25 Impending Free Agents Vying For Paydays

Posted: August 13, 2017 in Uncategorized
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MLBTR chief Tim Dierkes released his latest free agent power rankings for the upcoming winter on Aug. 8, listing the top 10 soon-to-be unsigned players. But the prominent impending free agents who will be among the absolute best available in the 2017-18 class certainly aren’t the only players who have made cases for nice offseason deals, as you’ll see below…


C – Alex Avila, Cubs: The Tigers reunited with Avila last winter for a guaranteed $2MM after he had a decent offensive year with the White Sox, but not one reminiscent of his lone All-Star season (2011). The lefty-swinging Avila has turned back the clock this year, though, with stellar production (.269/.390/.483 in 274 plate appearances) stemming from his familiar patience and a newly adopted fly ball-oriented approach. And the quality of contact the 30-year-old has made has been outstanding, as Statcast shows (via Baseball Savant). When the Cubs acquired Avila at last month’s non-waiver trade deadline, the change in teams relegated him from the starting job he had in Detroit to a backup role. But with star backstop Willson Contreras now on the shelf with a hamstring injury, Avila will have a few more weeks to showcase himself in a contract year. There’s potential for that to backfire, granted, considering Avila is a poor hitter against same-sided pitchers and isn’t a particularly effective defender.

1B – Yonder Alonso, Mariners; Lucas Duda, Rays; Logan Morrison, Rays:

Like Avila, both Alonso and Duda have switched uniforms over the past couple weeks. Alonso went from the Athletics to the Mariners after the former touted prospect finally broke out at the age of 30, while the Mets transferred Duda to Tampa Bay. Alonso, another fly ball-first convert, has had the stronger season of the two, though the left-hander’s still a liability versus southpaws and has cooled off in recent months. The 31-year-old Duda carries a more established track record than Alonso and is in the middle of yet another fine season. One of Duda’s teammates, the 29-year-old Morrison, has mimicked Avila and Alonso in generating outstanding results by hitting the ball in the air more. Tampa Bay allocated a guaranteed $2.5MM last offseason to Morrison, who has repaid the club with serious power (28 home runs, .268 ISO) and patience (14.1 percent walk rate) en route to a .249/.357/.517 line in 454 PAs.

It’s unclear how much demand there will be for first basemen during the upcoming offseason – last winter certainly wasn’t a great one for the position – but these three have done everything in their power to secure raises. They’ll also represent much cheaper alternatives to Eric Hosmer, the No. 1 first baseman set to hit the open market.

SS – Zack Cozart, Reds: The rebuilding Reds have haven’t been able to find a taker via trade for Cozart dating back to last season, which probably has more to do with a lack of demand at shortstop than his own performance. Cozart has long been a marvelous defender and was a 3.9 fWAR player in 174 games from 2015-16, a stretch in which he mixed that terrific work in the field with acceptable offense. More of the same seemed likely this season, but Cozart has been even better. Thanks to a shocking offensive breakout (.318/.404/.587 with 16 HRs and a .269 ISO in 354 PAs), the 32-year-old has put up 4.0 fWAR, which ranks first among free agents-to-be. All the more impressive is that Cozart has compiled that WAR in limited action, having gone on the disabled list twice.

The injuries could work against Cozart on the market, of course, and teams might not totally buy into the out-of-nowhere offensive brilliance. After all, Cozart’s running a .342 batting average on balls in play that’s markedly superior to his career number (.282), and his line drive, fly ball and ground-ball rates align with career norms. Still, the righty-swinger is undoubtedly a quality piece and someone who should outearn his 2017 salary ($5.33MM) going forward.


INF/OF – Eduardo Nunez, Red Sox: Nunez has primarily played third base this season, but one of his main selling points is that he’s a multi-position guy. Along with the hot corner, the 30-year-old has lined up at second, short and left field on several occasions this season. Although Nunez, whom the Giants traded to the Red Sox last month, isn’t an especially well-regarded defender, the versatility and his offensive prowess combine to make him appealing. The right-handed contact specialist is now amid his third straight season with a better-than-average wRC+ (a career-best 116, per FanGraphs) and has followed last year’s 40-stolen base effort with 21 steals on 26 attempts.

OF – Jay Bruce, Indians; Howie Kendrick, Nationals; Carlos Gomez, Rangers; Jarrod Dyson, Mariners; Curtis Granderson, Mets:

The 30-year-old Bruce, whom the Mets just dealt to the Indians, is yet another player benefiting from hitting more fly balls, as FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron pointed out after the trade. Of course, decent offensive production isn’t really anything new for the lefty-hitting Bruce, who’s one home run away from reaching 30 for the fifth time. On the other hand, defensive metrics indicate he’s having a terrific year in the field, which is a notable change over his recent woes in the grass.

Kendrick has also been known as a good offensive player throughout his career, though the .345/.394/.469 line he has combined for with the Phillies and Nationals this season is obviously a mirage to some extent. The .420 batting average on balls in play won’t hold, for example. Still, as an outfielder/infielder who can hit, he’s a useful piece. The fact that Kendrick’s already 34 will scare off some teams during the offseason, however.

Gomez and Dyson, meanwhile, join the Royals’ Lorenzo Cain as the premier center field-capable options set to hit the market. It seems Gomez, 31, truly has put his disastrous stretch with the Astros from 2015-16 behind him. The former star with the Brewers experienced a renaissance as a Rangers reclamation project late last season and has continued to play well this year. Since hooking on with Texas, he has hit .262/.347/.483 with 23 homers, 16 steals and a 3.1 fWAR over 118 games. Texas believed in Gomez’s end-of-season performance in 2016 enough to re-up him for $11.5MM last winter, and his success since then should net the Scott Boras client another hefty payday.

Dyson’s drawbacks include the fact that he’s neither young (he’ll turn 33 on Aug. 15) nor a big-time offensive threat. He’s not exactly an automatic out, though, given that he reached base at a 34 percent clip last year and has gotten aboard 32.6 percent of the time this season. When Dyson does get on, he’s a terror. He’s set for a fifth 30-steal season, and his baserunning value goes beyond that – only Billy Hamilton has been better this year, according to FanGraphs’ BsR metric. Dyson’s also a fantastic defender. The best aspects of the ex-Royal’s game make him an extreme bargain for the Mariners at $2.8MM, so he clearly deserves more with free agency looming.

Set to turn 37 next March, Granderson is the oldest position player on this list, meaning a multiyear deal could be out of the question for the highly regarded veteran. The lefty-swinger remains a valuable offensive cog, though, and could be a fit for AL teams looking for someone who can play some outfield and hit enough to serve as a DH. Aside from a horrid April in which he batted .128/.174/.221, Granderson has been his typical above-average self with the bat (.230/.335/.472 with 16 HRs and a .242 ISO in 382 PAs).

Honorable mentions: Kurt Suzuki, C, Braves; Mark Reynolds, 1B, Rockies; Cameron Maybin, OF, Angels; Jon Jay, OF, Cubs; Austin Jackson, OF, Indians; Seth Smith, OF Orioles; Daniel Nava, OF, Phillies.

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from MLB Trade Rumors http://ift.tt/2uEqyLg


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