Odds for Each Suitor on Top Free Agents Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and More

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterJanuary 7, 2019

Odds for Each Suitor on Top Free Agents Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and More

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    It doesn't figure to be a quiet January on the Major League Baseball front.

    Though many of the top free agents on the offseason market have already found work, among those still looking are Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. We've taken a fresh look at the signing odds for the top suitors for both of them, plus seven more top free agents.

    These odds are based on what's on the rumor mill, as well as anything else that might be relevant—e.g., the fit between player and team and the financial strength of the latter.

    Let's get to it.

Marwin Gonzalez, INF/OF

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The Field

    As a quality switch-hitter (.766 OPS since 2014) who can play nearly every position, Marwin Gonzalez fits with just about every team in MLB. And according to Jon Heyman of Fancred, just about every team in MLB has expressed interest.

    So, make no mistake: A player like this could very well be snatched up by a "mystery" team.

    Odds: 3/1

              

    San Diego Padres

    Dennis Lin of The Athletic reported in December that the San Diego Padres have interest in Gonzalez, possibly as a short-term fix for shortstop until top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. is ready. 

    However, San Diego's signing of Ian Kinsler subsequently eliminated a primary fallback position for Gonzalez. Even if the Padres make a competitive offer—which should be doable—Gonzalez may prefer a clearer role and a more immediate chance to contend.

    Odds: 9/1

           

    New York Mets

    According to Heyman, the New York Mets have considered Gonzalez as a safety blanket for volatile situations at third base and first base. 

    One possible complication is how little payroll flexibility the Mets have left. Rather than blow the rest of it on a player they don't necessarily need, they might save it for lesser depth pieces and/or in-season trades.

    Odds: 7/1

            

    Los Angeles Angels

    The Los Angeles Angels are another featured player for Gonzalez from Heyman's report. They could plug him into everyday duty at second base, with side jobs at third base, first base and right field.

    Like with the Mets, the catch is that the Angels are short on financial flexibility. The difference is they may be willing to extend themselves to make the most of Mike Trout's final two years under contract.

    Odds: 6/1

            

    New York Yankees

    Heyman's report also mentioned the New York Yankees as a possibility for Gonzalez, particularly if they miss out on Manny Machado. Gonzalez would certainly be cheaper, and there would be regular action available to him all around the diamond.

    But as we'll discuss later, the Yankees appear to be the team to beat on Machado. They won't need Gonzalez if that pursuit comes to fruition.

    Odds: 5/1

          

    Washington Nationals

    According to MLB.com's Jamal Collier, Gonzalez is one of several players the Washington Nationals have considered for a second base spot that finished last in wins above replacement in 2018, per Baseball Reference. Needless to say, Gonzalez would be quite the fix.

    What's more, the Nats could sign Gonzalez for, say, $10 million per year and still get under the $206 million luxury tax threshold for 2019. Perhaps the only question is whether they'd prefer to commit the remainder of their financial might to a reunion with Bryce Harper.

    Odds: 4/1

Jed Lowrie, 2B

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    The Field

    Jed Lowrie is fresh off earning his first All-Star selection in 2018, and he owns a solid .804 OPS since 2017. But while teams like the Angels and Boston Red Sox are speculative fits for Lowrie, his specific market appears to be limited because of his age (34) and the overall market's density of second basemen.

    Odds: 3/1

            

    Chicago Cubs

    MLB Network analyst Jim Duquette speculated on the Chicago Cubs as a potential fit for Lowrie in December. He would reunite with former Red Sox executives Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, and his bat would help revive an offense that lost its way in 2018.

    However, the Cubs are already deep into luxury tax territory. If they're going to push any further, it'll probably be for a much-needed reliever or the nuclear option: Bryce Harper.

    Odds: 9/1

           

    Washington Nationals

    Per the aforementioned Collier report, Lowrie is another player the Nationals have considered for their second base opening. If they were to choose him over Marwin Gonzalez, they'd likely be signing up for a smaller overall guarantee and more consistent offense.

    Though that's certainly possible, the Nats may consider Gonzalez's versatility to be worth the extra money. As things stand now, their roster looks a little too inflexible for its own good.

    Odds: 7/3

             

    Milwaukee Brewers

    According to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, the Milwaukee Brewers remain interested in adding infielders even after the signing of Cory Spangenberg. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal linked them to Lowrie in December.

    Money appears to be a little tight in Milwaukee but perhaps not too tight to add Lowrie's solid bat to a team with World Series aspirations. And whereas other teams may prefer to aim for Gonzalez's versatility, the Brewers have plenty of that already thanks to Spangenberg, Travis Shaw and Hernan Perez.

    Odds: 13/7

A.J. Pollock, CF

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    Orlando Ramirez/Associated Press

    The Field

    Though A.J. Pollock is an All-Star and Gold Glover who's put up an .801 OPS with 35 home runs and 33 stolen bases over the last two seasons, his value is complicated by his age (31), injury red flags on the field and ties to draft-pick compensation.

    What also doesn't help is how some of Pollock's most obvious fits—such as the San Francisco Giants and Cleveland Indians, per ESPN.com's Jeff Passan—aren't in buying mode. His list of real suitors is therefore shorter than it should be.

    Odds: 4/1

           

    New York Mets

    In early December, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen revealed to Jim Bowden of The Athletic that his club indeed had interest in Pollock.

    The Mets' need for him was flimsy at the time, however, and it's even more flimsy now after their acquisition of Keon Broxton from the Brewers. Barring a trade, their outfield is likely set.

    Odds: 19/1

                   

    Cincinnati Reds

    The Cincinnati Reds ditched their center fielder when they non-tendered Billy Hamilton, and they've yet to come up with a suitable replacement for him. Per Heyman, they've considered Pollock for the role.

    Thing is, the Reds are already projected to go way past their 2018 expenses in 2019. They're also giving risk a wide berth, as their new additions (Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Tanner Roark) are rentals for 2019. A multiyear deal for Pollock wouldn't seem to fit their plans.

    Odds: 7/1

           

    Chicago White Sox

    Passan identified the Chicago White Sox as the "best fit" for Pollock, and it's an idea we're quite fond of. The White Sox do need an outfielder, and they have oodles of money to spend.

    There's not much (if anything) to indicate the White Sox are actually interested in Pollock, however. That may change if they fall short in their pursuits of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Until then, they're merely an intriguing speculative fit for Pollock.

    Odds: 6/1

             

    Philadelphia Phillies

    The Phillies are another of Passan's speculative fits for Pollock. They certainly have money to spend, and Pollock could offer an easy upgrade over the 0.2 WAR the Phillies got out of Odubel Herrera in 2018.

    But if Pollock is on Philly's radar at all, it's presumably as a Plan C after Machado and Harper. Even if the Phillies do miss out on them, it's possible they'll simply choose to give Herrera a shot at redemption.

    Odds: 4/1

           

    Atlanta Braves

    The Atlanta Braves might consider Pollock, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman, but only if he's amenable to a contract of less than three years. That doesn't seem terribly likely.

    What may be likelier is the Braves meeting Pollock halfway. The Braves do have money in their pocket, and signing Pollock would only cost them their third-highest pick in the 2019 draft. These things could convince them to snag Pollock for the Nick Markakis-sized hole in their outfield.

    Odds: 3/1

Yasmani Grandal, C

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Field

    Yasmani Grandal rejected a $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Per Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times, he may have also rejected a four-year, $60 million offer from the Mets.

    Right now, it seems like Grandal may have overplayed his hand in both respects. But on account of being a good-hitting catcher (.782 career OPS) with an excellent framing talent, the 30-year-old isn't altogether doomed. He fits with mystery teams aplenty if one of his specific suitors doesn't take the plunge.

    Odds: 3/1

           

    Cincinnati Reds

    The Reds have inquired about Grandal, according to Heyman. They don't really need him alongside Tucker Barnhart, however, so it's doubtful they'll expand their already-bloated payroll and abandon their emphasis on short-term risk to squeeze him in.

    Odds: 19/1

           

    Colorado Rockies

    Former Colorado Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd highlighted his old club as one that could use Grandal in a recent MLB Network discussion. This is undeniably true, as Rockies catchers produced negative WAR in 2018. But considering how the team's payroll already appears to be maxed out, it makes sense that there isn't a stronger connection between the Rockies and Grandal.

    Odds: 12/1

          

    Houston Astros

    O'Dowd also pointed to the Houston Astros as a possible landing spot for Grandal. If the team's interest (per MLB.com's Jon Morosi) in J.T. Realmuto is any indication, it is open to adding a catcher. But with apparently limited spending flexibility to work with, a catcher is likely a distant second to a starting pitcher on Houston's list of needs.

    Odds: 8/1

           

    Philadelphia Phillies

    The Phillies have been speculated as a fit for Grandal by both O'Dowd and MLB.com colleague Mark Feinsand. Like A.J. Pollock, he's a possible fallback in the event the team misses out on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Pollock may be more likely, however, as the Phillies may hesitate to sideline Jorge Alfaro. His youth and defensive prowess are worth believing in.

    Odds: 6/1

         

    Chicago White Sox

    Per ESPN's Buster Olney, the White Sox have considered Grandal. They may not take the idea seriously unless they miss out on Machado and Harper. If they do, it's easy to imagine them preferring Grandal to Pollock because of what the former could do for a pitching staff that leans young.

    Odds: 5/1

          

    Los Angeles Dodgers

    Could Grandal simply return to the Dodgers? Only if he's willing to accept a one-year contract, according to Morosi. That's a plausible outcome at this point. Even if Grandal has multiyear offers elsewhere, he might deem it best to return to a safe harbor for 2019 and try free agency again next year, this time free of qualifying-offer constraints.

    Odds: 4/1

Adam Ottavino, RHP

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Field

    Now that Zach Britton is off the board, Adam Ottavino is slated to be the next big-name reliever to sign. His age (33) is a slight concern. But with a 2.43 ERA and a rate of 13 strikeouts per nine innings in his immediate wake, he has a shot at matching Britton's $13 million average annual value.

    In this case, "The Field" may not stand much of a chance in the face of a few specific relief-needy clubs.

    Odds: 9/1

            

    Colorado Rockies

    The Rockies are interested in reuniting with Ottavino, per Morosi. According to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, however, it's been a while since the two sides talked. Alas, Colorado's payroll is bloated precisely because of the club's excess of high-salaried relievers.

    Odds: 10/1

         

    Texas Rangers

    To hear it from Heyman, the Texas Rangers are a legitimate dark horse for Ottavino. Maybe not so much, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Though the Rangers do have money to spend, it indeed doesn't make a ton of sense for a rebuilder to invest big in a closer.

    Odds: 9/1

         

    Chicago White Sox

    Morosi's report also mentioned the White Sox as a suitor for Ottavino. Though they would seem to be in the same boat as the Rangers, they do have a lighter payroll and a seemingly more aggressive timeline. They could go for Ottavino regardless of whether they hit on Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock or Yasmani Grandal.

    Odds: 8/1

            

    Boston Red Sox

    The Red Sox are another team featured in Morosi's report. As we've covered, signing Ottavino would be a cheaper and arguably just as good alternative to re-signing Craig Kimbrel. But as we'll cover on the next slide, Kimbrel appears to be falling into Boston's lap anyway.

    Odds: 6/1

            

    Los Angeles Angels

    According to Dan Connolly of The Athletic, the Angels were the "primary finalist" for Britton before he signed with the Yankees. That hints at how serious they are about addressing their closer-less bullpen. Unless they feel like inflating their already-bloated payroll for Kimbrel, Ottavino is the most logical Plan B.

    Odds: 4/1

              

    New York Yankees

    Even after signing Britton, Andy Martino of SNY.tv reported that the Yankees are "more engaged on Adam Ottavino than Manny Machado." That may not mean Ottavino is New York's preferred target, but it would certainly be within the team's character to sign him for the sake of completing a super-duper bullpen. And regardless of whether Machado ultimately comes aboard, the Yankees can afford such a thing.

    Odds: 3/1

Craig Kimbrel, RHP

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Field

    Craig Kimbrel is the owner of a 1.91 career ERA and 14.7 career K/9 rate, and he wants to be paid accordingly. In all likelihood, however, the 30-year-old will have to settle for far less. His market isn't conducive to mystery teams, and even specific suitors are hard to pinpoint.

    Odds: 9/1

             

    Los Angeles Angels

    As previously mentioned, the Angels' apparent interest in adding a closer means they can't be counted out on Kimbrel. Yet, it's hard to count them in on Kimbrel. He'd cost a good deal more than Adam Ottavino. Given the Angels' payroll situation, the relatively low-cost, potentially higher-reward option is advised.

    Odds: 9/1

           

    Philadelphia Phillies

    The Phillies had Kimbrel on their radar back in November, according to Morosi. Bullpen depth never seemed to be their top priority, however, and it's even less of a need now in the aftermath of their two-year deal with David Robertson. They may only turn to Kimbrel if they desire a super-pen as consolation for missing out on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.

    Odds: 6/1

             

    Atlanta Braves

    The Braves have hinted at being interested in a reunion with Kimbrel here and there, but Bowman thinks they'll only act if he lowers his ask to three years. That's a realistic possibility at this point.

    Otherwise, the question is why the reigning National League East champs wouldn't want to return Kimbrel to where it all started for him. A move back to the NL would help slow his decline, and he'd be a boon to a bullpen that had a meltdown problem in 2018. More division titles would be in order for the Braves.

    Odds: 3/1

              

    Boston Red Sox

    According to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, Kimbrel's market is realistically down to the Red Sox, Braves and Phillies. If one thing can keep the Red Sox from ceding the sweepstakes to the other two, it's their luxury tax standing. A deal for Kimbrel would put them over the $246 million threshold for harsh penalties.

    Yet, the Red Sox have deeper pockets than the Braves and a more severe need for a closer than the Phillies. And since ignoring the luxury tax in 2018 worked out OK, they may be emboldened to do so once again in 2019.

    Odds: 3/2

Dallas Keuchel, SP

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The Field

    Dallas Keuchel, 31, isn't the same pitcher now that he was when he won the American League Cy Young Award in 2015. He had a 2.48 ERA in 232 innings that year. He's averaged a 3.77 ERA and 173 innings in three seasons since. Nonetheless, he wants a five-year deal, according to Morosi.

    It may be unlikely that Keuchel's wish is actually granted, but the bright side is he appears to have enough real suitors to avoid hoping to be rescued by a mystery team.

    Odds: 9/1

         

    Milwaukee Brewers

    According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, there's some interest in Keuchel in Milwaukee. Their payroll situation is a hurdle, however. Another is the reality that they have greater needs outside of their starting rotation, which has plenty of depth.

    Odds: 12/1

           

    Texas Rangers

    Cafardo's report also mentions the Rangers as a team with interest in Keuchel. He'd be a huge upgrade for a rotation that struggled with a 5.37 ERA in 2018. But though they do have some payroll room, the question is whether the rebuilding Rangers would sacrifice big money and a draft pick for Keuchel.

    Odds: 11/1

            

    Cincinnati Reds

    Alongside A.J. Pollock, Heyman reported in December that Keuchel is the other big-name free agent who's been on Cincinnati's radar. But as much as the Reds could use him, the same question that applies to Pollock also applies to Keuchel: Is he worth stretching the payroll and bucking the short-term strategy for?

    Odds: 9/1

         

    Philadelphia Phillies

    Cafardo, Morosi and others have connected the Phillies to Keuchel, yet they may have completed their pitching staff with the addition of David Robertson. They're not out of money, however, and Feinsand theorized that the Phillies could take the same approach with Keuchel that they did with Jake Arrieta last winter: See if his price drops and then pounce.

    Odds: 7/1

           

    Houston Astros

    What are the chances of the Astros reuniting with Keuchel? "Slim," according to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. There's nonetheless an obvious need in Houston for an impact starter behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. The longer Keuchel lingers on the market, the more likely the Astros may circle back for him.

    Odds: 6/1

           

    Atlanta Braves

    There were conflicting reports on the Braves' interest in Keuchel in December, with Heyman reporting he topped their wish list and Bowman saying not so fast.

    Lending credence to the former report is that the Braves do indeed need a veteran starter in addition to an outfielder and a closer. It wouldn't be a shocker if they chose to spend the bulk of their remaining cash on Keuchel, whose ground-ball style would play well with the team's infield.

    Odds: 5/1

           

    Los Angeles Angels

    In Cafardo's words, the Angels "may be waiting to make their biggest splash with Keuchel." He would complete a rotation that's already gotten Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill, and keeping him in the American League West would add insult to injury for the Astros.

    As to whether Keuchel would be preferable to an ace closer, the Angels may consider the following calculus: Better to spend big for many good innings than on a few great innings.

    Odds: 4/1

Bryce Harper, RF

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    Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

    The Field

    Bryce Harper is a 26-year-old with six All-Star selections, a Rookie of the Year and an MVP. Numbers-wise, he owns 184 career home runs and a .900 OPS.

    With a player like this, the question is less about who wants him and more about who can afford him. To this end, "The Field" might as well sit this one out.

    Odds: 19/1

           

    Chicago Cubs

    The Cubs don't necessarily need an outfielder, or any hitter of any kind, for that matter. Between that and their payroll situation, they're not a natural fit for Harper.

    Still, it sure seems like Harper wouldn't mind playing with his good buddy Kris Bryant. And according to Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cubs have implored Harper and agent Scott Boras to check in with them before signing an offer from elsewhere. To fit Harper in, they might be willing to cut payroll or just give him the money.

    Odds: 9/1

           

    Los Angeles Dodgers

    At least on paper, the Dodgers appear to be a better fit for Harper than the Cubs. They also seemed to open the door for him when they dealt Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood (and their salaries) to the Reds.

    Yet, it's not a foregone conclusion that Harper will end up in Hollywood. The Dodgers have become averse to long-term contracts under President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. Per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, they may also have designs on ducking the luxury tax for a few years. Moreover, they need a right-handed bopper more than a left-handed bopper.

    Odds: 5/1

           

    Chicago White Sox

    Between their wide-open payroll, their weak outfield and their need for a big draw to put butts in seats and eyes on screens, the White Sox are a better fit for Harper than some might think.

    He may not be their first choice, however. As we'll discuss soon, they seem to prefer Manny Machado. Beyond that, Bruce Levine of 670 The Score undermined a report from Passan by claiming the White Sox won't offer a contract in excess of seven years. Unless that changes, they could have a hard time convincing Harper and Boras.

    Odds: 9/2

          

    Philadelphia Phillies

    Passan's report also mentioned that the Phillies are willing to do a 10-year contract for Harper, and there doesn't appear to be any pushback against that. Such a deal would net him a suitable total guarantee, and it would place him with a team on the rise that plays in an extremely hitter-friendly home ballpark.

    Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the only catch could be that Harper doesn't particularly like Philadelphia. That may be neither here nor there if the Phillies ultimately make the best offer. Otherwise, he could go somewhere he's more comfortable...

    Odds: 4/1

             

    Washington Nationals

    ...Like, for instance, back home to Washington. 

    Just when it seemed the Nationals had moved on from Harper, they reportedly re-entered the picture around Christmas. To boot, Bowden reported that their last offer to Harper was for "much more" than the $300 million figure that was making the rounds earlier in the winter.

    If all this is true, it would seem the Nationals care more about fielding a winning team than their luxury tax standing

    Odds: 7/2

Manny Machado, SS/3B

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Field 

    To be blunt, there is no "The Field" for Manny Machado. As Sherman noted in a recent MLB Network segment, the race for the four-time All-Star who's coming off a .905 OPS and 37 homers has been whittled down to three teams.

    Odds: 0

           

    Chicago White Sox

    The White Sox have generally seemed more focused on Machado than on Bryce Harper. And according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, they've submitted a formal offer to the 26-year-old superstar.

    Per Levine, the White Sox's unwillingness to go beyond seven years for Harper also applies to Machado. That could preclude them from making the best offer, in which case they may have to hope Machado is swayed by the fact that his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, now plays for the South Siders.

    Given that Alonso is only guaranteed to stay in town through 2019, that may be a fool's hope.

    Odds: 3/1

            

    Philadelphia Phillies

    According to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, the Phillies also prefer Machado to Harper. And just like they are with Harper, Passan reported that they're willing to lock Machado up with a 10-year deal.

    For what it's worth, Machado told NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark that his December meeting with the Phillies was "pretty awesome." Beyond the money they can offer him, it's safe to assume that they pointed to Citizens Bank Park's dimensions and the team's future contention chances.

    Like Harper, however, Sherman reported that Machado may not particularly like Philadelphia. Even if the Phillies make the best offer, that could be an opening for another team.

    Odds: 13/7

              

    New York Yankees

    The Yankees raised eyebrows when they signed Troy Tulowitzki, but that didn't take them out of the running for Machado. Per MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, GM Brian Cashman even kept Machado and his camp updated while the Tulo deal was coming together.

    Regardless, Heyman reported that the Yankees won't break ranks from the other Machado pursuers by offering a $300 million contract. Their hope may be to sign him for less than the highest bidder is offering, which Martino notes is a real possibility.

    In what seems like a related story, much has been written (including by Nightengale) about how Machado desires to be a Yankee. It also helps their case that they offer the most direct path to World Series glory.

    Odds: 3/2

               

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference. Payroll projections courtesy of Roster Resource.