Friends, there are division races to be won. Plain as day. So step right up and get your ace. Or pick from our selection of future Hall of Famers for your lineup. We've got a lights-out closer, too, and we're open late for your convenience.Isn't that the larger message of
Friends, there are division races to be won. Plain as day. So step right up and get your ace. Or pick from our selection of future Hall of Famers for your lineup. We've got a lights-out closer, too, and we're open late for your convenience.
Isn't that the larger message of this free-agent market? While things haven't moved as quickly as we expected, this has resulted in a boatload of opportunity with the beginning of Spring Training less than three weeks away. With Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still unsigned -- and with Craig Kimbrel, Dallas Keuchel and Mike Moustakas also out there -- every team has a chance to improve, and drastically.
In doing so, division races -- the ones we think we've figured out by now -- can still be upended. Let's check out seven moves that could do just that.
1. Bryce Harper to the Nationals
How would that play in Philadelphia? Many people seem to believe the Phillies will get this one across the finish line. But it would be a huge mistake to count out the Nationals for a long list of reasons.
For one thing, they've already put a $300 million offer on the table. For another, they have home-field advantage because Harper has enjoyed playing in the nation's capital. Also, the Nationals have had a great offseason and are solid favorites to win the National League East for the fifth time in eight seasons. It would also be a blow to the Phillies' chances of making the NL East a four-team race.
2. Manny Machado to the Cardinals
Why the heck not? Doesn't every owner have to be looking at his depth chart and thinking, "What would Machado and Harper do for us? What would one of them mean in terms of revenues, tickets, television ratings, etc.?"
Sure, it's a huge investment and a scary one. On the other hand, how often does a 26-year-old infielder coming off a .905 OPS/146 OPS+/6.2 Wins Above Replacement season hit the market? Here's guessing the Cardinals -- in a tight NL Central race with the Cubs and Brewers -- are at least considering the possibility. FanGraphs projects them to win 86 games, one fewer than the Cubs. Machado -- or Harper -- would change that.
3. Bryce Harper to the Cubs
Boom! The Cubs have told us it's not happening. Harper's buddy, Kristopher Bryant, has said the same thing. But Harper is still unsigned, and the Cubs could use his bat in the middle of a lineup that produced 3.9 runs per game after July 23 last season.
The Cubs could use Harper's juice, too. Things were a bit too negative at the Cubs Convention last weekend. Hey, Cubs fans, your team won 95 games in 2018, and how good will it be with full seasons from Yu Darvish and Bryant? Yup, one more gigantic presence -- offense, personality, etc. -- would be just the right touch.
4. Wade Miley and Mike Moustakas to the Brewers
That's right, both of them. They were big reasons the Crew won the most games in the NL last season, and while president of baseball operations David Stearns added catcher Yasmani Grandal, he still has some work to do to to stay in front of the Cubs and Cardinals in the NL Central.
Moustakas was outstanding after being acquired by Milwaukee last season and would allow Travis Shaw to shift back across the diamond to play second. As for Miley, he resurrected his career with the Brewers in 2018 and would be a solid fit for a pitching staff that hopes to get Jimmy Nelson back from a shoulder injury and to have continued growth from young starters Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes. More is better.
5. Dallas Keuchel to the Braves
General manager Alex Anthopoulos says he's only interested in starting pitching if it's a dramatic upgrade, that is, a front-of-the-rotation guy. There happens to be one of those left on the market: Keuchel, the king of soft contact who has a 3.28 ERA and 1.177 WHIP over the last five seasons.
At a time when Keuchel could be headed back to the Astros, the Braves are a third-place club at the moment, according to FanGraphs. Keuchel would go a long way toward changing that.
6. Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox
We're not saying this re-signing would win the American League East for the Red Sox. In fact, they might still be the division favorites without him. What we're saying is that nothing happens in a vacuum in the AL East, and while the Yankees have assembled potentially the greatest bullpen ever, the Red Sox do not have a proven guy to finish games.
This signing would steer the division solidly back in Boston's column.
7. Bryce Harper to the Mets
Sometimes, you've got to dream. Of Citi Field packed and Harper standing at home plate with a game on the line in the ninth inning. Of the electricity that would follow the Mets this spring if they did this. Sometimes, you've got to wonder what thinking big would mean for the franchise.
Let's take nothing away from the offseason that new Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has had. No one has improved his team more. If he does nothing else, the Mets will be back in the middle of the NL East race. There are a dozen solid reasons not to sign Harper. There's also a few pretty good ones for doing it, too.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.