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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Top 10 remaining MLB free agents

Bryce Harper

Even as we move toward Christmas, the bulk of Major League Baseball’s big-name free agents remain unsigned. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado both appear willing to bide their time to get the offers they feel they deserve, while the rest of the market seems to be moving slowly on some of the other names available. That means that two weeks away from 2019, there are still plenty of options available for teams eager to improve via free agency.

Here are the 10 best free agents still on the market.

10. Marwin Gonzalez, IF/OF

Gonzalez will never be a star, but he will be an extremely valuable player for someone. The former Houston Astro spent at least some time at seven positions last season, not including DH, with only pitcher and catcher not on the list. That versatility, combined with the fact that he has enough pop in his bat to be a threat when he’s at the plate, makes him a valuable player. Remember, this is a guy who got MVP votes in 2017. He could do a lot for a contender.

9. Yusei Kikuchi, SP

We won’t know what Kikuchi has to offer until he gets to America, but the general consensus is he can slot into an MLB rotation as a mid-rotation lefty. If you can get a 27-year-old who can give you a lot of innings via free agency, that’s a pretty solid deal. Kikuchi has a troubling history of shoulder issues, but the financial commitment to land him likely won’t be anywhere close to nine figures, so he’s worth a shot and could turn out to be a real value.

8. Andrew Miller, RP

Miller’s status has definitely fallen some after a season that saw him plagued by injury and ineffectiveness. That’s concerning, especially with him set to turn 34 in May. However, he has such a long record of success that teams will be eager to give him another shot, and rightly so. From 2014 through 2017, Miller posted a 1.72 ERA with 421 strikeouts in 261 innings. It’s no surprise that he’s attracting interest from two of the offseason’s more aggressive teams.

7. Zach Britton, RP

Britton is another player with an incredibly high peak but an injury history to be wary of. A variety of injuries have ensured that he hasn’t quite been his best self since the end of the 2016 season, but at 31 years old on Opening Day, he’s still young enough that teams will believe he can get back on track. This is a guy who still touches 95 on the radar gun from the left side while getting over 70 percent ground balls. There’s a spot in every bullpen for an arm like that, even if it may never be 2016 again.

6. Yasmani Grandal, C

As the catching market slowly dries up, arguably the best name on the market is still available. At 30, Grandal is still fairly young and has hit at least 20 home runs in each of his last three seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. While not an elite defender, he’s regarded as a strong pitch-framer, and the fact that he’s a switch-hitter only adds to his appeal. Teams still need catchers, and he may be a more realistic target for many than a trade for Miami’s J.T. Realmuto would be.

5. A.J. Pollock, OF

The center fielder has never quite been the same player since breaking his elbow just before the start of the 2016 season. Once a .300 hitter, he’s hit .261 since the start of the 2017 season. Still, there’s value in what Pollock does. He’s a decent center fielder with 20 home run pop, and he was back to posting an above-average OPS last season after a couple of middling years. Health will always be an issue — he’s played 112 and 113 games the last two years — but he’s worth a shot.

4. Dallas Keuchel, SP

Keuchel’s star has faded a bit over the last year or so, with his ERA jumping to 3.74 last season. He doesn’t quite fit the power arm profile that teams love, as his strikeout numbers dropped in 2018 to 6.7 per nine innings, and his WHIP was his highest since his second MLB season. He still threw over 200 solid innings from the left-hand side, though, and that will be enough to entice some teams now that the likes of Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ are off the board.

3. Craig Kimbrel, RP

After a rather pronounced hiccup during the ALCS, Kimbrel was back to his best when it counted. He saved 42 games in the regular season and while his walk rate is still a bit higher than it was in his peak years with Atlanta, his strikeout rate hasn’t really faded. Kimbrel still has the stuff to close out big games as long as he’s not tipping pitches. He turns 31 in May and is apparently looking for a lengthy deal that some suitors will probably balk at, which is likely the reason he’s still unsigned.

2. Manny Machado, IF

Whether you prefer Machado or Harper is mostly down to personal preference. Machado is still only 26, can play two infield positions well, and is a .282 career hitter who averages 31 home runs a season. Whenever he lands, a massive contract is in his future. There are lingering concerns about his temperament and effort, but Machado can point to his full body of work to demonstrate what he’s capable of. In the grand scheme of things, his previous transgressions are likely to be ignored when it comes time for teams to make a decision on him.

1. Bryce Harper, OF

Harper’s 2015 season in which he hit .330 with 42 home runs still hovers tantalizingly as a reminder of what he can be if everything goes right. Injuries and underperformance have been an issue since then, but it says something when a .393 OBP and 34 home runs, as he put up in 2018, feel underwhelming. Interestingly, we don’t really have a sense of Harper’s market. In fact, there is talk that one interested team may not be as interested as it originally seemed. He’ll probably sign in the new year, and probably for record money — and he’ll deserve it, too.



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