Major League Baseball’s season is over. It’s now time for teams to build for 2018.
The Angels struck first by tying up one of the bigger would-be free agents, Justin Upton (who had an opt-out), to a five-year, $106 million deal. It may be a glimpse into what other sluggers on the market might be looking at.
Here are 35 names and teams to watch this offseason:
1. Scott Boras, agent — Boras represents free agents Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, J.D. Martinez, and Carlos Gonzalez, to name a few. Hosmer and Martinez are players of interest for the Red Sox, so Dave Dombrowski will likely hear a lot from the super agent. Boras also represents the top starting pitcher on the market in Jake Arrieta and one of the top closers in Greg Holland.
2. Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins — It’ll take major creativity and money to make a trade happen, but all indications from Marlins personnel say they will try to deal Stanton. There’ll be all sorts of proposals, some involving lots of prospects, some involving a lot of money the Marlins would have to eat. There’s also a no-trade provision involved. Stanton doesn’t want to go to a rebuilding team. He’s also from the West Coast, so that may be a preference. The list of teams that could be in the hunt include the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Rangers, Phillies, and Braves. Am I crazy to think about Aaron Judge and Stanton in the same lineup?
3. Jake Arrieta, RHP, free agent — His four-plus seasons with the Cubs produced a 68-31 record and 2.73 ERA. He struggled in the first half of this past season, but in 12 second-half starts he went 6-3 with a 2.28 ERA. Arrieta should get plenty of attention in free agency, with the Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Phillies all likely to compete for a pitcher who will likely get close to $25 million a year. Whether it’s for four or five years is the question.
4. Yu Darvish, RHP, free agent — It’s debatable whether his two poor World Series starts will cost him in free agency. It may have altered the Dodgers’ view of him or whether they should pursue him with the same vigor they did at the trade deadline. He’ll be among the top starters on the market, but his postseason performance was alarming.
5. J.D. Martinez, OF, free agent — The top free agent power hitter certainly timed this opportunity well. What a story, from a guy released by the Astros in 2014 to a guy about to make a fortune. Martinez’s price tag could be massive. Five years, $125 million? Higher? This from Diamondbacks hitting coach Dave Magadan: “I can’t stress enough — and I’ve been around a lot of significant hitters in my time as a hitting coach — I’ve never seen a guy who takes more pride in what he does than J.D. He works so hard at hitting and fielding. And let me tell you, he doesn’t get enough credit for his fielding. Forget the stuff you read, he’s a very good outfielder with a strong, accurate arm. We had a game late in the season where we were losing, 6-2. The ninth inning came around and J.D. was scheduled to be the seventh hitter. He went back to the cages with our assistant and worked out a problem he thought he was having with his swing in that game because he felt if he did get up and had a chance to win the game, he wanted to be ready. That’s what you’re getting. I was so impressed with him.”
6. Eric Hosmer, 1B, free agent — The feeling is, if the Royals keep one of their free agents, it will be Hosmer, but Boras will shop him to big-market teams such as the Red Sox and Yankees. He’s 28, with his prime years ahead. Boras will emphasize Hosmer’s ability to drive the ball to left and left-center when he speaks to the Red Sox.
7. Shohei Otani, P/OF/DH, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters — The unique Japanese star will be the story to watch this offseason. There is no system in place that would enable Otani to come to MLB as a free agent. His current team is looking for $20 million to post him prior to his contract expiring. Otani wants to come to MLB, even for minimal money. Right now it’s looking more and more as if the 23-year-old’s arrival in MLB will be delayed.
8. Brian Cashman, general manager, Yankees — Given that Cashman was able to fire Joe Girardi and he’s interviewing managerial candidates, it figures he’s about to sign a new deal. He’ll need to address CC Sabathia’s free agency, and perhaps add a starting pitcher. He’ll also have to decide whether to pursue a hitter, be it Stanton, Hosmer, or Moustakas.
9. CC Sabathia, LHP, free agent — Can the Yankees live without him? Probably. But he’s so important to them for the intangible things, mainly his leadership and status in the clubhouse. Not to mention Sabathia was called upon to pitch some of their most important games of the season. With Sabathia’s bad knees, it’s doubtful any team would give him more than two years. There’s no chance Cashman will pay $25 million a year. Maybe that total for two years.
10. Derek Jeter, owner, Marlins — We’re going to see moves even beyond Stanton as a result of their need to operate with a budget south of $90 million. Perhaps Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna have to go if Stanton doesn’t. Jeter will try to move Martin Prado and/or Dee Gordon. It’ll be interesting to see whom Jeter brings in to run the operation and what the long-term plan is for this organization.
11. Wade Davis, RHP, free agent — Davis had an excellent season with the Cubs, but as with Aroldis Chapman last season, it doesn’t appear that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will devote their resources to that position. Davis seems like an ideal fit for the Astros, whose bullpen is the one problematic area of a very fine team. Davis could shore that up.
12. Manny Machado, 3B, Orioles — The Orioles will make another attempt to extend Machado, who can become a free agent next offseason, but if that’s not possible, then what? The Orioles would have to listen to trade offers, and that’s where the Phillies, Angels, Mets, and possibly the Yankees could come in.
13. Rob Manfred, commissioner — We’ll see what changes Manfred has promised to make without the approval of the Players Association. You can almost bet on a pitch clock for 2018.
14. Mike Moustakas, 3B, free agent – One scout insisted Moustakas would hit 45 homers playing half of his games at Fenway, but the Red Sox don’t have a need for him unless they want Rafael Devers to DH. Plenty of teams need a third baseman, and the Mets, Angels, Yankees, and Giants could be among his suitors.
15. Houston Astros — As we did with the Cubs last season, we always assume there’s a dynasty on the way. But as Chicago found out, it’s not that easy. We will be interested in just how much tweaking the Astros do. Add a lefthanded-hitting DH? A closer? Another starter? It’s always a dilemma for defending champs to figure out how much to change and how much to leave status quo.
16. Greg Holland, RHP, free agent — Holland certainly reinvented himself after having Tommy John surgery. It doesn’t appear that the Rockies have the funds to re-sign him; he could be looking at a three- or four-year deal at $15 million or so.
17. Jay Bruce, RF, free agent — Bruce had a big season and the lefthanded power bat is expected to draw interest from the Blue Jays, who were after him during the season. The Indians may attempt to retain him, but they also have Carlos Santana entering free agency and there’s sentiment to re-sign him as well.
18. Terry Francona, manager, Indians — Cleveland won 22 straight games late in the season but lost in the ALDS to the Yankees, one year after losing Game 7 of the World Series. How does Francona manage this team in 2018? If anyone will have a plan, it will be Francona, who has done brilliant work in the past in challenging situations.
19. David Price, LHP, Red Sox — New manager Alex Cora needs to get Price on board. There’s no question Price made a strong return from injury as a bullpen piece late in the regular season and in the playoffs. But he’ll be a starter again in 2018. Can his forearm/triceps/elbow situation clear up completely? Can he be a 30-start guy again? First thing Cora must do is have a long conversation with his No. 2 starter.
20. Buck Showalter, manager, Orioles — It’s the last season of his contract. Will Orioles owner Peter Angelos sign him to a long-term deal, or decide that Showalter has outlived his stay? Angelos has left GM Dan Duquette in a similar situation, and while we saw the Yankees let their manager and GM play out their contracts, it’s really not the best idea to create a lame-duck status. So we may see offseason extensions for both.
21. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox — The talk is of Pedroia potentially being out through June after this very new cartilage replacement surgery. What will the Red Sox do to replace him? They have Deven Marrero, Brock Holt, and Marco Hernandez in house, but they might opt for a temporary veteran like Chase Utley, Howie Kendrick, or Ian Kinsler.
22. Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox — Abreu is likely the next White Sox star to be traded. The power-hitting first baseman could draw interest from the Red Sox and be a cheaper option than Martinez or Hosmer as a big bat. Abreu could also be a trade option for a team such as Kansas City if it loses Hosmer.
23. Alex Cobb, RHP, free agent — Cobb could draw interest from a number of teams because he won’t break the bank. The Twins, Blue Jays, Yankees, Phillies, and Rockies could all be involved. Cubs manager Joe Maddon and new pitching coach Jim Hickey worked with Cobb in Tampa Bay.
24. Jason Vargas, LHP, free agent — The Royals may bid to keep him, but he seems suited for a team like the Orioles, who are looking for cheaper pitching. Vargas started the season so well but finished so poorly (6.66 ERA in his last 16 starts).
25. Lance Lynn, RHP, free agent — The former Cardinal could also be an Orioles target. A steady, mid-rotation starter with a moderate price tag.
26. Lorenzo Cain, CF, free agent — Speed guys eventually wear down, but Cain has kept his motor pretty well and remains a solid all-around player. The Giants are going to be in on hitters, so if they pass on Martinez and can’t make a Stanton deal they may move on to Cain.
27. Atlanta Braves — GM John Coppolella lost his job because of international signing violations. MLB has reportedly absolved team president John Hart of any wrongdoing. Hart will now pick a new GM and is considering Washington assistants Dan Jennings and Doug Harris and possibly Ben Cherington. The Braves may also be getting closer to spending money as a contender again.
28. Zack Cozart, SS, free agent — One of the better players in free agency, Cozart is an all-around talent. The problem is there aren’t many teams looking for a shortstop. But he could represent an upgrade for a lot of teams, including the Red Sox, with his power potential and solid defense.
29. Addison Reed, RHP, free agent — One of the best setup men out there, Reed is going to get a three- or four-year deal in the range of $7 million-$9 million per season. Is that too rich for the Red Sox? They found out how valuable he was after they obtained him. Expect up to eight teams to pursue Reed, including the Dodgers, Rangers, Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Rockies, and Cubs.
30. Brandon Morrow, RHP, free agent — Morrow had a tremendous season as the Dodgers’ setup man before tiring in the World Series, but he’ll get Reed-type money in the open market. There’s a strong chance he’ll be retained by the Dodgers.
31. Eduardo Nunez, infielder, free agent — Good utility players have become invaluable. Now we’re going to see how valuable they are in free agency. He’ll have to show teams that his balky left knee is OK. The Red Sox, Angels, Mets, Blue Jays, and even his old team, the Giants, would all have some interest in a two-year deal. Nunez wants to be a starter. One of those teams will oblige.
32. Alex Cora, manager, Red Sox — The Red Sox hired Cora to take the team to the next level — that is, beyond the Division Series. As a first-time major league manager, is that possible right away? Cora was the bench coach for the champion Astros. He somehow has to get his young Sox players to act and perform more like the Astros.
33. Gabe Kapler, manager, Phillies — Kapler was a minor league manager for the Red Sox in 2007 and the Dodgers’ farm director the last three seasons. He’s the poster boy for the modern manager. All-in analytically, Kapler has a great personality and temperament for the job.
34. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, free agent — Gonzalez is coming off one of his worst seasons, hitting .262 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs, a big drop for a guy who averages close to 30 homers and 100 RBIs for a season in his career. At 32, is he on the downside, or was it a one-year outlier? He also had a .923 OPS at Coors Field and a .606 OPS on the road.
35. Matt Klentak, GM, Phillies — The Medfield native is about to bring the Phillies back to big-market status. They have money to spend with their big TV contract and their fan base is getting antsy. That’s why you’ll hear the Phillies involved with major names on the market. If they don’t do it this season, then they’ll have Bryce Harper, Machado, Mike Trout, and Josh Donaldson on their radar next season.