1 Perfect Move for Each MLB Team's Remaining Offseason Cash

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2020

1 Perfect Move for Each MLB Team's Remaining Offseason Cash

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    Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

    The MLB offseason is winding to a close, and most of the market's top free agents have already signed new contracts.

    However, there are still some quality veterans looking for a new home, led by slugging outfielders Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna.

    With spring training fast approaching, there is time for teams to put the finishing touches on their 2020 rosters. Ahead we've paired each MLB team with one remaining free-agent target who makes sense.

    Rumors, roster makeup and a healthy dose of speculation contributed to each suggestion.

AL East

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    Matt Wieters
    Matt WietersJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Baltimore Orioles: SP Jason Vargas

    With the inexperienced trio of Asher Wojciechowski, Kohl Stewart and Rule 5 pick Brandon Bailey projected to fill the final three spots in the O's rotation, per Roster Resource, adding a proven veteran who can eat some innings would seem like a wise move.

    Vargas, 36, posted a passable 4.51 ERA in 149.2 innings last season and shouldn't cost much more than the $1.5 million Ivan Nova received from the Detroit Tigers. It doesn't move the needle, but it couldn't hurt.


    Boston Red Sox: RP Brandon Kintzler

    Aside from recent low-level trades to acquire Austin Brice and Jeffrey Springs, the Red Sox have done nothing to address a bullpen that ranked 17th in the majors with a 4.40 ERA last season.

    The 35-year-old Kintzler had an excellent season with the Chicago Cubs in 2019, posting a 2.68 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 17 holds in 62 appearances. He doesn't have swing-and-miss stuff (7.6 K/9), and he's due for a bit of regression (3.56 FIP), but he would still be a solid, low-cost addition to the relief corps.


    New York Yankees: C Russell Martin

    With the departure of Austin Romine in free agency, the Bronx Bombers were left with Gary Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka as the only catchers on the 40-man roster. Sanchez has averaged just 106 games over the past three seasons, so it would be wise to find a viable contingency plan. With a .164/.212/.336 career line in 156 plate appearances, Higashioka is simply not it.

    Veterans Chris Iannetta and Erik Kratz will be in camp as non-roster invitees, but Martin would give the team a bit more stability in that backup role. The 36-year-old was an All-Star for the Yankees back in 2011, the first season of his two-year stint with the team.


    Tampa Bay Rays: C Matt Wieters

    The Rays struck gold when they plucked Travis d'Arnaud from the scrapheap last season, but his strong performance priced him out of Tampa Bay, and the team was left with the light-hitting duo of Mike Zunino and Michael Perez behind the plate.

    Wieters, 33, had a solid season in 2019 while serving as the backup to Yadier Molina in St. Louis. He posted an 80 OPS+ with 11 home runs in 183 plate appearances and threw out eight of 19 base stealers. For a contract similar to the one-year, $1.5 million deal he inked last offseason, he would be a solid addition.


    Toronto Blue Jays: RP David Phelps

    The Jays found a diamond in the rough in Daniel Hudson last offseason, and they will likely take a similar approach once again to fill the setup role ahead of Ken Giles.

    The 33-year-old Phelps returned strong from Tommy John surgery last season, posting a 3.41 ERA and 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 41 appearances. He should come cheap and could pitch his way into a key role on an improved staff.

AL Central

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    Yasiel Puig
    Yasiel PuigPaul Bereswill/Getty Images

    Chicago White Sox: RF Yasiel Puig

    The White Sox have already upgraded right field with the addition of Nomar Mazara after the position produced a brutal .220/.277/.288 line with just six home runs in 2019. However, they are still showing interest in Puig and Nicholas Castellanos, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

    The reason? The left-handed hitting Mazara struggled mightily against left-handed pitching last season, posting a .220/.252/.394 line in 135 plate appearances. Puig should come significantly cheaper than Castellanos, and while he did not show much of a platoon split last season, he would still represent an upgrade against lefties while also serving as an oft-used fourth outfielder.


    Cleveland Indians: RF Domingo Santana

    Some assortment of Jordan Luplow, Greg Allen, Jake Bauers, Delino DeShields and Bradley Zimmer will man the corner outfield spots for Cleveland. Those five players have hit a combined 79 home runs in the majors.

    Santana, 27, hit .286/.354/.496 with 18 home runs and 63 RBI in the first half last season. An elbow injury sapped him of his power after the All-Star break, and then he was non-tendered. He's a below-average defender, but given his age and power potential, he would be a solid addition to a questionable outfield contingent.


    Detroit Tigers: 1B Greg Bird

    There was a time not long ago when Bird appeared to be headed for stardom in pinstripes. Now four years removed from his tantalizing debut, he is looking for his next contract while trying to shake an "injury-prone" label.

    The rebuilding Tigers have nothing to lose, and bringing him aboard as a left-handed hitting complement to the right-handed hitting C.J. Cron at first base could make for a solid low-cost platoon.


    Kansas City Royals: LF Alex Gordon

    Gordon has played his 13-year MLB career with the Royals, the team that drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2005.

    He's no longer an All-Star-caliber player, but he's still plenty productive, having posted a 96 OPS+ with 31 doubles, 13 home runs and 76 RBI in 2019. He's also still an above-average defender in left field (1 DRS, 3.1 UZR/150) and a fan favorite. The two sides appear to be on track for a reunion, according to Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com.


    Minnesota Twins: RP Francisco Liriano

    The Twins won 101 games last season with a patchwork bullpen, but even after they re-signed Sergio Romo and added Tyler Clippard, there is still work to be done to bolster the relief corps. Closer Taylor Rogers is the only lefty reliever on the 40-man roster, unless the team decides to use Lewis Thorpe or Devin Smeltzer out of the bullpen.

    So how about a reunion with Liriano? The 2006 All-Star has transitioned nicely into a relief role, posting a 3.47 ERA in 69 appearances last season while holding left-handed hitters to a .194 average.

AL West

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    Nicholas Castellanos
    Nicholas CastellanosJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Houston Astros: RP Josh Tomlin

    The Astros used Brad Peacock (91.2 IP) and Collin McHugh (74.2 IP) to eat up innings in swingman roles last season. With Peacock expected to move into the rotation and McHugh weighing his offers on the free-agent market, filling the bulk reliever spot could be on their to-do list.

    Tomlin made good on a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves last season, posting a 3.74 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 79.1 innings while recording more than three outs in 25 of his 51 appearances. The 35-year-old could be a useful low-cost addition.


    Los Angeles Angels: SP/RP Collin McHugh

    After whiffing on Gerrit Cole and the rest of the top arms on the free-agent market, the Angels settled for Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran as the biggest additions to a rotation that ranked 29th in the majors with a 5.64 ERA.

    McHugh, 32, started 102 games from 2014 to 2017, posting a 106 ERA+ in 606.1 innings. He was lights-out in a relief role in 2018 before a failed attempt to return to the rotation last year. In a pitching market that has been largely picked clean, he offers some intriguing upside for a club in serious need of arms.


    Oakland Athletics: 2B Ben Zobrist

    Unless the A's feel comfortable relying on the unproven duo of Franklin Barreto and Sheldon Neuse at second base next season, expect them to add one of the established veterans still looking for work.

    Zobrist, 38, spent the first half of the 2015 season with the Athletics before he was traded to the Royals at the deadline in a deal that brought back Sean Manaea. A reunion on a one-year deal would help bridge the gap to that aforementioned duo while also adding a veteran voice to a young clubhouse.


    Seattle Mariners: SP Taijuan Walker

    Each offseason there is a pitcher reclamation project I become enamored with, convincing myself in the process that all 30 teams would be foolish not to take a flier. Walker is that guy this offseason.

    He spent the bulk of the past two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he's still just 27 years old with the same mix of stuff and athleticism that once made him one of the game's top prospects. He had a 3.49 ERA in 157.1 innings during his last healthy season, and he'll come cheap as he looks to rebuild value.

    For what it's worth, the M's are "definitely interested" in bringing him back, according to Greg Johns of MLB.com. Walker began his career with Seattle as a first-round pick in 2010.


    Texas Rangers: OF Nicholas Castellanos

    The Rangers found their third baseman when they signed Todd Frazier to a one-year, $5 million deal, but they are still looking to add more thunder to the lineup.

    Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News called Castellanos a "strong option" earlier this week, and T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com framed him as the team's No. 1 target. Adding him to the outfield mix would likely mean making Joey Gallo the everyday center fielder, unless the Rangers want to try Castellanos at first base. Regardless, his right-handed bat would slot nicely between the lefty-swinging Gallo and Willie Calhoun in the middle of the lineup.

NL East

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    Aaron Sanchez
    Aaron SanchezThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Atlanta Braves: OF Matt Joyce

    There is no everyday third base option available to replace Josh Donaldson, so it looks like the Braves will turn things over to Austin Riley at the hot corner. With no other glaring holes on the roster, they will spend the rest of the offseason pursuing depth pieces.

    Joyce, 35, hit .295/.408/.450 for a 120 OPS+ in 238 plate appearances with the Braves last season after he was purchased from the San Francisco Giants in March. While top prospects Cristian Pache and Drew Waters are expected to bolster the outfield at some point in 2020, bringing back Joyce could help bridge the gap.


    Miami Marlins: IF Matt Duffy

    For a rebuilding team with readily available playing time, Duffy represents one of the more appealing buy-low candidates left on the free-agent market.

    The 29-year-old has had a tough time staying healthy throughout his career. However, he was a 2.4 WAR player as recently as 2018, when he hit .294 with a 104 OPS+ in 132 games with the Rays. With the versatility to play all over the infield, he'd fit well in the 26th roster slot.


    New York Mets: SP Aaron Sanchez

    The Mets have already added Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha to their pitching staff, and those two will compete for the No. 5 starter job behind Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz.

    That said, there is little in the way of viable depth behind those six guys. Sanchez, who is not expected to be ready for the start of the season, could provide a welcome in-house reinforcement to the starting staff at the midseason mark.


    Philadelphia Phillies: CF Kevin Pillar

    It looks like Adam Haseley will get the first crack at the starting center field job in Philadelphia. The 23-year-old had a solid rookie season, but he hit just .212/.281/.250 in 57 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, so finding a platoon partner would be wise.

    Pillar, 31, remains a solid defensive center fielder and showed some nice extra-base pop last season with 37 doubles and 21 home runs—albeit accompanied by a .287 on-base percentage. Most important for the sake of this conversation, he hit .278 with an .823 OPS and nine home runs in 174 plate appearances against left-handed pitching.


    Washington Nationals: SP Jhoulys Chacin

    Do the Nationals trust Joe Ross or Erick Fedde to hold down the No. 5 starter spot? If the answer is anything besides a resounding yes, there would be no harm in adding Chacin as a veteran depth option to compete for that final rotation role.

    The 32-year-old posted a disastrous 6.01 ERA in 103.1 innings last season, which should make him available for little more than a minor league deal. He was rock-solid in 2017 (180.1 IP, 3.89 ERA) and 2018 (192.2 IP, 3.50 ERA), and even a fraction of that production would make him a useful pickup.

NL Central

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    Marcell Ozuna
    Marcell OzunaKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Chicago Cubs: 2B Brian Dozier

    It's borderline impossible to nail down exactly what the Cubs plan on doing before the offseason is over. One idea that has been kicked around is moving Kris Bryant to center field to facilitate a trade for Nolan Arenado. Could that move also be made to open up a spot on the infield for a free-agent signing?

    Moving Bryant to center and slotting David Bote in as the everyday third baseman would open up second base, and Dozier could be a nice low-cost addition. The 32-year-old still showed plus pop (20 HR) and solid on-base skills (.340 OBP, 12.7 BB%) with the Nationals in 2019.


    Cincinnati Reds: IF Yolmer Sanchez

    Earlier this offseason, the Reds signed Mike Moustakas to a four-year, $64 million deal with the intention of making him the everyday second baseman. The 31-year-old dabbled at that position for the first time last year and posted decent metrics (0 DRS, -0.5 UZR/150 in 359.2 innings), but there will undoubtedly be a learning curve.

    Sanchez, 27, is not much of an offensive threat with an 80 OPS+ for his career, but he is a standout defender at second base. He tallied 11 DRS and a 5.0 UZR/150 last season to win the American League Gold Glove, and he would be the perfect late-inning defensive replacement for Moustakas.


    Milwaukee Brewers: SP/RP Trevor Cahill

    Craig Counsell has shown a willingness to get creative with his pitching staff since taking over as Brewers manager. That includes using openers, and Cahill could be a perfect fit if the Brew Crew decide to utilize that approach again.

    The 31-year-old has filled a variety of roles in his 11-year career, most recently posting a 5.98 ERA in 11 starts and 26 relief appearances with the Angels. Amid those struggles, he limited opposing hitters to a .209 average and .681 OPS with a 23-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 99 plate appearances when pitching as a starter and facing batters in their first plate appearances of a game.


    Pittsburgh Pirates: IF Wilmer Flores

    The Pirates had the second-worst OPS (.681) against left-handed pitching last season, ahead of only the Marlins (.678).

    Flores, 28, hit a robust .337/.367/.615 with eight doubles and seven home runs in 109 plate appearances against southpaws. He has experience at all four infield positions, and on a one-year deal, he could emerge as a solid trade chip for a team in transition.


    St. Louis Cardinals: OF Marcell Ozuna

    During the 2017-18 MLB offseason, Mike Moustakas turned down a $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Royals, only return to Kansas City at the end of the offseason on a one-year, $6.5 million deal.

    The Cardinals might be able to pull off a similar heist to reunite with Ozuna after his market has not developed. The 29-year-old recorded a 107 OPS+ with 29 home runs and 89 RBI last season, and the qualifying offer tied to him could make St. Louis his most likely landing spot.

NL West

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    Robbie Erlin
    Robbie ErlinJason O. Watson/Getty Images

    Arizona Diamondbacks: IF/OF Brock Holt

    The D-backs have a relatively inexperienced bench with Domingo Leyba (21 G, 0.2 WAR), Ildemaro Vargas (118 G, 0.3 WAR) and Tim Locastro (112 G, 1.1 WAR) projected to fill three bench spots alongside backup catcher Stephen Vogt and slugger Kevin Cron, according to Roster Resource.

    With the additions of Madison Bumgarner, Kole Calhoun and Junior Guerra this offseason, Arizona seems to be eyeing contention. Rounding out the bench with Holt, who was an All-Star in 2015 and is one of baseball's most versatile players, would be money well spent.


    Colorado Rockies: SP Andrew Cashner

    Even if they do not intend to push for contention, the Rockies need to do something about a pitching staff that ranked 29th in the majors with a 5.58 ERA. Luring top-tier arms to pitch at altitude is never easy, so Colorado is usually left to pick at the scraps of the free-agent market.

    Among pitchers with at least 150 innings last year, Cashner ranked 18th with a 48.5 percent ground-ball rate, and that ability would serve him well at Coors Field. He also has experience pitching out of the bullpen if the Rockies decided to use him in that capacity.


    Los Angeles Dodgers: RP Robbie Erlin

    The Dodgers have added Alex Wood, Jimmy Nelson and Blake Treinen to their pitching staff this offseason, but they would still benefit from a few more pieces in the relief corps.

    On the surface, Erlin struggled to a 5.37 ERA in 37 appearances last season with the San Diego Padres. Below the surface, his 3.61 FIP and an unusually high .373 BABIP provide plenty of reasons for optimism. The 29-year-old former starter is capable of filling the multi-inning role that will be vacated by Julio Urias if he moves into the starting rotation.


    San Diego Padres: RP Fernando Rodney

    Despite having arguably the best closer in baseball in Kirby Yates, the Padres still finished 18th in the majors with a 4.63 ERA last season. They added left-hander Drew Pomeranz and Japanese League standout Pierce Johnson to the relief corps, but another experienced bullpen arm would be welcome.

    Rodney is still going strong heading into his age-43 season. He posted a 4.05 ERA with 17 holds in 38 appearances with the Nationals in 2019, and he could be a useful middle relief arm. The last time San Diego signed Rodney, in 2016, it later flipped him to Miami for Chris Paddack.


    San Francisco Giants: CF Cameron Maybin

    After the controversial decision to non-tender Kevin Pillar, the Giants are still searching for an established center fielder. Rookie standout Mike Yastrzemski spent 30 innings there in 2019, but he fits better at a corner spot.

    The only other viable everyday option on the free-agent market is Maybin, who enjoyed a renaissance with the Yankees last season. The 32-year-old hit .285/.364/.494 with a career-high 11 home runs in 269 plate appearances, and he'd be a good stopgap before top prospect Heliot Ramos arrives.


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


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