With the free-agent class starting to really thin out, it's time to take a look at who's left. Here's a list of the top five remaining options for teams looking for late off-season help heading into Spring Training. Remember, for a full list of remaining free agents, visit our Free Agent Tracker.
5. David Freese
Only three seasons removed from being The Hero of St. Louis, Freese has gone from household name to 'anyone need a third baseman' awfully quick.
That being said, for the right team, Freese could still be worth quite a bit. He's coming off of two consecutive 2-win seasons. In 2015, he hit for 110 wRC+ and a .325 wOBA in 121 games.
By FanGraphs WAR, he was the 16th-best third baseman to play at least 450 plate appearances. Right ahead of Yunel Escobar and immediately behind Trevor Plouffe and Daniel Murphy. If only Freese saved his postseason heroics for his contract-year, he could have got a Murphy-like contract.
Earlier in the off-season, teams might have been tentative in the third base market due to Todd Frazier. With that settled, many teams have their third base situation figured out now, and Freese is left without a chair in the off-season of musical ones. Despite not having a team at the moment, Steamer projects Freese for 1.2 FanGraphs WAR. Where will he finally land? We'll see.
4. Ian Desmond
One main thing has kept Desmond from landing a gig: his qualifying offer. It's hard to rationalize forfeiting a draft pick for a pretty average shortstop. Hindsight is 20/20 and Desmond might be regretting not expecting the $15.8 million now.
That being said, Desmond could still generate some surplus value on the right deal. From 2012-2014, Desmond had three-consecutive seasons worth 4 WAR or more. The problem is, in 2015, Desmond's offence dipped substantially and he was worth fewer than 2 FanGraphs WAR as a result. Furthermore, he struck out a lot. Nearly three out of every ten plate appearances ended in a strikeout for Desmond. That's pretty rough.
The good news for the team that signs Desmond though: his BABIP. Desmond's .307 BABIP indicates he just suffered from some plain bad luck at the plate. If it gets back to his career average clip of .322 -- and there's little reason to think it won't -- Desmond will go right back to being a valuable hitter. He just may have to wait until Spring Training for the contract offers to come in.
3. Mat Latos
Latos played in 24 games for three teams last year. This is the same Latos that had a nearly-five win season in 2013 for the Reds by FanGraphs WAR.
According to Steamer projections, Latos is projected to be worth 1.8 wins. That's actually 0.1 WAR less than what fellow free agent Mark Buehrle is projected to be worth. I'm not fully certain what to make of this, but Latos is nearly eight years Buehrle's junior.
Since 2010 -- which only omits Latos' very short rookie season -- his FIP has never been above league average. Players like Latos are frequently left on the free agent market for some time. However, don't expect it to last much longer. As teams head into Spring Training the quest for 'that fifth starter' should intensify. And some teams won't want to opt for Bronson Arroyo or Cliff Lee.
2. Dexter Fowler
Steamer actually projects Fowler to be worth 1.6 WAR next season. As an outfielder, there are also hypothetically more jobs available for him. Our own Mike Bates wrote an article breaking down some potential destinations for Fowler.
Lumped with the same affliction as Desmond, Fowler is a victim of the qualifying offer. While in retrospect maybe it would have been nice to stay with the Cubs for the qualifying offer value, one should begrudge the 29-year old outfielder. Although he is definitely not defensively-gifted, he is relatively young and pretty gifted at the plate. Fowler is especially adept at taking free passes with a 12.4 walk rate over his career. His on-base percentage could use some improvement on last season, but that can largely be attributed to his .308 BABIP.
Fowler could sign prior to Spring Training because there are still teams looking for outfield help. Furthermore, his skill set does make him a fairly valuable leadoff man. Though it might be best for his future employers to place him in a corner outfield spot.
1. Howie Kendrick
Who thought this year's Stephen Drew would be Kendrick? Draft pick compensation be damned, Kendrick is the best remaining free agent. Over the last seven seasons, Kendrick has averaged 135 games played. In only one of those seasons did he hit below the league average according to wRC+ and has hit 10 percent better than league average over the entire seven-season span.
While his defense seemed to decline in 2015, Kendrick's career UZR/150 -- that's Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 innings played -- indicates he saves more than 4 runs for his team above average while playing second base. Kendrick isn't a defensive wizard, but he definitely isn't costing his team runs.
Because he is attached to draft pick compensation, the 32-year old Kendrick may have to wait for until Spring Training at this point to find a suitor. Due to this, the team that signs him may luck out on a pretty team-friendly contract. Steamer projects Kendrick to be worth 2.4 WAR next season.