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How the 2018 FA class is already on teams minds

By: Corey Parkinson

We’re in the middle of the 2016-2017 MLB offseason, but free agency has not been a roaring even like it has been in the past. That is because teams are already preparing for the 2018-19 free agent class, which looks like one of the greatest in the history of the game. Some of the biggest names in baseball will hit the opening market and teams are salivating over the opportunity to get some of them. And that is what is changing this year’s free agency. Teams are not giving out huge money like they have in past years because there are too many big time players who will be looking to get paid.

Here are a look at just the top four of that free agency class:

Adam Jones, Outfielder

Whether he hits the free agent market or not remains to be seen. Jones has been a cornerstone for the Baltimore Orioles since his arrival in 2008. His leadership is undeniable too and the team has come from a miserable franchise to a perennial playoff contender. Since joining the Orioles he’s batted .278 with 225 home runs and 742 RBIs. Defensive he has one of the elite gloves in the majors. He’s a four-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star and has a 28.24 WAR for his career. He is currently in his second to last season of a six-year, $85.5 million deal with an annual salary a little over $14 million. The one issue the Orioles will face is that he is not the only free agent they have in this class.

Manny Machado, Third Baseman

The Orioles other huge start who is slated to be a part of this class barring a new deal beforehand. Machado is considered to become one of the biggest free agents in the history of the sport. He has tremendous upside and will only be 26 by the time he hits the market. He is a phenomenal third baseball with ability to play at short stop. He has lost time for surgeries to both knees, but he bounced back in 2015 by playing in all 162 games and played 157 in 2016. He’s a Platinum Glove winner at third base and two-time Gold Glove winner and a three-time All-Star. At the plate he’s incredible productive with a career .284 batting average, 105 home runs and 311 RBIs in his career. Assuming he continues his dominant at the hot corner, it may become very difficult to keep him on anything other than a deferred deal like the Orioles gave Chris Davis. He’s going to become a very, very rich man in 2018.

Clayton Kershaw, Starting Pitcher

With an opt-out clause after the 2018 season, Clayton Kershaw makes this class all that much hotter. Considered one of the best pitchers in recent memory, his potential and likely presence in free agency could cause a dog fight. Having signed a seven-year, $215 million deal with the Dodgers back in 2014, Kershaw has continued to dominate on the hill. He’s currently 126-60 all-time with 1,918 strikeouts and a 2.37 career ERA. He’s a three-time all-star, former MVP and pitching Triple Crown winner in 2011. If he decided to walk he could severely decimate the Dodgers, as he has been the ace of their staff since his debut.

Andrew McCutchen, Outfielder

The heart and soul of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Andrew McCutchen was the center of many trade talks after a below average season, but at just 30 years old right now there is no reason to believe he won’t remain a top player in the league for the foreseeable future. He’s a career .292 hitter with 175 home runs, 647 RBIs and has a club option for 2018 and could hit the open market The 2013 NL MVP and five-time All-Star would e a huge asset to any team but if the Pirated let him walk it could be very hard for that franchise to sell a commitment to winning to their fan base as he brought energy back that the city hadn’t seen since the Barry Bonds/Bobby Bonilla era.

Craig Kimbrel, Relief Pitcher

Once the most dominant closer in MLB, his career has taken a bit of a different turn, but some of that might be attributed to him constantly moving. For years he was the king of the Braves bullpen before being traded to the Padres in 2015 and most recently the Red Sox in 2016. He holds a career 1.86 ERA and 256 saves, which ranks sixth among active pitchers. While his overall numbers may have dropped off, his fastball still averages in the mid-90s. He will be the hottest closer on the market in 2018 if the Red Sox let him go. They’ll need to find a clear cut replacement before they just let him walk, however because they don’t have anyone else near his level.

Bryce Harper, Outfielder

Bryce Harper is probably the cream of the crop in this free agent class The Nationals recently balked at Harper’s 10-year, $400 million request back in November and that probably means the Scott Boras client will go to free agency instead of trying to work out another deal. Having hit .279 over his five-year career with 121 home runs and 334 RBIs, obviously his bat has proven to be one of the best in all of baseball. In 2015 he won the NL MVP award while hitting an outstanding .330 with 42 home runs and 99 RBIs. Although 2016 brought a down year, the potential is there. He’ll only be 26 by the time he’s a free agent in 2018. The Nationals certainly have the money to extend a deferred payment tyupe of deal but at this time it seems a game of ‘call you bluff’ has begun.

While this free agent class is still two seasons away, it might be the reason no team has signed 2016 home run leader Mark Trumbo yet, why perennial all-star catcher Matt Wieters is still on the market in January, why Jose Bautista, Mike Napoli, Jason Hammel, Greg Holland and Michael Saunders are all still on the market. And why so many top free agents settled for one- and two-year deals so team can make sure they have money available for the big ticket class coming up.

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Corey Parkinson

Staff Writer
Corey grew up a sports fanatic and an athlete. A baseball player up until he was 18, his passion and love for the game has remained unchanged. From the time he was five if it involved a ball that you threw or kicked, Corey was all in. His passion for journalism began at the age of 10 when he wrote a play about a World Series involving the Seattle Mariners and The New York Mets. As a Sports Media and Marketing major currently at Full Sail University, Corey is working his way to becoming an MLB beat writer. Writing for SoMuchSports.com has given him the platform to share his knowledge and passion for sports and primarily his undying love for baseball.

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