Which Destinations Make the Most Sense for Remaining Free Agents?
With less than two weeks until pitchers and catchers report, Major League rosters are beginning to take shape. Most clubs already have the nucleus of their teams built and most pundits have already begun to predict how teams will finish in the 2017 standings.
But there are still a strong set of free agents waiting to be claimed. The remaining free agents are mostly complementary players capable of helping a contending club. So, what is the market for these free agents and where will they land?
Mike Napoli – 1B/DH
In the last nine seasons, Napoli has been in the postseason seven times. Needless to say, Napoli makes the most sense for a winning team in need of a power hitting role player.
Napoli had a tremendous season in 2016, hitting a career high 34 home runs and 101 RBI’s in 150 games. A proven veteran, Napoli is a strong locker room presence who embraces the big moments. Napoli should make his way onto a contending roster before position players report.
Best Fit: Texas Rangers
Matt Wieters – C
It’s been a long time since Wieters was considered the next big thing- elbow injuries have ravaged the catcher and now, the former prodigy is entering his age 30 season. Wieters looks to be a bargain deal for a club willing to take a flyer on a high risk, high reward type of player.
With a .243/.302/.409 slash line in 2016, Wieters is still a respectable catching candidate. He may have to wait for a spring training injury to latch onto a Major League roster, but Wieters will surely get his opportunity in 2017.
Best Fit: Houston Astros
Chase Utley – 2B
Utley is clearly not what he once was. But with a .319 on base percentage and 14 home runs in 2016, Utley is still a serviceable role player. Utley turned 38 years old in December, making his durability a cause for concern. Utley has spent his entire career in the National League but a move to the American League could make sense, allotting time for him as the DH.
Utley is an aging player squeezing the absolute last ounce of productivity he has left. In a backup or platoon role, he can be extremely successful this upcoming year.
Best Fit: Kansas City Royals
Jason Hammel – SP
Hammel is the epitome of a dependable fourth of fifth starting pitcher. In 2016, Hammel threw 166.2 innings pitched with a 3.83 ERA for the World Series champion Chicago Cubs. The fact that Hammel is still on the market comes as a surprise to most around baseball. Hammel is a lock for 30 starts and 8-12 wins every year, making him a valuable regular season asset. Though Hammel is not flashy, he is the type of starting pitcher that any team could use. Once he signs, Hammel will likely fade into the back of a rotation and flourish, just like he always has.
Best Fit: Baltimore Orioles
Chris Carter – 1B
Carter’s firm stance in the free agent market is a sign of the times. Gone are the days when teams and fans overvalued home runs. Now, as analytics have progressed, so too has the thinking of front offices. Statistics such as on base percentage, on base plus, and wins above replacement are used more often to evaluate players as opposed to dated stats such as home runs and RBIs.
Carter has received such little attention on the open market that there have been murmurs of the slugger spending next season in Japan. Last year, Carter led the National League with 41 home runs. But still, he will likely spend Opening Day unemployed. His best shot at landing a Major League job is with a below average club looking for a cheap power fix.
Best Fit: Oakland Athletics
Joe Blanton – RHP
In recent years, Blanton has reinvented himself as a quality relief pitcher. Blanton posted a 2.48 ERA in 80 innings pitched last year, proving that he is a solid option for bullpen depth. His skills do not translate into an 8th or 9th inning role, but Blanton is an ideal innings eating as a middle reliever. Look for Blanton to latch onto a contending team as part of a monster bullpen.
Best Fit: Toronto Blue Jays
Jerry Blevins – LHP
Like Blanton, Blevins is a role player. He is most effective in lefty on lefty situations, a key role for any club. Blevins enjoyed success for the Mets a year ago and although many New Yorkers would love to see him back in blue and orange, Mets management seems reluctant to give the southpaw a willing offer. Blevins deserves to be on a Major League roster and should be by the time pitchers and catchers report.
Best Fit: New York Mets