Friday, February 3, 2017

Remaining MLB Free Agent Bargains

With spring training just a few short weeks away, teams are scavenging the free agent market looking for a bargain on a player that the market has undervalued for whatever reason. Today, we'll take a look at a few possible bargains that remain on the market.

It's worth noting that not all of these players will sign for a bargain bin contract just because they remain unsigned at this point.

Starting Pitchers:

Henderson Alvarez - In 2014, while pitching for the Miami Marlins, Alvarez posted a 2.65 ERA in 187 innings, and seemed well on his way to becoming a very important piece of the team's future. Unfortunately, he's dealt with an array of shoulder and elbow injuries since, and has made just 4 starts in the last two seasons, and likely won't be ready until May this season at the earliest.

Alvarez won't turn 27 until April, so if he can get healthy he's a great bounce back candidate, but getting healthy is always a big question mark. He signed for one year and $4.25 million a year ago, and then didn't pitch at all, so I would guess a low guarantee like $2 million with some incentives is what he'll ultimately receive.

Jorge De La Rosa - The former Colorado Rockies starter will turn 36 in April, so it's possible his decline last season was a sign of things to come. He posted a 5.51 ERA after posting ERA's of 3.49, 4.10 and 4.17 the prior 3 seasons. It's no surprise as he ages, though, that his numbers hold up less playing in Coors Field. Getting to pitch in a normal stadium might help him prolong his career.

He's unlikely to be more than a bottom of the rotation starter even if he does bounce back, so I'd expect a deal similar to the one Ryan Vogelsong signed with the Twins, but with a higher base salary if he makes the team.

Nathan Eovaldi - Eovaldi has long been overvalued because of the high 90's velocity on his fastball. Despite throwing as hard as he does, he's not anywhere close to a strikeout pitcher, and his run prevention has declined as he moved from the NL to the AL. He's a bottom of the rotation starter at this point.

Now, he's trying to come back from Tommy John Surgery in August, and is expected to miss all of the 2017 season. However, a team that's willing to sign Eovaldi to a multi-year contract could oversee his rehab as well as try to get value from a healthy Eovaldi next season.

Jason Hammel - Peter Gammons tweeted yesterday that most teams assumed Hammel was hurt when the Chicago Cubs didn't use him down the stretch and then didn't pick up his $12MM option for 2017, but he's perfectly healthy.

If he is indeed healthy, I don't expect Hammel to sign for much of a bargain, as several teams would likely be willing to pay him even more than his option amount for one season of work. But he's worth keeping an eye on.

Others worth a flyer:
Colby Lewis
CJ Wilson

Relief Pitchers:

Joe Blanton - Over the past two seasons, Blanton has emerged as a quality relief option for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite his production he remains unsigned at this point, and I think it's likely he signs for something close to $6MM a year. On a one-year deal though that would be a nice low risk signing for most teams.

Luke Hochevar - One piece of the dominating late-inning relievers the Kansas City Royals rode to a World Series championship, the former #1 overall pick remains a free agent because he had surgery in August. He's been dominant as a reliever over the years, and he's expected to be healthy in time for Spring Training.

Others worth a flyer:
Sergio Romo

Power Bats:

1B/OF Chris Carter - His immense power makes him a potential bargain every season, but his lack of other skills is why he remains available at this point. If he can cut down on his strikeouts just a small amount and hit a few more home runs, he could be a valuable DH or pinch hitter off the bench. I'd be shocked if he signs for more than $2 million.

1B Adam Lind - The big left-hander struggled this past season, but as recently as 2015 he posted an .820 OPS with 20 home runs. His defense leaves a lot to be desired and he shouldn't play against left handed pitching, but if Lind is available for $5MM or less he could potentially out produce someone like Joe Mauer who's making 5 times that amount.

1B Mike Napoli - The best remaining free agent in my opinion, Napoli will likely sign for $10 million or more a year. However, for one or two seasons, that's an absolute steal for the production he provided last season. Teams will need to move fast, though, as he should sign in the near future.

There are very few infielders or outfielders that are more than backups at this point, so the offensive side of free agency is really lacking talent at this point. Teams looking for values would be wise to target these players over the next few weeks.



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