This post has been about 10 days in the making, but some personal work stuff has made it difficult to get it out as quickly as possible.
But never fear, free-agent predictions 1-25 are here. You can find 26-50 by clicking this link.
Keep in mind, these predictions appear as I sent them in the MLB Trade Rumors prediction contest which closed on Nov. 11. A few of these players have signed — both good and bad as far as my predictions are concerned — but I’ve kept them consistent for the sake of integrity.
Here we go:
25. Corey Dickerson – Giants
Few teams got less production from their outfielders than the Giants (86 wRC+, 28th) last year, and while there are some interesting pieces in place — namely, Mike Yastrzemski and maybe Jaylin Davis — there’s still room to add some depth here. It’s hard to know what Dickerson’s value is based on where his defense goes from here, but tell me you aren’t rooting for the potential of two Dickersons in the same outfield. I dare you.
24. Wade Miley – Blue Jays
This Blue Jays rotation situation reminds me of the Twins a few years ago, when everyone wanted them to sign Brandon McCarthy and Joe Blanton and instead got Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey. Sure, the next few years brought Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco, but I just get the idea that fans who want the Jays to be in on the Ryus and Keuchels of the world are going to be disappointed.
With that said, Miley is coming off a perfectly acceptable season with the Astros (2.0 fWAR, 3.98 ERA, 4.51 FIP) and would be a good stepping stone to supporting a rotation that, at this second, lists a depth chart of Trent Thornton, Jacob Waguespack, Anthony Kay, T.J. Zeuch, Ryan Borucki and Matt Shoemaker.
23. Drew Pomeranz – Reds
Nobody likes a challenge more than the Reds these days, as they’ve weaponized their pitching department with the latest trends in the industry — including most recently, Driveline’s Kyle Boddy. Though he’ll be 31, Pomeranz is the perfect challenge for the Reds. He was brutal as a starter but terrific as a reliever last year, and could be the perfect post-hype guy, as a sort of cross between Rich Hill and Carlos Carrasco.
22. Will Harris – Mets
I suspect the Mets will be in the conversation for almost every reliever, and Harris is a perfectly good target. The Mets had a bullpen ERA of 4.99 last year — 24th in MLB — and they seem to want to be aggressive in shoring up their issues on the back end. Edwin Diaz will almost certainly close again next year, but there’s no reason Harris can’t battle Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia and the like for late-inning duties.
21. Julio Teheran – Mariners
This is just one of those weird gut things. A rotation fronted by Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, Justus Sheffield and Teheran has a reasonable chance to be not terrible, and I don’t know…I’ve just always felt like Teheran to the Mariners makes sense. Again, I can’t exactly say why. I’ll probably be wrong.
20. Tanner Roark – Braves
Right now the Braves rotation looks nasty — Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz. However, that’s it. That’s the whole shooting match. Roark as a No. 4 starter is the perfect fit. He’s familiar with the NL East. He gives them a little something that none of the other three do.
19. Kyle Gibson – Twins
Dance with the partner you brought, I say. Gibson might find better multi-year offers on lesser teams, but why not return to the Twins on a one-year deal to rebuild value the further he progresses in his recovery — if one can do such a thing — from ulcerative colitis. Gibson has a lot left in the tank and a lot of unfinished business after how last season finished — and he should do it in Twinstripes.
18. Mike Moustakas – Nationals
To call the current infield depth chart for the Nationals jarring is a bit of an understatement:
With Anthony Rendon on the market and perhaps not coming back, Moustakas can step in capably at third base and be a championship-caliber backbone to a team that just happens to be defending one of those next year.
I don’t necessarily believe in “winning players” but if I did, Moustakas would be high atop that list.
17. Michael Pineda – Twins
There’s really no reason for him to sign anywhere else. The Twins know him and what happened with him, and he said he’d like to be back. Get it done.
16. Jose Abreu – White Sox
This one’s already a done deal, but it made too much sense. For the record, any of the signings on here that have already happened fall under the halo of the predictions I submitted to the MLB Trade Rumors free-agent prediction contest.
15. Cole Hamels – Phillies
14. Dallas Keuchel – Angels
The current rotation of Andrew Heaney, Jamie Barria, Griffin Canning, Felix Pena and Dillon Peters is nowhere near what a team with Mike Trout should be putting out there. Keuchel at or near the top — pending other signings — makes too much sense, and he can finally get the multi-year deal he’s been after.
13. Will Smith – Twins
Smith wound up signing with the Braves, but he would have made a ton of sense as a dueling lefty with Taylor Rogers at the back of the Minnesota bullpen. Instead, teams will have to contend with Smith, Shane Greene, Mark Melancon and Chris Martin at the back of Atlanta’s unit. For opposing offenses, it won’t be para, para, paradise.
12. Didi Gregorius – Brewers
This might spell the official end of Orlando Arcia in Milwaukee, but this is a team that could use an infusion of talent up the middle. Yasmani Grandal is out the door and Arcia’s young career is off to a rocky start, so adding some more talent to the stable of Keston Hiura and Lorenzo Cain is a must. This is a good start.
11. Marcell Ozuna – Astros
This one is way off the radar, but hear me out. I could see them moving on from Josh Reddick, a respectable but clearly inferior player who has put together back to back average-ish years in Houston. There’ll be a lot of intrigue as to who Houston brings in this winter — and who it ships out. In more ways than one, that is.
10. Jake Odorizzi – Giants
So he accepted the qualifying offer, but here’s why he made sense: Odorizzi’s fly-ball tendencies would have played well in San Francisco — ostensibly with the Giants adding a couple more defensively-capable outfielders — and Oracle Park still plays very, very friendly in favor of pitchers. The home-run park factor this year via Statcorner — where 100 is average — was 65 for lefties and 75 for righties. If Odorizzi doesn’t sign a long-term deal in Minnesota eventually, this looks like a good landing spot a year from now.
9. Hyun-Jin Ryu – Giants
The Farhan Zaidi effect looms largely here, as does the fact that with Madison Bumgarner possibly out of the picture, the Giants will need a pitcher to front their rotation that currently features Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto and then a few spare parts. Ryu staying in the NL West would be a terrific story to watch — especially based on the rivalry here.
8. Nicholas Castellanos – Mariners
Seattle has plenty of decent players in place in the corners and at DH, but what is their trust level with any of them? Mitch Haniger has had trouble staying healthy. Austin Nola had a decent rookie season but will be 30 next year. Daniel Vogelbach made the AL All-Star team, then promptly hit .162/.286/.341 in the second half. There’s room here.
7. Yasmani Grandal – White Sox
Boom. This one just made too much sense. The White Sox are about ready to fling open their contention window, and there’s no reason not to spend the cash on up-the-middle talent. Grandal is in the conversation as one of the best defensive catchers in the game, and he can really, really hit besides.
6. Madison Bumgarner – Rangers
I really just want to see Lance Lynn and Bumgarner in the same clubhouse. Talk about red ass. The Rangers have a new ballpark and a rotation fronted by Bumgarner, Lynn and Mike Minor is really, really interesting…
5. Josh Donaldson – Rangers
…and this is how you get into the conversation in the West. The bullpen still needs help and a first baseman should be on the list — unless you’re really buying Danny Santana — but both of those are easy fixes if you land the Nos. 5-6 free agents in the land. Go west, young man.
4. Zack Wheeler – Padres
This is the guy to watch across the entire landscape, because his contract shouldn’t be so lucrative that really any team can’t afford him. Also, he’s got some of the measurables that’ll lead teams to believe he can ascend to the next level, which might not be at the same height as Strasburg or Cole, but it’s not terribly far off either. At $20ish million per year instead of $30-plus, that’s a storyline to monitor.
3. Stephen Strasburg – Nationals
Maybe it’s an oversimplification, but there’s just no reason to let Bryce Harper and maybe Rendon walk while not retaining Strasburg. Or perhaps even more on point, he’s the third — probably second — Musketeer with Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin. It would be a grievous mistake to let Strasburg get away this winter — and don’t bank on it.
2. Anthony Rendon – Angels
There are only two more years on the Albert Pujols megadeal, and it really doesn’t matter anyway. You can’t commit $400-plus million to Trout unless you’re going to surround him with players like this. Matt Thaiss and Jared Walsh might be nice players, but they can fight over first base after the Halos sign Rendon.
1. Gerrit Cole – Yankees
It just makes too much sense. As the Yankees reporter who sat next to me at Game 3 of the American League Division Series said, “He’s going to be a Yankee. He grew up rooting for them. They drafted him (28th overall in 2008). They have the money. It’s going to happen.”