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MLB Free Agency Odds: Phillies Favored to Land Bryce Harper, Manny Machado

Oct 30, 2018 10:05 PM EDT
  • Bovada has posted odds for landing spots for several upcoming MLB free agents, including Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Clayton Kershaw.
  • The Phillies are favored to land both Harper and Machado.
  • Meanwhile, the Yankees have just a 36.1% combined chance at landing either of the two superstars despite being linked to both of them.

How ’bout those Red Sox?

The 2018 season has come and gone and the offseason is here. This offseason has the makings of an NBA offseason, as a bunch of big names could be switching uniforms.

Bovada has posted odds on where eight big names will play in 2019, headlined by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Both are in the prime of their careers at 26 years old and are capable of MVP performances, and some people believe they could sign deals in excess of $400 million.

My only question is: Where the hell are the Steve Pearce and Nathan Eovaldi free agency props?

MLB Free Agency Odds

Bryce Harper

  • Phillies: +100
  • Cubs: +300
  • Nationals: +400
  • Giants: +750
  • Yankees: +800
  • Dodgers: +850
  • Red Sox: +1500
  • Angels: +1500

Over the past year, there have been several times when Bryce Harper free agency odds have been posted. Every time, the Cubs have been favored, but this go ’round, it’s the Phillies. At the end of the regular season, the Cubs were +100 and the Phils were +550, so what’s changed?

His agent, the infamous Scott Boras, recently said in an interview, “We know who the team is. It’s already completed and done, but Bryce has told me that he wanted to tell you personally.”

He could be BS-ing, he could be telling the truth, who knows. There’s only one team that Harper could have actually “agreed” with at this point and that’s the Nationals, but I reckon Boras is blowing some smoke up our keisters here and that Harper will hit the market.

I highly doubt many bettors will be betting on the Phillies at the current payout considering the lack of news surrounding the two parties.

Manny Machado

  • Phillies: +150
  • Dodgers: +225
  • Yankees: +300
  • Marlins: +800
  • Angels: +900
  • Braves: +1400
  • Nationals: +1400

Harper is probably the more well-known player, but Machado is a much more rounded superstar who can play a premium position. Machado is an elite defender who will be able to play shortstop or third base for a number of years. Meanwhile, Harper had the third-worst defensive value out of 140 qualified players this past season and may be better suited in the AL, where he can transition to a DH.

If I were a member of the Phillies’ brass (I’m actually just a kid who writes about sports gambling) I would focus my efforts on Machado. If I were a bettor who has faith in the Phillies’ abilities to woo free agents, I would focus my bankroll on Machado, too.

Also worth noting is the fact that the Yankees are +300. It’s generally assumed that the Bronx Bombers will be in on any and every big name free agent, and that’s held true for Harper and Machado.

However, the combined probabilities of them landing either one is just 36.1%. Per Spotrac, they have the 13th-highest payroll as of now for the 2019 season, which we all know won’t be the case after free agency.

They have big bucks to spend and you can bet — literally — that they’ll spend it.

Clayton Kershaw

  • Dodgers: -150
  • Astros: +375
  • Rangers: +375
  • Cubs: +800
  • Giants: +800
  • Yankees: +850
  • Reds: +1600

Kershaw is the only one of these free agents who actually has to opt out of his current deal to hit the market. As a result, the Dodgers are still odds-on favorites at -150.

After that, there are several realistic options. The native Texan could return home and pitch for the Astros or Rangers. Since Kershaw still doesn’t have that World Series ring despite coming so close, you’d have to imagine he’d prefer a good team such as the Astros over a trash team such as the Rangers.

On the other hand, if you’d like to just completely throw your money in the trash, the Reds are the option for you at +1600.

Josh Donaldson

  • Cardinals: +115
  • Indians: +250
  • Phillies: +250
  • Rays: +500

Josh Donaldson had been linked to the Cardinals in trade rumors over the past couple years, and now they’re the favorite to sign him. Fortunately for St. Louis, it will probably come at somewhat of a bargain.

Donaldson picked a bad year to be hurt for most of the season and have his worst offensive numbers since 2012. He’s played just 165 games over the past two years and is turning 33 in December. A lengthy $100+ million deal is probably out of the cards despite his stretch of elite play from 2013-2017.

This could be a poor-man’s backup option for Philly if it fails to sign Machado.


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Dallas Keuchel

  • Astros: +230
  • Angels: +230
  • Yankees: +230
  • Dodgers: +650
  • Phillies: +650
  • Giants: +650

The Astros had a stacked rotation this past season, and Dallas Keuchel was a key piece of it. However, it probably makes sense for the Astros to move on from the former Cy Young winner.

Houston doesn’t have a ton of money on the books, but over the next handful of seasons, it will need to pay guys like Gerrit Cole, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Lance McCullers and Alex Bregman, all of whom are still in pre-arb/arbitration. They probably won’t want to pay $20+ million per year to someone such as Keuchel, who is turning 31 this winter and is trending down.

Craig Kimbrel

  • Red Sox: +100
  • Braves: +225
  • Cubs: +500
  • Dodgers: +500
  • Phillies: +500

Despite some struggles in the second half of the season and postseason, Craig Kimbrel has his ring. Last year was certainly the best year of Kimbrel’s three-year stint in Boston, with 2016 and 2018 both having their ups and downs.

He probably wouldn’t be considered an “elite” bullpen arm right now, but relief pitchers have been landing some hefty contracts in recent years. Despite his struggles, he’ll still be in line for a raise (previous contract was four years/$42 million) and the Red Sox might not want to pay it.

A return to the Braves could certainly be an option, as Atlanta has less than $60 million on the books next season and could afford to slightly overpay for him.

A.J. Pollock

  • Diamondbacks: +150
  • Phillies: +150
  • Mets: +400
  • Giants: +400

If you add up all of the implied probabilities for the Phillies, it comes to 188.6%. Let’s just say they had better sign at least one guy. A.J. Pollock doesn’t have the fame and certainly won’t make the fortune of Harper, but the soon to be 31-year-old outfielder would be a good fallback option for the Phils if they fail to land one of the bigger names.

This is especially true considering Pollock’s defense, which is far superior to Harper’s. The Phillies’ defense was very poor from both a traditional and advanced standpoint.

Their -146 defensive runs saved were a league-worst by 47 runs and the worst Fangraphs has ever tracked for a team. Pollock’s above average bat and defense could certainly help a Phillies team that absolutely fell apart down the stretch.

Patrick Corbin

  • Yankees: -190
  • Diamondbacks: +300
  • Mariners: +850
  • Nationals: +850
  • Brewers: +850
  • Angels: +1100

He’s not the biggest name, but Patrick Corbin was actually the best starting pitcher of the free agent class this past season. The D-backs’ southpaw had a 3.15 ERA over 200 innings, the fourth-best fWAR at 6.3 among 57 qualified starters and the fifth-best K/BB ratio.

The 29-year-old is probably not known to the casual Yankees fan, but at -190, he could be their “big ticket” acquisition of the offseason. Is it a good price to bet on? Eh, I wouldn’t, but there are some signs pointing to it.

Not many teams have been linked to Corbin other than the Yankees, who need some starting pitching depth to go with Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. Corbin is from New York, which never hurts. Also, the Yankees could outbid any smaller market teams that are in the market for him, especially if they fail to sign Harper or Machado.

Credit:

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Manny Machado, Bryce Harper

Follow Mark Gallant on Twitter
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