MLB free agency is underway, and, while we’re probably in line for another long winter full of public statements by the players’ union, it can still be fun. While we might not see much movement before next month’s Winter Meetings, there’s still plenty of things to keep an eye on this offseason.
Out of the Park Baseball has been predicting World Series winners, quite remarkably, for the past few years. They called the Nationals beating the Astros in the Fall Classic back in March. Trying to piggyback off this success, I thought I’d try the game’s hand at predicting the results of the MLB free agent market.
Before putting on my Nostradamus hat, I did some research and adjusted OOTP’s budgets for teams, based on what I could find online, to more accurately predict each team’s winter spending. I turned off trades because, at first, the Cincinnati Reds traded Trevor Bauer for a backup infielder. Considering that the Reds parted with their number two prospect in real life, that trade seemed like it would throw the whole thing for a loop.
The Big Three
To borrow a big NBA term, there seems to be “big three” in terms of MLB free agents this offseason: Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. All three were part of this past season’s World Series.
Many consider Gerrit Cole to be the best pitcher on the market, and there’s not much to disagree with there. He could certainly return to Houston, though his language post-World Series didn’t exactly inspire hope. The Yankees will certainly try to sign him, as will almost all California teams. If Strasburg leaves Washington, maybe they’d give him a shot.
In a wild move, Out of the Park predicts Cole signing with the San Francisco Giants to join his brother-in-law Brandon Crawford. It was a seven-year, $202 million deal.
Strasburg opted out of the remaining four years on his deal with Washington, but the Nats still seem like a slight favorite to sign him. His hometown team, the Padres, are also in on him — as are the Yankees, because they’re the Yankees. The Phillies are considered long shots, but it’s funny to think about the Phillies stealing a Washington high-profile guy again (and then the Nationals winning the World Series again anyway).
What does OOTP say? The experts say he’s re-signing with Washington for 6 years, $160 million.
Anthony Rendon is without a doubt the biggest bat on the market this winter. Washington will be hoping for a return, but the following teams are considered potential landing spots: Texas, Los Angeles (Dodgers), St. Louis, Chicago (White Sox), among others.
OOTP gives the Rangers a head start on a return to the World Series. Rendon goes off the board to Texas at seven years, $195 million.
The Other Signings
There’s a second, third, and probably a fourth and fifth tier of free agents available, but who belongs where can be a little bit blurry. So we’ll look at other signings the game predicted on a positional basis.
With Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg off the board, the pitching market heated up. While the Nationals were able to bring back Strasburg, the Dodgers did the same with Hyun-Jin Ryu (5 years, $154 million). Zack Wheeler stayed in town, but now donning a Yankee cap, to the tune of 3 years, $49 million.
The Twins made a big splash by signing Madison Bumgarner (4 years, $66 million). Cole Hamels returned to the NL East, signing with Atlanta for three years and $17 million. Dallas Keuchel signed with Milwaukee for three years, $29 million. He returns to the NL Central, a division where he spent a few months at the beginning of his career.
A few other teams either missed out on the top available pitchers or watched one of their own leave town. The Rangers couldn’t land Cole, but they got Jake Odorizzi instead. Philadelphia missed out on Cole, Wheeler and Strasburg, so they took a flyer on Michael Pineda. Houston lost one of the best pitchers in the game and decided to follow that move with a big question mark in Alex Wood.
When the Padres couldn’t get Strasburg to commit, they turned their eyes to Rick Porcello. Without Gerrit Cole in tow, the Angels settled for Kyle Gibson on a much-cheaper one-year, $10 million deal.
In a few other moves, Wade Miley ended up on the Chicago Cubs, and Julio Teheran went out west to Seattle. Tanner Roark made a somewhat surprising move north of the border to Toronto, and the Giants doubled down on pitching by bringing in Drew Pomeranz in addition to Cole.
The Cubs added Will Smith in relief, and the Twins signed Will Harris. Dellin Betances stayed in the AL East, going to the Tampa Bay Rays for 4 years, $38 million. Finally, Chris Martin left the NL East, signing with Cincinnati.
The top catcher available was Yasmani Grandal. He certainly could have returned to Milwaukee, or several AL East clubs, or signed with Chicago (like he did a few days ago). Another rumor floating around was a return the Reds, the organization that drafted him. OOTP had other ideas. After shelling out for Dellin Betances, the Tampa Bay Rays went big again, bringing in Grandal for a five-year, $104 million deal.
Milwaukee replaced Grandal with Travis d’Arnaud. The Astros were one of the few teams to be able to bring back a key player by re-signing Robinson Chirinos.
While Rendon is the biggest hitter available, Josh Donaldson will garner a lot of attention even as he ages out. He had a solid season in Atlanta last year, and the CPU Braves thought enough of his production to bring back the former AL MVP on a four-year, $84 million deal.
After signing Bryce Harper last year, the Phillies were struggling to bring in any free agents of value, though they managed to snag Mike Moustakas at 4 years, $74 million. While the Reds couldn’t bring back an old farmhand in Grandal, they were able to get Didi Gregorius to return to the organization for 3 years, $16 million. The Reds lost infielder and 2019 surprise, Jose Iglesias, to the Miami Marlins.
The Brewers lost their backstop, but replaced him rather quickly, and then made a big splash by convincing Jose Abreu to leave the White Sox and come aboard. The 3 years and $66 million probably had something to do with it. With a powerful hole in their lineup, the White Sox replaced Abreu with Edwin Encarnacion, and it only cost them $23 million over two years.
The Nationals were able to bring back postseason hero Howie Kendrick (2 years, $31 million, but I think he earned it) in addition to adding another infielder in Todd Frazier (1 year, $6 million).
Perhaps the biggest outfielder on the market is Marcell Ozuna. OOTP has him staying in the NL Central, signing with Cincinnati for 4 years, $74 million. A former Red, Yasiel Puig took his talents to Tampa Bay on a one-year, $13 million deal. JD Martinez opted out of his Boston deal and became a free agent. He swapped his Red Sox for White ones, and signed with Chicago on a three-year, $68 million deal. Those are some expensive socks.
The Royals were linked to outfield help this winter, and they went the veteran route, adding Brett Gardner. The Padres got an underrated pickup in Corey Dickerson (3 years, $39 million), who was replaced in Pittsburgh by Kole Calhoun.
Nicholas Castellanos signed with the Diamondbacks, adding his name to the list of players in the past five or six years, who have played in Arizona and Detroit. The Marlins got a nice pickup in Avisail Garcia for one year, $9 million.
One of the more fun things in OOTP is the things to come across the news wire during the year. But in this offseason, they ranged from stalking (Touki Toussaint is dating a gymnast!) to hilarious (Ryan Braun released an album with his swing band!) to downright morbid (RIP Orioles owner Peter Angelos).
OOTP: it’s a matter of life and death!
In this simulation, I think the winners were the Nationals, Rangers and Giants. They signed/retained the biggest free agents money could buy. But as Philadelphia and San Diego proved last year, sometimes reeling in that big fish doesn’t guarantee a playoff appearance. Something that doesn’t also guarantee a playoff appearance: having an exciting offseason. I saw that first-hand with the Reds last year. But seeing the Rays swing for the fences in OOTP free agency has me excited for baseball season again.
How long until pitchers and catchers report?
OOTP already missed on the Grandal and Jose Abreu signings, but there’s still hope! Do you think the game will get even half of them right? Are any of these so wild that you wouldn’t believe if they happened in the next few weeks? Let me know below.