by Rob Joyce
It’s been one of the most unusual offseasons in recent baseball history. For a myriad of reasons, the hot stove is ice cold, to the point where pitchers and catchers are reporting this week to spring training, and a clubhouse-sized roster of All-Stars and high-end free agents remain unsigned. Whether it’s a waiting out process for a loaded 2019 free agent class, a case of the bubble finally bursting as teams realize $200 million contracts don’t payout or some combination of the two, so many names remain out there that the union is opening a camp strictly for free agents in Florida.
Something’s got to give eventually (right?) and here are the names that you would think sign sooner rather than later:
The iron should in theory be hot for the 29-year-old, but he’s been in an extended stare-down with seemingly one team: the Red Sox. Off a 45 home run season with the Tigers and Diamondbacks, the outfielder reportedly received an offer in the range of five years, $125 million from power-starved Boston. That was a few months back, and now, according to Ken Rosenthal, Martinez is “fed up” with the Sox and wants to sign elsewhere. Problem is, “elsewhere” means someone will have to pay up, and no one seems like a serious contender to do so now that the penalties for going over the luxury tax are stiffer. Expect Boston and Martinez to find a middle ground.
The soon-to-be 32-year-old is likely past his 2015 Cy Young form, but he’s still a top-of-the-rotation starter. After a rocky first few months, the former Cub boasted a 2.28 earned run average over the second half of the season, with opponents hitting just .215/.280/.394 against him. With Chicago signing Yu Darvish, any chance of returning to the North Side is gone. Seeking a long-term contract, expect Darvish runner-ups Milwaukee and Minnesota to be in the running.
Hosmer has options, it just seems he’s unwilling to make a decision. Both the Padres and Royals have reportedly extended the former All-Star seven year deals worth in excess of $140 million. Hosmer is looking for another year or two to tack on, but it looks like that offer may not come. Now a decision has to be made: stay with Kansas City, where he’s beloved but on a middling team? Or head west for the perennial basement dwellers in San Diego? KC has made a late push to clear some salary, and there’s a sense the first baseman will remain a Royal.
Hosmer’s teammate, Moustakas slugged a Royals-record 38 home runs last year, but the third baseman appears to be running out of options. The Mets signed Todd Frazier and the Angels, Zack Cozart. The thought of signing Moustakas at the cost of draft pick compensation scared away a few others. The Red Sox look set at third with young Rafael Devers. Finding a long-term deal, even off a career year at age 29, seems far off. It could come to the point where Moustakas signs a one-year deal with the Yankees, adding to their Murderer’s Row for 2018 before hitting the market again next winter.
The All-Star closer gambled on himself, turning down a $15 million option to stay with the Rockies in November, then rejecting a qualifying offer from Colorado. Now the Rockies brought in Wade Davis, and Holland remains unemployed. Signed to a one-year, $7 million deal last winter, Holland had a National League-best 41 saves, but his 6.38 ERA in the second half of the season might be costing him. No one is openly expressing interest, but someone like the Cardinals or Cubs would be a good fit.
The numbers aren’t overly dazzling (3.38 career ERA, 8.5 strikeouts-per-nine) but the former Cardinals is the quintessential No. 3 or 4 starter. He’s durable, coming back from Tommy John in 2016 to make 33 starts last year. He’s made at least 31 starts in four of the last five seasons (and he made 29 in 2012), keeps the ball in the ballpark and has postseason experience. Pretty much every team could use an arm like Lynn, and for a lower-market team like Milwaukee or Minnesota, he’d be a good consolation if they find Jake Arrieta too expensive.