Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than two months so the top free agents still on the board should sign fairly soon. Here's a look at the four best remaining and how their singing might affect MLB futures odds at sportsbooks.
Max Scherzer, Starting Pitcher
Scherzer is represented by the ruthless Scott Boras, and Boras' biggest clients rarely sign before the New Year. He likes to force teams to bid against one another -- or at least create the impression that some teams are interested in his clients when really they aren't. The No. 1 team Boras wants to get involved in Scherzer is the Yankees, but GM Brian Cashman already has said that the former Tigers ace is out of his price range and New York has since traded for pitching. Scherzer followed up his 2013 Cy Young season with a 2014 campaign that was just as strong. He has thrown at least 187 innings in each of the past five seasons, although his velocity was down a bit in '14 and that scared a few teams. Detroit remains a possibility to re-sign Scherzer, especially after trading Rick Porcello. The Washington Nationals could trade either Doug Fister or Jordan Zimmermann and then sign Scherzer. The San Francisco Giants lost out on Jon Lester and thus could chase Scherzer. Perhaps there's a mystery team in there like the Angels or Red Sox or Rangers. For your future MLB picks keep in mind that any team that gets Scherzer sees its pennant odds improve at sportsbooks.
MLB Free Pick: Scherzer signs with San Francisco, but that will still leave the Giants behind the Dodgers in MLB odds to win the NL West. Currently the Giants are +1000 to repeat as NL champions, just the fifth-best odds.
James Shields, Starting Pitcher
Those teams that don't want to spend $200 million for Scherzer can probably get Shields for about $100 million so the field of candidates is larger. Shields is 33 and I wouldn't call him a true ace, especially as he wasn't great in the 2014 playoffs, although he will eat innings. Shields has never missed a start in his career due to injury. Over the past three seasons, he has gone 42-27 with a 3.29 ERA. He has pitched the most innings in the majors over that span and ranks 15th in wins and 20th in ERA among pitchers with at least 500 innings in that stretch. The Kansas City Royals appear to have given up on getting Shields back. He might have been a fit for the Cubs and former manager Joe Maddon, but Chicago got Jon Lester.
MLB Free Pick: Shields signs with the Rangers. Right now Texas is just +1800 on MLB odds to win the AL pennant and the Rangers need to do something to catch up to the Angels and Mariners in the AL West.
Hiroki Kuroda, Starting Pitcher
Kuroda could retire as he will be 40 in February. However, the right-hander was still very effective with the Yankees in 2014, going 11-9 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts. Any team would take those numbers. New York doesn't need him back as badly after trading for the Marlins' Nathan Eovaldi and signing Chris Capuano, but the Bombers still have a bevy of health questions in that rotation. Kuroda would be a nice safety net. I doubt Kuroda goes anywhere else if he does play.
MLB Free Pick: Kuroda returns for one more year with New York. The Yanks are +1200 on MLB futures to win the pennant and Kuroda wouldn't affect that.
Colby Rasmus, Outfielder
This guy was once projected to be a star. As a rookie in 2007 with St. Louis he hit .251 with 16 homers and 52 RBIs and then followed it up by batting .276 with 23 homers and 66 RBIs the next year. Rasmus has had some trouble staying healthy since then. He hit 22 homers and knocked in 66 in just 118 games with Toronto in 2013. Last year he was limited to 104 games but hit 18 dingers. Rasmus would be a fairly low-risk, high-reward player. You hear teams like Seattle, San Francisco, the Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles interested in Rasmus.
MLB Free Pick: Baltimore signs Rasmus after losing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. The O's, reigning AL East champs, are currently +1000 to win the AL pennant at sportsbooks.