Early Team-by-Team MLB Free-Agency Predictions Post-Trade Deadline

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterAugust 8, 2018

Early Team-by-Team MLB Free-Agency Predictions Post-Trade Deadline

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    Where will Bryce Harper and Manny Machado end up?
    Where will Bryce Harper and Manny Machado end up?Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Now that Major League Baseball's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has passed by, there won't be another frenzy to add players until the free-agent market opens up this winter.

    Rather than wait patiently, why don't we project how things will shake out?

    Ahead are much-too-early free-agency predictions for all 30 MLB teams. These mostly cover where the biggest names—and there will be plenty of those to go aroundon the market will end up. But in some cases, it's about signings teams won't make. In any event, this is a strictly speculative exercise.

    Let's get to it.

Arizona Diamondbacks: They'll Sign Brian Dozier

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    With Zack Greinke hogging their payroll and a new contract for Paul Goldschmidt to worry about, the Arizona Diamondbacks may be priced out of the markets for three incumbent stars: Patrick Corbin, A.J. Pollock and Eduardo Escobar.

    Brian Dozier, however, may fit in their price range.

    It's been so far, so good for the 31-year-old second baseman since he went from the Minnesota Twins to the Los Angeles Dodgers. But he's still having a disappointing season overall with just a .736 OPS and 18 home runs. Between that and his age, the market may only value him as a veteran upside play.

    The D-backs will probably be in the market for guys like that, and Dozier would fit them well. He'd give them power at second base and free up Ketel Marte to serve in a super-utility role.

Atlanta Braves: They'll Sign Yasmani Grandal

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    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    Now that the Atlanta Braves have taken their first step out of their rebuild, their next move should be to spend some money to fill in the gaps.

    With Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki due for free agency, the Braves will have a big one to fill behind the plate. That would also be an ideal place to splurge on a veteran who could help their lineup and guide their young pitchers.

    Enter Yasmani Grandal.

    Grandal, 29, is once again displaying an impact bat via an .851 OPS and 19 homers for the Dodgers. As per usual, he's also rating as one of baseball's top pitch-framers.

    These talents would fit well on the Braves, who should be able to sign Grandal with the money freed up from Flowers, Suzuki, Nick Markakis and Brandon McCarthy coming off the books.

Baltimore Orioles: They'll Re-Sign Adam Jones

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    With their rebuild officially underway, the Baltimore Orioles won't be looking to spend too much money this winter.

    Still, they may not be able to say no to re-signing Adam Jones if the price is right.

    It should be. Jones' reputation as a five-time All-Star precedes him, but he's not that guy anymore. He's 33, and he now mixes a roughly league-average bat with below-average center field defense.

    Jones has a different sort of value within Baltimore, however. He's been playing there since 2008, and the mutual love between him and the city runs deep. He's also a veteran leader whom the Orioles surely wouldn't mind keeping for the sake of maintaining some dignity through the trying times that lie ahead.

    Put simply, it's hard to imagine Jones and the Orioles separating.

Boston Red Sox: David Price Will Opt In and Block Them from Big Investments

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    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    The Boston Red Sox are going to be way over the luxury-tax threshold by the end of 2018. They also already have $133 million in commitments for 2019, with Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Eduardo Rodriguez due for raises via arbitration.

    Thus, the Red Sox may only be able to spend big in free agency if David Price opts out of the four years and $127 million remaining on his contract. 

    Although the soon-to-be 33-year-old doesn't seem too enamored with playing in Boston, whether he'll exercise his opt-out clause is bound to come down to whether he thinks he can do better than $127 million on the open market.

    That's a stretch, given his good-not-great 3.87 ERA as a Red Sox and the red flags surrounding his elbow. Expect him to opt in for what he already has coming to him and for Boston to be stuck shopping in the bargain bin.

Chicago Cubs: They'll Sign Zach Britton

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    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    According to multiple reports, the Chicago Cubs were a big player in the Zach Britton trade sweepstakes before he went from Baltimore to the New York Yankees.

    Not to worry. Chicago will have another shot at Britton this winter.

    Although their payroll is set to be pretty loaded, the Cubs should have enough space to squeeze in Britton. They also have a spot for the 30-year-old lefty in their bullpen, which could use a second relief ace alongside Brandon Morrow.

    Britton's days as such an ace might seem to be behind him, but he could quickly realize them again on the North Side of Chicago. He's an extreme ground-ball pitcher, and the Cubs have one of the majors' best ground-ball defenses.

Chicago White Sox: They'll Sign Matt Harvey

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Meanwhile, on the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox will surely be looking to save money for the future as they continue their rebuild.

    Still, they'd be wise to give their beleaguered starting rotation a shot in the arm if a chance presents itself. And that could happen if the market pushes Matt Harvey toward them.

    The former ace has made strides since going from the New York Mets to the Cincinnati Reds, but he's still not all the way back. Rather than settle in a multiyear deal, it would make more sense for the 29-year-old to go for a one-year pillow contract that could serve as a springboard to greater riches next winter.

    Going to Chicago to work with renowned pitching coach Don Cooper would be a good avenue for Harvey to pursue. And for the White Sox, it would be a golden opportunity to forge a golden trade chip.

Cincinnati Reds: They'll Sign J.A. Happ

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    This idea probably sounds like a long shot. But in these admittedly biased eyes, it's plausible.

    Per Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Cincinnati Reds are planning on raising their payroll in 2019. They've been competitive since firing manager Bryan Price in April, after all, and they already have a strong offense and a bullpen with some legitimate talent.

    But if the Reds are going to get serious about contending, they must upgrade a rotation that's managed only a 5.26 ERA in 2018. To this end, J.A. Happ is a practical fit.

    He shouldn't be too expensive, for one thing. For another, he fits the bill of a reliable veteran as well as any pitcher. He has 12 years of experience, and he's been as steady as they come since August 2015.

    In all, he's just the guy to stabilize Cincinnati's rotation.

Cleveland Indians: They'll Re-Sign Michael Brantley

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    With Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Michael Brantley and quite a few others set to come off their books, the Cleveland Indians are headed for a busy offseason.

    In light of their limited spending power, their best chance at making an impact signing will be to re-sign Brantley.

    Whereas Miller and Allen are sure to pull in the sort of hefty salaries that are now typical for name-brand relievers, Brantley may not get such a warm reception on the open market. He may be a three-time All-Star, but he's also a 31-year-old with a recent history of serious injuries.

    That plus a possible qualifying offer could steer Brantley back where he came from. If so, Cleveland would surely jump at the chance to welcome back one of the best pure hitters in MLB.

Colorado Rockies: They'll Sign Eduardo Escobar

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    The Colorado Rockies are set to lose DJ LeMahieu and Carlos Gonzalez to free agency, and they'd be wise to decline Gerardo Parra's $12 million option for 2019.

    If so, they'll be in the market for a primary second baseman who can also play the outfield. To this end, they can't do any better than Eduardo Escobar.

    The 29-year-old has gone from a competent role player to a star, as he's broken out with an .852 OPS and 59 extra-base hits in 2018. He also has a defensive resume that includes plentiful time on the infield plus experience in left field.

    These things suit the Rockies. Escobar's swing, meanwhile, is a line-drive stroke that would fit perfectly at Coors Field.

Detroit Tigers: They'll Sign Asdrubal Cabrera

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    Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    With their rebuild ongoing, the Detroit Tigers will be on the lookout for low-risk players they can sign for cheap and then cash in during the 2019 trading season.

    Among the places they'll have an opening for one is in the middle of their infield, where only Niko Goodrum is set to return next year. If the stars align, they might be able to line up Asdrubal Cabrera alongside him.

    Cabrera is on track for a career year with an .804 OPS and 20 homers. But he's also 32 years old and a liability on defense to boot.

    He thus doesn't figure to have much of a market as a free agent. That would be Detroit's opening to scoop him up to play second base and then sell him to a contender that needs a middle infield bat next summer.

Houston Astros: They'll Re-Sign Dallas Keuchel

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Dallas Keuchel is one of many guys who once seemed like a lock for a huge free-agent contract but now is speeding toward the open market with underwhelming value.

    Although Keuchel was an All-Star just last year, he's far from the ace he was when he won the American League Cy Young Award in 2015. He's working on a good-not-great 3.61 ERA in 2018. He's also on the wrong side of 30, with a checkered injury history to boot.

    These things could result in a limited market outside of the Houston Astros. Regardless, the Astros may value him higher than any other team anyway. Bumps in the road aside, he's been a rock in their rotation since 2014.

    Besides, they won't necessarily be able to do better on this winter's market. It has plenty of good pitchers but few with Keuchel's ace upside.

Kansas City Royals: They'll Sign Marco Estrada

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Royals are yet another rebuilder that will be scrounging for trade chips this winter. And the best place they can put them is in their rotation.

    Marco Estrada would be a good start.

    The 35-year-old righty had a good run between 2012-16, putting up a 3.66 ERA over 152 appearances (including 119 starts) for the Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays. He's fallen flat with a 4.87 ERA over the last two seasons, in part thanks to one of the majors' highest home run rates.

    A move to Kansas City should help get that problem under wraps, as Kauffman Stadium is typically one of the least power-friendly stadiums in MLB. In turn, the Royals could be rewarded with a strong rental to flip.

Los Angeles Angels: They'll Sign Patrick Corbin

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Angels are running out of time to win a World Series with Mike Trout, so they need to be even more aggressive this winter.

    Their top priority must be to find an impact starter to replace Garrett Richards and who could generally stabilize their rotation ahead of (if healthy) Shohei Ohtani, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs and Jaime Barria. They could settle for less in this pursuit, but here's guessing they'll go for the kill with Patrick Corbin.

    He's slated to be the top starter on the market, as he'll be 29 and coming off an All-Star season that's currently highlighted by a 3.31 ERA and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings. It would also be a sort of homecoming for him. He began his pro career in the Angels organization.

    The team will need to stretch its finances to sign Corbin. The potential prize, however, would be nothing less than a couple of AL West titles.

Los Angeles Dodgers: They'll Work Out a New Contract with Clayton Kershaw

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    The Dodgers aren't slated to have a ton of money come off their books this winter, but that will change if Clayton Kershaw opts out of the two years and $70 million remaining on his deal.

    Whether he will has gone from a no-brainer to a good question. He remains one of the best pitchers in MLB. But courtesy of injuries and occasional struggles, he's no longer the best pitcher in the league. 

    However, whether the 30-year-old lefty opts out is probably academic. Regardless of whether it's as a free agent or with an extension, it's all but certain that he'll sign a new contract with the Dodgers.

    It'll probably involve a few more years at the same average annual value ($30.7 million) of his current deal. The Dodgers are one of few teams that can afford that. And barring any unforeseen developments, the luxury tax won't stand in their way of getting it done.

Miami Marlins: They'll Sign Joe Kelly

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The Miami Marlins don't have any pending free agents, so this winter won't be about filling holes. On account of them being the Marlins, nor will it be about spending heaps of money.

    Instead, Miami is probably going to keep its focus on potential trade chips. The best place it can put them is on a pitching staff that's struggled with a 4.80 ERA. And the more upside, the better.

    Joe Kelly is an intriguing possibility. The righty has proved that he can work in the high 90s as a reliever, but that's not helping him sustain a low contact rate. At this point, nobody in Boston seems to have any more ideas for how his results might finally align with his stuff.

    A move back to the National League might do it. If so, the Marlins might be able to flip him for a nice package around the 2019 deadline.

Milwaukee Brewers: They'll Sign Wilson Ramos

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    Adam Hunger/Getty Images

    With few pending free agents on their books, the 2019 Milwaukee Brewers should look a lot like the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers. That's not a bad thing, given that the 2018 Brewers have the National League's second-best record.

    These Brewers are missing one thing, however: offense behind the dish. Their catchers have combined for a .619 OPS, fourth-worst in MLB.

    Put two and two together, and it's a good bet that Milwaukee will be in the market for Wilson Ramos.

    Despite some injury trouble, he rode his bat to All-Star appearances in 2016 (.850 OPS) and again this season (.834 OPS). Other teams will surely covet this bat as well, but Ramos could be the Brewers' for the taking if the Washington Nationals fill their catcher hole with a trade for J.T. Realmuto.

Minnesota Twins: They'll Sign Daniel Murphy

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    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    The Minnesota Twins made a noble attempt to go for it in 2018, only to have pretty much everything blow up in their faces. 

    And yet, not enough hope has been lost for the Twins to launch into a rebuild this winter. They'll probably be looking to add, starting at first base and designated hitter. Ol' standby Joe Mauer will be a free agent. Logan Morrison (vested option) probably will be too.

    Daniel Murphy would be a good pick to fill either slot.

    The 33-year-old was one of the top hitters in 2016 and 2017, but knee surgery has knocked him from that pedestal this campaign. That's bound to turn many teams off from Murphy this winter.

    He has, however, has been heating up as his season has moved along. One enterprising team will see a chance to sign an impact hitter at a reasonable rate. The Twins could be that squad.

New York Mets: They'll Sign Tyler Flowers

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    The New York Mets arguably should be rebuilding right now, but they've effectively decided that they want to keep going for it beyond 2018.

    If so, well, the least they can do this winter is add a competent catcher. These being the Mets, it's a good guess that they'll forgo the best options (Ramos and Grandal) for the next-best thing: Tyler Flowers.

    In fairness, Flowers is no slouch. He's put up a solid .785 OPS over his last three seasons with the Braves, and he's mixed in some solid defense as well. Per Baseball Prospectus' comprehensive metrics, he's the seventh-best defensive catcher in 2018.

    Since he'll be below Ramos and Grandal on the pecking order, the Mets should be able to sign Flowers, 32, at a rate that suits them.

New York Yankees: They'll Sign Bryce Harper

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Yes, Bryce Harper will be a Yankee after all.

    The Yankees' megatrade for Giancarlo Stanton, the 2017 National League MVP, last offseason made them a less obvious landing spot for the 2015 NL MVP. However, they will have an open spot in their outfield if they decline Brett Gardner's 2019 option.

    Harper, 25, has had such an inconsistent walk year that he's no longer guaranteed to secure a $400 million or even a $300 million contract. In light of his youth, it's possible that he and agent Scott Boras will aim for a relatively short deal in which he could build his value for another run at free agency in the near future.

    There's no better place for Harper to accumulate value than Yankee Stadium, where he could take regular aim at the short right field porch. Because they're finally set to be under the luxury tax, the Yankees could be more than happy to lure him with a high average annual value. 

    Besides, it looks like they're going to need to get some revenge on the Red Sox. Adding Harper to a powerful lineup that's already anchored by Stanton and Aaron Judge would help them out in that regard.

Oakland Athletics: They'll Sign James Shields

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Oakland Athletics have the look of a rising power in the AL West, but complications will abound this winter. They're set to have many holes to fill and, as per usual, not a lot of money with which to fill them.

    The least they must do is get a veteran starter for their rotation. Ideally, somebody who's at least good for innings and who could also impart some wisdom on their young hurlers.

    James Shields, for example.

    It's been rough sledding for the 36-year-old since 2016, so it's beyond unlikely that the White Sox will pick up his $16 million option for 2019.

    However, Shields has reclaimed some value amid a 4.50 ERA in 150 innings this year. He might reclaim even more value in Oakland, where his long-standing home run problem might finally meet its match. The Coliseum has killed many a dinger in 2018.

Philadelphia Phillies: They'll Sign Manny Machado

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Manny Machado to the Philadelphia Phillies would be surprising if it wasn't so blatantly obvious.

    Machado, 26, is a shortstop now, and few teams have struggled to get production out of that position like the Phillies this season. They wanted Machado to be the answer to that problem, as Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reported that the team was deep in trade talks before the Dodgers won the sweepstakes. 

    With Corey Seager due back in 2019, it's hardly guaranteed that the Dodgers will want Machado back after 2018. Beyond the greater need, the Phillies also have more than enough funds to afford Machado's price tag, which is sure to eclipse at least $300 million. They only have $68.9 million on their books for 2019, well below what they can spend.

    Besides the money, Machado may be drawn to the opportunity to play at Citizens Bank Park. It's the best possible park for a right-handed slugger to call home.

Pittsburgh Pirates: They'll Sign Jed Lowrie

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    With Jordy Mercer, Sean Rodriguez, Adeiny Hechavarria and possibly David Freese (club option) due for free agency this winter, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have holes to fill on their infield.

    They could fill the one at shortstop by promoting Kevin Newman or Kevin Kramer from Triple-A. But they'd still be wise to add a veteran hitter, and Jed Lowrie is one guy who'll be right up their alley.

    The 34-year-old has found new life with an .807 OPS for the A's over the last two years. He's done so while playing second base and third base, and his record also includes a bit of first base.

    The Pirates could use Lowrie's bat on the infield, and his versatile glove would allow him to share time with Josh Harrison, Colin Moran and Josh Bell. Given his age, he shouldn't be too expensive for Pittsburgh's budget.

San Diego Padres: They'll Sign Andrew McCutchen

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    When the San Diego Padres signed Eric Hosmer in February, it seemed like a play for credibility as much as anything. They may have had the same idea in mind when they pursued Chris Archer ahead of July 31.

    After all, the Padres already have a deep cache of young talent who will eventually form the backbone of a contender. It makes sense to give off signals that San Diego is also a good place for veterans.

    If the team keeps it up this winter, Andrew McCutchen would be a heck of a signal boost.

    The 2013 NL MVP isn't a superstar anymore, but he's still a good hitter and a better right fielder than he was a center fielder. That also happens to be a spot where the Padres have room for a veteran.

    Since McCutchen doesn't figure to be in high demand, a modest two- or three-year offer could be enough to bring him to San Diego.

San Francisco Giants: They'll Sign A.J. Pollock

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    The big question is whether the San Francisco Giants will be under the luxury tax by the end of 2018. Per Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today, their trade of Austin Jackson and Cory Gearrin in July may have secured a yes.

    Above all, this must be their excuse to stop neglecting their weakness in center field by signing A.J. Pollock.

    The 30-year-old has had issues staying healthy over the last three years. But when he's healthy, he's good. He plays a solid center field, and he offers power, speed and consistency on offense.

    The Giants need all of these things at the position, and anything less than Pollock wouldn't push their championship window open any wider. As it is, it's closing fast.

Seattle Mariners: They'll Re-Sign Nelson Cruz

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    Masterpress/Getty Images

    At the time, the four-year, $57 million contract that the Seattle Mariners gave Nelson Cruz in December 2014 seemed like a tad much for a dangerous yet aging slugger.

    Instead, Cruz and the Mariners have had about as fruitful a partnership as anyone could have imagined. He's put up a .923 OPS and cranked 155 home runs. The latter is the most of anyone since 2015.

    Where will the two sides go from here? Maybe right back to each other. As MLB.com's Greg Johns wrote in January: "Cruz seems to really like his situation in Seattle, and the Mariners certainly like having him as their designated hitter."

    Seattle could be out of luck if another team lures the 38-year-old with an outrageous offer. But on account of his age, such an offer may not be forthcoming, and the Mariners will have their opening.

St. Louis Cardinals: They'll Sign Andrew Miller

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    It's been a rough year for the St. Louis Cardinals, but they have plenty of pieces in place and some money coming off their books.

    The best place they can reinvest the latter is in their bullpen, which has struggled with a 4.37 ERA. Above all, it sorely needs a shutdown relief ace to pair with budding velocity behemoth Jordan Hicks.

    Andrew Miller could be their guy.

    The 33-year-old lefty has lost some shine amid an injury-marred (hamstring and knee) season, which could put him behind Britton and Craig Kimbrel on many teams' wish lists. Nonetheless, it won't be entirely forgotten that he dominated with a 1.72 ERA and 14.5 K/9 from 2014 to 2017.

    The Cardinals are just the team to take a chance on Miller and hope the National League returns him to his previous performance, if not beyond.

Tampa Bay Rays: They'll Sign Garrett Richards

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Rays rolled the dice when they signed Nathan Eovaldi to a two-year deal in February 2017. It was a bet for 2018, as he missed all of 2017 recovering from two elbow surgeries, including Tommy John.

    It paid off. Eovaldi made a strong return in 2018, and the Rays flipped him to Boston for well-regarded lefty Jalen Beeks.

    If the Rays want to go right back to the well, they'll pull the same stunt with Garrett Richards. The 30-year-old righty won't pitch again until 2020 because of Tommy John. Once he returns, his own high-octane stuff could attract the same sort of trade interest Eovaldi received this summer.

    Or, the Rays could just keep him. After all, they're a budding contender that could be making real moves by 2020.

Texas Rangers: They'll Sign Drew Pomeranz

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    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    It's hard to tell what the Texas Rangers' plan is these days, but part of it is collecting pitchers who used to be good. Namely: Doug Fister, Mike Minor, Bartolo Colon, Yovani Gallardo and Matt Moore.

    If they stick to this part of their plan, Drew Pomeranz may be next.

    The 29-year-old lefty was an All-Star in 2016, and he posted a respectable 3.32 ERA in 2017. But in 2018, Pomeranz has been limited to 10 starts by forearm and biceps injuries. His velocity has tanked, and his production has gone with it.

    Those things will put Pomeranz in line for a one-year pillow contract this offseason. The Rangers should only have such contracts in mind this offseason, and Pomeranz fits the bill of a guy they'd give one to.

Toronto Blue Jays: They'll Re-Sign Josh Donaldson

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Josh Donaldson was ticketed for a mighty free-agent contract once upon a time. Certainly, one of MLB's top players from 2013 to 2017 deserved nothing less.

    Alas, Donaldson's value has crumbled.

    Though the 2015 AL MVP remained productive in 2017, a calf strain sidelined him for all but 113 games. Further calf trouble has limited him to only 36 games in 2018, none since May 28. And this time, his production hasn't kept up. He has just a .757 OPS.

    Throw in that Donaldson will turn 33 in December, and it sure seems likely he'll have to try to rebuild his value on a one-year contract.

    For their part, the Toronto Blue Jays may be equally amenable to such a deal. It could be just what they need to prop open their championship window while also passing the baton to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Washington Nationals: They'll Sign Craig Kimbrel

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    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    Harper and Murphy aren't the only free agents the Nationals stand to lose this offseason. In fact, it's a long list.

    On one bright side, they have Victor Robles standing by to replace Harper. On another, they'll have a lot of free cash with which to fill holes and pursue upgrades. Their offseason should be chock-full o' moves.

    The biggest will be signing Kimbrel.

    The seven-time All-Star and all-time K/9 king will be the top relief pitcher on the market. He's bound to top Aroldis Chapman's $86 million contract. Heck, he might become the first $100 million closer.

    The Nationals may be the only team that can afford Kimbrel and has a need for him. Bringing him aboard would be the best way for them to stabilize a bullpen that's lacked stability in recent years.


    Stats accurate through play Monday and courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN. Payroll and contract data is courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.