In the slowest offseason in recent memory, numerous top Major League Baseball free agents remain unsigned. You could put a pretty solid team together solely consisting of players who remain unsigned in February, with spring training a matter of weeks away.
Teams in need of help can still look at pretty much any position and find someone at least passable. Here’s a glance at the best player remaining on the market at each position.
Catcher – Jonathan Lucroy
Once a potent offensive catcher regarded as one of the best in the game at framing pitches, Lucroy has seen his star fade a bit. He’s still a threat, though, and he proved that by hitting .310 in his short stint with the Colorado Rockies last season. Lucroy is still a career .281 hitter and a reliable defensive backstop, and he probably could come cheap, making it something of a surprise that he hasn’t signed yet. He’s not the top starter that he once was, but he’s a solid option all the same.
We already heard reports that the Red Sox have an offer on the table for Martinez, though it is well short of his reported asking price. How motivated Werner and the Red Sox are to bridge that gap remains to be seen. For that reason, it’s notable that the option of pivoting to another free agent target was very much left on the table.
The MLB free agent market has been slow to develop for various reasons, but with pitchers and catchers reporting in a little over a month, odds are that things will pick up sooner rather than later. That means we’ll see a rush of signings once the first dominoes fall, leading teams to really consider their options.
Here’s a look at an ideal landing spot for the top free agents still on the market.
1) Yu Darvish, P — Cubs
As it stands, the Cubs do not have much of a rotation. Sure, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks are there, but John Lackey and Jake Arrieta are both out for the moment, and they’ll at least want to replace the latter. If so, why not target the best starter on the market? Reports indicate that the Cubs have spoken to Darvish and registered their interest. They’re a big enough franchise to stand out in the big queue of suitors the Japanese ace currently has. They might as well pony up and go for it, even in spite of the bad World Series.
The Boston Red Sox have reportedly drawn a line in the sand on J.D. Martinez’s contract talks.
According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski is unwilling to beyond a five-year offer for free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez.
Martinez is represented by Scott Boras, who could be looking for a longer pact. Heyman speculates that Boras could try to go to ownership level to convince them to give Martinez more years, as he did when Dombrowski was working for the Detroit Tigers.
Martinez’s asking price has been reported as being extremely high, and all indications are the Red Sox have refused to meet it. That said, the market for the slugging outfielder hasn’t been exceptionally robust, so he may have to readjust his expectations if things don’t change quickly.
Even as the new year looms, the free agent market in Major League Baseball hasn’t quite picked up yet. While some major players have found a home, a number of the top free agents on the market are still waiting for a satisfying offer, and it looks likely that their situations will drag into January. That means that teams shopping for help still have plenty of options on the board.
Here are 15 of the best remaining free agents that many contenders and non-contenders alike will be looking at.
15) Carlos Gonzalez, outfielder
A sub-par 2017 — with particular concerns about his production away from Coors Field — has definitely hurt Gonzalez’s market. He’s still only 32, though, and has shown himself to be a quality power bat as recently as 2016. He won’t be terribly expensive and he could be a short-term fix for a contender. Gonzalez could sign a short-term deal for 2018 in a bid to re-establish some value going forward.
14) Addison Reed, pitcher
Reed has quietly grown into a very solid setup man over the past few seasons, though he was fairly homer-prone in 2017. He was outstanding for the New York Mets the year before that, and was a massive part of the bullpen of the team that went to the World Series in 2015. While he’s not one of the very best relievers in the game, he’s certainly good enough to set up for a good team. He even has experience as a closer from his time with the Chicago White Sox and could do that for some teams.
If you thought the Boston Red Sox would let the New York Yankees acquire Giancarlo Stanton and leave them in the dust, you were wrong. The Red Sox apparently are intent upon matching the Yankees and plan to flex with some big signings of their own.
The Boston Herald reported on Friday that the Red Sox are trying to sign not just top free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez, but also first baseman Eric Hosmer.
When asked about the possibility of adding both players, Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski questioned how both would fit on their team.
“I’ve read that, but I don’t know where we’d play those two bats. I’m trying to figure that one out,” Dombrowski said Monday about the possibility of signing both Hosmer and Martinez. “But I would say we’d be more limited to probably one bat.”
Martinez, who posted a 1.066 OPS in 119 games last season, is said to be seeking a $200 million contract. The 30-year-old has a career .856 OPS and bashed 38 homers in 2015 in addition to 45 in 119 games last season.
Hosmer, 28, has been with the Royals his entire career, helping them to reach the World Series twice. He’s a career .284 hitter with a .781 OPS, but he seems to be getting better as he gets more experience. His .318/.385/.498 slash line from last season all represented career-high marks. He could command a deal for around $150 million. The Red Sox might encounter some competition for him from a surprising suitor.
The San Francisco Giants are being forced to move to Plan B after losing out on Giancarlo Stanton.
Reports indicate that the Giants have looked at slugging free agent outfielders such as Jay Bruce and J.D. Martinez, having prepared for the possibility that Stanton would reject a trade to San Francisco.
The #SFGiants expressed interest last month in free agent outfielder Jay Bruce, and now are expected to intensify their pursuit. Certainly, J.D. Martinez also in the mix.
ESPN’s Buster Olney added that the Giants have discussed Martinez, but he will not come cheap.
J.D. Martinez among those market options the Giants have discussed, if they don't land Giancarlo Stanton. He would prop up their offense in the immediate future, for sure. Some execs expect he'll cost more than Justin Upton's 5-year, $106 million deal; Upton might be best comp.
Pretty much every MLB team will have to deal with the reality that a few of their players are headed to free agency. For many teams, the ability to keep all their players is just not feasible. In some cases, they will be losing role players or guys who were on short-term contracts. Others, though, are watching as franchise players and integral parts of organizations head into the free agent market, possibly for greener pastures.
Here’s a look at one important free agent from each team who played at least some part in their 2017 campaign.
Arizona Diamondbacks — J.D. Martinez, outfielder
He was only a Diamondback for a little over two months, but what an impact Martinez had. He took advantage of the friendly hitting environment to smack 29 home runs in 62 games, powering the Diamondbacks to the NLDS along the way. He’ll probably prove too expensive for Arizona to retain him, and they have bigger needs to fill anyway, but he won’t be easily forgotten. Martinez is said to be seeking a $200 million contract. Arizona will be weaker next season without his power, even if his tenure was a brief one.
Atlanta Braves — R.A. Dickey, pitcher
With only two free agents, Atlanta doesn’t have much to deal with in terms of departures. The team decided not to pick up the 43-year-old pitcher’s option for 2018, and Dickey may be considering retirement. His importance lies in the position he plays; in terms of ERA, he was the Braves’ best starting pitcher at 4.26. The Braves will be searching for someone established to replace him — their pitching disappointed last season, and they may think they have an outside chance of making a run in 2018.
Martinez, 30, has established himself as one of the top power hitters in the game. He batted .315 with a .912 OPS in 2014, then smashed 38 homers in 2015, and he had a .908 OPS in 2016. Then last season he crushed 45 homers in 119 games split between Detroit and Arizona.
Arizona might be particularly tempted to bring him back after he delivered an OPS over 1.100 for them in his brief time with the team. It just might cost them big bucks to do so.