Most major headline deals have already been wrapped up this winter. But a fair share of impact players remain unsigned to an MLB contender. With names like Ohtani, Stanton, and Wade Davis all finding new homes, other contending teams are scrambling. Hitting was king in 2017. Right now, five top sluggers still need homes. Who do you think tops the list?
Lucroy heading into his age-31 season may have been more appealing two years ago. Only recording six HR in 2017, it seems the power hitting righty needs to make some adjustments at the plate. The Rockies bulking their bullpen shows their ‘win now’ mentality. Completely realistic considering last year’s run with some true superstar names on the roster. Although home runs of years past are a glaring non-predictive statistic, it is hard to lose all faith in Lucroy. In 142 at-bats, Lucroy managed to hit a solid .310 BA with a .866 OPS in the cold mountains. In an ERA of batting statistics with not many true hitting catchers, Lucroy could find himself behind a new dish this coming spring.
With 36 HR in 2017, it seems like Jay Bruce is not a bad bat to have in the middle of the order. Although a .254 BA cannot be overlooked when it comes to Bruce, he still brings value to a ball club. It seems like most teams Bruce would audition for a DH role. And in venues that favor this lefty, he could provide quite the impact for a contending ball club. What is impressive is this 30-year-old slugger saw the peak of his career in the homerun statistics at later stages in his prime. Look for those adjustments to land him a decent contract for a contending ball club in 2018.
5) Mike Moustakas
For many teams, Mike Moustakas popped on the radar well before this off season. Moustakas was seen as a hot commodity at the 2017 trade deadline for his unbelievable power and his improving glove in the field. In presumably his prime year at age 29, Moustakas hit 38 HR with a .272 BA. The sweeping, swinging lefty came eight at-bats shy of his season record 563, this in his second full season of major league play. As the years go on he hasn’t slowed down, just improved and taken on more. It seemed like the writing was on the wall for a good chunk of Royals players at the end of the 2017 season. Although on a lot of teams’ Christmas lists, this gift may never leave the workshop. Moustakas showed no interest in leaving KC last season and has stated he wants no part in leaving.
Top Suitors: KC, NYY, STL
One of the top players in this group would be Eric Hosmer, a solid player all over the diamond. Hitting his peak in WAR last season at 4.0, Hosmer provided defense/offense and experience/leadership. Many managers in the MLB praise his clubhouse presence which has been talked about for a majority of his career. Hosmer duplicated his 25 home run season of 2016 in 2017 and with that brought a .318 batting average(.266 in 2016). It’s clear Hosmer is a weapon, with a contract that may be the only scary aspect of the 28-year-old.
When Scott Boras sits across from you at the negotiation table you’ll end up with two things. An empty wallet, but a mighty fine player. It is estimated by most Hosmer will ask for six or more years with a dollar amount over $120M USD. He has intangibles and tangibles to bolster his resume. It’s just about finding the team to go all in.
Top Suitors: COL, MIL, KC
To get my personal Eduardo Nunez feelings out of the way now, I will be very upset to see him leave Boston if he does. Nunez was one of the stand-out deadline deals in the second half of the season, creating an instant impact for the Red Sox. He fulfilled a role trading the contact swing for power that Boston desperately needed going into the postseason. Nunez batted a .313 BA in 2017 with 24 steals and a .892 OPS for Boston in the second half. The 30-year-old posted a career high in doubles for 2017 with almost 100 fewer at-bats than the year prior. Not to mention Nunez is comfortable playing almost any position on the diamond, providing the flexibility any team needs. Watching Eduardo go down in game one of the ALDS against Houston was heartbreaking. How he bounces back from this injury and surgery is still to be determined, which may hurt or improve his chances of landing a large deal. Personally, I believe a Nunez deal will all be dependent on if Manny Machado is in a different clubhouse this coming season.
Top Suitors: NYY, BOS
This past season Lorenzo Cain made his case as a top free agent known with a stand-out season. Cain hit a clean .300 in BA and came one long ball from hitting his career high of 16. Although compared to the rest, this may not be an impressive number. But Cain is a complete player. Bringing in a WAR of 5.3, he brought in 26 stolen bases and took a free pass to first a personal record of 54 times.
Cain continues to grow into a veteran presence at the plate, opting for selectivity when racking in his career high 175 hits in 2017. Along with all of this, Cain seems just to be a more realistic option for most teams who need a spot filled in the outfield. The center fielder is likely to receive a deal from $60M- $70M USD for what most suspect to be four years. By the end of his contract, Cain would be playing in his age 35 season.
Top Suitors: TOR, NYY, KC, COL
Coming off the year of the home run, it is hard to make a case J.D. Martinez isn’t the top in his class right now in free agency. As the offseason goes by and teams watch top hitters go by, Scott Boras and his client continue to drool. The money Martinez will be looking for is not something you’ll find under in you couch during your spring cleaning spree. No, no, no. For this money you can buy a 29-bedroom Hamptons mansion (America’s Largest) or a private island in the Bahama’s or even the Playboy mansion. The contract will be somewhere north of $200M for eight years from a 30-year-old Miami man.
Although it may seem annoying to see J.D. get that payday, the facts stand. J.D. roped in 45 long balls last season, hitting an average of .303. Martinez was all general managers dream for in the trade deadline for years to come. Martinez brought in 29 of the 45 home runs in the second half of the season for Arizona. All this makes Mike Hazen look like a pretty smart man for orchestrating that trade at the deadline for his NL Wild Card champions. J.D. does have incredible value, and will probably get his money. Now it’s about who is signing the check? The only realistic rumbles in this man’s future have come from Boston. If Boston can not clear up the space needed to provide him a home, look for a top contender to sweep in.
Top Suitors: BOS/ If Not BOS: HOUS, LAD, STL