2019 MLB Free Agents: Rumors, Predictions for Gerrit Cole, Shogo Akiyama, More

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2019

FUKUOKA, JAPAN - MARCH 01:  Outfielder Shogo Akiyama #55 of Japan celebrates with team mates after scoring a run after a grounder by Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh #25 in the top of the fifth inning during the SAMURAI JAPAN Send-off Friendly Match between CPBL Selected Team and Japan at the Yafuoku Dome on March 1, 2017 in Fukuoka, Japan.  (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Matt Roberts/Getty Images

With the World Series set to begin Tuesday night, we are a matter of days away from the start of another busy MLB offseason.

This year's free-agent market is headlined by Houston Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon, who will both be taking the field in the Fall Classic.

However, sometimes an under-the-radar offseason signing can prove equally impactful.

Look no further than the World Series rosters, where Nationals likely Game 4 starter Anibal Sanchez and Astros left fielder and No. 3 hitter Michael Brantley were both viewed more as second-tier options in free agency last offseason.

Ahead, we've highlighted three players at varying levels on the free-agent market and made some predictions on where they will eventually sign.


Blake Treinen "Likely" to Be Non-Tendered

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - AUGUST 28: Relief pitcher Blake Treinen #39 of the Oakland Athletics throws in the eighth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 28, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, 2018 All-Star Blake Treinen is likely to be non-tendered by the Oakland Athletics this offseason.

While this past season was a trying one for Treinen, he's not far removed from being arguably the most dominant closer in baseball.

In 2018, he turned in one of the best seasons in MLB history by a relief pitcher, converting 38 of 43 save chances with a 0.78 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 11.2 K/9 to finish sixth in AL Cy Young voting.

The 31-year-old failed to find that same level of success in 2019, and with an ERA north of 4.00, he was removed from the closer's role in favor of Liam Hendriks at the beginning of July. He finished the season with a 4.91 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 57 appearances.

Despite that middling performance, he's still projected to earn a hefty $7.8 million in his final year of arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors. His salary spiked from $2.15 million to $6.4 million last offseason on the heels of his breakout performance.

For the cost-conscious Athletics, a non-tender makes perfect sense. That said, he'll represent an intriguing buy-low option in free agency, and he should have no trouble finding his next contract.

Prediction: San Francisco Giants sign Treinen to a one-year, $5 million deal


Japanese Outfielder Shogo Akiyama Drawing MLB Interest

FUKUOKA, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 07:  Outfielder Shogo Akiyama #51 of Japan grounds out in the bottom of 3rd inning during the baseball friendly between Japan and Chinese Taipei at Fukuoka Yahuoku! Dome on November 7, 2018 in Fukuoka, Japan.  (Photo by Kiyoshi O
Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

This year's free-agent market is extremely thin on center field options.

Pittsburgh Pirates star Starling Marte figures to be readily available on the trade market, but for teams looking to upgrade the position without mortgaging prospect capital, Japanese League standout Shogo Akiyama might wind up being the best option.

Akiyama, 31, is a career .301/.376/.454 hitter over nine professional seasons. He hit .303/.392/.471 with 31 doubles, 20 home runs and 12 steals with the Seibu Lions in 2019.

According to a Yahoo Japan report (h/t MLB Trade Rumors), the Lions intend on trying to keep him with a long-term offer, and the Rakuten Golden Eagles are also interested in signing him.

However, he has been granted free agency and can explore MLB opportunities without being posted, which will no doubt add to his stateside appeal. To that point, the Yahoo report listed the Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs as teams that have shown initial interest.

Prediction: Akiyama signs an extension with the Seibu Lions


Is Gerrit Cole headed to California?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 15:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros in action against the New York Yankees during game three of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium at Yankee Stadium on October 15, 2019 in New York City. Houston A
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Gerrit Cole is about to get paid.

The 29-year-old had a brilliant regular season, going 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 326 strikeouts in 212.1 innings.

He's been even more impressive in October, going 3-0 with a 0.40 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 22.2 innings over three starts, and he'll take the ball again in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night.

So who will land one of the best starting pitchers to ever hit the open market?

According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the state of California might have a leg up on the competition:

"Some Astros teammates believe that Cole will sign with a team in California, and there is an industry expectation that Cole will land with the Angels, who play in a stadium less than 10 miles from where he played in high school."

That puts the New York Yankees, who are expected to be hot on his trail, in a familiar position, as Olney went on to explain:

"The Yankees might face the same challenge with Cole that they did with CC Sabathia in the fall of 2008, when Sabathia was a free agent. Like Cole, Sabathia is a California native who, at that time, had a strong desire to sign with a team in his home state, most notably the Dodgers. But the Dodgers didn't really engage, and when the Angels offered Sabathia $100 million, the Yankees were told that they would have to crush the field with their offer to Sabathia, who didn't want to play in or live in New York.

The Yankees did that, outbidding the Angels by more than 60 percent, signing the lefty to a seven-year, $161 million deal."

The largest contract ever given to a pitcher in free agency was the seven-year, $217 million deal that David Price signed with the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2016 season. Don't be surprised if Cole shatters that this winter.

Prediction: Los Angeles Angels sign Cole to a seven-year, $245 million deal


All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.