Most people work jobs that give you raises depending on performance and how effective you are at doing your job over the course of a year or two. If you know when your chance at a raise is coming, it can incentivize you to do better at your job than you were previously, so as to impress your boss and get that coveted bump in salary. The same thought applies to professional athletes. When their contracts are coming to an end, most people believe that they have the incentive to up their level of play to then boost their asking price in the offseason. But is that really the case? And how can you take the “contract year effect” into account when putting together your fantasy team? Is it better to get a team stacked full of contract year guys or does it really matter?

Contract years have been talked about since the principle of free agency came to baseball with the Curt Flood case in the late 1960’s. Before that players were essentially locked into playing for the same team their entire career unless traded and since owners would simply sign them to one-year contracts under the reserve clause, there was really not a lot of incentive, other than pride, to try and boost your performance in any given year. Nowadays the money being offered to the top free agents, and even some of the middle-tier options, is so far beyond what previous generations got, there is a big time payday awaiting anyone that can take their game to the next level.

So at this point you’re probably thinking that while a history of the contract year was an “interesting” read, what’s the benefit to me and why is this in a fantasy baseball draft guide? Well I’m glad you asked, or at least thought it in this little scene we’re having. Here’s why it matters to you. If a player has a better chance of putting up big numbers in a contract year, than a higher return on investment is expected. If a player exhibits no propensity to put up bigger numbers, then maybe a standard season is more in the making. Both of which are helpful for you to know as a potential owner of theirs in this upcoming pivotal season.

There is a more obscure reason to know contract years though, especially in a keeper format, that should be touched on now before we get bogged down in the stat bonanza that is about to happen. Knowing when a key player’s contract year is, can help scout out a cheaper option that may give you a starter for the following season.A perfect example of that is that fact that Adalberto Mondesi is going late in drafts this year with the assumption that he takes over for Alcides Escobar later this year or next when he doesn’t re-sign in Kansas City. It’s even more helpful with closers say in Arizona for example, where Archie Bradley is the likely pick to start the season as closer following Fernando Rodney's contract expiring at end of last season.  Now clearly spending the money to get high-producing players is always more palatable, but thinking ahead is how you compete year-after-year in these formats.

Putting future years aside for the moment, journeying into the past may shed some light on exactly what happens in contract years for some players. The following tables have a line showing “162-game Pace.” This was taken from Baseball-Reference.com and it shows what a player’s stats should be for a full season based on his career numbers to this point. Take their total games played and divide by 162 and then divide each stat by that factor keeping the career ratios the same.

David Price

G/GS

IP

ERA

WHIP

K/9

W

L

SV

K

WAR

FIP

2014

34/34

248.1

3.26

1.079

9.8

15

12

0

271

4.6

2.78

2015

32/32

220.1

2.45

1.076

9.2

18

5

0

225

6

2.78

2016

35/35

230

3.99

1.20

8.9

17

9

0

228

3.1

3.60

162-game Pace

35/33

225

3.22

1.14

8.6

16

9

0

216

3.4

3.27

In 2015 David Price had his best year in ERA, WHIP, WAR and win total. However, he did it over the shortest innings work load and had the fewest strikeouts of the three years, likely a product of lower innings. Now a couple of things to keep in mind, 2014 and 2015 were split between Tampa and Detroit first and then Detroit and Toronto in his walk year. So the changing environments and ballparks and divisions could have played a role in differing numbers. Contract year effect: Yes

Zack Greinke

G/GS

IP

ERA

WHIP

K/9

W

L

SV

K

WAR

FIP

2014

32/32

202.1

2.71

1.15

9.2

17

8

0

207

4.3

2.97

2015

32/32

222.2

1.66

0.84

8.1

19

3

0

200

9.3

2.76

2016

26/26

158.2

4.37

1.27

7.6

13

7

0

134

2.3

4.12

162-game Pace

36/32

208

3.40

1.18

8.2

15

9

0

189

4.1

3.37

Zack Greinke produced the second-best year of his career in 2015 when his contract was up with the Dodgers, notching career-bests in ERA, WHIP, wins, recorded loses, and winning percentage. All while finishing second in the Cy Young voting. His WAR for 2015 has only been topped by his Cy Young campaign of 2009 and the 9.3 mark accounts for 16% of his career WAR over 14 seasons. Contract year effect: Yes

Ian Desmond

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2014

154

593

0.255

0.313

0.43

24

91

73

24

3.9

0.329

2015

156

583

0.233

0.290

0.384

19

62

69

13

2

0.294

2016

156

625

0.285

0.335

0.446

22

86

107

21

2.7

0.336

2017

95

339

0.274

0.326

0.375

7

40

47

15

-1.1

0.305

162-game Pace

162

611

0.267

0.317

0.423

19

77

79

22

1.9

0.322

Ian Desmond is an unusual case here, as you’ll notice there are four years listed. That’s because he signed a one-year deal with Texas ahead of the 2016 season and thus had two contract years back-to-back. The first one, 2015, produced his worst full season numbers of the group, and had he not been injured in 2017 he may have topped 2015 in many categories. The second however, in Texas (a better hitter’s park) proved very lucrative with his second 20-20 season in three years, a batting average 32 points higher than the previous year and his only 100+ run campaign of his career. Contract year effect: Maybe

Chris Davis

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2014

127

450

0.196

0.300

0.404

26

72

65

2

1.8

0.308

2015

160

573

0.262

0.361

0.562

47

117

100

2

5.2

0.390

2016

157

566

0.221

0.332

0.459

38

84

99

1

3

0.340

162-game Pace

162

575

0.246

0.328

0.490

37

96

88

2

1.8

0.349

Chris Davis broke through with a monster season in 2013 but then had a so-so season in 2014. Then came the money year of 2015 when he took his game to another level. The 2015 campaign is second only to 2013 across the board in slash line, homers, RBI, runs, and WAR. But the 2015 and 2016 seasons are good comparisons given he played almost the same amount of games and at bats in the two years. He still out-produced in ’15 compared to ’16 except in runs but a 41-point boost in average and nine more homers and 33 more RBI is noticeable. Contract year effect: Yes

Aroldis Chapman

G

IP

ERA

WHIP

K/9

W

L

SV

K

WAR

FIP

2015

65

66.1

1.63

1.15

15.74

4

4

33

116

2.5

1.94

2016

59

58

1.55

0.86

13.97

4

1

36

90

2.7

1.42

2017

52

50.1

3.22

1.13

12.34

4

3

22

69

1.6

2.56

162-game Pace

68

67

2.21

1.01

14.8

4

4

32

110

1.8

1.96

Aroldis Chapman’s walk year came after 2016 and winning a World Series with the Cubs. Now his numbers have fallen year-over-year for the last three seasons including being suspended to start a season. That being said, his ERA, WHIP, saves, WAR, and FIP were all best in 2016. Moving back to NYC hasn’t been great for Chapman as his ERA more than doubled and his strikeouts have slipped nearly in half since 2014. Contract year effect: Yes

Edwin Encarnacion

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

146

528

0.277

0.372

0.557

39

111

94

3

4.5

0.392

2016

160

601

0.263

0.357

0.529

42

127

99

2

3.9

0.373

2017

157

554

0.258

0.377

0.504

38

107

96

2

2.5

0.373

162-game Pace

162

578

0.265

0.354

0.499

34

102

90

6

2.3

0.366

Edwin Encarnacion is one example of how the top free agents aren’t generally affected by the status of their contract. They simply play. There’s really no difference between any of those three years save for some dip in average and a decent bump in RBI in 2016. But generally he pumps out the same stat line every year. Contract year effect: No

Sean Rodriguez

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

139

240

0.246

0.281

0.362

4

25

17

2

-0.1

0.281

2016

140

342

0.270

0.349

0.51

18

49

56

2

1.8

0.363

2017

54

153

0.167

0.276

0.295

5

18

8

1

-0.4

0.257

162-game Pace

162

438

0.230

0.301

0.385

12

51

45

7

0.9

0.302

Sean Rodriguez has one of the clearest boosts from a contract year that was seen while researching this piece. While he played in basically the same number of games in 2015 and 2016, the 100 at bats more don’t fully account for the multiplication of the counting stats. The problem with Rodriguez is getting a clear picture after the monster year because of a car wreck. Prior to the 2017 season and after signing with the Braves, his family was involved in a serious wreck that injured his shoulder and landed them all in the hospital. While he made back to the field, he was not the same. Contract year effect: Yes, possibly

Yoenis Cespedes

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

159

633

0.291

0.328

0.542

35

105

101

7

6.7

0.367

2016

132

479

0.280

0.354

0.530

31

86

72

3

3.2

0.369

2017

81

291

0.292

0.352

0.540

17

42

46

0

1.6

0.369

162-game Pace

162

621

0.274

0.328

0.498

32

102

93

8

3.5

0.351

Like Encarnacion, Yoenis Cespedes is here to prove that elite players generally don’t succumb to contract years. And while you may say, okay but his numbers fell off after signing the contract, the retort to that would be that if you pace out his numbers for 159 games, his 2017 fits right in line with the others. Contract year effect: No

The following few players are from this offseason and thus will only have two seasons listed since it’s impossible to know what they will do in 2018 at this point.

Eric Hosmer

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2016

158

605

0.266

0.328

0.433

25

104

80

5

1

0.326

2017

162

603

0.318

0.385

0.498

25

94

98

6

4

0.376

162-game Pace

162

617

0.284

0.342

0.439

20

87

85

9

2.01

0.338

Eric Hosmer has been one of the bigger signings this year with San Diego locking him up for eight years and $140+ million. Overall the biggest difference is the serious boost in the slash line and his quadrupling of his WAR mark. By all accounts, Petco Park is not terribly different than Kaufman Stadium and his lineup is arguably better in San Diego so expect similar numbers once more. Contract year effect: Maybe

Yonder Alonso

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2016

156

482

0.253

0.316

0.367

7

56

52

3

-0.5

0.299

2017

142

451

0.266

0.365

0.501

28

67

72

2

2.4

0.366

162-game Pace

162

513

0.268

0.340

0.407

13

62

59

4

1

0.324

Yonder Alonso is a puzzling case since he was also traded during his contract year and put up easily his biggest homer total of his career. In fact the 28 he hit last year account for 42% of his career total. Alonso explains the difference in power from a focus on changing his launch angle to get more balls in the air. The question is would he have changed that had it not been a contract year? What stopped him from doing it previously? He’s now in Cleveland but should see some regression compared to 2017. Contract year effect: Yes

Yu Darvish

G/GS

IP

ERA

WHIP

K/9

W

L

SV

K

WAR

FIP

2016

17/17

100.33

3.41

1.12

11.84

7

5

0

132

2.7

3.09

2017

31/31

186.66

3.86

1.16

10.08

10

12

0

209

3.5

3.83

162-game Pace

34/34

216

3.42

1.18

11

15

11

0

265

3.8

3.30

Yu Darvish came off Tommy John surgery in 2015 and had a shortened season in 2016. With that behind him, 2017 proved to be an up and down season for him, with the year turning around following his trade to L.A., until the post-season that is. Overall his ratios were worse last season compared to 2016 but they were better for the L.A. part of the year than 2016. Now in Chicago, there is no reason to believe that his numbers won’t improve. Contract year effect: No

That was a lot to go through, but overall you can see that the mid-tier players are generally more affected by contract years than the elite guys are. This conclusion isn’t uncommon either. Through all the reports and studies done on this subject, one common theme is that elite players are elite because they produce consistently great numbers no matter the situations around them, not financial, not team roster, not playoff contender or bottom feeder. An elite player being unflappable is why they are paid the big bucks, and thus why contract year performances don’t necessarily matter. Though there some cases they can, as you’ll see later in this article.

Some of you may know that the free agent class following the 2018 season is going to be a monstrous class. Seriously. It’s huge in size and talent. Players like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, likely Clayton Kershaw, Charlie Blackmon, and Craig Kimbrel are just a few of the guys who will be up to the highest bidder after this season. However it would be a waste of everyone’s time to break down these guys, since we all know what they are capable of and why they go in the first round of most drafts. In an attempt to be the most helpful for our readers, breaking down the mid-tier guys will be the focus, since as we’ve discussed, they are most likely to feel the effect of the contract year pressure.

First Base

Lucas Duda

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

135

471

0.244

0.352

0.486

27

73

67

0

3

0.359

2016

47

153

0.229

0.302

0.412

7

23

20

0

0.1

0.304

2017

127

423

0.217

0.322

0.496

30

64

50

0

1.1

0.341

162-game Pace

162

532

0.242

0.340

0.457

28

81

69

1

0.86

0.344

Duda is in an interesting case to lead off the 2018 free agents. Why? He was just a free agent up until a week and a half ago, when he signed a one-year deal with Kansas City. He also just came off a one-year deal in 2017 as well. He came off an injury-plagued season in 2016 that limited him to just 47 games and then was traded at the deadline to Tampa in 2017. His average has been falling every year since 2014 but for the most part the power numbers have continued to show up with 27+ homers in three of the last four years. He is moving to Kaufman Stadium this year, which is typically a pitcher-friendly park, but Eric Hosmer continued to put up solid numbers there year-after-year. Based on the last few year’s park factors, Citi Field and Kaufman Stadium aren’t terribly far apart in terms of home run rate and the dimensions of the park are fairly similar as well.

At 32 and having signed two straight one-year deals, he will need to raise the average more to his 2015 level to really get the money moving his way this coming off-season. That being said he is likely the best bat at first base available for next year at this point.

Second Base

Ian Kinsler

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

154

624

0.296

0.342

0.428

11

73

94

10

6

0.335

2016

153

618

0.288

0.348

0.484

28

83

117

14

6.1

0.356

2017

139

551

0.236

0.313

0.412

22

52

90

14

2.1

0.313

162-game pace

162

647

0.273

0.342

0.447

23

81

111

22

4.6

0.344

Kinsler had a very solid four-year stretch in Detroit despite seeing his average fall off a cliff this past season. He was traded to Anaheim this offseason to be the starting keystone in a newly bolstered lineup. Of note is the fact that 2016 and 2017 are the only two years in which Kinsler has managed back-to-back 20+ homer seasons in his career both years however Comerica Park ranked 8th in baseball in Park Factor based on home run rate those two years. He transitions to a new ballpark this year, Angel Stadium, which has been a pretty neutral park historically but now he has the benefits of a much stouter lineup. Guys like Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Kole Calhoun, and Albert Pujols should provide him protection like the hay-day of the Tigers lineup.

His past contract year was in 2013 when he was still with Texas when he was coming off a near 20-20 season in 2012. His 2013 however was an average season by his standards cresting in the 30s age-wise. This time around, 2018 poses a new challenge aside from being back in the AL West, he is in his age-36 season and the hands of time might not be kind to him. All that being said, he’s never had a season with less than double-digit steals, and only one season with single-digit homers and he only played 103 games that year.

 

Daniel Murphy

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

130

499

0.281

0.322

0.449

14

73

56

2

1.4

0.325

2016

142

531

0.347

0.390

0.595

25

104

88

5

4.6

0.408

2017

144

534

0.322

0.384

0.543

23

93

94

2

2.8

0.385

162-game pace

162

602

0.299

0.345

0.459

15

82

82

9

2.2

0.344

Murphy launched his career into the near superstar realm closing out the 2015 post-season when he went off for an historic power display. Following that showing the Mets’ rival signed him to a three-year/$37.5 million deal. Since that point, Murphy has been rolling. Just look at his numbers, the worst average was still 40 points higher than his previous contract year in New York. Now a couple of things can be at work here. Murphy did make a swing adjustment late in 2015 that has allowed him to get to inside pitches at a much better rate, with better results, and the anger factor; against the Mets for simply seeing him as replaceable by Neil Walker. In fact his 2014 and 2015 home run totals don’t equal his 2016 total when combined. The two-year run from 2016-2017 he has produced the most doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, runs, highest averages, OBP, and SLG marks than any two-year span previously. Murphy will turn 33 at the very start of the 2018 season, but a third year like the last two and he will lock up a deal in the neighborhood of five years as he will be viewed as staying in his prime for most of that deal.

 

DJ LeMahieu

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

150

564

0.301

0.358

0.388

6

61

85

23

2.3

0.327

2016

146

552

0.348

0.416

0.495

11

66

104

11

5.2

0.391

2017

155

609

0.310

0.374

0.409

8

64

95

6

2.9

0.342

162-game pace

162

570

0.302

0.356

0.402

7

56

81

14

2.1

0.330

LeMahieu is quite clearly in his prime as he’s coming into his age-29 season. The second baseman has gotten better nearly every year of his career, save for a down tick in 2017 from 2016. The explanation for the bump in 2016 is exactly what we’re exploring in this article. It was his final year of arbitration eligibility and thus a contract year with one final chance to set a higher base price for free agency. His first two seasons on the chart were played under one contract that bought out a few arbitration years but it ended following the 2016 campaign. There are a few things working against him however, no matter how good his numbers may look in 2018. Firstly he plays in Colorado, discounting his numbers to some degree right off the bat, excuse the pun. But truly his home/road splits are remarkable. In 2017 the splits were separated by 30/40/17 points across the stat line, in 2016 it was much more stark with the spread being at least 90 points in favor of the home ballpark, including a near 200 point spread in slugging. For a guy that has only really ever provided batting average and a smattering of home runs, the expanses in the Coors Field outfield provide all the landing area for line drives LeMahieu needs. There are a few prospects coming up through Triple-A that could challenge for a starting spot in the infield that would make LeMahieu expendable to a degree. With that in mind his stats this year may not ultimately matter in terms of what he signs for come 2019.

Shortstop

Alcides Escobar

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

148

612

0.257

0.293

0.320

3

47

76

17

0.6

0.271

2016

162

637

0.261

0.292

0.350

7

55

57

17

0.3

0.278

2017

162

599

0.250

0.272

0.357

6

54

71

4

0

0.269

162-game pace

162

602

0.260

0.294

0.346

5

51

69

21

1.07

0.281

Escobar has been a decent hitting short stop for the Royals for years, but now that run with them maybe coming to an end after the 2018 season. The 2017 campaign was the third time in the last four years in which he played all 162 games but the stats combined to be one of if not the worst full-season showing of his career. His on-base percentage has fallen each of the last four years, and five of the last six as he’s shown consistently his inability to draw walks routinely. The steals total of just four all year is his worst mark in that category since 2009 when he played just 38 games for Milwaukee. Sure Escobar is a sure handed fielder who puts up decent run totals, as a guy in his position should, but that’s about it. Spotrac.com, the main source for contract info of professional sports, suggests that Escobar will be worth an AAV (average annual value) of $7.4 million in his next contract based on how he fits with guys of his skill level and what they’ve signed for in the past. If Escobar wants to make the jump from his $2.5 million salary in 2017 to three times that amount, he will need a herculean effort. By the way, Escobar is a perfect example of knowing when a guy is poised to leave a team and when to draft his replacement. Adalberto Mondesi (Raul) has been a big name this drafting season simply because of the anticipation of him taking over the starting gig at some point this season and surely next year.

Third Base

Adrian Beltre

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

143

567

0.287

0.334

0.453

18

83

83

1

5.8

0.337

2016

153

583

0.300

0.358

0.521

32

104

89

1

6.5

0.371

2017

94

340

0.312

0.383

0.532

17

71

47

1

3.7

0.384

162-game pace

162

612

0.287

0.34

0.482

27

95

85

7

4.7

0.351

Yes I did say that top-flight guys shouldn’t be affected by contract years. But this is a different case. Beltre is entering his age-39 season and his 21st in the majors but there’s been no signs from him of an impending retirement. Last season was still a productive one for the 20-year vet as he played only 94 games after being hampered by a few different injuries but still put up 17 dingers and 71 RBI in little more than a half a campaign. The future hall of famer still needs 38 home runs to crack 500, which would put him in a group with just Albert Pujols (assuming 32 more hits) and Hank Aaron. And that’s it. The man can still play a great defensive third base which means he won’t be limited to only AL teams this coming offseason in order to be stuck in the DH slot. So in the end for the man who’s head can’t be touched, it’s simply a matter of staying healthy and proving to, well no one really, that he’s still a great player even approaching 40.

 

Mike Moustakas

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

147

549

0.284

0.348

0.47

22

82

73

1

4.4

0.353

2016

27

104

0.24

0.301

0.5

7

13

12

0

0.7

0.339

2017

148

555

0.272

0.314

0.521

38

85

75

0

1.8

0.345

162-game Pace

162

589

0.251

0.305

0.425

23

73

66

2

1.6

0.315

Moustakas is a late addition to the list with his signing of a new deal on March 8. The third baseman made a calculation that he would be worth a hefty contract coming off his best power year in his seven season in the bigs. The problem is, there was relatively little need at the hot corner in this market. There are more issues with Moustakas than what readily show up in the stat lines we usually see too. Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs wrote a great piece detailing his issues that’s well worth an in-depth read. While the power numbers do jump out since he nearly doubled his previous career high in homers, 38 in 2017 22 in 2015, and his runs and RBI were also barely new career highs, his slash line dropped as did his WAR. Now in fairness WAR is dependent on what other players do at that position from year-to-year, and since 2017 had a lot of very good third baseman, he, on the whole, was a bit above average. In the piece referenced above, his running skills are referenced and show that he has slowed quite a bit since his missing most of the 2016 season with a torn ACL. He’s essentially become a road block on the base paths and his bat likely won’t produce at that level again, so hence no long-term deal. In 2018 he will need to stay consistent at the plate, but also show that he can once again not have to go station-to-station on extra base hits and improve his fielding so as not to be limited to a DH role in 2019 and beyond.

Catcher

Matt Wieters

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

75

258

0.267

0.319

0.422

8

25

24

0

0.8

0.321

2016

124

423

0.243

0.302

0.409

17

66

48

1

1.7

0.307

2017

123

422

0.225

0.288

0.344

10

52

43

1

-0.6

0.273

162-game pace

162

573

0.252

0.314

0.412

20

79

64

1

1.7

0.315

Wieters inked a two-year deal ahead of the 2017 season to move just slightly down the I-95 corridor and join the Nationals. The results were mostly a drop off from the year before, his previous contract year, when he was still playing with Baltimore. Now maybe it had to do with switching teams, learning a new pitching staff, switching leagues, signing a bit late, or something else, but the numbers are clear. He played in an almost identical number games and had just one less at bat in 2017 as in 2016 but his numbers were steeply different. A drop of 18 points, 14 points, and 65 points was present across his slash line and his power was almost not present falling from 17 to 10. It even turns out that a replacement level player would have been more valuable than him last season. So what can we expect 2018 to be like? Well his BABIP in 2017 was .264, compared to .265 in 2016, so he was getting a tad unlucky when making contact, but his hard contact rate fell below 30% for the first time since 2011 and he pulled the ball more in 2017, 42.2%, than in 2016, 37.4%, according to Fangraphs. If he can get a tad bit luckier, and not pull quite so much his numbers could again be similar to 2016 since there isn’t much of a difference park factor-wise between Camden Yards and Nationals Park over the last two seasons.

 

Evan Gattis

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

153

566

0.246

0.285

0.463

27

88

66

0

0.5

0.317

2016

128

447

0.251

0.319

0.508

32

72

58

2

3.0

0.345

2017

84

300

0.263

0.311

0.457

12

55

41

0

1.2

0.325

162-game pace

162

571

0.252

0.303

0.480

32

93

70

1

1.5

0.333

Gattis signed a two-year deal following the 2015 season, his best overall effort to that point. He backed up that contract with an even better showing in 2016 but then injuries derailed his efforts in 2017. However that being said, he still got a raise in a one-year deal with Houston for 2018 making it yet another contract year for the left fielder/catcher/DH. Presuming that he’s healthy this year and given the lineup he gets to slot into, his numbers could once again rival somewhere between 2015 and 2016. The interesting thing about Gattis is that while he’s entering his age-31 season, there isn’t a lot of major league wear and tear on him. Gattis has only played five seasons thus far and his first two were part-time in Atlanta without use of the DH spot. He has shown that his power plays anywhere, so long as a manager doesn’t mind his .250ish batting average and lacking ability to draw walks, and that power makes him an appealing option on the open market, and one that may go for cheaper than some top-tier options.

 

Wilson Ramos

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

128

475

0.229

0.258

0.358

15

68

41

0

0.8

0.265

2016

131

482

0.307

0.354

0.496

22

80

58

0

3.3

0.361

2017

64

208

0.260

0.290

0.447

11

35

19

0

0.1

0.307

162-game pace

162

585

0.268

0.311

0.431

23

89

61

0

1.2

0.319

Well here we have one of the most obvious cases of a performing in a contract of anyone on the list. His contract with the Nats ended following the 2016 season, and if you’ll notice that was across the board the best season of his career. Most homers, RBI, runs, games played, at bats, highest average, OBP, SLG and wOBA, all in one year. So it’s clear as day right? Ramos does well in contract years, I mean 2016 shows it…except wait for it. He had LASIK surgery prior to that season. Ok but how does that explain his 2017 season fall off then. Ramos tore his ACL in the last few weeks of the 2016 season, which ended his tenure with Washington since he was going to have to DH to when first coming. So he only played part of a season last year. However in that partial season, he started to get his timing and swing back to where it was in 2016. So if he can stay healthy this upcoming season, he’s got a shot at putting up similar numbers to 2016 and seeing a nice payday heading into his age-32 season in 2019, which still puts him in his prime years for a catcher.

Outfield

Adam Jones

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

137

546

0.269

0.308

0.474

27

82

74

3

3.3

0.334

2016

152

619

0.265

0.310

0.436

29

83

86

2

1.1

0.319

2017

147

597

0.285

0.322

0.466

26

73

82

2

2.5

0.334

162-game pace

162

625

0.278

0.318

0.460

26

86

89

9

2.6

0.336

Jones will be coming off a six-year/$85.5 million contract he signed back in 2013 and 2018 will be his age-32 season, starting to get up there for an outfielder. Especially one that plays as physically as Jones tends to. Over the course of his current deal his power numbers and counting stats have bounced around a bit but have stayed relatively consistent. His ratios on the other hand had steadily slipped until this last season that is. With a 20-point, 12-point, and 30-point jump in the slash lines he seemed to figure things out once more. Jones’ K-rate, BB-rate, contact rates, and spray charts have all stayed the same over the last several years, so how else can we explain it? He knows money is getting close to being on the line and wants to start putting his best foot forward, especially knowing the market for an aging center fielder. The O’s center fielder will continue to be a free-swinger, he had the fourth-highest swing rate last season in all of baseball, but as long as he keeps putting up consistent numbers, especially similar to last year, he will have a rewarding contract year.

 

A.J. Pollock

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

157

609

0.315

0.367

0.498

20

76

111

39

7.4

0.371

2016

12

41

0.244

0.326

0.39

2

4

9

4

0.5

0.315

2017

112

425

0.266

0.330

0.471

14

49

73

20

2.9

0.340

162-game pace

162

576

0.286

0.343

0.464

16

62

95

28

3.1

0.348

Pollock’s 2015 season shows his top-end capabilities but then his injuries show his lows. In the last two seasons he’s played 124 games combined after suffering a broken elbow a few days before the 2016 season and then dealing with injuries once more in 2017. His biggest concern is clearly injury. If he stays healthy a 20-30 season is well within his grasp, even with the addition of the humidor at Chase Field this season. Arizona loves having him patrolling the large center field of their home park, but hey if he can’t stay on the field, they have other options at their disposal who won’t cost nearly as much as Pollock could. Still considered a top-10 outfielder by most heading into the draft, the only way those stats will be possible is if he manages to stay in the field for 135+ game in 2018.

 

 

Carlos Gonzalez

G

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

RBI

R

SB

WAR

wOBA

2015

153

554

0.271

0.325

0.54

40

97

87

2

3.1

0.361

2016

150

584

0.298

0.35

0.505

25

100

87

2

2.3

0.364

2017

136

470

0.262

0.339

0.423

14

57

72

3

-0.2

0.327

162-game Pace

162

597

0.288

0.346

0.511

29

96

98

16

2.4

0.365

The leader of the Rockies dating back to the 2008 World Series run, he was unsigned until March 8, when the Rockies signed him to a still one-year deal with the language still being finalized as of this writing. Last year was a tale of two halves for CarGo as he had a .214 average heading into July before doing something about it. He changed his swing, and talked to a sleep expert, and bingo, he went on a tear that raised his average to a respectable .262 by season’s end. Eight of his 14 homers came in the final two months of the season after those changes too, showing he still has some valuable skills. The problem for CarGo this season is a crowded outfield in Coors Field with Charlie Blackmon (also in a contract year) locked in center, Ian Desmond locked in left and a battle with Gerardo Parra and CarGo in right. That also doesn’t include if David Dahl finally gets healthy. If he gets anywhere close to the at bats he got last season, the new changes should help him close in on 20 homers once more and could have 65-70 RBI and 70+ runs with that offense. He’s still only worth a late-round flyer with playing time issues, but at 32 there’s still a few years left in his game and he will be trying to prove the changes are a lasting boost to his numbers.

Pitchers

Zach Britton

G/GS

IP

ERA

WHIP

K/9

W

L

SV

K

WAR

FIP

2015

64

65.2

1.92

0.99

10.8

4

1

36

79

2.5

2.01

2016

69

67

0.54

0.83

9.9

2

1

47

74

4.3

1.94

2017

38

37.1

2.89

1.52

7

2

1

15

29

1.0

3.40

162-game pace

59

101 

3.22

1.26

7.4

6

4

27

83

1.5

3.39

Britton is one of the games elite closers, and has been for a few years now. So why are we talking about him if we weren’t discussing top-tier talent? An injury. That’s why. He had an injury-plagued 2017 campaign hence the drop in games pitched by nearly half and is big rise in ERA and WHIP, both of which were the highest mark he’s posted since becoming a reliever. Now he’s coming off an Achilles injury that he sustained while training back in December. Since that time he has been rehabbing it but it’s clear that he will miss part of the season, as short as a month but possibly two. That’s not ideal clearly if you are trying to impress perspective employers. Simply from a fantasy stand point that means he will produce less stats with a smaller sample of games to play and potentially not being placed back into the closer role immediately upon return. All of that combine to make this a very important season for Britton as he tries to remind folks of just how dominant he can be when on the bump in the ninth inning.

 

Cody Allen

G/GS

IP

ERA

WHIP

K/9

W

L

SV

K

WAR

FIP

2015

70

69.1

2.99

1.17

12.9

2

5

34

99

1.2

1.82

2016

67

68

2.51

1.00

11.5

3

5

32

87

2.1

3.31

2017

69

67.1

2.94

1.16

12.3

3

7

30

92

1.7

3.19

162-game pace

68

66 

2.67

1.16

11.7

4

4

21

85

1.5

2.92

Allen is a guy who is always being discussed as a threat to lose his job ever since Andrew Miller arrived in Cleveland. That’s why we’re talking about him here. The problem with the theme that he will lose his job is the numbers don’t suggest that he should or will. Remarkable consistency is what the numbers bare out, especially at a position in which a guy only last a year or two typically. Sure he has blown some saves over the last three years but with 30+ saves in each of the last three years that makes him just one of three in baseball that can claim that stat. He, Craig Kimbrel, and Kenley Jensen are the only three relievers in the majors to hit save at least 30 games a year since 2015 and Allen nearly did it four years in a row. As long as Allen keeps his head down and keeps pluggin’ away, he will maintain his role and should see significant interest on the open market.

 

Drew Pomeranz

G/GS

IP

ERA

WHIP

K/9

W

L

SV

K

WAR

FIP

2015

9

86

3.66

1.186

8.6

5

6

3

82

0.4

3.62

2016

30

170.2

3.32

1.184

9.8

11

12

0

186

4.0

3.8

2017

32

173.2

3.32

1.353

9

17

6

0

174

4.0

3.84

162-game pace

27

154 

3.67

1.3

8.8

10

10

1

150

1.6

3.99

Pomeranz is coming off a very nice season in 2017, just his second as a full-time starter in the majors. However there are some signs that he needs to improve in order to maximize his value on the open market. Taking a look at the batting splits against him, it’s clear that his weakness is against left-handed batters, surprisingly. Against RHB Poneranz’s splits are .240/.311/.383 and versus lefties .293/.370/.408. While he does have a better strikeout rate against lefties, they make contact much more often than righties do. After his hot start in San Diego in 2016, he was traded to Boston where people thought his numbers would tank given the smaller ballpark and the more explosive offenses in the division, however he’s held his own and if he can once more put up similar numbers in 2018, he should be in line for a nice contract offer with him being a lefty and just being into his age-30 season in 2019.

 

Gio Gonzalez

G/GS

IP

ERA

WHIP

K/9

W

L

SV

K

WAR

FIP

2015

31

175.2

3.79

1.423

8.7

11

8

0

169

2.8

3.05

2016

32

177.1

4.57

1.342

8.7

11

11

0

171

0.8

3.76

2017

32

201

2.96

1.179

8.4

15

9

0

188

6.6

3.93

162-gmae pace

34

201 

3.64

1.302

8.8

14

11

0

196

2.7

3.58

The D.C. southpaw’s previous best season was 2012, that is until 2017 came around. Yet there are still some question marks around him. For example, how did he lower his ERA 1.6 runs a game? Well if you look at his FIP it’s clear that his 2016 season and 2017 pretty much all came down to luck. His 2016 ERA of 4.57 is considerably higher than his 3.76, but turn that around to 2017 and the difference in ERA and FIP is even bigger, but in Gonzalez’s favor this time. He got hit better by batters in general over 2015 and 2016 than last year, but he was much more effective against left handed hitters in the most recent campaign with a .180 BAA. So sure that can account for some of it as can working with Mike Maddux as pitching coach, who isn’t there this season. But in general luck and a bit of pitch sequencing are most notably the reasons for the jump in stats between the last two years.

So what does that mean for 2018? In all likelihood his season will likely fall just about in the middle of the past two. There is a change in pitching coaches and some slight changes in the Nationals defense, Adam Eaton in and Jayson Werth out. However, if he can in fact reproduce a season as good or better than 2017, the southpaw would be in line for a very good payday whether it be for the Nationals or any other team needing a starter, which is pretty much all of them.

 

Patrick Corbin

G/GS

IP

ERA

WHIP

K/9

W

L

SV

K

WAR

FIP

2015

16

85

3.6

1.271

8.3

6

5

0

78

1.3

3.35

2016

24

155.2

5.15

1.561

7.6

5

13

1

131

-0.9

4.84

2017

32

189.2

4.03

1.418

8.4

14

13

0

178

2.9

4.08

162-game pace

32

195 

4.12

1.348

7.9

12

12

1

170

1.3

3.96

Corbin is an interesting case study in this particular conversation because there is a lot going on in his background. The 2013 season, age 23, showed he had the makings of a very good big league pitcher with a 14-8 record, 3.41 ERA (3.43 FIP), 178 Ks, and a 1.16 WHIP over 208.1 innings. Then he missed the whole 2014 season and half of the 2015 season, making just 16 starts combined in those two years. Starting 24 and pitching in 36 total in 2016 was a good start, but his 5.15 ERA and 5-13 record weren’t. In 2017 though, he returned as a full-time starter and proved himself to be a solid member of a rotation once more. The interesting part of his season however plays out in the home/away splits in which he is a far better pitcher at home, in the hitter-haven of Chase Field, than on the road. Corbin pitched to a 3.15 ERA in 17 starts at home (103 IP) but a 5.09 mark on the road in 15 starts (86.2 IP) as well as giving up nearly a third of the homers at home as on the road (7 H 19 A). So herein lies the question, what will the humidor do to Patrick Corbin? The D-Backs are very fond of trying to even the playing field at home for their pitchers, but Corbin is already a better pitcher in Arizona, so what happens if his numbers jump up and the major split disappears? Well that’s what we’ll all wait to see in 2018. Taijuan Walker will have the opposite problem, as he was better on the road than at home, and luckily for him he is still under contract past 2018. The now 28-year-old Corbin, who will turn 29 mid-season, will need to figure things out quickly in the new confines of Chase Field if he wants to maximize his future payday this coming offseason.

Rest of the Pack

We’ve touched on a few intriguing guys at each position, and ones that aren’t at the top of the heap for the massive contracts. But what does the whole market look like? Ordinarily several of these guys would be the top players at their position in a free agent class, and thus command a bigger contract. But if they are just the mid-tier guys, then how much of a bump in pay or length can they expect to see? Their numbers in their contract years will dictate part of that answer to be sure. The following is a listing of the rest of the notable free agents in the 2018 class, and boy is it a doozy.

Player

Pos

Age

18 Team

18 Salary

Joe Mauer

1B

34

MIN

$23,000,000

Matt Adams

1B

29

WSH

$4,000,000

Lucas Duda

1B

32

KC

$3,500,000

Mike Napoli

1B

36

CLE

$2,500,000

Chris Carter

1B

31

LAA

$1,750,000

Pedro Alvarez

1B

31

BAL

$1,000,000

Adrian Gonzalez

1B

35

NYM

$545,000

Adam Lind

1B

34

NYY

$500,000

Daniel Murphy

2B

32

WSH

$17,500,000

Ian Kinsler

2B

35

LAA

$11,000,000

Logan Forsythe

2B

31

LAD

$9,000,000

Brian Dozier

2B

30

MIN

$9,000,000

Asdrubal Cabrera

2B

32

NYM

$8,500,000

DJ LeMahieu

2B

29

COL

$8,500,000

Jed Lowrie

2B

33

OAK

$6,000,000

Sean Rodriguez

2B

32

PIT

$5,750,000

Eric Sogard

2B

31

MIL

$2,400,000

Adam Rosales

2B

34

PHI

$1,750,000

Josh Donaldson

3B

32

TOR

$23,000,000

Adrian Beltre

3B

38

TEX

$18,000,000

Manny Machado

3B

25

BAL

$16,000,000

Chase Headley

3B

33

SD

$13,000,000

Jose Reyes

3B

34

NYM

$2,000,000

Daniel Descalso

3B

31

ARI

$2,000,000

Ryan Flaherty

3B

31

PHI

$1,900,000

Trevor Plouffe

3B

31

TEX

$1,750,000

Will Middlebrooks

3B

29

PHI

$1,200,000

Danny Valencia

3B

33

BAL

$1,200,000

Pablo Sandoval

3B

31

SF

$545,000

Devin Mesoraco

C

29

CIN

$13,125,000

Matt Wieters

C

31

WSH

$10,500,000

Wilson Ramos

C

30

TB

$10,500,000

Yasmani Grandal

C

29

LAD

$7,900,000

Evan Gattis

C

31

HOU

$6,700,000

Tyler Flowers

C

32

ATL

$4,000,000

Martin Maldonado

C

31

LAA

$3,900,000

Kurt Suzuki

C

34

ATL

$3,500,000

Rene Rivera

C

34

LAA

$2,800,000

Nick Hundley

C

34

SF

$2,500,000

Drew Butera

C

34

KC

$2,300,000

Jeff Mathis

C

34

ARI

$2,000,000

Miguel Montero

C

34

WSH

$1,300,000

Ryan Hanigan

C

37

CLE

$1,250,000

Chris Stewart

C

36

ATL

$575,000

Adam Jones

CF

32

BAL

$17,333,333

Charlie Blackmon

CF

31

COL

$14,000,000

A.J. Pollock

CF

30

ARI

$7,750,000

Carlos Gomez

CF

32

TB

$4,000,000

Cameron Maybin

CF

30

MIA

$3,250,000

Jon Jay

CF

32

KC

$3,000,000

Rajai Davis

CF

37

CLE

$1,750,000

Leonys Martin

CF

30

DET

$1,750,000

Shane Robinson

CF

33

NYY

$950,000

Victor Martinez  QO

DH

39

DET

$18,000,000

Nelson Cruz

DH

37

SEA

$14,250,000

Hunter Pence

LF

34

SF

$18,500,000

Michael Brantley

LF

30

CLE

$12,000,000

Brett Gardner

LF

34

NYY

$11,500,000

Steven Pearce

LF

34

TOR

$6,250,000

Marwin Gonzalez

LF

28

HOU

$5,125,000

Michael Saunders

LF

31

KC

$1,500,000

Melvin Upton

LF

33

CLE

$1,500,000

Craig Gentry

LF

34

BAL

$900,000

Bryce Harper

RF

25

WSH

$21,625,000

Andrew McCutchen

RF

31

SF

$14,750,000

Nick Markakis

RF

34

ATL

$11,000,000

Yasiel Puig

RF

27

LAD

$9,214,285

Matt Joyce

RF

33

OAK

$6,000,000

Lonnie Chisenhall

RF

29

CLE

$5,587,500

Curtis Granderson

RF

36

TOR

$5,000,000

Chris Young

RF

34

LAA

$2,000,000

Peter Bourjos

RF

30

CHC

$1,450,000

Gregor Blanco

RF

34

SF

$1,000,000

David Robertson

RP

32

NYY

$13,000,000

Craig Kimbrel

RP

29

BOS

$13,000,000

Zach Britton

RP

30

BAL

$12,000,000

Cody Allen

RP

29

CLE

$10,575,000

A.J. Ramos

RP

31

NYM

$9,225,000

Andrew Miller

RP

32

CLE

$9,000,000

Brad Ziegler

RP

38

MIA

$9,000,000

Kelvin Herrera

RP

28

KC

$7,937,500

Jeurys Familia

RP

28

NYM

$7,925,000

Ryan Madson

RP

37

WSH

$7,666,668

Jerry Blevins

RP

34

NYM

$7,000,000

Junichi Tazawa

RP

31

MIA

$7,000,000

Adam Ottavino

RP

32

COL

$7,000,000

Tony Sipp

RP

34

HOU

$6,000,000

Santiago Casilla

RP

37

OAK

$6,000,000

David Phelps

RP

31

SEA

$5,550,000

Marc Rzepczynski

RP

32

SEA

$5,500,000

Daniel Hudson

RP

30

TB

$5,500,000

Shawn Kelley

RP

33

WSH

$5,500,000

Brad Brach

RP

31

BAL

$5,165,000

Jim Johnson

RP

34

LAA

$5,000,000

Justin Wilson

RP

30

CHC

$4,250,000

Francisco Liriano

RP

34

DET

$4,000,000

Joe Kelly

RP

29

BOS

$3,825,000

Adam Warren

RP

30

NYY

$3,315,000

Jake Diekman

RP

31

TEX

$2,712,500

Francisco Rodriguez

RP

36

PHI

$2,500,000

Sergio Romo

RP

35

TB

$2,500,000

Zach McAllister

RP

30

CLE

$2,450,000

Jorge De La Rosa

RP

36

ARI

$2,250,000

Randall Delgado

RP

28

ARI

$2,250,000

Yovani Gallardo

RP

32

MIL

$2,000,000

Tom Koehler

RP

32

LAD

$2,000,000

Aaron Loup

RP

30

TOR

$1,812,500

Tyson Ross

RP

30

SD

$1,750,000

Tony Barnette

RP

34

TEX

$1,500,000

Antonio Bastardo

RP

32

ARI

$1,500,000

Vance Worley

RP

30

CIN

$1,500,000

Jesse Chavez

RP

34

TEX

$1,500,000

Carlos Torres

RP

35

CLE

$1,500,000

Matt Belisle

RP

37

CLE

$1,500,000

Blake Wood

RP

32

LAA

$1,450,000

Craig Breslow

RP

37

TOR

$1,250,000

Tom Milone

RP

31

WSH

$1,200,000

Peter Moylan

RP

39

ATL

$1,200,000

Carter Capps

RP

27

SD

$1,062,500

Joaquin Benoit

RP

40

WSH

$1,000,000

Jonathan Niese

RP

31

TEX

$1,000,000

A.J. Griffin

RP

30

NYM

$750,000

Edward Mujica

RP

33

STL

$750,000

James Shields

SP

36

CHW

$21,000,000

Adam Wainwright

SP

36

STL

$19,500,000

Scott Kazmir

SP

34

ATL

$17,666,668

Dallas Keuchel

SP

30

HOU

$13,200,000

Marco Estrada

SP

34

TOR

$13,000,000

J.A. Happ

SP

35

TOR

$13,000,000

Gio Gonzalez  QO

SP

32

WSH

$12,000,000

Brandon McCarthy

SP

34

ATL

$11,500,000

C.C. Sabathia

SP

37

NYY

$10,000,000

Drew Pomeranz

SP

29

BOS

$8,500,000

Hyun-Jin Ryu

SP

30

LAD

$7,833,333

Patrick Corbin

SP

28

ARI

$7,500,000

Garrett Richards

SP

29

LAA

$7,300,000

Charlie Morton

SP

34

HOU

$7,000,000

Matt Harvey

SP

28

NYM

$5,625,000

Anibal Sanchez

SP

34

MIN

$5,000,000

Miguel Gonzalez

SP

33

CHW

$4,750,000

Bud Norris

SP

33

STL

$3,000,000

Chris Tillman

SP

29

BAL

$3,000,000

Josh Tomlin

SP

33

CLE

$3,000,000

Hisashi Iwakuma

SP

36

SEA

$2,500,000

Wade Miley

SP

31

MIL

$2,500,000

Nathan Eovaldi

SP

28

TB

$2,000,000

Bartolo Colon

SP

44

TEX

$1,750,000

Edwin Jackson

SP

34

WSH

$1,500,000

Kris Medlen

SP

32

ARI

$1,100,000

Freddy Galvis

SS

28

SD

$6,825,000

Jordy Mercer

SS

31

PIT

$6,750,000

Jose Iglesias

SS

28

DET

$6,275,000

Adeiny Hechavarria

SS

28

TB

$5,900,000

Eduardo Escobar

SS

29

MIN

$4,850,000

Alcides Escobar

SS

31

KC

$2,500,000

J.J. Hardy

SS

35

BAL

$2,000,000

Cliff Pennington

SS

33

CIN

$1,500,000

Darwin Barney

SS

32

TEX

$1,250,000

Erick Aybar

SS

34

MIN

$1,250,000

Andres Blanco

SS

33

SF

$1,100,000

Andrew Romine

SS

32

SEA

$1,050,000

Jurickson Profar

SS

25

TEX

$1,050,000

Alexi Amarista

SS

28

DET

$150,000

 
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