There are just 11 days remaining before pitchers and catchers report for first workouts.
And about 17 days before all players get in first full workouts.
Which has to have the remaining passel of free agents sweating it out, wondering if they’ll have a place to play in 2018.
The free agent market, for the most part, has been very, very slow.
Blame it on economics, which veteran Oakland A’s slugger Brandon Moss spoke about recently. He said that with some of the outrageous money demanded by remaining free agents, it has had the effect of having owners not wanting to meet the demands, no matter how great their team’s needs may be.
Thus, there are still many big fish in the MLB free agent pond, so to speak.
Here are 25, or a full roster of pitchers and position players who we think are among the best available, but have to be sitting at home wondering just what 2018 will hold for them. We’ll start with pitchers and then position players.
25. SP Jake Arrieta
The argument could be made that Arrieta is the best starter still available, and those in favor wouldn’t be wrong. Yet, with a market value of just under $27 million (thanks to the folks at Spotrac), the offers aren’t flying in. It was another down year for the 2015 NL Cy Young winner, who went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and 1.218 WHIP in 30 starts. Now, those numbers might seem pretty good at first look, however, consider that he was 22-6, with a 1.77 ERA and 0.865 WHIP in his Cy year. Where he fits with the Cubs, or with another team, won’t probably be solved until the last possible minute, when teams looking for starting help — and money — get desperate.
24. SP Yu Darvish
There are many rumors circulating about just where LA Dodgers starter Darvish lands, including the Chicago Cubs. Other teams in the mix for the flamethrower include Milwaukee, the Dodgers, Minnesota, Philadelphia and even the New York Yankees. Darvish, who already has over 1,000 strikeouts, in just five seasons, went 10-12 in a season split between Texas and L.A., with a combined ERA of 3.86 and 209 K’s in 186.2 innings pitched. He pitched well in the NLDS and NLCS for the Dodgers after being acquired from the Rangers, beating Arizona and the Chicago Cubs. However, the Houston Astros chased him from two World Series starts in the early innings, including after just 1.2 innings in game 7. His market value, according to Spotrac, is just over $22.5 million per season (on comparison to similar pitchers).
23. SP Alex Cobb
It wasn’t Alex Cobb’s best season in 2017 with Tampa, but it was his busiest. The 30-year-old veteran of six seasons had highs in starts (29), wins (12), and innings (179.1). But, he also lost 10 games and gave up 22 dingers. In any case, the demand for his services will come to a head once Darvish and Arrieta sign, since he had 15 quality starts in 2017, which was tied for ninth most in baseball. Cobb also has an ability to rise to the occasion, the evidence being three wins and a no decision in four starts against division rival Boston last year. He spun 7.2 innings of quality work in a 1-0 win over the Bosox on July 8, limiting them to two hits and no runs. His market value is just over $18 million per season.
22. SP Jason Vargas
Vargas is a little long in tooth at 35, but the lefty is coming off his first All-Star campaign and holds a market value under $10 million. He went 18-11 in 32 starts for the Kansas City Royals (16 quality) in his best season yet, with a 4.16 ERA, 1.330 WHIP and 134 strikeouts in 179.2 innings pitched. There hasn’t been much substance to rumors about where he might land, most of them residing on fan sites like those in Texas and Baltimore. We think he’ll stay in the AL, given that the majority of his 248 career games have been played there (208 to be exact, with the Royals, Angels and Seattle).
21. SP Andrew Cashner
Cashner, who put in good work with Texas last year, is another decent starter who can be had relatively cheap. His valuation, again according to Spotrac, is just over $10 million. He’s 31 and coming off arguably his best season in the major leagues. The big righty (he’s 6’6″) wasn’t overpowering with 86 strikeouts in 166.2 innings, but he didn’t give up a lot of homers (just 15 in 28 starts) and he finished with a 3.40 ERA. Of his 28 starts, 18 were quality, tying him with big names like Jon Lester and Michael Fulmer. A short term deal would probably be best in Cashner’s case.
20. RP Tony Watson
If workhorse set-up man was unknown to baseball fans during his days with Pittsburgh, he certainly became a big name for the Dodgers during this year’s playoffs. The lanky lefty was dealt to Los Angeles at the deadline and in 24 games had a 2-1 record, with a 2.70 ERA, 18 strikeouts and a 1.050 WHIP in 20 innings pitched. In the post-season, Watson saw action in 11 games, surrendering two earned runs in seven innings, while walking one and striking out three. Spotrac has no valuation for the 32-year-old veteran of 474 games in seven big league seasons, but he did make a very friendly $5.6 million on a one-year deal signed with Pittsburgh.
19. RP Greg Holland
He will be the most expensive reliever available, but after tying the Dodgers Kenley Jansen for the NL lead in saves with 41, Holland will get signed for max money. After sitting out 2016 post-Tommy John surgery, the former Kansas City Royals closer bounced back with a vengeance in 2017 with Colorado. In 45 save opportunities, Holland locked down 41, as well as striking out 70 in 57.1 innings of work. He also sported a 3-6 record, 3.61 ERA and 1.151 WHIP. Those numbers aren’t outstanding, but consider he had to shake off some rust and that most of his worst work came in one month (August, where he had three of his four blown saves). He’s valued at just under $13.5 million a season.
18. RP Trevor Rosenthal
For our money, Trevor Rosenthal is the next best closer/long reliever available. Why? Because he is still just 27, and throws gas. Rosenthal saved just 11 games in 2017, sharing duties with fellow free agent Seung Hwan-Oh (35), but struck out 76 batters in just 47.2 innings for a ridiculous SO/9 of 14.3. In 50 relief appearances last year, Rosenthal sported a 3-4 record, 3.40 ERA and 1.196 WHIP. We believe he is still ripe to become someone’s closer, considering he savei 45 games in 2014 with St. Louis and another 48 during his All-Star year with the Cardinals in 2015. He also has extensive post-season experience with the Cards, getting in 23 games and registering a 0.69 ERA in 26 innings, along with seven saves and 42 strikeouts.
17. RP Tyler Clippard
To say that set-up man Tyler Clippard has been a journeyman the last three seasons would be a massive understatement. After pitching for seven seasons in Washington between 2008 and 2014, Clippard has thrown for six different clubs since 2015, including Oakland, the New York Mets and Yankees, Arizona, Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros. Now, it wasn’t his greatest season, but Clippard did have a lot of upheaval in 2017, starting the year with the Yankees, then going to the White Sox and finally the Astros. Where his value has always been is that he is a workhorse with a live arm. In 2017 he struck out 72 in 60.1 innings and had an overall WHIP of 1.293. His 2-8 record and 4.77 ERA, though, might scare off a few teams. We believe, though, that he can be had on a relatively low cost contract on short terms.
16. RP Sergio Romo
Romo is a veteran guy with a live arm and a competitive streak. For years, the 34-year-old Californian was a fixture in the San Francisco Giants bullpen, pitching over 500 games and logging a 2.58 ERA, 84 saves and 498 strikeouts in 439.2 innings. He signed a one-year, $3 million deal with Los Angeles in early 2017 and it turned out to be disastrous. He was 1-1 in 30 games, but his ERA ballooned to 6.12 and in late July he was designated for assignment. A trade to Tampa Bay, however, was the tonic. He appeared in 25 games with the Rays and was his old self, going 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA and 28 Ks in 30.2 innings. In relative terms to the rest of the free agent field he isn’t that old at 34 and judging by his last contract, could be scooped up cheap.
15. RP Fernando Abad
Left-handed set-up men are in great demand and after a fairly good season with the Red Sox, well-traveled reliever Fernando Abad might be able to cash in on a short-term contract. In 2017 Abad appeared in 48 regular season games, going 2-1 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.237 WHIP. He had 37 strikeouts in 43.2 innings and also registered the second save of his eight-year big league career. There really isn’t anything fancy about Abad and one of the knocks on him is that a lot of his work was done in low leverage situations (read: garbage time). Yet, he made a very inexpensive $2 million to pitch in 48 games, so another contract in that range wouldn’t be foolish on the part of a few frugal teams.
14. RP Matt Belisle
Any team needing a low cost, high volume veteran arm might want to give Matt Belisle a look. The 37-year-old righthanded set-up man/closer appeared in 62 games for the Minnesota Twins in 2017 and put up reasonably solid numbers for the low cost of just over $2 million. He recorded a 2-2 record, 4.03 ERA, 1.160 WHIP and 54 strikeouts in 60.1 innings. If anything, Belisle is an absolute workhorse, once leading the NL with 80 appearances with Colorado in 2012. Over 14 seasons, the big Texan has played 660 games, with a 51-57 record, 4.19 ERA and 686 strikeouts in 894.1 innings of work.
13. C Jonathan Lucroy
There is only one decent catcher still available as of Thursday and that distinction goes to the expensive — but worthy – Lucroy. He is one of the better defensive catchers in baseball, who can also hit a smidge, too and his Spotrac valuation is a shade under $13 million. At 31 and having bounced around the last two seasons, Lucroy might be looking for a multi-year pact, too. In 2017, the two-time All-Star played 123 games, split between Texas and then Colorado. Collectively, he hit .265 with six homers and 40 RBI. Behind the dish, he had a .995 fielding percentage and threw out 20 of 75 would be base stealers. He’ll garner more intense interest the closer the day comes to pitchers and catchers reporting.
12. 1B Logan Morrison
We’re not quite sure if Logan Morrison’s 2017 season was a statistical anomaly, or just some plain old good power hitting. The eight-year veteran tore the hide off the ball, ripping a career high 61 extra base hits, 38 of them round-trippers. That homer total tied him with three others, including Edwin Encarnacion, for eighth overall in the bigs. He also drove in 85 and walked 81 times to register a respectable .353 on base percentage. Morrison is a fair fielder too, logging a .993 fielding percentage (he is .995 career) and also hit well as a designated hitter. Spotrac has his value at just under $16 million and in 2017 he made $2.75 million.
11. 1B Eric Hosmer
Of all players on this list, we are really surprised — shocked even — that Eric Hosmer hasn’t been inked to a multi-year deal. The Royals could do a lot worse than to have a guy who has won four Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger and an All-Star nomination in their line-up every day. Hosmer has been a great and loyal Royal for seven seasons and in 2017 he had his best year yet. He hit a career high .318, smacked 31 doubles, 25 homers and drove in 94. To top it off, he made just four errors at first for a sterling .997 fielding percentage (winning that fourth Gold Glove to go with his first Silver Slugger award). Best of all, Hosmer is still in his prime at 28.
10. 2B Neil Walker
As second-sackers go, Neil Walker is above the curve as a power hitter, having launched 2014 doubles, 20 triples and 130 home runs in 1,060 big league games. He is also a significant run producer with 522 RBI as well as a reliable bat, registering a career .272 batting average and .341 OBP. The only knock on him lately has been that he is injury prone and at 32 his best years may be behind him. He got in 111 games between the Mets and Brewers in 2017, hitting a collective .265 with 21 doubles, 14 dingers and 49 RBI. His OBP was a solid .362 and he also logged an OPS of .801. Walker also showed versatility last season, playing 17 games at first and four at third base. His market value is a shade over $13.5 million, according to Spotrac.
9. SS Eduardo Nunez
The market for available shortstops is pretty thin this year, so the only candidate we are offering up here is Boston’s Eduardo Nunez. And the native of Santo Domingo, D.R. isn’t chopped liver as a free agent, either. He hit for his best average ever in a season split between San Francisco and Boston, registering a .313 mark. Nunez added 33 doubles, 12 home runs and 58 RBI, as well as swiping 24 bases in 114 games. One thing to note about Nunez is that while he is listed as a shortstop, he actually only played 16 games there last season, with 53 at third base, and the rest in the outfield. Spotrac has him listed a smidge over $11.5 million and in 2017 he earned $4.2 million.
8. 3B Todd Frazier
The hot corner is still flooded with many available free agents. The only regular to sign so far was Jose Reyes with the Mets, which means the rest of the field is pretty deep. Two-time All-Star Todd Frazier is one of them and given his power numbers and decent defensive capabilities, shouldn’t have to wait too long for a contract offer. He will be 32 before the season starts, however, Frazier is relatively durable, playing over 150 games four times in his career and appearing in 147 with the White Sox and Yankees in 2017. His batting average took a nose dive last year to .213, yet he walked 83 times to post a .344 on base percentage. Frazier had better than average power numbers too, with 19 doubles, a triple, 27 homers and 76 RBI. His valuation is about $11.25 million, while his 2017 salary was $12 million.
7. 1B/3B Mark Reynolds
Power hitting third baseman Reynolds is 34, so it’s highly unlikely he’ll get any kind of long term deal. But, after a fourth 30 or more homer season, along with 97 RBI, he’ll get a hefty short-term pact. At one time a third baseman, Reynolds has made the shift almost exclusively to first and if he signs in the AL, could be a great DH candidate. His homer totals may have been a little inflated, as 21 of them came at higher altitude in Denver, but Reynolds did have high totals elsewhere, so he his value as a hitter is still there. What teams might remark about him, though, is a free-swinging tendency that saw him whiff 175 times in 148 games.
6. 3B Mike Moustakas
If both “the Moose” and Eric Hosmer vacate the corner infield positions in Kansas City, it could be a very miserable year for Royals fans. Moustakas put up some great power numbers in 2017, leading the Royals in big flies with 38 (which was also tied for eighth overall in baseball), along with a career high 85 RBI. That performance led to his second All-Star nomination in the last three seasons. As a fielder, Moustakas is strictly average, having sported a .962 fielding percentage. Like Hosmer, the Moose is a popular player who has toiled his entire seven-year career in Kansas City and at just 29 years of age he too will be looking for a long term deal. Spotrac has pegged his relative worth at a shade over $16.5 million a season.
5. OF Melky Cabrera
The Kansas City Royals may be a decidedly different team in 2018, if all their remaining — and high profile — free agents (including Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer) bolt for greener pastures. Fellow outfielder Lorenzo Cain already took a five-year deal in Milwaukee and Melky Cabrera may be next out the door. Cabrera was only a Royal for a short time after a trade with the White Sox, but made his presence felt. In 58 games, he hit .269 with 13 doubles, two triples, four homers and 29 RBI. Collectively, the 13-year veteran registered a .285 average, with 30 doubles, 17 round-trippers and 85 RBI in 156 games. He played both right and left field, making just two errors for a .992 fielding percentage. His Spotrac market value is pegged at just under $16 million a year.
4. CF Carlos Gomez
Gomez found a home in Texas after bouncing around for two years, now it’s a matter if the Rangers want to make it more permanent. The fleet centerfielder and two-time All-Star had a pretty good year at the dish and in the field, which should get him a decent contract. He hit .255 with 41 extra base hits (17 homers) and 51 RBI, while stealing 13 bases in 18 attempts in 105 games. He made just four errors on 238 total chances for a .983 fielding percentage and had five assists. Gomez, 32, has a market value just over $14 million and in 2017 he made $11.5 million.
3. CF Jarrod Dyson
Eight-year veteran Dyson is a speed merchant who played his first season outside of Kansas City in 2017 with the Mariners. He did play 111 games in 2017 with Seattle, but had to undergo pelvic surgery, forcing him to miss the rest of the year. His recovery will have a lot to do with his contractual negotiations, then. In those 111 games, Dyson hit .251 with 28 steals. Not known for a lot of power, he had 21 extra base hits and drove in 30 runs. He made just two errors in 96 games in center field, while adding 10 assists. Of late, the Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants have shown interest in Dyson, who made $2.8 million on a one-year deal with the M’s.
2. RF Carlos Gonzalez
Should he sign a big deal elsewhere, will that team get the dynamic CarGo of 2015-16, or the strictly average CarGo of 2017? Gonzalez, who has spent nine mostly great years in Colorado after one season with Oakland, had a downgrade in production last year. He hit just .262 in 136 games, along with 14 homers (his fewest by far in a near full season) and 57 RBI. This was after ripping 65 homers the two previous campaigns and driving in 197 runs. His production was down across the board and it is likely he won’t be re-signing in Colorado after earning over $20 million last season. And at age 32, long term contracts won’t be thrown at him, either.
1. RF J.D. Martinez
The most high profile free agent left, Martinez is going to cost someone — dearly. But, his numbers hold up to scrutiny, as they weren’t forged in the thin air of Coors Field. Rather, the young-ish (30) rightfielder pounded out an amazing 45 homers in just 119 games split between Detroit (where he had 16 in 57 games) and Arizona (29 in just 62 contests). Martinez also drove in 104 runs and posted a major league leading .690 slugging percentage and hefty 1.066 OPS. Had he been able to play with just one team, he would have finished very high in MVP voting. Where it gets tricky now in contract negotiations is money and term. Spotrac has him valued at almost $26 million per season, which would be a significant raise from the $11.75 million he earned in 2017.