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Monday, December 18, 2017

Each MLB team’s most important free agent

Jake Arrieta

Pretty much every MLB team will have to deal with the reality that a few of their players are headed to free agency. For many teams, the ability to keep all their players is just not feasible. In some cases, they will be losing role players or guys who were on short-term contracts. Others, though, are watching as franchise players and integral parts of organizations head into the free agent market, possibly for greener pastures.

Here’s a look at one important free agent from each team who played at least some part in their 2017 campaign.

Arizona Diamondbacks — J.D. Martinez, outfielder

He was only a Diamondback for a little over two months, but what an impact Martinez had. He took advantage of the friendly hitting environment to smack 29 home runs in 62 games, powering the Diamondbacks to the NLDS along the way. He’ll probably prove too expensive for Arizona to retain him, and they have bigger needs to fill anyway, but he won’t be easily forgotten. Martinez is said to be seeking a $200 million contract. Arizona will be weaker next season without his power, even if his tenure was a brief one.

Atlanta Braves — R.A. Dickey, pitcher

With only two free agents, Atlanta doesn’t have much to deal with in terms of departures. The team decided not to pick up the 43-year-old pitcher’s option for 2018, and Dickey may be considering retirement. His importance lies in the position he plays; in terms of ERA, he was the Braves’ best starting pitcher at 4.26. The Braves will be searching for someone established to replace him — their pitching disappointed last season, and they may think they have an outside chance of making a run in 2018.

Baltimore Orioles — Chris Tillman, pitcher

Tillman had an awful 2017. He posted a 7.84 ERA, lost his rotation spot, and blew his shot at a lot of money in the process. It could wind up being mutually beneficial for the two parties to reunite. Tillman had a good deal of success in Baltimore prior to his lost season, posting a 3.91 ERA in 128 starts between 2013 and 2016. He’s still only 29, and the Orioles are in dire need of some decent starting pitching. Maybe Tillman has lost it for good. But maybe he hasn’t. The Orioles would do well to give him a one-year deal and hope he can rebuild his value with them.

Boston Red Sox — Mitch Moreland, first baseman

Boston’s pseudo-replacement for David Ortiz actually ended up third on the team in home runs, although one could argue that has as much to do with the relative absence of power in the Red Sox lineup of 2017 than it does with Moreland himself. Ultimately, his departure leaves the Red Sox starting lineup with a hole that needs to be filled. Boston would prefer to fill it with a power bat, and there’s a perfect candidate on the market to do so. For other teams, Moreland will be a nice left-handed power option.

Chicago Cubs — Jake Arrieta, pitcher

Try as they might, the Cubs couldn’t get anything done long-term with Arrieta, meaning he’s likely on his way out of town. He’s certainly looking forward to his free agency, but Chicago isn’t. Their rotation was already plagued by inconsistency for much of the season, and taking the former Cy Young winner out of the equation will do nothing to help that. The Cubs would love him back, but not at the price he’ll likely command, leaving a major void on their roster.

Chicago White Sox — Mike Pelfrey, pitcher

The only other free agent on the roster, catcher Geovany Soto, had just 48 plate appearances for the 2017 White Sox, so Pelfrey more or less nabs this spot by default. His role shouldn’t be immediately dismissed, though. Yes, his ERA was nearly six, and he wasn’t at all effective, but he still ate 120 innings for a last-place club. Someone will have to replace him next year — hopefully someone better, but the White Sox will need at least some help in that department.

Cincinnati Reds — Zack Cozart, shortstop

Cozart was a first-time All-Star in 2017, hitting .297 with 24 home runs for the lowly Reds. They’ll miss him, but they have Jose Peraza lined up to replace him, so it’s a blow that they can at least absorb. Plus, the Reds aren’t very close to contention, so they have no need for Cozart anyway. He’ll be a very nice pickup for a team looking for a steady, veteran shortstop who, while not a superstar, can absolutely help them win now. The Angels are a team said to have interest in Cozart.

Cleveland Indians — Carlos Santana, first base

Santana has been a central figure for Cleveland for the better part of the last decade, a key figure in their rise from a bottom-feeding team to one of the American League’s leading contenders. While he never turned out to be a high average hitter and had to be moved off catcher, he’s still good for around 25 home runs and a lot of walks, which is a combination that will play in today’s game. Cleveland would love to keep him, but the cost may end up being prohibitive. The Mariners and Red Sox are among the teams said to have interest in Santana.

Colorado Rockies — Greg Holland, pitcher

The Rockies will dearly miss Holland, who is likely going to prove too expensive for them to retain now that he’s unsurprisingly turned down two one-year options. One of the market’s best relievers, he saved 41 games for Colorado in 2017 with a 3.61 ERA. They’ll have to figure out how to replace that solidity at the back of the bullpen. Holland’s reliability was a big reason for the Rockies’ surprising success, especially since the options behind him weren’t really elite.

Detroit Tigers — Anibal Sanchez, pitcher

The Tigers traded pretty much every pending free agent with any value whatsoever at the trade deadline, leaving Sanchez as their only major departure in this regard. A major part of two World Series contenders, it’s now been three years since he looked like a capable big league pitcher, and he turns 34 in February. He’ll probably get a minor league deal from some team, but the days of him being a high-quality starter are probably long gone at this point.

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