Constructing the 2018 All-Free Agent Lineup
In the midst of an unusually slow offseason, what would a lineup constructed from today’s available free agents look like? How good could it be?
As February begins, the beginning of Spring Training is just on the horizon- an exciting time for the baseball community. But for the glut of talented free agents still left unsigned this winter, this notion may be far more terrifying than it is festive. This offseason has been unusually slow, with teams seemingly more intent on developing talent from within and jumping in on next year’s loaded free agent class than signing any of the players that are currently available.
Analytics departments appear to have caught on to the fact that it just doesn’t make much sense to overpay for a free agent that is past his prime. Rather, cheap and controllable talent is more affordable and is fully capable of winning championships. Just ask the Chicago Cubs or Houston Astros.
The current crop of free agents appears to be caught in between an overhaul in the way Major League Baseball deals with free agency. They are suffering from a system that is certainly bending, if not already broken. So what if we constructed a lineup with today’s available free agents? How good could this team be?
Left Field: Carlos Gonzalez
2017 stats: .262/.339/.423, 14 home runs, 57 RBI’s
Although Gonzalez struggled in 2017, he is still a capable player with veteran leadership and will provide value beyond his production on the field to whichever team signs him. Gonzalez is a three-time Gold Glove Award winner in the outfield, has appeared in three All-Star Games and remains a respected figure around the league. A change of scenery may help Gonzalez recapture some of his prior success. It makes sense for a contending team to pick up Gonzalez on the cheap in an attempt to squeeze out any quality baseball he might have left in the tank.
Center Field: Carlos Gomez
2017 stats: .255/.340/.462, 17 home runs, 51 RBI’s
Like Gonzalez, Gomez is a player whose best days are behind him. But that does not mean he doesn’t deserve a roster spot, and Gomez’s play in 2017 appears to indicate that he has plateaued as a serviceable veteran outfielder. He likely isn’t going to anymore All-Star games, but Gomez can still provide speed and depth for a club looking for a platoon player or fourth outfielder.
Right Field: J.D. Martinez
2017 stats: .303/.376/.690, 45 home runs, 104 RBI’s
Martinez may be the player suffering most from this odd time in the free agent market. In almost any other year, Martinez would have been in line for a massive payday, as many thought (and continue to hope) will come from the Boston Red Sox. At 30 years old, Martinez still has prime years left as a devastating middle of the order bat. Martinez carried the Arizona Diamondbacks down the stretch in 2017, hitting 29 home runs in just 62 games in the midst of a pennant race.
He is an All-Star and may actually be one of the more underrated players in the game today. Martinez’s struggles in the free agent market are the perfect example of the kind of offseason Major League Baseball is currently enduring.
1st Base: Eric Hosmer
2017 stats: .318/.385/.498, 25 home runs, 94 RBI’s
Hosmer is one of the more polarizing players in baseball. Those around the game seem to be split on just how valuable Hosmer is, and how much playing in the pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium has impacted his power statistics.
But it’s undeniable that Hosmer is a champion, an All-Star, a nearly annual Gold Glove winner, and carries a tone in the locker room that is conducive to winning. He’s a valuable player, he just might not be the power-hitting first baseman prototype that many seek. Whoever signs Hosmer should reap the rewards of this deflated market.
2nd Base: Neil Walker
2017 stats: .265/.262/.439, 14 home runs, 49 RBI’s
The perfect summary for Walker may go as follows: he is good.
Walker will not wow you with his athleticism, but he is a baseball player in the truest sense of the term. Walker’s power numbers may have been skewed by an injury plagued 2017. He is a terrific stop-gap second baseman for a club not willing to commit to that position long term.
Shortstop: Eduardo Nunez
2017 stats: .313/.341/.460, 12 home runs, 58 RBI’s
Nunez is a player that will not hit for a ton of power but will go for a high average and is very versatile in that he can play all three infield positions besides first base seamlessly. Nunez was terrific for the Red Sox down the stretch and is one the key reasons the club was able to finish ahead of the Yankees for the regular season AL East crown.
Like the rest of the players on this list, there is no reason other than financials for Nunez to head into Spring Training without a job.
Third Base: Mike Moustakas
2017 stats: .272/.314/.521, 38 home runs, 85 RBI’s
These Royals players are weird to evaluate, aren’t they?
Moustakas essentially fits into the same mold as Hosmer. There’s no denying that he is quite good, but there is a difference in opinion as to just how good he is, and whether last year’s 38 home runs were the beginning of a trend or an anomaly. It’ll be up to agent Scott Boras to convince a team that at age 29, things are just beginning to get going for Moustakas.
Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy
2917 stats: .265/.345/.371, 6 home runs, 40 RBI’s
If you’re sensing a theme with these players, that’s because there is one. Many of the free agents still available are clearly past their primes and would cost more than a comparable but younger player.
Still, Lucroy is a professional. There is no doubt he’ll have a place on someone’s roster before Opening Day, likely with a team in position to contend.
Starting Pitcher: Jake Arrieta
2017 stats: 14-10, 3.53 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 163 SO, 168.1 IP
Entering his age-32 season, Arrieta is set to benefit from a change of scenery. He is still an exceptional pitcher than any club would welcome into their postseason starting rotation. Arrieta is a bulldog, and although he’ll never return to the dominant 2015 version of himself, will be an important player in the divisional race for whichever team inks him.