Last year, I was imbued with special commissioner powers right before spring training. It was a hasty and ill-conceived decision in this alternate universe, but we made it work. My first task was to assign the remaining free agents to new homes.
Here, take a look at what could have been:
(Dexter) Fowler is on the Indians now. Lonnie Chisenhall can focus on third base, mostly, and there's one fewer gap in the lineup. This doesn't turn the Indians into a juggernaut, but every small step toward not wasting their superlative rotation is a big step.
With Fowler on the Indians in this universe, the Cubs don’t win the World Series. The Indians do. We got to keep baseball’s best underdog story, while still embracing another underdog shedding their tattered robes. It was a perfect match. And yet I’m the guy driving a 2005 Corolla instead of running a baseball team. Shameful.
This year, there are a lot of quality free agents left. None of them are franchise-altering talents. It’s extremely likely that none of them will be All-Stars, which Fowler was last year, but these are players who can still help a baseball team. They should be paid at least a million dollars to do so, in my opinion.
It’s our job to figure out which players go to which teams. Let’s assign some free agents to their new employers.
I’m picturing an arthritic vendor, struggling with each step he takes up the ballpark steps, pausing every few rows.
Dingers? Dingers, here. Hot dingers!
No takers. Trudge, trudge, trudge up to the next landing.
Dingers? Dingers, here. Git’cher hot dingers!
No takers. Carter hit 41 home runs last year, leading the National League. Forty-one home runs! He’s averaged 33 homers per season over the last four years, and he’s still looking for a job. If you ignore the plausible reasons why this is happening, there’s absolutely no reason this should be happening.
The Rays have been linked to Carter after the Logan Forsythe trade, because they would have the ability to move Brad Miller to second base, and at the risk of being unoriginal, this makes the most sense. Carter is on the Rays now, and if he’s hitting .250 by the All-Star break*, he’ll net them a sweet prospect or two.
* He will not be hitting .250 by the All-Star break.
Back in the early, innocent stages of the offseason, MLB Trade Rumors predicted that Hammel was going to get three years, $42 million. It seemed reasonable at the time. Unless there are termites in his elbow — literal, confused termites — teams should want Hammel, who’s posted a 105 ERA+ over the last three seasons, averaging 171 innings every year.
As is, he’s a free agent vagabond, wondering what he did wrong. Hammel is on the Royals now, mostly because Baltimore is a really, really lousy place for his dinger-happy tendencies. If you tape Ian Kennedy and Hammel’s contracts together, they’ll average out to a reasonable couple of mid-rotation starters.
Wieters didn’t have the season he or Scott Boras wanted, and he became a free agent right when the world started to fetishize pitch-framing and catcherosity. Still, a switch-hitting catcher with the chance to be worth a win or two should be in demand.
Wieters will join the Rockies, even though they’re publicly proclaiming that Tony Wolters is the only catcher they have eyes for. Wolters is one of my favorite baseball creatures, a speedy catcher, but his minor league stats indicate a rough offensive adjustment is coming.
The Rockies are close to having one of the very best lineups in the game, and they’ll need those runs to support a young pitching staff. Wieters will thrive at Coors, and no one will want to play there. More so.
Rough offseason for first base/designated hitter-types, but I guess it always is. Napoli didn’t look like his old self with the Indians by the end of the season, both in the plate and in the field, but he still hit 34 homers.
The Rangers have been linked to him, and that seems like an obvious fit, but right now the Red Sox are actually planning on some sort of Mitch Moreland/Chris Young platoon at first base, which is certainly one way to fill out a roster. Napoli would let Young get back to being an extra outfielder, which is best for everyone, and he’s also a perfect platoon-mate for Moreland. Napoli is on the Red Sox again. We can all party at his Extended Stay America pad until he gets settled.
Romo used to be dominant against lefties and righties alike, a platoon-free pitcher that everyone figured was weak against lefties because of his throwing style. As the years went on, he became the stereotype, and left-handers started pummeling him. You did this. You and your messed up expectations.
There are still teams that can use a strikeout-minded slider god, though. Right now the Blue Jays’ depth chart has a bullpen that’s filled out with someone who goes by the alias of Glenn Sparkman. Not anymore, considering that Romo is on the Blue Jays. He’s really good, Toronto. Enjoy.
Chris Carter from the left side, without the league-leading homer total. At least, he didn’t lead the league last year, but he has led the National League before. He’s positionless and DH-tethered, so he has to stay in the AL.
I’ll take the under on Matt Holliday playing 120 games, so Alvarez is on the Yankees now, where he’ll get at-bats against a few righties and shoot for the short porch as a pinch-hitter. Knowing baseball, something will happen to get him 400 at-bats, and it would probably be good for him to get most of them at Yankee Stadium.
He can’t field well these days — his body won’t allow him to stick in center, his routes are extremely sketchy in left, and his arm is dreadful anywhere. But he can hit and run a little, which makes him a delightful fourth outfielder. Woe be to the team that’s expecting 162 games from him as an everyday outfielder, but he can still help a roster.
Send him back to the Cubs, where he can help break up the all-lefty outfield with some spot starts and be a very, very poor man’s Dexter Fowler.
He still wants to play, and good for him. The only problem is that if Pedro Alvarez can’t find a job — a hitter who actually slugged the ball well in limited time last year — the odds aren’t looking good for Howard. He’ll need a spring injury to get a starting job, maybe two, and that’s not something a player should count on.
The KT Wiz, however, hit the fewest home runs in the Korean Baseball Organization, and, well, I want to see Howard’s stats in the KBO for selfish, science-y reasons. Part of me feels bad shuffling a former All-Star off to another country for science. Another, larger part of me wants to see what would happen. Congratulations to Ryan Howard, new first baseman for the KT Wiz.
.180/.350/.540. Please, please, please.
Fister started strong last year, but he finished horribly, so he’s a gamble for any contending team. For a rebuilding team, though, he makes way too much sense.
Last year, the Padres turned three hot months from Drew Pomeranz into one of the better pitching prospects in the Red Sox system. This is something they can learn from, but I’m not sure if the Padres have room in their rotation. Let’s just ...
1. Jhoulys Chacin
2. Clayton Richard
3. Franklin Tamstickle
4. Horticultar Narnia
5. Jazz (just Jazz)
Hrm, there might be an opening, now that I think of it. Fister is on the Padres, and it’s a beautiful marriage of need, savvy, and desperation.
Blanton was really good for the Dodgers in relief this year, and he probably should have had a job by now. However, he pitches for the Cardinals now for one reason, and one reason only: because I think it would be funny for him to be on the same team as Jonathan Broxton. I’ve confused the two for years because of the similarities in their last name, stature, and pitching style. It’s time to confuse the rest of the National League.
Also, the Cardinals could probably use one more established arm in the bullpen. But mostly the confusion is what we’re going for.
The Atlanta Braves have two 40-somethings, an erratic youngster, and a pitcher with chronic shoulder issues in their rotation. They have, as far as I can tell, no left-handers in their bullpen. They have Josh Collmenter as a long-reliever/sixth starter, but they could still use some swingman depth.
Wood would help them on all counts. He’s on the Braves now. Please leave early to arrive at your new ballpark on time.
Lewis is probably on the fringes for an exercise like this, but I started typing “Colby Rasmus,” and my fingers went here, and now we should probably finish the job. Put Lewis on the A’s, which will allow him some spot starts in a young rotation, and it would allow someone like Raúl Alcántara to take their time breaking in.
And if Lewis works out as well as he did for the Rangers last year, he’ll be a nice emergency July acquisition for a team that wasn’t expecting to need a starter. The big ballpark will help.
It’s impossible to describe just how awful Rasmus was last year.
.206 BA, .286 OBP, .355 SLG, 15 HR, with an .098 BA and .403 OPS after July 1 Oh! I stand corrected. That really is an excellent description. Regardless, Rasmus still has power, still has youth, and depending on your defensive metric of choice, still has value as an outfielder. Put him on the Brewers , with their all-rightie outfield, and let him be an overqualified fourth or fifth outfielder instead of an overextended full-time player. It’s a good park for a player looking to boost his value, and a good situation for a hitter who needs to be kept away from left-handed pitching.
Rasmus is on the Rays now. I knew that. I really did. I am very good at my job. My mother texts me often to tell me that I am very good at my job.
Phew. It’s a lot of work being a fake commissioner. The good news is that the offseason is over now, which means that games start tomorrow. At least, that’s what I remember from last year. Enjoy your new teams, players. And enjoy the 2017 season.