Shop don't stop: Top remaining free agents

January 2nd, 2018

The calendar has flipped to 2018, and with Spring Training games beginning on Feb. 23, there is a large pool of unsigned free agents still on the market. The next couple of months figure to be very busy as the Hot Stove truly heats up, so here's a look at notable free agents that remain available, along with which teams may be in pursuit:

Starting pitchers

Darvish has been connected to several teams, including the Astros, Cubs, Twins and Yankees. He met with Cubs and Astros executives in December.

The 31-year-old right-hander is coming off a rough performance in the World Series against Houston, surrendering nine runs (eight earned) in 3 1/3 innings (two starts). But his track record over a five-season MLB career speaks for itself: a 3.42 career ERA with 11 strikeouts per nine innings, and four All-Star selections.

Hot Stove tracker

Arrieta hasn't repeated the level of success he had in his 2015 National League Cy Young Award campaign, when he posted a 1.77 ERA. Nevertheless, he's been strong over the past two seasons, with a 3.30 ERA and 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings. There are some concerning trends, with an increased walk rate over the past two seasons (3.2 per nine innings), as well as a higher hard-hit rate (33 percent) and lower fastball velocity (92 mph) in 2017.

Arrieta has been linked to several teams, such as the Astros, Blue Jays, Rockies and Twins.

Alex Cobb

Cobb has had some injury history, including Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2015 season and much of the '16 campaign. But when the 30-year-old right-hander has been healthy, he's been good, with a 3.50 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in six seasons with the Rays.

Cobb had been linked to the Cubs earlier this offseason, particularly since his former manager in Tampa Bay, Joe Maddon, and former pitching coach there, Jim Hickey, are both now serving in those capacities for Chicago. But according to CBS Chicago, Cobb's asking price may have caused the Cubs' interest in the right-hander to cool off during the Winter Meetings.

Other teams that have reportedly expressed interest in Cobb include the Rangers, Orioles and Yankees.

The Brewers, Rangers and Orioles have shown interest in Lynn, who is coming off a strong season back from Tommy John surgery. The 30-year-old right-hander posted a 3.43 ERA in 33 starts for the Cardinals last season, after missing the entire 2016 campaign recovering from the procedure.

Outside of the Tommy John surgery, Lynn has been very durable throughout his six-season career, making at least 31 starts and pitching at least 175 1/3 innings in each of the four seasons he's been a full-time starter. He has a 3.38 career ERA.

Cashner bounced back from a pair of subpar seasons with a solid 2017 campaign, posting a 3.40 ERA in 28 starts for the Rangers. But the 31-year-old right-hander's strikeout rate was down significantly, from 7.6 per nine innings in 2016 to 4.6 last season. His fielding independent pitching (FIP) was also more than a full run above his ERA, at 4.61.

The Orioles are the team that has been linked to Cashner most prominently.

Garcia pitched for three teams in 2017: the Braves, Twins and Yankees. The 31-year-old left-hander already has nine MLB seasons under his belt, eight of them with the Cardinals. He owns a career 3.69 ERA, though over the past two seasons, his ERA is 4.55 and his walk rate is up to 3.3 per nine innings.

Vargas was an All-Star for the first time in 2017 following a stellar first half of the season, in which he posted a 2.62 ERA. But the veteran left-hander struggled after the All-Star break, with a 6.38 ERA in 15 starts for the Royals. The Orioles have reportedly expressed the most interest in Vargas this offseason.

Chris Tillman

Tillman endured the worst season of his career in 2017, with a 7.84 ERA in 24 appearances (19 starts) for the Orioles. Shoulder inflammation that hindered him late in the 2016 season caused him to miss the first month of the '17 campaign.

From 2012-16, the right-hander posted a 3.81 ERA over 844 2/3 innings for Baltimore. At 29, Tillman is considered by some to be a good bounce-back candidate. The Orioles have shown interest in re-signing him, and the Tigers have also expressed interest.

Relief pitchers

Greg Holland

Most of the chatter surrounding Holland this offseason had been related to the Rockies, but with Colorado signing , Holland will land elsewhere. Others with closer needs have been linked to the 32-year-old right-hander, including the Cardinals and Cubs. The Nationals are also reportedly interested.

Holland pitched well in his return from Tommy John surgery, posting a 1.62 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings prior to the All-Star break. He struggled in August, losing the bite on his slider and surrendering four homers in 11 appearances during the month (13.50 ERA). Holland regained his form over his final 10 appearances of 2017, with a 1.86 ERA.

Reed is an intriguing reliever in this market given his age, track record and the fact that he'd likely come at a lower cost than Davis or Holland. The 29-year-old right-hander appeared in 77 games between the Mets and Red Sox last season, posting a 2.84 ERA and 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings.

Reed has never been on the disabled list during a seven-year MLB career and has experience as a closer, with 125 career saves. The Mets, Cubs and Cardinals have shown interest in signing him.

Tony Watson

Watson has long been a reliable left-handed reliever, spending the first six-plus seasons of his career with the Pirates, for whom he posted a 2.68 ERA. He was excellent in the postseason after being traded to the Dodgers last July, tossing six scoreless innings between the National League Championship Series and the World Series.

The A's have been rumored to be a possible destination for Watson, with Oakland still looking for relief help behind a young starting rotation.

First basemen

Hosmer is considered the best first baseman on the free-agent market after having a career year in 2017, when he slashed .318/.385/.498 with 25 homers for the Royals. The 28-year-old is also an elite defender, having won four Gold Glove Awards.

The Padres have reportedly been pushing hard to land Hosmer, and may have better odds of doing so now that the Red Sox have signed Mitch Moreland. The Royals are also trying to retain Hosmer, who has been one of their most popular players over the past several years.

Morrison had a big season in 2017, slugging .516 and belting a career-best 38 homers for the Rays. His .270 isolated power was second among first basemen on the market, behind 's .279.

The Angels have shown interest in signing Morrison. Other teams in the market for a first baseman include the Indians and Rockies.


Duda tied a career-high with 30 homers between the Mets and Rays last season. The Angels, Mariners and Red Sox had been connected with him this offseason, but Seattle traded for and Boston signed Moreland.

Mike Napoli

The Twins have reportedly been in serious talks with Napoli recently. The Mets and Rays have also been linked to the 36-year-old veteran. Napoli had a down year in 2017, slashing .193/.285/.428, though he did hit 29 home runs. A torn ligament in his right hand may have played a role in his offensive struggles; he had surgery to repair the ligament last month.

The Nationals have reportedly shown interest in a reunion with Lind after he turned in a strong 2017 season, slashing .303/.362/.513 with 14 homers in 301 plate appearances. His expected weighted-on-base average, per Statcast™, was up 40 points over 2016, to .379. Another club that's been linked to Lind this offseason is the Mets.

The Rockies brought Reynolds back late last offseason and he gave Colorado a big boost while , whom the club signed to play first base, was injured to open the season. Reynolds put together his best campaign since 2012, hitting 30 homers with a 105 OPS+.

The Rockies have been in touch with Reynolds, and the Royals and Rangers have also reportedly shown interest.

Second basemen

Walker has been a steady offensive producer throughout his career, with a 113 OPS+ over nine seasons. Between the Mets and Brewers last season, he slashed .265/.362/.439 with 14 homers in 111 games. He's reportedly seeking a three- to four-year deal.

Nunez is a versatile infielder who could fill a need at second, third or even shortstop. He turned in his best season in 2017, slashing .313/.341/.460 with 12 home runs and 24 steals between the Giants and Red Sox. Boston, along with the Blue Jays and Yankees could be suitors for Nunez.

Kendrick found himself in a platoon situation in 2017, but made the most of it. He slashed .315/.368/.475 with nine homers and 12 steals in 91 games between the Phillies and Nationals. Washington is reportedly open to re-signing Kendrick, and the Blue Jays are also reportedly showing interest.


Escobar is a light hitter but a good defender, and has played in all 162 games in three of the last four seasons. He earned an All-Star selection and Gold Glove Award in 2015. There hasn't been much chatter around Escobar so far this offseason, though the Padres reportedly were interested before trading for . The Royals could also conceivably bring Escobar back to be a backup for Jr.

Third basemen

Mike Moustakas

Moustakas was an All-Star for the second time in three years last season, hitting a career-high 38 home runs for the Royals to earn American League Comeback Player of the Year Award honors. He was limited to 27 games in 2016 due to a torn ACL in his right knee. Several teams were linked to Moustakas but have already addressed their need at third base, including the Angels (signed Zack Cozart) and Giants (traded for ).

The Mets and Red Sox have shown interest in Frazier, and the Yankees may still be a possibility after he finished up the 2017 season with New York. The 31-year-old saw his batting average and slugging percentage drop last season, which was split between the White Sox and Yankees. Frazier did increase his walk rate significantly, however, from 9.6 percent in '16 to 14.4 percent last season.


While it was reported there was mutual interest in a reunion between Lucroy and the Rockies, Colorado signed veteran backstop Chris Iannetta. Lucroy, 31, struggled to begin the season with the Rangers, but posted a 115 OPS+ in 46 games for Colorado after fixing a mechanical flaw in his swing. He has a strong track record, finishing fourth in NL MVP Award voting in 2014 and making the All-Star team for the second time in '16.

The Astros have shown interest in Lucroy, though the defending World Series champions have and Evan Gattis behind the plate.

Alex Avila

Though he slowed down somewhat following a midseason trade to the Cubs, Avila's 2017 campaign was his best offensively since he was an All-Star in '11. Per Statcast™, he increased his hard-hit rate from 40.2 percent in 2016, to 51.3 last season. Avila's xwOBA also jumped significantly, from .327 to .401.

The Nationals and Twins have been linked to Avila, with interest in having him fill a backup role.


J.D. Martinez

Martinez is the best hitter on the market, and the Red Sox have been most prominently linked to him throughout the offseason, with Boston looking for a power upgrade to a lineup that hit an AL-low 168 home runs in 2017.

Martinez had a huge season in 2017, particularly following a trade from the Tigers to the D-backs. In 62 games with Arizona, he slugged .741 and hit 29 homers. Overall, he led MLB with a .690 slugging percentage.

Other teams that have been connected to Martinez this offseason include the Blue Jays, D-backs, Giants and Nationals.

Cain turned in another solid offensive season to go along with stellar defense in center field. He produced a 112 OPS+ and per Statcast™, had the fourth-most Outs Above Average (15) among all outfielders. He is also an excellent baserunner, with a sprint speed of 29.1 feet per second (30.0 is considered elite sprint speed).

The Blue Jays, Giants and Mets have shown interest in Cain, who turns 32 in April.

Bruce just completed his best season since 2013, slashing .254/.324/.508 with 36 homers between the Mets and Indians. The three-time All-Star has drawn interest from the Blue Jays, Giants, Mariners, Mets and Rockies.

Gomez enters his age-32 season coming off a solid year with the Rangers, in which he posted an .802 OPS with 17 homers in 105 games. The Blue Jays and Giants have reportedly shown interest.

The Mariners had discussions with Jay back in November, looking into possible replacements for free agent before trading for Dee Gordon, who is slated to play center field. Jay, who turns 33 in March, is also on the Giants' radar. Over the past two seasons, he's slashed .293/.358/.382 with the Padres and Cubs.

Gonzalez struggled for the first five months of the season in 2017, before hitting .377 with six homers over the final month. Potential suitors would be hoping for a bounce-back season from the three-time All-Star after he posted an 87 OPS+. Those teams include the Astros, A's, Blue Jays, Giants, Rays and Royals.


The light-hitting but speedy center fielder has stolen no fewer than 26 bases in each season since 2012. He's also a strong defender, with seven Outs Above Average in 2017. The Mariners have shown interest in bringing him back, and the Giants are also in need of a center fielder after was traded to the Rays.