As one of the most highly-anticipated offseasons in the history of Major League Baseball gets underway, the big question on everyone's mind is where the top two free agents will land.
Fans have had their eyes on this winter for years, with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado both hitting the open market. Both players will be 26 on opening day and are the kind of offensive superstars that you can build a franchise around.
In addition to the two sluggers, Craig Kimbrel, one of the top closers in the game is available. Former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel is also a free agent and lefty Patrick Corbin, coming off his best career season, should command a big deal.
The USA TODAY Sports baseball team lays out its picks for where these top free agents will end up this winter:
Manny Machado, SS/3B
Bob Nightengale – Yankees: Machado badly wants to play in New York, and the Yankees need him. The Yankees aren’t afraid of his October antics knowing they have leaders to mentor him.
Gabe Lacques – Phillies: Sitting on piles of cash and ready to win.
Ted Berg – Yankees: Didi Gregorius’ postseason Tommy John surgery opens up a hole on the left side of the Yankees’ infield and makes Machado seem like a fairly obvious fit in the Bronx. GM Brian Cashman seems primed to make big plays in this free agent class after scrapping to get his payroll below the luxury-tax threshold, and Machado makes more sense than Harper for the Yankees in both the positional and sartorial senses.
Steve Gardner – Phillies: A sniff of what it feels like to be a contender has stimulated the Phillies’ appetite for winning. With relatively little money committed to the future and a gaping hole at shortstop, they can spend big on a franchise player like Machado.
Jesse Yomtov – Mets: This pick may sound a bit crazy, but one of the more more "frugal" organizations in the league has no salaries on the books beyond 2020. Ownership could choose to let the new front office team make a splash.
Bryce Harper, OF
Bob Nightengale – Nationals: He loves it there, and they love him. The Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants could swoop in.
Lacques – Dodgers: They need a new franchise player. He gets a record-setting deal and a mega-market platform close to home.
Berg – Astros: This is a wild, albeit undoubtedly unlikely, thought. Harper, eager for something close to a guaranteed postseason opportunity and the best chance at a ring, surprises everyone by signing with the Astros over the coastal mega-market clubs most expect to pursue him. Though Harper doesn’t patch the new holes in the Astros’ starting rotation, he’d give them a historically good lineup that’d make them an instant favorite for 2019.
Gardner – Cubs: They already have more outfielders under contract than they need, but the Cubs’ early exit from this year’s playoffs make signing Harper necessary, and their substantial financial resources make it possible. Trading Kyle Schwarber to an AL team then becomes the next logical move.
Yomtov – Nationals: Harper and the Nats will realize they just can’t live without each other. He’s branded himself as Mr. DC and as the organization’s first-ever star, Harper just doesn’t have the same intrinsic value elsewhere.
Patrick Corbin, LHP
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