P Yu Darvish
Though Darvish struggled immensely during the World Series, he still registers as the top available free agent on the open market.
The 31-year-old possesses the stuff of an ace. Duly, he’s got the pedigree and postseason experience to help fortify a contender’s pitching staff. It doesn’t appear as if he’ll return with the Dodgers. Giving Darvish a hefty contract — both in terms of money and years — directly conflicts with the philosophy of the front office. His issues in the World Series also may have made the decision to let Darvish walk even easier.
The Cubs and Cardinals will be aggressive in wanting to upgrade their pitching staffs. Texas may be wanting a reunion with Darvish, and it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see the Astros kick the tires on the talented right-hander.
However, the Seattle Mariners are rumored to be a big competitor for his services. The city is relatively close to Darvish’s native Japan. Culturally, Seattle would make a lot of sense as well.
P Jake Arrieta
Arrieta isn’t the pitcher he once was. The average velocity on his fastball has decreased over the last two seasons. It’s led to increases in both ERA and home runs allowed. As he approaches his 32nd birthday, it’s safe to say Arrieta is no longer a frontline starter anymore.
However, it doesn’t mean he’s a player without value. There’s still a massive premium placed on starting pitchers. He’s won at least 10 games in each of the last four years. Arrieta also has good enough stuff to provide a team with a quality starter within its rotation.
It isn’t clear as to how much Arrieta will be wanting from a contractual standpoint. This past year (14-10, 3.53 ERA) didn’t exactly help his cause for a gigantic deal. With that said, there’s no question that a team will pony up the cash in a multi-year situation.
The Cubs may be priced out of the sweepstakes — especially since the franchise is trying to get younger within its rotation. There’s always a need for pitching in Texas. As a native of the state, Arrieta heading home makes some sense. Based upon Arrieta’s postseason experience and leadership qualities, Minnesota and Milwaukee could make major pushes.
A darkhorse in this scenario could be the Dodgers. Assuming Darvish walks, Los Angeles will want another righty starter to help balance out the lefty-heavy starting rotation. Arrieta is a bulldog on the mound, and would likely fit well with the gritty culture of the club. His diminishing stuff on the mound could also be helped by pitching in spacious Dodger Stadium.
1B Eric Hosmer
Hosmer is one of the few players within this class just hitting his prime.
At only 28 years old, the 4-time Gold Glove winner has collected one All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger Award, and a World Series ring. Hosmer is an analytics darling — as he frequently gets on base. Considered one of the better contact hitters in the game, he finished 2017 with career highs in batting average (.318), on-base percentage (.385), home runs (25), slugging percentage (.498), and OPS (.882).
Hosmer’s ability on the field is punctuated further by his reputation as a great teammate. Kansas City would love to keep him in the fold, though it appears as if the popular figure is ready to seek a career elsewhere.
The Boston Red Sox have most been associated with Hosmer. It’s essentially been the worst-kept secret in baseball for quite sometime. Hosmer’s sweet left-handed stroke could pair exceptionally well with the short right field porch at Fenway Park. Culturally, he would also make a lot of sense as a leader for the younger group of players.
There are two reasons to pause. For one, Hosmer is not a true power hitter. It’s an aspect Boston wants to address during the offseason. Secondly, Hosmer is represented by power agent Scott Boras. The asking price may be much more than Boston is comfortable with. It’s a calculated risk for sure — though Hosmer is an upper-echelon option at first base.
If not Boston, a mystery team could come out of nowhere with a mammoth offer.
3B Mike Moustakas
“Moose” is the prototypical thumping power hitter in the heart of anyone’s lineup.
The two-time All-Star mashed a career-high 38 home runs this past season — after hitting only seven the previous year. Moustakas appeared to show considerable development in his swing, as well as an ability to connect with the ball more frequently.
Teams in need of some pop will surely be interested. A native of Los Angeles, Moustakas is rumored to be a huge target of both the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the San Francisco Giants. It could be a case as to where Moustakas will want to return to the West Coast. The Angels in particular would love to help out Mike Trout with another capable bat.
St. Louis could also be a sneaky contender — especially if Matt Carpenter transitions to first base. Moustakas would help in providing a power hitter from the left side of the plate.
OF J.D. Martinez
Speaking of big bats, Martinez was an absolute stud this past season. In combined time with both the Detroit Tigers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Martinez finished the 2017 season with 45 home runs, 104 RBIs, a .304 batting average, and an OPS of 1.013.
His impact on the Diamondbacks simply cannot be overstated enough. Martinez paired with Paul Goldschmidt to form arguably the best one-two combination of any team in the National League. Fortunately for Martinez, his career year came at the best possible time.
Martinez also uses Boras as his agent. There are rumblings Martinez will want north of $200 million — which would seem astronomical for a 30-year-old outfielder. It may not be all that far-fetched, as Martinez hits for both power and average. He’s got the ability to be a true difference-maker for a team (as we saw with Arizona this past year).
Arizona will do everything in its power to keep him in the fold. Boston also would love to add him as a premier option in the middle of its order.
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