Free Agents as Early Christmas Presents for MLB Teams

It seems like the baseball season ended yesterday, but in fact, Christmas is just over a week away. As such, less than sixty days remain until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, leaving time as the enemy for free agent players not yet signed with a team for 2017.

However, we see it every year. No matter how talented of a player, there always wind up being a few above-average free agents each offseason who remain unsigned for quite some time. For one reason or another, the right team and contract simply hasn’t come along yet.

But eventually, a perfect match will be made. While it’s somewhat unlikely, it would certainly make for a great Christmas gift for both the given player as well as the team they sign with and its fan base moving into the new year if they can come to terms over the next few days.

With that in mind, I figured I’d go over the top free agents (in my mind) remaining at each individual position that would make for a great addition to any team.MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

STARTING PITCHER: Jason Hammel

It came down to a few quality starters in this category, but I ended up choosing Jason Hammel as the top free agent starting pitcher remaining. Posting a 3.83 ERA over the course of 166.1 innings pitched, Hammel played a huge role in leading the Cubs to their first World Series since 1908. Though Jason Hammel isn’t in the category of ace, he’s still a great pitcher that would benefit any team that picks him up.

RELIEF PITCHER: Trevor Cahill

My original pick for best remaining free agent reliever was Brad Ziegler, but he was signed by the Marlins an hour before I was set to post this blog entry. Therefore, I went with my next choice, Trevor Cahill. But despite him not being my top pick, Cahill is certainly a top choice. With just better than a strikeout per inning last season, along with a 2.74 ERA, Trevor Cahill has more than proven his value in recent history.

CATCHER: Matt Wieters

Every good pitcher thrives off of a good catcher, and Matt Wieters has proven to be one of the best. After a couple of injury-plagued seasons, Wieters bounced back in 2016 to hit 17 homers for the Orioles. His time in Baltimore may be up, but his playing career certainly is not. With good hitting catchers somewhat of a rarity in today’s game, any team would instantly improve with Matt Wieters behind the dish.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Cincinnati RedsFIRST BASE: Chris Carter

There were several good choices for top first baseman free agent remaining, but Chris Carter placed at the top of my list. He will never hit for average, possessing a career .218 mark, but Carter’s power is up there with the very best. Having blasted 41 homers in 2016, Chris Carter should be a very attractive piece to any team, despite him still remaining unsigned to this point in the offseason.

SECOND BASE: Chase Utley

Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of rumors stating that Chase Utley would prefer to head back to the Dodgers in 2017. However, with them looking into Brian Dozier, that may not occur. Regardless, Utley will land somewhere, and that team will be all the better for it. In addition to Chase Utley’s ability to still hit (recording 14 homers last year), his leadership role has proven to be invaluable over the years.

THIRD BASE: Aaron Hill

There weren’t a lot of players to choose from at the hot corner slot now that Justin Turner has been taken off the board, but I went with Aaron Hill. Much like Chase Utley, Hill isn’t going to hit you a mammoth number of homers any more (he still managed 10 last season), nor is he going to hit for a superbly high average. But Aaron Hill does have the ability to play a good defensive third base while stringing together solid at-bats.<> at Chase Field on April 29, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.

SHORTSTOP: Daniel Descalso

It’s hard to think of a player who had an under-the-radar season quite to the extent of Daniel Descalso. In fact, I was somewhat surprised to discover that he recorded career highs in both on-base-percentage and homers in 2016 — .349 and 8, respectively. With that in mind, Daniel Descalso places at the top of the admittedly weak free agent list for shortstops, and should be signed before 2017 rolls around.

LEFT FIELD: Michael Saunders

Playing in just nine games all of 2015, Michael Saunders exploded back onto the scene in 2016, hitting a career high 24 home runs. For that reason alone, I see him as the top available option yet to be signed to play left field. Michael Saunders doesn’t hit for a high average, but he has enough pop to be a big contributor to any club he’s on, and should be seen as very valuable despite still sitting without a contract.

CENTER FIELD: Rajai Davis

Rajai Davis isn’t the biggest power hitter in baseball by any stretch. He also won’t be found among the top few in batting average year after year. But where Davis truly stands out is his running ability. In 2016 alone, Davis stole 43 bases, making it his fifth career 40+ stolen base season. With that speed, in addition to his bat being no slouch (he popped 12 homers in 2016), Rajai Davis is quite the free agent pickup.trumbo

RIGHT FIELD: Mark Trumbo

Always known for his power, Mark Trumbo took things up a notch last season. After never having hit more than 34 homers in a single season, Trumbo blasted 47 big flies in 2016. Though you never know if any given player’s success can be carried over from one season to the next, Mark Trumbo is definitely worth taking a chance on. Worst case scenario, he hits 30 homers. But the ability for 50 home runs is certainly there.

DESIGNATED HITTER: Edwin Encarnacion

Another player with crazy-stupid power is Edwin Encarnacion. After turning town a sizeable contract offer from the Blue Jays, it’s looking likely that Encarnacion will take his talents elsewhere in 2017 and beyond. In addition to his fifth straight 34+ home run season, Encarnacion recorded a career high in RBI’s as well last season. Whoever gets Edwin Encarnacion, they will have an absolute superstar to add to their lineup.

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The Most Underrated Player at Each Position in MLB

It’s September, which means the only thing on the minds of the majority of baseball fans is October, and the postseason that subsequently comes along with it. For that reason, it can be somewhat easy to overlook the great season any given player is having, especially if they are doing so somewhat under the radar. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at the players who I feel are near the top of the most underrated players list at each position (not the best player at each position) from around all of Major League Baseball:

FIRST BASE: Chis Carter (right)

Over the past several seasons, Chris Carter has burst onto the scene as one of the best power-hitting first basemen in allCarter of baseball, despite being a strikeout machine. Carter is having yet another season of great numbers, batting a mere .228 so far in 2016, but having notched 33 home runs and 78 RBI’s, making him a somewhat overlooked star first baseman.

SECOND BASE: Brian Dozier

Brian Dozier has received more and more recognition lately after having a few above average seasons, but Dozier still isn’t seen as the superstar he is. Having hit 38 home runs and recorded 91 RBI’s on the year, Dozier is well on his way to yet another unbelievable and historic season — a season that you may not be all that aware of.

THIRD BASE: Justin Turner

After a few poor years with various teams to begin his career, Justin Turner has been an elite third baseman the past couple of years with the Dodgers. This season has been no different, seeing Turner hit .270 with 25 home runs and 77 RBI’s. As such, despite Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant holding all the spotlight at the hot corner, Turner deserves his share of recognition.

GrandalSHORTSTOP: Asdrubal Cabrera

Once upon a time with the Indians, Asdrubal Cabrera was a star. Making great plays and hitting near the top in every offensive category among shortstops, Cabrera hasn’t been that type of player in recent seasons. But this year with the Mets, Cabrera has resurged again, hitting .276 with 19 homers and 49 RBI’s.

CATCHER: Yasmani Grandal (left)

With guys such as Buster Posey and Salvador Perez, among others, seeing the most publicity among big league backstops, it’s players like Yasmani Grandal who fall by the wayside. Grandal has truly broken out as one of the best hitting catchers in the game today, blasting 24 homers despite batting just .234 on the year. As such, I see him as the most underrated catcher in baseball.

PITCHER: Tanner RoarkDavis

Kyle Hendricks has broken out as one of the best pitchers in the game this season, but it’s Tanner Roark who I feel is still under the radar. Posting a 2.89 ERA this season with the Nationals, Roark has been fantastic for them in his 28 starts. His .235 average against may not be in the top 20, but in my mind he is number one on the most underrated list.

OUTFIELD: Khris Davis (right)

Hitting just .254 on the season with 141 strikeouts, there are a lot of holes in Khris Davis’s game, but he is still the most underrated outfielder in my book. He is second in home runs among outfielders, with 35 (behind just Mark Trumo, who leads all of MLB). For that reason among others, Davis is a player everyone around baseball should know, but only a select amount do.

But whether or not you were aware of every single one of those players having amazing seasons, or have never heard of half of them, the point still stands. There are a ton of players around baseball each season who don’t receive the credit they deserve.

It’s time they were seen for the stars they are.

Jose Altuve Records His 200th Hit of 2014

With a sharply hit ground ball that bounced its way into left field, Jose Altuve notched his name into the record books on Wednesday night, recording his 200th hit of the 2014 season. Just the second Astros player to ever reach that mark, and the first player in Major League Baseball to do so since 2009, Altuve is undeniably having a career season that many players only dream about.

Altuve leads all of the majors in hits (27 more hits than the next closest player), batting average (.336) and multi hit games. In addition, with his 52nd stolen base on Wednesday, Altuve also leads the American League in steals, and joins a rather elite group of players to have recorded 200 or more hits to go along with 50 or more stolen bases in a season, with Jose Reyes being the last to accomplish that feat back in 2008.

Although the Astros’ playoff drought continues, having not made the playoffs since 2005, Altuve has been one of the many bright spots on the team, with several players having standout years. While Altuve is having the best all around season of them all, players such as Chris Carter and George Springer are also having great years for the Astros, despite holding low batting averages.

However, low batting average is a major issue with the entire Astros team, with only two other players besides Altuve batting over .250 on the season. That’s something that will need to be addressed for next year, but with this being the first year since 2010 that the Astros are going to finish with a record of fewer than 100 losses, things are definitely moving in the right direction.

Jose Altuve reflected that in his comments on Wednesday, stating, “We win this game and get 200 hits and the momentum we’re having right now, it’s pretty special for me. The team is playing great. I couldn’t ask for more. We’re going outside, playing hard, we’re winning, and I think that makes me feel really good.”

While I don’t see a playoff push anytime soon for the Astros — playing in the difficult American League west division that includes a good Mariners, Angels, Athletics, and Rangers team (once they return to full health) — they could definitely make things interesting next season. With their offense clicking fairly efficiently, and their pitching doing terrific (Astros starters are now 6-0 with a 1.95 ERA in the team’s past 10 games), the Astros are certainly a team to watch.

Having won eight of their last ten games, over which Altuve has recorded 16 hits to make for a .390 average, the Astros are giving their fans something to get excited about for the first time in quite awhile. With Jose Altuve approaching the Astros’ all-time hit leader for a season, Craig Biggio, who recorded 210 hits in 1998, Astros fans should be excited about where this team is headed.

Though they may not be raising a World Series trophy anytime soon, they’re slowly but surely finding a way to win games against good teams. That’s something to look forward to seeing more and more as the seasons go on, with Jose Altuve leading the way.

Singleton, Springer A Sign of the Astros’ Bright Future

For the past several years, the Houston Astros have been somewhat of a laughingstock among Major League Baseball, with some people going as far as calling them a Triple-A caliber team at best. Losing over 100 games each of the past two seasons, things weren’t looking any more promising for this season, as many people predicted that the Astros could lose another 100 games in 2014. mlb_a_singleton_b1_400x600

However, while the Astros are likely to still finish last in their division, and still might reach 100 losses, they appear to be slowly turning the corner.

The biggest reason for that turn has been two of their many top prospects getting the call up to the big leagues.

First it was George Springer, who blasted 10 homers in his first month, and now it’s Jonathan Singleton, who was signed to a controversial five year, ten million dollar deal, worth a potential thirty-five million, before he ever had an at-bat on the major league level.

Hitting .267 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI’s at Triple-A before his call up, Singleton didn’t disappoint in his debut on Tuesday night against the Angels. Going 1-3 for the game, Singleton drew a bases loaded walk and blasted his first career home run — just the fourth Astros player to ever hit a home run in their first game — providing a couple of runs in the Astros’ 7-2 win over the Angels.

Overall, Singleton looked really comfortable at the plate, and along with Springer and the rest of the players currently on the Astros, they’re already becoming a good team. But even with these talented prospects now beginning to produce for the big league team — the only true power hitters for the Astros besides Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez — it’s still going to be awhile before the Astros are making any sort of playoff run. But, thankfully, the Astros have a ton of help on the way that should transform them into a competitive team.

Making their way to Houston include prospects Carlos Correa, the first overall draft pick in 2012, Mark Appel, the first overall pick in 2013, along with Delino De Shields, Lance McCullers and Mike Foltynewicz. Each of them are part of the top 100 prospects list, and with the majority of them being future game changers, it should be interesting to see how good the Astros can become within the next few years.

With the Astros set to add yet another potential star player to their organization on Thursday night, when they receive their third straight first overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft, their prospect list continues to grow and grow. And thus, it should all spell success at some point down the road, once their key prospects reach the major leagues and begin to contribute to the recently struggling club.