2018 Fantasy Baseball: Handicapping the Remaining Free Agents
For the discerning baseball fan, there are several sites that become go to sources for information. Baseball-reference.com is usually the best resource for general statistical information. Fangraphs.com and Baseballprospectus.com have good advanced statistics and commentary on those statistics. However, if one wants to find out the most recent news on free agents and trades they go to mlbtraderumors.com. They have a great app that is supported by IOS (Apple) and Android devices.
Before the free agency period begins they list their top 50 free agents with predictions on where they will go and how much they will get. They usually list some honorable mentions as well. To date, there are seven players that were listed that have gone unsigned. Following is just a fun prediction of where those guys should land before the start of the season. I have no inside information to offer, so I go with what would seem to make the most sense. We will go in the order that mlbtraderumors.com listed them.
Greg Holland— Closer/Setup (#10)
Anytime a guy is in the top ten and unsigned in March you stand up and take notice. However, this makes more sense than we would expect. There are only 30 closing jobs available and Holland has marketed himself as a closer. Why not? He had 41 saves last season and a decent 3.61 ERA. However, that is where the optimism usually stops. He actually had a higher ERA on the road last season than at home. Still, that wasn’t the most alarming line on BR’s splits.
- First Half: 1-1, 1.62 ERA, 28 SV, 1.020 WHIP, 11.6 SO/9
- Second Half: 2-5, 6.38 ERA, 13 SV, 1.333 WHIP, 10.1 SO/9
He still missed bats in the second half as you can see. He allowed fewer hits than innings pitched and his strikeouts to walks ratio actually improved. The home run ball killed him, but stick him in the right environment and he will be effective. It remains to be seen as to whether he will be able to close effectively again. Most contenders already have someone better and the tanking teams don’t care if they have an effective closer. That admittedly leaves only a spot or two left.
Prediction: Texas Rangers
Alex Cobb— Starting Pitcher (#11)
The Scott Boras model is to wait out teams until someone gives you what you want. That methodology works sometimes, but it also can create a game of musical chairs. Sometimes there are no chairs left. Boras has a way of creating a market where one doesn’t exist, but teams are getting wise to his methods. There just are as many pitching starved teams as there used to be. The new concept of tanking has created an interesting wrinkle in the market.
Teams that are destined to win 70 to 75 games don’t need a middle of the rotation starter. Teams destined to win 90 or more games already have their middle of the rotation starters. So, you approach the teams that look to be in the 80 to 85 win zone and hope they have room in their budget for you. That’s fewer teams than you think. Plus, if you take a one year deal like Lance Lynn did then you can find yourself in the same exact position next offseason.
Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers
John Lackey— Starting Pitchers (NR)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, The events of this offseason are about teams getting smarter and not about teams colluding with each other stick it to high priced free agents. Lackey was 12-12 with a 4.59 ERA last season. There was a time when underperforming teams would want a veteran like that on their pitching staff. They’ve discovered that 65 wins is really no worse than 70 wins. So, a young pitcher with a 5.00 ERA is really not that much worse than an expensive veteran with a 4.60 ERA.
Jose Bautista— Outfielder (NR)
According to Bautista, he has major league offers. He’s just sorting through them or waiting on a specific team to make him an offer. He has mentioned the Tampa Bay Rays as a team he would like to play for. Presumably, they haven’t offered or he would likely already be there. Like with the others, it’s a matter of how much you are willing to pay to get marginally better in right fielder or DH.
Jorge Bonifacio of the Royals just landed himself on the suspended list for 80 games. That coupled with some recent additions by the Royals could point the way for him to find a home. Maybe he swallows hard and accepts a modified platoon role where he can get 400 to 500 plate appearances. If he produces 2016 numbers it could be enough to get him a better contract in 2019.
Prediction: Kansas City Royals
Brandon Phillips— Second Baseman (NR)
Speaking of sophistication, the Reds finally picked up on the fact that Phillips was vastly overrated. In 2015, he produced 3.5 bWAR in the last productive season of his career (less than 2.0 bWAR in the last two seasons). Yes, he has 2000+ hits, 200+ steals, 1000 runs scored, and over 200 home runs. Those are pretty empty numbers though because he has never been able to draw a walk on a consistent basis. Much like the others, he is better than replacement level and that would have been enough to get him a starting job in most markets, but now teams that don’t have anyone to put there will put someone making less than a million dollars and wait for a good prospect to come along. If he is willing to accept veteran minimum (million dollars) then he could find a home in a few spots.
Prediction: Detroit Tigers
Melky Cabrera— Outfielder (NR)
If Phillips had a brother in the outfield it might as well be Cabrera. Cabrera puts up numbers because he plays every day and has done so for more than a decade. He’s only 32, but it seems like he has been playing forever. Last season, he hit .285 with 17 home runs, 78 runs, and 85 RBI. Seems like a really good player right? He hasn’t been a positive impact fielder since 2008 and he drew more than 50 walks in a season only once (2006). So, his sole value is in his ability to hit singles and avoid striking out. He has spent most of his career ranging between 1.5 and 4.5 bWAR. There have been some down seasons in there and 2017 was one of them (-0.1 bWAR). He could rebound and be perfectly average. Who wants perfectly average in left field? The list is pretty slim.
Prediction: Miami Marlins
Mark Reynolds— First Base/Designated Hitter
Some people are fascinated by microeconomics and baseball is just one example. Take a guy that hit 30 home runs and nearly drove in 100 runs. He should be highly sought after right? Charlie Finley had a novel idea when free agency first started. He wanted to make everyone a free agent. The union flat out refused. Why? They knew situations like this would happen. If you count Adrian Gonzalez as a free agent (following being cut by the Braves) and Brandon Moss (now a free agent) there were 12 different first basemen that played regularly at first or DH that got a full season’s worth of at bats. It only stands to reason that at least one would be left holding the bag. That guy is Reynolds.
His choice would seem to be down to the Rockies. So, the Rockies have to ask whether they want to gamble on the young players or get a baseline of production out of him. If the Rockies weren’t defending a wild card berth you would expect them to go young, but they might go ahead and add him to just have him as insurance in case the young kids don’t cut the mustard.
Prediction: Colorado Rockies