MLB’s Top 15 Free Agents: Odds on Landing Spots

Spring Training is still 87 days away, but the groundwork for the 2018 season is being laid right now as general managers across North America size up their rosters and try to wheel and deal their way to a World Series title. The first order of business for many is free agency. While this year’s class pales in comparison to next year’s, it still features plenty of intriguing options. There are power pitchers like Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, power hitters like Mike Moustakas and J.D. Martinez, and wildcards like Japanese sensation Shohei Otani.

We’ve examined this year’s free-agent class closely and have come up with odds on where 15 of the biggest impact players will be playing when baseball returns.

Shohei Otani (SP/OF, Japan)

  • Seattle Mariners: 2/1
  • Los Angeles Dodgers: 7/2
  • Chicago Cubs: 5/1
  • FIELD: 5/2

No player comes with more intrigue and more question marks than Shohei Otani, the 23-year-old righthander capable of throwing 102-mile-per-hour fastballs and hitting tape-measure home runs. By now, we know all about the two-way prowess of “Japan’s Babe Ruth,” but how will his unique skillset translate to the Major Leagues? Will he play both positions, or will he focus on pitching and serve as an occasional pinch hitter and DH? Will his epic home runs in the Japan Pacific League even make it to the warning track at Safeco Field? One thing that is clear is that teams are already lining up for the chance to add Otani to their roster.

Unlike with the rest of the free agents on this list, the MLB’s international player rules preclude the teams with the biggest bankrolls from dangling six-figure contracts in front of Otani, so his decision will hinge on non-monetary factors. It’s still early, but Seattle has the lead in the clubhouse thanks to the club’s long history of handling — and promoting — Japanese ball players.

Yu Darvish (SP, Dodgers)

  • St. Louis Cardinals: 13/7
  • Minnesota Twins: 7/2
  • Atlanta Braves: 9/2
  • FIELD: 3/1

Yu Darvish had better hope that MLB general managers have very short memories. The Japanese ace imploded in the World Series, giving up nine earned runs in 3.1 innings and losing two critical games. As bad as Darvish was (and he was horrendous at times), there’s still hope that he can turn things around. The Tohoku native is just 31 years old and is only four months removed from his fourth All-Star appearance. If Darvish can get back to basics and stop tipping his pitches, he can return to being a dominant frontline starter. The Dodgers will take him back for the right price, but it’s likely the Cards will pluck him up first.

Jake Arrieta (SP, Cubs)

  • Minnesota Twins: 3/2
  • Texas Rangers: 3/2
  • St. Louis Cardinals: 12/1
  • FIELD: 7/1

Get used to seeing the Twins pop up whenever free-agent pitchers are discussed. Minnesota finished ninth in the American League in ERA and 12th in BAA, and are desperately in need of another top-of-the-rotation starter to pair with Ervin Santana. Arrieta is no longer the same lights-out hurler who won the Cy Young in 2015, but he’s still a reliable player capable of winning 15-18 games in the right situation. He’s expressed a desire to stay in Chicago, but Minnesota could make him an offer he can’t refuse. Same goes for his home-state Rangers, who are almost as desperate for starters.

Mike Moustakas (3B, Royals)

  • Los Angeles Angels: 1/2
  • New York Mets: 7/1
  • San Francisco Giants: 15/1
  • FIELD: 6/1
Mike Moustakas will likely have a new address in 2018. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License

Mike Moustakas has made it clear that he’d like to man the hot corner for the Angels. Signing the veteran third baseman would be quite a coup for L.A. as it would allow the club to replace journeyman infielder Luis Valbuena, who hit just .199 in 347 at-bats last season. You have our permission now to start daydreaming about a lineup featuring Moustakas, Mike Trout, and Justin Upton.

Alex Cobb (SP, Rays)

  • Chicago Cubs: 1/1
  • Minnesota Twins: 3/1
  • Toronto Blue Jays: 9/1
  • FIELD: 6/1

If the Cubs lose Arrieta, they’ll likely try to scoop up Alex Cobb. The veteran righthander had a terrific bounce-back season in 2017, going 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA, just two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Cobb’s injury woes are now in the rearview mirror, and he could be just what the Cubs need as they try to return to the postseason for the fourth consecutive year.

Wade Davis (RP, Cubs)

  • Houston Astros: 3/2
  • Arizona Diamondbacks: 2/1
  • Chicago Cubs: 6/1
  • FIELD: 7/1

The Astros won the World Series in seven games, but they could have won it earlier were it not for the epic collapse of closer Ken Giles, who gave up five runs in 1.2 innings and was pulled for good after Game 4. Giles is still the de facto closer heading into 2018, but Houston would be better served by signing Cubs’ reliever Wade Davis. The three-time All-Star racked up 32 saves in 33 opportunities last season, and his addition would address one of Houston’s few weaknesses.

Eric Hosmer (1B, Royals)

  • Boston Red Sox: 2/3
  • St. Louis Cardinals: 4/1
  • San Francisco Giants: 11/1
  • FIELD: 7/1

The Red Sox suffered from a serious power outage in 2017, finishing 15th in home runs and 12th in total bases in the American League. Eric Hosmer wouldn’t erase those problems overnight, but he’d certainly help. The 6’4” slugger has hit 25 home runs in each of the last two seasons and ranked 12th in the AL last year in OPS. He’s powerful, reliable, and a big upgrade over Mitch Moreland, who didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the club.

J.D. Martinez (OF, Diamondbacks)

  • San Francisco Giants: 2/1
  • Washington Nationals: 3/1
  • Milwaukee Brewers: 7/1
  • FIELD: 7/3

It’s no secret that the Giants are badly in need of power, and few players can supply it quite as well as J.D. Martinez. The 29-year-old hit .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBIs last season while splitting time between the Tigers and Diamondbacks. His slugging helped power Arizona to 93 wins, and it would go a long way towards helping the Giants reach the World Series for the fourth time since 2010. Though imagining him trying to patrol that spacious AT&T outfield is a scary thought.

Jay Bruce (OF, Indians)

  • Texas Rangers: 1/2
  • Houston Astros: 8/1
  • Toronto Blue Jays: 15/1
  • FIELD: 5/1

Jay Bruce wants to go home. The Beaumont, Texas native is reportedly interested in returning to the Lone Star State after spending the first ten years of his career in Cincinnati, New York, and Cleveland. The Astros already have plenty of pop, but the Rangers could use him at DH, where Mike Napoli hit well below the Mendoza Line.

Lorenzo Cain could be the missing piece for a contender. Photo by Arturo Paradavila III (Flickr) CC License

Lorenzo Cain (OF, Royals)

  • Seattle Mariners: 7/3
  • San Francisco Giants: 3/1
  • Toronto Blue Jays: 4/1
  • FIELD: 3/1

Lorenzo Cain picked an excellent time to become a free agent. The 31-year-old centerfielder hit .300 with 15 home runs, 49 RBI, and 26 stolen bases while appearing in a career-high 155 games in 2017. He’s already drawn interest from the Giants and Jays, but the Mariners are likely to make the biggest push as they look to beef up their young and inexperienced outfield.

Lance Lynn (SP, Cardinals)

  • Texas Rangers: 2/1
  • Chicago Cubs: 7/2
  • Los Angeles Angels: 5/1
  • FIELD: 18/7

Lance Lynn is not an ace. He’s not even an All-Star any more, but he is about to become a very rich man by entering free agency one year before several big-name pitchers hit the market. His excellent timing will likely result in a $100 million deal with the Rangers or Cubs, both of whom could use his bankable ability to strike out batters and eat up innings.

Zack Cozart (SS, Reds)

  • Pittsburgh Pirates: 5/2
  • Tampa Bay Rays: 3/1
  • Toronto Blue Jays: 7/2
  • FIELD: 3/1

The Reds came close to trading Zack Cozart to the Mariners a year ago and will likely lose him for good this winter as he joins a new club in free agency. Seattle is no longer a viable landing spot thanks to the club’s acquisition of Jean Segura, but the 31-year-old shortstop would be a welcome addition in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates have had to make do with Jordy Mercer. Cozart represents a significant upgrade on offense, and could supply the Bucs with some much-needed punch as well.

Carlos Santana (1B, Indians)

  • Boston Red Sox: 3/2
  • New York Mets: 2/1
  • Seattle Mariners: 4/1
  • FIELD: 15/1

Hosmer remains Boston’s first choice, but Carlos Santana would be a nice consolation prize. The wide-bodied switch-hitter has crushed 20-plus home runs in four of the last five seasons and is remarkably patient at the plate. His 113 walks led the league in 2013 and he regularly ranks in the top ten in that category. He isn’t the sexy choice, but Santana is a professional hitter who fills a position of need.

Jonathan Lucroy (C, Rockies)

  • Houston Astros: 3/2
  • Colorado Rockies: 4/1
  • Baltimore Orioles: 11/1
  • FIELD: 17/8

There appears to be plenty of mutual interest between Jonathan Lucroy and the Houston Astros. The 31-year-old backstop has said he would like to win “a ring, or two, or three” and few teams give him a better opportunity to fulfill that dream than Houston. The potential acquisition would give Brian McCann a capable backup, and would allow Evan Gattis to spend more time at DH, where his body would take considerably less pounding.

CC Sabathia (SP, Yankees) 

  • New York Yankees: 1/1
  • Milwaukee Brewers: 3/1
  • Los Angeles Angels: 9/1
  • FIELD: 6/1

The Yankees have yet to sit down with CC Sabathia, but the big lefty has made it abundantly clear that he’d like to remain in the Bronx. The question is: do the Yankees still want him around? The 36-year-old contemplated retiring last season after struggling with a knee injury, and is now six years past his last All-Star appearance. A short-term deal with the Yankees seems like the most likely outcome as New York could use him to anchor the back-end of its rotation.

Honorable Mentions

  • Brandon Morrow (RP, Dodgers)
  • Addison Reed (RP, Red Sox)
  • Carlos Gonzalez (OF, Rockies)
  • Wellington Castillo (C, Orioles)
Darren Myers

Darren Myers can list all 35 members of the Miracle Mets, knows every word to Casey at the Bat, and remembers exactly where he was when Michael Jordan scored 63 points against the Celtics in the Boston Garden. Unfortunately, he has no idea where he left his house keys. If you happen to find them please contact him immediately as it’s starting to get dark and he’s pretty sure he just heard something howl.