5 MLB Free Agents Who Need to Sign ASAP
Perhaps trying to squeeze in some business before Thanksgiving, many teams decided to throw their hats into the offseason acquisition race this past week.
The New York Yankees upgraded their catching corps by signing Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract. The St. Cardinals also dealt fan favorite David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels for highlight-reel outfield Peter Bourjos.
And without skipping a beat, the Cardinals displaced glove-first shortstop Pete Kozma by ponying up $53 million over four years to Jhonny Peralta, who posted a park-adjusted 119 OPS+ in 2013.
Those three acquisitions were just a few of more than 15 market-altering transactions that went down this past week. But with teams quickly filling voids—and with the great majority of top-shelf free agents still available—certain mid-level players will need to find a job sooner rather than later.
Read on to see all the MLB free agents who need to sign as soon as possible in order to avoid risking dried-up markets.
Phil Hughes was difficult to watch in 2013. After posting a 5.19 ERA (versus a 4.50 FIP) and 1.5 home run-per-nine-innings ratio this past season, Hughes didn’t exactly position himself well for his first venture into free agency.
Hughes would have been a perfect fit with the Kansas City Royals, according to Greg Rybarczk’s HitTrackerOnline.com, but the team already overpaid for a back rotation arm, inking Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million contract.
With the likes of Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana and Masahiro Tanaka all still available, there’s little reason for any team to brashly sign Hughes to anything more than a one-year flyer deal.
Whether it’s a product of his lingering concussion symptoms or just a deterioration of skills, Justin Morneau is nowhere near the player he was in 2010 (pre-concussion) when he posted a park-adjusted 187 OPS+. Between the Minnesota Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates last season, Monreau posted a mere .259 batting average, 103 OPS+ and 17 home runs over 635 plate appearances.
Teams looking to upgrade at first base will undoubtedly chase either Kendrys Morales or Mike Napoli before considering Morneau, who was traded midseason in a salary dump move.
And while the former All-Star could be a productive platoon partner versus right-handed pitching (an .819 OPS and 15 home runs in 2013), Morneau has little chance of scoring a two-year contract once Morales and Napoli are off the boards.
As a part-time player for the Toronto Blue Jays over the past three seasons, Rajai Davis received little notice. The offseason appears to be no different, as the light-hitting outfielder has yet to be linked to a single team.
While Davis has never hit more than eight home runs in a given season, the right-handed hitter knows how to steal a base (he stole 125 from 2011 to 2013) and can aptly play all three outfield positions (a combined 6 DRS from the Fielding Bible).
But with Skip Schumaker, Chris Young and David Murphy quickly inking deals, the market for mid-level outfielders might have dried up. Much to the dismay of Davis, teams will now likely turn their attention to higher-shelf options like Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Through his first 54 plate appearances, few hitters in the majors appeared to be on track for a better 2013 than Mike Morse. In fact, Morse posted a .280 batting average, .993 OPS and six home runs in his first 12 games.
But the right-handed batter would then go on to hit .202 with a .586 OPS and just seven home runs the rest of the season. The Seattle Mariners happily dealt Morse to the Baltimore Orioles for Xavier Avery in August, despite originally trading catcher John Jaso in the offseason to acquire the power hitter.
Morse’s elite 2011 season, during which he hit .291 with a park-adjusted 147 OPS+ and 31 home runs, seems like a distant dream given the hitter’s current disposition. And considering Morse is incapable of playing the outfield (he posted a minus-16 DRS in 2013 according to Fielding Bible), the slugger might find difficulty landing a starting spot given the immense first base and outfield talent still available.
Jose Veras turned a lot of heads in 2013. In his first season as a closer, Veras posted a 2.93 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 139 ERA+), 1.00 WHIP, 3.14 K/BB and 19 saves for the Houston Astros.
But the Astros were only hoping Veras would churn out a good season so the rebuilding organization could flip him. And flip him they did. The Astros dealt the reliever in June to the Detroit Tigers, where he surrendered his closing duties to set up for Joaquin Benoit.
Veras might have proved himself as a closer in 2013, but the 33-year-old unfortunately entered one of the most saturated closer markets in recent memory. Veras will somehow have to fend off Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Brian Wilson, Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit and perhaps even Chris Perez and Edward Mujica for attention this offseason.