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Max Rosenfeld

A Way Too Early Look at Next Year’s Free Agent Class

The 2017 offseason has been lackluster, to say the least. With 12 of the 15 top free agents still searching for teams, many wonder when the action will start. This won’t be a problem in 2018, as next offseason features one of the most talented free agent classes in the history of the major leagues.

To this point, Major League Baseball’s typically thrilling hot stove season has been ice cold. The majority of impact free agents have yet to sign and the usual spenders, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, seem uneager to get heavily involved. But fear not baseball fans–next winter is sure to provide much more excitement. The 2018 MLB free agent class is loaded with elite talent that will change the landscape of the sport. So which players will be available next offseason, and where might they land?

Infielders

3B/SS Manny Machado

3B Josh Donaldson

3B Adrian Beltre

2B Brian Dozier

2B Daniel Murphy

2B D.J. LeMahieu

SS Elvis Andrus

1B Justin Smoak

Machado highlights the infielders, and it’s already anticipated that he’ll sign with the Yankees to fit right into their lineup between reigning NL and AL home run champions Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. He will most likely garner the highest Average Annual Value (AAV) of any of these players, and rightfully so. Machado has proven that he is an elite defensive player at both third base and shortstop to go along with his incredible hitting talent. Machado is a generational infielder, and whoever adds him to their team will reap the rewards.

But that does not mean the rest of this class does not pack a punch, also. Donaldson is a former MVP that will likely be seeking a new home as Toronto enters a rebuilding stage. In the nation’s capital, Murphy has proven that his magical 2015 postseason performance was not a fluke. He is now one of the most respected contact hitters in all of baseball. Beltre is a surefire Hall of Famer who if he decides to continue playing, can still provide great value for a team in contention. And Andrus has turned around his career as of late because of his acceptance of the fly ball revolution, giving credence to the praise that once seemed premature.

Outfielders

RF Bryce Harper

CF Charlie Blackmon

CF A.J. Pollock

CF Adam Jones

LF Marwin Gonzalez

LF Michael Brantley

CF Andrew McCutchen

OF/DH Nelson Cruz

Ah, this is it–the long-awaited Harper free agency that is expected to shatter any previous contract agreements by free agents. Harper is represented by Scott Boras, the perfect man to lead him into the hot stove battlefield. Not only is Harper a generational talent, he is a generational personality. His exciting play has made him a favorite amongst baseball fans, most notably the younger generation, which makes him even more appealing to potential suitors. The usual suspects are expected to get involved, like the Yankees, Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, and St. Louis Cardinals. Any and all teams would welcome Harper, but it will likely take upwards of $350 million to get a seat at the table. Harper’s is the most anticipated voyage into free agency since Alex Rodriguez, and the bidding war for his services will highlight the 2018 offseason period.

But there are plenty of other fantastic players as well. Gonzalez, who just proved to be a key player on the Houston Astros World Series run, could blossom into a superstar by the time he enters the market. His versatility as an outfielder and infielder makes him particularly intriguing in this fluid era of baseball.

Blackmon, Pollock, Jones, and Cruz are all bona fide All-Stars with plenty left to offer. Blackmon and Pollock, who are younger, have a great opportunity to cash in with big market clubs if they can maintain their excellent play.

And although they are past their prime, McCutchen and Brantley are still extremely serviceable options as corner outfielders for a team looking to win. They’ll provide leadership, experience, and a respected mentality to any organization.

Pitchers

LHP Clayton Kershaw

LHP Drew Pomeranz

LHP David Price

LHP Gio Gonzalez

LHP Andrew Miller

LHP Zach Britton

RHP Craig Kimbrel

RHP Cody Allen

RHP Jeurys Familia

RHP Matt Harvey

It’s hard to imagine Kershaw leaving Los Angeles, which is why the Dodgers will likely pull out all the stops to retain the greatest regular season pitcher of his generation. Kershaw is a Dodger and should remain a Dodger.

But behind him is a tremendous class of impact relievers such as Miller, Britton, Kimbrel, Allen, and Familia. In the age of super bullpens, these arms are more valuable than ever. They will be paid handsomely, and some might even be compensated as if they are starting pitchers. The times are changing.

And perhaps the most interesting storyline to come from the group will be which team decides to take on the Harvey reclamation project. Harvey, once one of the best starting pitchers in the game, is now one of the worst. Would he benefit from moving to the bullpen? It’s entirely possible the right-hander makes the change to increase his value and most importantly is productivity. A return to the New York Mets appears highly improbable.

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Max is a student at Saint Joseph's University where he is a Communication Studies major. He is a contributing writer for Baseknock MLB and the host of the Payoff Pitch Podcast, which airs every Tuesday morning.

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