It has been less than a week since the Houston Astros clinched the first World Series championship in franchise history, though already free agency is upon us. . MLB free agency doesn't feature a rash of Day 1 signings like the NFL, NBA, and NHL, though there are always a few quick deals.
With the world Series in the rear-view mirror, there is no better time to lay out some bold predictions for the 2017-18 offseason than right now.. That's pretty great! . That's not so great. Hopefully I can crack the Mendoza Line this winter. Here are 10 sure to be wrong bold predictions for the 2017-18 MLB offseason.
1. Stanton to the Red Sox
It's hard to believe, but it sure seems one of the first major moves of the Derek Jeter era in Miami will be trading franchise cornerstone Giancarlo Stanton. The Marlins and the best way to do that is by trading Stanton, the team's best (and highest paid) player. Will it be a popular move? Oh no. Definitely not. It's hard to think of a worse way for the new ownership group to make a first impression, in fact. But it sounds like it'll happen.
Even with his massive contract -- Stanton is owed $295 million from 2018-27, though he can opt-out following 2020 -- the Marlins won't have any trouble find suitors for Stanton. He's so good and he'll turn only 28 later this week. We're talking about baseball's top power hitter right smack in the prime of his career. And think about it, when Bryce Harper hits free agency next winter, Stanton's contract will probably look like a bargain in comparison.
Anyway, I'm going with Stanton to the Red Sox for a few reasons. One, the BoSox have an obvious need for a power hitter. They finished dead last in the AL in homers this past season. And two, I think there's some pressure on the club to win now. Craig Kimbrel will be a free agent next winter and both Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz will be free agents after 2019. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. will soon get pretty expensive through arbitration too.
That urgency combined with the team's need for a power hitter makes Stanton and the Red Sox an obvious fit. Can you imagine him taking aim at the Green Monster for 81 games a season? Good gravy. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has never been shy about making a blockbuster or trading top young players. I think he builds a package around Andrew Benintendi, gets the Marlins to kick in some cash, and gets a deal done for Stanton this winter.
2. Otani does come to MLB, and ends up with ...
... the Yankees. They have as much international bonus money to offer as any team, and they can woo Shohei Otani to New York with their great young core and farm system. "We just went to Game 7 of the ALCS and have a rookie right fielder who hit 52 homers, a 24-year-old catcher who hit 33 homers despite missing a month, a 23-year-old righty who will get Cy Young votes, and MLB.com's No. 1 prospect," seems like a pretty good sales pitch, no? At 23, Otani fits right into the club's youth movement.
So far the Otani situation is playing out like the Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka situations. . . . It plays out the same way every time. There are weeks and weeks of rumors explaining why the player will or will not come over, everyone freaks out, and then eventually everyone comes to their senses and the player comes over. The same will happen with Otani. Eventually he'll be made available to MLB teams, and when it happens, the Yankees will put on the full court press and land him.
3. Martinez goes to St. Louis
The Cardinals are rumored to be very interested in Stanton, though with him going to the Red Sox in my bold predictions hypothetical, St. Louis instead turns to the next best available power hitting outfielder: free agent J.D. Martinez. My contract guess: five years and $120 million. Power pays. Martinez in 2017 became the first player in history to hit 45 homers in fewer than 120 games played. (He hit 45 in 119 games.)
Martinez would step into the lineup to give the Cardinals that monster cleanup hitter they've been lacking the last few years. Adding Martinez to Tommy Pham and Dexter Fowler in the outfield would then allow St. Louis to use Randal Grichuk and/or Stephen Piscotty as trade bait, perhaps for bullpen help. The Cardinals have an impressive collection of young arms, plus Alex Reyes will be back from Tommy John surgery in 2018. The lineup, while solid, lacks that big centerpiece, the player other teams fear even when he's standing in the on-deck circle. Martinez solves that problem.
4. Astros get the bullpen help they needed in the postseason
There is no magic formula in baseball. What worked and helped the Astros win the World Series in 2017 won't necessarily get them another title in 2018. Their core is young and they're poised to contend for a long time. There's no doubt about that. But trying to get through the postseason with a bullpen in which your most reliable relievers are starters again doesn't seem like a smart move.
General manager Jeff Luhnow knows that, and I expect him to address his bullpen in a big way this winter. I not only think the Astros will sign Wade Davis, the best available free agent reliever, I think he's going to splurge for a second top bullpen arm as well. Jake McGee or Mike Minor make the most sense given the team's need for a lefty. Even in this age of #bullpening, the Astros showed you don't need a dominant bullpen to win the World Series. You just need to be really great at everything else. I anticipate Luhnow building a great bullpen to go with that great everything else this offseason.
5. Cubs make another blockbuster trade for pitching help
Hot take: The 2016 Cubs were never the start of the dynasty because their rotation had a much earlier expiration date than everyone seemed willing to admit. Jake Arrieta and John Lackey are free agents this winter, and Jon Lester is maybe starting to show his age. That leaves Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana as the foundation pieces. Clearly, Chicago needs more rotation help. They knew this weeks ago, hence the Quintana trade.
Because of that, I expect the Cubbies to go and make another blockbuster trade for a starter. This time I think it'll be Chris Archer. Archer to the Cubs and a package led by Addison Russell to the Rays. Archer joins Hendricks and Quintana as the rotation core, Javier Baez shifts to shortstop full-time, and Ian Happ takes over at second with Ben Zobrist doing his rover thing. Free agency offers some good pitching options, but I think the Cubs want someone younger with a friendly contract, hence Archer.
6. Orioles trade Britton, but not Machado
Both Zach Britton and Manny Machado will be free agents next offseason, meaning the O's are about to face some tough decisions. Do they offer them monster contracts or let them walk? With Britton, it seems unlikely they re-sign him long-term, making a trade likely. Keep in mind the Orioles did talk trade with the Dodgers and Astros at the deadline this year, so it's not like Britton being on the trade clock would be unprecedented.
Also, the O's have a history of trading their closer one year prior to free agency. A few years they shipped Jim Johnson, back when he was one of the game's top closers, to the Athletics before he had a chance to reach the open market. That trade didn't work out so well. The free agent closer market isn't great -- Davis and Greg Holland, the top two free agent closers, started to sputter at the end of the season -- so I'm sure there will be a robust market for Britton. The Orioles will have plenty of suitors.
Machado? I think he stays put this offseason. Trading Machado means starting over and rebuilding, and I don't think the O's are the ready to do that yet. They could replace Britton with Mychal Givens or Brad Brach, or a lower cost free agent. There is no replacing Machado. I think they trade Britton, go into the season with Machado, and see where they're sitting at the deadline. And if they're out of it, then Machado maybe goes on the block. Not yet though.
7. Brewers make a big splash in free agency
The Brewers are my free-agent sleeper. The arrived faster than many people expected in 2017, going 86-76 and pushing the Cubs for the NL Central title, and they still have more top prospects on the way. Center fielder Lewis Brinson and righty Brandon Woodruff in particular should earn regular spots next season. Add them to Domingo Santana, Jimmy Nelson, and Orlando Arcia and you've got the start of something special.
With the Brewers looking like they're ready to take the next step, I think the front office and ownership will step up to get some help in free agency. A starting pitcher is the obvious need, especially with Nelson rehabbing from shoulder surgery. Could Milwaukee outbid everyone else for Arrieta? Don't be surprised. They offered CC Sabathia nine figures back in the day. If not Arrieta, I could see them making a big push for Alex Cobb, and also to re-sign Neil Walker. Point is, the Brewers are going to shock the world at some point this winter. They'll make a splashy signing no one sees coming.
8. Arenado becomes the next $200 million player
The Rockies have a history of paying big to keep their own players (Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, etc.) and the time has come to pay Nolan Arenado. He'll be a free agent following the 2019 season, and the longer Colorado waits, the more likely it is Arenado decides to test the open market. And the more expensive it gets to keep him, of course. This is the perfect time to step up and lock him in long-term.
My contract estimate: eight years and $200 million. Stanton signed his monster 13-year, $325 million contract at the same service time level as Arenado now, and while Arenado won't get that much, it set the market for a homegrown superstar. A $200 million asking price is not unreasonable. Arenado is only 26, he's the best defensive third baseman in the league, and a 30-plus homer run producing machine. I have the Rockies paying him and paying him big this offseason. Arenado would be the 12th $200 million player in baseball history.
9. Royals decide to start over
The window has closed on this version of the Royals. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar are all free agents this winter and there's basically no chance Kansas City will be able to re-sign all of them. They might not even be able to re-sign one of them. The Royals knew this, yet they kept the band together at the trade deadline and tried to make one more run at a postseason spot. Admirable, really. too bad it didn't work.
So, with basically their entire position player core leaving via free agency, I think general manager Dayton Moore decides to dive headfirst into a rebuild and begin building the next great Royals team. In addition to getting compensation draft picks for Cain, Hosmer, and Moustakas, that means trading away players like Danny Duffy, Salvador Perez, Scott Alexander, and Kelvin Herrera. Basically every veteran with value. Fans knew this was coming and the Astros just showed "tanking" works. With all those core players becoming free agents, the Royals might as well rip off the band-aid and start rebuilding.
10. The Dodgers stand pat
After losing the World Series -- or any postseason series, for that matter -- it's only natural to think major changes are needed. How many times do we hear [losing team] needs to trade [best player] after a playoff exit? All the time. All. The. Time. The Dodgers lost Game 7 of the World Series and it's easy to think they'll make some significant moves this winter in an effort to get over the hump. I don't see that happening though.
I think the Dodgers, the team that won 104 games during the regular season, will largely stand pat aside from minor tweaks. They'll need to re-sign or replace Brandon Morrow, and maybe tweak the bench, but that's about it. I don't see a big trade for a starter, or a big trade for an outfielder, or a big free agent signing of any kind. I expect Los Angeles to keep this same group intact because yes, they are good enough to win the World Series as is. They'll have the opposite offseason as the Astros, basically. Houston will aggressively add bullpen help in my bold predictions. The Dodgers? They'll stick with what worked in 2017.