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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Best remaining MLB free agent at every position

Eric Hosmer

In the slowest offseason in recent memory, numerous top Major League Baseball free agents remain unsigned. You could put a pretty solid team together solely consisting of players who remain unsigned in February, with spring training a matter of weeks away.

Teams in need of help can still look at pretty much any position and find someone at least passable. Here’s a glance at the best player remaining on the market at each position.

Catcher – Jonathan Lucroy

Once a potent offensive catcher regarded as one of the best in the game at framing pitches, Lucroy has seen his star fade a bit. He’s still a threat, though, and he proved that by hitting .310 in his short stint with the Colorado Rockies last season. Lucroy is still a career .281 hitter and a reliable defensive backstop, and he probably could come cheap, making it something of a surprise that he hasn’t signed yet. He’s not the top starter that he once was, but he’s a solid option all the same.

First Base – Eric Hosmer

Hosmer is basically everything you’d want in a free agent. He’s still only 28, he’s won a Gold Glove at first base, he’s coming off a season where he hit .318 with 25 home runs, and he has won a World Series already. He’s not signed yet because he’s reportedly looking for a huge commitment in terms of contract length, but he has all the skills teams are looking for. He could help anchor a lineup for years to come.

Second Base – Neil Walker

Walker has always been a nice, steady second baseman, especially in his years in Pittsburgh. He’s coming off his worst offensive season as a big leaguer, but even then, he still hit .265 with 14 home runs and got on base at an impressive .362 clip. He won’t be a star, but he could certainly fill out a lineup for a contender. The big problem for him is that most contenders are already set at second base, and the market just isn’t robust for him right now.

Shortstop – Eduardo Nunez

Nunez has the bonus of being able to play all over the field. Primarily an infielder, he can fit pretty much anywhere on a diamond, and has a long history of being a very versatile player. He can hit, too — he’s coming fresh off a season he split between San Francisco and Boston, where he hit .313 with 12 home runs and 24 stolen bases. Between his bat and his positional flexibility, he should definitely be able to find himself a job.

Third Base – Mike Moustakas

The 29-year-old former Royal certainly took full advantage of his contract year. His 2015 season was great, but his 2016 was cut short due to injury, so he had a lot to prove in 2017. He certainly did so, hitting .272 with a career-best 38 home runs. A power bat with a capable enough glove at third, Moustakas hasn’t even hit age 30 yet. More consistency and a longer track record would have been nice, but he proved all he could with an excellent 2017.

Left Field – Melky Cabrera

The Melkman can still hit some, as he proved in 2017 by hitting .285 between the White Sox and Royals. He is what he is at this point; he’s not an elite defender and he doesn’t have a ton of power, nor does he walk much. He does, however, hit for a fairly high average, and players like that still tend to find roles on rosters. And hey, even if he’s not the best defender, he’s proven that he’s still capable of making a highlight reel play every once in a while.

Center Field – Carlos Gomez

Gomez was once on the brink of superstardom, but a trade to the Houston Astros in 2015 more or less tanked his career. He landed with the Texas Rangers and spent 2017 trying to recapture the magic, and while he didn’t entirely, he was still a better player there than he was with Houston. Gomez hit .255 with 17 home runs — plus he led the league with a rather astonishing 19 hit by pitches. Gomez isn’t the elite hitter or flashy defender he once was, but he’s a center fielder with some pop. Someone will give him a shot.

Right Field – J.D. Martinez

When it comes to the game’s best sluggers, Martinez is, at least since 2014, right near the top of that list. A 45 home run season in 2017 solidified his place as an elite hitter, and the 30-year-old didn’t look like he was slowing down anytime soon as he slugged the Arizona Diamondbacks into the postseason. Like many of his peers, he’s effectively been in a standoff with the market, apparently dismayed by the length — or lack thereof — of his only known offer.

Designated Hitter – Logan Morrison

Morrison split time between first base and designated hitter for the Tampa Bay Rays last season, and frankly, he still profiles somewhat as a first baseman. Still, his strength is his bat, and he had an unexpectedly great season out of the blue for the Rays in 2017. His 38 home runs were easily a career high, though there have to be some questions regarding how real that breakout is. Most of the interest in him hasn’t been followed up on, with the market being particularly unkind to power-hitting first base/DH types like LoMo.

Staring pitcher – Yu Darvish

Despite that World Series disaster, Darvish remains in high demand, and for good reason. Even in what seemed like an underwhelming 2017 season, he struck out over 200 batters and posted a 3.44 ERA in nine regular season starts for the Dodgers. Few pitchers can match his stuff, and he throws a number of pitches to keep opposing hitters off balance. More than any of the other players on his list, he certainly seems to be the closest to finding a new team.

Relief pitcher – Greg Holland

Holland would have been even more appealing to teams if not for a horrendous stretch of outings in August that raised his ERA by over two full runs. He got it together in September, though, and ended up saving an NL-best 41 games with a 3.61 ERA. It was a season that pretty definitively answered any lingering questions after his recovery from Tommy John surgery. One team in particular in need of back-end bullpen help has been consistently linked to Holland, but nothing seems to have come particularly close yet.



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