Predicting the All-Overpaid 2017-18 MLB Free-Agency Team Entering the New Year

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2018

Predicting the All-Overpaid 2017-18 MLB Free-Agency Team Entering the New Year

0 of 8

    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    The 2017-18 MLB offseason is stuck in neutral, with most of the top free agents dangling unsigned. Eventually, the logjam will break and the big-money contracts will flow.

    When they do, inevitably, there will be overpays. It happens every winter, and this one will be no exception despite the slow-developing market.

    While we await actual hot-stove action, let's gaze into our B/R crystal ball and predict the offseason's all-overpaid team. That would be one player per position who is likely to receive more years and dollars than he's worth, based on age, recent history and assumed future production. 

    We'll pick eight guys in all, lumping outfielders into a single category and adding a relief pitcher. In one case, the deal is already inked. In the seven others, we're projecting money yet to be handed out based on credible rumors and a dollop of informed gut feeling.

Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy

1 of 8

    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    This may seem contradictory. Recently, we listed Jonathan Lucroy as a player who could whiff on a lucrative payday this winter.

    It's true the 31-year-old won't get anywhere near the dollars he would have commanded after his 2016 All-Star season, let alone his top-five National League MVP finish in 2014.

    Lucroy posted a .716 OPS last year, his lowest total since 2011, and rated as the game's sixth-worst pitch-framer, per StatCorner.

    But he rebounded offensively after a trade-deadline swap from the Texas Rangers to the Colorado Rockies, posting a .310 average and .865 OPS with the Rox.

    That won't be enough to land him a gargantuan contract, but it might motivate a contender to pay more than they should for a declining backstop on the wrong side of 30.

    Dishonorable mention: Alex Avila

First Baseman: Eric Hosmer

2 of 8

    David Dermer/Associated Press

    Eric Hosmer has a seven-year, $140 million deal on the table from the San Diego Padres and a seven-year, $147 million deal from his former employer, the Kansas City Royals, per USA Today's Bob Nightengale

    That's not shocking. Hosmer is 28 years old, was an All-Star in 2016 and has won four Gold Gloves for his work at first base. He set career highs in hits (192), average (.318) and OPS (.882) last season.

    At the same time, Hosmer had never hit as many as 20 home runs in his five full MLB seasons prior to 2015. His power stroke could disappear at San Diego's Petco Park or Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, which rated as the 29th- and 27th-least homer-friendly yards in baseball, per ESPN's Park Factors statistic.

    Hosmer adds value regardless, including his reputation as a clubhouse leader, but whether he's worth a half-decade, nine-figure commitment from clubs that may not sniff the postseason in the near future is another matter.

    Dishonorable mention: Lucas Duda

Second Baseman: Neil Walker

3 of 8

    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Second base isn't an exceedingly high-demand position this offseason, and thus there aren't any probable, high-profile overpays. Neil Walker, however, might command more years and dollars than he's worth.

    The 32-year-old hit .265 with 14 home runs and an .801 OPS in 2017 between the New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers, fine numbers for a middle infielder.

    He also posted minus-five defensive runs saved at the keystone sack, a red flag for any contender seeking middle infield help.

    Walker won't break the bank and his bat adds value. Any deal beyond a couple of years, however, will sting on the back end.

    Dishonorable mention: Brandon Phillips

Third Baseman: Mike Moustakas

4 of 8

    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    After playing just 27 games in 2016 due to a busted ACL, Mike Moustakas slugged his way back to relevance last season.

    The 29-year-old clubbed a career-high 38 home runs with an .835 OPS and now sits atop the third-base class this winter.

    That will probably mean a rich, extended contract from someone, despite the warning signs.

    Most notably, Moustakas owns a pedestrian .305 career on-base percentage, meaning his value is tied heavily to his power. His 2017 homer tally jumps off the stats sheet. Then again, he'd never managed more than 22 long balls in six MLB campaigns prior to that.

    Add the fact he posted minus-eight defensive runs saved at the hot corner, and this is a major investment with "bust" scribbled in the margins. 

    Dishonorable mention: Eduardo Nunez

Shortstop: Alcides Escobar

5 of 8

    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Alcides Escobar was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in 2015. That alone means someone will write him a check this winter.

    Escobar was also worth a grand total of 1 fWAR over the past two seasons, the very definition of mediocre. Even in 2015, when he got his fielding prize, he posted minus-one defensive runs saved. Last season, it was minus-four.

    The 31-year-old didn't make up for it with the bat, either, as he slashed a paltry .250/.272/.357 for the Royals.

    Kansas City could bring him back or another club might shell out for his services. Either way, it's almost guaranteed to be a poor investment, even at modest years and dollars.

    Dishonorable mention: J.J. Hardy

Outfielder: J.D. Martinez

6 of 8

    Harry How/Getty Images

    J.D. Martinez hit 45 home runs last year and went on an epic power binge after being traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Arizona Diamondbacks at the July non-waiver deadline.

    Now, the 30-year-old outfielder is in line for a category-five windfall.

    Here's the rub: The dingers he amassed in 2017 were easily his highest big league total. His next-best mark came in 2015, when he hit 38. Other than that, he's never touched 25.

    That's not to say Martinez will be a bust in 2018 or that his stick wouldn't aid a power-hungry contender such as the Boston Red Sox, who have placed a five-year deal on the table, per Nightengale

    Really, though, what will Martinez be in five years? He'll be entering his age-36 season and could be a serious payroll drag at the $20-plus million annually he's likely to commandthat's what.

    Dishonorable mention: Lorenzo Cain

Starting Pitcher: Jake Arrieta

7 of 8

    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Jake Arrieta also made our list of players who could earn less than they're hoping for in free agency. Even at a pay reduction, though, he's going to get paid.

    The right-hander won the NL Cy Young Award in 2015 and is the only free-agent ace other than Yu Darvish, who has red flags of his own.

    He's also watched his ERA rise and his velocity diminish in each of the last two seasons. In 2017, he battled a hamstring issue and threw only 168.1 innings, his lowest total since 2014. He turns 32 in March.

    All of that may ding his eventual contract. With superagent Scott Boras by his side, however, Arrieta is going to line his coffers. 

    Perhaps he'll rebound and look more like the rotation-fronting arm of 2015. More probably, his decline will continue and whatever club opens the vault for his services will be paying for past performance more than future output.

    Dishonorable mention: Yu Darvish

Relief Pitcher: Wade Davis

8 of 8

    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The only player on the list to actually sign a contract this winter, Wade Davis posted a 2.30 ERA with 32 saves and 79 strikeouts in 58.2 innings for the Chicago Cubs and made a third consecutive All-Star appearance.

    As a result, Davis landed a three-year, $52 million pact with the Colorado Rockies, the highest per-year salary ever for a reliever, per Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan.

    Now, the bad news: The 32-year-old saw his walks per nine innings rise to a career-high 4.3 and his hard-contact rate climb to a high of 29.5 percent. 

    Considering he'll be playing his home games in the hitter-happy confines of Coors Field, those are troubling indicators. 

    "It's being somewhere that definitely wants you and I didn't second-guess it," Davis said of his decision to go to Denver, per Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. "I think that's a huge compliment and flattering. Once everything was said and done, I was ready to do it."

    Davis might boost a Rockies bullpen that was a strength last season in the club's inspiring wild-card run. He'll also swallow a significant chunk of Colorado's budget and may be on the downslope of his door-slamming days.

    Dishonorable mention: Fernando Rodney


    All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.