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• Free agents, by position
• Free agents, by team
Projecting Harper's next contract
Nov. 14: While superstar slugger Bryce Harper is primed to cash in this offseason, he may have several options to consider when it comes to the length of his next contract, which Sports Illustrated's Emma Baccellieri covered in an article for si.com on Tuesday.
The most likely option would seem to be what Baccellieri terms "The Lifetime Deal," a 10-year contract in the neighborhood of $350 million.
These types of deals are risky for the signing team, as the Angels and the Mariners have found out after inking Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano, respectively. But as Baccellieri points out, Pujols was 31 years old and Cano 30 when they signed. Harper is only 26, giving him a better chance to make a long-term contract pay off.
Harper could also consider a shorter-term deal with a higher average annual value (AAV). Baccellieri proposes a four-year, $170 million contract that would blow away the record for AAV, which is held by Zack Greinke at $34.4 million.
Taking that one step further, Harper could sign a one-year deal for $45 million, betting on his ability return to MVP form in 2019 before entering free agency again next offseason. This would obviously be risky for the outfielder, as he could have a down year or suffer an injury, but he might consider it if the offers he receives aren't much better than the one he reportedly rejected from the Nationals (10 years, $300 million) on the final day of the regular season.
Betances wants Yankees to sign Machado
Nov. 14: As the Yankees consider whether to make a run at free-agent infielder Manny Machado, one New York player gave the potential move his full endorsement Tuesday.
"I think he'll put us over the top," Yankees reliever Dellin Betances said. "We were short last year. Things could have gone our way, but they didn't. Adding a guy like that would help any team. Our lineup is already impactful, so adding a guy like that would be pretty crazy."
Betances and Machado were teammates for the Dominican Republic in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, and they have plenty of experience as opponents from Machado's years with the Orioles.
"I played with him in the Classic and got a chance to develop a good relationship with him over the years, playing against him," Betances said. "I'm hoping that we get him. I'm keeping close tabs on it. It's not my decision, but that would be a big piece for the team. We have a good team, but adding a guy like that, that can play at a high level and has played at a high level for quite some time, we would be great."
Trout needs help. Can Corbin provide it?
Nov 14: With Mike Trout under control for just two more seasons, the clock is ticking for the Angels to build a competitive team around him. With that in mind, MLB.com's Richard Justice puts the club third on his list of teams that could spend big in free agency this offseason.
Justice writes that Los Angeles needs "pitching, pitching and more pitching," and the best starter on the market is arguably Patrick Corbin, making the left-hander a realistic target.
Given their recent history with pitchers undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Angels may be hesitant to pursue Corbin, who had the procedure in 2014. Dallas Keuchel would probably be a safer option, but the Angels can't really afford to be conservative as they try to close the gap between themselves, the Astros and the A's.
With Garrett Richards entering free agency after undergoing Tommy John surgery last season, and Shohei Ohtani also recovering from his own Tommy John procedure, the Angels need an ace. Los Angeles can't lean too heavily on any of the top six pitchers on its current depth chart, as all have dealt with significant injury problems.
Are Reds willing to pay up for a top free-agent starter?
Nov. 14: The Reds need pitching and are expected to spend aggressively this offseason, but MLB.com's Richard Justice writes that the contract demands of Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel -- arguably the top two starters on the market -- may be out of Cincinnati's "comfort zone."
Justice notes that the Reds could sign multiple starters, but they may look at less expensive pitchers. Nathan Eovaldi, J.A. Happ and Charlie Morton stand out as attractive options from the second tier.
Another factor that might deter the Reds from pursuing Corbin or Keuchel is the fact that they'll need to surrender a Draft pick to sign either pitcher after both rejected qualifying offers. Given the state of the team, adding a big-name starter won't make Cincinnati an instant contender, but signing two reliable arms would help.
Would a Corbin/Donaldson duo be a better buy than Harper?
Nov. 14: The Phillies and the Cardinals placed first and second on MLB.com's list of teams that are ready to spend big this offseason, with Richard Justice noting that both clubs would be a great fit for Bryce Harper. But Justice also mentions a potential alternative for both teams -- signing Patrick Corbin and Josh Donaldson.
MLB Network insider Jon Heyman projects Harper will sign for $330 million over 11 years, giving him an average annual value of $30 million. Agent Scott Boras is believed to be asking for upwards of $400 million, and there's a good chance Harper will end up making at least $35 million per year.
Per Heyman's projections, the Corbin/Donaldson duo would cost $38 million on average, with Corbin landing a five-year contract for $100 million and Donaldson signing for $36 million over two seasons.
There are risk factors associated with both approaches, but signing Corbin and Donaldson may have more short-term upside than using that money on Harper alone. Corbin was worth 6.3 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2018, per FanGraphs, while Donaldson averaged 6.9 WAR per season from '13-17. If the Phils or Cards got the best versions of Corbin and Donaldson, it could put them over the top in their respective divisions.
Will Bumgarner be in a new uniform by Spring Training?
Nov. 13: This past season, teams that called the Giants about a Madison Bumgarner trade were told that he was not available, with San Francisco placing great importance on the left-hander's legacy, according to Buster Olney in an article for ESPN+ (subscription required).
But Olney argues that the club must at least consider dealing Bumgarner this offseason, with the southpaw starting to show signs of regression and set to hit the free-agent market in a year.
As Olney notes, Bumgarner's fastball velocity and OPS against his four-seamer are going in the wrong direction, as is his hard-hit rate, and it's questionable whether San Francisco should offer him a long-term contract extension. Meanwhile, trading Bumgarner may be the Giants' best chance to replenish a lackluster farm system.
Olney considers new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi the right person to make a tough decision about Bumgarner, as the former Dodgers general manager has no ties to the Giants' three World Series-winning clubs and can fairly assess Bumgarner's future without being swayed by his past.
Olney also writes that Bumgarner may still be viewed as an attractive trade target by many teams because of his track record and the fact that he requires only a one-year obligation for $12 million.
Yanks would be logical fit for Murphy
Nov. 13: The Yankees are in fine-tuning mode with their lineup, but with the unexpected timeline of Didi Gregorius' return from Tommy John surgery, the club all of a sudden has a left-handed, pull-power void. MLB.com's Matt Kelly makes the argument that Daniel Murphy could fit that bill splendidly, while also outlining other factors that make Murphy and the Yanks a strong match on paper.
• 5 reasons why Yankees should sign Murphy
Murphy might be an economical solution in dollars and years, would bring a hitting acumen to the Yanks' young stars and could even serve as insurance at first base for Greg Bird, who has yet to hit his stride, and Luke Voit, who may need to still prove himself as an everyday player.
No stranger to the New York spotlight, Murphy has been a poster boy for the launch-angle era, which could prove valuable with the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium. As Kelly notes, from 2016-17, only 10 left-handed hitters recorded a higher rate of pulled fly balls and line drives, per Statcast™, and Murphy hit .642 when putting those balls in play.
Kelly also points out that after a sluggish start to his 2018 season -- Murphy missed the first two and a half months while recovering from right knee surgery last offseason, then hit .188 over his first 21 games -- Murphy slashed .328/.365/.506 over his last 70 games for a 132 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) -- the exact same in that stretch as Manny Machado, whom the Yanks are also reportedly targeting.
Murphy will turn 34 years old on April 1, has proven to be defensively inferior to most everyday second basemen, and was limited to just 91 games last year. But his October-laden resume, affordability and veteran impact might make him a strong fit in the Bronx.
Would the Yanks trade Andujar to make way for Machado?
Nov. 13: While it's unclear exactly where Manny Machado falls on the Yankees' offseason wish list, a big splash by New York can't be ruled out, especially after the club just watched the rival Red Sox win their fourth World Series title since 2004. The Yanks certainly have the money to afford the 26-year-old, and the club is doing "extensive" background work on him, according to a report from The Athletic (subscription required).
Of course, improving the starting rotation remains the Yankees' top priority. General manager Brian Cashman has made it known he's looking to add two starting pitchers, and signing Machado may lower New York's chances of inking one of the top hurlers on the free-agent market, such as Patrick Corbin.
Still, there is a way for Cashman to possibly acquire Machado and multiple high-end starters, as Joe Rivera of the Sporting News points out. The Yankees could do so by dangling third baseman Miguel Andujar in a trade for an ace, and then sign a mid-market free agent such as J.A. Happ.
Andujar finished second to Shohei Ohtani in the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting after hitting .297 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs in 2018, but he struggled defensively to the point where there are questions about his long-term viability at the hot corner.
If New York trades Andujar, Machado could slot in as the club's starting third baseman, with Gleyber Torres shifting to shortstop until Didi Gregorius is ready to return from Tommy John surgery.
Granted, the Yanks wouldn't have to trade the 23-year-old Andujar to make room for Machado. They could play Machado at shortstop while Gregorius is out, leaving Andujar at third base and Torres at second, or move Andujar across the diamond to first. But dealing Andujar may be the best way for the Yankees to get Machado and still acquire the ace starting pitcher they covet.
Are the Giants better off signing multiple players instead of Harper?
Nov. 13: The Giants could have between $30 million to $40 million to spend this offseason, and they have been connected to free agent Bryce Harper. However, as Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports points out, Farhan Zaidi, San Francisco's new president of baseball operations, may prefer to spread out the club's resources to fill multiple needs.
When Zaidi was the Dodgers' general manager under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, the team never gave out any contract totaling more than $80 million, opting instead to focus on building a deep roster.
Pavlovic notes that the Giants need a starting pitcher, an outfielder and a utility man, and he suggests signing J.A. Happ, Nick Markakis and Marwin Gonzalez for what MLB Trade Rumors projects will be a combined $33 million in 2019. None of the three is expected to require a long-term commitment, whereas Harper is believed to be seeking a 10-year deal.
As Pavlovic writes, Harper would certainly make the Giants flashier, but signing multiple players to less expensive deals could be the better route to take.
Phillies may need Harper's personality as much as his bat
Nov. 13: With money to spend and a desire to contend as soon as next season, the Phillies are considered the favorites to sign Bryce Harper. And while the Phils would certainly benefit from adding Harper's bat to their lineup, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports writes that the slugger's personality could be just as important.
Although Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins are strong building blocks, Salisbury argues that Harper would provide Philadelphia with a much needed face of the franchise to energize the fan base and help fill Citizens Bank Park.
While the Phillies made a leap this past season, winning 14 more games than the previous year, they ranked just 17th in average attendance at 27,318. In 2008, when Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels were in their primes and the club won the World Series, the Phils averaged 42,254 fans per game, ranking fifth overall.
Salisbury also writes that Harper's "competitive sneer" will rub off on the rest of Philadelphia's roster, giving the club a much-needed edge as it tries to keep pace with the up-and-coming Braves in the National League East.
The Twins need a DH. Will they go after Cruz?
Nov. 13: Minnesota was starved for production out of its designated hitter spot throughout all of 2018. The Logan Morrison signing was a flop, and the revolving door of Joe Mauer, Robbie Grossman, Tyler Austin and Eddie Rosario down the stretch didn't fare well, either. Twins DHs combined for a .682 OPS and 15 homers last season, topping only the Tigers in those categories among American League teams.
With the large salaries of Mauer, Ervin Santana, Lance Lynn, Morrison and Brian Dozier now off the books, the Twins have plenty of payroll flexibility to work with for 2019. Brandon Warne of Zone Coverage thinks that the Twins will use that money to sign Nelson Cruz to bring some much-needed stability to the DH position, at least in the short term.
Warne sees Cruz as the "perfect bridge" to Austin, Miguel Sano or Twins No. 7 prospect Brent Rooker, as the 38-year-old would give Minnesota's lineup an immediate influx of elite power without commanding a lengthy commitment.
That's not to mention Cruz's connection to Minnesota's front office -- Twins general manager Thad Levine and Cruz spent eight years together with the Rangers during Levine's lengthy stint as Texas' assistant general manager.
Deciding between Brantley and Pollock
Nov. 13: When it comes to choosing the second-best free-agent outfielder -- that is, the No. 2 option after Bryce Harper -- the decision could come down to Michael Brantley and A.J. Pollock. As is, there are a number of similarities between the two as veterans north of 30 years old who possess top-of-the-lineup skills and solid defensive ability but also come with a history of missing time.
Ryan Fagan of The Sporting News weighs the choice between Brantley and Pollock, making the case for each by breaking down various aspects of their games, including the fact that Pollock was offered -- and declined -- the $17.9 million qualifying offer, thus saddling him with Draft-pick compensation. The verdict?
"Teams will roll the injury dice to sign either guy," Fagan writes. "Pollock has the higher upside, but for a team that is loathe to part with any draft pick, Brantley might be the better bet."
Who's your pick: Kimbrel or Ottavino?
Nov. 13: Thanks to his elite track record of 333 saves in eight-plus seasons as a closer, Craig Kimbrel is going to get paid very handsomely this offseason, with Aroldis Chapman's five-year, $86 million contract and Kenley Jansen's five-year, $80 million deal serving as high-end benchmarks for what Kimbrel, MLB's active saves leader, might expect.
But is Kimbrel the free-agent reliever that will provide the most value to his team moving forward? Michael Clair of MLB.com's Cut4 doesn't think so. Instead, he argues that suitors for Kimbrel should be clamoring for the services of Adam Ottavino.
It might sound crazy given Kimbrel's history, but Clair considers it to be just that: history. To make his case, Clair points to some peripherals that suggest that Kimbrel, now entering his 30s, might be in for a regression. Not only did the hard-throwing righty's walk and homer rate rise in 2018, but his FIP also rose to a career-high 3.13 and he lost over a mile per hour on his fastball from '17.
On the other hand, Ottavino is trending up, having worked hard after an abysmal 2017 season to remake his approach and arsenal, emerging on the other side with a career-best ERA (2.43) and strikeout rate (13 K/9) in '18, a season that rivaled that of Kimbrel -- despite Ottavino playing his home games at Coors Field. (For the record, Ottavino actually pitched better in Denver, with opposing batters registering a .418 OPS against him at Coors.)
Now, as both of these pitchers know, one-season blips happen, and Kimbrel is both more proven and 2 1/2 years younger than Ottavino. Kimbrel took a step back in 2016 but rebounded with arguably the best season of his career in '17. Ottavino is only one year removed from a disastrous 5.06 ERA and 6.6 BB/9 walk rate.
But as a non-closer, Ottavino is more accustomed to being flexible in relief and pitching longer outings when needed, which is more in line with the modern trend of bullpen usage. And given that Kimbrel's price and contract length will likely be driven up by aggressive bidding, Ottavino could still provide better value without requiring as steep of a commitment.
Predicting a Paxton blockbuster
Nov. 13: The noise around the possibility of a James Paxton blockbuster trade continues to grow. The Mariners, after all, already have dealt catcher Mike Zunino as the start of what appears to be a "reimagining" of the roster heading into 2019. As TJ Cotterill of the Tacoma News Tribune writes: "And reimagining life without Paxton doesn't appear to be a matter of if, but when."
Paxton, who just turned 30 earlier this month, is coming off his best season yet, having established career highs in innings (160 1/3), strikeouts (208) and strikeouts per nine (11.7). Combine that with two more years of club control, and it's no surprise that a number of teams are interested in adding him as a top-of-the-rotation type of arm.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs looks at Paxton's progression from talented-yet-frustrating pitcher a few years ago to the burgeoning ace he became in 2018. His conclusion? "Paxton is one of those guys every team would want in a short series. He's one of those guys every team would want in a one-game playoff. James Paxton is a potential difference-maker in the rotation."
Given that Seattle's farm system is among the weakest in baseball and that the club's timeline for winning may no longer sync up with their control over Paxton, a trade would make sense -- and the return in young Major Leaguers and/or prospects could be massive. Not to mention, there are plenty of contenders loaded with young talent and holes in their rotation (read: Yankees, Astros, Braves, Phillies and Brewers) who already have been linked as possible landing spots for Paxton.
Corbin, Keuchel unlikely to be hurt by Draft-pick baggage
Nov. 13: While some players who rejected the qualifying offer in years past have had trouble finding suitors due to the Draft-pick compensation attached to them, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand doesn't think that will be a problem for Patrick Corbin or Dallas Keuchel.
As Feinsand notes, the market for left-handed starters has shrunk considerably, with Clayton Kershaw re-signing with the Dodgers, David Price deciding not to opt out of his contract with the Red Sox, Hyun-Jin Ryu accepting the qualifying offer from Los Angeles and CC Sabathia re-signing with the Yankees on a one-year deal.
Corbin and Keuchel are arguably the only members of the top tier among all free-agent starters this offseason, J.A. Happ's reliability and Nathan Eovaldi's strong postseason notwithstanding. If any free-agent pitcher gets a nine-figure deal, it's unlikely to be anyone besides Corbin or Keuchel.
Could Realmuto replace Grandal in LA?
Nov. 13: When Yasmani Grandal declined the $17.9 million qualifying offer, he likely bid farewell to the Dodgers. That puts the club in position to look for catching depth to team with Austin Barnes -- or perhaps a major upgrade behind the plate, if it so chooses.
MLB Network insider Peter Gammons discussed the possibility of LA making a play for the highly sought-after J.T. Realmuto: "The team that I keep hearing about ... is the Dodgers."
Video: Dodgers could be a possible destination for Realmuto
As Gammons points out, top catching prospects Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith might be a year away from helping the Dodgers -- or even could be a part of a package sent to the Marlins for Realmuto. And given LA's outfield depth, the club also could consider parting with someone like Joc Pederson, who is just 26 years old and isn't due to hit free agency until after the 2020 season, or Alex Verdugo, an outfield prospect who is ready for The Show.
The late-season reemergence of lefty Julio Urias, who missed most of 2017-18 after shoulder surgery, gives an already deep Dodgers pitching staff even more options, especially after Clayton Kershaw re-signed and Hyun-Jin Ryu accepted the qualifying offer. In other words, LA's front office could have more freedom to deal from its surplus of young, controllable arms as a way to entice Miami.
Ross Stripling might make sense among those with big-league experience and success, while prospects like Dustin May and Mitchell White are high-upside youngsters near the top of a strong Dodgers system who could reach the Majors in the next year or so.
Despite two seasons of success, could Lowrie be a value buy?
Nov. 13: After posting 8.5 WAR (per FanGraphs) over the last two years, is it still possible that Jed Lowrie might actually be undervalued by the contract that he'll ultimately sign this offseason?
Emma Baccellieri of Sports Illustrated considers Lowrie to be a potential "value buy" in free agency, as she writes in an article in which she lists the switch-hitting second baseman among the available players that could provide the "biggest bang for their buck."
She points to Lowrie's relatively advanced age (34 years) and robust injury history (significant time missed in two of the last four seasons) as reasons why he might not get a contract that will truly reflect his on-field potential in the coming years. Baccellieri also cites Lowrie's increasing launch angle (following the A's recent trend), his resultant low ground-ball rate and his high hard-hit rate (37.6 percent per Statcast™, fourth among American League second basemen with 150 batted balls) as reasons to believe that Lowrie's recent success is an indication of a changed approach that will lead to continued future production.
Are the White Sox clearing space for free-agent stars?
Nov. 13: The White Sox are actively shopping right fielder Avisail Garcia, according to a report from MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, which may be part of an effort to clear space for Bryce Harper.
With Jose Abreu at first base, Daniel Palka and Matt Davidson likely to split at-bats at the designated-hitter spot, and top prospect Eloy Jimenez potentially taking over in left field soon, the White Sox will have nowhere for Garcia to play if they sign Harper.
Garcia has battled persistent injury problems during his career, and he's proven to be an unremarkable offensive performer (lifetime 101 wRC+) as well as a subpar defender (lifetime -26 Defensive Runs Saved as an outfielder). And although he was worth 4.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2017, per FanGraphs, his production was boosted by great batted-ball fortune (.392 BABIP). Over the rest of his career, he has tallied exactly zero WAR.
MLB Trade Rumors projects Garcia will earn $8 million in 2019, his final season of arbitration eligibility. However, Feinsand reports that there is a "sense within the industry that Chicago will non-tender" him if it can't work out a trade.
Trading or non-tendering Garcia would also give the White Sox the additional option of shifting Tim Anderson to the outfield to make room for Manny Machado at shortstop, though Chicago also has an opening at third base if Machado is willing to move back to that position.