Inside Baseball: Predicting the deals for 131 of free agency's potential movers and shakers

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The big market is upon us, and it should be a doozy — even if superstar pitcher Clayton Kershaw quietly settles with the Dodgers, as most expect he will.
 
So yes, it’s time for our annual free agent predictions. As always, I have enlisted one baseball expert who spent a week poring over the data, and has come up with some really interesting numbers, including a huge one for Harper. I made my own picks, and though I have the advantage of seeing his/her picks first, I am not confident I can break my several-year losing streak to the expert (at least five, but I’ve lost count).
 
Never before have we had two mid-20s superstars such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado on the market, and of course Kershaw is the best pitcher of the generation (though the timing isn’t perfect for a big score for him).


 
Unlike Kershaw, who we expect will stay with the Dodgers, Machado was clearly a short-timer in L.A.. But in his short stay, he made a mark on his free agency, quite possibly affecting it in an adverse way with some negative on-field episodes.
 
Many believed he’d top even Harper before October, but now that is far from certain. At least one big-market team is said to have sworn off Machado. But of course it only takes one. And the Phillies, whose top brass selected him for the Orioles eight years ago knows him and likes him, look like they are ready to rock — and spend — this winter.
 
The market should be much better this time for players, not only because the Phillies are ready to make a big score, or possibly two, but because the biggest market Yankees and Dodgers reset their luxury tax downward this year by staying under the $197-million threshold.
 
There is some trepidation among players after last year’s craziness, when at least a half-dozen players who were anticipating multi-year deals had to sign one-year deals late. However, with the addition of the two historically biggest spending teams into the top of the market, plus there was of course the stark reminder this October that spending works. The World Champion Red Sox had the biggest payroll, and if the runner-up Dodgers hadn’t rearranged money into 2019 with the Matt Kemp trade they would have been second there, too.
 
It should be some wild ride, and it starts now. Here are all the free agents to watch, arranged in order of projected deal size by an expert we consulted. 
 
The Free Agents
 
1) Bryce Harper, OF: The biggest winner of the postseason, according to one management person was Harper. Not because of anything he did, of course, but because Machado’s on-field antics changed the narrative over who’d be better on a team. Rare is it that one superstar hits the free agent market in his mid 20s but we have two this year. All anyone talks about is who’ll get more. The Nats and Phillies are in for sure, and some other possibilities include the Giants, Cubs and Yankees. Expert: 11 years, 34M per, $374M. Me: 11 years, $30M per, $330M.

2) Manny Machado, SS-3B: Our poll done a few months ago of top executives had Machado the winner. Word is, the Phillies are still hanging in there for Machado, and maybe Harper, too. But at least one team I know of has declared themselves out. 10 years, 32.5M per, $325M. The Phillies are the logical call, but he’s believed to love the idea of the Yankees. Me: 10 years, $30M, $300M.

3) Dallas Keuchel, SP: The past Cy Young winner turned down some long deals while in Houston, and there’s a suspicion he wouldn’t mind going to an even bigger market, like L.A.  or N.Y.C. (the Yankees are looking for starters), perhaps.  Expert: 5 years, $21M per, $105M. Me: 5 years, $19M, $95M.


4) Clayton Kershaw, SP: Kershaw has an interesting call, but the suspicion by most is that he could improve on the total take, with $65M and two years to go, even if it’s back with the Dodgers. Hard to see him wanting to return to his Dallas home at the moment (though the Rangers will be good in another year). Expert: 4 years, $25.5M per, $101M. Me: 4 years, $25M, $100M

5) Patrick Corbin, SP: Corbin put together a pretty spectacular walk year. It’ll be interesting between Keuchel and Corbin. While the expert slightly favored Keuchel, I’ll take the recency factor. The Yankees should be a player. Expert: 5 years, $17M per, $85M. Me: 5 years, $20M per, $100M.

6) Josh Donaldson, 3B: While he had a disastrous season, the expert still seems him getting a pretty big deal, especially on a per-year basis. I don’t have him doing quite that well. The Cardinals liked him before. Expert: 3 years, $22M per, $66M. Me: 2 years, $18M per, $36M.

7) Craig Kimbrel, RP: A rough postseason raised a question or two about one of the game’s best closers. If the expert is right, the Red Sox will probably play at that number. I see a little bigger number. Expert: 4 years, $15M per, $60M. Me: 4 years, $18M per, $72M.

8) Nathan Eovaldi, SP: He became a hero in the World Series, interestingly in Boston’s one defeat, for his ability and willingness to go long in Game 3 after pitching in Games 1 and 2. Red Sox manager Alex Cora joked that Eovaldi’s agent “might kill him,” but it appears he survived the ordeal. Expert: 4 years, $16M per, $64M. Me: 3 years, $15M per, $45M.

9) Andrew McCutchen, OF: He gets his free agency chance off a nice second half with the Yankees, but he’s no longer the star he once was, or for that matter, a center fielder. Expert: 4 years, $15M per, $60M. Me: 3 years, $13M per, $39M.

10) Elvis Andrus, SS: Expert. Not opting out, four years, $58M. Me: Same.

11) Marwin Gonzalez, INF-OF: Word has been that the Astros probably won’t give him a qualifying offer, which would change the equation. Ben Zobrist is certainly a comp for extreme versatility, and Gonzalez can he even play shortstop in a pinch. Expert: 4 years, $14M per, $56M. Me: 4 years, $13M, $52M.

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12) Zach Britton, RP: He was throwing better by year’s end, and though not quite up to his spectacular performance from 2016. Expert: 4 years, $14M per, $56M. Me:  4 years, $15M per, $60M.

13) Mike Moustakas, 3B: 4 years, $13M per, $52M. Moustakas gets a do-over after showing yet again he can be a key contributor on a pennant contender. One more plus: no qualifying offer this time. Expert: 4 years, $13M, $52M. Me: 3 years, $14M, $42M.

14) D.J. LeMahieu, 2B: He had terrific defensive metrics, and has been a solid contributor for the Rockies for years. Expert: 4 years, $12.5M per, $50M. Me: 3 years, $13M per, $39M.

15) Michael Brantley, OF: Brantley has had injury issues in the past but put together a terrific platform year. Expert: 3 years, $15M per, $45M. Me: 3 years, $14M per, $42M.

16) A.J. Pollock, CF: If he could stay healthy, he might have been a nine-figure player. As things stand, he’s talented yet risky. He may be given a qualifying offer, and it’s quite possible he’d accept. Expert: 3 years, $14M per, $42M. Me: 3 years, $15M per, $45M.

17) Yasmani Grandal, C: The expert obviously is looking at his very nice regular season. Hard for me to get that postseason out of my mind. Expert: 3 years, $13M per, $39M. Me: 2 years, $10M per, $20M.

18) Adam Jones, OF: The Orioles’ longtime star is probably a corner outfielder after years as one of the better center fielders in the game. Expert: 3 years, $12.5M per, $37.5M. Me: 2 years, $11M per, $22M.

19) Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP: His very nice comeback seems likely to result in the Dodgers extending the $17.9M bid.  $17.9 M QO or 3 years, $12.5M per, $37.5M. Me: QO likely.

20) Nelson Cruz, DH: Cruz has been one of the best and most consistent sluggers in the game. Limited to the AL. Expert: 2 years, $16.5M per, $33M. Me: 2 years, $15M per, $30M.

21) Gio Gonzalez, SP: He has a seemingly indestructible arm with zero injury history (before a misstep in the playoffs). He was better for Milwaukee than the Nats, and is only a year removed from Cy Young votes. Expert: 3 years, $11M, $33M. Me: 3 years, $10M, $30M.

22) Adam Ottavino, RP: He had a huge platform year and showed big-time stuff. Expert: 3 years, $10M per, $30M. Me: 3 years, $14M per, $42M.

23) Brad Brach, RP: The longtime Orioles stalwart had a brief stopover in Atlanta. Expert: 3 years, $9M per, $27M. Me: 2 years, $7M per, $14M.

24) Joe Kelly, RP: Made himself a pretty penny this postseason. Expert: 3 years, $9M per, $27M. Me: 3 years, $8M per, $24M.

25) Martin Maldonado, C: His defensive prowess is well known, though like a few others had a slip or two in the postseason. Expert: 3 years, $8.75M, 26.25M. Me: 2 years, Me: 2 years, $8M per, $16M.


26) J.A. Happ, SP: He had a very nice fee-agent year, and it should pay off. The Yankees like Happ and he’s on their list. Expert: 2 years, $13M per, $26M. Me: 2 years, $13M per, $26M.

27) Justin Wilson, RP: He has big talent but some command lapses have hurt. Expert: 3 years, $8 M per, $24M. Me: 2 years, $7M per, $14M.s

28) Nick Markakis, OF: He put up an excellent season, but the Braves are said to believe the $17.9-million qualifying offer is a bit rich. Expert:  2 years, $11M per, $22M. Me: 2 years, $12.5M per, $25M.

29) David Robertson, RP: He’s going to go on his own after his agent Scott Leventhal got him a $46-million windfall despite having a qualifying offer attached to him. Strange decision. Expert: 3 years, $7M per, $21M. Me: 2 years, $9M, $18M.

30) Cole Hamels, SP: He was fantastic for the Cubs. Expert: $20M option picked up. Me: Same.

31) Andrew Miller, RP: The terrific talent was hurt by a variety of injuries in 2018. If healthy, one of the best. Expert: 2 years, $10M per, $20M. Me: 1 year, $13M.

32) Daniel Murphy, 2B-1B: The superb hitter may have to move to first base. Expert: 2 years, $9M per, $18M. Me: 2 years, $20M.

33) Jeurys Familia, RP: The former closer did well for Oakland. Expert: 2 years, $9M per, $18M. Me: 2 years, $10M per, $20M.

34) Pedro Strop, RP: (*Has team option) He became one of the Cubs’ more dependable relievers, so the option is likely to be picked up. But if not .... Expert: 2 years, $9M per, $18M. Me: 2 years, $7M per, $14M.

35) Adam Warren, RP: The versatile performer is obviously liked better by the expert. 3 years, $6M per, $18M. Me: 2 years, $5M, $10M.

36) Charlie Morton, SP: He became an All-Star in Houston. The Astros could give him the qualifying offer, which he’d presumably accept since he’s said he may only want to play one more year. 1 year, $17 M. Me: $17.9M QO.

37) Lance Lynn, SP: He gets a second crack at free agency, and was better in New York than Minnesota. Expert: 2 years, $8.5M, $17M. Me: 2 years, $8M a year, $16M.

38) Robinson Chirinos, C: (*Has team option). Solid catcher in a market without catching stars, Expert: 2 years, $7.5M, $15M. Me: 2 years, $6M per, $12M.

39) Jed Lowrie, 2B: He had his best year with the A’s and they’ve tried to work it out. Expert: 2 years, $7.5M, $15M. Me: 2 years, $11M per, $22M.

40) Joakim Soria, RP: Professional reliever was part of the Brewers’ super pen. Expert: 2 years, $7 M per, $14 M. Me: 2 years, $8M per, $16M.

41) Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B-3B: He had a big offense year with the Mets before trade to Philly. Expert: 2 years, $7M $14M. Me: 1 year, $7M.

42) Wade Miley, SP: He had a monster second half with Milwaukee. Big difference here. Expert: 2 years, $6.5M per, $13M. Me: 2 years, $10M per, $20M.

43) Jose Iglesias, SS: Defensive specialist seems distracted at times. Expert: 2 years, $6 M per, $12M. Me: 2 years, $7M per, $14M.


44) Adrian Beltre, 3B: Word is he will come back if he likes Texas’ direction. Expert: 1 year, $10 M. Me: 1 year, $12M.

45 )Clay Buchholz, SP: The expert noted that it depends on the medicals. In any case, it was quite a comeback. Expert: 1 year, $10M. Me: 1 year, $7M.

46) Wilson Ramos, C-DH: Fantastic hitter would benefit by a move back to the AL. Expert: 1 year, $10M. Me: 1 year, $9M.

47) Josh Harrison, 2B:  (*Has team option.). He slipped a bit last year, hurting the chances for the trade he sought and assuring the Pirates will buy him out for $1M rather than pick up the $10M option. Expert: 2 years, $5 M per, $10 M. Me: 2 years, $6M per, $12M.

48) Tony Sipp, RP: He was one of the more overpaid players in Houston. Expert:  2 years, $5 M per,  $10. Me: 2 years, $5M per, $10M.

49) David Freese, 3B-1B: (Has team option). It would seem likely the Dodgers exercise the $6M option for their sometime No. 3 hitter (in the World Series). He was one of the better hits for the Dodgers I the World Series. He has a $6M option with a 500K buyout. Expert: 2 years, $5M per, $10 M. Me: 2 years, $5M per, $10M.

50) Tyler Clippard, RP: He was in the labor camp last year, but after a solid season the Jays couldn’t find a taker. Expert: 2 years, $5M per, $10M. Me: 1 year, $4M.

51) Matt Harvey, SP: This should be one of the more interesting ones. The Reds want him back. Expert: 1 year, $9 M. Me: 2 years, $18M.

52) C.C. Sabathia, SP: He is still productive. Expert: 1 year, $9M. Me: 1 year, $8M.

53) Kelvin Herrera, RP: There were some injury questions, though his foot ailment wasn’t as bad as feared. He had a 1.74 WHIP in Washington after huge years in K.C. Expert: 1 year, $9 M. Me: 2 years, $16M.

54) Garrett Richards, SP: He had Tommy John surgery in July after a very nice start. Expert: 2 years, $4.5M per, $9 M (TJ surgery). Me: 2 years, $5M per, $10M.

55) Cody Allen, RP: After several excellent years he struggled in his walk year, Expert: 1 year, $8M. Me: 2 years, $7M per, $14M.

56) Joe Mauer, 1B: The Twins would happily take him back if he so desires. The guess here is he retires. Expert: 1 year, $8 M (if he plays). Me: Retirement.

57) Edwin Jackson, SP: Surprise, he had a nice year in Oakland. Expert: 1 year, $7 M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

58) Ervin Santana, SP: He barely pitched due to a finger issue in 2018. Expert: 1 year, $7M. Me: 1 year, $6M.

59) Anibal Sanchez, SP: He had a surprisingly nice year in Atlanta. Expert: 1 year, $7M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

60) Brian Dozier, 2B: His walk year didn’t turn out like expected, so a one-year “pillow” contract may be the way to go. Expert: 1 year, $6.5M. Me: $9M, 1 year.

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61) Derek Holland, SP: He resurrected his career in San Francisco, and the NL. Expert: 1 year, $6.5 M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

62) Greg Holland, RP: After signing on the eve of the season he never showed his previous form. Expert: 1 year, $6.5 M. Me: 1 year, $6M.

63) Steve Pearce, 1B: The professional hitter became the World Series MVP. Expert: 1 year, $6.5 M. Me: 2 years, $15M.

64) Carlos Gonzalez, OF: He had a solid season but isn’t putting up the big numbers as before. Expert: 1 year, $6.5M. Me: 1 year, $7M.

65) Jeremy Hellickson, SP: He looked pretty good in Washington before going down. Expert: 1 year, $6 M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

66) Brian McCann, C: Veteran catcher should get a deal expert 6M 1 year me 7M 1 year

67) Freddy Galvis, SS: The terrific defender should get a job. Expert:  1 year, $6M. Me: 1 year, $4M.

68) Jesse Chavez, SP-RP: He had a huge finish in Chicago. Expert: 1 year, $5.75 M.  Me: 2 years, $6M per, $12M.

69) Tyson Ross, SP: Solid starter had some good moments. Expert: 1 year, $5.5M. Me: 1 year, $4M.

70) Evan Gattis, DH-C: Power threat will get work. Expert: 1 year, $5.5 M. Me: $5M, 1 year.

71) Shawn Kelley, RP: The famed mitt thrower has good stuff: Expert: $5.5M, 1 year. Me: $5M, 1 year.


72) Trevor Cahill, SP: He proved useful back in Oakland. Expert: 1 year, $5.5 M. Me: 2 years, $12M.

73) Drew Pomeranz, SP: He had a rough year. Expert: 1 year, $5 M. Me: 1 year, $6M.

74) Jonathan Lucroy, C: He did a nice job with the A’s young staff, though the offense has fallen off the last two years. Expert: 1 year, $5M. Me: 1 year, $6M.

75) Gerardo Parra, OF: A rare Rockie who hit well in October. Expert: 1 year, $5M. Me: 1 year, $6M.

76) Denard Span, OF: Played pretty well after being traded. Expert:  1 year,  $5M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

77) Ryan Madson, RP: Rough World Series probably meant he was spent. Expert: 1 year, $5M. Me: 1 year, $4M.

78) Kurt Suzuki, C: The Braves wouldn’t mind bringing him back. Expert: 1 year, $5M. Me: 1 year, $6M.

79) Sergio Romo, RP-opener: The first opener raised his value. Expert: 1 year, $4.75M. Me: 1 year, $4M.

80) Devin Mesoraco, C: Injuries have taken a toll. Expert: 1 year, $4.5M. Me: 1 year, $2M.

81) Bud Norris, RP: He continues to contribute. Expert: 1 year, $4.5M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

82) Fernando Rodney, RP: (*Has team option). He just keeps going. Expert: 1 year, $4.25M. Me: They pick up the option.

83) Matt Wieters, C: It didn’t work out in Washington, but he sure can handle a pitching staff. Expert: 1 year, $4M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

84) Lucas Duda, 1B: Power threats still have a value. Expert:1 year, $4M. Me: 1 year, $3M.

85) Ian Kinsler, 2B: He didn’t have a great October, but the metrics say he is still very good at second. Expert: 1 year, $4M. Me: 1 year, $6M.

86) James Shields, SP: He still puts up innings. Expert: 1 year, $4 M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

87) Lonnie Chisenhall, OF: He has slid a bit. Expert: 1 year, $4M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

88) Jon Jay, OF: A nice leadoff man and decent CF. Expert: 1 year, $4M. Me: 2 years, $4M per, $8M.

89) Adeiny Hechavarria, SS: Terrific defensive player. Expert: 1 year, $4M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

90) Hunter Pence, OF: He’s going to play Winter Ball. Showed positive signs late, Expert: 1 year, $4 M. Me: 1 year, $4M.

91) Jordy Mercer, SS: Another solid shortstop in a big crowd of them. Expert: 1 year, $4M. Me: 1 year, $5M.

92) Marco Estrada, SP: Proven big-game pitcher is a soft tosser. Expert: 1 year, $4 M. Me: 1 year, $6M.

93) Francisco Liriano, SP-RP: Versatile guy always finds a job. Expert: 1 year, $3.5 M. Me: 1 year, $4M.

94) A.J. Ramos, C: Coming off Tommy John, he could be a part-year bargain. Expert: 1 year, $3.5 M. Me: 1 year, $4M.

95) Ollie Perez, RP: He fooled ‘em again in Cleveland. Expert: 1 year, $3.5 M. Me: 1 year, $4M.

96) Jaime Garcia, RP-SP: He’s one guy who kept going after thoracic outlet surgery. Expert: 1 x $3.5 M. Me: 1 year, $3M.

97) Matt Adams, DH-1B: Professional hitter. Expert: 1 year, $3.5M. Me: 1 year, $4.5M.

98) Melky Cabrera, OF: Made nice comeback in Cleveland. Expert: 1year, $3.5M. Me: 1 year, $3M.

99) Matt Holliday, OF-DH: Looked decent in part-time role after late comeback. Expert: 1 year, $3M. Me: 1 year, $3M.

100) Tony Barnette, RP: Lefty reliever has ability. Expert: 1 year, $3M. Me: 1 year, $3.5M.

101) Hanley Ramirez, 1B-DH: He is determined to come back, as we reported here. Expert: 1 year, $3M. Me: 1 year, $3M.


102) Curtis Granderson, OF: Good for any team. Wouldn’t mind Chicago. Expert: 1 year, $2.75M. Me: 1 year, $3.5M.

103) Carlos Gomez, OF: Last year was a struggle. Expert:  1 year, $2.5 M. Me: 1 year, $2M.

104) Hector Santiago, RP-SP: Versatile. Expert:1 year, $2.5 M. Me: 1 year, $2M.

105) Nick Hundley, C:  Solid backup catcher. Expert: 1 year, $2.5 M. Me: 1 year, $3M.

106) Logan Morrison, 1B-DH: Year was hindered by late start, then injury. Expert: 1 year, $2.5M. Me: 1 year, $2M.

107) Jerry Blevins, RP: Good lefty was better in 2017. Expert: 1 year, $2 M. Me: 1 year, $3M.

108) Austin Jackson, OF: Showed some nice signs in Queens. Expert: $1 year, $2 M. Me: 1 year, $1.5M.

109) Jorge De La Rosa, RP: Looked productive late. Expert: 1 year, $2 M. Me: 1 year, $3M.

110) Jeff Mathis, C: Defensive specialist. Expert: 1 year, $2 M. Me: 1 year, $1.5M.

111) Matt Joyce, OF: Another off-the-bench hitter in a market full of them. Expert: 1 year, $2 M. Me: 1 year, $1.5M.

112) Neil Walker, 2B-1B: Better in second half for Yanks. Expert: 1 year, $2 M. Me: 1 year, $4M.

113) Logan Forsythe, 2B-3B: Rough year of deal. Expert: 1 year, $2 M. Me: 1 year, $1M.

114) John Axford, RP: He’s still going. Also knows his movies.  Expert: 1 year, $2 M. Me: 1 year, $2M.

115) Brandon Guyer, OF: Solid righty hitter, Expert: 1 year, $2 M. Me: 1 year, $3M.

116) Alcides Escobar, SS: Yet another good defensive shortstop. Expert:  1 year, $2 M. Me: 1 year, $1.5M

117) Zach Duke, LP: Lefty specialist. Expert:  1 year, $1.75 M. Me: 1 year, $2M.

118) Johnny Venters, RP: He’s come back from a bunch of Tommy Johns. Expert: 1 year,  $1.75 M. Me: 1 year, $1.5M.

119) Bartolo Colon, SP: Amazing man. 1 year, $1.75 M. Me: 1 year, $1.5M.

120) Chris Hatcher, RP: Not a great 2018. Expert: 1 year, $1.5 M. Me: 1 year, $1M.

121) Brett Anderson, SP: Often over-paid. Often hurt. Expert: 1 year, $1.5 M. Me: 1 year, $2M.

122) Fernando Salas, RP: Bounced around. Palindromic. Expert: 1 year, $1.5 M. Me: 1 year, $1M.

123) Jake Diekman, RP: Hard throwing lefty. Expert: 1 year, $1.25 M. Me: 1 year, $3M.

124) Miguel Gonzalez, SP-RP: Soft tosser has defied odds. Expert: 1 year, $1.25M . Me: 1 year, $1M.

125) Josh Tomlin, SP-RP: Hit hard in 2018. Expert: 1 year, $1.25M. Me: 1 year, $2M.

126) Rajai Davis, OF: Useful backup. Expert: 1 year, $1.25M. Me: 1 year, $1.5M.

127) Aaron Loup, RP: Another lefty. Expert: 1 year, $1.25 M. Me: 1 year, $2M.

128) Santiago Casilla, RP: Released late last year. Expert: 1 year, $1M. Me: 1 year, $1M.

129) Jose Bautista, 3B-OF: Played for three NL East teams, showing versatility and at times an ability to get on base. Expert: 1 year, $1 M. Me: 1 year, $1M.

130) Tim Collins, RP: A Mike Rizzo favorite has overcome injuries. Expert: 1 year, $1 M. Me: 1 year, $1M.

131) Chris Young, OF: Nice backup. Expert: 1 year, $1 M. Me: 1 year, $1.5M.

Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball insider. He publishes his weekly Inside Baseball column each Thursday on the App and FancredSports.com. You can download the App here and interact with Jon by following him right here.

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