MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

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

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

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

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MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Coverage – Tentative Schedule

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

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

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

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

Starting Pitchers

Top Tier

Note: These were made BEFORE the James Paxton trade

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

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

High to Mid-Tier Starters

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

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

Mid to Low Tier Starters

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

Relief Pitchers

Top Tier Closers and Late-Inning Relievers

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

Mid-Tier Closers

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

Low Tier Closer-Mid Tier Set-Up

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

Low Tier Late Inning Relievers

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

High Tier 7th Inning Relief

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

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

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

Ranking The Teams 30-25: My Version: The Dreaded Bottom

Another solid start by Matt Garza is wasted

 

Every year around mid-February ESPN’s David Schoenfield has done his ultimate preseason power rankings.  Last year I followed.  Now over the entire February Break, starting today, I’m doing it again.  So welcome to my 2nd annual preseason power rankings. We start with the easiest teams to rank, the bottom ones.  Alright, now for #30.

30. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies

Welcome to the bottom Rockies.  So, this team has focused their off season mainly on pitching, trying to fix a horrible rotation.  The rotation still sucks real bad.  The bullpen is what has improved.  Signing guys like Jason Motte and Chad Qualls and trading for Jake McGee isn’t going to help the rotation much.  They do however have some young guys in the rotation, which is a sign of an upcoming rebuild, which could be a good thing for the future.

But with some of the signings they made, they weren’t supporting that.  Guys like Gerardo Parra and Mark Reynolds aren’t going to last as long as say, Jon Gray.  Those were the biggest signings this off season, and a lot of the bullpen guys are a little washed up, too.  This is still a very old team, and they are in serious need of a rebuild.

Even if they did snag a couple of good hitters, the guys in the Rockies lineup that are still young don’t know how to hit.  Well, some of them pay off in the field, like DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado, even hard hitting Carlos Gonzalez is a stellar fielder.  But in the end this team is still a washed up mess who’s starters are only going to last a few innings and even in a batter-favored ballpark, still lacks hitting in some parts of the lineup.

Projected Record: 67-95

 

29. cleveland-indians  Cleveland Indians

The Indians were a mediocre team in 2015.  What happened?  Three major things happened to this team.  First, some guys like Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis are getting old and washed up.  Signing Mike Napoli didn’t help much either, Santana’s only older by a few years.  Also, they lost a few players to free agency and didn’t sign enough players to make up for it.  Ryan Raburn, Jayson Aquino, Chris Johnson, Mike Aviles and Gavin Floyd were lost this off season. Their only signings, Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.  Third, injuries are really affecting the team.  Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis are still recovering from their injuries.  Trading away Michael Bourn, David Murphy and Nick Swisher last July also hurt.

But there are places I could be wrong.  I am like the only person ranking the Indians this low, and I have good reasoning, but there’s a whole other side to it that I just don’t believe.  Here’s some of it:

The Indians had a really good farm system going into last season, and they have some of those guys in their lineup, like Francisco Lindor, Abraham Almonte and Giovany Urshela.  Losing Ryan Raburn hurt though, and they don’t have any more major prospects coming up soon to replace him.

Even though they didn’t sign many people, they traded for their fair share.  They acquired both Kirby Yates and Joey Butler via trade, and they only had to give up cash considerations.  That cash did however help the Rays sign Steve Pearce to replace Butler.

Even though those players are recovering from injuries, they’re the stars of this team, maybe they’ll pick up the pace and shine late in the season. But don’t be too too hopeful for the Indians, they need to get really lucky if they want a chance at anything.

Projected Record: 68-94

 

28. milwaukee-brewers  Milwaukee Brewers

This is another team that needs a lot of good luck if they want to do well.  Even though in my projected standings, the Brewers are in dead last, worst in the MLB, they just have more of an opportunity to improve in the future, unlike the two teams below them in the ranks, that completely screwed themselves for the next few years likely.  This is the point in the ranks where you’ll start to see some rebuilding teams that have room for improvement down the road.  They’re the worst team this year.  In the future, that could change.

They do have a decent, somewhat young lineup.  Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun are very intriguing.  Orlando Arcia could be a future star.  But especially after trading Khris Davis, they have some serious holes.  The outfield will have to work with Domingo Santana, Ramon Flores and Kirk Nieuwenhuis to fill the spots not taken up by Braun.  Chris Carter and Scooter Gennett aren’t the most intriguing, and either Aaron Hill or Will Middlebrooks will have to step it up at third base.  Don’t even get me started on the pitching.

Matt Garza and Wily Peralta will compete for the team ace, even though neither of them has any ace qualities.  Then you have lately acquired Chase Anderson, followed by Taylor Jungmann, and then Jimmy Nelson.  Alright, I’ll give them credit for the lower rotation.  But the bullpen really sucks.  After trading both K-Rod and Jonathan Broxton, they are left with Will Smith, Michael Blazek and Tyler Thornburg as closer options.  Zach Davies or Tyler Cravy will be the long reliever, but the rest of the bullpen is out of place.  So maybe this year will be a long year, but the Brewers actually could improve in the future.  They have more prospects like Brett Phillips on the way after Arcia, and this team looks to be in full rebuild.

Projected Record: 65-97

 

27. atlanta-braves  Atlanta Braves

If the Braves want to succeed, they need some serious luck.  Actually, even though they have future potential, that just won’t happen this year, it’s nearly impossible.  Especially with the rotation they have.  After trading Shelby Miller, the Braves are left with Julio Teheran as an ace, Bud Norris as an SP2, and they have to depend on Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, Williams Perez, Kyle Kendrick and David Holmberg to fill the other spots.  The bullpen’s even more of a mess.

The lineup isn’t great either.  Freddie Freeman is really the only major bat, even though Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar have some power.  Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio need a breakout year if they have any hopes of doing anything, and platooning outfielders Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn need a wake up call. they were once everyday starters.

Despite being owners to the #1 farm system in the MLB, signing all washed up veterans his making less room for these prospects who could one day make the Braves great again.  The Braves need to stop stockpiling on older players and let the young minor league stars take over the lineup.

Projected Record: 66-96

 

26. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies

Alright, this team may be ready for a better year, but they kind of sabotaged their future.  They were in a good rebuild exiting 2015 and might be a little better this year, but signing veterans to short-term contracts is not helping this team for when they could be good enough to win a pennant if the prospects live up to their name.  For a couple of years, despite my much better predicted record for this team then the teams just above it in the rankings, they’ll be stuck in this position.

What they did this off season is fix their rotation by signing Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton, and trading their young closer Ken Giles for Brett Oberholtzer and Vincent Velasquez.  Okay, Velasquez could be a long-term solution, but not the other guys.  They also snagged Peter Bourjos, Edward Mujica, Andrew Bailey and Ernesto Frieri, all somewhat close to retirement.

What should they have done this off season?  Traded away all their older players for more prospects to support their farm system. Ryan Howard still is around.  At least the rotation looks a lot better, but unless they get some more prospects, that won’t last very long.  The only good thing that comes out of is a couple years where the Phillies get like 10 more wins.

Projected Record: 75-87

 

25. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Halos have some big holes, and need a lot of luck if they want to even be in the playoff race at all.  Their rotation is not very promising.  Jered Weaver is going nowhere but down, I have a feeling Garrett Richards‘ performance in 2015 might have been a one time thing, I don’t know how well Tyler Skaggs and C.J. Wilson will come back, Andrew Heaney isn’t quite ready, and Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker are all washed up.  They also have holes in left field and second base, unless Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry create an efficient platoon.  Besides Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Yunel Escobar, they don’t have much of a lineup.  They are just a washed up team that needs to rebuild.

 Projected Record: 71-91

 

So that’s all for today with my preseason power rankings.  Be on the lookout tomorrow for Part Two, 24-19.  I also will be releasing my NBA Midseason Report soon.  So who will be in the next wave?