By Evan Biancardi
There are over 100 free agents still waiting to sign with clubs for the 2018 season, and with pitchers and catchers set to report next week, it’s fair to assume that at least a few players will come off the board sooner rather than later.
Yu Darvish will sign with Cubs for 5 years/$120 million
Darvish has been linked to multiple teams, including the Astros, Brewers, Dodgers, Phillies, Rangers, Twins and Yankees. However, as the offseason has progressed many of these teams have seemingly closed the door on the possibility of signing the Japan native. Unless the Yankees can move Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract and the Dodgers can find a taker for Matt Kemp, it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll be in the mix to lend out big money. Meanwhile, the Astros have addressed their pitching concerns by acquiring Garrett Cole from the Pirates. While the Phillies are on the cusp of contention and are no strangers to awarding big contracts, it doesn’t appear as though they’re a fit either. It has also been reported that the Rangers are out on Darvish.
This leaves the Brewers, Cubs and Twins. Milwaukee is certainly all-in at the moment, but its surplus of outfielders opens up the trade market for them, and it may be more realistic for the team to sign Lynn or Cobb, or maybe even Arietta, to a shorter-termed deal. The same can be said for the Twins. For a team that historically doesn’t have deep pockets, it makes more sense to sign one of the other more cost-effective top free agent starters. Ultimately, Darvish’s fate is in the hands of the Cubs. Chicago is probably the most willing to spend, and Darvish seems to have mutual interest in the 2016 champs. Earlier in the offseason, Darvish reportedly asked for seven years and approximately $175 million. Ultimately, the Cubs will be able to take advantage of the slow market and acquire the righty for below market value.
J.D. Martinez will sign with Red Sox for 6 years/$144 million
This one is perhaps more obvious because, as of now, Martinez seemingly has no other options. However, the Red Sox will give into Boras’ demands. J.D. will get his sixth year, but he’ll be forced to settle for less annually. This is the only possible way that I can see a deal working out for both sides. Otherwise, the stalemate between the two parties might continue well into spring training. This move would put Boston well above the $197 million threshold for 2018, but Martinez is a bat they desperately need in order to compete with the division-rival Yankees.
As far as the rest of the free agent class, it’s tough to predict exactly where some players will land until their counterparts find a home. A few unique cases include those of Eric Hosmer, Greg Holland and Jonathan Lucroy. All three are the best available players at their respective positions; yet, it seems like there hasn’t been much chatter about them as of late. Hosmer may ultimately be forced to resign with his former club due to a lack of demand, and despite practically every other reliever signing early in the offseason, Holland is still without a taker. The Cardinals seem to be the best fit at the moment. And as far as Lucroy, he shouldn’t be around much longer. Talks appear to have stalled, but there are definitely plenty of teams in need of a veteran backstop.