As we've seen over the last couple of offseasons, the Hot Stove calendar has evolved. While there once was a time when all top free agents would be signed before the New Year, recent offseasons have seen players wait until well into Spring Training in search of the best possible
As we've seen over the last couple of offseasons, the Hot Stove calendar has evolved. While there once was a time when all top free agents would be signed before the New Year, recent offseasons have seen players wait until well into Spring Training in search of the best possible deal.
Here are five players who could remain unsigned come January.
Note: Ages listed are as of Opening Day 2019
1. Dallas Keuchel, LHP, age 31
Given that he is not overly reliant on high velocity, he's a good bet to age relatively gracefully. That said, we saw last year with Jacob Arrieta that teams might not give long-term deals to pitchers a couple of years removed from their peak seasons. Arrieta still got a high average annual value ($25 million), but only three years.
It remains to be seen if last year was an aberration or a new trend. Multiple teams have interest in Keuchel, but teams are acutely aware that his strikeout rate dropped from 23.7 percent in his American League Cy Young Award-winning 2015 to 17.5 percent last season, while his ground-ball rate went from 61.7 percent to 53.7. Additionally, the available supply of left-handers could be a factor as well, with Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Giovany Gonzalez and Wade Miley joining Keuchel as free agents, as well as Japanese southpaw Yusei Kikuchi, who is set to be posted. Additionally impacting the starting-pitcher market is the possibility of James Paxton, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and maybe even Madison Bumgarner being available via trade.
Likely suitors: Astros, Yankees, Nationals
2. Yasmani Grandal, C, 30
With high-revenue teams losing a second-round Draft pick and $1 million in their international bonus pool for signing players who declined qualifying offers, Grandal may be the free agent who is most impacted.
Any team in major need of a full-time backstop that is flush with prospects should be willing to add Grandal and forego the pick. But most teams can't check both of those boxes. With many teams now splitting the catching duties between two quality game-callers, Grandal may have a difficult time landing a multiyear contract.
Likely suitors: Nationals, Mets, Astros
3. Josh Donaldson, 3B, 32
Coming off a down year due to injury, having played a combined 165 games over the past two seasons, is usually a recipe for a one-year "pillow contract," with the hopes of re-entering the market next year. But very few have had the career that Donaldson has. Since 2013, his wRC+ of 146 and combined WAR of 35.6 dwarfs Manny Machado's during the same period (121 wRC+, 29.0 WAR).
Evaluators still view Donaldson as a middle-of-the-lineup bat, and on a longer-term contract in the AL, his bat would play well as a 3B/1B/DH and he could still play 150 games. National League teams would likely pause on playing him solely at third base for more than one year, but it should be noted that Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos had the same role in Toronto when Donaldson was named 2015 AL MVP.
Likely suitors: Indians, Yankees, Astros, Braves
4. Mike Moustakas, 3B, 30
Moose was a free agent last winter and didn't sign until March, and most people blamed the Draft-pick compensation tied to him for dragging down his value. He doesn't have that baggage to worry about this year.
That said, his homer total dropped from 38 to 28 and his OPS went from .835 to .774, which means he is probably not going to get the kind of long-term deal he once envisioned.
Likely suitors: Cardinals, Royals, Mets
5. Adam Jones, OF, 33
To Jones' credit, he moved from center field to right field in the middle of the season, not an easy transition for anyone. Metrics say he isn't much of a defender any more, as he was -13 Outs Above Average, among the lowest for everyday outfielders, but his right-field play was visibly better at the end of the season.
With a lot of veteran outfielders available this winter, interest in Jones may take a while to develop, but he is a widely respected player who still managed a 102 OPS+ last year and 110 the season before. For a team that is looking for a veteran to mentor a young team -- or a contender looking for a reliable player -- he still has value.
Likely suitors: White Sox, Padres