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#pounditTuesday, October 4, 2022

Each MLB team’s most important free agent

Eric Hosmer

Houston Astros — Carlos Beltran, designated hitter

The World Series champs won’t lose much of their core in free agency this year, which bodes well for their chances of repeating. But they will be doing it without Beltra, who has opted to retire. Beltran was a a valuable veteran leader on a young team, and it’s not a coincidence that things fell into place so well for the Astros after they added him. The 40-year-old still contributed 14 home runs to the cause as well, even if he’s not the hitter he used to be anymore.

Kansas City Royals — Eric Hosmer, first base

If this is indeed it for Hosmer in Kansas City, it’s been quite the run. He was instrumental in bringing the Royals their first championship in 30 years, and his dash home in the 9th inning of Game 5 of that World Series will live long in Kansas City folklore. They’d love to keep him, but the Royals don’t really have a massive amount of payroll flexibility and may not be able to offer the same terms that, say, a Boston or New York could. They’ll miss him badly if he goes, and it will represent the end of this successful era of Royals baseball.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim — Yunel Escobar, infielder

The Angels have already managed to retain Justin Upton, who would have been by far their most prominent free agent had he elected to opt out and test the market instead of signing a new deal. Focus turns instead to lesser players on the roster. Escobar battled an oblique injury and played just over half a season in 2017, though he still contributed a .274 average. Escobar’s two years in Anaheim were about what could have been expected of him. He can play a bit part role on a good team.

Los Angeles Dodgers — Yu Darvish, pitcher

Put aside his dreadful World Series for a moment, difficult as that may be, and you’ll remember why Darvish will be so highly sought after on the market this winter. He has a career 3.42 ERA despite doing most of his pitching in Texas, and he’s one of the game’s preeminent strikeout pitchers, especially considering he’s a starter. He’ll still get the big bucks; it just probably won’t be from the Dodgers given how things went as the season came to an end.

Miami Marlins — Dustin McGowan, pitcher

McGowan wasn’t great for the Marlins, but he was often called upon in relief to eat innings for a Miami team that struggled for much of the year. His 77.2 innings comfortably led the Marlins’ bullpen in that regard. He’s not going to be a huge draw on the free agent market, but there’s always a market for guys who can eat up some innings and not be absolutely horrible at it. The Marlins will at least have to find someone else who can shoulder that burden.

Milwaukee Brewers — Neil Walker, second baseman

Walker was a nice add down the stretch for the Brewers, a solid second baseman who could hit for some power. He was more or less what Milwaukee could have hoped for, adding four home runs to their ultimately insufficient stretch run. Walker was particularly important for the Brewers, as the team was really not great all-around when it came to hitting. Walker could be a nice addition for someone — he’s just a year removed from hitting .282 with 23 home runs for the Mets. The Pirates and Angels have been mentioned as potential fits.

Minnesota Twins — Matt Belisle, pitcher

Belisle became the Twins’ closer after they dealt Brandon Kintzler to the Washington Nationals in July, and he actually turned out to be quite good at it. He posted a 2.55 ERA in August and September as he saved nine of 11 opportunities down the stretch. Between the Kintzler trade and Belisle’s free agency, this means the Twins are in dire need of some steadiness at the back end of their bullpen. Belisle’s late season success should earn him a job somewhere with relative ease.

New York Mets — Jose Reyes, shortstop

The club’s lone free agent, this may really be it for Reyes in New York. He can still steal a base for you and his 15 home runs were the most he’s hit since 2008, but his batting average cratered to .246. He spent most of the season as the Mets’ starting shortstop, but top prospect Amed Rosario is poised to take over that role, meaning the Mets can part with Reyes pain-free this time, although they’re said to be considering bringing him back to play second. He’ll probably catch on somewhere, just because he can still run and has a tiny but of pop left in his bat.

New York Yankees — CC Sabathia, pitcher

Say what you will about Sabathia at his age — he has adapted, learned how to pitch with less stuff, and the Yankees trusted him enough to give him the ball in two elimination games during the postseason. They lost in Houston, but it did pay off when they faced Cleveland. Even at 37, Sabathia managed to get his ERA down to 3.69, his lowest mark since 2012. He’ll definitely find a job somewhere — maybe back with the Yankees if they decide to bring him back, which he’d love.

Oakland Athletics — None

The Athletics don’t have a single major league free agent this offseason. The only one who could have hit the market was second baseman Jed Lowrie, whose club option was quickly picked up by the team. Such are the benefits of a young, rebuilding team. Oakland hasn’t relied on veteran stopgaps much over the last few years, so they don’t have to worry about retaining anyone beyond Lowrie. That strategy will probably continue into this offseason.

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