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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My Thoughts On the Remaining MLB Free Agents

The 2013 Major League Baseball season ended nearly a month ago, but the team changing deals that take place every offseason are just now beginning. The biggest trade that has taken place so far is undoubtedly Prince Fielder going to the Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler, however, the Cardinals getting rid of David Freese in a trade for Peter Bourjos is up there on the list as well.

UntitledAs far as free agent signings go — none of the previously named players were free agents — Brian McCann signing to play with the Yankees was a big time deal, with Jhonny Peralta’s agreement to play with the Cardinals (4 years, 53 million dollar) being the deal that has caused the most controversy, due to past his PED use. But I won’t get into that.

Not too many of the 184 free agent players have signed yet — just 27 are off the market, having signed with a team or retired — but there’s still plenty of time left for a lot of exciting deals to go down. (The trades that could be made are nearly impossible to predict, but every free agent has to find a home somewhere — either with their same team or a new one — so that’s what I’ll be talking about.)

Notable current free agents include Carlos Beltran, Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury, among others, but I’m only going to be discussing the top ranked (in my mind) player available at each position, and which team I feel they’d fit the best with.

Keep in mind, these are the teams I feel would be the best fit for each player, not necessarily a team that’s interested in them, or subsequently will sign them.

2013 MLB TOP FREE AGENTS

Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Team I feel should sign him: Rangers

The Rangers were in the conversation for Brian McCann to take over their catcher role, but after the Yankees locked him up, I think Saltalamacchia would be the next best thing — a good fit for both the Rangers and Saltalamacchia. Having played for the Rangers from 2007 to 2010, Saltalamacchia would be returning to familiar territory. Though he never had much success in Arlington — never playing in more than 84 games in a season — Saltalamacchia proved this past season with the Sox that he can post good numbers, batting .273 with 14 home runs and 65 RBI’s. I think the Rangers would be a great team for Saltalamacchia, but he’ll likely remain in Boston.

Designated Hitter: Kendrys Morales

Team I feel should sign him: Tigers

Kendrys Morales had a great season for the Mariners in 2013, batting .277 with 23 home runs and 80 RBI’s. Being a switch hitter — a very consistent one at that — I feel the Tigers would be a good fit for Morales. The Tigers have a right-handed-heavy lineup, and a good hitter who can hit from the left side — there are talks they could also be interested in Shin-Soo Choo — when needed would be an important addition. Also, Morales could go a long way in replacing Prince Fielder’s bat in the lineup, though admittedly it wouldn’t replace his 30+ home run power. Nonetheless, Morales is a player the Tigers need to target, in my opinion.

First Base: Mike Napoli

Team I feel should sign him: Red Sox

A lot of teams would be interested in Mike Napoli, but I feel the Red Sox should resign him, as he is a great fit where he is. Playing first base, there are really no other fantastic first basemen on the market, and they’re not about to put David Ortiz there full time. Napoli’s 23 home runs and 92 RBI’s this past season is something that’s hard to replace. He was a big reason the Red Sox were so successful this season, helping to lead them to a World Series title. Napoli shouldn’t be going anywhere.

Second Base: Robinson Cano

Team I feel should sign him: Anyone but the Yankees

Because Robinson Cano is such a good player — a great fit for multiple teams — it’s hard to pick just one team that he should sign with. The top ranked free agent of the offseason, I feel Cano doesn’t need to be in pinstripes next season for both his sake and the sake of the Yankees. Not signing Cano to a deal worth, more than likely, nearly 200 million dollars, would allow them to use that extra cash to sign some lower-priced free agents and develop an all-around better team. With or without Cano, there’s no guarantee the Yankees will make the playoffs, but I feel they’re better off in the long run without him.

Third Base: Juan Uribe

Team I feel should sign him: Yankees

Tying into one of the reasons I feel the Yankees shouldn’t resign Cano, Juan Uribe is a player who would come at a relatively affordable price to the Yankees and would be a good fit at third base, where they are very weak. With no guarantees that A-Rod will ever return, signing Uribe would give them a better defensive player at third than what they currently have, and it would add a decent offensive player to their lineup. Uribe’s .278 batting average with 12 homers and 50 RBI’s last season wouldn’t be a team-changing move for the Yankees, but it would certainly improve their situation.

Shortstop: Stephen Drew

Team I feel should sign him: Astros

The only thing that is for sure with Stephen Drew is that he has a near 100 percent chance of not being with the Red Sox next season; other than that, not a lot is certain. Drew was an impact player for the Sox this past season, playing a good defense at shortstop and coming up big in big spots, especially in the postseason, but with Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base, there just isn’t room for Drew. The Yankees could use him down the road at short, but assuming Derek Jeter is healthy, there won’t be a spot for Drew next season, other than Jeter’s backup. For Drew’s sake, I feel he’d be a good fit with the Astros, who could use an everyday shortstop — one of their many weak spots.

Left Field: Quintin Berry

Team I feel should sign him: Diamondback’s

There really aren’t a lot of great left field free agents available, but of them, Quintin Berry is the best. The Diamondback’s have a left fielder, in Adam Eaton, but I feel the acquisition of Berry would be worth it, as they could move some players around to make room for him. Berry hasn’t had a great deal of opportunity to show off any consistency at the big league level, but his speed — he’s never been caught stealing in 24 major league stolen base attempts — alone is enough for the D-back’s to take a shot on Berry, in my mind.

Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury & Shin-Soo Choo

Team I feel should sign them: Mariners (Ellsbury) and Reds (Choo)

I couldn’t pick just one player as the best available free agent at this position, as both Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo have a high value in their own unique ways. Ellsbury hasn’t been able to stay very healthy so far during his career, but an unhealthy Ellsbury is more valuable than a lot of other players in baseball — he’s that great of an impact when healthy. Though Seattle has a difficult time attracting players, due to their location and recent subpar performances, I feel they are going to become a great team in the next year or two. Ellsbury needs to join before things take off. As far as Choo goes, he is very efficient at getting on base, with a .421 OBP this past season. The Reds need to keep him, in my opinion, as their leadoff man, if they want to be as successful next season as they were in 2013.

Right Field: Carlos Beltran

Team I feel should sign him: Yankees

If the Yankees decide not to keep Cano, as I believe they should do, they will likely make a run at Carlos Beltran, who they are reportedly interested in. A left handed hitter, Beltran would thrive at Yankee stadium and would be a big impact for the Yankees in 2014 and beyond. At 36 years old, Beltran isn’t a player you would want to lock up for any extended period of time, however, any time with Beltran on your team is worth it. Batting .296 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI’s last season, Beltran could have a great season should the Yankees sign him.

Starting Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez

Team I feel should sign him: Twins

A lot of teams need pitching, including the Blue Jays, Rockies, etc., but the Twins are a team I feel could use a guy like Ubaldo Jimenez the most. The Twins are an interesting team, as they don’t have a lot going for them now, but their farm system is one of the best in baseball and they will be a really good team down the road, similar with the Mariners. Should Jimenez sign with them, I could see him developing into the great pitcher he’s capable of being. He’s shown signs of it in the past, and next year could be a break out year for him. Jimenez could really help out the Twins in a big way.

Relief Pitcher: Brian Wilson

Team I feel should sign him: Tigers

While Joe Nathan and Fernando Rodney would be good fits for the Tigers, I feel Brian Wilson would be the best. Wilson has had a lot of ups and downs in his career, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball — something the Tigers could use. Having undergone two Tommy John surgeries, many teams shy away from Wilson. But after the performance he had towards the end of last season, I feel Wilson could be the piece the Tigers need to clinch them a World Series title after coming up short recently.

So, there are my thoughts on which players are the best remaining free agents at each postion, and which team should sign them. Odds are that things won’t go exactly, if at all, how I feel they should, but this is just the way I see it working out best.

Besides Robinson Cano, who do you feel is the best remaining free agent? Cast your vote:

As always, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.