This ranking is a lie. The best free agent hitter in terms of value and production two years ago was Max Muncy. The best free agent pitcher in terms of value and production last year was Dereck Rodriguez. And yet here I am, like a doofus, trying to rank all of the expensive free agents in baseball. Most of these guys will tank.
And yet we must. Here are the top 50(ish) free agents in Major League Baseball for the 2018-2019 offseason.
1. Manny Machado
OK, his postseason didn’t help. Dude’s weird. He runs like an honorary Molina, and that’s when he’s busting it down the line. He was involved in minor kerfuffles for no good reason, and his production dipped with the Dodgers.
Still, he’ll be 26, and he’s been one of the best players in baseball for several years now.
The whole point of Machado wanting to be a shortstop was that it was going to make him more marketable. There were other reasons, sure, but the lure of more money was at least a part of his request. Why pay $300 million for a slugging Gold Glove third baseman when you can pay $350 million for a slugging Gold Glove shortstop?
Except the move only muddled Machado’s value. Is he a plus-plus glove with a plus-plus power bat, the kind of dual threat who deserves down-ballot MVP votes even when his OBP is hovering around .320? Or is he just a big, honking shortstop with power, and you’ll live with the defense to get the offense?
I’ll chalk the poor defensive numbers up to inexperience, especially when you consider that they steadily improved throughout the season. It could be that the Orioles Death Slime infected everyone, including the very talented. Even if Machado doesn’t thrive at short, my guess is that he claws his way back to being at least average, and that’s ludicrously valuable
2. Bryce Harper
When given the choice between the long-term prospects of a 26-year-old middle infielder and a 26-year-old corner outfielder, take the middle infielder. Especially if that corner outfielder’s defense already isn’t so hot. While it’s silly to treat a one-season sample of defensive stats as gospel, especially when he played 63 games in center for the Nats, I think everyone agree that Harper’s defensive ceiling is closer to “eh, whatever” than “wow,” and his floor is much lower. I’m not worried about it when he’s 26; I’m worried about that when he’s 31. And 32.
And ... you get the idea.
There’s also the matter of Harper’s inconsistency. After a dreadful start, Harper finished strong enough to place in the top 10 for National League OPS, but that’s not the inconsistency I’m talking about. No, that has to do with what he’s done according to WAR over the last few years:
2014 - 1.1 WAR
2015 - 10.0
2016 - 1.5
2017 - 4.7
2018 - 1.3
Every other year, he’s giving Good Utility Infielder value, even if you keep waiting for that MVP repeat. It might happen. But there’s also the chance it was an outlier, which means a team will be giving a $400 million contract to someone who has accumulated fewer WAR over the last five seasons than Justin Upton, Brian Dozier, and Ender Inciarte. And that’s with a 10-win season mixed in.
I’m still considering Harper a star who’s closer to his MVP season than his 2018 season, if only because he’s young enough to be a rookie. But one more season of ambiguity, and I don’t know, man. Maybe we’ll realize he is who he is, and nothing more.
And this realization will come with nine years and $370 million left on the contract.
He’s still great. Just, you know, caveat all of the emptors, people. All of them.
3. Clayton Kershaw
I’m assuming he’s opting out. He’d be silly not to, considering he would get far more than $60 million in guaranteed money, and this might be his last chance at a big contract. The idea that he’s a choker who can’t handle the postseason pressure is overblown and tired. The idea that he’s just not the same pitcher that he used to be is very much on the table. If he’s commanding a five- or even six-year deal, there are gonna be a whole lot of crossed fingers in his new city.
Or old city. He’s probably coming back. And while it’s easy to write things like, “He’s not the same pitcher,” the guy was still good enough to put up a 2.73 ERA in 161 innings, which was worth 4 WAR. If that’s a down year, I’ll take a dozen of them, please.
4. Patrick Corbin
Maybe I’m biased because I watched every start he made against the Giants in 2018, but Patrick Corbin is the greatest pitcher of his generation, someone who has definitely won at least three Cy Youngs and will get a $300 million contract this winter.
Huh. Well, I’ll be. He’s still an excellent pitcher, of course, and his numbers all went in the right direction. His strikeouts are way up, and his walks are way down. Someone will give Clayton Kershaw all the money, but I’m wondering if Corbin will be better in the short term, much less the long term.
5. Josh Donaldson
Bargain or boondoggle? Bardoggle! Boondargain!
I’m going with relative bargain. The team that pays Donaldson will still wish that they weren’t by the end of the contract, but they won’t be saddled with the mega-deal that it would have taken before his injury-marred season.
Four years? Five years? Hard to see it going to six. I’ll guess it’s something creative, like four years with an opt-out after the first year, and that Donaldson will help a team win more games than they otherwise would have. It’ll be a huge bargdoggle, and you’ll love it.
6. Craig Kimbrel
Still throwing in the upper 90s with a wipeout breaking ball. Still on track for the Hall of Fame. Still one of the very best relievers of his or any other generation.
Still a reliever. Beware paying too much money for a reliever. You want a Mark Melancon? I can get you a Mark Melancon by 3 o’clock this afternoon. With spin-rate polish. You’ll just have to take his entire contract and ...yello? Yello?
How many reliever contracts work out? That depends on your definition. Jonathan Papelbon was fine during his time with the Phillies, but he went there right when the walls started crumbling. Billy Wagner was great with the Mets, but the one chance he had to help them win a World Series, he had a rough time.
Reliever contracts are all about timing. The Giants have no use for an overpriced Melancon, even if he were as healthy and effective as ever, but the Red Sox sure are glad they had Kimbrel. So if your team is going for it, by all means, employ the name brand closer. He’s way better than the store brand.
Always beware the relievers, though. The more saves they have, the more you should side-eye them in free agency.
7. J.A. Happ
We’re on year four of Happ being really, really, really good. He’ll be 36, but with starting pitchers, that’s almost a feature instead of a bug. He won’t command a four- or five-year deal because of his age, which almost makes him the perfect target for a win-now team.
The velocity has leveled off, but never forget the strange, inspiring trajectory of his career. Ten years ago, he was a generic lefty arm with the ceiling of a swingman. Now he’s the kind of pitcher that the superpowers will chase to put them over the top in the postseason.
8. Dallas Keuchel
Keuchel faced more batters than any pitcher in baseball last year, which is a testament to a) his durability and b) his relative struggles at keeping runners off the bases. He’s only 31, even though it feels like he’s been around forever, and his power sinker has been a perfect pitch for the homer-happy era.
Even in a pitcher-rich market and an austere mess of tightwad teams, Keuchel will be popular, especially for the teams that play in hitters’ parks. Get yourself a pitcher who can keep the ball in the park and your team in the game. It worked for the Astros.
9. Nelson Cruz
Ah, the subject of my all-time worst take.
Why Nelson Cruz will fail spectacularly with the Mariners
Good headline, idiot.
So will I double down and declare Cruz to be another bust in the making? Or will I make amends and laud him as one of the best one-tool players of his generation?
I give Cruz exactly one more great year. And that might be all a team needs to make this deal an unqualified success. Imagine Cruz at DH for the Yankees, nestled in the lineup between Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. Or imagine him on the Astros taking over for Evan Gattis and thumping another 40 home runs into the Crawford Boxes.
Who cares about 2020 when you put it like that? Cruz has been incredible in the third act of his career, and he’ll be popular.
10. A.J. Pollock
The best pure center fielder on the market, and it isn’t particularly close. The defensive stats still like Pollock, and the eyeball test agrees. He’s not hitting like the down-ballot MVP he was in 2015, but he had a career high in homers (21) and does a lot of things very, very well.
Don’t expect him to be good at the end of his contract, but, well, don’t expect that from anyone on this list, really. It’s why teams are interested only in young players now. But if you want a better-than-solid center fielder and you don’t want to give up prospects, Pollock is one of the best options to come around in the last couple years.
Just ignore the part where he’ll be 31, and he’s only had more than 450 at-bats in his career once. I’m sure that’s all fine.
11. Andrew Miller
We’re probably past the days of “Throw Andrew Miller out there in the fourth inning if you need to, and let him soak up three innings” in the postseason. The knee is reportedly fine now, but he dealt with shoulder issues after coming back, and it’s easy to forget that he’ll be 34 next year. Anyone paying for that 1.09 career ERA in the postseason will regret it.
Anyone with reasonable expectations paying for a badass reliever will probably have fun, though. As a healthy part of a balanced bullpen, Miller will be an asset. As a savior, he’s probably two years removed. My guess is that he’ll still be wildly popular.
12. Charlie Morton
He used to be a guy who couldn’t strike anyone out, and his efforts to ape Roy Halladay’s delivery were easy to mock — it was like Darwin Barney modeling his stance and swing after Aaron Judge’s. And then the Astros weaponized him, and now he’s one of the better free agent options on the market.
Is there a team out there that should get a mid-market ace like Morton and supplement it with another one like Happ? There are probably 20 of them. I’m not sure if it would work, but it’s nice to have the option of a couple older and effective pitchers who won’t completely wipe out the budget.
13. Michael Brantley
After Bryce Harper, maybe the best outfielder on the market? If you think that A.J. Pollock will never be anything more than an average hitter, you can probably remove the hedging. After two injury-ruined seasons, he came back with a vengeance, and he’s finally ready to shed that ludicrously owner-friendly contract.
Still, he’ll be 32. Does he get a three-year deal? Four? Seems dicey. But I guess they all do.
My god, all of these players are risky. I just realized that. They will all come with various measures of risk and reward.
I ... I need to sit down for a minute.
14. Nathan Eovaldi
Went into the season as an enigma, and he left it a Boston legend. That’s a fine third act. Eovaldi is a two-time Tommy John survivor, and he was worked fairly hard in October. If you’re cynical and looking for an imperfect comp, Brandon Morrow might be it — starred in the postseason after a rough injury history, signed for a chunk of change, and hurt the following year — but it’s almost certainly unfair to lump every pitcher with an injury history together.
After wondering if he was going to pitch again, Eovaldi will get a multi-year deal. And he’ll deserve it.
15. Adam Ottavino
A reverse Zach Britton, in that he’s hitting free agency at the perfect time, Ottavino will make a ton of money. He’ll be 33, and his famous slider is murder on his elbow, so caveat emptor, but there’s no way to sniff at 112 strikeouts in 77⅔ innings.
Whatever was wrong in 2017 was fixed, and Ottavino will be a popular target. It would be rough if the Rockies spent all that money on their bullpen last year, only to lose their best reliever.
16. Wilson Ramos
There are maybe five catchers who are better than the average major-league hitter in a typical season now? Six?
Ramos is one of them. If he’s hitting cleanup in your lineup, your team is in trouble, but as an auxiliary piece, he has a chance to be one of the best values on the open market. His knee injury in 2016 probably cost him, oh, $40 million or so, but who among us hasn’t suffered a workplace accident that cost us $40 million or so?
He probably won’t make up all of that, but he hit well enough with the Rays and Phillies to deserve a fair payday. If you’re the Red Sox, and you have one of the best lineups in baseball but a couple of catchers who have troubles out-hitting Rick Porcello, don’t you at least poke around Ramos?
17. Yasmani Grandal
How bad was Grandal in the postseason? At one point, Mary Hart was heckling him.
Mary Hart has not had any Entertainment Tonight from Yasmani Grandal.— Ryan Walton (@RyanWaltonSBN) October 16, 2018
Here she is yelling at him for another passed ball. pic.twitter.com/Ljl5vaFqmO
Fans in the NLCS chanted “We want Austin,” referencing Dodgers backup catcher Austin Barnes. In the World Series, he continued having problems catching the ball, which is literally the first part of his job description.
Oh, and did we mention that Grandal is 8-for-75 in the postseason for his career?
And yet. Check out the slugging percentages from the last few seasons:
That’s not just for a catcher. That’s for a switch-hitting catcher who is only about to turn 30. The list of switch-hitting catchers who have slugged over .450 in five or more seasons is a fine list of the useful and the should-be-Hall-of-Famers (get two drinks in me and ask about Ted Simmons some day.)
I’m not saying Grandal is right for every team. But he’s better than you think. Probably much better. You just wouldn’t know this from watching the postseason, when he looked like the worst baseball player in the majors.
18. DJ LeMahieu
I do think too much is made out of hitters turning into pumpkins away from Coors Field. It’s a subject that’s been written about quite a bit, and I think at the very least, we can all agree that it’s silly to look only at a Rockies player’s road numbers when evaluating him.
The overall numbers for LeMahieu just aren’t special, though, and there’s a strong chance that he’s a below-average hitter. His .276/.321/.428 line last year is really pushing it for a guy who plays half his games at Coors, and his .298/.350/.406 career line just isn’t that impressive for the same reason.
His defense, though, is pretty sweet. So if you think there’s a hidden high-average asset buried under the Coors noise, this is probably the best value on the market.
19. David Robertson
You can pay for saves with a pitcher like Jeurys Familia, or you can get the setup-man’s discount with a guy like Robertson, who is probably the same pitcher he was when he was a closer making closer money.
Robertson is turning 34 this year — it feels like every pitcher on this list is turning 34 this year — so he’s not a great candidate for a long-term deal, but for two or three years, he’s a solid gamble for a win-now team.
20. Andrew McCutchen
Not a center fielder anymore. Don’t even think about it. But I sure want to see what he can do over a full season at a park that doesn’t obfuscate his hitting talent. PNC Park was a little rough for right-handed home runs, and AT&T Park was extremely rough. When he got to the Yankees, he was reborn into a high-OBP, occasional-pop contributor. He can probably be that again next year.
Just give him a ballpark that plays fair, and don’t let him play center. Someone’s going to get a good value, here. Get him the heck away from the Yankees so he can grow his goatee back, though. That was freaky.
21. Jed Lowrie
What the heck?
That’s it, that’s my official Jed Lowrie evaluation. Though I would also accept a strong “What the ...?” Lowrie has been one of the better hitting second basemen for two years straight. Even more impressive is that he’s stayed healthy for two straight seasons, which will certainly increase his value.
Lowrie will be 35 next year, and while he’s been far better than a utility player recently, do you really want your team to play all-star starter money for him, even if it’s just for two years? It’s such a tough decision.
I could see the A’s doing it, though. He’s been so very good for them. Also, he’s now played with the A’s more than the Red Sox in his career, which seems strange to me.
22. Hyun-Jin Ryu
Possibly the most thorough and impressive of all of the comebacks. Ryu came back from the depths of shoulder hell to have a fantastic run. In the regular season, at least. In the postseason, he finished miserably, giving up 11 runs in his final 13 innings.
Still, while you shouldn’t expect a sub-2.00 (or sub-3.00) ERA again, Ryu is going to be a relative bargain because of his health history. Unless he’s a complete waste of money because of his health history. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to, really.
23. Daniel Murphy
He can probably still hit, but he’s also at the point where you don’t want him playing 162 games at second. His body agrees, at least, which is why he won’t play 162 games anywhere.
But as a first baseman/second baseman/DH/utility player? Sure. He’s 34, so it’s not like he’s ancient. There still might be an all-star season left in those bones.
Just be prepared for deserved criticism.
24. Kurt Suzuki
Suzuki in his 20s: .253/.309/.375, 86 OPS+
Suzuki in his 30s: .267/.324/.405, 98 OPS+
The rabbit ball and era of launch angles has been good to him, with the last two years being the best offensive seasons of his career. He’ll be 35, but maybe paired with a left-handed catcher, you can get a net positive in the lineup who can act as a field general and plus defensive catcher.
A Suzuki/McCann tandem would probably be cost prohibitive, but it would sure have a high reward to come with that high risk.
25. Marwin Gonzalez
He’ll be 30, so there is some decline to factor into a three- or four-year deal, but there isn’t a team that can’t use Gonzalez. He played every position except pitcher and catcher last season, and he adds just enough pop. You want him to play for your team.
Just don’t expect that much. His 2018 slash line is .247/.324/.409, which was good for a 103 OPS+. His career slash line is .264/.318/.419, which is good for ... a 103 OPS+. He is a fine super-utility player, and he can be a net positive while hitting like that and playing 140 games.
If your expectations are kept in check, you’ll love him, even if he’ll be an expensive luxury.
26. Jose Iglesias
A solid player. You will forever be that meme dude with him ...
... but you can always do worse than a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop who isn’t a complete waste of a lineup spot. He’s only 30, too, which means he might even be a longish-term solution for a team with nothing close in the upper minors.
My guess: Yankees, where he hits .302 with 18 homers next year.
I don’t make the rules, I just point them out.
27. Adam Jones
Jones had one of his worst offensive seasons, but it’s hard to escape the sucking gravity of the 2018 Orioles, so it’s hard to blame him. The defensive stats were way down on him last year, which, fine, you can ignore because it’s an outlier in an otherwise solid career. He can probably still help a team with his bat.
But any time I see a hitter with a low walk total getting deep into his 30s, I run the other direction. Jones is a fun player, and I’m not counting him out, but guys with his skill set (Hunter Pence would be a close comparison) generally don’t go tiptoeing down the side of a cliff. They hurtle down it.
28. Gio Gonzalez
He’s an 11-year veteran, but it feels like he’s been around for 22. The former 21-game winner probably isn’t going to make another MLB All-Star Game, but he was worth a win above replacement in his worst season this decade. Someone will sign him to help them win in the regular season, and hopefully they’ll have three starting pitchers ahead of him in the postseason.
Either way, he’ll be an asset for someone.
29. Zach Britton
Here be dragons. You can chalk up his rising walk rate and shrinking strikeout rate to the rust he accumulated on the disabled list, but ... that’s not a sentence that makes me want to pay him more.
While Britton was fine in the ALDS (one run in four innings), he never looked like the Cy Young contender he was just a couple years ago. His dominant form might come back, but I don’t think teams will pay for that. A one-year deal might be his best bet.
30. CC Sabathia
About 25 solid starts or so, with most of them being 5⅔ innings. There’s a market for that! It’s not sexy or exciting, and Sabathia will be 38, but it’s not hard to see how he would help a contending team. He was one of the better starters on a 100-win team, after all.
Sabathia had to take a one-year deal with the Yankees last year, and I’m thinking he’ll do it again. The best fit might be in Oakland, which is close to his hometown, but this isn’t a predictions post, dang it.
31. Joe Kelly
Don’t look at the ERA. Kelly was reportedly tipping his pitches for most of the season. Look at how silly he made the Dodgers look in the World Series. He can still get a wild hair up his nose, but he limited the best lineup in the National League to four hits and no runs over six innings.
The Red Sox want him back, of course, if only because there isn’t another reliever in baseball who looks more likely to get into a fistfight outside of Cask And Flagon. There’s value in that for Boston, you know.
32. Wade Miley
I’m not buying it. Miley’s FIP was a full run higher than his ERA, and his 5.6 K/9 makes him an extremely risky fella to hitch your wagon to.
On the other hand, check out his history of FIPs:
- 5.27 (warning, Orioles)
If you expunge the Orioles year — which is always a good idea — the pattern suggests a productive pitcher who will help his team win. He ain’t gonna have a sub-3.00 ERA again, but it’s not unreasonable to think that he’ll return to his old self, which is worse than his new self, but much better than his old new self.
33. Jesse Chavez
I don’t know what the Cubs whispered in his ear, but he was suddenly one of the most valuable relievers in baseball last season. In 39 innings, he struck out 42 and walked just five, allowing just five earned runs (with three of those coming on home runs). He was completely and utterly dominant, and his famously elastic arm makes him more versatile than the typical late-inning reliever.
I’m not sure if I trust Chavez’s renaissance, but for a little money upfront, there’s at least a sliver of a chance that he’s a neo-Andrew Miller, just waiting to gobble up the middle of every postseason game. It’s probably a risk worth taking.
34. Tony Sipp
I saw he was a free agent before writing my first draft, and a co-worker said, “What about Tony Sipp?” And because I’m a very smart professional baseball writer, I counter with, “Wait, did he even pitch this year?”
He did! Very, very well! However, he allowed just one homer in 2018 after allowing 20 (!) combined in 2016 and 2017. It’s possible that the Astros somehow reverse-engineered the home runs out of him. It’s also possible that the low dinger rate was a fluke.
Still, if you want lefty relief and you can’t afford Andrew Miller, Sipp would be a solid option. Think of him like the Tony Watson of this offseason. I tried to make a joke about the Tonys being left-leaning propaganda, but I couldn’t make it work, so, here, you figure it out.
35. Nick Markakis
I expended an awful lot of energy making fun of the Braves for signing Markakis to a four-year deal back when they were awful, and look at that. He was magnificent exactly when they needed him to be. My bad. I’m the dummy, here.
At the same time, it’s probably OK to make fun of the team that pays a 35-year-old outfielder for what he did as a 34-year-old. Especially when you consider these splits:
Pre-All-Star break: .323/.389/.488
Post-All-Star break: .258/.332/.369
The post All-Star break numbers make more sense. But it’s also possible that he was just tired (he played in all 162 games), so there will be more than a few teams that are interested. When you add those pre- and post-break numbers together, guess what you get? His season line of .297/.366/.440, which is pretty sweet.
36. Clay Buchholz
Buchholz was ... not on this list last year. There’s a case to make that he’s the least trustworthy pitcher of his generation, as likely to put up an 10.38 ERA in 37 innings as he is a 2.01 ERA in 98 innings, which is what he did last year for the Diamondbacks.
But, fine, maybe he’s legit again. I don’t know what to believe anymore. Depending on the price, he might actually be a bargain in this pitcher-saturated market. And his presence on this list is fun because it makes me think that, like, Matt Moore will be on next year’s list after putting up a 3.29 ERA in 178 innings. I’m a sucker for comeback stories.
37. Matt Harvey
He really wasn’t that great for the Reds — petering out toward the end — but he was certainly better than he was for the Mets. My dude still likes to party, and he’s turning 30 with a lot of miles on his arm, so I can’t suggest anything more than a two-year deal, but he definitely reestablished some of his market value.
I’m kind of hoping Yankees, but only because I have the kind of sick imagination that can envision him thriving there.
38. Lance Lynn
It’s no fun when one-year deals go incredibly, spectacularly wrong. Lynn was hosed out of the $50 million contract he probably deserved last year, and he’ll likely get another one-year show-me deal this offseason.
He’s had a strong career, though, and he might be the best of the risk/reward bunch.
39. Ervin Santana
He had a five-year run of being extremely valuable, with an average season of 182 innings and 3.52 ERA (116 ERA+), before suffering through five miserable starts this year. To be honest, I have no idea what to think about a pitcher with a lingering finger injury. Elbows I know (it’ll probably OK with a lot of rest). Shoulders I know (you’re screwed). But fingers? Total mystery.
That five-year run gets him on this list, though. He’d be perfect for a team that didn’t contend this year, but secretly thinks they have a tiny shot next year. Looking at you, Rangers.
40. Garrett Richards
Over the last three years, Richards has averaged 138 innings with a 3.05 ERA, which is why he’s going to get a huge contract with a ...
Wait, check that. Over the last three years Richards has thrown a total of 138 innings with a 3.05 ERA. Which is both good and devastating at the same time. Richards is coming back from Tommy John surgery at some point next year, so he’ll be looking for an incentive-laden one-year deal.
But as far as secret weapons for the postseason go, this would be a fantastic low-cost gamble for any team looking to contend in 2019. Call him ... Nathan Twovaldi.
No? OK, I’ll workshop that and get back to you.
41. Shawn Kelley
How much of a butthead does a solid reliever have to be to get punted from a contending team? That’s a koan that’ll keep you up at night until you realize the answer is simple. Much butthead. You have to be super much butthead.
Still, Kelley pitched well for the A’s after they scooped him up, laughing. He’s still striking guys out, and he’s still effective at limiting runs. There will be a market for him. Just ... not with the Nats.
42. Ian Kinsler
Maybe we need an acronym for the second basemen who probably shouldn’t start anymore, unless your team is really in a pickle. SBWPSSAUYTIRIAP.
Kinsler is a SBWPSSAUYTIRIAP. He was worth two wins, so maybe I’m underrating him, but the bat never made it to Boston, and it’s not like his baserunning is going to make up for it. In entertainment value, sure, but not in on-field value.
Out of Cabrera, Kinsler, Dozier, Murphy, and Lowrie, I’ll guess one is awesome, one is pretty OK, and the other three are drains on the payroll. It’s like a game of chance! I love games of chance.
43. Brian Dozier
No idea. You don’t have any idea, either. For each of the two seasons prior to 2018, Dozier was an unstoppable dynamo in the second half. It’s not wise to dig too much into splits like first/second half, which means it’s reasonable to wonder if the real Dozier is that second-half MVP candidate.
After last year, it’s also reasonable to wonder if they built the whole airplane out of the first half. Dozier looked absolutely lost with the Dodgers, and he’s probably going to be on a one-year show-me deal. Which means he might be back on the market looking for a major-league contract next year, or he might be picking between three- or four-year deals.
It’s a rough market for second basemen looking for a starting gig, though. He’s one of the more interesting cases to follow.
44. Asdrubal Cabrera
Ah, yes, yet another glad-we-have-him guy. The thing about these guys is how quickly they can become a what-is-this-dude-still-doing-here guy, and those are absolutely no fun. Cabrera will be 33, and he scuffled with the Phillies after a midseason trade, but here’s what he’s done over the last four years in the way of OPS+:
His defense is on the rougher side now that he’s older, and you definitely don’t want him at short for an extended period. But you’ll be glad your team employs him. Right up until you really, really aren’t. A two-year deal is pushing it, but I really have no idea what the market is for these second base-types who maybe shouldn’t be starting. There are sure a lot of them this year.
45. Brian McCann
As long as Grandal has us running the Play Index search, let’s take a look at the best LHB catchers of all time. Yogi Berra is first, of course, followed by Bill Dickey and Mickey Cochrane, and McCann is seventh all-time, which reminds us that he’s had a heckuva career.
Which means approximately nothing. McCann is just ahead of Tim McCarver, and I regret to tell you that McCarver probably wouldn’t help a team win in 2019. At some point the historical stats aren’t informing us about the potential for future contributions, and we’re at a tipping point like that for McCann. He’ll be 35 next year, and he just barely kept his OBP over .300.
It was also his first truly poor offensive season, so ... maybe there’s still something there? His left-handed bat certainly makes it much easier for a team to think about him as a part of a solution and not the full solution.
46. Evan Gattis
He caught four innings last year, which lets you know that he’s stopped renting a condo in Galoot Town. He bought a place. He’s not a positionally flexible wonder-galoot at this point. He’s bearded dingers and maybe an emergency catcher if someone gets hurt in the 16th.
Besides, if he’s hitting .226/.284/.452 as a DH-type, I’m not sure what would happen if he were ground down by playing catcher 50 times a year.
Still, dingers! Sweet bearded dingers.
47. Matt Wieters
He’s younger than McCann and Suzuki, but he’s been extremely Just a Guy for three years now. If his name were Dendly Corus, he would be relegated to the backup bin this year, and that still might happen. There might be a team, though, that still reads the name Matt Wieters and thinks, “Maybe, just maybe ...”
Don’t let your team be that team. But for a team that already has a half-decent catcher in place and can mix and match to prevent backstop fatigue? Probably something here.
48. Anibal Sanchez
Sanchez was the best of the reclamation bunch (see below), and possibly the most unlikely comeback of them all. He’ll be 35, and I’ll set the over-under at 100 innings next year and take the under, but he sure had a brilliant season for the Braves. He’ll tempt a lot of teams this year, even if he’s an extremely volatile pitcher.
49. Bud Norris
He’s on this list because of the saves, but I’ll be honest with you, the sooner I finish, the sooner I can play Red Dead Redemption 2 for the first time, so, uh, Bud Norris, everyone! He’s the Bud Norriest. He’s probably fine.
Well, maybe not fine in the clubhouse. He’s ranked 49th, OK, this all checks out.
50. (tie) Jeremy Hellickson, Trevor Cahill, Derek Holland
They’re lumped together because they’re all telling a similar tale of redemption. Of red dead redemption, that is, and, uh, let’s wrap this up, idiot. No, really, they’re all lumped together because I wanted to have a nice even number of free agents (50!), and I didn’t know which of these guys to leave off.
Hellickson was fine once you de-Oriolesed him, which is a recurring theme, and he’s probably the most stable of the bunch. Cahill finally lived up to the promise I’ve been expecting since the Cubs resurrected his career in 2015. Holland was legit this year, with solid velocity and a swing-through slider, though you’ll want to keep him away from smaller ballparks, still.
Those are the 50ish best free agents on the market. If I left anybody out, remember that it’s because I hate you and your favorite team, as always. And don’t forget, the real answer is going to be someone like Max Muncy or Dereck Rodriguez. So let’s just pick a name out of the hat and guess.
Congratulations to Tommy Joseph for his 40-homer season in 2019, then. We knew you had it in you, buddy. We will definitely not be surprised.