It's January, and Jake Arrieta is still a free agent. So is Eric Hosmer, Yu Darvish and J.D. Martinez.
A slow start to offseason hot stove action is directly tied to the decisions by Shohei Ohtani to sign with the Angels and the Marlins trading Giancarlo Stanton and 59 home runs to the Yankees for a chopped cheese and a bag of takis. So far, the relievers are off the board, but for the most part baseball has been quiet since the World Series.
That'll change soon. Once the first big name signs, teams will scramble to get their guys before spring training begins next month. Here's my predictions for where some free agent dominos will fall. Tomorrow, we will examine trade possibilities.
J.D. tore through the National League after a midseason trade from Detroit, hitting .302 29 HRs 65 RBIs 1.107 OPS and 2.6 WAR for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs made the playoffs a year early, and with Paul Goldschmidt there this is their window to compete in a tough NL West. He's the most coveted slugger, and the right-handed hitter has no shortage of suitors to choose from.
The Red Sox look to turn two first-round embarrassments around under new manager Alex Cora. They want Martinez to DH for them and spell the trio of Benintendi-Bradley Jr.-Betts from time to time, but they re-signed Mitch Moreland to a two-year deal to play first, and Hanley Ramirez is a below-average hitter making $22.75 million this year who can't really play anywhere in the field except for first.
The Giants outfield is trash. Pure absolute basura. Denard Span is mid, Hunter Pence is still lounging out there, I think Angel Pagan is boating in McCovey Cove waiting for a contract. The Giants went from wild card to worst, and San Francisco struck out on Giancarlo Stanton AND Marcell Ozuna. They need to move on heavy hitters in the outfield quickly if they're gonna catch some 'even year magic' in 2018.
Prediction: Boston will move one of their young outfield trio - either Benintendi or Bradley - and create some space for Martinez. Martinez to Red Sox, 6 years, $144 million, $24m AAV
The 2015 Cy Young winner made it known from the start he wants the Brinks truck. That hasn't come yet, and it may open up the doors for a reunion in Chicago for Arrieta. He became a star with the Cubs under pitching coach Chris Bosio's guidance, but he's gone now, and with the Boras client out for some M's, he might price himself out of the Cubs' budget.
Their NL Central rivals are chomping at the bit to steal him from the Cubs. The Cardinals need a splash to get back in the race, and the Brewers need an ace to guide the ship. Arrieta also has Boras ties in Washington, where the Nats try to reverse years of NLDS heartbreak all while convincing Bryce Harper to stay in the District.
But Jake's home is down in Texas, where the reigning champion Astros are in the market for another star atop their rotation. The Rangers could also get in the Arrieta race after seeing the team in Houston finally win it all.
Prediction: The Astros will push hard for Arrieta, but in the end he heads back to Chicago. Arrieta says with Cubs, 4 years, $105 million, $26.25m AAV w/ player opt-out after year 2
The homegrown Kansas City Royal brought the city its second World Series in 2015. He could be as big as George Brett in that town if he stays, but odds aren't leaning in their favor.
St. Louis is looking to gut their rival to the west and add a leader to the clubhouse. The San Diego Padres want that kind of guy as well, thinking ahead to when their young prospects are ready to compete for division crowns.
Then there's them damn Yankees. Hosmer is a Scott Boras client, and Boras once got an 8-year megadeal out of Brian Cashman for Mark Teixeira. He could do the same and add a solid lefty bat to take aim at the short porch in right.
Prediction: The Yankees will be on Hosmer's doorstep until the final decision, but Hosmer is from Miami, and sees beautiful weather and a future building in San Diego. Padres sign Hosmer, 7 years, $149 million, $21.3m AAV
Darvish was exposed in the World Series after the Astros revealed he was tipping his pitches. they teed off on the Japanese export in Game 7, and that hurt Darvish's value on the market. He could still return to the Dodgers, but they're trying to stay under the luxury tax and any sign would require another move to go down.
The Cubs are a name that's been closely attached lately. Theo Epstein loves him and made a pass at him when he came over to the states years ago, and new pitching coach Jim Hickey could solve those tipping issues. The Astros are also an option, as is his old team in the Texas Rangers, who know him best.
Prediction: Cubs choose Arrieta over Darvish, sending Yu back to Texas. Rangers sign Darvish, 6 years, $151 million, $25.2m AAV
Alex Cobb to Brewers; 4 years $62 million $11.5m AAV
Lorenzo Cain to Giants; 4 years $65 million $16.25m AAV
Mike Moustakas to Mets; 5 years $80 million $16m AAV
Jay Bruce to Blue Jays; 4 years $58 million $14.5m AAV
Greg Holland to Astros; 3 years $45 million $15m AAV