Which 2019 MLB Free Agents Should Your Team Buy Low On?

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2019

Which 2019 MLB Free Agents Should Your Team Buy Low On?

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    This year's MLB free-agent class has no shortage of star power, with Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon headlining a deep crop of available players looking for their next contracts.

    We aren't focusing on the top of the market here, though.

    Below we have highlighted seven players that teams should be looking to buy low on this winter, as they all have a good chance of providing significant value beyond what it will cost to sign them.

    It's a mix of established veterans coming off down years or injury-plagued seasons, role players who finished 2019 on a high note, and one international standout who could be ready for an MLB return.

OF Corey Dickerson

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    Corey Dickerson was an All-Star in 2017 and a 3.8-WAR player and Gold Glove winner in 2018, but he's hitting the open market for the first time on the heels of an injury-plagued season.

    A shoulder strain cost him two months at the start of the season, a nagging groin injury hampered him throughout the summer, and a fractured foot prematurely ended his season in September.

    All of that limited Dickerson to 78 games, yet he remained extremely productive when he was on the field. He hit .304/.341/.565 with 28 doubles and 12 home runs in 279 plate appearances.

    Among players with at least 250 plate appearances, his 131 OPS+ was tied for 43rd, ahead of the likes of Kris Bryant (130), Nolan Arenado (129), Gleyber Torres (128), Josh Donaldson (127), Bryce Harper (125), Ronald Acuna Jr. (122), Francisco Lindor (118) and countless other big names.

    MLB Trade Rumors predicted Dickerson will sign a modest two-year, $15 million contract this winter. At that price, the 30-year-old could easily prove to be one of the best buy-low bargains of the offseason.

RP Collin McHugh

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    In 2018, Collin McHugh was one of the most effective relievers in baseball.

    After he spent four seasons in the starting rotation, the Houston Astros pushed him to the bullpen when they added Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. He responded with a pristine 1.99 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in 58 appearances.

    His stuff played up to the tune of a career-high 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings, and he was a valuable multi-inning weapon with 72.1 innings of work over those 58 games. His 2.72 FIP also painted his work in an extremely positive light.

    Looking to fill out the starting staff following the departures of Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel, the Astros returned McHugh to the rotation in 2019. However, he scuffled to a 6.37 ERA over eight starts before he went back to the bullpen in the middle of May.

    He went on to pitch well the rest of the way with a 2.67 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 27 appearances, which would seem to support the idea that he's better suited for relief work at this point.

    If he's willing to embrace a full-time move to the bullpen, he could be a valuable multi-inning option for a team looking to add some length to its relief corps.

SP Josh Lindblom

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    If you haven't heard of Josh Lindblom, you aren't alone. He's been off the MLB radar for several years now.

    Once a well-regarded prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers system, he was part of the three-player package sent to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Shane Victorino at the 2012 trade deadline. He bounced around a bit from there before taking his game overseas.

    He's spent the bulk of the past five seasons pitching in the Korean Baseball Organization, aside from a brief stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017.

    Pitching for the Doosan Bears the past two seasons, he has emerged as one of the elite pitchers in the extremely hitter-friendly KBO.

    • 2018: 26 GS, 2.88 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 157 K, 168.2 IP
    • 2019: 30 GS, 2.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 189 K, 194.2 IP

    With that, he became the first-ever back-to-back winner of the Choi Dong-won Award, which is the KBO equivalent of the Cy Young Award.

    He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but the results are tough to ignore.

    Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors noted: "Lindblom's numbers are superior to those of Merrill Kelly during his own KBO breakout, and he inked a two-year, $5.5MM deal with the D-backs upon returning stateside."

    At that price, it's worth a gamble.

IF Brad Miller

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    After three forgettable seasons with the Seattle Mariners, Brad Miller came out of nowhere to slug 30 home runs with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2016.

    And just as quickly, he disappeared again.

    He hit only .201 with an 82 OPS+ in 407 plate appearances as Tampa Bay's primary second baseman in 2017, and the Rays traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers on June 10, 2018, in exchange for their current first baseman, Ji-Man Choi.

    His tenure in Milwaukee didn't last long, as the Brewers released him a month later. He then spent time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees before landing in Philadelphia this past June.

    Filling a utility role off the bench, he hit .263/.331/.610 with 12 home runs in 130 plate appearances, racking up 1.1 WAR in only 66 games of action.

    During his time in Philadelphia, he saw time at shortstop, third base and both corner outfield spots, and he went 7-for-30 as a pinch-hitter. He has also manned first base and second base over the course of his career.

    For teams looking to add a versatile bench player, Miller should come significantly cheaper than guys like Eric Sogard, Brock Holt and Asdrubal Cabrera.

SP Rick Porcello

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    It's probably safe to assume that Rick Porcello is not going to return to frontline form.

    In 2016, he went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 189 strikeouts in 223 innings to take home AL Cy Young honors in the first season of a four-year, $82.5 million extension. He was decidedly less productive in the three ensuing years, as he posted a 4.79 ERA and 1.32 WHIP while allowing 9.7 hits per nine innings.

    His numbers took a turn for the worst this past season, as he posted a career-high 5.52 ERA that was the highest in baseball among 61 qualified starters.

    So, what's he doing on this list?

    There's something to be said for durability, and over the course of his 11-year career, Porcello has averaged 31 starts and 185 innings per season.

    His 4.76 FIP this past season was also far more palatable than his actual ERA, and his 20.1 percent soft-contact rate was his highest since 2011. So there are some positives to pull from his otherwise forgettable 2019 campaign.

    A young team looking for a veteran innings-eater could do a lot worse than taking a chance on Porcello on a one-year deal. He will come cheaper than someone like Tanner Roark or Kyle Gibson and could provide similar production.

1B/OF Eric Thames

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    After slugging 124 home runs in three seasons with the NC Dinos in the KBO, Eric Thames didn't miss a beat in his return stateside.

    He hit 11 home runs during the first month of the 2017 season, taking the baseball world by storm on his way to an .877 OPS and 31 home runs in the first season of a three-year, $16 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.

    A slow start and the emergence of Jesus Aguilar pushed him into a part-time role during a disappointing 2018 season, but he rebounded to hit .247/.346/.505 with 25 home runs in 459 plate appearances this past season.

    Despite those solid numbers, the Brewers declined his $7.5 million club option, and he now represents one of the better power bats on the free-agent market.

    While he strikes out a lot, he also walked at an 11.1 percent clip in 2019. He's limited defensively and won't hit for a high average, but the power and on-base percentage still give him plenty of offensive value.

    At worst, he's a more productive version of Matt Adams, who has made $8 million over the past two seasons with the Washington Nationals.

SP Alex Wood

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    It looked like the Cincinnati Reds were getting a solid addition to the starting rotation when they traded for Alex Wood last offseason.

    Over the previous two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he posted a 3.20 ERA and 1.13 WHIP while averaging 143 strikeouts and 152 innings, including a 2017 season where he made the NL All-Star team and finished ninth in Cy Young voting.

    Instead, a back injury delayed his 2019 debut until July 28. By September, he was again watching from the sidelines when the same issue resurfaced.

    Still only 28, Wood is more than capable of pitching at a high level when he's healthy.

    That's something he'll likely need to prove on a one-year deal in 2020, and he could be an extremely fruitful investment for a rebuilding team looking to take a chance on someone who could emerge as a midseason trade chip.

    MLB Trade Rumors predicted Wood will sign a one-year, $8 million deal, making him the definition of a buy-low target given his past success and potential upside.

                 

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.