Predicting MLBTR's Top-50 FA Landing Spots
The fans have spoken, and all decided they wanted the predictions for the entire top 50 from MLB Trade Rumors dropped all at once.
And I’m a man of the people. I like to give ‘em what they want.
Now one thought here — I tried to make it all mesh and make sense as much as possible. But if your team signs two starting pitchers and only needs one in your opinion, keep in mind that this is mostly about trying to find fits while hedging bets a little bit. If one or the other signs with your team, that’s better than flipping a coin and having them both be wrong.
And above all, this should be fun. Let’s go:
50 Brad Miller - Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are starved for offensive talent, and Miller played mostly third base last year — making him a natural fit for Detroit if they want Jeimer Candelario to continue playing first base primarily. I’m not totally sure why Miller has played for six teams in eight seasons — including five in the last three seasons — but he’s hit .247/.343/.510 over his last two seasons (341 PA) and he hasn’t played for Detroit yet. So even if he’s not good in the clubhouse — I have no proof of this — he hasn’t been in this one yet.
49 Brett Gardner - New York Yankees
It’s Yankees or bust for me with Gardner. I just don’t see him playing his age-37 season anywhere else — even if there isn’t a natural fit here. With Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge all being fairly prone to injury in recent seasons, I think there’s still an opportunity for plate appearances in the Bronx.
48 Robbie Grossman - San Diego Padres
I think there’s a strong possibility that the Padres will non-tender or trade Tommy Pham, leaving left field open for a guy like Grossman — who is passable defensively and gets on base. With guys in the order like Fernando Tatis Jr., Jake Cronenworth and Manny Machado, having someone who gets on base in front of them is a must. I can also see Oakland and Tampa Bay as fits for an OBP-first guy like ROBBIE.
47 Chris Archer - Tampa Bay Rays
As you’ll find by reading the rest of this article, nostalgia is a hell of a drug. The Rays aren’t in a position where they necessarily need to add a ton of starting pitching talent — they’ll need arms for sure, but probably won’t aim too high unless they bring back Charlie Morton — so Archer on the comeback trail from thoracic outlet surgery seems like a good fit.
46 Anthony DeSclafani - Oakland Athletics
DeSclafani has been low key very good for the past few years in relative obscurity in Cincinnati, and I could see him returning there to run it back with the advances they’ve made in the pitching development department. If not, Oakland as a place to reboot some value makes a ton of sense. It was a small sample size — 33.2 innings — but DeSclafani struggled mightily in 2020 (7.22 ERA/6.10 FIP/massive K and BB rate slips).
45 Mark Melancon - Tampa Bay Rays
What better place for a 35-year-old reliever to reboot their career? Melancon wasn’t necessarily bad in 2020, but his strikeout rate plummeted — resulting in some of his peripheral numbers spiking a bit. Melancon’s swinging-strike rate fell to 8.7 percent this season — the lowest since his rookie year in 2009 — but with any sort of rebound, he could be a really, really nice buy-low candidate for Tampa Bay. I could also see him as a lower-cost replacement for Liam Hendriks in Oakland.
44 Cole Hamels - Philadelphia Phillies
Based on some of the Phillies types I follow on Twitter, it doesn’t sound like there’s going to be a huge influx of cash being pumped into arguably the least exciting team in the NL East. So I think they take the nostalgia route on a lefty who, if healthy, can probably give them 100-120 innings at or above league average ERA-wise. I could have possibly seen a reunion with the Braves, but that was before they signed Drew Smyly last week.
43 Rick Porcello - Baltimore Orioles
John Means and Alex Cobb combined has the makings of a decent, veteran-led rotation for an Orioles team in transition. Adding Porcello, who is by no means sexy but will eat innings, makes too much sense.
42 Jon Lester - Boston Red Sox
I think you’re probably starting to see a trend here. Lester is in the twilight of his career, and by almost any measure you look at, his former team the Red Sox had the worst rotation in baseball in 2020. It’s a good PR move and can help bridge the gap to guys like Bryan Mata, Jay Groome and a few others.
41 Drew Smyly - Atlanta Braves
This already happened. It’s a done deal. Let’s keep moving.
I’m kidding. I think this is an interesting move, not only because he has fascinating peripherals but that he got $11 million in what was widely expected to be a frigid offseason spending-wise. Hopefully this means good things to come for guys from this tier financially.
40 Greg Holland - Minnesota Twins
Holland was brilliant with the Royals last year, and at age 35 — literally his birthday today — he’ll likely be looking for a shorter-term deal with the right fit.
So why are the Twins that fit? The Twins love sliders. Love, love, LOVE sliders. Holland threw his 50.6 percent of the time last season, which maths out to….a lot of sliders. I’m not a math guy.
But for real — Holland has a career swinging-strike rate of 23.9 percent on his slider. This makes too much sense.
39 Kirby Yates - Miami Marlins
I could definitely see Yates working the comeback trail angle with the Padres again, but another soft landing spot could be the Marlins, who’ll be looking to replace Brandon Kintzler at the back end of their bullpen. Yates dealt with elbow issues — resulting in surgery to remove bone chips — but he’s reportedly in good shape otherwise with that hinge. The Marlins could and should be looking to make moves after a surprising 2020 playoff run.
38 J.A. Happ - Toronto Blue Jays
I think the Jays can use help at the front and back of their rotation. More on that later. That brings Happ back to the Great White North, where he went after the Phillies #shouldof kept him.
Sorry — inside joke from Phillies twitter.
The Jays wouldn’t necessarily need a long-term commitment from a back-end guy, and in that way this would be sort of similar to what Tanner Roark has with the Jays right now (year two of a two-year, $24 million deal).
Happ — and for that matter, Roark — can help build a bridge to a rotation that includes Hyun-Jin Ryu and Nate Pearson deep into the future.
37 Mike Minor - Minnesota Twins
I don’t know that it really matters, but the Twins don’t currently have a lefty in their rotation — at least one written in Sharpie. Beyond that, Minor is coming off a tough year with the Rangers but was absolutely brilliant in 2019. The Twins seem to love these bounce-back candidates, and a two-year deal for a lefty who turns 33 next month would make some sense for both sides.
36 Alex Colome - Washington Nationals
This is just me painting by numbers. The Nationals need bullpen help — again. Still. Your mileage may vary. Picking fits for relievers is like picking what you want at Cheesecake Factory. The menu is huge but you might have better food at home if you really think about it.
35 Carlos Santana - Washington Nationals
First base isn’t even listed on Washington’s MLB.com depth chart. No, seriously. There isn’t much in the way of top-end free agents at first base — though C.J. Cron could be a nice get for someone as well. My initial thought was Oakland as a DH-type for a team that loves on-base percentage, but I don’t know how much of a fit he’ll be on a team that moves guys around and is completely set at first base with Matt Olson.
34 Cesar Hernandez - Kansas City Royals
Nicky Lopez can really pick it, but his bat leaves a lot to be desired. Hernandez is a terrific defender as well, but brings quite a bit more to the table at second base offensively. Moving Lopez to a utility role and putting Hernandez at second frees up Whit Merrifield to keep playing in the outfield and gives the Royals offense a bit more structure at the top.
33 Adam Wainwright - St. Louis Cardinals
I just can’t imagine another fit for him. I thought about Atlanta maybe, but he didn’t really spend enough time in their system for it to be a homecoming — especially since it was almost 20 years ago.
32 Jurickson Profar - Minnesota Twins
The Twins need a guy who can play all over with Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza both hitting free agency, and they need Josh Donaldson injury insurance. They also might need someone to play left field until they decide Alex Kirilloff is ready.
Oh, and he was with the Texas Rangers when Thad Levine was. Get it done.
31 Charlie Morton - New York Mets
It sounds like Morton fancies returning to the Rays or perhaps sticking on the east coast. I think the Mets are going to spend a fair amount of money. The Mets have some depth behind Marcus Stroman and Jacob deGrom, but not enough to go the lower-ceiling route like they did last winter.
30 Yadier Molina - St. Louis Cardinals
See Wainwright, Adam.
29 Corey Kluber - Cincinnati Reds
I think the Reds development structure provides a good spot for Kluber to prepare for the second act of his career. I could also definitely see a return to Cleveland if the money is right.
28 Tommy La Stella - St. Louis Cardinals
No team values contact more. No player makes contact more. No other team dumped Kolten Wong this offseason. I’m not a math guy but it all adds up.
27 Blake Treinen - Boston Red Sox
Boston doesn’t just desperately need rotation help. The Red Sox bullpen had a collective 5.79 ERA and I can’t imagine the Faithful being happy with a second brutal season in a row. So while they could feasibly continue the slashing payroll game, I think they have to make at least a couple of moves to show they’re still trying.
26 Trevor May - Seattle Mariners
The Mariners had the worst bullpen in baseball last year — at least non-Phillies division — and May is from Washington. Too easy? May would immediately step in as their closer. Their primary closer last year was Taylor Williams, and he had a 5.93 ERA.
25 Trevor Rosenthal - Colorado Rockies
The Rockies bullpen was also very, very bad last year (6.77 ERA) and the Rockies have shown the willingness to both spend money on relievers and also pick up reclamation projects. Rosenthal has the potential to have been both of those in the span of about a year.
24 Brad Hand - Minnesota Twins
I’m not as much leaning into the Minnesota connection — did you know he’s from here? — as I think the Twins need insurance on Taylor Rogers at the back end of the bullpen. You could argue that Tyler Duffey fills that role, but that moves everybody up a notch and suddenly you’re expecting Matt Wisler to pitch the eighth inning one year after being taken off waivers.
The bullpen gets thin fast after Tyler Clippard, Sergio Romo and May hit the free market. Hand would be a nice pickup for the Twins, assuming he checks out health-wise.
23 Kolten Wong - Toronto Blue Jays
If the Jays non-tender Travis Shaw like it seems they will, Cavan Biggio could move to third base and Wong could slide in at second. That’d give the Jays a formidable infield of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Wong, Bo Bichette and Biggio. With the moves I have the Jays making this offseason — just you wait — I’d say they’re rightly reading the AL East as about as vulnerable as it’s ever going to get. It’s there for Toronto’s taking if they play this right.
22 Garrett Richards - Cincinnati Reds
I could see Richards signing with the Rays or going back to the Padres, but I think the development structure in Cincinnati — is there an echo in here — is too enticing for a guy looking to take a huge step back to the form he had with the Angels a half-decade ago. This past season was a good stepping stone; Cincinnati can get him the rest of the way.
21 Taijuan Walker - Detroit Tigers
Walker is young (28) for a free agent, which fits well with a team that has Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal and others at or near the big leagues.
20 James Paxton - Boston Red Sox
Boston is going to have to take some gambles to rebuild their rotation, and what better way than the ultimate buy-low candidate — who they’d be swiping from their primary rival? This isn’t exactly Johnny Damon or even Jacoby Ellsbury, but it would still be a fun storyline.
19 Jackie Bradley Jr. - Houston Astros
The Astros don’t have much in the way of help in center after the departure of George Springer. Near as I can tell, center field still plays fairly big at Minute Maid Park — and Bradley is a terrific defender. It shouldn’t take a massive commitment and whatever Bradley can bring offensively would be a nice plus, but this helps the Astros lock down center so they can focus on what to do with at least one of the other corners.
18 Nelson Cruz - Minnesota Twins
The Twins need Cruz more than he needs them, and they know it. Without him, the offense takes on a completely different dynamic, and it isn’t nearly as rosy. He’s a great mentor for the Hispanic players in the clubhouse, a great ambassador for the game and still hits the crap out of the baseball. He can be the Bridge to Brent Rooker if that’s what the Twins want, but I think they need him back more than most of us believe.
17 Jose Quintana - Chicago White Sox
I like the way the White Sox are going with the top of their rotation — Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning — and I think getting Michael Kopech back will help a lot. Dallas Keuchel was terrific in 2020. Buy this could help the White Sox round out a balanced rotation where they don’t have to rely so much on the Kopechs, Ceases and Lopezes of the world unless they absolutely prove they belong.
Oh, and Quintana sort of got his start with the White Sox, you might say.
16 Joc Pederson - Chicago White Sox
The worst-kept secret is that the Sox are an outfielder shy of a bunch. Nomar Mazara was not that guy this last year, and will almost certainly be non-tendered. Pederson is still a guy who should be on the long end of a platoon, but that’s still a big step up for the White Sox.
15 Andrelton Simmons - Oakland Athletics
Simmons as a buy-low for the A’s, who would be replacing Marcus Semien, makes too much sense. One year with Simmons allows the A’s to see what he has left and dip back into the stellar shortstop market a year from now if they see someone they like at their price point if Andrelton doesn’t pan out. And if he does, he’s one of the five best shortstops in the game.
14 James McCann - Colorado Rockies
The Rockies absolutely need an everyday catcher, and McCann can be that after spending 2020 splitting time with Yasmani Grandal. It seems like the White Sox would like to have him back, but another team can promise him a more involved role and more money — and teams who miss out on J.T. Realmuto should be all over this.
13 Marcus Semien - Los Angeles Angels
Semien might be a really nice find a year in advance of the offseason of shortstops — 2021 is loaded with Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Javier Baez and Carlos Correa — and the Angels are seemingly always in the mode of acquiring higher-end talent to put around Mike Trout. Should it be pitching? Probably. But hitting is more stable and at some point, it has to work. Right?
12 Justin Turner - Atlanta Braves
I could see Turner back with the Dodgers or even all the way back to the Mets — with the Robinson Cano suspension, especially — but I think the Braves, after missing out on Josh Donaldson last winter, would love to lock down third for the short term. It’d mean shifting Austin Riley back to the outfield, but I think the Braves would gladly do that to help smooth over the loss of Marcell Ozuna.
11 Michael Brantley - New York Mets
I don’t know if the NL will have the DH. I do think Brantley in left with Jeff McNeil at second or third base mixing and matching with J.D. Davis and whoever isn’t playing shortstop between Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario gives the Mets a ton of flexibility defensively and offensively. Brantley might be among the most underrated players in the game, and a good get for the Mets.
10 Liam Hendriks - New York Mets
There are so many fits for good relievers, but if anyone is going to spend big, I think it’s going to be the Mets. They can’t promise him the closer’s role necessarily with Edwin Diaz in tow, but that would be a devastating tandem at the back of games.
9 Jake Odorizzi - Minnesota Twins
It makes too much sense for the Twins and Odorizzi to run it back after a lost 2020 season. No team knows him better at this point, and while he’s coming off an injury-plagued season, the Twins are aware of what he brings to the table if he’s healthy. I keep saying it should probably be a one-year deal in the low double-digits with innings-based incentives. I think it makes sense.
8 Masahiro Tanaka - Seattle Mariners
Maybe it’s just a convenient excuse but pairing up Tanaka with fellow countryman Yusei Kikuchi makes a lot of sense to me. The Mariners are a young team on the rise, and Tanaka gives them a guy who can slot in anywhere from No. 1 to 4 depending on the continued development of Justus Sheffield, Marco Gonzales and even Kikuchi himself. I like this fit — a lot.
7 Didi Gregorius - Cincinnati Reds
Gregorius had a nice bounce-back season with the Phillies, and the Reds have no shortstop depth to speak of. Unless they’re planning on moving Mike Moustakas over there. I don’t think they are.
6 Ha-Seong Kim - Pittsburgh Pirates
I think Pittsburgh needs to get creative to keep moving forward in their rebuild, and adding a young infielder with good potential makes a lot of sense. Kim is a career .294/.373/.523 hitter in Korea, and the potential he brings should far outweigh the cost to sign him — even for a small-market team like the Pirates.
5 DJ LeMahieu - New York Yankees
I just can’t imagine the Yankees letting him get away. He’s clearly proven to be too pivotal to their success over the last two years. It won’t be cheap, but I think it happens.
4 Marcell Ozuna - Texas Rangers
The Rangers struck out on big fish last offseason, but I don’t think they will this time around. Ozuna lets them get creative with some of their other guys who don’t have firm positions — Willie Calhoun, Nick Solak, etc — and helps them galvanize a lineup that has Joey Gallo and frankly, quite a few question marks.
3 George Springer - Colorado Rockies
I thought about Texas here and also Toronto, but I think the Rockies could look for a splash with a current outfield setup of Raimel Tapia, David Dahl and Charlie Blackmon. Tapia is a good but not great hitter, Dahl has struggled to remain healthy and Blackmon turns 35 near the All-Star break in 2021. His play also slipped a bit in 2020 — albeit in a small sampling.
If the Rockies trade Arenado, I’d take Springer off the board and have him going to someone like Texas or Toronto, which would shake things up near the top. I like, but don’t love this fit.
2 J.T. Realmuto - New York Yankees
The Yankees can’t go back to the well with Gary Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka is heading into his age-31 season and hasn’t walked since 2018. No seriously — not even once. The Yankees make a splash here behind the plate, as I think they’re the best fit for the best catcher in baseball.
1 Trevor Bauer - Toronto Blue Jays
Call me crazy. No really, I get it. But again I think Toronto views the East as vulnerable with the Yankees needing to fill a few holes, the Rays perpetually strapped by their budget and the Red Sox still in transition.
Bauer atop a rotation that features Ryu and Pearson gives them the potential for an absolutely devastating 1-2-3 and their lineup, as things stand, is stack with young hitters who aren’t going to get PAID for a few more years. Now is the time to strike. Bauer is the guy to do it with.
Now I know there are some notable omissions here, so let me address those:
Chicago Cubs - This feels like a place where they’ll slash payroll without much in the way of additions.
Los Angeles Dodgers - What do you buy the person who already has everything?
Cleveland Indians - Feels like they’ll shop the market just outside the top 50.
Arizona Diamondbacks - I legitimately can’t get a grip on what they’d even need.