Matchmaker for Yasiel Puig and 7 MLB Free Agents Shockingly Still Available

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterAugust 17, 2020

Matchmaker for Yasiel Puig and 7 MLB Free Agents Shockingly Still Available

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Because Major League Baseball has expanded the sizes of both rosters and its playoff field for the shortened 2020 season, it's a wonder that any players are still afloat on the free-agent market.

    Yet there are, and a few of them might actually be able to help teams in need.

    We've picked out eight in particular and pinpointed which team could actually use them. This was as simple as cross-referencing what these players can do with how badly teams need an upgrade at their various positions.

    We'll start with the biggest unknown and make our way to the biggest available star.

RHP Ervin Santana: Detroit Tigers

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    How much Ervin Santana has left in the tank is a good question.

    He is 37 years old, after all, and he was only able to make eight starts and log 38 innings across the 2018 and 2019 campaigns. He also served up 36 runs on 50 hits and 15 walks in those outings.

    Santana is nonetheless worth a look based on his 15-year major league track record, and one only needs to go back to 2017 to find him pitching like an All-Star. Despite a modest strikeout rate of 7.1 batters per nine innings, he posted a 3.28 ERA over 211.1 innings for the Minnesota Twins that year.

    If any team is going to sign Santana, it should be one that needs a starter but who wouldn't stand to lose much if the gamble didn't pay off.

    The Detroit Tigers fit the description. Their rotation is the worst in baseball, yet they have an outside shot at making the playoffs even though they're smack in the middle of a rebuild.

RHP Aaron Sanchez: Cincinnati Reds

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    With regard to Aaron Sanchez, the big question is if he's even capable of pitching in 2020.

    The 28-year-old had surgery on his right shoulder in September 2019. Almost a year later, how far along he is in his recovery is unclear.

    There might be a chance, though, of Sanchez at least being able to pitch in relief in September and possibly into October. A team might even sign him to a two-year deal, with the idea being to bank on him returning to full health in 2021.

    The Cincinnati Reds look like a candidate to do such a deal. They're fond of pitchers who can spin the ball, and that's something Sanchez is good at when he's healthy. To wit, the spin rate on his curveball ranked in the 91st percentile in 2019.

    Ideally, Sanchez would help out Cincinnati's volatile bullpen in 2020 and then fill an open rotation slot in 2021. Both Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani are slated for free agency this winter.

2B Scooter Gennett: Miami Marlins

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Last season was supposed to be a salary-drive year for Scooter Gennett. Instead, it turned into a nightmare.

    Gennett, 30, badly injured his groin shortly before Opening Day. That kept him out of action until late June, and he never really got on track after he returned. Ultimately, he managed only a .568 OPS in 42 games with the Reds and San Francisco Giants.

    Nonetheless, this is still a guy who slammed 50 home runs with an .859 OPS across the 2017 and 2018 seasons. If healthy, he might reclaim his star status as an everyday second baseman.

    Based on an interview he gave in May, Gennett is still a free agent precisely because he values himself as an everyday player even though teams didn't. Or at least, haven't yet.

    Perhaps the Miami Marlins will finally come around to Gennett. They lost their starting second baseman when Isan Diaz opted out, and their surprise playoff push ought to have them in a mood to find a new starter. Plus, they could use Gennett's left-handed power.

LHP Jason Vargas: Atlanta

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    It's admittedly hard to get excited about Jason Vargas.

    Though he first debuted in the majors in 2005, he was very rarely visible between then and 2019. Even in his one and only All-Star season with the Kansas City Royals in 2017, he was still featuring a mid-80s fastball and only striking out 6.7 batters per nine innings.

    What Vargas can do, however, is eat innings. He logged 217.1 frames at his peak in 2012, and he made it to 149.2 as recently as last season with the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies.

    Hence a question for Atlanta: What are you waiting for?

    Because of injuries (Mike Soroka and Cole Hamels), an opt out (Felix Hernandez) and poor performances (Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb), Atlanta's starting pitching depth is basically nonexistent right now. What's more, the guys the club does have aren't going deep into games. To these ends, Vargas can only help.

RHP Andrew Cashner: Philadelphia Phillies

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    Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

    We may have seen the last of Andrew Cashner as a starting pitcher.

    He had his moments as a starter after breaking through with the San Diego Padres in 2012, including a solid 3.40 ERA over 166.2 innings with the Texas Rangers in 2017. But he ended up in the Boston Red Sox's bullpen last August, and he apparently means to stay there.

    As ideas go, this one's not bad. The 33-year-old doesn't have high-90s heat anymore, but pitching exclusively in relief last year did boost his average fastball to 95.4 mph. He had been sitting at 93.6 mph before then.

    Without question, nobody needs to take a chance on Cashner as badly as the Phillies.

    Their bullpen's 8.77 ERA is by far the worst mark in baseball. They could probably do better if they so much as stuck a Phillies uniform on a scarecrow, but signing Cashner would nonetheless be a safer bet.

1B Logan Morrison: Baltimore Orioles

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Unlike everyone else on this list, Logan Morrison didn't become a free agent until very recently.

    He began this season with the Milwaukee Brewers, albeit in a situation where he'd have to perform in order to supplant Justin Smoak as their everyday first baseman. He instead collected three hits in his first 25 at-bats, leading to his designation for assignment. After that, he elected free agency on Aug. 14.

    Morrison, 32, doesn't have much to show for his last three seasons in the majors. Yet it also wasn't that long ago that he played in 149 games and hit a career-high 38 home runs for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017.

    If any team should gamble on Morrison recapturing that magic, it should be the Baltimore Orioles.

    Though the rest of their offense has been doing well, they've gotten only a .548 OPS out of first base. Since that's yet another cue that Chris Davis isn't worth a roster spot, they should seriously consider cutting him loose and giving Morrison a shot.

C Russell Martin: Colorado Rockies

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    On an individual level, Russell Martin has nothing left to prove.

    He found stardom immediately upon breaking in with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006, and he then went on to collect four All-Star nods, a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger.

    But despite 10 different trips to the postseason, Martin has yet to play in a World Series. So if the 37-year-old comes back for the stretch run, it will presumably be with a team that needs him behind the plate and which also has a real shot at playing deep into October.

    Despite their recent struggles, the Colorado Rockies would be in the playoffs as the National League West's second-place team if the season ended today. If they want to keep things that way, they'd do well to upgrade at catcher.

    The position has produced minus-0.5 WAR to this point. Martin could help fix that either as a starter or as a platoon partner for the left-handed-hitting Tony Wolters.

RF Yasiel Puig: Cleveland

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    Phil Long/Associated Press

    Yasiel Puig was supposed to be teammates with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Co. in Atlanta right now. But after he tested positive for the coronavirus in July, their agreement was nixed.

    Assuming Puig, 29, is good to go now, it's about time he got a fresh look from other clubs.

    Though his days as an All-Star-caliber starter are almost certainly behind him, Puig proved in 2019 that he can still play a good right field. His bat also came around after a slow start in Cincinnati, as he mustered an .843 OPS and 20 home runs over his last 120 games.

    As for which team is most badly in need of outfield help, nobody stands out as much as the team Puig last played for: Cleveland.

    So far, Terry Francona's squad has gotten minus-1.2 WAR and a .498 OPS out of its outfield. With the American League Central lead nonetheless in sight, Puig should be brought back for a reunion.

           

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.