Every team has at least someone due to become a free agent at the end of 2018, the big question is, will those teams be looking to sign those players to extensions, and if not, will other teams be bidding for their services come this fall?
We take a look at a team-by-team snapshot of who is eligible for a re-up and what the chances are of them doing so.
The biggest name coming up for free agency in Arizona at the end of 2018 will be Barry Janmaat. The 39-year-old Dutchman has had a long and stellar career, and does not appear to be ready to hang up his first baseman’s glove just yet, despite taking a big pay cut to stay active in 2018, after signing a one-year deal as a free agent after leaving Jacksonville at the end of 2017.
Janmaat was out with a ruptured UCL from June 1st last year, after putting in just 18 games with the Ravens. But he still hits for contact and power, and stole 3 bases without being caught when he played for Boston in 2016. Though not the greatest first baseman to play the position, he was error-free through 2017, and had an impressive 1.130 efficiency and +1.3 zone rating.
The only other pending free agent the team will likely look at an extension for is second baseman Koichi Masuda, a speedy defensive option with decent contact and youth on his side, who would make a great replacement for the older, slower Jim Read who is also due for free agency and plays the same position.
Closer Jesus Carrillo is nearly a guaranteed re-sign if Boston’s GM wants to have a shot at a playoff in 2019. The 37-year-old pitches low in the zone with great velocity. In the closer role he won’t need to put in too long a work day, though he has the type of conditioning that would allow him to see use in back-to-back games often.
He will make $6.4 million this year and could easily make more in free agency. Just last season he placed 2nd in voting for the Woodchuck Trophy for the best reliever, proving he still has the skills to be where he is today. Need further proof? It was only last year that he hit career-bests in ERA and WHIP, in his 16th season in the big leagues. There’s a lot more gas left in the tank and Boston will likely lock him up until his arm falls off. Which could be a long time.
The Brawlers may also make a play to keep Alfonso Gutierrez, a righty starter with a blazing fastball and bat-stopping changeup. He was 12-5 last season, with a 2.71 ERA, and at age 29 he should have those kinds of numbers for at least another 3 seasons, if not more. Then, look to see him transition into a bullpen role for a prolonged career.
The Inferno have a handful of top talent looking at free agency at the end of the season, including closer Kevin Krohn, bullpen arm Sergio Maestas, and key playoff piece Logans Run. The good news is they will have plenty of room for extensions if they choose to use it, and Logans Run makes the most sense to target with a multi-year extension. He his 31 homers last year, had 64 RBIs, and batted .304, making him a top run producer. He won the Bull Cup MVP award for his big hits against Montreal in the championship series, especially in Game 5 where he provided a clutch homer. He will likely need to be lured with a $10 million/year or larger deal.
Maestas is currently paid more, but signed his existing deal before the 2016 season when it looked like he would continue as a top closer for Jacksonville. That never materialized and he’s now boxed in as an overpaid middle-reliever at $8.5 million a year. Calgary will likely want to keep the 35-year-old around but at a far lower price, since he still strikes batters out at an impressive clip of 11.1 per 9 IP. Krohn is a sure extension as well, as good genuine closers are hard to come by and he’s among the top 5 in the league.
The Tidals are in a rebuild and are unlikely to extend any of their outgoing veterans, save for Jim Lahey, their 29-year-old first baseman and DH. Lahey has lost some of his defensive skills, but his bat would command a top price on any roster and Tidals have deep pockets to spend in 2019 and forwards. But, he will look to get paid at least $9.5 million a year for the use of his big bat.
CHICAGO PIT BULLS
While Taiwanese closer Ming Ou is the consensus top-ranked guy up for free agency this year, we think it’s first baseman Jordan Garcia that the Pit Bulls will have their eye on. Chicago will have a massive war chest for extensions, and 33-year-old Garcia offers a solid power swing that could be had for about $10 million.
The Deps have a large menu of players eligible to depart after 2018. Frankly, none of them are worth keeping around and the club knows this. If they can re-sign some of the younger ones, like Elias Huerta, for a reasonable price, they would do well to make an offer. Otherwise, they will take their money and put it into the draft and international free agent pool and try their luck. The team has been seeding its minor league system all off-season, and it wouldn’t make sense to pay top dollar for mediocrity when the club has already been spending time and effort in dumping its expansion-era weathered veterans in favor of younger prospect talent.
Just three players are eligible for free agency this season. The only one likely to be offered an extension is 40-year-old closer Nick MacLellan, who still wields a flaming fastball and can rack up the K’s in late inning, short appearances.
Again, a team that has just a small selection of free agent eligible players this year, the Motorheads will likely zero in on big-swinging outfielder Nate Mair. The 34-year-old Mair came over in a trade with Arizona, and makes for a nice fit in the Motorhead lineup as a good contact lefty bat with pop. He will cost the team about his current $8.7 million salary to keep on the roster past this year, as his defense and speed is on the decline.
The former Battle Creek Attack could want to hold on to Koji Kondo if his price comes down from its current $8.2 million. Kondo doesn’t look like he wants less, and so he is likely to be gone after 2018. His mid-average (.245) hitting, average power and declining speed aren’t going to convince the new GM to keep him around at that price. The Sluggers will likely want to spent their 2019 extension budget wisely, and instead bankroll a decent free agent spend after this season.
The former Kingston Cannons have a slew of talent up for renewal after this season, and are now in a nice big market giving them a huge pot to dip into for extensions. Likely high priorities will be veteran power outfielder and future Hall of Famer Francisco Erazo, who will likely finish his playing career in Miami, and right-hander Jake Figurski, a 31-year-old Virginian with a 97 mph fastball.
Erazo, due to turn 39 during spring training, is still one of the top contact hitters in baseball. His conditioning is legendary, and hasn’t had a significant injury since 2013. He will likely sign at a discount to his current $36 million salary, probably in the $11 million range and could see himself playing for 3 more seasons. Figurski is on the rise, and will likely be kept around to solidify the rotation as the club looks to add power to the lineup for support.
If anyone is offered an extension for the Ravens, who are locked down pretty tight overall, it could be outfielder Hugh Lambert, the 29-year-old free-swinging pull hitter who, though he isn’t quick, shows great tact and judgement as both a batter and a baserunner, and scored 43 runs last year and walked 67 times.
Peyton May will will be re-signed if the Metros hold out any hope of contending in 2019. But the club will have to take drastic action to bring down its commitments this year, including a close look at their arbitration estimates for this fall, over $27 million in budget money locked up for that alone.
Nevada is carefully watching its budget waistline, and has telegraphed a reluctance to spend on extensions already.
NEW YORK DRAGONS
The Dragons have just two players up for a re-up, suggesting the club is locked in for 2019. Look for them to not re-sign either, and instead dip into the free agent market or spend on player development.
The club will probably chase an extension with Nam-shik Kym a worthwhile investment for a middle-rotation starter at $1.4 million.
The Oxen have to face fiscal realities for 2019, despite their move to a larger market city, and their record-setting attendance and popularity last year. But Garth Goyle is a big factor for their success, and so the GM will need to find a way to keep him around, despite facing a budget deficit after 2018.
RIMOUSKI FIGHTING MOOSE
Left-handed closer Kyle Cahill was received in a recent trade with Dallas, and could wind up a big factor in locking down the late innings as the Moose ride the crest to an almost guaranteed repeat playoff appearance. By locking him in to an extension, the Moose will nearly assure a 2019 playoff appearance as well. But they are in a small market, and need to budget accordingly, as they will also have to come up with a contract for key power-hitting third baseman Alan Isimo, still one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball, as he looks for a $20 million payout after 2018.
The Salts will likely narrow their extension spending choices to Adam Fitzpatrick, last year’s Woodchuck Trophy winner, and starter Aaron Reed. But with their current budget, they will have to pick one or the other, unless they can sign some of the other arbitration-eligible players at a discount to free up budget room.
ST. PETERSBURG ADMIRALS
The former Achorage Aces are fortunate to only have two players up for renewal, but both are talented and should be lured back. Second baseman Section Attack was the club’s top hitter last year, with a .357 average, but will want a substantial pay raise to stay. His high contact bat would be a welcome addition to most other rosters. The other is Robby Noriega, a lefty bullpen arm with great velocity, and close to perfect stuff. When he’s lit up, he is impossible to hit, striking out batters at nearly a 14 K/9 clip. But his weakness is a lack of movement, and so when his velocity drops he gets tagged for hits, but even still his short exposure in games has kept his ERA to a respectable 3.75. He is an easy case for an extension.
The Nomads are also in a budge crunch and unless their attendance blows out expectations, they are unlikely to be in a position to re-sign their departing players. The two relievers are arms they want to keep, Kevin Faith and closer Jamie Jones. But they are unlikely to find the budget room and so they will watch them depart after 2018 wraps up.