My Baseball Free-Agent Predictions
I woke up this morning in L.A. — here working on my new book, Why We Love Football — and thought: “Let’s just throw together a baseball free-agent list with my predictions for where they will go.” This turned out to be more work than I wanted or needed, but you know — anything for you. For each player, I list off where they might go (based on the rumors that have emerged) and where they could go (based on my own gut feeling). I 100% guarantee that I will get at least a couple right, because I included a couple of free agents who have already signed.
This is really thrown together, so please don’t hold me to any of it.
No. 1: Shohei Ohtani (obviously)
The most exciting free agent in baseball history, I believe.
Might end up with: Well, any team, with the probable exception of the Colorado Rockies. Sorry, Denver. I can’t see it.
Could end up with: The San Francisco Giants. They seem to be the hot choice of the moment among baseball folks, not only for Ohtani but pretty much for every single free agent. The Vegas odds I’ve seen have Ohtani landing with the Dodgers. The Giants need him more, however, and as they showed last year with Carlos Correa (before the injury concerns), they’ll bring bank to the table. Funny thing, though, when I asked mega-Giants fan Colin Hanks if he was excited about the possibility of Shohei, he mocked the whole idea, saying the Giants have not signed a major free agent since Barry Bonds. And, you know what? That somewhat tracks. They did unload the big bucks for Barry Zito in 2006, but for the most part, they have not shown the propensity for bagging big-time free agents.
Please no: The Yankees.
No. 2: Yoshinobu Yamamoto
I absolutely love that the consensus top two free agents are from Japan. It wasn’t that long ago — 25 years ago at most — when the consensus seemed to be that players from Japan could not handle the big, bad major leagues. When Ichiro came to the U.S. with an astonishing Japanese record, there were plenty of scouts (it would be hard to find them now) who thought: “Eh, that won’t work here.”
Yamamoto is 25 years old, and he has been impossibly good in Japan. He has won the last three Japanese Cy Young Awards, named the Sawamura Award.* He has also won the pitcher Triple Crown in each of those seasons; he’s probably the most complete pitcher ever to come out of Japan to the U.S. FanGraphs compares him to a peak-Zack Greinke because of his completeness as a pitcher. I obviously love that.
*The Japanese Cy is named the Sawamura Award after Eiji Sawamura, a dominant Japanese pitcher in the 1930s who, in an exhibition game against a U.S. All-Star team, struck out nine, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. After the game, Connie Mack reportedly tried to convince him to come play in the U.S. He refused. He was called to military duty in 1938 and was shot in the arm, but returned to pitch that year and continued to be dominant. In 1944, he was called back into service, and that year he was killed when his ship was shot down by an American submarine.
Might end up with: