MLB 2018 Predictions: Exciting Season In The Making Despite Slow Off-Season

It is that time of year again.  Although I had to delay this article due to the excruciatingly quiet start to the off-season, my MLB Predictions are here.  Read below to find out my thoughts on who will win the World Series and how they’ll get there.  I will also be predicting who wins the major MLB awards.  Let’s get started with my projected regular season standings.  

Note: These Predictions are based on potential, but do account for the lack of real FA signings

Record Projections

AL East

  1. new-york-yankees New York Yankees 96-66 (#1 seed AL)
  2. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox 92-70 (#4 seed AL)
  3. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays 76-86
  4. Baltimore-Orioles-Logo Baltimore Orioles 73-89
  5. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays 70-92

Image result for giancarlo stanton yankees

The Bronx Bombers are back.  With Giancarlo Stanton on board, the Yankees have last year’s top two home run hitters in their lineup.  They could have a historic home run duo going.  Stanton and Judge will be surrounded by other big hitters, young players full of potential, and a respectable rotation.  

Image result for jd martinez red sox

But the Red Sox will challenge them after signing the #3 HR hitter of 2017 in J.D. Martinez.  After a long game of chicken, they finally agreed to terms on a deal on February 19th.  The Sox also brought back super utility Eduardo Nunez, who will start at second until Dustin Pedroia returns in mid-April.  Martinez, Nunez and the Killer B’s will lead the Sox to be elite contenders and compete with the Yankees.  In addition, ace Chris Sale leads a strong Red Sox rotation, one thing Boston has on the Yankees.  Sale, Pomeranz, and Porcello have led Boston’s rotation to outpitch the Yanks.    I will have an extended spring preview for the Sox coming soon, where I will try and answer some of the team’s biggest questions headed into 2018.

The rest of the division is in rebuild mode, and the Red Sox and Yankees will feed on them, while the two of them compete against each other.  The Blue Jays have revamped their roster with lower tier free agents and younger players who will lead the new era of the team.  Meanwhile, the Orioles have rotation turnover issues after they lost multiple starters to free agency.  They signed two starters, but they still have rotation problems, and their lineup is still good, but it’s no longer All-Star material.  Meanwhile, the Rays have completely remodeled their roster after trading away Evan Longoria, Jake Odorizzi, and Corey Dickerson.  They will be led by young talent on their new look roster. Although the other teams in this division look intriguing, Red Sox and Yankees are the only teams that I would consider playoff contenders in the AL East.

AL Central

  1. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians 92-70 (#3 seed AL)
  2. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins 87-75
  3. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals 73-89
  4. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers 69-93
  5. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox 66-96

The Indians are still the clear favorite.  They may have lost key pieces in Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce, but they made up for it by signing 1B Yonder Alonso, 1B/DH Mike Napoli, OF Melvin Upton Jr. and OF Rajai Davis.  Young outfielder Bradley Zimmer is also in the running for a starting outfield job.

Image result for yonder alonso indians

That doesn’t mean the Twins won’t contend though.  They upgraded a roster that was already strong this off-season, by signing Logan Morrison and relievers Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed as well as acquiring Jake Odorizzi from Tampa Bay.  They also signed Michael Pineda, who may return from Tommy John surgery later this year.  The Twins are setting themselves up to return to the playoffs, but they’ll have competition in the wild card race, with the Red Sox and Angels also contending.

The rest of this division will fail to contend.  The Royals lost their core players in Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Lorenzo Cain and that has led them to rebuild.  The Tigers are heading into a rebuild of their own after their older team struggled in early 2017.  However, their roster appears to be falling into place, for the most part.  They could use another infielder in the mix.  After trading away J.D. Martinez last year and trading Ian Kinsler in the off-season, the Tigers are headed in the right direction, focusing on their future.  The White Sox will rely on their young talent after rebuilding in 2017.  They are hoping that their top prospects, Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez, can make an impact at the major league level as well as prospects that cracked the majors last year.  The Indians are the clear favorites here, but the Twins could also contend, and do not be surprised if one of the three rebuilding squads in the division begins contending quicker than expected.

AL West

  1. houston-astros Houston Astros 95-67 (#2 seed AL)
  2. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels 88-74 (#5 seed AL)
  3. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners 83-79
  4. texas-rangers Texas Rangers 74-88
  5. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics 68-94

The Astros are still the clear favorites here.  They’ve only gotten better since last year’s World Series win, so if they have any hangover, it will only affect them early on, and won’t hit them that hard, similar to what happened to the Cubs last season.  A full season of Justin Verlander and the acquisition of Gerrit Cole will make their rotation unstoppable, and their lineup is still just as good, as prospects will fill in for what they lost in Carlos Beltran, who retired.

Image result for justin verlander astros

The Angels will also compete though.  They arguably have one of the best lineups in the league after adding Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart as well as resigning Justin Upton.  Although the rotation is not dominant, the new two-way Japanese star in Shohei Ohtani will help them improve, and hopefully, the injury bug will not hit them as hard this year.  The Mariners will also have a decent year, but they are relying on Dee Gordon to make a smooth transition to the outfield, and the rest of their outfield doesn’t look great.

In addition, it will be hard to contend with inexperienced players occupying several starting jobs.  The Rangers aren’t going to be terrible either, but some of their best players like Adrian Beltre are getting old, and not all of their younger players will be able to succeed at the major league level this year.  I like their intriguing off-season, but unless they break out with what they have, it might be time for the Rangers to consider a rebuild.  The Athletics are hoping that they can start moving in an upward direction after their own rebuild, but I think their young players need another season or two to develop before the A’s get ready for contention again.  This year will focus on the development of their young guns like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, and Andrew Triggs among others.  In the end, look for the Astros to repeat here and the Angels to make a run at a wild-card spot.

NL East

  1. washington-nats Washington Nationals 97-65 (#1 seed NL)
  2. new-york-mets New York Mets 86-76
  3. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves 78-84
  4. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies 71-91
  5. miami-marlins Miami Marlins 64-98

After the Nationals cruised into the NLDS in a weak NL East in 2017, I do expect Washington to repeat.  But other teams in the division will start to make strides toward contention.  At one point, I thought this might be the year that the Marlins pounce to the top of the division, but instead, they decided to rebuild early, dealing away all three of their starting outfielders (Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna) plus 2B Dee Gordon.  Now they might very well be the MLB’s worst team on paper.

But the Mets, Braves, and Phillies are moving in an upward direction.  If they can stay healthy, the Mets added several key pieces that could lead them back to contention.  I think they are close to playoff material, but not quite there yet.  The Braves look ready to break out at any moment, but I don’t know if their breakthrough will come in 2018.  But I definitely think they will improve this season.  The Phillies may not be ready for contention yet, but this young team is setting themselves up for success.  If they continue to boost their young roster with veterans over the next couple years, we may see them return to the playoffs.

Image result for bryce harper

Despite the rest of the division’s effort to contend, the Nats are still the #1 team here, and they are a World Series contender.  In his contract year, Bryce Harper will lead a powerful Nationals lineup, and their rotation might just need one more strong starter such as Jake Arrieta to lead the Nats deeper into the playoffs.  With many of their stars hitting the open market soon, it will be World Series or bust in 2018 for Washington.

NL Central

  1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs 92-70 (#3 seed NL)
  2. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals 90-72 (#4 seed NL)
  3. milwaukee-brewers Milwaukee Brewers 87-75
  4. Image result for cincinnati reds Cincinnati Reds 79-83
  5. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates 67-95

If I had to name one division that improved the most this off-season, I would say the NL Central without hesitation.  Despite losing SP John Lackey to free agency, the Cubs continued to improve this off-season with the signing of pitchers Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, and Drew Smyly (may return late in 2018).  They are a significant World Series contender.  But the division will not be easy to win as the Cardinals and Brewers have also improved.

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St. Louis signed Miles Mikolas in his return to the MLB but may need to add another starter for rotational depth.  They may even try and snag closer Greg Holland or 3B Mike Moustakas before Opening Day.  They also acquired OF Marcell Ozuna from Miami.  They will contend this year, and so will the Brewers, who despite the desperate need for a #1 starter, will be significantly better in 2018 after signing Lorenzo Cain and acquiring Christian Yelich to improve their outfield and make it dominant.  They may want to resign Neil Walker before Opening Day if they really care about winning now.  Unless they sign a pitcher or a middle infielder, I don’t see them as a lock for the playoffs, but they will contend.

Image result for lorenzo cain brewers

The Reds could also contend soon, but it will take another year or so for the lineup to become playoff material and the young rotation to improve.  Meanwhile, the Pirates have begun rebuilding after trading away OF Andrew McCutchen and SP Gerrit Cole.  They will not contend this year due to their rebuilding intentions as well as a serious depth problem and lack of a leader in their starting rotation.  Although Cincy and Pittsburgh won’t be in the playoff race, this strong division will be competitive as its top three teams battle for playoff berths.

NL West

  1. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers 95-67 (#2 seed NL)
  2. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies 88-74 (#5 seed NL)
  3. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks 87-75
  4. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants 85-77
  5. san diego-padres San Diego Padres 69-93

Although the NL Central improved the most this off-season, the NL West is still the MLB’s strongest division.  This year, I think that four teams in this division will finish with a winning record, and two will make the playoffs.  The Dodgers will stay on top here.  They have managed to keep most of the players that helped them succeed in 2017, although their rotation doesn’t have the same kind of depth that it used to.  They didn’t need 7-8 viable starters on the roster though.  No team in this division has gained significantly on the Dodgers, but other teams in the division have improved.

This could be the year for the Rockies.  Their lineup will dominate, and their young rotation should continue to improve.  The rotation is also aided by a strong bullpen that will be led by new closer Wade Davis.  The D-Backs have added outfield depth after J.D. Martinez’s departure for Boston, and they will continue to contend in 2018, although I don’t think they will quite make it this time around, as the Cardinals and Brewers have gotten better and could grab a wild card.

Image result for andrew mccutchen evan longoria giants

The Giants have also improved after acquiring Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, but after a 64-98 season, I find it hard to believe that even year luck alone will lead them back to the playoffs.  They still have rotation depth problems behind their top three starters and aside from Cutch, Longo, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence, this lineup isn’t overly intriguing.  Even the Padres will improve.  Some of their top prospects have cracked the majors, and they have brought back Chase Headley and Tyson Ross in addition to acquiring Freddy Galvis.  Their biggest move of the off-season was signing 1B Eric Hosmer.  He will be a veteran mentor for this young team and allows Wil Myers to assist the young outfield.  The Dodgers are the clear favorites here, but this division is hard to predict beyond that.

Image result for eric hosmer padres

Now for my playoff predictions.

Playoff Predictions

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As you all know, I am an avid Boston sports fan.  But as an unbiased reporter, I don’t think the Red Sox have the edge on the Yankees this year.  The Bronx Bombers just have too powerful of a lineup, and despite the fact that Boston has one of the best rotations in the MLB and signed a home run hitter of their own in J.D. Martinez, it’s just not enough to compete with the “Evil Empire” in New York.  The Sox will win over the Angels in the Wild Card round though.  The Angels may have a powerful lineup, but they are nothing like the Yankees, and rotation problems will hold them back.  I have the Yankees advancing to the World Series, but only to be defeated by the motivated Washington Nationals.  Like I said, it’s World Series or bust in Washington, and I think this year’s Nats are legitimate contenders.

In the AL, the Astros will come close to a World Series return, but even their dominant rotation will struggle against the Yankees lineup.  The Astros will top a well rounded Indians team.  The Indians look good this year but will have a hard time competing with this strong Astros team.  Jose Altuve (who I could see having another MVP caliber year), George Springer, and Justin Verlander among others will lead Houston to the ALCS.

In the NL, the Dodgers will also come close to a World Series return after beating the Cubs somewhat easily in the NLDS.  But they will struggle against a strong Nats rotation, and even Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw could have a hard time against Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and the improved Nats lineup.  The Cardinals will also fall to the Nats.  Their younger rotation will struggle on the big stage, and their lineup isn’t fierce enough this year to stop the strong Nats rotation, despite the powerful pieces they have in Dexter Fowler, Marcell Ozuna, and Matt Carpenter among others.

The Cards do have the edge in the Wild Card round though, as their lineup will overwhelm young Rockies ace Jon Gray.  In the end, the Nats will dominate this side of the bracket and go on to win the World Series.  The window is closing for the Nats to win a title with Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and company.  But 2018 is their final shot at a World Series win in this era, and they will be driven by this fact.

To much to take in?  My video summary of this post will be on YouTube soon.  I will post the link on my blog when it is up.

Award Predictions

Below I have listed my Top 3 picks for each major MLB award.  

AL MVP

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU – After winning this award last year, I could see Altuve repeating his 2017 dominance.  He is one of my favorite non-Red Sox players and he has emerged as a star and leader on the Astros.
  2. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, NYY – On his new team, not only will Stanton pair up with Aaron Judge to create one of the best HR duos of all time, but also put up a strong average and hit not only for power but also for consistency
  3. Mike Trout, OF, LAA – Trout is always a candidate for this award, and although injuries held him back a bit in 2017, he will remain an elite contender for this award in 2018

Honorable Mention: Justin Upton, OF, LAA

NL MVP

  1. Bryce Harper, OF, WSH – Another one of my non-Red Sox favorites.  In a contract year, Harper will go from elite player to future Hall Of Famer in an all-around dominant season
  2. Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL – With the Rockies back in playoff contention, Arenado will play at MVP level in 2018, leading the strong Rockies lineup to continued success
  3. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN – I think Votto will also emerge as an MVP caliber player this year as he continues to put up great numbers despite the fact that he is older than many other all-star level players.

Honorable Mention: Eric Hosmer, 1B, SD

AL Cy Young

  1. Chris Sale, BOS – I think Sale will repeat the success he had early in 2017 with the Red Sox, and he is my pick to win the Cy Young.
  2. Justin Verlander, HOU – Verlander will emerge as a leader in the strong Astros rotation in another deep playoff run for the Astros.  He will be Sale’s #1 competitor for the Cy Young in 2018.
  3. Carlos Carrasco, CLE – I could see Carrasco returning to his dominant 2015 form this year and creating a dynamic duo in the rotation alongside Corey Kluber.

Honorable Mention: Corey Kluber, CLE

NL Cy Young

  1. Stephen Strasburg, WSH – Strasburg already returned to the ace level last year with an ERA around 2.50, and I think he could keep it up in 2018 and make a significant run at a Cy Young award.
  2. Yu Darvish, CHC – Chicago is a great fit for Darvish, and I could see him thriving in Chicago and running at a Cy Young.
  3. Clayton Kershaw, LAD – Kershaw is always a candidate for this award much like Trout is for the MVP.  He will continue to succeed in 2018.

Honorable Mention: Max Scherzer, WSH*

* For those of you who read my latest free agency article, you would know I think Alex Cobb is going to the Brewers.  If he signs in Milwaukee, he could be a significant candidate to battle for a Cy Young award.

AL Rookie of the Year

  1. Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, LAA – Who else would I put at the top of this list?  This two-way phenom is practically a lock to make the Angels roster despite the fact that he is a rookie non-roster invitee.
  2. Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU – I think Tucker could have a significant role at the major league level in 2018. He will compete for a starting outfield job when he comes up.  He is the brother of former Astros outfielder Preston Tucker.
  3. Hunter Dozier, 3B, KC – I think Dozier can make an impact at the major league level, even with Lucas Duda in line to start at first.  I see Dozier as Kansas City’s starting third baseman as long as he is successful early in the season, and I see potential in him.

Honorable Mention: Christian Arroyo, 3B, TB

NL Rookie of the Year

  1. Jesse Winker, OF, CIN – I think Winker will breakout this year as he establishes himself as a starter at the major league level.  He will compete for the Rookie of the Year award.
  2. Ronald Acuna, OF, ATL – Once Acuna cracks the majors, he has the chance to become a starter in left field, and once that happens, I see the potential for him to be great.
  3. Ryan McMahon, 1B, COL – With Ian Desmond headed back to the outfield and Mark Reynolds in the open market, there’s an open spot for McMahon at first base.  If they resign Reynolds, they could work out some sort of platoon, but either way, I think McMahon has the potential for success in the majors this year.

Honorable Mentions: Alex Reyes, SP, STL and Victor Robles, OF, WSH

 

That’s all for my MLB 2018 Predictions.  Stay tuned for more baseball articles including my spring power rankings, my Red Sox 2018 season preview, and my 2nd annual preseason Baseball Bits article.

 

 

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.

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.