Ranking Top 2017-18 MLB Free Agents And Analyzing Potential Fit With Dodgers
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

With the offseason in full swing, the Los Angeles Dodgers will soon begin constructing their roster for the 2018 season. The club in some regard has decisions to make on seven players that reached free agency at the conclusion of the World Series.

Last year, the Dodgers prioritized re-signing its three major free agents in Rich Hill, Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner. This time around, there aren’t nearly as many glaring roster needs, which could lead to Los Angeles being selective in free agency this winter.

Ranked below are the top-10 free agents and each player’s potential fit with the Dodgers. The rankings were solely determined by each individual’s respective WAR (FanGraphs) during the 2017 season.

1. Zack Cozart (5.0 WAR): The longtime Cincinnati Reds shortstop enjoyed a career season on both sides of the ball, batting .297/.385/.548 (141 wRC+) with 24 doubles, seven triples, 24 home runs and 80 RBI over 507 plate appearances.

Cozart displayed premium defense at shortstop, registering a 6.2 UZR/150 (sixth among qualifiers), an 8.7 Defensive Runs Above Average (ninth), and two Defensive Runs Saved (10th).

The Dodgers already boast one of the league’s most talented shortstops in Corey Seager, so Cozart doesn’t appear to be a fit for the club. Other teams that could pursue the 32-year-old include the Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins and San Diego Padres.

2. Eric Hosmer (4.1 WAR): Hosmer reaches free agency for the first time in his career after spending the previous seven seasons with the Royals.

He was one of nine players to receive a qualifying offer — a one-year, $17.4 million deal — and any team that signs him must account for draft compensation to Kansas City.

In 671 plate appearances over 162 games, the 28-year-old hit .318/.385/.498 with 31 doubles, 25 home runs and 94 RBI. Hosmer earned a Silver Slugger Award for his efforts on the offensive side.

Hosmer additionally won his fourth career Gold Glove Award, though the metrics didn’t back up his case. He posted a -0.4 UZR/150 and cost his team seven runs, per the DRS statistic.

The Dodgers aren’t a fit for Hosmer, given the presence of 2017 National League Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger, plus Adrian Gonzalez off the bench. The Royals will make a strong attempt to retain the face of their franchise, while the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners could make a play for Hosmer as well.

3. Lorenzo Cain (4.1 WAR): The longtime Royals center fielder is among the club’s most notable free agents. Like Hosmer, Cain was extended a qualifying offer, which could hinder his market to some degree.

In 584 trips to the plate (155 games), Cain slashed .300/.363/.440 with 47 extra-base hits and 49 RBI. He added 26 stolen bases and tallied a career-best 175 hits over the year.

Cain enjoyed another above-average season with his glove, saving five runs while posting an UZR/150 of 2.4. While Cain isn’t a strong fit for the Dodgers on paper, the club could potentially look to sign him if they trade from their surplus in outfielders.

Other teams that could be in the hunt include the San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays.

4. J.D. Martinez (3.8 WAR): Martinez put together a historic year at the plate in 2017, splitting time between with the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Overall, the 30-year-old batted .303/.376/.690 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI. The Diamondbacks acquired him prior to the non-waiver trade deadline and it propelled them to their first postseason appearance in six years. With Arizona, Martinez posted a 1.107 on-base plus slugging percentage in 257 trips to the plate.

The Dodgers were among the teams to express interest in Martinez this past July. While he would undoubtedly bolster their lineup, Martinez is a liability defensively, and is reportedly seeking $200 million in the wake of hiring Scott Boras as his agent.

Other teams that figure to pursue Martinez include the Red Sox, Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.

5. Yu Darvish (3.5 WAR): The Dodgers shocked the baseball world with the acquisition of Darvish from the Rangers at the non-waiver trade deadline.

The right-hander fared much better with Los Angeles during the regular season and allowed just one run over his final 19.1 innings. He carried that hot streak into the postseason, where he dominated in outings against the Diamondbacks and Cubs in the National League Division and Championship Series, respectively.

Darvish went on to struggle in two World Series starts, where he was tabbed with losses in Games 3 and 7. Because he was traded in-season, Darvish wasn’t eligible for a qualifying offer. Otherwise, the Dodgers certainly would’ve extended him one.

Darvish has stated that he prefers to re-sign with the Dodgers, though that might not be the end result. With such a weak market for starting pitchers, the 31-year-old is line for a significant contract that should exceed nine figures — likely one that Los Angeles won’t match.

The Rangers could attempt to bring Darvish back, while the Cubs and Minnesota Twins may also make a play for the four-time All-Star.

6. Logan Morrison (3.3 WAR): Morrison enjoyed a career-year at the plate for the Tampa Bay Rays, slugging 22 doubles and 38 home runs over 601 plate appearances.

The 30-year-old was serviceable at first base, posting a 2.0 UZR/150 while saving one run with his glove. Los Angeles isn’t a fit for his services, but teams that miss out on Hosmer can turn to Morrison as a fallback option.

7. Carlos Santana (3.0 WAR): The former Dodgers prospect cashed in another excellent season for the Cleveland Indians, where he slashed .259/.363/.455 over 667 trips to the plate with 37 doubles and 23 home runs.

Among free agent first basemen, Santana posted the best defensive metrics but won’t generate the same amount of buzz as Hosmer will. The 31-year-old appears best suited for an American League team, as he can plug in at designated hitter on days where he doesn’t see the field.

8. Todd Frazier (3.0 WAR): In 576 plate appearances between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees, Frazier put up a .772 OPS with 19 doubles, 27 home runs and 83 walks.

Frazier excelled at the hot corner, where he posted a 9.7 UZR/150 and saved 10 runs with his glove. He is also capable of playing first base, though his metrics at that position aren’t as impressive.

Like many free agents on this list, the Dodgers don’t seem to be fit for Frazier. Teams with needs that figure to show interest include the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and New York Mets.

9. Jake Arrieta (2.8 WAR): Arrieta is just one of two elite-caliber free-agent starting pitchers with Major League experience, along with Darvish.

In 168.1 innings pitched for the Cubs this season, the 31-year-old posted a 3.53 ERA and 4.16 FIP with 163 strikeouts to 55 walks. Arrieta thrived in the second half, where he pitched to a 2.28 ERA over 67 frames.

Arrieta received a qualifying offer and is expected to sign a lucrative contract that falls just short of Darvish’s projected deal. The Dodgers could be a fit depending on the price, along with other teams that miss out on Darvish.

10. Jay Bruce (2.7 WAR): Having split time between the Mets and Indians in 2017, Bruce hit .254/.324/.508 with 29 doubles, 36 home runs and 101 RBI.

Bruce posted above-average metrics in right field and briefly saw some time at first base. The Dodgers showed interest in acquiring him prior to the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline but no longer appear to be a logical match.

The 30-year-old seems better suited for the AL, where he can expand his opportunities as a DH. Among teams that could make a play for him include a pair of AL East division rivals in the Baltimore Orioles and Blue Jays.

Wild card: Shohei Otani

Arguably the most enticing free agent, Otani is slated to sign with a Major League team this offseason after spending the previous five seasons with the Nippon-Ham Fighters in the Japan Pacific League.

After months of speculation, the Nippon-Ham Fighters made it clear of their intention to post Otani this winter, although a deal has yet to be formally announced.

Deemed as the Japanese Babe Ruth, Otani is among the country’s elite two-way players on both sides of the ball. As a hitter, the 23-year-old owns a career slash line of .286/.358/.500 in 1,170 plate appearances, with 70 doubles, 48 home runs and 166 RBI.

On the mound, Otani has pitched to a 2.52 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over 543 career innings with 624 strikeouts — good for a 10.3 strikeouts per nine ratio. Once posted, interested teams such as the Dodgers will presumably submit bids upwards of $20 million.

Should a team sign Otani, the posting fee would then be paid to the Fighters. As it stands, Otani may not receive a signing bonus larger than $5 million.

In the Dodgers’ case, they’re limited to offering a $300,000 bonus because of exceeding their international bonus pool in the previous signing period.

Honorable Mentions

Mike Moustakas (2.2 WAR): The Royals third baseman is due for a major raise this offseason and is likely headed to a new destination. He was extended a qualifying offer, which teams must consider when pursuing him.

Moustakas hit .272/.314/.521 and clubbed 38 homers over 598 plate appearances. He posted sub-par defensive metrics at third base, and while the Dodgers aren’t a match, his strongest suitor could be the Angels, who are looking to stabilize the position.

Alex Cobb (2.4 WAR) and Lance Lynn (1.4 WAR): Should the Dodgers miss out on Otani or another top-tier starting pitcher, they could turn their attention to a pair of solid, middle-of-the-rotation options in Cobb and Lynn.

Cobb has ties to Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, having spent four seasons together with the Rays. Lynn is among the game’s most durable arms, having logged a minimum of 186 innings per season with the Cardinals dating back to 2013.

Both Cobb and Lynn received qualifying offers, however, which could limit the Dodgers’ interest.

Mike Minor (2.1 WAR), Brandon Morrow (1.6 WAR), Wade Davis and Greg Holland (1.1 WAR apiece): Minor stands out as a logical free agent target for the Dodgers. The soon-to-be 30-year-old is among the game’s best left-handed relievers and could complement Kenley Jansen well in the back-end of the bullpen.

Morrow emerged as a dominant setup man for the Dodgers this season and has stated his desire to re-sign with the club. Depending on the price, he’s among their most retainable free agents.

The pair of closers in Davis and Holland enjoyed excellent seasons for the Cubs and Colorado Rockies, respectively, but figure to receive hefty contracts likely out of the Dodgers’ price range.

With Jansen in the fold for the foreseeable future, Davis and Holland would additionally have to settle for a setup role should they choose to sign with Los Angeles.

What’s more, Davis and Holland each received a qualifying offer from their respective clubs, meaning any team that signs them will have to yield a draft pick.