The 2018 MLB regular season is nearly 40% over, and it’s time to update the earning power of the upcoming free agent class. Click here to check out the previous rankings.
1. Bryce Harper. Harper has struggled since we last checked in, hitting .199/.317/.423 in his last 43 games. By measure of wRC+, he ranks 36th among qualified hitters. Nonetheless, Harper still leads the National League with 18 home runs and stands a good chance of reaching 40 for the second time in his career. He’s not going to hit .229 all year — he’s 12th in baseball in barrels per plate appearance but has a .217 BABIP — and still projects to land the largest contract in baseball history. Harper is still four months shy of his 26th birthday.
2. Manny Machado. Machado, on the other hand, is hitting .329/.394/.659 since we last checked in. Walks and power are way up, strikeouts are down, and Machado is doing all he can to close the gap between him and Harper. But the next 54 days will not be about Machado’s impending free agency; the focus is on a likely trade. The Orioles would be crazy not to trade Machado to the highest bidder, even with their front office in a “fractured” state, to use Ken Rosenthal’s word. A trade will remove a qualifying offer from the equation, not that a QO matters a lot when dealing with free agents like Harper and Machado.
3. Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw returned to action on May 31st after a month-long layoff from biceps tendinitis. The return was short-lived, as he exited after five innings and was placed on the DL with a lower back strain. This will mark the third year in a row that he will miss more than a month due to a lower back injury. Suddenly, Kershaw opting out of the remaining two years and $65MM left on his contract does not look like a slam dunk. As Cliff Corcoran suggested at The Athletic on Tuesday, the simplest solution might be for the Dodgers to tack a year or two onto Kershaw’s contract, perhaps with a new opt-out clause. The scenario of Kershaw opting out and signing a new contract of 5-6 years is looking less and less likely.
4. Patrick Corbin. Corbin continues to put up strong numbers and ranks fifth among pitchers in the NL in wins above replacement. Critics will note that Corbin worked in the 92-93 mph range in his first six starts, and then spent the next seven in the 90-91 range. The results in those last seven starts: a 3.46 ERA and 10.8 K/9. As Zach Buchanan of The Athletic explained yesterday, “It wouldn’t hurt for Corbin to rediscover the extra ticks on his fastball. He’s thrown it in the low 90s for most of his career, and it may be that extra oomph has allowed him to pitch like a frontline starter at times. But it’s also clear that fastball velocity isn’t the main ingredient for Corbin’s success.” Assuming Corbin keeps it up, a five-year deal in the $90-100MM range seems plausible.
5. A.J. Pollock. An attempt at a diving catch on May 14th resulted in an avulsion fracture of Pollock’s left thumb. The injury could keep Pollock on the shelf until July. It seems that Pollock will once again fail to play in 130 games this year, after playing in 124 for all of 2016-17. Pollock’s injury history could thwart his attempt at landing a five-year deal in free agency. A strong finish could still result in an irrational free agent bidding war, however, as he was playing at a very high level before going down.
6. Craig Kimbrel. Aside from a few extra flyballs leaving the yard, Kimbrel is having a typically excellent season as Boston’s closer. A five-year, $90MM deal figures to be a likely record-setting target for Kimbrel’s agent.
7. Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel’s ERA has been pushed up to 4.13 with some recent rough outings, as he’s allowed 17 earned runs in his last 22 2/3 innings. Home runs have been a big part of the problem so far. The 30-year-old lefty is still setting up for a solid deal, perhaps with a four-year term.
8. Josh Donaldson. After missing three weeks with shoulder inflammation, Donaldson played in 24 games and then went down for calf tightness. Before hitting the DL, Donaldson was producing less power and more strikeouts than he had in recent seasons. He’ll return from that injury soon and attempt to get his season on track. 33 in December, Donaldson could have difficulty securing a four-year deal.
9. Yasmani Grandal. A new entrant on this list, Grandal’s free agency was examined in-depth by MLBTR’s Jeff Todd yesterday. 30 in November, Grandal is one of baseball’s best-hitting catchers over the past three years and gets strong marks defensively. He could be looking at a deal of four or even five years, depending upon how the market shapes up.
10. Charlie Morton. Morton continues trending upward, even though he’ll turn 35 as free agency begins. He’s currently dominating the American League with a 2.84 ERA and 11.3 K/9, with a fastball that has aged like a fine wine. When speaking about his future, Morton certainly doesn’t sound like someone who will test the market and seek to maximize his guarantee on a three-year deal. However, in terms of sheer earning power, Morton might be able to find a $60MM contract if he wants to, making him worthy of a spot on this list.
Other candidates for the last few spots on this list include Elvis Andrus, Garrett Richards, Brian Dozier, and Gio Gonzalez.
Yankees sign two of the top five..let the posting and down voting begin!
They’ll definitely sign Corbin. They LOVE Boston’s sloppy seconds.
Well since Patrick Corbin has never played for the Sox..your post has been dismissed for incomplete trolling.
He corrected himself and said Kimbrel
Proving he knew nothing to begin with.
Not everyone wants to be a yankee. Some people like to have facial hair to start
Yankees taking Bahsten’s “sloppy seconds”? Cashman had a deal worked out for Kimbrel several years ago that fell through. Now he’s with the Sawx.
And I as I recall, that Nunez guy playing 2B in Fenway came up with the Yankees.
I down voted you… satisfied?
realistically though I don’t see the yankees signing any of these guys outside of maybe corbin unless they trade off the active roster in order to boost the pitching staff, they are pretty set up.
That part was in jest of course. Yea I see the Yankees signing Corbin and giving it an outside shot at Harper.
Sign machado/ Harper and trade left over players for a starter?
I can see them being the “front runner” (as much as there can be one this far out) on Machado. As a non-Yankees fan the only other member of the top 5 that I think they’d be in on is Corbin, assuming Kershaw resigns in one way or another with LA. However, I don’t think Corbin will be in the top 5 when all is said and done.
In short, I could see the Yankees landing Machado and something like Gio Gonzalez, or Charlie Morton. I think most of the players on this list would be a waste of resources for them given the vast wealth of young, cheap players coming through their system.
I mean it is conceivable to think they would want machado but the cost is going to be astronomical for him, it would seem like someone without a big payroll would be more likely a fit.
I think the Yankees would be smart to roll with the young positional players that they have
and spend their money in free agency on pitching !
Morton has talked at length about wanting to stay in Houston and I don’t think his family is in the NY area. Then again it’s the Yankees they could dump a pile of cash at his feet and are competing so it’s not crazy.
Morton grew up a Yankees fan. He would probably sign a 1-year deal at a discount to retire with them.
Why would Charlie Morton retire at 35, especially when he’s come into his own?
He’s came out and stated that he is going to retire within the next couple years. Personally decisions, doesn’t always have to be about age or performance
I am not sure if you frequent MLBTR or not, but considering you are on this site, then you should be able to recall this: mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/astros-rumors-charlie-m…
Why are people concerned about downvotes in the comments section of a website about baseball, smh.
The downvotes on this site don’t mean anything. You could have the most true of thoughts and certain teams fans automatically downvote if anything negative is said about them. They aren’t even worth looking at.
Where is Jon Jay on this list?
You’re still on Jon Jay? How much sleep did you lose over that trade?
Jon Jay has a rent free place to stay for life
The Yankees are NOT in the market for Harper, Machado, and Kershaw. They are NOT going to sign Kimbrel, Donaldson, or Pollack. I can see them signing Corbin and/or Keuchel. Sabathia comes off the books as well as Gardy, that would sign at least one of them. Don’t bother with 3b or 2b…..looks like we found our players for the next 10 years.
Well since the 2B is a tue Shortstop and two months of a season proves nothing, I’d say it’s a little early.
Everyone starts somewhere
Yeah Didi’s recent slump back to mediocrity, definitely leaves the door open when Machado is crushing the ball. Also Aaron Hicks is nice but I think the Yankees wouldn’t mind seeing Bryce Harper lining up next to Judge and Stanton. They went break the bank for anyone since pitching is the major need but I’d say it’s ridiculous to count them out completely
But you need a cf
I want the Yankees to sign kuechel just so he has to shave off that horrible beard.
I guess they’ve been clearing up salaries and resetting there luxury tax the last couple of years for no reason
Hope the Braves make a run at Kimbrell & Kuechel resign Markakis for 2 years and bring up Riley to play 3rd next year
Also trade for either Really go or Sally Perez
KENNETH A LICHTIG
With many pitchers falling victim to arm injuries—- Hey 30 MLB GMs Nix the idea to sign any pitcher to a long term Free Agent Contracts 3 years or more
what about Peter O’Brien
This list looks quite weak after Harper and Machado.
Agreed. Especially with Donaldson’s meh season and injuries
Jays have to be praying Donaldson has at least a semi-solid July so they can trade him for whatever they can get. Some may scoff, but the Jays have to consider the real possibility he’d accept a QO which would not be optimal for them.
Harper’s two extended slumps (2016 and this year) would sure scare me at the Scott Boras price tag though he’s probably the perfect kind of overpriced free agent the Giants like.
This year would scare you? Really? It’s definitely not the ideal way to head into free agency, but he’s still having an extremely good year at the plate despite the .229 BA. Every single player in the league wishes they could have an “extended slump” lead to an OPS nearing .900.
The fact that he can slump horribly and still be one of the best hitters in baseball should show you how good he actually is. Once the BABIP starts to normalize, his numbers will look ridiculously good again. I wouldn’t be too concerned about him.
at $250+ million, yes, it would absolutely scare me.
250 Million? Harper’s taking a discount?
The more I look at his numbers, the less I even like $250M. Take out the 2015 season and you have a guy that’s averaged fewer than 3 wins per season. I don’t know, I wouldn’t want my favorite team spending 20% of their payroll for the next decade on him.
If you’re going to take out his best season (which is absolutely ridiculous, by the way – you’re effectively ignoring his peak), then you have to take out his worst season too, which was his 1.6fWAR injury plagued season.
Average out the rest and he’s a 4.1fWAR player, and he’ll only be 26 come free agency. And he was a 4 win player right out of the gate at age 20.
What he’s achieved, by an age most guys are just trying to break into the bigs, is absolutely phenomenal. And this years AVG will trend up – he’s running a .217 BABIP, while his career average is 1oo points above that. Reason #47 why batting average is a horrendous way to view value.
“This list looks quite weak after Harper and Machado.”
And both of them are signing with the Phillies so for the other 29 teams the market stinks as usual, a bunch of old men who should have been able to hit the market at least six years ago.
if they both sign with the phillies you are looking at a repeat of a strong team that is going to age and cost way too much in the future since I don’t see harper or machado going on any kind of 2 or 3 year contract.
” I don’t see harper or machado going on any kind of 2 or 3 year contract.”
They’re 26 years old.
Phillies Players Ages compared to Bryce Harper
Aaron Altherr One year and nine months older
Odúbel Herrera Ten months older
Rhys Hoskins 5 months younger
Nick Williams Eleven months younger
Scott Kingery One and one half years younger
What’s your point?
You’re a funny, funny guy. One week you’re trashing anything Philadelphia and the next claiming they’re gonna spend like a pharmaceutical company settling a suit.
Dallas Keuchel is vastly overrated. He is dependent on umpires with a lenient strike zone and ground balls being hit at infielders. If those two things do not happen, he’s awful. He only has upside because the Astros do so well with positioning infielders.
Well, in theory any other team could do the same thing if they sign him.
wait so you are saying he depends on groundball rate and pitches out of the zone – um isn’t that anyone who doesn’t throw 97+ mph
Yanks will look at Dallas.. they’ll kick tires on manny..
Harper is going to wear stripes.. will it be yanks or philly. We don’t need manny unless deGrom is traded for this year. But if we get deGrom manny will be a Yankee. Mets will want Andujar and Torres for him. Any questions
harper is going to wear stripes? so he is going to colorado, chisox?
Yea what are you on?
Yankees will want pitching and more pitching. No more Harper talk because of Stanton. Only way Machado comes is if we trade Didi. N that wont happen cuz his number are down. So…….. pitching it is.
1.Patrick Corbin pretty much said it himself he wants to be a Yankee. N Yanks could throw him a contract for less money then other teams are offering n he’ll snatch that right up.
2.Bullpen arms can always have more of those. Maybe welcome Andrew Miller Back. Other possibilities Kelvin Herrera and Zach Britton.
Corbin isn’t gonna bend over like that. Even if they do trade Didi, Torres can slide over. They need Starters-Starters-Starters.
Man, what a loaded Free Agent class! Looks like it’ll be a fun off-season
I can see gio going to the phillies
I can see the Phillies scanning the geo to escape a gio…
I think Harper goes to the Yankees. Machado to the Phillies. Corbin to the Yankees. The Dodgers jump in for one of these guys, including extending Kershaw. Kimbrel re-signs with Boston. I think Donaldson is shut out in this offseason and does a one-or two-year make-good deal to re-establish his value. Dozier seems like quite an asset for a bunch of teams, maybe the Giants. Just spitballing here.
Take a look at that Rd Sox payroll, not happening.
Wheres Kelvin Herrera?
Bryce Harper has had only one incredible season and only two seasons with a 5 WAR or above. Am I the only one who thinks he’s a bit overrated? It seems his contract will be based on his ceiling rather than his actual performance to date.
One incredible season. Two other superstar caliber ones. And then all his “down” years are still all star caliber. I think there’s a clear gap between him and Trout, but he’s still a top 2-4 player in the league.
You are not the only one. Take away 2015 and he averages fewer than 3 wins per season.
1 of Harper or Machado will be a cub in 2019! Wouldnt be surprised if they went after kimbrel too!
Kimbrall to the Astros for sure.. Yankees will def be in play for Harper. That outfield would be unprecedented
What on earth would the Yankees do with Harper? Three RFers doesn’t work. With Judge, Stanton, Hicks, Frazier and possibly Gardner—should they choose to resign him—the OF is packed next year. And the specter of Ellsbury still looms until Yanks either eat the balance of what he’s owed or convince him to take the injury retirement so they save on 80% of that deal.
Same lack of need with Machado. He doesn’t want to play 3B and Yanks already have Didi and Torres for SS, with Tyler Wade—barring a trade—in Scranton.
All the fanboys lobbying for Harper and Machado conveniently overlook its going to take a 10-13 year deal for $400 million or more to land either. Without a need, NO WAY does Hal give out a deal like that.
Insofar as Keuchel, nope. Why? He’s slipped quite a bit since last year. AND he’ll be 31 in January of 2019. Kershaw has far too many injury problems the last few years, too. And Morton will be 36 next season—sorry, no.
Yankees gonna resign Happ and Cutch. Gonna let anyone else that is a free agent go.