Predicting where the biggest remaining free-agent stars will sign

Jake Arrieta might be the most accomplished free-agent pitcher, but some of his numbers are trending the wrong way. Jeff Roberson/AP Photo

Editor's note: This story originally ran on Jan. 3, 2018 and will be updated as free agency plays out.

Never before have we seen so many significant free agents unsigned into the start of spring training. With several of Keith Law’s top 15 free agents still out there, let’s take a look at where they might land and some of the risks involved with each player.

Jake Arrieta, RHP (4)

Best bet: Washington Nationals

Don’t be surprised: Philadelphia Phillies

Yu Darvish signed with the Cubs since our last update, knocking off one potential landing spot for Arrieta. Scott Boras has a long history with the Nationals – Max Scherzer, Jayson Werth and Matt Wieters landed there as a free agents; Stephen Strasburg signed a long-term extension; and Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper and Gio Gonzalez are also Boras clients – so this is starting to make more and more sense. While the Nationals aren’t desperate for rotation help, they also don’t have a lot of depth and adding Arrieta to Scherzer, Strasburg and Gonzalez would make for a nice playoff rotation while also providing another potential frontline starter in case somebody gets injured. In what could be Harper’s final season in D.C., you may as well push all your chips to the table.

Buyer beware: Arrieta averaged 6.9 innings per start in 2015, but that went down to 5.6 in 2017. We all know about his conditioning and injury-free history, but his fastball velocity has dropped from 94.6 to 92.1 during that span.

Alex Cobb, RHP (8)

Best bet: Milwaukee Brewers

Don’t be surprised: Minnesota Twins

The Brewers added Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich to the outfield and Jhoulys Chacin to the rotation, but they have room to make more one addition and Cobb would be an interesting gamble given his success in the AL East over the year. FanGraphs projects the current Milwaukee rotation at 11.4 WAR, well below the Cubs’ 18.0 or the Cardinals’ 15.7. While the Brewers don’t have an obvious hole in the rotation, Cobb simply has more upside than a guy like Brent Suter or even Brandon Woodruff or Chacin.

Buyer beware: Cobb had a nice return after missing nearly two full seasons, going 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA for the Rays. His strikeout rate, which peaked at 23.2 percent in 2013, was down to 17.3 percent, however, and his ground ball rate was down 8 percent from his pre-surgery numbers.

Logan Morrison, 1B (11)

Best bet: Kansas City Royals

Don’t be surprised: Los Angeles Angels

Now that Eric Hosmer landed in San Diego, the squeeze for first-base jobs is even tighter. Coming off a 38-homer season, maybe Morrison holds out for a spring training injury. The Royals don’t have a first baseman and Morrison was born in Kansas City and played junior college ball there, so maybe he returns there. He obviously wouldn’t be part of any long-term plan for the Royals, but they could sign him, hope he hits again and dangle him as trade bait later in the season.

The Angels are an interesting possibility. They traded C.J. Cron to the Rays and while that only clears $2.3 million from the payroll, their projected payroll is around $166 million, so there’s room to sign Morrison and remain under the luxury tax.

Buyer beware: Morrison slugged .564 in the first half before fading to .452 in the second half.

Mike Moustakas, 3B (13)

Best bet: Chicago White Sox

Don’t be surprised: Atlanta Braves

The Royals have apparently shown no interest in bringing Moustakas back – they’re turning the page to a new era, GM Dayton Moore said – and all the contending teams are essentially set at third base, especially if the Yankees do decide to go with rookie Miguel Andujar. The Phillies also seem intent on giving Maikel Franco one more chance to prove himself. So maybe the White Sox or Braves, who do have third-base prospects in the pipeline (Jake Burger and Austin Riley) but rank at the bottom of projected WAR at third base alongside the Royals.

Buyer beware: Moustakas had an interesting 2017, slamming a Royals-record 38 home runs. Of the 37 players to hit at least 30 home runs, only Francisco Lindor, Anthony Rizzo and Arenado had lower strikeout rates. Despite those positives, Moustakas' OBP was just .314, and his defensive metrics weren’t good (minus-8 defensive runs saved), perhaps as a result of the knee surgery he had in 2016.

Lance Lynn, RHP (16)

Best bet: Los Angeles Angels

Don’t be surprised: Any other team

The Angels have a whole host of starters, including Shohei Ohtani, but all come with scar tissue and duct tape. Even Ohtani missed almost all of 2017 in Japan because of ankle surgery. The plan is to perhaps go with a six-man rotation, especially since Ohtani pitched just once a week in Japan, but Lynn would provide them a guy with a history of making 30-plus starts and eating up innings (other than the year he missed for Tommy John surgery).

Otherwise? Maybe the Twins or Brewers or, more likely, Lynn signs late in spring training when somebody gets injured.

Buyer beware: Lynn had a 3.43, but a 4.82 FIP – a sign that he was perhaps lucky that he didn’t allow more runs. His home run rate nearly doubled from where it was before and his strikeout rate was a career low.

Greg Holland, RHP (32)

Best bet: Toronto Blue Jays

Don’t be surprised: St. Louis Cardinals

Holland probably missed his shot at big-money deal since most of the relievers signed early in free agency while he waited and waited … and now it seems unlikely he’s going to get the Wade Davis contract. Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said it’s 90 percent likely the team would still add somebody to the roster and a reliever seems like as Toronto ranks 23rd in projected bullpen WAR. Of course, they have a closer in Roberto Osuna and Holland probably wants a closer job. So maybe the Cardinals.

Buyer beware: Holland had a 6.38 ERA in the second, although that was result of a terrible August when he allowed 14 runs in 9.1 innings after cutting his index finger in a kitchen accident. You can maybe dismiss that bad month, but his control is always borderline, as he walked 4.1 batters per nine innings.

Next 10 unsigned: C Jonathan Lucroy (18); 1B/DH Lucas Duda (19); LHP Jaime Garcia (21); 2B Neil Walker (24); OF Austin Jackson (27); RHP David Hernandez (28); OF Jon Jay (30); IF Eduardo Nunez (33).