The 3rd Man In

Predicting where the top MLB free agents sign

Bryce Harper Free Agent

Major-league franchises have eagerly waited for this offseason’s free-agent class for numerous years. Although it’s not as strong with elite talent like many had hoped, it offers impact talent, including two superstars.

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are each hitting the open market at 26 years old. Both will likely ink deals at a total value north of $300 million and change a franchise for the next decade.

This year’s free-agent group also features two top-of-the-rotation pitchers in lefties Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin and an elite closer in Craig Kimbrel.

Here’s a prediction on where each of these top free agents will sign this offseason:

Manny Machado, SS/3B

Manny Machado is coming off an All-Star season with the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 162 games, Machado hit .297 with 37 home runs, 107 RBIs, 35 doubles and 14 stolen bases. He also drew 70 walks and struck out 104 times.

His ability to play shortstop and third base is an added bonus. He’s a Gold Glove caliber third baseman compared to an average defensive shortstop but will likely sign with a team to play shortstop next season.

While his October antics will cause teams to question a potential contract offer, Machado is one of the game’s top players and will receive plenty of interest.

The Philadelphia Phillies have multiple front office executive who have experience with Machado from when they worked in Baltimore. They also have a plethora of money to spend to enhance their major-league roster this offseason.

Machado and the Phillies are an ideal partnership and one that would transform the franchise for the years to come.

Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies

Bryce Harper, OF

Bryce Harper reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract from the Washington Nationals. The former No. 1 overall pick has made six All-Star appearances and won one MVP award in his seven-year career.

He’s a dangerous hitter but has had two noteworthy seasons in his big-league career. He’s also struggled to stay healthy, appearing in at least 150 games twice in his seven seasons with the Nationals.

Harper posted a .249 batting average and a .393 on-base percentage with 34 home runs, 100 RBIs, 34 doubles and 13 stolen bases in 159 games.

Harper has an extremely high ceiling and is entering the prime of his career. Despite his injury history and lack of consistency year after year, Harper will receive an enormous contract.

It’s a mystery what team will sign Harper. If he doesn’t resign with the Nationals, there’s a list of at least five teams who could make a run at his services. A few teams to watch are the Phillies, Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees.

Farhan Zaidi, the Giants’ new president of baseball operations, has a difficult task ahead. The Giants posted a 73-89 record for fourth place in the National League West and have a roster filled with high-priced veterans and a depleted farm system.

The Giants aren’t afraid to spend money and don’t be surprised if they make an aggressive run at Harper in hopes of returning to the playoffs next season.

Prediction: San Francisco Giants

Patrick Corbin, LHP

Patrick Corbin will be the most sought-after pitcher this offseason. He’s a 29-year-old left-hander who’s coming off his best season in his six-year major-league career with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He posted a 3.15 ERA with 246 strikeouts and 48 walks in 200 innings (33 starts).

The New York Yankees are looking to add to their starting rotation. Corbin is a Clay, New York native and grew up a Yankees fan. Although there are multiple teams interested, the likeliest landing spot for Corbin is the Yankees.

Prediction: New York Yankees

Dallas Keuchel, LHP

Dallas Keuchel is a 30-year-old lefty and has been a critical member of the Houston Astros over the last seven seasons. He won the American League Cy Young Award in 2015 and has pitched at least 200 innings three times in his career.

The veteran hurler is coming off a season where he pitched in a career-high 34 games and posted a 3.74 ERA with 153 strikeouts and 58 walks in 204 2/3 innings.

At least five teams in varying market sizes will line up for his services. He won’t get a lengthy contract but will receive a premium average annual value. Don’t rule out the Astros but expect Keuchel to wear a different uniform next season.

Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers

Craig Kimbrel, RHP

Craig Kimbrel is one of the best relievers in the game and has accumulated 333 saves in his nine-year career between the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox.

Kimbrel has struck out 42.3 percent of the batters he’s faced in the last three years. His fastball has averaged 97.6 mph during that stretch. Although he struggles at times with his command, batters struggle to hit him, as his career walks plus hits per inning is 0.920.

The hard-throwing righty recorded a 2.74 ERA, 42 saves, 96 strikeouts and 31 walks in 62 1/3 innings with the Red Sox this season.

Kimbrel will become the game’s highest paid reliever and will return to a team he’s familiar with this offseason.

Prediction: Atlanta Braves


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