Rays

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

Revised Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 4 years, $68 million

I had Cobb going to Chicago as a veteran influence who would let younger starters take more time to develop before jumping into the White Sox starting five.  But with Yu Darvish signed, there are other teams that appear to want him more, such as the Brewers and Twins.  I think he’s more likely to go Milwaukee than a rebuilding team.  The Brewers would pay him more money, and he would be a leader to an improving rotation on a contending team.  I’m sure Alex Cobb wants to sign with a winner if he can.  The Brewers have the tools to contend, but need to add a #1 starter, and I think Cobb is capable of living up to Milwaukee’s expectations.

Now that the Twins acquired Jake Odorizzi before Milwaukee could, the Brewers have two options.  They can try and get Cleveland to give them Danny Salazar in exchange for an outfielder or two (which the Indians could use), or they could sign a free agent pitcher.  I think free agency is the safer option for the Brewers right now.

4. Image result for lance lynn Lance Lynn

2017 Team: St. Louis Cardinals

Original Prediction: Miami Marlins, 2 years, $27 million

Revised Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies, 3 years, $45 million

The Phillies have a decent-looking roster after what I would call a successful rebuild.  But in order to be a contender in coming years, it’s time to sign some veterans.  Some of this can wait till next off-season, when the free agent class is much better than this year’s group, but if they even want to have a chance at landing top free agents next year, they need to start thinking about contention this year, starting by signing a high-tier starter to bolster their rotation.  While they don’t need an ace just yet, Lynn would be a good fit as they could use a better #2 starter behind rising star Aaron Nola.

5. Image result for greg holland Greg Holland

2017 Team: Colorado Rockies

Original Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 5 years, $42.5 million

Revised Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 4 years, $40 million

Holland won’t be able to get as big of a contract now that he’s waited this long to sign, but I do think he will be the closer somewhere by Opening Day.  Milwaukee’s late inning crew is all set now between Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel and Boone Logan among others.  But St. Louis could use a late inning reliever to pair with Luke Gregerson, and Holland would be a great fit.  In this case, Holland would be the full time closer with Gregerson shifting into the set up role.

6. Image result for jonathan lucroyJonathan Lucroy

2017 Team: Colorado Rockies

Original Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 5 years, $57 million

Revised Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 2 years, $22 million

I’m standing by my prediction for where Lucroy signs, but I don’t think he can get a long term deal at this point in the off-season.  In a couple of years, either Martin Maldonado or Carlos Perez will be ready to thrive as a starting catcher.  Lucroy is a high-tier catcher, but it’s hard for any player to get a large contract at this point in the off-season, let alone a catcher.  Lucroy will be a seasoned starter at catcher for the Angels, and he’ll make the lineup even stronger with his big bat.

7. Image result for neil walker Neil Walker

2017 Teams: New York Mets/Milwaukee Brewers

Original Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 4 years, $46 million

Revised Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 2 years, $23 million

Walker is in a similar situation to Lucroy here.  I still think he’ll end up in the same place that I had originally thought, but his likelihood of a long-term deal decreases as the off-season progresses.  The Brew Crew could use a second base upgrade beyond Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard, especially if they want to contend.  They know Walker after he spent the second half of 2017 in Milwaukee, and he’s still a good fit.

8.Image result for logan morrisonLogan Morrison

2017 Team: Tampa Bay Rays

Original Prediction: New York Mets, 2 years, $12 million

Revised Prediction: Kansas City Royals, 1 year, $7 million

There hasn’t been that much interest in free agent first baseman that aren’t named Eric Hosmer this off-season, which could leave Morrison and Lucas Duda without a team to begin 2018.  But there are a few teams who could still use a first baseman, like the Royals, who lost out on Hosmer, Rockies, who may need another option aside from the young Ryan McMahon, Athletics, and Mariners, who could each use a veteran influence at first to rotate with their young first basemen.  I see Morrison, arguably the best first baseman left, signing in Kansas City to help fill the hole that Hosmer left.  Although the Royals are rebuilding, they don’t have many prospects ready on the right side of the infield.  Most of their young infielders who are ready to start will either play shortstop or third base.

9. Image result for jon jay Jon Jay

2017 Team: Chicago Cubs

Original Prediction: Oakland Athletics, 2 years, $22 million

Revised Prediction: Texas Rangers, 2 years, $17 million

I don’t think he can still get a $22 million deal, and I don’t think he’s going to Oakland anymore.  Now that the Athletics acquired DH Brandon Moss, they have another veteran in the mix and will not need Jay.  The Rangers will be looking for an upgrade over or platoon mate for CF Delino DeShields, and Jay could play either of those roles. Although Willie Calhoun will be MLB ready soon, the Rangers could use another veteran like Jay as a placeholder.

10. Image result for lucas duda Lucas Duda

2017 Teams: New York Mets/Tampa Bay Rays

Original Prediction: Oakland Athletics, 2 years, $15 million

Revised Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 2 years, $18 million

I reconsidered this prediction because I do not think the A’s necessarily need a first baseman with Matt Olson ready for a full time job, and if they sign one, they will not chase the best first basemen left in Morrison and Duda.  The Mariners may need another option at first base with Ryon Healy injured.  He won’t necessarily be ready for a full time job either, and that’s why I see Seattle giving Duda more money and a 2 year deal.  They could go with their other 1B prospects, but I see Seattle signing Duda and giving other prospects more time to develop before competing with Healy at first.

11. Image result for brandon phillips Brandon Phillips

2017 Teams: Atlanta Braves/Los Angeles Angels

Original Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 2 years, $14 million

Revised Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 2 years, $14 million

I’m standing by my original prediction here.  The Tigers are rebuilding, but they could use a veteran infielder in case Dixon Machado or Jeimer Candelario don’t live up to their expectations in the big leagues.  I don’t think Detroit will sign both Phillips and J.J. Hardy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they sign one. Phillips is the better fit of the two on this rebuilding Detroit team.  Phillips is capable of being a starter, so if they start him in 2018, Jose Iglesias, Machado and Candelario will work out some sort of rotation at shortstop and third since Nick Castellanos is going to start in the outfield this year.  But I don’t think the Tigers will necessarily start Phillips every day, and they may throw him into that rotation if he is signed.

12. Image result for carlos gonzalez Carlos Gonzalez

2017 Team: Colorado Rockies

Original Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 3 years, $34.5 million

Revised Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 1 year, $9 million

CarGo did not have a strong year in 2017, and I don’t think he can get more than a 1 year contract at this point.  CarGo may still have power hitting abilities, but no team would dare risk more than a 1 year contract on him.  I still see him going to the Mariners.  They don’t know how Dee Gordon will fare as an outfielder, and the rest of their outfielders are inexperienced, failing to prove themselves as everyday starters.  Gonzalez can play right field in Seattle, with Gordon playing center and Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia and Ben Gamel splitting time in left (and possibly playing in the place of Gordon or CarGo if they struggle).

13. Image result for melky cabrera Melky Cabrera

2017 Teams: Chicago White Sox/Kansas City Royals

Original Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $42 million

Revised Prediction: Miami Marlins, 2 years, $17 million

The Braves could use a veteran outfielder to fill in until Ronald Acuna is ready, but I think they can manage with Lane Adams and Preston Tucker until he cracks the majors.  You never know, he could win the Opening Day starting job in left field if he has a strong Spring Training.  The Marlins need some veterans in their outfield until guys like Magneuris Sierra, Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison are ready for full time jobs.  The Marlins traded away all three of last year’s outfield starters.

They got some outfielders back, but not all of them are ready to start.  Cabrera, along with the recently signed Cameron Maybin will help out until they are ready. Although the Marlins only need veteran outfielders for a year or so, while Cabrera wants two years.  He can play alongside the younger guys in 2019, and he can serve as a veteran mentor.

14.

Yunel Escobar

2017 Team: Los Angeles Angels

Original Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 3 years, $39 million

Revised Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $27 million

The White Sox can probably manage with what they have at third between Yolmer Sanchez, Tyler Saladino and other prospects. But the Braves, another rebuilding team, are finally on the verge of contention. First, they’ll need a new third baseman after Adonis Garcia didn’t work out. Johan Camargo and Rio Ruiz will be considered, but I don’t know if they are ready for full time roles, so they may need to add a veteran in the hot corner. Escobar is a good fit. He’s not necessarily an everyday starter, so he can platoon with the Braves’ younger options at third.

15.

Tyler Clippard

2017 Teams: New York Yankees/Chicago White Sox/Houston Astros

Original Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates, 4 years, $28 million

Revised Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates, 2 years, $14 million

Clippard struggled last season with three different teams, so I do not think the Pirates will be willing to commit to a long term contract with Clippard. But I still think this is a good fit. The Pirates need more late inning relievers to support closer Felipe Rivero. Clippard may even be able to compete for the everyday closer job if he rebounds.

That’s all for this article. With some of the best free agents finally signed and Spring Training exhibition games around the corner, I will be posting more baseball articles soon, including my MLB Predictions, which will be out next week (I normally post them after the Super Bowl, but normally the Top free agents on the market are signed by then, so I had to wait until the market got going). I will also be posting my annual Ranking The Teams series, a detailed Red Sox Spring Training Preview, and a preseason Baseball Bits about new Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez. I will also be posting more March Madness and NFL off-season articles soon. Stay tuned.