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.

Related image

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.

Advertisements

10 Free Agent Moves I Think Should Happen

10 Free Agent Moves I Think Will Happen
The free agent market has been slow starting up so far early in to this hot stove season, but I think that is going to change. It already has began too, as teams have sucked the blood out of the catcher position’s free agent options, the best going from Matt Wieters to John Jaso.

1. Greinke Returns To The Brew Crew

I don’t think that Zack Greinke is returning to L.A. after becoming the ace he’s turned into. The Dodgers would be an ace hog if they had him and Clayton Kershaw, both Cy Young candidates. Other teams like the D-Backs, Rockies, Brewers, Phillies, Indians and Red Sox need an ace. I know, most of those are very bad, low money teams, except the Red Sox and Indians, middle ground teams. However, not one of those teams has much money, and despite the Phillies and Red Sox being options, I think the Brewers will be the team that have enough in their budget to sign Greinke. They don’t absolutely stink, and they don’t have enough stars to be hogging the money Greinke wants.

2. White Sox Ink Zobrist

Emilio Bonifacio is gone. Gordon Beckham is lost in free agency, and he wasn’t the greatest anyways. But now, as Hot Stove Season goes on, there are so many options for second basemen. The best choices would be Howie Kendrick, Daniel Murphy, Chase Utley or Ben Zobrist. Murphy is likely returning to the Mets after his great playoff triumph, and either Kendrick or Utley will likely resign with L.A. unless Jose Peraza starts now at second. Peraza needs to start slow. So, that leaves the White Sox’ best bet being Ben Zobrist. They could go lower, at guys like Kelly Johnson or Dan Uggla, but without Bonifacio, they want a solid guy. So, welcome to Chicago, Ben Zobrist.

3. Jays Resign Buerhle and Sign Southpaw Samardzija

With Buerhle and Samardzija, the Blue Jays rotation would look like this:

R.A. Dickey
Mark Buerhle
J.A. Happ
Jeff Samardzija
Marcus Stroman

That rotation is the strongest rotation I’ve ever seen. But I think they should trade R.A. Dickey, (see 10 Trades I’d Like To See), so this is more realistic:

Mark Buerhle
J.A. Happ
Jeff Samardzija
Marcus Stroman
Jesse Chavez/Marco Estrada

That is one strong rotation. So, why exactly Buerhle and Samardzija? Why not David Price? Well, Price will probably go to one of those 5 remaining ace hungry teams, the Red Sox, Indians, Phillies, Rockies or D-Backs, considering that Greinke will go to Milwaukee. So, if they want to bring back their pitchers, which apparently they do, Buerhle is their best bet. Samardzija is the best non-ace superstar out there, and that is what Toronto needs.

4. Set Up Man Broxton Returns To Dodgers

The Dodgers lack a bullpen, and Kenley Jansen is their closer. What other closers are out there? Just Joakim Soria, Neftali Feliz and Fernando Rodney. Feliz can re-sign with the Tigers as a set up man, the Mariners need Rodney back and Soria is getting old and is not a long-term option. That leaves Jonathan Broxton. A pretty young set-up guy that can close better than anyone in this weak bullpen besides maybe Jansen. If Jansen closes, he can be set up. So it’s worth a shot. His old team, the Cardinals is fine without him. Move on, Broxton.

5. David Price To Red Sox

The Red Sox are already front-runners to sign Price. They’re among the only decent teams that need an ace. Greinke, as I said should go to Milwaukee and this is the only other ace the Sox are favorites to sign. Just the idea of having David Price here in Boston excites me.

Price had a stellar 2015 season, starting relatively slow in Detroit, then heading for playoff contention while heating up in Toronto, where he got traded at the deadline. Now he’s already a free agent after just 3 months. Do you think it’s realistic? Come on Price, save us!!!!! Bring us back to victory!!!!

Also, if we sign him, this time he’ll want a big money, long term deal. We’d be happy to keep him several years, but do we have the money to afford a big deal? If we do, this is totally a realistic move.
6. Cespedes Follows Cruz, Cano to Starville

The Mariners has become the team for the best stars in free agency. First Robinson Cano (2013-2014) and then Nelson Cruz (2014-2015). I think LF Yoenis Cespedes is the next to join them. The Mariners clearly need a left fielder, with Nelson Cruz at DH and Franklin Guiterrez taking right. A Trumbo-Martin-Guiterrez outfield is not good enough. Sure, they have Seth Smith. NOT ENOUGH!!! After losing Austin Jackson, the Mariners need a star outfielder. All of their guys are meant to be platooning players, not everyday starters!!! They need a solid everyday starter like Cespedes to join the outfield.

7. Kendrick Returns to Anaheim

You may be surprised to hear this, but I don’t think Howie Kendrick will even think of leaving the L.A. area. Kendrick began his career an Angel, before being traded to the Dodgers with only a year left on his contract. They didn’t think that that was Kendrick’s permanent solution. Trading him in the first place was a bad idea. The Dodgers could’ve given him some crazy extension, and then he was long gone if Johnny Giovatella failed to start efficiently at second base.

But now he’s out in the open again. This is likely the Angels’ last chance to fix their mistake in time to prevent themselves from flopping without him again. They fell in to third place as a non-Kendrick team last year. Can they resign him and bring the Angels back their playoff hopes from 2014? I think a big money deal should keep him in L.A. for possibly the rest of his career.

8. Cabrera Resigns Big Money Deal With Rays

Asdrubal Cabrera had a smooth season last year in his first year in Tampa. I think that although there has been no talk of it, Cabrera would nicely fit in the Rays’ new scheme. He’s also worth much more money and a bigger deal. I think they should sign him to a big-time long-term contract. Is Cabrera going to do it, and does he fit in between Brad Miller and Logan Forsythe?

9. Royals Sign Another Chen

The Royals could use an ace, but it’s not a major need. They do need a better middle tier guy for the rotation, with Johnny Cueto and Jeremy Guthrie going into free agency. Wei-Yin Chen is a solid, middle of the rotation guy. The former Oriole (2012-2015) was signed to a four year contract by Baltimore from the NPB, a pro baseball league in Japan. Chen is the perfect fit for this Royals team. Can he help them to a third straight World Series and help them win a second?
10. Twins Sign Another Vet Outfielder In Upton

Torii Hunter announced his retirement late last October. Then the Twins traded Aaron Hicks in November. Their outfield went from this:

LF: Eduardo Escobar
CF: Aaron Hicks
RF: Torii Hunter

To eventually this:

LF: Escobar
CF: Byron Buxton
RF: Eddie Rosario

With Justin Upton in right, Rosario can move to center and Buxton can be a pinch-hitter, ahead of Oswaldo Arcia and Max Kepler. Why exactly Upton? The next best options for right field are Jason Heyward (long shot for Twins), Grady Sizemore, Alex Rios, Gerardo Parra and Shane Victorino. In all of outfield, Dexter Fowler, Denard Span, Austin Jackson, Jonny Gomes, Alex Gordon, Rajai Davis, Nate McLouth, Marlon Byrd, Yoenis Cespedes, Skip Schumaker and David DeJesus. Most, if not all of those are either inconsistent, reaching out to other teams, or are a long shot for the little old Twins. Upton is the perfect fit, a Torii Hunter type.