Landing-Spot Odds for Each Top MLB Star Remaining in 2018-19 Free Agency

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2019

Landing-Spot Odds for Each Top MLB Star Remaining in 2018-19 Free Agency

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    With spring training around the corner, a gaggle of free agents remain on the board. Such is the new reality in MLB's slowly developing market paradigm.

    Among the many players who await contracts are five genuine stars—defined as guys with All-Star appearances and major awards in their trophy cases.

    Let's take a look at each player and set the odds for his possible landing spots. Odds are generated by Bleacher Report and based on a combination of credible rumors and informed speculation.

OF A.J. Pollock

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    We might be stretching the definition of "star" in this case, but A.J. Pollock was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner who picked up stray MVP votes as recently as 2015.

    Injuries have limited him since, but he swatted a career-high 21 home runs and stole 13 bases last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks while posting six defensive runs saved in center field. 

    Even entering his age-31 season, he should warrant a lucrative multi-year deal.

    As for the odds...


    Atlanta Braves: 3-1

    The Braves are going all-in on their quest to defend their National League East title after they signed Josh Donaldson to a one-year, $23 million deal. They could also use an outfielder.

    According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Pollock "is of interest to the Braves, and the team likely would jump on him at a dollar figure it deemed acceptable." Pollock would come with draft-pick compensation after he rejected the qualifying offer, which could impact Atlanta's approach, Rosenthal noted.


    Chicago White Sox: 3-1

    The White Sox have been connected to outfielder Bryce Harper in a number of rumors and need to add outfield depth regardless. 

    If Harper rejects their overtures, Pollock would represent a solid Plan B and add a veteran presence on a young roster.


    San Francisco Giants: 9-1

    It's unclear whether the Giants are rebuilding or retooling under new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. What is clear is that they need to bolster a woefully thin outfield depth chart that's populated by a mix of unproven youngsters.

    If San Francisco goes for it to some extent in 2019, Pollock would be a stabilizing force as a proven commodity, even with the injury concerns.


    The field: 3-2

    Plenty of other clubs, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, could enter the mix. Pollock's market won't be set until Harper signs somewhere, though.

RHP Craig Kimbrel

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    Craig Kimbrel posted a 2.74 ERA with 42 saves and averaged 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings for the world champion Boston Red Sox last season. He's also a seven-time All-Star and five-time top-10 Cy Young Award finisher.

    Yes, he'll turn 31 in May. But closers don't come much more decorated than that.

    As for the odds...


    Philadelphia Phillies: 3-1

    The Phillies need to improve a bullpen that finished 18th in baseball with a 4.19 ERA. Hence the rumor that they "have visions" of signing Kimbrel as well as Harper and left-hander Dallas Keuchel, per USA Today's Bob Nightengale

    We'll get to Harper and Keuchel shortly. But for a Phillies team with cash to spend and a clear need at the back end of the 'pen, Kimbrel makes a lot of sense.


    Boston Red Sox: 3-1

    The Red Sox don't have a clear-cut closer. The guy who worked out quite nicely for them the last three seasons remains unsigned. It seems like a match.

    As Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe told MLB Network's High Heat, the Sox are "kind of waiting out [Kimbrel]. If he doesn't get any great offers from anybody, then I think he's going to be back."


    The field: 1-1

    Kimbrel could draw interest from a number of other teams, including the Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. It'll come down to who's willing to pay the most for a reliever entering his 30s in today's cost-conscious MLB climate.

LHP Dallas Keuchel

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    Dallas Keuchel became the best starting pitcher left on the free-agent market after the Washington Nationals snatched up fellow lefty Patrick Corbin in December.

    The two-time All-Star and 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner tossed 204.2 innings with a 3.74 ERA in 2018 and put his neck issues in the rearview. He turned 31 on Jan. 1, which is surely spooking some suitors regarding a long-term pact, but he's still a top-of-the-rotation arm.

    As for the odds...


    Cincinnati Reds: 3-1

    The Reds have already added Alex Wood and Tanner Roark to a suspect starting rotation. But they could use more arms, and the trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that brought over outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp along with Wood shows they're going for it in 2019.

    Plus, Keuchel could be an excellent fit at the homer-happy Great American Ball Park with his 58.8 percent career ground-ball percentage.


    Philadelphia Phillies: 3-1

    We already noted Nightengale's rumor regarding the Phils' possible pursuit of Keuchel. It'll likely depend on whether they land Manny Machado, Kimbrel and/or Harper. They've got money to burn but not an infinite supply.

    Still, Keuchel would add a playoff-tested dose of experience to a young Philadelphia rotation as the club looks to fully shed the rebuilding label.


    Houston Astros: 3-1

    Don't discount a reunion with the Astros, the only MLB franchise Keuchel has ever known. The 'Stros need starting pitching behind the 1-2 punch of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole and have yet to make a significant rotation upgrade.

    According to Brian McTaggart of, "if the market for Keuchel isn't what he thought in a month, [he might] decide to come back to Houston."


    The field: 3-1

    Many other teams could use starting pitching but may be turned off by Keuchel's age and not-so-long-ago injury issues on any long-term deal. Ultimately, despite his notable past success, his market may be less robust than he and his agent would have hoped.

OF Bryce Harper

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    Bryce Harper is 26 years old. He's made six All-Star teams and won an NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012 and an MVP Award in 2015.

    Say what you will about his past injuries and occasional underperformance; he's a generational talent in his prime. Players like this don't hit the market every offseason.

    As for the odds...


    Chicago White Sox: 3-1

    The White Sox have ample payroll flexibility and the chance to make noise in the weak, winnable AL Central. As USA Today's Nightengale said on 94WIP radio, "You got the Phillies and the White Sox, and that might be it."

    The ChiSox play in a major market, but they are still Chicago's other team, which could turn off Harper, who is never shy of the limelight.


    Philadelphia Phillies: 3-1

    The Phillies, like the White Sox, are not a glitzy franchise. According to Fancred's Jon Heyman, Harper doesn't particularly love Philadelphia. 

    But he and his agent, Scott Boras, do love money. If the Phils toss enough of it his way, he'll be eating cheesesteaks for a long while.


    Washington Nationals: 17-3

    The Nationals already spent big on Corbin and have rising-star outfielders Juan Soto and Victor Robles waiting in the wings.

    Still, if Harper's market languishes, a return to D.C. is possible.


    Los Angeles Dodgers: 17-3

    The Dodgers have not thrown their financial weight around this winter after they extended ace Clayton Kershaw for three years and $93 million in November. That said, they cleared space in the outfield by trading Puig and Kemp to Cincinnati.

    Harper and Tinseltown feel like a natural match. Whether it's consummated is another matter.


    The field: 4-1

    Harper is simply too good for teams not to maintain contact. Dark-horse suitors—if his price drops enough—including the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants are lurking.

INF Manny Machado

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    Jae Hong/Associated Press

    A four-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner and three-time top-10 MVP finisher entering his age-26 season? Yes, please.

    That's the rundown on Machado, and you can set aside whatever hiccups he had in the 2018 postseason with the Dodgers. Like Harper, he's a great player in his prime.

    As for the odds...


    Chicago White Sox: 3-2

    The White Sox have featured in an array of Machado rumblings and have offered him $175 million over seven years, according to both ESPN's Buster Olney and USA Today's Nightengale

    Macho's agent hit back at those reports and called them "completely wrong" in a statement, via Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown.

    This could all be negotiating tactics, but the key takeaway is that the White Sox's interest in Machado is active and real.


    Philadelphia Phillies: 3-2

    The Phillies, too, have featured in countless Machado rumors. Recently, we speculated on the possibility the Phils could sign Machado this offseason and Mike Trout next winter to form a super twosome. 

    As we've previously noted, the Phillies pop up regarding the most high-priced stars. It seems Philadelphia has a lot of expensive irons in the fire, and it'll come down to who says yes first.


    New York Yankees: 9-1

    This one's a long shot after the Yankees signed veteran infielders Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu. When Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery, their infield will be crowded.

    Still, they're the Yankees, and they've been connected to Machado all winter. You can't count out a surprise splurge for a player of his caliber.


    The field: 9-1

    If the Phillies and White Sox are unwilling to meet his demands, and the Yanks don't decide to go into old-school, sign-everyone mode, it's possible a mystery club could intercede. The New York Mets have been going kinda nuts this offseason, to name one possibility.

    As with Harper and other names on this list, any general manager or front office executive would be incompetent if he didn't at least monitor the market.


    All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.