While a small handful of top names on the 2018 MLB free-agent market have signed new contracts, many of the best stars remain available into the third week of December.
In terms of position players, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, J.D. Martinez and Jay Bruce have all yet to agree to deals, while Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb headline the group of starting pitchers without a team.
Should any one of those players sign with a team, it could create a domino effect. General managers may be waiting to see what kind of value the marquee free agents have on the open market.
Below are updates on where things stand with Bruce, Darvish and Hosmer.
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reported in November that Bruce was looking to get $90 million over five years. The 30-year-old outfielder appears to have amended his demands, with the New York Daily News' Kristie Ackert reporting he'll settle for a four-year contract.
According to Ackert, the New York Mets have Bruce on their radar but prefer to get him on a shorter-term deal than what he's seeking.
Ultimately, it wouldn't be that surprising if Bruce gets the $18 million annual salary he initially hoped to receive, but that would likely be over two or three years instead of four or five.
It's exactly what happened with Edwin Encarnacion this time last year. Encarnacion turned down $80 million over four years from the Toronto Blue Jays before signing with the Cleveland Indians for $60 million over three years, with a $20 million team option in 2020.
Any hesitancy about signing Bruce to a long deal is understandable. He hit 36 homers and drove in 101 runs in 2017, but he averaged just under 25 home runs and 84 RBI each season between 2014 and 2016. His slugging percentage over that span was .440, compared to .508 in 2017.
Of course, Bruce showed steady improvement from 2014 to last year, so 2017 may be closer to the new normal for the 10-year veteran.
Still, it would be surprising if Bruce receives even a four-year contract worth nearly $20 million a season based on his age and track record.
A deal similar to the one Encarnacion received makes the most sense. Maybe Bruce signs for three years with a club or vesting option for the fourth year. That way, Bruce can get the long-term financial security he's seeking if he plays well enough, while his new team can back out after three years if things don't work out.
Yu Darvish remains unsigned, which isn't due to a lack of interest.
No free-agent pitcher is more prized than Darvish. Between his time with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers, the veteran right-hander was 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA and a 3.83 FIP in 31 starts this past year, per Baseball Reference.
Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reported the Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein landed in Dallas ahead of what's likely to be a meeting with Darvish. FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman confirmed the speculation and added a bit more context:
The Cubs may have stiff competition for Darvish's signature. The Star Tribune's La Velle E. Neal III reported the Minnesota Twins are growing more confident about their chances of landing the four-time All-Star.
Not only are the Twins a team on the rise after winning 85 games and reaching the American League Wild Card Game, but general manager Thad Levine also has experience working with Darvish from his time in the Rangers front office.
According to Neal, the Twins believe Levine's relationship with Darvish could be a decisive factor in their favor, though Neal spoke to a team official who thinks Darvish's final decision may not come for another month.
As much as the Twins have going in their favor, it's hard to see how Darvish won't be a member of the Cubs if they're seriously pursuing him. Chicago has enjoyed much more recent success and will be motivated to add a big piece to its rotation with Jake Arrieta a free agent.
Most importantly, the Cubs can almost certainly match whatever the Twins will be willing to offer.
It would be foolish to write the Twins off completely, but they don't exactly have a strong track record of signing marquee free agents. And until Minnesota proves otherwise, it's an underdog in the Darvish sweepstakes.
Having said all of that about the Twins, one of the best position players in free agency may wind up with one of the worst teams in baseball.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Thursday the San Diego Padres were the "clear-cut favorites" to sign Eric Hosmer.
The Padres' chances of getting the veteran first baseman appeared to receive a boost Monday as well.
The Boston Herald's Michael Silverman also reported Thursday the Boston Red Sox were considering signing both Hosmer and J.D. Martinez. However, the Red Sox confirmed they re-signed Mitch Moreland, which eliminates the need to add Hosmer altogether.
That basically leaves the Padres and Kansas City Royals the most likely spots for Hosmer. Both teams are basically in rebuilding mode. Kansas City has the emotional pull, while San Diego probably owns the financial edge.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Padres were discussing a six-year, $120 million offer with Hosmer.
As a frame of reference, Alex Gordon's four-year, $72 million deal is the richest in Royals history, and that contract is looking like an albatross on the team's payroll. The Royals would have justifiable concerns about re-signing Hosmer for even more money despite everything Hosmer has meant for the organization.
This winter has echoes of the 2014-15 offseason, when the Padres acquired Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Derek Norris and Wil Myers to try and build a contender overnight. San Diego fast-tracked its rebuild and wound up winning 74 games in 2015 and parted ways with Upton, Kemp and Norris within two years.
Even if Hosmer is a good locker room guy who can help the Padres' younger players along in their development, signing him for $100-plus million makes little sense given how far away San Diego is from being a playoff-caliber team. Not to mention, Hosmer's arrival would force Myers to move to the outfield, which proved to be a mistake two seasons ago.
Despite all of the reasons why the Padres shouldn't sign Hosmer, he wouldn't continue to be linked so heavily with the team unless there was serious interest from San Diego. Unless some mystery suitor emerges from out of nowhere, the four-time Gold Glove winner will be a Padre by the end of the offseason.
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