How Manny Machado's deal impacts Bryce Harper, Craig Kimbrel and other big names on the MLB free agent market
Who will sign next? Let's speculate away
All along, it was assumed that Machado would sign before Bryce Harper, with Harper's agent, Scott Boras, waiting out the market in order to tell teams they have to beat the Machado deal in order to land Harper. Now that Boras has a figure to beat, expect the Harper signing to come next.
The easiest prediction here would be Harper getting 10 years and $326 million (Boras likely wants to top Giancarlo Stanton's record $325 million), but the whispers that Harper really doesn't want to play in Philadelphia just won't go away. Let's say for the sake of argument that Harper ends up back in D.C. with the Nationals on the above deal. They could do it and Boras is cozy with the ownership and front office (Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon and Trevor Rosenthal are all Boras clients).
If Harper does go with the Phillies, they're probably done for the offseason and it would have been a very productive one.
In that case, Keuchel and Kimbrel still need homes. The Astros bringing back Keuchel seems like the best fit, though I wouldn't mind seeing the Padres grab a veteran leader to anchor the rotation. Still, we'll go with Astros.
As for Kimbrel, the market for him seems to be next to nothing. We haven't heard a Kimbrel rumor -- save for hearing teams won't sign him -- for weeks. A return to either the Red Sox or Braves makes sense, but neither team seems interested. The White Sox have to do something, don't they? We'll call Kimbrel to the White Sox, giving them a pretty formidable back-end duo along with Kelvin Herrera.
The next-best free agent is utility man Marwin Gonzalez. He played at a very high level in 2017 (146 OPS+ and 4.3 WAR), but he's probably more what he was in 2018 (103 OPS+, 2.5 WAR) moving forward. Still useful, but not near the four years and $56 million the Cubs gave Ben Zobrist prior to 2016. A return to the Astros makes some sense, though they've got Michael Brantley in left field now. What about the Padres? Until prospects Luis Urias and Fernando Tatis Jr. can hold down everyday starting gigs, Gonzalez could rotate through third base, second base when Ian Kinsler needs a breather and corner outfield spots. Let's go with the Padres.
This all starts with Harper, though. We can't get a good read on the situations of Keuchel, Kimbrel or Gonzalez until the proverbial Big Fish finds a home. The hunch is it happens within the next week. Stay tuned.
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