3 Best remaining MLB free agents not named Manny Machado or Bryce Harper
At the time of this writing, the two crown jewels of this offseason's free agent class (Manny Machado and Bryce Harper) have yet to be signed. However, we've seen plenty of top free agent dominos fall thus far.
Though the majority of top position players have already found themselves a home, the market for big-time pitchers (both starters and relievers) seems to have died down a bit in recent weeks compared to when free agency opened. This can primarily be attributed to the fact that there really only remains one top shelf starter and two elite relievers left on the market (more on them to come).
2017 Offseason vs 2018 Offseason
This offseason free-agency period has certainly shown an uptick from last year, where the vast majority of teams simply refused to dish out big money (even to elite and proven stars). On the contrary, this season has shown multiple teams already dig deep into their pockets (looking at you Washington) and two teams (Phillies and White Sox) that are on record saying they are willing to break the bank to bring in elite talent.
That said, teams are still spending smart for the most part. While big money has been thrown around, teams have shown reluctance to even meet the (admittedly lofty) expectations that players like Machado and Harper have set for themselves. Payroll management is at an all-time high and long gone are the days of teams simply putting blank checks in front of players and hoping for the best.
If there is one thing we can take away from these past two offseason periods, it is that super-agents like Scott Boras don't seem to have the same pull in front offices around the MLB and that teams are getting increasingly comfortable turning Boras and similar agents outlandish demands away at the door.
So who is still left?
Although there remain a strong crop of serviceable role players still available on the market, these three players have the ability to drastically change the future of whatever team they find themselves on. However, they may not be finding themselves a home until after the Machado/Harper duo makes their respective decisions.
Now let's take a look at the best remaining free agent targets on the market:
#1 Craig Kimbrel - RP
Coming off a World Series championship and boasting one of the most impressive resumes of any closer in baseball history, Kimbrel is unquestionably the biggest name reliever available on the market. A 7-time All-Star who has led the league in saves 4 times with a career ERA of 1.91, it is safe to say that Kimbrel would come with a fairly high price tag for any potential suitors.
Potential landing spots
Boston Red Sox
Seeing as Kimbrel just won a ring in Boston and late-inning swingman Joe Kelly left for greener pastures, the Red Sox desperately need to bring back help to shore up their bullpen. The Red Sox aren't thrilled about the price tag attached to Kimbrel and as a result, are letting him feel out the market in the hopes that other teams feel the same and they can pick him up on a team-friendly deal.
Even if someone DOES offer Kimbrel that 6-year deal he desperately wants, I would be shocked if the Red Sox didn't try to counter and keep Kimbrel around. An integral piece to their World Series run, the Red Sox bullpen will be hung out to dry should they lose Kimbrel as well.
The Braves first gave Kimbrel his shot in the big leagues and now look to bring him back after his successful stint in Boston. The Braves had a surprisingly strong season last year and have already made some moves to help bolster the overall team.
Providing a lights-out singular closer as opposed to the "closer by committee" approach used last season could help to open up the bullpen and allow Atlanta to take a significant strain off their starters.
All that said, Kimbrel wants a 6-year deal and the Braves will almost certainly not offer him that many years. Unless Kimbrel realizes his value on the open market is taking a hit (which it very well could), the Braves are an unlikely spot based off money alone.
St. Louis Cardinals
With former closer Bud Norris hitting free agency himself, the Cardinals are without a doubt in the market for someone to shut the door for their ballclub. Kimbrel would be a major step up from Norris.
The Cardinals boast one of the stronger starting rotations in the league and with money to spend, they seem like a prime landing spot for Kimbrel and his services.
St. Louis didn't miss the playoffs by much last season, and the addition of Kimbrel would undoubtedly push them into the role of a serious contender in the NL Central. This one will mainly come down to if the notoriously cheap Cardinals decide to pay up or continue to be frugal in their additions.