About 24% of the MLB regular season is in the books. The Astros, Yankees, and Nationals currently reign supreme. Familiar names Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Chris Sale top the WAR leaderboards. Though we’re only in mid-May, there’s a subset of players who can’t help but look ahead: those eligible for free agency after the season. Here, we attempt to rank the projected free agents based on their earning power. For the full list of 2017-18 MLB free agents, click here. 1. Yu Darvish. Nine starts into his season, Darvish is not quite in vintage form. His 2.76 ERA ranks 11th in the American League, though strikeouts are down and walks are up. The key stat might be his 58 2/3 innings pitched, good for a second-place tie in the league. Darvish’s second career 200-inning campaign would quiet concerns after his 22-month Tommy John layoff, possibly leading to the largest contract of the winter. In the short term, the question is whether Darvish will be traded this summer. The Rangers have climbed into the Wild Card discussion with an eight-game winning streak, though they’re already eight games behind the Astros for the division lead. 2. Johnny Cueto. In the early going of 2017, Cueto has posted his worst ground-ball rate since his 2008 rookie season. He’s allowing home runs twice as often as last year and also has an abnormally low strand rate, leading to a 4.50 ERA. I think his numbers will be fine in the end, and he’ll opt out of his remaining four years and $84MM. The Giants may attempt to extend Cueto prior to that point, or they could wind up trading him this summer. The slow-starting club already faces an uphill battle to reach the playoffs. 3. Jake Arrieta. As Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs put it in the headline of his article this week, “Jake Arrieta Has Not Been Good.” The surface statistical reasons bear some similarity to Cueto: ground-balls are down, home runs are up, and he’s been stranding fewer runners on the bases. 5.44 ERA notwithstanding, Arrieta is still a quality pitcher in his present form. He may settle in as a sub-4.00 ERA number three-type starter, which would only be disappointing compared to the dizzying heights of his 2015 Cy Young season. Darvish, Cueto, and Arrieta should all by vying for five-year deals, and may shuffle spots in these rankings all year long. 4. Jonathan Lucroy. Since we last checked in, Lucroy’s bat has come alive with a .328/.380/.469 line in 71 plate appearances. Talking to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, Lucroy did not attribute his April struggles to his impending free agency, as you’d expect him to say. On the defensive side, Samuel Hale of WFAA wrote an article contending that Lucroy “used to be an elite framer, but that time has passed.” Lucroy’s pitch framing numbers will be worth monitoring as we try to assess whether he will receive the largest contract for a catcher in free agent history.
2017-18 MLB Free Agent Power Rankings
MLB Trade Rumors | May 18