As Spring Training gets underway, the old tradition of watching where baseball’s top free agents will land over the winter has all but faded away. With pitchers and catchers already in camp, several top-tier players are still looking for a team to play for in 2019. Some will blame players for wanting too much money and others will blame owners for not shelling out the cash for top talent. This is not that discussion. Instead, we will be analyzing the contenders for each free agent and predict where he will land.
The former MVP and six-time All-Star is still searching for a landing spot. Rumors have been swirling since last offseason, with reports that Harper was looking for upwards of 10 years/$300 million. Ever since the Albert Pujols deal in 2011, teams have been reluctant to sign the lucrative 10-year deal that some players are looking for. With these dollar amounts in play, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that Bryce Harper would be a New York Yankee. While the Yankees certainly are in play for Harper, they no longer are the favorite for the 26-year-old outfielder. The Chicago Cubs also remain as a longshot, citing their ability to spend money and the friendship of Harper and Cubs 3B Kris Bryant. Not quite a longshot, but certainly not your “odds on favorite,” is the San Francisco Giants. The Giants really came out of nowhere in contending for Harper. They’re not quite in sell and rebuild mode like so many of the top contenders have done, but still have some solid pieces to work with. Could it happen? Certainly. Will it, probably not.
The two late favorites seem to have Harper staying in the NL East, either coming back home to the nation’s capital with Nationals or going to the first United States capital, Philadelphia. Harper, the savvy social media user, has since unfollowed several Washington Capitals players and has commented on a Rhys Hoskins post. Does this mean anything? Probably not. The media, myself included, tends to make way too big of a deal of things like social media profiles. The fact that Washington has remained in the race so long does show some signs that Harper wants to stay. That said, money talks and the Phillies have it to spend, as they look to be contenders. Reports are coming out that Harper is close to a decision and ready to celebrate, and a new contract would be one heck of an occasion.
Prediction: Harper signs with the Phillies. MLB The Show can ditch the Harper in a hoodie cover.
Another franchise building block that remains searching for a home is 3B/SS Manny Machado. 2018 saw Machado get traded from the abysmal Baltimore Orioles to the National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who were in desperate need for a rental shortstop. The latest reports indicate that unlike Harper, Machado is not close to his decision. That said, several of the same teams are in play on Machado as Harper. It is believed that Machado is looking for a lucrative short term deal, which would certainly play well for a team like the Yankees, who have probably been one of the strongest pursuers of Machado, with much mutual interest as well. Philadelphia also remains heavily involved in the Machado sweepstakes, despite having already made a splash at shortstop this offseason, signing two-time All-Star Jean Segura. The Phillies certainly would have a little wiggle room with the infield if Machado would decide to come East. Only one West Coast team has been actively pursuing Manny Machado, that being the San Diego Padres, who had met with Machado for the second time late last week. Not to be forgotten is the Chicago White Sox, who Machado’s father is believed to prefer as the destination for Manny.
Prediction: Machado to the Yankees.
The top pitcher in this year’s free agency class is still looking for a team. Keuchel, the two-time All-Star and Cy Young Award winner, has reportedly been waiting for the Harper and Machado dominoes to fall where they will. Still, with pitchers and catchers already in camp, some may worry if Keuchel will be ready for opening day if he is not in camp soon. Unlike Harper and Machado, the contenders for the lefty pitcher aren’t quite as clear cut. A return to Houston certainly remains in play and probably is the most likely. Houston did already ink lefty Wade Miley, who is coming off a renaissance season with Milwaukee in 2018, which certainly muddies the rotation picture, but does not eliminate the possibility of a return.
Speaking of Milwaukee, the Brewers, who knocked on the door of the World Series in 2018, have reportedly had conversations with the Scott Boras client. As Jeff Todd of MLBTR writes, the Brewers have a very good relationship with Scott Boras clients. While Milwaukee certainly has the talent to make this union intriguing, the Brewers may not have the capital necessary to make this move. Another Central team is also reportedly eyeing Keuchel, the AL Central Twins, who took a step back in 2018 from the fringe playoff team it was in 2017. A short term deal could certainly be ideal for either fringe team previously mentioned. Depending where/when Harper and Machado sign, it could affect who is interested. Philadelphia could throw their hat into the Keuchel race if Harper and Machado go elsewhere. Atlanta is also rumored to be interested. Keuchel’s name has also been thrown around in conversations with the Angels.
Prediction: Keuchel to the Braves.
Coming off the Red Sox 2019 World Series Championship, Kimbrel going back to Boston seemed inevitable. Since then, Kimbrel’s asking price has reportedly been too steep for a reunion with the defending champions. Red Sox front office has also spoken on a possible reunion with manager Alex Cora, expressing confidence in the bullpen without the closer. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski also stated that he is not expecting to spend big money on a closer. That being said, a different Kimbrel reunion seems inevitable, with a deal all but signed with Atlanta. Philadelphia also had some interest in the closer, if it is unable to land either Harper or Machado. This seems like as close to a slam dunk prediction as I will make.
Prediction: Kimbrel to the Braves.
Mike Moustakas is no stranger to letting other free agents make the first moves, then deciding where he will play. Moustakas was in the same situation last season before deciding to take a one-year deal to return to Kansas City. As the Royals go through another overhaul, Moustakas was dealt to Milwaukee, as the Brewers were looking to add another bat to its infield. Moustakas was a key bat down the stretch, including a walk-off single in the NLDS. Following the season, Moustakas declined a mutual option that would have guaranteed a return to the Brewers. He has garnered some interest throughout the offseason, with four teams in on the third baseman.
As reported by Ken Rosenthal, Moustakas signing a short term deal with Milwaukee “seems inevitable.” This is where the aforementioned relationship with agent Scott Boras may be a big factor, as with late season addition Gio Gonzalez. But until the dotted line is signed, nothing is a guarantee. As of late, the Los Angeles Angels have been garnering a decent push to land the California native, especially given Moustakas’ offseason charity work in the area. For that reason, a reunion with Royals teammate Eric Hosmer in San Diego with the Padres may occur, depending on Machado’s decision. Should Machado choose San Diego, the Phillies could also reportedly make a big push on Moose.
Prediction: Moustakas to the Brewers.
Utility man and World Series Champion Marwin Gonzalez is another player seemingly waiting for the Machado and Harper sweepstakes to end before finding a home. A number of teams are reportedly in contention with no clear cut favorite, much like potentially former teammate Dallas Keuchel. Astros management has expressed interest in retaining both Keuchel and Gonzalez, but the thought is that Keuchel would get the nod over Gonzalez if only one can be signed. The Minnesota Twins are looking to rebound from a lackluster 2018 season, and the bat of Gonzalez would definitely be a big key to contending in the AL Central. Cleveland is also rumored to be in the mix for Gonzalez, considering Francisco Lindor may miss some time to start the season. If the Chicago White Sox are unable to land Machado, they too could make a run here as well. All signs are pointing to Gonzalez remaining in the American League, where he will be able to use his versatility to play any position or DH.
Prediction: Gonzalez to the Twins.
Where do you think the top free agents will land? Who do you want your team to land? Let us know!