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MLB free agency: One remaining free-agent fit for every team

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There’s still room for all 30 teams to improve before the season begins, and here are some free agents who could help them do so.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2017-18 MLB offseason moving at the speed of molasses, over 100 free agents still remain on the market with less than a month until spring training begins. Despite the increased trade activity over the past week, an avalanche of free-agent signings doesn’t appear imminent, but at some point teams are presumably going to have to start adding free agents as the 2018 season begins to come into focus. With that in mind, here’s one remaining free agent for each MLB team who realistically fits that club’s needs and could help make it better:

Angels: Austin Jackson While the Angels have Jefry Marte on their 40-man roster and will bring Eric Young Jr. to camp as a non-roster invitee, they still don’t have a legitimate fourth outfielder who can be trusted to start if one of their regulars goes down. It’s perhaps possible that they could seek a reunion with Ben Revere, but Jackson has better power and on-base skills and would be a reliable backup at all three spots.

Astros: Kevin Siegrist With Francisco Liriano hitting free agency, Houston’s left-handed relief depth is lacking; Tony Sipp, who is 34 and coming off a season where he posted a 5.79 ERA, and Anthony Gose, a converted outfielder selected in the Rule 5 Draft, are their top two lefty options as things stand now. Siegrist, who was drafted by Astros GM Jeff Luhnow back when he was the Cardinals’ scouting director in 2008, has dealt with decreased velocity in recent years and struggled in 2017. He has a 3.04 career ERA and has struck out more than a batter per inning in every season of his career, though, so he could be a worthwhile and inexpensive gamble for Houston.

Athletics: Tony Watson — Oakland’s greatest area of need is unquestionably in the starting rotation, but it seems unlikely that they’ll add a high-profile starter when they have such a young club and are unlikely to catch the Astros or Angels in 2018. They do have a very strong bullpen, however, and an experienced lefty like Watson would make it complete. At the very least, Watson — who had a 3.38 ERA and 1.38 WHIP with the Pirates and Dodgers in 2017 — could be solid trade bait if the A’s are out of the race by July.

Blue Jays: Jaime Garcia Injuries sunk the Blue Jays in 2017, but they’ve restocked enough this offseason that they really should be able to make a strong run at an AL wild-card spot if they can stay healthy. Finding a more experienced fifth starter than Joe Biagini, who posted a 5.73 ERA and 1.48 WHIP over 18 starts last year and is a more natural fit in the bullpen, would go a long way towards doing so. The 31-year-old Garcia isn’t an ace by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s consistently helped good teams win and is particularly good if he’s put in a position to exit the game after two times through the order. He’d be a very solid fifth starter behind Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and Marco Estrada.

Braves: Seth Smith Atlanta got rid of its top two left field options from 2017, Matt Kemp and Matt Adams, and though top prospect Ronald Acuna is viewed as the Braves’ left fielder of the future, it’s unlikely that he’ll be ready for Opening Day. While Lane Adams impressed in limited duty last season and could bridge the gap to Acuna if needed, he’s probably a better fit as a fourth or fifth outfielder. Though Smith is 35, he’s affordable, still does an excellent job of getting on base, has hit double-digit homers in eight of the last nine seasons, and has experience as a platoon player, making him a perfect candidate to keep the seat warm until Acuna is ready and then transition to a backup role.

Brewers: Matt Albers — Bullpen depth was arguably the biggest weakness on a mostly impressive Milwaukee team last year, and two of their most consistent relievers from 2017 — Jared Hughes and Anthony Swarzak — have joined other clubs this offseason. Albers is coming off a career season in which he posted a 1.62 ERA and 0.85 WHIP with 63 strikeouts and 17 walks in 61 innings. Unfortunately for Albers and perhaps fortunately for the Brewers, he’ll be 35 this season, so his earning potential isn’t as great as it might have been a few years ago. He could be an affordable option to bridge the gap to Corey Knebel in Milwaukee’s bullpen.

Cardinals: Bud Norris St. Louis’ pitching depth is rather questionable in both the rotation and bullpen, so they really would be quite well-served to pursue a top starter like Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish. But Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt told the media early last week that he “doesn’t really anticipate a major move between now and spring training,” so St. Louis will probably make more of a low-profile move if they do anything. Norris, 32, would be the best of both worlds for the Cardinals, as he’s made 188 major-league starts and can step into a back-of-the-rotation role if Adam Wainwright or Miles Mikolas falters. At the same time, he’s been an effective closer more recently than Luke Gregerson, the current favorite to win that job, as he picked up 19 saves in 23 chances for the Angels last year. Norris probably doesn’t move the needle enough to push the Cardinals past the Cubs, but he could give them a better chance at competing for a wild-card spot.

Cubs: Jake Arrieta — While the Cubs made a strong move by signing Tyler Chatwood earlier this offseason, there’s still an expectation that they’ll add another free-agent starter before spring training. The two names mentioned most frequently as candidates to join the Cubs have been Alex Cobb and Yu Darvish, but if they’re still looking to add a starter over 30, it might make sense for them to just bring back the guy they know best and re-sign the 31-year-old Arrieta. He’s only five months older than Darvish, but it’s now widely believed that he’ll earn less than Darvish will, so a Cubs-Arrieta reunion seems more possible than it did a few months ago.

Diamondbacks: Carlos Gonzalez Arizona has reportedly made a rather strong effort to retain J.D. Martinez this offseason, and if they end up doing so it’s almost impossible to blame them, as he could help them make a serious run at dethroning the Dodgers in the NL West — an increasingly urgent task for the D-Backs as Paul Goldschmidt gets closer to hitting free agency and Zack Greinke gets older. If they can’t bring Martinez back, though, Gonzalez would be a very intriguing addition. The .288/.346/.511 hitter looks primed to bounce back after a strong finish to a rough 2017 season, and he’d have a similar chance to thrive with Chase Field being nearly as much of a hitters’ park as Coors Field. A platoon featuring Gonzalez, who has a career .836 OPS against right-handed hitters, and Yasmany Tomas, who has an .897 OPS against lefties, could be particularly intriguing.

Dodgers: Alex Cobb — The Dodgers don’t have a lot of wiggle room before reaching the luxury tax threshold, which they’re reportedly trying to stay under this season. While they could theoretically go through the rest of the offseason without making a move and still be the favorite in the NL West, they could still stand to upgrade the back end of their rotation and should have room to add at least a middle-tier starter without getting back into the tax. Cobb, 30, could be an ideal fit, especially since he’s historically struggled with durability, meaning the Dodgers’ strategy of carefully limiting their pitchers’ workloads might give him the best opportunity to find sustained success.

Giants: Jarrod Dyson — San Francisco plans to start rookie Steven Duggar in center field on Opening Day if they don’t acquire a veteran to play the position, but since Duggar has just 330 plate appearances above High-A, it’d be good for the Giants to at least have a safety net in center. Dyson, 33, fits the bill, as he’s talented enough defensively (10 defensive runs saved as a center fielder in 2017) to help a team win, but he’s also got plenty of experience as a fourth outfielder and can shift to a role as a defensive replacement and pinch runner if Duggar proves himself as an everyday player. It will be interesting to see if Dyson’s willing to take a deal that will allow the Giants to stay under the luxury tax threshold, as they are thought to have somewhere between $3-4 million to work with before reaching the tax line.

Indians: David Hernandez While Cleveland has lost Jay Bruce, Carlos Santana, and Bryan Shaw this offseason, they actually still have a pretty deep and talented roster as things stand now. They may find another player to be a part of their outfield rotation, but their biggest priority should be adding bullpen depth. Hernandez, 32, consistently gets strikeouts and is capable of being dominant when he’s got his mechanics in check. He could help fill the void left by Shaw and bridge the gap from the starter to Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.

Mariners: Miguel Montero — Mike Zunino was spectacular after the All-Star break last year, and he’s earned the right to begin 2018 as Seattle’s starting catcher without having to look over his shoulder. At the same time, the 26-year-old Zunino has never been consistently productive over the course of a full season and has been banished to Triple-A at some point over each of the last three seasons. By adding the 34-year-old Montero, who is past his prime but is still a solid offensive contributor, the Mariners would give themselves some more insurance in case Zunino endures another prolonged slump. He’d certainly be more of a proven commodity than the current candidates to back up Zunino, Mike Marjama and David Freitas, who are both 28 years old but have combined for just 26 big-league plate appearances.

Marlins: Peter Bourjos — What do you get a Marlins team that is unwilling to spend big money on free agents, just traded two All-Star outfielders, and is likely to be the worst team in the National League in 2018? How about a superb defensive outfielder with 813 games of major-league experience who can be had for a very affordable rate — perhaps even on a minor-league deal? While Bourjos isn’t going to move the needle at the plate, he’s a solid defender who has experience playing on rebuilding teams and could fill an outfield spot so that rookies like Braxton Lee and Magneuris Sierra aren’t thrown to the wolves as everyday starters this season.

Mets: Eduardo Nunez — The Mets need to add one more infielder at either second or third base, and Nunez — who can play both of those positions as well as shortstop — would give New York a ton of flexibility since Asdrubal Cabrera and Wilmer Flores can also play those positions. While he’s not an exceptionally patient hitter, he’s now posted batting averages above .300 in three consecutive seasons and makes up for his subpar on-base skills with his ability to steal bases. He should be relatively affordable and has solid power while playing decent defense at several positions, so he’d be a quality addition to the Mets’ infield mix.

Nationals: Alex Avila — Washington is another club that wouldn’t really have any massive holes if the season started today. They might search for a better fifth starter, but this could be the year that they give A.J. Cole a real chance to win a rotation spot. With Matt Wieters having underperformed last year and 24-year-old Pedro Severino still looking a little raw, it might make the most sense for the Nationals to spend their remaining funds on another catcher. Avila, who posted a strong .264/.387/.447 slash line between Detroit and Chicago, could be a strong fit. As a left-handed hitter who crushes righties, he would be a solid platoon partner with Wieters, a switch-hitter who has more success against lefties.

Orioles: Andrew Cashner Baltimore desperately needs to restock its rotation, as Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are the only pitchers on the roster with substantial starting experience. They’re likely to sign at least a couple of veteran starters, and Cashner could be an interesting addition. While he’s often thought of as a pitcher who has great stuff and just can’t put it all together (his 86 strikeouts and 64 walks over 166.2 innings last year provide credence to that belief), he did a very good job of preventing runs last year with a 138 ERA+, and as free-agent prices drop it may be worth it for Baltimore to gamble that he’ll be able to do the same moving forward.

Padres: Wade Miley — There’s really not much of a need for San Diego to spend big money on starting pitchers, as they consistently get strong results from inexpensive ground-ball pitchers at Petco Park. Miley, who had a 50.3% ground-ball rate in 2017, could be the next veteran to find success pitching to contact with the Padres. With as slowly as the free-agent market has moved this offseason, San Diego could likely add Miley on a one-year deal.

Phillies: Ryan Goins — Philadelphia is unlikely to make any more big-ticket additions this offseason after signing Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million contract, but they’re still in desperate need of middle-infield depth after trading Freddy Galvis and to this point not re-signing Andres Blanco. Goins, who will be 30 next month, doesn’t do much offensively (he has a career .611 OPS), but he has experience at every position except center field and catcher and could provide needed depth behind Cesar Hernandez and J.P. Crawford. Goins has started in the past at short and could fill in if Crawford falters badly in his first full season as the Phillies’ starting shortstop and needs to go back to the minors for more seasoning.

Pirates: Cameron Maybin — Though some believe they’ll be able to plug prospect Austin Meadows into their starting outfield at some point in 2018, the Pirates really would do well to add another experienced outfielder — particularly if they trade Josh Harrison, as that would likely force Adam Frazier or Sean Rodriguez to take over at second base. Maybin would fit the usual mold of a Pirates free-agent addition, as he’s coming off an underwhelming season but still has enough gas left in the tank (he’ll be 31 in April) to rebound and be a solid to above-average contributor. Maybin could keep the seat warm in left field until Meadows is ready, and if he performs well Pittsburgh could then attempt to flip him to a contender before the trade deadline.

Rangers: Greg Holland — There are very few logical landing spots remaining for Holland, but with the Rangers in serious need of bullpen help and still having money to spend, they might present the best fit for the three-time All-Star closer. While giving a multi-year deal to a 32-year-old reliever with a history of injuries is risky business, Holland would provide an immediate upgrade to Texas’ relief corps, as he could take care of the ninth-inning duties and free up Alex Claudio to match up against tough lefties in earlier innings. Adding an established late-inning reliever like Holland would also make it more feasible for Texas to have both Matt Bush and Mike Minor in their Opening Day rotation while they wait for Martin Perez to recover from an elbow injury suffered in a freak accident with a bull.

Rays: Logan Morrison — At the beginning of this offseason, it looked like Morrison would be able to cash in as a free agent coming off a 2017 campaign during which he hit 38 homers. Morrison still doesn’t have a home with less than a month to go before spring training, though, and other than his hometown Royals — who could be a potential suitor if Eric Hosmer doesn’t re-sign — there don’t seem to be many logical landing spots for Morrison. It could be best for both Morrison and the Rays, who currently boast Brad Miller (fresh off a .664 OPS in 2017) as their starting first baseman , to work out a reunion. The Rays aren’t expected to be major competitors in 2018, but they’ve got a solid lineup that Morrison could help to outperform expectations. At the very worst, he’d be a potential mid-season trade chip for an organization that needs to restock its farm system after buying at the deadline last summer.

Red Sox: J.D. Martinez — Boston’s lineup lacks sufficient power, so they’re going to have to add a slugger if they plan on competing with the Yankees for the AL West title. While it might be more logical for the Red Sox to take a gamble on a player like Carlos Gonzalez who could split time between a corner outfield spot and DH, it appears that they’re focused on signing Martinez to a long-term deal. While Martinez isn’t a great defender and should probably DH much more often than he plays the outfield, he’s hit at least 20 homers in each of the past four seasons (including a career-high 45 in 2017) and would provide a major jolt of power in the middle of Boston’s order.

Reds: Lance Lynn — This one is probably a pipe dream, as Cincinnati appears reluctant to spend on high-profile free agents, with GM Dick Williams saying on MLB Network in December that he didn’t expect the Reds to be “too crazy” this offseason. Cincinnati’s lineup appears to be good enough to win now if complimented by a solid pitching staff, though, and if they could get a reliable starter like Lynn to go along with Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Luis Castillo, it might enable them to compete ahead of schedule, much like the Brewers did last season. Lynn’s market appears to be developing much more slowly than anticipated this offseason, and he might jump at the chance to play in Cincinnati, which is just a two-hour drive from his hometown of Indianapolis.

Rockies: Mark Reynolds — Colorado could probably survive with a platoon of Ian Desmond and Ryan McMahon at first base in 2018, but since Reynolds posted an .839 OPS with 30 homers for them in 2017 and remains on the free-agent market in late January, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t try to bring him back. Re-signing Reynolds would allow Desmond to shift his attention toward being part of an outfield group that is not exceptionally deep with Carlos Gonzalez gone and David Dahl’s status uncertain due to a chronic rib injury. It’d also lessen the pressure on the 23-year-old McMahon, who stumbled out of the gates with a .544 OPS as a rookie in 2017. With Reynolds’ track record being rather limited and the free-agent market still being flush with talented first basemen, it seems very possible that the Rockies could bring him back on a one-year deal.

Royals: Eric Hosmer — Hosmer has a peculiar case, as he probably isn’t quite as valuable as some prominent national voices made him out to be at the beginning of the offseason, and at the same time he’s not the terrible player that some extremists at the other end of the spectrum view him as being. He has extra value in the Royals organization, though, as he was the heart and soul of a group that reached consecutive World Series and won one. If signing Hosmer is what it takes for Kansas City to avoid launching a full-scale teardown, tanking for years to come, and letting all the progress they’ve made in building a passionate fan base go to waste, it’d certainly be in the best interest of the game for them to do so, particularly since there are at least seven other clubs at various stages of massive multi-year rebuilding projects. Since he’s only 28 years old, Hosmer is likely to remain reasonably productive for the majority of a long-term deal and can serve as the face of the franchise for years to come, even if Kansas City is faced with replacing parts around him.

Twins: Yu Darvish — With the Indians perhaps taking a step back this season and the Royals at least set to retool if not fully rebuild, the Twins have an opportunity to establish themselves as a powerful force at the top of the AL Central. While they’ve got quite a few highly-regarded starting pitching prospects, they’d still be well-served to add a proven front-of-the-rotation starter to go along with Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. Darvish, 31, has been extremely consistent over the course of his five-season big-league career, striking out 11.04 batters per nine innings and posting an ERA under 4.00 every year. He’d be a great fit in Minnesota, though it’s unclear whether ownership will be willing to spend the money to outbid other teams for Darvish, particularly after the Twins gave Addison Reed a two-year, $16.75 million deal earlier this month. With that said, signing him would be a surefire way to prove that they’re committed to winning for years to come.

Tigers: Darwin Barney — It’s possible that Detroit won’t spend any more money in free agency as they enter the first full season of a full-scale rebuild. If they are active in the free-agent market, though, it might make sense for them to add some middle infield depth, as projected starting second baseman Dixon Machado and shortstop Jose Iglesias are the only major-league-ready middle infielders on their 40-man roster. Barney, 32, posted a .602 OPS last season and isn’t as great with the glove as he once was, but he’s an experienced player who is capable of coming off the bench and filling in at multiple positions. After his less-than-stellar offensive campaign in 2017, it’s quite possible that Detroit could bring him to camp on a non-roster deal and see what he has left in spring training.

White Sox: Ian Krol The South Siders probably aren’t going to get too involved in the free-agent market the rest of the way, as they’re only in the second offseason of a major rebuilding project and have already added a few veterans (Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, and Miguel Gonzalez) this winter. With that said, they’d be well-served to add one or a few low-risk, high-reward relievers on minor-league deals — after all, they were able to exchange non-roster invitee Anthony Swarzak for a highly-regarded outfield prospect, Ryan Cordell, at the trade deadline last year. Krol is just 26 years old, and though he has a career 90 ERA+ over five big-league seasons, he’s only one season removed from posting a 131 OPS+ in the Braves’ bullpen, so it’d be interesting to see if he could find consistency under the tutelage of White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.

Yankees: Todd Frazier The Yankees are excited about 22-year-old Miguel Andujar, and understandably so, as he’s the No. 4 third base prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline and posted a .571/.625/.857 slash line over his first eight big-league plate appearances last summer. While it was a very intriguing start, the key takeaway from that nugget for many is that Andujar still has only eight major-league plate appearances but is currently being projected as the Yankees’ starting third baseman with no proven alternative behind him. Andujar also has just 250 Triple-A plate appearances under his belt, so ultimately it’d probably make the most sense to bring back Frazier on a one or two-year deal. Frazier endeared himself to the fans late last summer while posting a .788 OPS with 11 homers over 241 plate appearances with the Yankees, and he’s capable of backing up at both infield corners if Andujar ultimately seizes the third base job, so there’s little risk in bringing him back unless he’s insistent upon asking for a long-term contract.