Our predictions at the top of the free agent market are certainly not for the faint of heart; by our reckoning, both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have chances at securing record-setting contracts. Whether or not that’ll come to pass remains to be seen, but a more pressing question for hot-stove enthusiasts may be whether we’ll see a repeat of last winter’s agonizingly slow market. It seems fair to say our overall slate of predictions represents a general bet that the activity will pick up this time around. Indeed, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets that there’s a broader sense that the 2018-19 offseason will feature action. The player market, he says, could be “robust early” and “awfully busy” all winter long.
We heard earlier about some intriguing possibilities in Cleveland. For the most part, though, things are just starting to get heated up. Here’s some early chatter:
- While Garrett Richards will hit the market while still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, that doesn’t mean he won’t draw strong interest. Indeed, a dozen teams have already reached out, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter). It’s no surprise to hear that, as quite a variety of clubs have agreed to two-year contractual arrangements with recovering hurlers in recent seasons, primarily in hopes of capturing value in the second season of the deal. MLBTR predicts that Richards will land a deal right in line with some of those cases.
- The Dodgers factor as a strong possible suitor for Japanese hurler Yusei Kikuchi, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register tweets. It’s hard to argue with that assessment based upon recent history, even if the Los Angeles club seems to be well on its way to filling out a deep rotation mix. The Dodgers have secured several talented but less-hyped starters from Asia via the posting process and have given out several large deals to pitchers with injury questions. In this case, Kikuchi figures to draw a number of suitors, particularly since he’s just 27 years of age. But recent shoulder woes could be a red flag for some organizations. Truthfully, it’s exceedingly difficult to get a read on his potential market, but the Dodgers are among the west coast organizations that seem to be rather good fits if Kikuch is posted, as seems likely but has yet to be decided conclusively.
- As the offseason gets underway, the Rockies represent a bit of a mystery team. They obviously look to be a contender, but have some clear needs and don’t appear to have much payroll flexibility barring a boost in their spending or clever move to shed salary. GM Jeff Bridich said today, as Nick Groke of The Athletic tweets, that the club will seek to oversee “responsible growth with the payroll,” adding that “success begets more growth.” That seems at least to leave open the possibility that the organization could add some more dollars to the books, though what kind of outlay might be possible remains unclear. Improving a lagging offense is the priority, as MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes.
- While the Marlins have given prior indication that they hoped to pursue a long-term deal with catcher J.T. Realmuto, his agent shot that idea down rather candidly, indicating that he does not expect his client to don a Marlins uniform in 2019. That hasn’t deterred the Miami brass, though, as Wells Dusenbury of the Sun Sentinel was among those to cover (Twitter links). CEO Derek Jeter rejoined recently that the Miami organization will decide where Realmuto plays. Today, president of baseball operations Michael Hill says that Realmuto’s apparent preferences won’t “impact in any way how we approach our offseason.” Of course, it still seems quite likely that the Marlins will end up marketing Realmuto this winter, as his value has undeniably crested after turning in a strong season with two more arb years left to go.