Numerous high-caliber players are up for free agency at the end of 2017, suggesting a busy and expensive offseason for most teams as they fish the free agency pool for talent to bring home for next season.
While many teams are focused on the race to the playoffs, some teams are taking an early look at 2018 budgets and what talent will go to free agency after the postseason.
The top name being whispered is Hoshi Mizuguchi, the third baseman currently playing for the Montreal Metros. The switch-hitting 34-year-old is a bundle of skill, and has rung up right-handed pitching to a .311 average and 1.029 OPS this season, pinning all 20 of his home runs on righties. He is in the final season of his $20.4 million 2-year contract and could easily collect a Gold Crown hitting award at 3B for his great year.
Mizuguchi previously played for Chicago from 2010, when he won the Lake League Rookie of the Year, until 2015. He will probably see his value as a hitter maintained into free agency, and could sign a similar 2-3 year deal with any team that can afford him. Right now, that list is limited but could include California, Arizona, or Jacksonville, all of whom are looking at $20+ million in potential budget room next year.
New York’s marquee first baseman, Setsuo Kimura, has been an institution in the franchise since he debuted there in 1999. He is showing little sign of slowing down, even at 38. This year he marked his 1500th hit, and next season could ring up home run #300. His career average of .295 and OPS of .902 would be welcome on any roster. New York will have budget room next year, but it may not be enough to re-sign him and so far there have been no contract rumors.
Kimura is very much the face of the franchise, but the 20-year veteran could be snapped up by one of the American Eagle League teams, where again, California and Arizona will have budget room.
Premier starting pitchers are always in high demand in the free agent market, and at least two top-tier starters will hit the market after this season, New York’s William Febres and Kingston’s Ron Alder, both of whom are RHP’s.
Febres is currently injured, and had some struggles with his control this season, leading to an ERA of just 3.21 (his worst since 2012). But the 34-year-old is still a dominant power pitcher who regularly throws in the 99-100mph range, and would make an ideal top slot starter for most rotations. His current 6-year, $145.8 million deal ends this season and his value likely hasn’t gone down. Again, only big spenders will be able to afford him.
As for Alder, he represents a bit more of a bargain. He is still young-ish, at 31, and has better control of his three pitches than Febres, and throws nearly as hard. He had a great season – nowhere near his best one, which was 2015, but stellar nonetheless. He picked up the pace on his K/9, which is currently 9.1, and is currently holding a career-best FIP of 2.90. He was paid $9 million to play in his remaining year of his 6-year, $41.9 million deal. He will likely want a pay raise but will likely sign for under $20 million.
Other names hitting the free agent block after this season include (current 2017 stats shown):
- RHP Bill Henson (Montreal), 38 – 3-0, 4.96, 32.2 IP, 14 K
- LF Narushi Ohata (Boston), 39 – .218/.246/.370, 3 HR, 19 RBI
- 2B Jesse Nelson (Seattle), 39 – .322/.445/.614, 11 HR, 37 RBI
- RHP Tomoyuki Matsumoto (Nevada), 36 – 0-0, 1.16, 23.1 IP, 10 K
- RF Oscar Barajas (Chicago), 32 – .259/.333/.393, 8 HR, 38 RBI
- RHP Jon Courteau (Dallas), 31 – 0-3, 17 SV, 2.25, 40.0 IP, 56 K
- C Dao-zi Ling (Calgary), 34 – .305/.352/.595, 26 HR, 56 RBI
- RHP Lou Bricknell (Montreal), 29 – 11-4, 2.28, 138 IP, 109 K