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BtBS Mailbag: Harper/Machado, surprise buyers, and flip candidates

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You asked the questions, we brought the answers.

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The 2018 season is in the past and the offseason is underway. With plenty to talk about, let’s run through some of the question you asked.

Who will be the most underrated free agent signing this offseason?

I’ll go with Oliver Perez on this one. His dominant 2018 season hasn’t gotten much recognition, lining up with no talk of his free agency. With his age and inconsistent history, it’s tough to see him getting more than a one-year deal. At the most, you’re looking at a small AAV two-year deal. But whenever and whoever he signs with, there will be appear to be initial value.

Perez was the unsung hero of the Indians bullpen this past season, pitching to a 1.39 ERA and 1.74 FIP in 32 1/3 innings. His walk rate was significantly lower than it has ever been in his career, while putting up his second best strikeout season. It’s totally fair to ask if this is sustainable or not, but for any team that needs a lefty option in the bullpen, they’d be a nice fit.

Three best starters and relievers on the free agent market?

Putting age, health, past performance, contract, and upside all into consideration, here’s what I’d go with...

Starters

  1. Patrick Corbin
  2. Dallas Keuchel
  3. Nathan Eovaldi

Relievers

  1. Craig Kimbrel
  2. Jeurys Familia
  3. Joe Kelly

This was all pretty much chalk, except with picking Kelly over names like David Robertson and Zach Britton. He should be cheaper than the aforementioned two, he presents comparable upside, and he’s coming off a fantastic postseason run where he allowed one earned run across 11 13 innings, striking out 13 and walking none.

Who gets more money? Harper or Machado?

The safe bet here is Bryce Harper. I guess there could be a scenario in which Manny Machado gets a couple more years on his deal than Harper, passing him in total money. In terms of AAV, I think it’s clearly Harper.

MLB Trade Rumors just came out with their predicted contract values, pinning Harper at 14-years/$420 million and Machado at 13-years/$390 million. Those AAV values are the exact same ($30 million), but my guess is with Harper’s better track record and probable higher upside, he gets more. And not that I think they’ll matter much in the end, but Machado’s postseason incidents didn’t help his case much.

Who are the best free agent flip candidates?

One of the more underrated parts of the offseason can be non-contending teams making what appear as small signings and flipping them for future assets come the trade deadline. If all goes well, it’s a great way to add talent to your organization.

If I was running a team that appeared to have little-to-none shot at postseason contention, I’d look to names like Drew Pomeranz, Tony Sipp, and Mike Moustakas. Pomeranz took a big step back from his usual self in 2018, dealing with control problems that later sent him to low-leverage situations in the bullpen. Who knows though, maybe he could be a couple adjustments away from returning to his 2017 form, a season where he put up 3.1 fWAR in 32 starts. That would have value on the trade market.

Mike Moustakas got into a scenario last offseason in which his expected fell tremendously, leading him to unexpectedly resigning with the Royals on a one-year deal. They flipped him in July to the Brewers for a pair of former top 100 prospects in Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez. Could a repeat scenario be possible?

Surprise team that goes all in next season?

Maybe the Twins? We’ve seen this story before. They’re currently the best competition for the Indians in the AL Central, with the the White Sox, Tigers, and Royals remaining non-threats at the moment. It could take a couple breakouts for the Twins and an underperforming first half from the Indians for the Twins to be buyers at the deadline.

It’s still unlikely, so they’ll all the help they can get from guys like Byron Buxton, Kyle Gibson, Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Tyler Austin, Mitch Garver, and Trevor Hildenberger.

What player will be the Mike Moustakas of the 2019 offseason?

Middle-of-the-pack free agent bat that has question marks? My gosh, that’s Daniel Murphy’s music. MLB Trade Rumors had his contract at two-years/$20 million, but I could see a very feasible scenario in which he gets a lower AAV than expected on a one-year deal.

He’ll have his suitors, but he’s a hitter coming off a down-season that provides little value on with the glove and on the bases. Teams won’t exactly be bidding that 0.8 fWAR up.


Patrick Brennan loves to research pitchers and minor leaguers with data. You can find additional work of his at Royals Review and Royals Farm Report. You can also find him on Twitter @paintingcorner.