The offseason is boring again. It’s more exciting than the strike or lockout will be, but it’s still boring. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are out there — literally Bryce Harper and Manny Machado! Available to anyone who wants to pay them! — but there aren’t even any half-juicy rumors. This is how the offseason will be every year, apparently. At least we aren’t surprised this time.
This all means that it’s time for an annual tradition around these parts: We need to assign the remaining free agents to new teams. Please note, as always, that these assignments are legally binding.
Although I’m not sure why this is an annual tradition. My previous efforts were kind of embarrassing. Just look at the assignments from last year:
Lance Lynn — Twins
Sorry. Sorry, my bad. It made sense at the time. It ended up costing the Twins a third-round pick and a lot of money, which was eventually parlayed into Tyler Austin and Luis Rijo. They were probably better off without that deal.
I also spent time making fun of Kyle Gibson, who was quietly excellent last year, in that writeup. A total whiff.
Jonathan Lucroy — Rockies
I have no idea if Lucroy accepted this assignment, or if he even played in 2018. Imagine having opinions about Jonathan Lucroy.
Alex Cobb — Indians
Well, Cobb was a disaster last season, but I’m also fairly sure that he would have thrown 180 innings with a 3.34 ERA with the Indians. Or Cardinals. Or Yankees. Or literally any other team. But he ignored his assignment and chose the Orioles. What a mess.
Still, we have to end this offseason so that we can go back to yelling at each other about the Hall of Fame. So here are the assignments for several of the remaining free agents, and my DMs are open if they need help finding a place to stay.
Bryce Harper - New York Mets
Sorry, Wilpons. Legally. Binding. This wouldn’t happen in real life without outside intervention, but you have to admit that it makes sense in Theory Land. The Mets used to be a big-market heavy who would roll up on your small-market team and pilfer its best players. Gimme that Mike Piazza and Carlos Delgado, Marlins. That’s a nice Carlos Beltran, Houston. Shame if something were to happen to him. This is how the baseball universe should work.
Now, though? The Mets are only likely to make dumb moves in the mid-market to make it look like they aren’t crying poor. The Jay Bruce deal was a tremendous exercise in Look At Us, We’re Definitely Trying, and it was a mess of a deal before the season even started.
Instead, maybe they should sign the best player on the market and enjoy him for a decade, like the pre-Ponzi Mets would have. There isn’t a team that could use Harper symbolically as much as the Mets could. Holding Harper up like baby Simba would be a fantastic way to excite a fan base that’s been neglected for years.
Robinson Cano is a little fun. Edwin Diaz is a lot of fun. But nothing would be as fun for Mets fans as them dumping hundreds of millions on Bryce Harper, so that’s where he’s playing now.
I mean, it’s not like the Mets are going to trade prospects for Keon Broxton instead of spending money on better players, right? Ha ha, there’s just no way.
Manny Machado - St. Louis Cardinals
Paul DeJong is a known quantity and an excellent defender at short, and the Paul Goldschmidt trade means that Matt Carpenter is a full-time third baseman now. This isn’t a move that the Cardinals would need to make. Someone would have to play out of position to accommodate Machado.
But it’s definitely a move they should make. Stick Machado in that No. 2 spot, and enjoy a Carpenter/Machado/Goldschmidt start to the lineup that will make teams dizzy before they can figure out what’s happening. Some additional reasons why the Cardinals should do this:
- The move would cheese off the Cubs something fierce
- It would annoy you, the person reading this
- The NL Central is one of the toughest divisions in baseball, with even the Reds trying compete now
- Machado would make the Cardinals better
- He would make the Cardinals a lot better
He would make any team a lot better, of course, but there’s something about this pairing that seems right. Machado on the Cardinals, putting up Hall of Fame numbers over the next several years, with Goldschmidt signing an owner-friendly extension and doing the same, just seems too gross not to happen.
Dallas Keuchel — Oakland A’s
As of right now, the A’s fifth starter might be Aaron Brooks, who was purchased from the Brewers in September. It’s usually not a good sign when a contender is willing to sell you a player in September. It’s usually not a good sign when you have to buy a player in September because of the smoldering ligaments and shrieking tendons all around you. It’s really, really not a good sign when that pitcher is still in your plans by default in January.
The A’s should get another pitcher.
Here’s one! He’s one of the better ones. He would be more expensive than the A’s would like, but they would still keep their payroll close to $100 million, and it’s about time for them to transition into New Stadium A’s, which is the kind of team that will spend on the players they need.
If the A’s are going to use money to acquire a pitcher, they should get one talented enough to keep his job when the Tommys John survivors come back.
Craig Kimbrel — Boston Red Sox
It’s boring to bring back the same team, yes. But it’s also a testament to just how stacked the Red Sox are that this is probably the best use of their money. I know Kimbrel was an unwelcome thrill ride by the end of the season, to the point where Alex Cora preferred a gassed Chris Sale to close out the World Series, and I also know that his peripherals are trending in the wrong decision.
On the other hand, the Red Sox are made out of money, and Kimbrel is still a young-ish Hall of Fame-level closer. Throw money at him, and use the revenue from World Series Champs pint glasses (~ $1.2 billion) to get someone better if it doesn’t work out.
A.J. Pollock — Philadelphia Phillies
I’m not sure if I buy that Nick Williams’ defense is so poor that he’s a full win below replacement level, which is what Baseball-Reference suggests. I’m also not sure about the metrics that have Odubel Herrera comfortably below average as a defensive center fielder, which he was for the first time last year.
But I’m pretty sure that Pollock would make the Phillies better, and that they’re like a kid with a $20 bill in Target. They’re coming home with something, even if the things they actually wanted are out of stock. A Pollock-Herrera-McCutchen outfield wouldn’t be the best in the National League, but it’s certainly an improvement over last year’s trio, both defensively and offensively.
Gio Gonzalez — San Diego Padres
One of the more confoundingly underrated pitchers of the last decade — he’s been roughly as valuable as Madison Bumgarner in the regular season since they’ve both been in the league — Gonzalez is always something of an afterthought. I guess the Brewers could bring him back, or, whatever, maybe the Twins will shop at the bargain bin if they have to.
Here’s a nice fit on a short-term deal, then. Petco Park is a nice, quiet place to pitch and accumulate perceived value, and the Padres are looking to do the Braves thing, where they contend a year before everyone is expecting it. A solid major league starter would help get them there.
DJ LeMahieu — Washington Nationals
The Nationals are just about the only team actively looking for a second baseman in a market that’s filled with them. They’ll have their pick, so they might as well get the best one available.
LeMahieu won’t hit .348 outside of Coors — let’s take a moment to appreciate that he hit .348 anywhere — but his glove makes him a relatively safe investment.
Jed Lowrie — Los Angeles Dodgers
I don’t know what radioactive spider bit Lowrie, but I’m not sure if there’s a team that will pay on the assumption that his new powers are permanent. After playing more than 100 games just twice in his decade-long career before 2017, he suddenly became an absolute iron man, and he’s hitting better than ever.
Technically, the Dodgers don’t have an open spot for him, but he would be a perfect insurance policy for Max Muncy, Full-Time Second Baseman and a recovering Corey Seager. He’d get 400 at-bats, at least. I’m old enough to remember when that kind of sentence was used as a dig on Lowrie’s health, not as a lamentation that there aren’t enough opportunities.
Marwin Gonzalez — San Francisco Giants
I’m the starting left fielder on the Giants’ current depth chart, and I’ll be honest, it’s making me extremely nervous because I’m very bad at baseball. They should probably get another outfielder or two.
There are two streaks that Gonzalez could help break: The first is that the Giants have had a different left fielder on Opening Day in every season since Barry Bonds retired. The second is that the Giants haven’t had a 20-homer hitter since 2015. A multi-year deal to Gonzalez gives him a chance to break both.
We know that Farhan Zaidi likes his versatility, and the Giants aren’t exactly rebuilding. Gonzalez’s 103 OPS+ isn’t that attractive ... unless you’re the Giants. He might hit cleanup.
Yasmani Grandal — Los Angeles Dodgers
One year, $17.9 million, and we’ll forget the whole refusal of the qualifying offer thing happened. Grandal was a mess in the postseason, and while switch-hitting catchers with power and on-base skills are absolute freaks and should be coveted, it’s hard to shake that last impression.
There’s more of a market for catchers than there is for second basemen, so I might be way off on this, but I don’t see him going anywhere on a long-term deal for a bunch of money. That’s 2013 talk.
Adam Jones — Arizona Diamondbacks
The advanced defensive metrics sure hated Jones’ 2018 season, and it’s not like he’s getting younger. But the Diamondbacks are in a weird position where they’re not giving up or completely rebuilding. Jones fits that still-kinda-trying-but-eh budget that the Diamondbacks are likely working with.
Wade Miley — Milwaukee Brewers
You fix it, you buy it.
Mike Moustakas — Kansas City Royals
I’m sorry, Mike. I really, really am. But for the second straight offseason, I can’t find a decent fit for Moustakas, so he might as well go somewhere where he knows the wifi password.
Adam Ottavino — Chicago Cubs
I still twitch when I think about Joe Maddon trudging out to the mound in the 2017 postseason and calling on Carl Edwards, Jr. for the eleventeenth day in a row. It wasn’t fair to either of them. Here’s another right-handed arm to make sure that sort of thing doesn’t happen again.
Kelvin Herrera — Chicago Cubs
Here, you know what? Have another one. Just pretend that the team isn’t claiming that they need to move payroll in order to do anything.
Cody Allen — Washington Nationals
He would fit perfectly with the Trevor Rosenthal-Kyle Barraclough reclamation strategy. At least one or two of these guys would have to work out, right?
Nick Markakis — San Francisco Giants
Don’t laugh. The Giants aren’t giving up, and their outfield depth chart is abominable. It’s not like they have any prospects to block, so ...
Okay. You can laugh a little bit. Maybe a lot bit.
They’re so bad, everyone.
Josh Harrison — Toronto Blue Jays
And, wow, look at the time.
Congratulations to these players and teams. Everyone can relax now and enjoy the rest of the offseason. Bryce Harper is now on the Mets, Manny Machado is on the Cardinals, and the Yankees have absolutely nobody.
Hrm. That last part doesn’t seem right.
Shelby Miller — New York Yankees (where he will go 12-4 with a 3.22 ERA)
There we go.
It will be the most valuable signing of the winter.