Odds for Each Suitor on Top Free Agents Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish and More

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterJanuary 10, 2018

Odds for Each Suitor on Top Free Agents Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish and More

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    On one hand, it's disconcerting that many of Major League Baseball's top free agents are still looking for work with spring training games less than six weeks away.

    On the other hand, that should mean the hot stove should finally heat up sooner rather than later.

    Ahead is a look at the top seven free agents left standing and their top suitors' odds of winning the sweepstakes for them. The suitors are plucked from reports containing rumors or reasonable speculation. Their odds for signing each star are based on factors such as team needs and spending capacity and are meant to convey a general scale of likelihood.

    Going in order from smallest star to biggest star, let's get to it.

Lance Lynn, SP

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Lance Lynn represents a reasonable cutoff between the top free agents and everyone else. Despite missing 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, an average season for him with the St. Louis Cardinals between 2012 and 2017 was a 3.39 ERA over 189 innings.

    Lynn is tied to draft-pick compensation after rejecting a $17.2 million qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals, yet signing him shouldn't require an exorbitant amount of money.


    Washington Nationals (Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic)

    The Nationals could use another starter, but don't need to splurge for Lynn while they already have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark. Besides, they paid the luxury tax in 2017 and are expected to pay it again in 2018. Signing Lynn would thus not only cost extra, but it would rob them of their second- and fifth-highest 2018 draft picks as well as $1 million in international bonus money.

    Odds: 20-1


    Toronto Blue Jays (Shi Davidi, Sportsnet)

    Unlike the Nationals, the Blue Jays have the payroll flexibility to squeeze Lynn in. They're due to open 2018 at $144.8 million after opening 2017 at $163.4 million.

    However, they also have four solid starters in Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez. With bigger needs elsewhere, they have more pressing uses for their payroll flexibility.

    Odds: 15-1


    Baltimore Orioles (Jon Morosi, MLB.com)

    After opening 2017 at $164.3 million, the Baltimore Orioles' 2018 projection of $122.7 million gives them plenty of payroll space. And with little talent in their rotation, they need Lynn as much as anyone.

    However, the Orioles are coming off a last-place season and are looking up at loaded New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox squads in the AL East. And if they don't trade Manny Machado this winter, odds are they'll lose him as a free agent next winter. If they're going to spend money to go for a last hurrah in 2018, they may opt to aim higher than Lynn.

    Odds: 10-1


    Texas Rangers (Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News)

    The Rangers have already added some solid depth to their rotation (Doug Fister, Matt Moore, Mike Minor) but still lack a solid arm to place atop it. And since their $130.3 million projection for 2018 is short of their 2017 opening mark of $165.3 million, they ought to have money to spend.

    Like with the Orioles, the question is whether the Rangers will settle for someone like Lynn. Since they face the task of catching up to the Houston Astros or keeping up with the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners, they might have bigger fish in their sights.

    Odds: 7-1


    Milwaukee Brewers (Jon Morosi, MLB.com)

    The Brewers must acquire starting pitching before they can think about taking the next step after last year's surprising 86-win season. A dependable producer such as Lynn would make the grade, and he obviously doesn't need to prove to the Brewers that he can handle the NL Central.

    Granted, the Brewers typically aren't big spenders. But they've gone over the $100 million barrier twice before, so it wouldn't be surprising to see them add money to their $73.1 million projection for 2018. 

    Odds: 5-1

Mike Moustakas, 3B

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    Adam Hunger/Getty Images

    Mike Moustakas is coming off a career year in which he set personal highs in OPS (.835) and home runs (38). He also earned his second All-Star Game nod.

    Yet, the section of his rumor mill has been eerily quiet. That's partly an effect of third base being a star-studded position where not many teams have needs. It's also an effect of his not accepting a qualifying offer.

    These are circumstances that a "mystery team" could exploit. But of the teams linked to Moustakas...


    New York Mets (Jon Morosi, MLB.com)

    Signing Moustakas would allow the Mets to shift Asdrubal Cabrera to second base in between youngsters Amed Rosario at shortstop and Dominic Smith at first base. And because their $125.4 million projection for 2018 is short of their Opening Day figure of $154.4 million from 2017, a deal ought to be doable.

    Yet, it still feels like wishful thinking. The Mets' default mode for years has been to pinch as many pennies as they can, and there's been little indication that they'll deviate from that this winter.

    Odds: 30-1


    New York Yankees (Buster Olney, ESPN)

    It was suggested by Olney that the Yankees could sign Moustakas to a one-year pillow contract and let him build his value by taking aim at Yankee Stadium's short right field porch.

    It's an interesting idea but perhaps not a practical one. The Yankees want to get under the luxury-tax threshold in 2018. With only $16 million in wiggle room left, signing Moustakas would complicate that.

    Odds: 20-1


    Kansas City Royals (Rustin Dodd, Kansas City Star)

    The Royals probably figured on losing all three of their top free agents, but Dodd is correct in noting the slow market has thrown that assumption for a loop. They may yet be able to retain them.

    Re-signing Moustakas shouldn't be their top priority, however. With lean years ahead of them regardless of what they do this winter, it wouldn't be the worst idea to let Cheslor Cuthbert show what he can do as a regular at third base.

    Odds: 15-1


    Baltimore Orioles (Olney)

    The Orioles are another team that Olney thinks could be a landing spot for Moustakas. Signing him would allow them to shift Machado to shortstop and field one of the more dangerous lineups in the American League.

    Of course, the question of whether the Orioles want to spend applies. But it wouldn't be unlike them to approach Moustakas late in the game and sell him on a one-year tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Doing that with Nelson Cruz back in 2014 worked out for everyone.

    Odds: 12-1


    St. Louis Cardinals (Olney)

    The Cardinals are already projected for a $148.4 million payroll in 2018, which would be the highest in franchise history. Based on that, they're not likely to spend anymore.

    Their activity on the rumor mill suggests otherwise, though. Even after dealing for Marcell Ozuna, they've continued to be linked to high-profile targets like Machado, Josh Donaldson and Eric Hosmer. Since all three are tough to attain, Moustakas stands out as the most practical Plan B.

    Odds: 7-1

Lorenzo Cain, OF

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Lorenzo Cain has been one of MLB's best all-around outfielders over the last four seasons, accounting for a total of 20.5 wins above replacement

    The downsides are that Cain is 31 and tied to draft-pick compensation. Nonetheless, even a recent report from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tying him to four teams doesn't capture the entirety of his market.


    New York Mets (Jon Heyman, FanRag Sports)

    Although the Mets already have a crowded outfield, they could plug Cain in center field and watch with glee as he upgrades a defense that was the least efficient in the National League last year. But, these are still the Mets. Their possible spending is a "believe it when I see it" situation.

    Odds: 30-1


    Kansas City Royals (Rustin Dodd, Kansas City Star)

    There's a place for Cain in Kansas City, as he could easily slide back into center field and continue to patrol Kauffman Stadium's huge outfield. But since Cain seems to have more places to go than Moustakas, it's less likely that the Royals will be able to bring him back at a discounted rate.

    Odds: 25-1


    San Francisco Giants (Cafardo)

    While his bat would be a nice addition, few teams have as strong a need for Cain's defense as the Giants. Their center fielders have contributed an MLB-worst minus-71 defensive runs saved since 2013.

    The Giants only have $14.6 million in luxury-tax wiggle room, however. They also paid the tax in 2017. Signing Cain could thus raise their 2018 tax penalties and deny them draft picks and international bonus money. It's no wonder they have eyes, per Morosi, on a trade for Billy Hamilton instead.

    Odds: 20-1


    Milwaukee Brewers (Cafardo)

    If the Brewers are really intent on spending, they could do worse than a center field upgrade. That's where they could use someone solid between Ryan Braun and Domingo Santana.

    But do they really want to give up on Keon Broxton and/or block Lewis Brinson? More to the point, do they really want to invest in their outfield when they should be investing in their pitching?

    Odds: 12-1


    Texas Rangers (Cafardo)

    The Rangers could live with Delino DeShields in center field, but signing Cain instead would allow them to upgrade from a speed-and-defense guy to a speed-and-defense-and-hitting guy.

    Like the Brewers, the Rangers also need pitching more. Unlike the Brewers, though, they could have enough spending capacity to fill both needs rather than one or the other.

    Odds: 10-1


    Toronto Blue Jays (Cafardo)

    The Blue Jays are unlike the other teams on this list to one extent: Their need for Cain is in right field, not in center field. That could be a deal-breaker for him.

    On the other hand, Cain could be convinced that shifting to right field is a good way to preserve his body for the long haul. For their part, the Blue Jays have the money and the incentive (e.g. catching up to the Yankees and Red Sox) to make it happen.

    Odds: 8-1

Jake Arrieta, SP

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Jake Arrieta is just two years removed from winning the NL Cy Young Award and has averaged an excellent 2.67 ERA over 188 innings since 2014.

    He has tumbled from his Cy Young peak, however, and comes with the same age and draft-pick compensation concerns as Cain does. Yet, many of the teams linked to Arrieta by Cafardo in November are still among the potential fits for him.


    Philadelphia Phillies (Jon Heyman, FanRag Sports)

    The Phillies possess more than enough money to pursue Arrieta and have a role for him to play as the resident veteran on a young pitching staff. But Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that the team doesn't want to spend on a top-of-the-rotation starter. If their minds change, it'll probably be when they're looking at Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel and/or David Price next offseason.

    Odds: 30-1


    Toronto Blue Jays (Cafardo)

    It's possible to imagine the Blue Jays using their spending power on Arrieta if his market were to push him toward a considerable discount. But his market seems a tad too healthy for that, making it more likely that the Blue Jays will focus their attention on upgrading more pressing needs.

    Odds: 25-1


    Chicago Cubs (Bruce Levine, CBS Chicago)

    The Cubs entered the offseason with two rotation slots to fill. Thus far, they've filled only one of them by signing Tyler Chatwood. Re-signing Arrieta would be a nice way to fill the other.

    But one suspects the Cubs will only do this if they miss out on Yu Darvish. All the signs point toward them wanting him, and they have plenty of tax space ($36.6 million) to make it happen.

    Odds: 15-1


    St. Louis Cardinals (Levine)

    The Cardinals seem more focused on making additional upgrades to their lineup, but the lack of veteran stability in their rotation could be a fatal flaw. If they were to fix that by signing Arrieta, the move would have the added bonus of stealing a big part from an NL Central enemy.

    Odds: 13-1


    Washington Nationals (Heyman)

    Due to their luxury-tax situation, signing Arrieta would require the Nationals to stretch their budget and rearrange their plans for the draft and the international market. Considering they don't need him, that's a lot to ask.

    Yet, Arrieta is a more plausible target for the Nationals than Lynn is. Suddenly breaking the bank for a Scott Boras client is nothing that general manager Mike Rizzo hasn't done before, and this one would indeed make them a more formidable World Series contender.

    Odds: 12-1


    Minnesota Twins (Cafardo)

    With a projected 2018 payroll of $96.7 million, the Twins are already close to their maximum comfort zone of roughly $110 million. There's no question they need a starter, however, and all the signs point toward them stretching their budget for a good one. Landing one as good as Arrieta would go a long way toward helping them improve on their surprise trip to the postseason in 2017.

    Odds: 10-1


    Milwaukee Brewers (Cafardo) 

    Milwaukee's need for Arrieta is about as strong as Minnesota's need for him. The Brewers have more payroll flexibility, though, and could have a leg up in being able to offer a chance for Arrieta to stay in the NL Central.

    Odds: 8-1


    Houston Astros (Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic)

    Alyson Footer of MLB.com heard from Astros owner Jim Crane that the club is "actively pursuing a high-end starter." Arrieta fits the bill, as he'd be a nice safety blanket between Justin Verlander and a handful of injury-prone starters.

    However, most rumors have the Astros kicking the tires on high-profile trade targets. And while they could settle for Arrieta if they were to pivot to free agency, it's just as easy to imagine them aiming higher.

    Odds: 6-1


    Texas Rangers (Cafardo)

    There's no place that Arrieta would look better than atop a starting rotation currently led by an over-the-hill Cole Hamels and an injured Martin Perez. The Rangers can also make the money work and could find Arrieta more than willing to enjoy a Texas homecoming (he grew up in Plano). So although the Rangers haven't appeared in many Arrieta rumors, the shoe fits.

    Odds: 5-1

Eric Hosmer, 1B

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Eric Hosmer is only 28 and coming off a 2017 season that netted him his fourth Gold Glove and first Silver Slugger. 

    His market has nonetheless been slow to develop and still doesn't seem to be very crowded. Some of that is his draft-pick compensation issue, although it also doesn't help that not many teams need help at first base.


    St. Louis Cardinals (Jon Morosi, MLB.com)

    Since their outfield is too full to squeeze in J.D. Martinez, Hosmer is the best free agent the Cardinals can add to their lineup. They could make it work by sliding Matt Carpenter back to third base, thereby freeing up Jedd Gyorko to platoon with Kolten Wong at second base.

    However, it's plausible that the Cardinals are merely broadcasting interest in Hosmer to try and loosen the asking prices for Donaldson or Machado. And if they are going to fall back on a free agent, they stand to save more money and gain more power by signing Moustakas.

    Odds: 20-1


    San Diego Padres (Bob Nightengale, USA Today)

    Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune disputed Nightengale's report that the Padres have a seven-year, $140 million offer out to Hosmer. But only the $140 million part.

    If the seven years part is indeed accurate, the Padres indeed have a competitive offer out to Hosmer. They can also hope to sell him on playing for a winner once the club's top prospects arrive. Surely, the only way he'd turn them down is if he has a better offer.

    Odds: 7-1


    Kansas City Royals (Nightengale)

    There's also been pushback (from Rosenthal and Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star) that the Royals have a seven-year, $147 million offer out to Hosmer.

    It's nonetheless plausible that they're willing to go somewhere in that general area, as every indication is that Hosmer is at the top of their wish list of re-signees. And even if the Royals so much as match San Diego's offer, their familiarity with Hosmer could be the deciding factor.

    Odds: 5-1

J.D. Martinez, OF

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    J.D. Martinez isn't without flaws. Injuries have limited him to 239 games over the last two seasons. In the meantime, his defensive ratings have tanked.

    On the plus side, he just had a monster year (1.066 OPS, 45 HR) and has been one of the best hitters in baseball for the last four seasons. As a bonus, he isn't tied to draft-pick compensation.


    Arizona Diamondbacks (Jon Heyman, FanRag Sports)

    Martinez had a huge hand in pushing the Diamondbacks into the postseason, blasting 29 homers in only 62 games after coming over from the Detroit Tigers in July. They should be keeping the door open for him.

    Trouble is, Arizona's projected payroll of $123.2 million is already set to destroy the franchise's previous high of $112.3 million. They probably need a discount to re-sign Martinez. That's unlikely at this stage.

    Odds: 20-1


    San Francisco Giants (Heyman)

    Martinez would be a much-needed power upgrade for a Giants offense that produced an MLB-low 128 homers in 2017. To boot, they wouldn't have to give up draft picks or bonus money to sign him.

    Alas, the Giants would push themselves back into luxury-tax territory by signing Martinez. And it may not even be worth their while, as his outstanding power would be rendered less outstanding by AT&T Park.

    Odds: 17-1


    Toronto Blue Jays (Heyman)

    The Blue Jays arguably need Cain's glove more than they need Martinez's bat. However, there's also an argument that they need another impact bat in an offense that was hit-or-miss outside of Donaldson and Justin Smoak in 2017.

    Considering that the Blue Jays also have some money to spend, they're a legitimate dark horse in the Martinez sweepstakes.

    Odds: 12-1


    Washington Nationals (Chris Cotillo, SB Nation)

    It's easy to imagine a scenario in which the Nationals sign Martinez to play left field in 2018 and then move him to right field in 2019, thereby replacing a departed Bryce Harper and making way for Victor Robles to play center.

    And if the Nats are going to make a late move for a Boras client, Martinez makes more sense than Arrieta because the former isn't tied to draft-pick compensation.

    Odds: 10-1


    Boston Red Sox (Bob Nightengale, USA Today)

    The Red Sox already have a five-year offer out to Martinez, according to Nightengale. They clearly don't want to go higher than that, but it should surprise nobody if they do.

    The Red Sox must upgrade an offense that produced an AL-low 168 homers in 2017. Martinez could help with that and would indeed be a worthy fill-in for David Ortiz in the designated hitter slot. And although the Red Sox are already over the luxury tax, they might as well make their team worthy of the penalties.

    Odds: 5-1

Yu Darvish, SP

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Here he is. The top prize of the 2017-2018 free-agent market.

    Yu Darvish owns a 3.42 ERA and a rate of 11 strikeouts per nine innings across 832.1 major league innings. He is on the older side at 31, but he's yet another star who's not tied to draft-pick compensation. 


    Los Angeles Dodgers (Ken Gurnick, MLB.com)

    It makes sense that the Dodgers wouldn't shut Darvish out after trading for him last July. But it's no wonder they don't seem to be in a hurry to keep him. They have only $14.3 million in luxury-tax space. Without a true need for Darvish, there's little motivation for them to sacrifice that space.

    Odds: 30-1


    New York Yankees (Jon Heyman, FanRag Sports)

    The Yankees are in the same boat as the Dodgers: They don't actually need Darvish and also have limited luxury-tax space to play with. They could be willing to jump ship for the sake of iron-cladding their World Series pursuit. But, it's more likely that their interest in Darvish is a smokescreen meant to help their interest in trade targets such as Cole.

    Odds: 25-1


    Minnesota Twins (Darren Wolfson, 1500 ESPN)

    If the Twins are truly committed to making a splash, Darvish would be a better option than Arrieta. The catch is that he's also likely to be a much more expensive splash. Because the Twins are already operating near their capacity, it doesn't seem terribly likely that they'll be able to make it happen.

    Odds: 20-1


    Texas Rangers (Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News)

    Although the Rangers need pitching, there seems to be a barrier between them as well as sincere interest in a reunion with Darvish. The tea leaves make it seem like the ship has sailed.

    But has it? The Rangers should be able to make the money work. And if there's anything worth reading into Darvish's recent dinner with Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, it's that there are no hard feelings about the trade that sent him to the Dodgers last summer.

    Odds: 17-1


    Houston Astros (Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic)

    If you can't beat 'em, join 'em?

    Maybe. The Astros may have pummeled Darvish in both of his World Series starts, but he's precisely the kind of high-spin, bat-missing starter they gravitate toward. And if they're going to pivot their search for a high-end starter from the trade market to the free-agent market, he'd be a better get than Arrieta.

    Odds: 15-1


    Chicago Cubs (Bruce Levine, CBS Chicago)

    No team has been linked to Darvish as heavily as the Cubs. At least in theory, your humble narrator wholeheartedly supports the idea of them swapping out Arrieta for Darvish.

    Ultimately, it's up to the Cubs. But between their need for a top-of-the-rotation starter and their considerable spending capacity, they're the best fit for Darvish now. If the Cardinals and Brewers make more moves, their need for him will only grow stronger.

    Odds: 5-1


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference. Payroll and luxury-tax data courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.