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
Every single season, at least one team gets lucky with one of their offseason acquisitions. Typically, a player who didn’t get much attention during the offseason ends up being a key piece in a World Series or playoff run — just look at Charlie Morton of the Houston Astros or Brandon Morrow of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Here’s a look at 12 free agents who aren’t going to command massive contracts and astronomical bidding wars, but could still be big contributors for someone in 2018.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF
Gonzalez has some caveats associated with him. The biggest one is that he’s simply never been as good away from Coors Field as he was at home, and obviously he won’t have that luxury anymore. This is still a guy who hit 40 home runs two years ago and hit .298 with 20 homers in 2016, so there’s pop in the bat despite an awful 2017. The fact is that Gonzalez can still contribute to an offense, even away from Coors Field — he could be a nice bounceback candidate.
Steve Cishek, P
Once one of the game’s more respected closers, Cishek has been marred by some inconsistency over the past few seasons, which is not exactly a unique thing for relief pitchers. He was great under-the-radar with Seattle and especially Tampa Bay in 2017, posting a 2.01 ERA overall. He may be able to close for someone, but he’s been performing so well as a setup man that any interested teams may simply want him to fill that role and stay there.
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
The Milwaukee Brewers, still right in the thick of the NL Central race, are reportedly shoring up for the stretch run.
According to reports, the Brewers will acquire second baseman Neil Walker from the New York Mets.
The 31-year-old Walker is a career .272 hitter. He’s at .264 with 10 home runs in 2017, though he’s only a year removed from a campaign in which he slugged 23 home runs and hit .282.
Jonathan Villar, Milwaukee’s primary second baseman, has hit just .222 this season, making the position something of a black hole for Milwaukee. That’s why they were interested in another second baseman and ultimately landed Walker.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson apparently likes what he has been seeing from second baseman Neil Walker this year.
According to a report by Roger Rubin of ESPN on Tuesday, the Mets and Alderson are expected to talk with Walker about the possibility of a contract extension before the end of the season.
“I have not had any conversations with his agent at this point. I expect that there will be some conversations before the end of the season,” Alderson was quoted as saying. “He’s been a terrific player for us on the field. He’s been excellent in the clubhouse.”
Walker, 30, was acquired by the Mets in exchange for Jonathan Niese last December. The way it stands right now, Walker is set to become a free agent upon the conclusion of the 2016 season.
Though not previously seen as much more than a rental player, Walker has impressed this year with a .271 batting average, 20 home runs, and 51 RBIs in 103 games. With Daniel Murphy bolting for Washington and team captain David Wright on the shelf, Walker has been a foundational piece for the Mets infield this season, so it’s easy to see why they want to keep him around.
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H/T MLB Trade Rumors