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.

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Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Mediocre

Welcome to Day 3 of my preseason power rankings.  Yesterday, we had a look at more bad teams.  However, these teams had strong points that lifted them higher in my rankings.  Well, today we made it to the middle of the pack.  Each of these teams have some pros and some cons.  We’ll take a look at that.  Let’s start off with #18.

Missed a previous article?  Check below:

Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: The Ugly

Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: The Bad

 

18. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals

Off-season Review

Image result for jason hammel welcome to royals

The Royals were somewhat active this off-season.  The core of their lineup is still made up of the same six guys.  But they added Brandon Moss, Jorge Soler and some prospects to it.  In the process of a rebuild, younger players on this team will have a bigger impact.  Their rotation has been given a boost.  Despite the death of Yordano Ventura, and the loss of Edinson Volquez, they got Nathan Karns, Jason Hammel, and Travis Wood.  However, between trades and free agency, they lost Wade Davis, Kendrys Morales, and Jarrod Dyson.

The Case for the Royals

The Royals do have a strong core in the lineup, and the rotation is okay, but the bullpen is falling apart, and depth is a major problem.  The veterans added to the bullpen aren’t enough for the depth they need.  The younger players are being forced into holes, and some of them are not quite ready.  If it weren’t for the hole at second, Whit Merrifield would be in the minors.  Before this off-season, the Royals also had a hole in the outfield, and they still have some depth problems there although their starting positions are filled.  I just can’t see the Royals doing much better than this with all these holes and problems, and I can’t see them beating the Indians in the division.

The Pros and Cons

Like I said, the Royals’ strengths are the core of the lineup, which consists of six long-time Royals teammates, and the rebuilt rotation.  However, depth is a major problem, and the Royals have holes in several places.  Second base is a big problem.  The bullpen is a pretty big problem, too.  The Royals haven’t found a legitimate designated hitter since Kendrys Morales left either, which they would have if they had enough good hitters to fill out the lineup.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup is killer again, the rotation gets better, and the Royals win the AL Central.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is a bust, depth problems really bite back hard, and the Royals get knocked out of the postseason race.

Projected Finish: 81-81, 3rd in AL Central

 

17. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates

Off-season Review

The Pirates were very quiet this off-season, probably too quiet. They only signed one major free agent, and it was resigning Ivan Nova.  The Pirates are pretty situated where they are.  They have a good lineup and a decent bullpen.  The rotation is a bit of a problem, but they’re trying to resolve that.  However, in the position they’re in, they’re not going to win the Wolrd Series.  Is it time to rebuild?  Could it be time for a blockbuster trade?  After being very active in the trade market in the 2015-16 off-season, they haven’t done much about that this off-season.

The Case For Pirates

If you’re looking for the most mediocre team in the league, it’s the Pirates right now.  They are stuck in the middle.  What exactly does that mean?  Like I said, they are not in World Series contender mode.  But they’re not exactly rebuilding either.  Maybe rebuilding is the answer.  I wouldn’t make that decision right now, but don’t be surprised if Andrew McCutchen is traded away, or the Pirates sell somebody else.  There is no team that is as stuck in this endless loophole as the Pirates are.

The Pros and Cons

The Pirates may have one of the best lineups in the league, but face it, the rotation is not living up to the expectations, not for the Pirates or for a contender.  Until the rotation improves, the lineup will not lead this team to another postseason run.  The question remains: is it time to rebuild or try and go for it?  Is the rotation going to be as easy a fix as it seems?

Best Case Scenario: The rotation gets better, allowing a powerful lineup to lead Pittsburgh back to the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation completely flops and the Pirates are forced to sell and rebuild, in hopes of winning in the future.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 3rd in NL Central

 

16. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies

Off-season Review

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The Rockies had big plans this off-season.  Signing utility player Ian Desmond was a smart move, as he can fill the hole at first base.  The Rockies also signed Alexi Amarista for depth and signed Mike Dunn and Greg Holland to fill the spot that Boone Logan left.  The rotation is also looking better and younger after some changes this off-season.  Could the Rockies finally be a contender?

The Case for the Rockies

The Rockies are back in business.  Their lineup is looking better than ever in a hitter friendly ballpark, and although the rotation has not been the focus, this young rotation at least looks good enough to contend.  The bullpen is also loaded in case the rotation doesn’t do its job.  Adam Ottavino and Greg Holland should compete for an important closer job.  The Rockies are starting to look a lot better, and I think they finally have a chance.

The Pros and Cons

The lineup and the bullpen are both overpowered and are really lifting up this team.  Although the rotation is holding this team back a little bit, they are at least good enough that the Rockies won’t completely suck.  There’s not much holding this team back.  They just have a tough environment to compete in.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation improves, and the loaded lineup leads the Rockies through the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation flops and the Rockies fail to do well in the NL West.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 3rd in NL West

 

15. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners

Off-season Review

Image result for jean segura welcome to mariners

As always, Jerry Dipoto was active in the trade market.  So active that he traded for and traded away Mallex Smith within 77 minutes.  They traded for three pitchers, Drew Smyly, Yovani Gallardo and Chris Heston.  They also traded Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker for Jean Segura and acquired Jarrod Dyson.  That’s just the beginning!  The Mariners were active as always, but will these moves pay off, or not?

The Case for the Mariners

Okay, I understand that last section is very overwhelming.  But to sum it all up, the rotation now has a lot of depth and will be very good.  The rotation is top notch, with a powerful ace, and a lot of options after that.  The lineup is good but has some holes.  The Mariners don’t have many options in the outfield, and they’re left with a gaping hole at first base.  Hopefully, new utility Danny Valencia can fill one of those spots.  That brings us to our next section.

The Pros and Cons

First things first, I want to make it clear that this rotation is spotless.  So spotless that the bullpen depth problems won’t be a major factor.  The Mariners do have a strong core of the lineup but have some problems at the bottom of the lineup.  Those problems also show up in the field.  You can’t take give a team with two legitimate outfielders and a gaping hole at first base and put them in your playoff predictions.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates and the lineup holes don’t affect the Mariners, as Seattle grabs a wild card.

Worst Case Scenario: The holes and depth problems cause the Mariners to finish 4th in the AL West.

Projected Finish: 86-76, 3rd in AL West

 

14. miami-marlins Miami Marlins

Off-season Review

Image result for edinson volquez welcome to marlins

The Marlins have a pretty situated lineup but really bolstered their pitching this off-season.  They signed Brad Ziegler among others to upgrade the bullpen, and Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke along with Kyle Lobstein to upgrade the rotation.  This should really pay off, but did they pick the right guys to fill out the rotation?  Without Jose Fernandez, it’s pretty hard to fill the rotation right, and pretty hard to find a new ace.

The Case for the Marlins

Image result for justin bour and adeiny hechavarria

 

The Marlins already had a pretty good, young lineup.  The holes they had in the infield in previous years are now filled by young guns like Justin Bour and Adeiny Hechavarria.  Led by Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton, this lineup will be able to kick butt.  The rotation is also looking better for 2017 but doesn’t match up to rotations around the league.  They don’t have an ace anymore, and that will hurt.  The bullpen is better but they don’t have the depth they need to back up the rotation. Rest in peace Jose Fernandez, you’ll really be missed in 2017.

The Pros and Cons

There’s good news and bad news for the Marlins.  The good news is, the lineup is all set, and the pitching looks a whole lot better after this off-season’s acquisitions and moves.  The bad news is, the rotation may not be good enough, especially without a clear cut ace.   They don’t have many pitchers that will be good enough to pitch more than 6 or 7 innings on average.  The bullpen is looking better but doesn’t have the depth that they need be able to backup tired starters without getting tired after multiple days straight of relief innings themselves.  They have a lot of options in the bullpen, but besides a few good late inning guys, there aren’t many strong relievers, which they need when they are missing top of the rotation guys.

Best Case Scenario: The off-season rotation boosters pay off, the lineup does better than ever, and the Marlins make the playoffs easily.

Worst Case Scenario: The absence of Jose Fernandez truly hurts, the lineup doesn’t do much better than in previous years, and the Marlins finish below .500.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 3rd in NL East

 

13. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

Off-season Review

Image result for matt holliday yankees

The Yankees had a pretty quiet off-season.  However, they did boost a young rotation by signing Jon Niese, and they got star closer Aroldis Chapman back.  The Yankees were also able to snag Matt Holliday on a one-year deal.  After many of their older guys retired or looked for careers elsewhere, the Yankees really began to season some of their younger players.  Now, those players are good enough that it’s worth signing power hitters to help contend.  Holliday will help out in the outfield and play DH.

The Case for the Yankees

The Yankees are seasoning their deep farm system in the majors, and the prospects are good enough to help the veterans on the team contend.  There aren’t many small market teams who can do that, and the Yankees have the biggest market in the league.  Could that have something to do with why the Yankees never have a terrible season?  Those damn Yankees are always in the picture, you can never count them out.  This season, they must hope that their young rotation succeeds, and the strong bullpen can back them up.  They also must hope that their young guns have the same kind of success at the plate.

The Pros and Cons

The Yankees are another one of those good news/bad news teams.  Well, the good news is, the lineup succeeded without A-Rod and Teixeira last season, and the bullpen is powerful enough to provide good relief for young starters.  The bad news is, you can’t always trust young guns to help you contend, especially consistently.  That’s why these young teams are so unpredictable.  Inexperienced players can be very inconsistent.

Best Case Scenario: All the prospects live up to their expectations, and they lead the Yankees to their first playoff berth in 5 years.

Worst Case Scenario: The young talent is inconsistent and the Yankees completely flop, finishing below .500.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 3rd in AL East

 

That’s all for Day 3 of my preseason ranks.  Part 4 will look at teams 12-7 and is coming between today and tomorrow.

 

 

Scouting Report: Baltimore Orioles

Sarasota, Fl - Yovani Gallardo takes part in Orioles Spring training.
The Orioles may not have made the biggest splash this off season but they made some quality moves.  Unfortunately for O’s fans, I don’t necessarily think that the Orioles have gotten better since last season.  They may have made some moves to maintain their status from last season but some things have not worked out and they aren’t quite as good as they were last season.
Off Season Review
The Orioles had an effective off season in some ways and an ineffective one in another way.  They started with bringing back Matt Wieters on a qualifying offer.  They really needed their star catcher back as their backup options are limited.  They made some trades later in November, bringing in L.J. Hoes for cash and inviting him to spring training.  In early December they got Mark Trumbo and C.J. Riefenhauser for Steve Clevenger.  I thought the Orioles won the trade but still, nobody great was given out to either team in that trade and it didn’t fit their needs.  Riefenhauser later got claimed off waivers by the Cubs.  That was very recently though.
At the non-tender deadline, they had to get rid of starting right fielder David Lough.  They now had not one, but two open outfield spots unless Mark Trumbo or Nolan Reimold stepped up to start.  They later signed Japanese outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim to at least take his place.  They also lost prospects Junior Lake and Edgar Olmos to waivers. Lake was another outfield option!!!  They were really thin now!!  There went another reliever too!!  However, they resigned star reliever Darren O’ Day for four years.
As January came, They traded for Odrisamer Despaigne and resigned Chris Davis long-term (seven years) in what was known as “A serious game of chicken” by MLB.com.  In late free agency, a lot of rumors were flying around Baltimore, and they still are.  Some of the names included Yovani Gallardo, Dexter Fowler, Tim Lincecum, Austin Jackson even Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes at one point.  They signed Gallardo for two years, but Fowler went to the Cubs despite almost signing in Baltimore, Jackson went to the White Sox, Upton went to Detroit and Cespedes resigned in New York.
Lincecum is still being rumored, and the Jackson to the Sox isn’t official yet.  In fact, I think Lincecum will sign with the Orioles enough that I put him on their predicted roster. The Orioles made some impact moves, but they still have some unfilled holes.  They did not fulfill the opportunity they had this off season  to improve.  All those rumors and big name signings for a mediocre to bad team.  Not ideal.
Off Season Grade: D+
Spring Training Storylines
Will the big name signings and re-signings make an impact?
Depends on if these guys have up or down seasons, hopefully for Bostonians like me, a down one.  Chris Davis I still don’t think is satisfied in Baltimore.  Hey, at least Yovani Gallardo and maybe Hyun-Soo Kim are good fits.  They still have Adam Jones better than ever, even without his precious pie celebrations.  They have some pretty good sleepers in the lineup to cover.  But still no matter what this team will have holes.  This might not matter.
How will the O’s fill the holes in the outfield and rotation?
Well, prospects play a big role.  Miguel Gonzalez needs more attention as a strong vet that will fight for a slot in the rotation.  Mike Wright, Dylan Bundy and Odrisamer Despaigne could get some spot starts.  In the outfield, sure, they lost Junior Lake who was developing well but they have Dariel Alvarez, they have Nolan Reimold, Jimmy Paredes may transition to right field and then Hyun-Soo Kim will move to left.
But even with prospects, a late signing would really help, even if its only like Alex Rios, Tim Lincecum or Cliff Lee.  I don’t think prospects plus what they have in the majors is going to be quite enough to fill the holes.
Who are some prospects who will be known this year?
Some of the prospects I mentioned above could be good but further down in the system, I’m liking sleep pitching prospect Andrew Triggs, who has looked alright this spring, veteran outfield spring training invitee L.J. Hoes, who returned to Baltimore this off season, and infielder Christian Walker.
Walker got some good time last year and looked ready to take over for Chris Davis, at least if Davis was still playing like he did in 2014 and Hoes got some good backup time in Houston but between their younger outfield prospects and the everyday starters, there was no room for him to shine last year.  There’s a lot of potential in the O’s system.  Despite a bad current team, they have future hope.

 Baltimore Orioles Projected Roster

Rotation               Bullpen
Chris Tillman        Zach Britton (CL)
Yovani Gallardo    Darren O’ Day
Tim Lincecum**    Brad Brach
Kevin Gausman    Miguel Gonzalez
Ubaldo Jimenez    Brian Matusz
                              Chaz Roe
                          Odrisamer Despaigne
Lineup                       Bench
C: Matt Wieters         Caleb Joseph
1B: Chris Davis          Christian Walker
2B: Jonathan Schoop  Nolan Reimold
SS: J.J. Hardy            Ryan Flaherty
3B: Manny Machado
LF: Hyun-Soo Kim
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Mark Trumbo
DH: Jimmy Paredes
**If Tim Lincecum does not come to the Orioles I have Miguel Gonzalez replacing him in the rotation.
Potential candidates to fill Gonzalez’s relief role would be:
           Dylan Bundy
           Mychal Givens
           Mike Wright
           T.J. McFarland
           Vance Worley
           Tyler Wilson
Projected Record: 74-88
That’s all for today.  Check out my Boston Red Sox report tomorrow!