Beyond the biggest names, future free agents get ready to cash in

Once he's done being a Cub, Daniel Murphy should have a major payday to look forward to. AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson

ST. LOUIS -- Some MLB front offices are already deep into their planning for the upcoming offseason, but this is the time of year when players start to look ahead in earnest. Recently, one veteran headed into free agency stood outside a dugout before a game and mentioned some possible landing spots, talking about how he might fit into the plans of specific bidders, and how his skills might translate in particular ballparks.

Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will be the headliners in the upcoming class of free agents, and Clayton Kershaw's pending decision about whether to opt out of the final two years of his deal with the Dodgers will draw interest. But others seem poised for lucrative dives into the market as well.

Outfielder Michael Brantley: He has demonstrated that he's healthy and a solid contributor again, playing in 132 games and hitting .307 with 35 doubles and 16 homers -- more extra-base hits (53) than strikeouts (52). He's 31 years old and the days when teams invest really long-term deals in players at that age -- especially corner outfielders -- are probably over, but he figures to do well.

Starting pitcher Patrick Corbin: He has a staggering 230 strikeouts in 186 innings, and only 42 walks and 14 homers allowed, with a 3.05 ERA. Corbin is a native New Yorker and grew up a Yankees fan, and given the Yankees' needs and their improved payroll flexibility for 2019, many evaluators assume it's more likely than not that the 29-year-old Corbin will land in the Bronx.

Infielder Daniel Murphy: He's batting .306 since June 23, showing that he still can be an excellent hitter. Because he'll be 34 next April 1, he might get a lot of short-term offers, and the question could turn out to be whether some team is willing go beyond two years in a deal to serve as a second base/first base/designated hitter type.