Next week starting on November 13th in Orlando will be the General Manager meetings, the launchpad event for baseball's offseason before the Winter Meetings explosion of transactions. Big items discussed most certainly will be the pace of play, the ball itself, and Shohei Ohtani's status signing this offseason.
As always the case when you get GM's in the same room there will be plenty of rumors spawning next week. Can the Cardinals get a deal done for Giancarlo Stanton? Who is interested in player "X"? Shoot, some GM's are already using ESPN's Jerry Crasnick to get a feel on a couple of free agents.
Teams that have reached out early on J.D. Martinez have gotten the impression Scott Boras is looking for something in the $200 million range.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 8, 2017
MLB teams that have inquired on FA outfielder Jay Bruce say he’s seeking a deal for 5 years in the $80-90 million range.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 9, 2017
We've participated in the White Sox off-season plan, which if you haven't done so yourself by all means, please do, but this time Patrick Nolan and I try to guess where the top free agents will sign this off-season.
Josh: Before we get started - what is your overall feeling with this free agency class? Are there enough difference makers available to make Winter interesting?
Pnoles: This free agency class is underwhelming on the whole and not particularly strong at the top, either. I think that this is a difficult year for teams to separate themselves using available free agents and that most will probably look ahead to next offseason when flexibility is key.
Josh's guess: Seattle Mariners
I'm going with a wild card and picking the Seattle Mariners. Last year, only three starting pitchers threw more than 130 innings for the M's: Ariel Miranda, Felix Hernandez, and James Paxton. They need to add a front-line starter, and if Paxton can stay healthy, that's not a bad 1-2-3 combo with Darvish, Paxton, and Hernandez. Contract guess - six years, $144 million.
Pnoles’ guess: Chicago Cubs
This guess is the obvious choice, but I'm going with the Chicago Cubs. They have deep pockets and have an obvious need for starting pitching as they try to maximize their window. They could get it via trade of their position player depth, but with a need for two starters, it's possible they try both. Yu Darvish is a great pitcher, but he'll be 31 next year, and I think there's a chance his status as a Tommy John survivor gives teams pause. This offer could turn out to be a lowball but... Contract guess - five years, $120 million.
Josh and Pnoles guess: Arizona Diamondbacks
Josh: J.D. Martinez was unreal after being dealt to Arizona. Even though he would be better off spending more time as a DH, I think Arizona offers the most to keep him in RF pairing him with Paul Goldschmidt. Contract guess: five years, $110 million.
Pnoles: I agree with everything you mention. Martinez played the best for Arizona, and they would probably gain the greatest excitement from getting him back in the fold. Plus, they need in the outfield that few other teams have. I'll go a little higher on the contract: five years, $125 million.
Josh's guess: Boston Red Sox
It's not that Mitch Moreland played poorly, but I feel the Red Sox are going to upgrade at first base. Last year, I felt that Dave Dombrowski would have dealt for Miguel Cabrera. That didn't happen so he goes with another familiar face from the AL Central. I guess Hosmer gets overpaid in this year's class: six years, $120 million.
Pnoles’ guess: Los Angeles Angels
CJ Cron has been thoroughly underwhelming for the Angels, and it's time that they pursued an upgrade at first base. What they need is pitching, but the Angels' offense was so terrible in the first half of the year that it's hard to ignore the dangers of putting too many holes in the lineup around Mike Trout. Hosmer, Simmons, Upton, Calhoun, and Maldonado would make for a great supporting cast. Prediction: five years, $105 million.
Josh and Pnoles Pick: New York Yankees
Josh: Jake Arrieta is a hard one to guess where he will end up. I'm pretty sure he won't be re-signing with the Cubs but not for sure with that gut feeling. Ultimately I landed on the Yankees who need another front-line starter to count on if they want to make the World Series with this new core. Plus, Arrieta recently shaved his beard. Maybe that's a sign Pnoles that Arrieta could be heading to the Bronx, just like whenever Bryce Harper posts pictures of himself in Chicago or his dog Wrigley means he's signing with the Cubs next offseason. Contract guess: six years, $129 million.
Pnoles: You have to figure the Yankees will be in the mix for the better free agent starters out there, as they look poised to go on a prolonged run of contention and the starting rotation currently profiles as the weakest unit on their roster. Arrieta picked a bad time to have a relatively down season, but I still think the soon-to-be 32-year-old will get himself a nice contract this offseason. I think you're a little more optimistic than I am on the years and dollars, however. Contract guess: five years, $100 million.
Josh: That very well could be. I'm expecting Scott Boras to work his magic with his 200-page binder on why Arrieta deserves that deal.
Josh's Pick: Los Angeles Angels
Are you surprised that Justin Upton decided to stay in Anaheim? I'm a bit because I figured he could land a deal similar to J.D. Martinez, but I'm sure it's nice that he gets to play with Mike Trout. With Upton back, adding Moustakas would be a nice add if he is closer to the player who hits 38 homers a season and a significant upgrade over Yunel Escobar. Contract guess: five years, $90 million.
Pnoles’ Pick: New York Yankees
The only thing that gives me pause about this prediction is the presence of Gleyber Torres, who could complicate the Yankees' infield picture sooner rather than later. However, there aren't many teams I see as a great fit around the league, and the Yankees might want to cement their status as a top-tier team rather than rolling the dice that a prospect that can't legally drink yet will immediately fix one of their weaker positions. Moustakas' age should theoretically get him paid, but I don't think the market for third basemen is all that robust right now, and he hasn't done a ton to separate himself from league average. Contract guess: four years, $70 million.
Josh's Pick: San Francisco Giants
Did you know that the Giants outfield trio of Jarrett Parker, Denard Span, and Hunter Pence combined for -0.2 bWAR in 2017? Pretty sure this is the unit San Francisco will spend the most time fixing. Part one of that fix is I think they will trade for Giancarlo Stanton. Part two is signing Lorenzo Cain. They signed Denard Span to a three-year deal in 2016, but they might as well regulate him to the bench or find a way to get out of that deal. It's not looking pretty. I worry about Cain's ability to stay in CF, especially one as spacious as AT&T Park. However, I think he can fare much better than Span did and while carrying a .800+ OPS. Contract guess: four years, $64 million.
Pnoles’ Pick: Seattle Mariners
First off, I agree that the Giants are probably the most likely destination (they need more help than anyone in the outfield), but the Mariners could also use his services in center field, and I'm sure they'd like to maximize . . . whatever it is they've been doing since 2003. There are some payroll concerns here, so it's not a perfect match. Contract Guess: four years, $72 million.
Josh's Pick: Chicago Cubs
I can't imagine Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer allowing Wade Davis to walk after what they witnessed this postseason. Especially with rival St. Louis lurking in the weeds looking for bullpen help. Not sure how long Davis will last producing at this level, but I predict the Cubs will overpay to keep Davis. Contract guess: four years, $68 million.
Pnoles’ Pick: Washington Nationals
The Nationals had well-documented bullpen issues for most of the year, and I'd think that a postseason frontrunner would want to remedy that situation. I think that Davis should be able to top the deal received by the similarly-aged Mark Melancon from last offseason. Contract guess: four years, $65 million.
Josh: I like the Nationals pick for Davis. Sign me up for an NLDS rematch between the Cubs and Nationals.
Josh's Pick: Chicago Cubs
I think the Cubs have a solid trio of Jon Lester - Jose Quintana - Kyle Hendricks to lead the starting rotation and instead of plunging a lot of money on the like of Arrieta or Darvish, I think they go the mid-tier route. Starting with Lance Lynn, who they have a lot of experience playing against him. This signing is also an opportunity to weaken their toughest divisional rival, St. Louis. Contract guess: four years, $75 million.
Pnoles’ Pick: Minnesota Twins
Now we're firmly in the section of the rankings where the market should expand a good deal. This type of pitcher has "Twins" written all over him. Like Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana before him, Minnesota will turn to Lynn as their "shoot-for-the-stars-to-fix-our-horrible-horrible-pitching-situation-wait-we-can't-afford-that-how-about-this-guy-instead" starter. The Twins simply will not be kept from Lance Lynn. Contract guess: four years, $64 million.
Josh's Pick: St. Louis Cardinals
Greg Holland has made it pretty clear that he doesn't have much interest pitching in Colorado anymore by declining his $15 million option and the $17.4 million qualifying offer. I'm guessing St. Louis will be his next destination as they need bullpen help and this would be a decent counter if the Cubs re-sign Wade Davis. Not entirely sure if Holland is enough to help lockdown late inning, high leverage situations for St. Louis in 2018, but it's a start. Contract guess: 3 years, $48 million.
Pnoles’ pick: Chicago Cubs
If someone breaks the bank for Davis, Holland seems like a quality fall-back option for the Cubs. It's possible that the Cubs trade for relief help, but one gets the feeling that even if they do, they're going to wind up signing someone as well. Contract guess: four years, $52 million.
Josh's pick: Chicago Cubs
Alex Cobb is where I could see be your Twins "shoot-for-the-stars-to-fix-our-horrible-horrible-pitching-situation-wait-we-can't-afford-that-how-about-this-guy-instead" starter, but ultimately I think Cobb follows pitching coach Jim Hickey to the Cubs. I don't think anyone can fully trust Cobb to start 30 games in 2018, but he would solidify any backend of a contender's rotation. Contract guess: four years, $48 million.
Pnoles’ pick: Texas Rangers
The Rangers are similar to the Giants in that they're kind of stuck on the uninspiring path they're on. They'll probably try pushing for a Wild Card again because I don't know what the heck else they're supposed to do. The current Rangers' rotation depth chart is not great, and Texas pitchers get hurt more than Most Extreme Elimination Challenge contestants, so Cobb seems like he'd be a big boost. Contract guess: four years, $60 million.
Josh's pick: Seattle Mariners
I admire Seattle obtaining Yonder Alonso during the season hoping for a boost in offense. There is a possibility they re-sign Alonso to man first, but I think they need to go bolder. Even entering his age-32 season, Carlos Santana would be an excellent addition for the Mariners. Five straight seasons of playing more than 150 games with a career 121 OPS+, Santana could provide the boost Seattle needs to be above .500 team again and contend for a Wild Card. Contract guess: three years, $50 million.
Pnoles pick: Cleveland Indians
I think Santana stays put. The Indians were great this past year, but I don't think they want to risk downgrading their roster by letting Santana walk. Contract guess: three years, $45 million.
Josh's pick: Toronto Blue Jays
I don't know what to make of Zack Cozart and looking around in the majors I'm not sure which of the contenders needs a boost at SS. In Toronto, there is still Troy Tulowitzki, but no one can trust Tulo to stay healthy all year. My idea is a bit crazy, but I see the Blue Jays signing Cozart, have him start at second base and shift him back to shortstop when Tulo gets hurt. If that idea is too crazy, then I guess Cozart stays with Cincinnati. Contract guess: three years, $42 million.
Pnoles pick: San Diego Padres
Ugh, what a terrible time to hit the market. Cozart isn't a great fit anywhere because it seems that every team with near-term hopes to compete is either set at shortstop or has a cheap alternative that at least can produce 1.5 - 2.0 WAR. I thought about maybe the Twins, but they seem like the type of team that would rather roll with Jorge Polanco and depth than plunge into free agency to "fix" a position that isn't a crater. The Padres at the very minimum do need someone to play short. This pick is probably going to look completely stupid in a couple of months if it doesn't already, but I'm going to bet on Cozart waiting out the market another year. The Reds didn't make him a qualifying offer, and part of me wonders if he would have accepted if they did. Contract guess: one year, $15 million.
Josh's pick: Cleveland Indians
With my prediction of Carlos Santana leaving, I think Cleveland finds a way to keep Jay Bruce in town. I'm still curious about what they will do with Jason Kipnis, but Lindor - Ramirez - Encarnacion - Bruce is enough offense to win the AL Central in 2018. Contract guess: two years, $30 million.
Pnoles’ pick: Colorado Rockies
The market has been especially wary of players like Bruce in recent years. Colorado seems to be a good place for him to maximize what he's good at, and they might prefer him to rolling the dice on Raimel Tapia as they push for contention in the competitive NL West. Contract guess: two years, $26 million.
Josh's pick: New York Yankees
Logan Morrison recently told Jon Morosi that it would be a "Dream come true" if he got a chance to play for his hometown Kansas City Royals. While that almost made me change my mind, I'm still sticking with the New York Yankees who could use some cheap help at DH. LoMo's swing would be a great match at Yankee Stadium, and in the juice ball era, I think he can be a 30+ home run a year hitter. Contract guess: two years, $24 million.
Pnoles’ pick: Kansas City Royals
I didn't know that about Morrison's preference, but since you brought it up, I'll go with it. The Royals have openings at the infield corners, and Morrison would be a reasonable choice to plug the Hosmer-sized hole over at first. Contract guess: three years, $30 million.
Josh and Pnoles pick: New York Yankees
Josh: I believe that MLB, MLBPA, and Nippon Ham Fighters will come to an agreement that allows Shohei Ohtani to sign with an MLB team this offseason. Here is a useful guide from USA Today's Bob Nightengale on how much teams can offer to Otani under the new international caps. Even though the Texas Rangers can offer the most and surprised everyone by signing Yu Darvish years ago, I guess the Yankees win the Ohtani sweepstakes.
Pnoles: I agree that the Yankees are most likely to get this done. The small difference in a bid between the Yankees and Rangers is not going to be enough to offset the thrill of playing in New York for a team that's on the rise. Winning bid guess: $3.25 million to Yankees.