Three Royals Among Key Free Agents Who Could Change MLB Odds

Kevin Stott

Thursday, January 18, 2018 9:56 PM UTC

Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 9:56 PM UTC

Shohei Ohtani is off the free-agent market, but other players -- including three from Kansas City -- are available. Let's look at five who might change betting numbers for the 2018 MLB season.

MLB: Top Free Agents

With the Los Angeles Angels (20/1 to win 2018 World Series, 5Dimes) having signed two-way player Shohei Ohtani, the MLB free-agent cupboard seems somewhat bare as we creep up on spring training and the start of the regular season March 29. However, there are still at least eight to 10 free agents who could help solidify a club or even be a team's ace.

Here are five of those players who haven’t been signed and could change a team’s fortunes.

1. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals

One guy who probably could help a team on offense and defense is 28-year-old 1B Eric Hosmer (.318/25/94) of the Royals (150/1 to win 2018 World Series, 5Dimes). Hosmer has back-to-back 20 HR seasons and four Gold Gloves. He's a leader in the clubhouse and is still young enough that a team could gamble on him with a decent-sized contract. Hosmer helped Kansas City win the 2015 World Series, then helped the United States win the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Hosmer has played for the Royals (75/1 to win AL, 5Dimes) his entire career.

Where does he fit best and where might he actually land if he doesn't re-sign with Kansas City? The San Diego Padres reportedly offered Hosmer a seven-year deal worth less than $140 million, but agent Scott Boras had been seeking a monster pact in the $200-million range. The St. Louis Cardinals (+975 to win NL, 5Dimes) or Boston Red Sox (+610 to win AL, 5Dimes) appear to be the best fits for Hosmer.

2. Jake Arrieta, SP, Chicago Cubs

After a shaky start last spring, 32-year-old right-handed starter Jake Arrieta (14-10, 3.53 ERA, 163 K’s, 1.22 WHIP in 2017) finished strong, registering a 2.68 ERA in 18 starts since May 21. No free-agent starting pitcher has logged more IP than Arrieta, who could quickly plug in as a No. 1 starter in some rotations. A four-year deal in the $120-million range seems about right for Arrieta, who is seeking a long-term deal in the $200M range.

The best fit? He could stay with the Cubs or sign with the Dodgers or Angels in Los Angeles, or with the high-spending Yankees (+310 to win AL Pennant, 5Dimes). Go east young man.

3. Yu Darvish, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Teams who think they can afford the gamble of signing a quality right-handed starter such as Arrieta will also be in the market for 31-year-old Yu Darvish (10-12, 3.86 ERA), who joined the Dodgers late last season. With RHP Gerrit Cole signing with the World Series champion Astros (+315 to win AL, 5Dimes), odds are Darvish will either stay with the Dodgers or sign with the Rangers, Twins, Yankees or Cubs.

So Darvish and Arrieta could end up switching teams, probably the best offseason move the NL champion Dodgers could make, as Arrieta seems to be a little more stable physically and durability-wise. My gut says the Yankees will make a move to sign either Arrieta or Darvish, although it could be Darvish's former team, the Rangers, or the Angles who seem to need his services the most.

4. Lorenzo Cain, CF, Kansas City Royals

The team that probably needs CF Lorenzo Cain (.300/15/49 in 2017) the most is the Royals, for whom he has played his entire career, patrolling the Kauffman Stadium outfield like a baseball policeman while properly setting the tone with speed and power. But teams might not want to pay $10-$12 million a year for the 31-year-old. However, Cain is well worth $15M a year to the right team.

Even though the Giants recently signed OF Andrew McCutchen, San Francisco still might be interested in obtaining Cain to start in center with McCutchen shifting to right. Besides the Giants, the Blue Jays and Mets have reportedly expressed interest in Cain.

5. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals

Apologies to Diamondbacks OF J.D. Martinez, but we need another Royals player on this list. With 29-year-old All-Star 3B Mike Moustakas (.272/38/85) coming off a career year in Kansas City, risking money on a long-term contract for someone who can hit and field seems wiser than plugging a slugger such as Martinez into the batting order. It didn’t work. And if truth be told, Martinez seems better suited to be a designated hitter in the American League.

Moustakas led all third basemen in slugging percentage last season and had an .860 OPS, but his lifetime OBP (.305) could be cause for concern. Moustakas is probably needed most by Kansas City, but with the Royals likely in a rebuilding mode, the best spot for Moustakas' left-handed bat is probably with the Yankees. That would give New York a third baseman they can count on, with fellow free-agent 3B Todd Frazier (66 games started at 3B for NYY in 2017) a variable. But with New York intent on staying under its luxury-tax threshold, Yankees brass might think the price tag for Moustakas is just too high and the gamble too much for a guy who might have had just one really big season.

Top MLB Free Agent Who Could Change the Odds: Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals

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