MLB Free Agent Odds and Predictions

MLB Free Agency Predictions

With the 2018 Major League Baseball regular season in the books, it’s time to dig into what’s shaping up to be one of the biggest offseasons in the history of the sport. Making the right moves in free agency can push a team into title contention or turn a good team into a great team — just ask the Red Sox, who signed J.D. Martinez to a big deal ahead of the 2018 season.

With some of the biggest names in the game set to hit the open market, here’s the odds for where they’ll end up along with my predictions for which teams they’ll sign with. All odds courtesy of Bovada:

Bryce Harper

I remember sitting in the OddsShark office two years ago at this time discussing the likelihood of Harper signing baseball’s first $500-million deal. At the time, it made sense, but now, the timing isn’t right. Big spenders like the Red Sox and Yankees don’t need him, while the Chicago Cubs, the team many have him linked to, have a payroll that’s bloated by the awful contracts handed out to Yu Darvish and Jason Heyward.

I think this is a two-team race between the Phillies and the Nationals. Philadelphia has made no bones about the fact that it’s ready to go all-in on a big-time bat. The Phils are in a position to contend in a wide-open division and the addition of Harper (or Manny Machado) would give them the big boost on offense that they desperately need.

As for the Nats, this is truly a franchise-altering decision. They can easily hop right back into contention with a few tweaks, but losing Harper from the heart of their order would be a major blow — both to their offensive production and ticket sales. Harper is among only a handful of players in the game who qualify as “must-see-TV” for casual fans and the number of butts he puts into seats and jerseys he sells will be just as important as what he does on the field. The Nationals know this and from a business perspective, bringing him back makes all the sense in the world.

Another interesting wrinkle is Scott Boras, Harper’s agent, who has a great relationship with the Nationals as a handful of his clients are on the roster. Ultimately, I think he signs with whoever offers him the most money, and it’s up to the Nationals if they want to be that team.

Prediction: Washington Nationals +400

Where will Bryce Harper play game 1 of the 2019 MLB Season?
  • Philadelphia Phillies EVEN
  • Chicago Cubs +300
  • Washington Nationals +400
  • San Francisco Giants +750
  • New York Yankees +800
  • Los Angeles Dodgers +850
  • Boston Red Sox +1500
  • Los Angeles Angels +1500

Manny Machado

Machado didn’t do himself any favors in the playoffs, most notably due to some greasy slides and light jogs to first base on groundouts. The questionable plays on the basepaths overshadowed the fact that he only hit .227 in the playoffs, but it doesn’t matter, he’s about to get paid.

The Phillies are the clear front-runner and it makes sense. With Corey Seager set to return to the Dodgers’ shortstop position and with third base already solidified by Justin Turner, the Dodgers are set with some much cheaper options. There’s some question marks around the left side of the Yankees’ infield, but their priority should be improving starting pitching, not taking on another $300-million contract for a position player.

This should clear the way for Philadelphia to offer Machado more money than any other team. Some might call him dirty, while others might call him gritty, and gritty seems like a great style for a ballplayer in the City of Brotherly Love.

Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies +150

Where will Manny Machado play game 1 of the 2019 MLB Season?
  • Philadelphia Phillies +150
  • Los Angeles Dodgers +225
  • New York Yankees +300
  • Miami Marlins +800
  • Los Angeles Angels +900
  • Atlanta Braves +1400
  • Washington Nationals +1400

Clayton Kershaw

The Dodgers ace could have put himself in a position to get the biggest contract in baseball history. He’s still only 30 years old, but after another lackluster postseason, some teams will be put off on breaking the bank for a guy who can’t perform in the playoffs (4.32 career playoff ERA vs 2.39 career regular-season ERA).

Still, he’s the best pitcher of the last decade and has lots of miles left on his arm. He has the ability to single-handedly win games and what’s to say he can’t put his playoff struggles behind him (right, David Price?).

Looking at some recent examples, both Price and Zack Greinke received deals of $200-million-plus after their 30th birthdays while Yu Darvish received $126 million from the Cubs after getting OBLITERATED in the 2017 World Series. Kershaw is better than these three and he should opt out of his current deal, which has two years remaining on it. He should be able to secure a deal similar to or better than what Greinke or Price received.

Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers -150

Where will Clayton Kershaw play game 1 of the 2019 MLB Season?
  • Los Angeles Dodgers -150
  • Houston Astros +375
  • Texas Rangers +375
  • Chicago Cubs +800
  • San Francisco Giants +800
  • New York Yankees +850
  • Cincinnati Reds +1600

Josh Donaldson

His contract year couldn’t have gone much worse thanks to spending most of it on the DL, but the former MVP and soon-to-be-33-year-old has the ability to put up game-altering numbers at the plate and play solid defense on the hot corner. Given his age and recent injury history, some type of mega-contract is highy unlikely, but he’ll still be able to secure a nice payday.

He’s been coveted by the St. Louis Cardinals for a long time now, but they were unable to work out a deal with the Blue Jays. That may have been their best shot as now they’ll need to contend with other buyers, most notably the Indians and Phillies.

The Indians aren’t typically known as big spenders, but a two- to three-year deal could be realistic. However, this is Donaldson’s last shot at a big-money deal, so signing with the highest bidder makes sense. The Phillies have one of the youngest rosters in the league and would definitely benefit from his presence.

Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies +250

Where will Josh Donaldson play game 1 of the 2019 MLB Season?
  • St. Louis Cardinals +115
  • Cleveland Indians +250
  • Philadelphia Phillies +250
  • Tampa Bay Rays +500

Patrick Corbin

The former Diamondback has set himself up quite nicely thanks to a strong second half where he posted a 1.91 FIP and 3.01 ERA. The lefty is the best pitcher on the open market and his free agency couldn’t have come at a better time.

Rumor has it that Arizona is considering going into rebuild mode and unloading some of their hefty contracts, so a return seems unlikely. There are, however, a few teams primed to compete in 2019 that need help at the top end of their rotations.

The Yankees found out that they don’t exactly have an “ace” in their rotation when Luis Severino struggled down the stretch and will likely be looking to replace C.C. Sabathia unless he’s prepared to come back on a team-friendly deal. The Brewers were within a game of making it to the World Series, but it’s clear they lack starting pitching depth. One of these teams has a lot more money to spend than the other, so do the math...

Prediction: New York Yankees -190

Where will Patrick Corbin play game 1 of the 2019 MLB Season?
  • New York Yankees -190
  • Arizona Diamondbacks +300
  • Milwaukee Brewers +850
  • Seattle Mariners +850
  • Washington Nationals +850
  • Los Angeles Angels +1100

Dallas Keuchel

The Astros were in a rare position after their 2017 World Series championship as they didn’t have too many contributors whose contracts were up. But now their former ace and 2015 AL Cy Young winner will want to get paid and he should have plenty of suitors in a market that’s shallow on starting pitching.

Jake Arrieta’s three-year, $75-million deal is probably a good benchmark for what Keuchel will receive, although he’s younger so he could get an extra year. This is a very tough decision for Houston as Keuchel has never quite regained his Cy Young form, and the younger Gerrit Cole will be a free agent after the 2019 season. Plus, there’s some up-and-coming arms in their system that they could give his innings to more cheaply.

It would be a great power move for the Los Angeles Angels to make a bid on Keuchel and steal him away from their division rival. Keuchel has long been a thorn in their side with the Astros going 13-4 in his 17 starts against them and, to be blunt, their starting rotation sucks. As a result, they should be prepared to overpay.

Prediction: Los Angeles Angels +230

Where will Dallas Keuchel play game 1 of the 2019 MLB Season?
  • Houston Astros +230
  • Los Angeles Angels +230
  • New York Yankees +230
  • Los Angeles Dodgers +650
  • Philadelphia Phillies +650
  • San Francisco Giants +650

Other Predictions:

  • Both Machado and Harper will get deals that exceed the $325 million that Giancarlo Stanton received from the Marlins
  • The Mets and White Sox will be surprise players in free agency
  • If the Yankees aren’t successful in their pursuit of Corbin, expect them to go all-in on trading high-end prospects for a front-of-the-rotation arm