It is common this time of year for experts and columnists to publish predictions about where top free agents wll land before the start of next season. There are some that seem obvious, others that are reasonable conclusions, and some that are simply wishful thinking.
In the case of the following three free agents, MLB insiders made predictions to me that were a bit of surprise, specifically former MVP candidate, 3B Josh Donaldson...
Josh Donaldson and the Mets
Sandy Alderson signed Todd Frazier, Brodie van Wagenen did not. Therefore, Van Wagenen can deal Frazier and eat part of the remaining $7 million on his contract in a way that Alderson probably wouldn't do. And, given the opportunity this winter to add offense at third, and given how necessary it is for Van Wagenen to add an impact bat, Frazier needs to go or step aside moving either to the bench or be a top-gap at first base.
"I want him on my team and in my clubhouse, but he's no longer an everyday position player," an NL talent evaluator recently told me. "He's a terrific glue guy, but he's no longer a power hitting, every day third baseman, especially for a New York team wanting to get to the playoffs."
It's true, Donaldson is coming off an ill-timed, terrible season, but insiders tell me that is more likely to impact the length of his next contract as opposed to the average annual salary. As a result, predictions to me ranged from him getting four years and 80 million to one year and $20 million. The one-year deal would give him the chance to re-establish his value and hit the market 12 months from now not having to compete with Machado.
In the event Van Wagenen is open to a long term deal with backload money, the bulk of Donaldson's salary could coincide with when Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes are off the books.
The bulk of published predictions have Donaldson signing with the Cardinals. However, all teams interested in Machado, specifically the Dodgers, Angels, Phillies and White Sox, will almost certainly create leverage by also flirting with Donaldson, even though he'll know he is their fall back option.
Meanwhile, it is widely believed that Van Wagenen is wanting to make at least one, headline-grabbing acquisition to help plant a flag in the start of his tenor running the Mets.
This is why, given the need for a right-handed power hitter at Citi Field, and with Machado occupying the attention of other big-market teams, MLB insiders say the Mets are in perfect position to show Donaldson he's a priority and overpay a bit to jump the market and quickly ink him to a deal worth 80 percent less than what is being chased by Machado.
Matt Harvey and the Braves
The bulk of published lists have it a forgone conclusion that Harvey will re-sign with the Reds.
The Mets tendered Harvey a contract for 2018 and, within a few months, ended their dramatic relationship by trading him to the Reds. He did well in Cincinnati, striking out 7.8 batters per nine innings, increasing his ground ball rate and producing a 4.50 ERA. After three years freaking out about his velocity in New York, he ended 2018 averaging 95 miles per hour.
I think because the Reds didn't trade him last year has people assuming they'd like to bring him back. This may be true, but more MLB insiders I talked with predicted he'd land with the Braves.
Atlanta is a nice, quiet media market with an up and coming team playing in a division he knows well. Meanwhile, the Braves have money to spend, need depth and the rotation and have to at least be somewhat enticed by the idea of turning Harvey around knowing he'll face the Mets a handful of times during the year.
By the way, while it's not surprising today, it would be crazy surprising if in July 2012 you were told in six and a half years Harvey would only be inking a likely two-year, $20 million contract.
Andrew Miller and the Indians
The Mets and countless other organizations are going to get their hopes up imaging Miller joining their bullpen. He brings to a team post-season experience and the type of versatility that every organization is working to replicate. Based on what was being said about him at the end of 2017, he likely could have net a four-year, $70 million deal had he been a free agent last winter.
Unfortunately for him, he was often injured and struggled in 2018, leaving MLB insiders predicting he'll end up this off-season signing just a one- or two-year deal paying him $10-15 million per season.
It has long been assumed that he's leaving Cleveland for a more prominent team, such as the Red Sox, Yankees or Dodgers. The Mets and Miller's favorite and former pitching coach, Mickey Callaway, are interested in him as well, according to SNY's Andy Martino.
However, three of four insiders I talked with predicted Miller would devastate these interested teams and return to the Indians for one more season. By doing so, he can try one more time to get his Indians over the World Series hump, while also re-establishing his value in hopes of landing a longer-term deal next winter.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!