Where will J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, and Co. end up? And for how much?
So far, the 2017–18 MLB Offseason Hot Stove would be better described as “lukewarm” than “hot”…
Corny jokes aside, this offseason is moving at an unprecedentedly slow pace, as organizations seem more than willing to wait for free agents to get anxious and for asking prices to come down.
However, in recent days, free-agent signings have picked up a bit, with Carlos Santana signing a three-year/$60-million deal with the Phillies, Mitch Moreland signing a two-year/$13-million deal with the Red Sox, Yonder Alonso signing a two-year/$16-million deal with the Indians, and Matt Adams signing a one-year/$4-million deal with the Nationals.
Despite all four of these players being first basemen, the free-agent market for first basemen, designated hitters, and corner outfielders is still chock-full, as J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Carlos Gonzalez, Logan Morrison, Lucas Duda, Jay Bruce, and Melky Cabrera (among others) all still need to find homes for next season. Nevertheless, given the large supply of players in this market, it seems as if not all of them will find homes anytime soon (or, at least, not at the price they would’ve hoped).
Compounding this issue is the apparent lack of demand for bat-first hitters at non-premium positions. Below is a table showing each team’s projected starters at first base, designated hitter, and the corner outfield positions, as well as their combined projected WAR, separated by league and sorted by each team’s projected win total.
Under the assumption that the Tigers, White Sox, and Marlins are embarking on full rebuilds and most likely will not spend on any free agent, only the following teams could really use an upgrade at either first base, designated hitter, or corner outfield:
With 37-year-old Jose Bautista departing in free agency, the Blue Jays will most likely platoon Teoscar Hernandez (0.3 projected WAR) and Ezequiel Carrera (0.0 projected WAR) in right field if another move isn’t made.
As of now, 27-year-old Yasmany Tomas (-0.1 projected WAR) is set to receive the majority of the playing time in left field. Bringing back trade deadline acquisition J.D. Martinez makes sense, but it is unclear if the D-Backs are willing to spend the necessary amount to acquire him or if they want to block Tomas, who signed a 6-year/$68.5 million out of Cuba, from playing time.
With new acquisition Ryon Healy entrenched at first base, ex-Yankees prospect Ben Gamel (0.6 projected WAR) is set to be the starter in left field.
Joey Rickard (0.0 WAR) and September call-up Austin Hays (0.1 WAR) look to compete for the starting job in right field, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the O’s sign another power bat to man right field, as they have the previous two offseasons (both signings were Mark Trumbo).
The Padres have been linked to Eric Hosmer in recent days. Signing Hosmer would move Wil Myers back to the outfield. If not, Jose Pirela (0.9 projected WAR) and Hunter Renfroe (0.2 projected WAR) will man the outfield corners.
With Logan Morrison departing in free agency, the Rays could use some power, as Brad Miller (1.2 projected WAR) and Mallex Smith (0.4 projected WAR) are set to receive significant playing time. Although, given the trade of long-time face of the franchise Evan Longoria, it seems as if the Rays will not be buying this offseason.
The Rockies could use upgrades at first base and the outfield corners, for their 1.4 projected WAR total amongst those three positions is the lowest in the National League.
With Cain, Hosmer, and Moustakas all departing in free agency, the Royals’ 2.8 projected WAR from first base, designated hitter, and the outfield corners is the lowest in the American League. Although, a 72-win projection suggests that the organization should be selling.
That being said, aside from the Giants, who have made it abundantly clear that they plan on contending in 2018, and the Mariners, who fell short in the Otani sweepstakes, none of the teams listed above have positioned themselves as clear-cut buyers (although the Padres have been linked to Hosmer in recent days). In fact, the Rays appear to be selling (see: Evan Longoria), while the Orioles appear to be toying with the idea. And, given their current roster constructions and intra-division competition, it may be best for the Blue Jays and Royals to be selling, as well.
That just leaves five teams as buyers: Mariners, Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies, and Padres, none of which has a DH spot available (the Mariners because of Nelson Cruz and the rest because of the National League).
As a result, while $13-million and $16-million deals may not seem like a lot, especially in today’s baseball economy, it seems as if Santana, Moreland, Alonso, and Adams were smart to sign when they did (i.e. early) in order to ensure a pay-day. And, while top free agents Martinez and Hosmer may not have to worry as much about potential unemployment as the other remaining free agents do, their waiting may cost them in the form of underwhelming offers, as the market for their services is drying up.