2017 MLB Free Agents: Top Rumors Before Regular Season Ends

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistOctober 1, 2017

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25:  (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)   Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 25, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Royals 11-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

As 10 teams continue their preparations for the postseason and winning a World Series, the rest of Major League Baseball has its sights set on what is going to happen this offseason when free agency hits.

This year's class is much better than the 2016-17 crop, which featured Yoenis Cespedes, Edwin Encarnacion and Dexter Fowler at the top. Starting pitchers Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish and outfielders Lorenzo Cain and J.D. Martinez are among those seeking long-term contracts.

While it's still early, and it will be months before the free-agent puzzle comes into focus, here's a rumor roundup of what could happen this winter.

             

Royals Eye Hosmer's Return

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

The Kansas City Royals tried to make one more playoff push with their nucleus of Cain, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer in 2017. They came up short, leaving them in position to start next season without their three best position players.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports did offer some hope that at least one member of Kansas City's free-agent trio could get an enticing offer to return:

"Word is, they are willing to make a serious offer (presumably $100 million plus) to Hosmer, though they expect some big-market competition, perhaps from the Boston Red Sox, possibly the New York Yankees, or others. The Royals can't be sure they can outbid interested big-market teams, but they put a high value on Hosmer."

This isn't a foreign scenario for the Royals. They appeared to be on the verge of losing Alex Gordon after the 2015 season before he decided to re-sign after receiving a four-year, $72 million contract. 

Gordon, like Hosmer, was drafted and developed by the Royals. Hosmer has been a key part of the franchise since his debut in 2011, including winning a World Series in 2015, and he is going to finish this season with a career-best slash line that sits at .319/.385/.496.

The Royals are in danger of paying a player after a career year, but their potential lineup without Hosmer, Cain and Moustakas is scary to think about. Even with that trio this year, they still rank 23rd in runs scored.

Hosmer and Cain are the only Royals regulars with an on-base percentage over .330 this season. They will have a lot of holes to fill anyway this offseason, so making a serious play to entice Hosmer is in their best interest.

           

Indians Keep Tabs on Santana

Ron Schwane/Associated Press

While the Cleveland Indians have their full attention on finishing the job in the playoffs this year after coming up one win short of a championship last season, their biggest offseason question revolves around first baseman Carlos Santana.

Per Heyman, the American League Central champions want to bring Santana back but it's "just a matter of finances."

Santana is making $12 million in the final season of a six-year deal he signed in 2012. The 31-year-old is hitting a solid .263/.367/.464 with 23 home runs in 2017.

He's also quietly turned himself into an excellent defensive first baseman. The Dominican is tied with the Boston Red Sox's Mitch Moreland for the AL lead with nine defensive runs saved at the position, per FanGraphs.

The Indians aren't traditionally a big-spending team, but with their championship window squarely open, ownership has been more willing than ever to open the pocketbook. They are spending a franchise-record $124.1 million in payroll this season, per Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Cleveland took a big swing last offseason by signing Encarnacion to a three-year contract worth $60 million. He's been a key piece in the middle of the lineup, with 38 home runs and 104 RBI.

Santana remains an essential piece of the batting order. His history with the team could be enough to get them something of a hometown discount. It also helps Cleveland's case that there are many first baseman, including Hosmer, Moreland, Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison, available for teams to bid on.

It still seems like a long shot that Cleveland will be able to keep extending its payroll beyond its position, but another deep postseason run could be enough to convince ownership it's worth keeping the core intact for as long as possible.

                 

Harvey Staying in New York

Adam Hunger/Associated Press

Despite having the worst season of his MLB career, Matt Harvey is expected to return to the New York Mets in 2018.

Per Heyman, New York "will indeed tender" Harvey a contract for next season.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson previously told Mike Puma of the New York Post it was "highly unlikely" the team would non-tender Harvey.

"We saw some positive things the other day," Alderson said. "Hopefully we can build on those. The velocity was a little better. He just needs some confidence, and we're going to keep running him out there and see what happens toward the end of the season. But let's not assume the worst."

Harvey has fallen off a cliff since helping the Mets reach the World Series in 2015. The 28-year-old has a 5.71 ERA, 1.56 WHIP and 214 hits allowed in 181.1 innings pitched since the start of last season.

Injuries have played a big role in Harvey's decline. He has only made 35 appearances dating back to the start of the 2016 season, and he's never made 30 regular-season starts in a campaign since making his MLB debut in 2012.

Harvey is making $5.125 million this season, his second year of arbitration. He will get a raise in 2018 because the arbitration process is such that a player rarely, if ever, gets a reduced deal from the previous year.

The right-hander's raise will be modest, at best. The Mets found out the hard way this year how valuable just having depth in the rotation can be. At various points in 2017, their disabled list included Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo.

There's no reason to think the 2015 version of Harvey, who had a 2.71 ERA, will come back. The Mets will be happy if he can turn himself into a league-average pitcher next season, lining up behind a healthy Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom in the rotation.