110 views 12 mins 0 comments

Predicting the landing spots for Cody Bellinger and the other top remaining MLB free agents

In Sports
February 24, 2024

Predicting the landing spots for Cody Bellinger and the other top remaining MLB free agents originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

It may be late February and spring training may indeed be underway, but the offseason still feels incomplete for many teams around MLB as several high-end free agents remain unsigned.

While much of the attention regarding the matter in Chicago has turned towards Cody Bellinger, multiple other prime free agents coming off of excellent platform years are still available even as play in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues has already begun.

With no guarantee of a timeline on when the remaining top free agents will sign, the event of the market’s top talents remaining without a place to play on Opening Day is not far-fetched.

The remaining free agents are headlined by the so-called “Boras four,” seen to be the top four remaining players on the market who are all clients of agent Scott Boras, who is known for holding out as long as necessary for the best possible deal.

Along with Bellinger, pitchers Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery and third baseman Matt Chapman are the top talents left that would normally would have secured contracts north of $150 million by now.

Yet with many teams around the league battling financial uncertainty as the landscape for regional sports networks continues to change, the big bucks on a long-term deal may not be there for everyone.

With Opening Day just over a month away, here’s a look at where the “Boras four” could end up in 2024.

Cody Bellinger – Chicago Cubs, Four years, $110 million with opt-outs

It’s been a turbulent offseason for Cubs fans who have anxiously awaited news on the team’s most valuable hitter from a year ago, former MVP Cody Bellinger.

Coming off of two injury-ridden seasons with dismal numbers, Bellinger bounced back in the biggest way possible, posting a .307/.356/.525 slash line, good enough to finish 10th in NL MVP voting and earn a utility Silver Slugger award.

With 26 home runs, 20 stolen bases and a ridiculous .984 OPS against left-handed pitching, it’s hard to poke holes in Bellinger’s performance on the surface. Digging a bit deeper, it becomes a bit more clear as to why teams have shied away from the blockbuster deal thus far.

On top of warranted concerns over his 2021-22 performance, Bellinger’s hard-hit rate was below average in 2023, performing poorly in a metric that is usually correlated with success at the plate, particularly with extra-base hits.

A refined two-strike approach that saw Bellinger hit .279 in those situations may be cited as a reason for the success despite softer contact, but it clearly remains a concern of potential suitors.

The Cubs appear to be the most obvious suitor for Bellinger, with many other possible targets such as the San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays shoring up their outfield without him.

The money simply doesn’t appear to be out there for a massive long-term deal, but the Cubs appear to be best suited to strike an eleventh-hour deal that guarantees the star utilityman a high average annual guarantee with opportunities to opt-out of the deal and perhaps try to cash in again.

Jordan Montgomery – Boston Red Sox, 5 years, $120 million

It’s hard to have had a better platform performance than southpaw Jordan Montgomery, who was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Texas Rangers mid-season and played a pivotal role in the franchise’s first World Series championship.

Montgomery posted a 4-2 record with a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts down the stretch with Texas before becoming a postseason hero with the club.

Despite rough starts in the ALDS and World Series, Montgomery was key to the Rangers winning the pennant, holding a 2-0 record with a 1.29 ERA across three games and two starts in the ALCS against the defending champion Houston Astros.

While the 31-year-old lefty does not have an All-Star appearance or even Cy Young Award votes to his name, he has quietly been one of the game’s best pitchers over the last three seasons.

Posting 3.83, 3.48 and 3.20 ERAs in the last three seasons respectively, Montgomery has made his living with primarily a four-pitch repertoire, headlined by his trademark sinker with his changeup, curveball and four-seam fastball serving as reliable secondary pitches.

The lefty’s repertoire has allowed him to reliably limit hard contact, keeping his average exit velocity against below 90 miles per hour in six of his seven professional seasons.

This mix along with postseason experience makes him a good bet to succeed into his 30s, but a price tag of likely at least $150 million has kept suitors away.

While they’ve sat on the periphery of the free agent market for much of the season, look for this to be Boston’s big splash. Struggling to keep pace with their AL East counterparts, acquiring Montgomery would shore up their rotation and keep them a bit more competitive with the Rays, Yankees, Orioles and Blue Jays.

Blake Snell – New York Yankees, 6 years, $150 million

A reigning Cy Young Award-winner who took home the award for the second time entering free agency would seem to be a guarantee for a massive deal without much delay, but that has been far from the case for fellow 31-year-old lefty Blake Snell.

Snell enters free agency after having by most metrics the second-best season of his career, posting an MLB-best 2.25 ERA and 182 ERA+ en route to his second Cy Young Award, now having won the prestigious honor in both leagues.

Beyond the eye-popping numbers are fairly obvious concerns regarding Snell, whether that be his performance between his Cy Young campaigns in 2018 and 2023 or his tendency to walk a lot of batters and not pitch as long in games as traditional aces do.

Snell posted an ERA above 4 in both 2019 and 2021, and was above league-average in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and 2022.

Despite Snell’s accolades, the left-hander has yet to pitch in more than 180.2 innings in a season, and with an MLB-leading 99 walks in 2023, teams have pumped the breaks on offering him show-stopping money.

With that being said, the Yankees do seem to be a team that will eventually open the checkbook for Snell.

Battling in perhaps baseball’s most competitive division after already making a blockbuster move to acquire Juan Soto, the Bronx Bombers may feel like adding another Cy Young Award-winner to their rotation (which would give the Yanks both of last year’s winners) could be the knockout punch needed to emerge as the team to beat in the division.

Matt Chapman – San Francisco Giants, 5 years, $110 million

Perhaps the player of the four top free agents with the most difficult market to read, Chapman checks a lot of the boxes for teams looking to improve both the middle of the lineup and their defense.

With four Gold Gloves, there’s no secret that Chapman, 31 in April, has long been one of the game’s premier defenders, regardless of position. Even at his age, he remains a defensive upgrade for nearly every team in the league at the position.

The bat is where more questions arise for Chapman, particularly after a bizarre 2023 season with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Chapmans’ final slash line of .240/.330/.424 earned him a slightly above average 108 OPS+ to go along with 39 doubles and 17 home runs, though his season’s numbers was not created equally.

Breaking out of the gate, Chapman was one of the league’s best hitters through a month of play, slashing .384/.465/.687, amounting to a ridiculous 1.152 OPS.

April would do much of the heavy lifting for Chapman’s season numbers, as the third baseman hit .202 or lower in four of the other five months in the season. This cold spell was interrupted by a brief hot stretch in July, where Chapman had 12 extra-base hits and posted a .908 OPS.

These concerns persist to potential suitors this offseason, with Chapman’s power primarily going towards center field being another drawback of teams considering him.

While the Cubs do represent a nice short-term fit for Chapman, the emergence of Matt Shaw in the team’s farm system likely makes the North Siders hesitant on offering Chapman a long-term deal.

With many other big-market teams having things figured out at third base, the San Francisco Giants perhaps represent the most clear fit for Chapman. While the Giants currently have J.D. Davis slated in at the hot corner, Davis’ ability to also slot in as a first baseman or even corner outfielder gives San Francisco an element of flexibility.

It’s hard to see the demand from Boras dropping below nine figures on any of these free agents, with an average annual value of $22 million being the lowest I see baseball’s most notorious agent going this offseason.

Click here to follow the Cubs Talk Podcast.

EMEA Tribune is not involved in this news article, it is taken from our partners and or from the News Agencies. Copyright and Credit go to the News Agencies, email [email protected] Follow our WhatsApp verified Channel210520-twitter-verified-cs-70cdee.jpg (1500×750)

Support Independent Journalism with a donation (Paypal, BTC, USDT, ETH)
whatsapp channel
Avatar
/ Published posts: 46182

The latest news from the News Agencies