While the 2017-18 free agency class within the MLB seems dim in comparison to other years, some front offices are sure to bite the bait from a few of the available and proven veterans. Whether it’s a positional player, or an extra arm in the bullpen, here are the top MLB free agents at each given position.
C: Jonathan Lucroy (Colorado Rockies, 31-years old)
After being traded from the Texas Rangers to the Colorado Rockies, Jonathan Lucroy has proven that he still has enough left in his tank. Batting .310 since the trade in late July, the two-time All-Star may attract attention from franchises that are seeking a reliable asset behind the plate.
Lucroy made roughly $5.25 million in 2017, although for the last six seasons, he has played under a very “team-friendly” contract. I could see Lucroy asking for a multi-year deal this winter, considering he has hit .250+ on an annual basis since 2010.
1B: Eric Hosmer (Kansas City Royals, 28-years old)
Eric Hosmer is one of multiple members of the Kansas City Royals hitting the free agency market, and 2017 only benefited the overall value of the three-time Gold Glove winner. Displaying 25 home runs, 94 RBIs, and a batting average of .310, Hosmer has stated previously that he’s open to a long-term deal to remain in Kansas City.
While Hosmer may be open to remaining with the franchise that won him a World Series in 2015, a lot of different offers could be heading his way. In a particularly weak free agency class, the best players on the market may see themselves being overpaid for their services.
Other Notable Names: Carlos Santana (Cleveland Indians)
2B: Neil Walker (Milwaukee Brewers, 32-years old)
After being shipped to the Brewers from the New York Mets, Walker made an earning of $17.2 million in 2017. For that cost, Walker hit .265 with 14 home runs this past season, so it’s fair to say the 32-year old wasn’t quite worth every penny heading his way. On the other hand, Walker finished the season with a .988 fielding percentage, which could prove to be valuable for any franchise seeking a defensive infielder.
Will Walker be handed yet another $17.2 million in the off-season? Absolutely not, but I could see a two-year deal heading his way, as Walker will be one of the only valuable infielders on the market.
SS: Zack Cozart (Cincinnati Reds, 32-years old)
After spending each of the last seven seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, the 32-year old shortstop will surely reel in a few different offers this off-season as well. Hitting .297 in 438 plate appearances, one of Cozart’s downfalls involves his defensive woes. With 11 fielding errors in 2017, it ranked as the eleventh-most in the MLB this past season.
Plenty of franchises could utilize Cozart within their lineup, but I’m not sure he will make more than the $5.3 million he earned in 2017. With the Reds claiming to having trouble trading Cozart last July, watch out for the Nationals as a potential suitor, as they have expressed previous interest in the veteran.
3B: Mike Moustakas (Kansas City Royals, 29-years old)
Moustakas will join both Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain as free agents this winter, and it’s hard to believe that Kansas City will be capable of re-signing all three studs. With that, if any of the aforementioned names sign elsewhere, the Royals could be handed a multitude of draft picks, which allows for the franchise to re-load.
Placing in third place within the AL Central in each of the last two seasons, the Royals may find themselves deferring on being aggressive during free agency, simply because they need do what they can in order to place themselves in the postseason next year.
Other Notable Names: 3B: Todd Frazier (New York Yankees)
LF: Justin Upton (Los Angeles Angels, 30-years old)
Upton has the potential to opt-out of his long-term deal with $88.5 million still on the table, but it has been rumored that there have been no talks on whether this is fact or fiction yet. After being dealt to the Angels in late August, Upton has stayed afloat, hitting a mediocre .245 in 98 at-bats.
Set to earn $22.1 million annually through the 2021 season, I have a hard time believing that Upton will opt-out of his favorable contract. If he does, expect for Upton to take a decent pay-cut, as his 180 strikeouts in 2017 were the most he’s ever had in his eleven-year career.
CF: Lorenzo Cain (Kansas City Royals, 31-years old)
Earning $11 million in 2017, Cain was a monumental reason the Royals somehow won 80 games last season. Hitting .300 and reeling in 175 total hits, Cain could very well be one name that is drastically overpaid this winter. He may be one of the older free agents on the market, as he turns 32 in April, but hitting .285+ in each of his last four seasons is awfully impressive.
Cain has expressed his desire to return to Kansas City, but understands the business side of things.
“They know I would love to come back here. I said it in the spring, and I’ll say it again now. But at the same time, everyone has to do what’s best for themselves. No one knows what’s going to happen.”
RF: J.D. Martinez (Arizona Diamondbacks, 30-years old)
After being dealt from the Detroit Tigers in return for prospects, Martinez has been a valuable asset to a Diamondbacks franchise that made the postseason for the first time since 2011. Slamming a career-high 45 home runs in 2017 as well, Martinez could potentially be valued as the most interesting free agent to hit the market.
Martinez has stated that he prefers to play for a ring, and the Diamondbacks contain a lethal lineup in a competitive National League environment. While another team could swoop in and steal Martinez from Arizona, the two sides have reportedly made a fair amount of progress in terms of continuing their working relationship.
Other Notable Names: RF: Jay Bruce (Cleveland Indians)
SP: Yu Darvish (Los Angeles Dodgers, 31-years old)
Yu Darvish may have struggled at times in 2017, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be receiving a payday during free agency. Finishing with a record of 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA, Darvish also allowed a career-high 27 home runs to opponents in his 31 starts.
Multiple franchises are sure to peak interest in the 31-year old, despite his wild inconsistency. I wouldn’t be shocked if a franchise such as the Phillies attempt to drag in Darvish with a “mega-deal” of sorts, but I would also be on the lookout for the Texas Rangers. While it may sound crazy, we have witnessed franchises in the past deal away a star player, just to have them re-sign the following year.
Other Notable Names: Jake Arrieta (Chicago Cubs), Masahiro Tanaka (New York Yankees, ability to opt out), Johnny Cueto (San Francisco Giants), Lance Lynn (St. Louis Cardinals)
RP: Wade Davis (Chicago Cubs, 32-years old)
Maintaining a 2.30 ERA over 58.2 innings of play, Davis is surely on his way to a raise in return for his services. The only closers that currently earn a higher annual salary than Wade include Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland, Zach Britton, and Kenley Jansen.
We witnessed a handful of the previously mentioned closing pitchers receive a large sum of money last year, so it’s only fair to assume that Wade will follow in their footsteps. How much money will Wade reel in? At a projected market value of roughly $15 million, that would place Wade only behind Chapman in annual earnings.
Other Notable Names: Greg Holland (Colorado Rockies)
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