The MLB free-agency period officially opened Monday, as players can begin signing with new teams less than a week after the Houston Astros captured the 2017 World Series.
We aren't likely to see a flurry of immediate activity. MLB's free-agency period is a bit more slow moving than the three other major professional sports. Agents like Scott Boras prefer to take their time with negotiations on top-level free agents and can often milk the process for even a month or two before making a decision.
Some players, most often aging sluggers and pitchers, will hang out on the market as spring training nears before signing lucrative deals. Edwin Encarnacion did not sign until January last winter.
Here is a look at a couple of rumors going around MLB at the moment, along with predictions for where top free agents sign.
Rangers Still Interested in Alex Cobb?
A year ago the Texas Rangers were linked to a potential trade for pitcher Alex Cobb despite the righty recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Things have not changed following a stellar 2017 in Tampa. Jeff Wilson of the Star Telegram reported the Rangers still have interest in Cobb as he becomes a free agent this winter.
Cobb went 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 29 starts last season. His 179.1 innings were a career high.
"As vital as he's been on the mound, he's probably been just as vital in the clubhouse and the way he's carried himself," Rays manager Kevin Cash said last month, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. "He's been vocal when he needs to be vocal, and quiet when he needs to be quiet and grabbed a guy aside. Alex has never really made it about him—he's always made it about the club and about helping his teammates."
The Rangers would be looking for Cobb to fill a back-half slot in their rotation, and he should come at a relatively reasonable price. Cobb has never won more than 12 games in a season. The highest WAR of his career is 2.8, which is a fine number but not something worthy of building a staff around.
It's possible Cobb winds up becoming one of the bargains of this free-agency class because of his relative consistency—he's posted an above-2 WAR each of his last four healthy seasons—and lack of a truly elite season.
Eric Hosmer Return Still an Option?
When Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar tipped their caps to Royals fans at their home finale, it was the end of an era. All four players are free agents this winter, and the mid-market Royals aren't going to be able to sign them all. Or possibly any of them.
The Royals have made it clear which of the four they prefer to keep, if any. Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star reported the team is expected to attempt to coax Hosmer into staying while "monitoring the market for his services." Kansas City wants to retain Hosmer at a reasonable price and sees him as a fit for whatever the organization decides to do moving forward.
Dodd wrote that agent Scott Boras is hoping to fetch $200 million, which would likely be out of the Royals' price range. The $200 million could be a little steep for any team, especially given Hosmer's production does not match up with such an exorbitant contact.
Hosmer set a career high with a 4.1 WAR in 2017 but was worth -0.1 wins a year prior. Over the last four seasons, 11 first basemen have been worth more wins.
The leadership qualities Hosmer provides to a clubhouse are important but should be more valuable to the Royals than any other team. If any team is going to get him in even the $150 million range, it should be Kansas City.
Top MLB Free Agents
1. Yu Darvish (predicted destination: re-signs with Dodgers)
2. J.D. Martinez (predicted destination: signs with Giants)
3. Jake Arrieta (predicted destination: signs with Angels)
4. Eric Hosmer (predicted destination: re-signs with Royals)
5. Mike Moustakas (predicted destination: signs with Cardinals)
6. Jay Bruce (predicted destination: signs with Rangers)
7. Wade Davis (predicted destination: re-signs with Cubs)
8. Lorenzo Cain (predicted destination: signs with Red Sox)
9. Lance Lynn (predicted destination: signs with Rangers)
10. Carlos Santana (predicted destination: re-signs with Indians)
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