With the conclusion of a wild and woolly World Series on Wednesday comes the stone cold reality of players becoming free agents the very next day.
Money talks in baseball circles and contenders and pretenders alike will start throwing cash at big names like Wade Davis, Jay Bruce, Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta in hopes that money translates to a championship.
However, not every team has the juice of teams like the Dodgers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox to lure the big names their way.
Therefore, it is incumbent on those wishing to compete to do their homework and spend judiciously.
Fully 149 major leaguers of varying talent and contractual obligation became free agents as of Nov. 2.
There are some very good ones to be had outside of the big ticket guys who will command ridiculous dollars to begin the 2018 MLB season.
Here are 20 players we deem worthy of multiple offers in free agency.
20. RP Dillon Gee – Minnesota Twins
For a guy making a shade over the league minimum, 31-year-old righthanded reliever Dillon Gee was good value for the dollar. The journeyman made $535,000 this season on a two-way contract, split between the Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins. A veteran of eight seasons, he is mostly a long reliever who can spot start, since he was a starter for four seasons with the New York Mets. In 18 games this season, Gee finished with a 3-2 record, 3.47 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 49.1 innings pitched. He’s a bargain find a few teams would do well to sign.
19. RP Jhan Marinez – Texas Rangers
Frequent flyer miles were the order of the day for Texas Rangers relief pitcher Jhan Marinez this season. The 29-year-old Dominican, who has bounced around the minors and majors since 2010, had stints with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh as well in 2017 and made a friendly $540,200 for his efforts. The fit with the Brewers wasn’t good this year, but Marinez found traction with Pittsburgh and finally Texas. Overall, he appeared in 43 games, mopping up in 19 of them. He struck out 45 batters in 58.1 innings pitched and wasn’t roughed up for too many homers, surrendering just six all year. Another good buy waiting in the wings.
18. RP Brandon Morrow – Los Angeles Dodgers
No bargain pitcher on this list will have the cache that former starter-turned-reliever Morrow has. Coming off a good post-season where he was mostly lights out — he had one bad inning in the World Series — Morrow should be the recipient of many phone calls and quite possibly a few good offers. He made just $1.25 million on a one-year “let’s see” deal with the Dodgers and he was worth every cent. He was 6-0 in 45 regular season appearances, his most since 2008 with Seattle. The hard-throwing righthander also struck out 50 in 43.2 innings and had an admirable WHIP of 0.916. In the post-season he got in 14 games, logging a 3.95 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 13.2 innings of work.
17. 1B Mark Reynolds – Colorado Rockies
Teams looking for value in a corner infielder need look no further than veteran 3B/1B Mark Reynolds. Signed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract before the 2017 season, Reynolds provided good pop and production from the plate, with 30 homers (his most since 2011), 97 RBI (second most in his career) and a .267 batting average. At 34 he hasn’t slowed down appreciably, other than making the move from third to first. He fielded that position well in 2017, making just six errors on 1,286 chances for a .995 fielding percentage. He could be a 1B/DH man in the AL, or a bargain pick-up for another NL team.
16. CF Austin Jackson – Cleveland Indians
Playing the troika of outfield positions seemed to do the trick for veteran outfielder Austin Jackson in 2017. Signed to a two-way minor league deal worth $1.5 million, Jackson made the team out of spring training and gave the Indians needed stability in an outfield full of question marks. In 85 games he batted .318, slugging 29 extra base hits and driving in 35 runs. He stole three bases and logged his highest ever OPS at .869. He saw the most action in center field with 38 games and overall he registered a .985 fielding percentage and had four assists. He would give a new team plenty of versatility and speed.
15. C Chris Iannetta – Arizona Diamondbacks
They don’t make ’em tough quite like Chris Iannetta these days. The D-Backs solid catcher took a ball to the face earlier this season and required surgery to repair his lips and teeth. Not 24 hours later, he told manager Torey Lovullo he was ready to go (but the Diamondbacks put him on the IR anyway). The 34-year-old veteran of 12 seasons missed some games due to that unfortunate incident and ended up playing 89 games behind the plate in 2017. He enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, slugging 17 homers (one shy of his personal best 18 in 2998) and driving in 43 while batting .254. Defensively, he threw out eight of a potential 33 base stealers for a 24 percent efficiency rate and lifetime he is 25 percent effective. He made $1.5 million on a one-year deal so could be had for relative peanuts again.
14. SP Jhoulys Chacin – San Diego Padres
After nine years in the big leagues, Padres starter Jhoulys Chacin finally put it all together for a mediocre San Diego club. In arguably his best season as a starter, the righthanded Venezualan had a winning record of 13-10 (the Padres went 71-91), a 3.89 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 180.1 innings pitched. Of his 32 starts, 16 of them were quality outings, tying him for 38th overall. Chacin was tough on NL West opponents, winning seven games against those teams, including two wins over the Los Angeles Dodgers and one each against Arizona and Colorado. One of his better overall efforts was a seven-inning performance in a victory over L.A. on Sept. 3, when he gave up two earned runs on five hits and struck out eight. For $1.75 million, San Diego got great value.
13. C Alex Avila – Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs thought enough of catcher Alex Avila to get him at the trade deadline this summer, so it stands to reason he should be a fairly hot commodity on the open market. The one-time All-Star is one of the better defensive catchers in baseball and in 112 games split between Detroit and Chicago, he threw out 17 of 55 potential base stealers for a 31 percent rating. While he wasn’t close to the production stats of his 2011 All-Star year with the Tigers, for $2 million both the Tigers and Cubs got a deal. Collectively, the 30-year-old Hialeah, FLA native hit .264 with 14 homers and 49 RBI.
12. RP Yusmeiro Petit – Los Angeles Angels
In a season where several of his higher paid teammates underachieved, Angels relief pitcher Yusmeiro Petit threw the ball way above his pay grade. He signed a one-year $2.25 million contract with the Halos after nine year spent in the National League and then went out and has his best season ever. He appeared in a career high 60 games (making one start) and went 5-2 with a 2.76 ERA and 0.953 WHIP (all career bests). The stout Venezualan also struck out 101 batters in 91.1 innings and recorded four saves. Of those four saves, one was a two-inning gem against Boston in mid-season, when he was in fine form.
11. Logan Morrison – Tampa Bay Rays
Logan Morrison is going to cash in this off-season, in a big way. The Rays slugging first baseman had a monster year, smashing a career-high 38 homers and driving in 85 runs. That homer figure was just four short of the total number of dingers he hit in the previous three seasons, for point of reference. The Rays got him for $2.5 million in 2017, which seemed prudent, considering his less than eye-popping numbers in his first year with the team (.238 average, 14 HR, 43 RBI). What also makes his power numbers even more impressive was the fact that he had just three multi-homer games all season. A multi-year deal will not be out of the realm of possibility.
10. RP Brandon Kintzler – Washington Nationals
After many years of bouncing between the minors and the big leagues in the Milwaukee and Minnesota systems, reliever Brandon Kintzler finally found his stride this season. After a 17-save season for the Twins in 2016, he started out red hot for Minnesota this year. In 32 save opportunities, he blew just four, fashioning a 2.78 ERA and striking out 27 in 45.1 innings. A control pitcher, he was traded to the Nats at the deadline and became more of set-up man. He had a 2-1 record, 3.46 ERA 10 holds and a save with Washington. In his first post-season, his small sample size had him allow two earned runs in 3.1 innings, along with two walks and two strikeouts. He’ll probably get a decent raise on the $2.925 million he earned in 2017.
9. RP Joe Smith – Cleveland Indians
It’s a been a whirlwind couple of seasons for effective middle reliever Joe Smith. The longtime major leaguer played with four different teams, starting with the Los Angeles Angels in 2016 followed by stints with the champion Chicago Cubs and then with Toronto and Cleveland (for the second time around) this season. A true bargain at $3 million on a one-year deal he signed with the Blue Jays, the sidearmer made himself trade bait by going 3-0 with a 3.28 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 35.2 innings. Cleveland dealt for him at the deadline and he put in more good work, making 21 appearances and logging a 3.44 ERA and 20 Ks in 18.1 innings. He had a clean sheet in four games for Cleveland during the ALDS, allowing no hits and no runs with three strikeouts in 2.1 innings.
8. RP Mike Minor – Kansas City Royals
For two seasons, Mike Minor barely threw a ball, having experienced tightness in his labrum and then undergoing surgery to correct it. Originally a starter with the Atlanta Braves for five seasons, he missed all of 2015 with the Braves, who then cut him loose. He signed with Kansas City, but his still healing shoulder kept him out of action for the 2016 campaign. The Royals then decided to move him to the bullpen for the 2017 season, which proved to be a boon. Minor’s average fastball velocity went from 91 mph as a starter to 95 and he would quietly finish the season as their best overall reliever. He was 6-6 with a 2.55 ERA in 65 games and struck out 88 batters in 77.2 innings. He made $4 million on the last year of a two-year pact and will probably get a few offers.
7. RP Juan Nicasio – St. Louis Cardinals
It’s kind of weird that a guy who led the NL in appearances ended up playing for three different teams in 2017. And it wasn’t like stout Dominican veteran Juan Nicasio pitched badly, either. He started the year with Pittsburgh, who signed him in late 2015, getting into 65 games, mostly in long relief. He had a 2-5 record, 2.85 ERA, two saves and 60 strikeouts in 60 innings. At the trade deadline, the Pirates improbably waived Nicasio, who was then claimed by Philadelphia. The 31-year-old saw action in just two games with the Phillies (no earned runs or hits in 1.1 innings) before he was traded to the Cardinals. He finished a confusing year on a strong note, going 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA, four saves and 11 strikeouts in 11 innings. The $3.65 million he earned this year won’t get him back for 2018.
6. 1B Yonder Alonso – Seattle Mariners
Like many players on this list, Cuban born Alonso has been a bit of a journeyman who finally put it all together in a season split between the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners. Never a big power guy in the minors or through the first seven seasons of his big league career (39 homers in 664 games), Alonso broke out with 28 big flies in 142 contests in 2017 (100 with Oakland and 42 with the M’s). His 22 homers with Oakland earned Alonso his first All-Star nomination and made him attractive close to the deadline, so much so that the Mariners traded prospect Boog Powell to Oakland for him. In 42 games with Seattle, Alonso hit .265 with six homers and 18 RBI. He was on a one-year, $4 million contract in 2017.
5. INF Eduardo Nunez – Boston Red Sox
Just call Eduardo Nunez “Mr. Versatility.” In the past two seasons, for three different teams, Nunez played no less than five different positions (2B, 3B, SS, LF and RF) and six if DH counts. For a guy who bounced from Minnesota to San Francisco in 2016 and then San Fran to Boston this past year, he was a pretty reliable hitter, too. In 2016 he hit .288 with 44 extra base hits (16 homers), 67 RBI and 40 stolen bases with the Twins and Giants. This season, Nunez upped his batting average to .313 with the Giants and Red Sox, as well as 45 XBH and 58 RBI. His stolen base numbers fell off a bit to 24, but we attribute that to to stealing-averse American League tactics. Nunez made a very cost-conscious $4.2 million in 2017 and with his speed and bat could be a valuable addition to a contender.
4. SP Alex Cobb – Tampa Bay Rays
It was a watershed year for veteran starting hurler Alex Cobb. After a season (2015) washed out by Tommy John surgery and another (2016) spent mostly re-habbing, 2017 was a good one. Cobb was just 1-2 in five starts during the 2016 campaign, with a lofty 8.58 ERA, but bounced back to go 12-10 in a career high 29 starts this past season. He logged a 3.66 ERA and struck out 128 batters in 179.1 innings. Of his 29 starts, 15 were of the quality type and his WHIP was better at 1.221. At 30 and with a repaired arm, Cobb was very effective and only had three outings where he didn’t give his team a chance to win. His $4.2 million salary in 2017 was full value and a raise will be due (he has been extended a qualifying offer as of Monday).
3. SS Zack Cozart – Cincinnati Reds
For the first time in his career, Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart was an all-star. Which means that the 31-year-old shortstop will get a few offers in free agency and most likely some term (though most feel he’ll be lucky to get anything over three years, considering his age). Even still, it’s not easy finding shortstops who put up the kind of numbers Cozart did in 2017. He hit .297, with 24 doubles, seven triples, 24 homers and 63 RBI in 122 games. His OPS was a career high .933 and his walks (62) were nearly equal to his strikeouts (78). Cozart also fielded his position fairly well, making 11 errors on 445 total chances (.975 fielding percentage).
2. RP Tony Watson – Los Angeles Dodgers
As middle relievers go, Tony Watson is an absolute workhorse. In the past four seasons he has gone to work in no fewer than 70 games in each and only once in seven seasons has he failed to appear in at least 60. The lanky lefty split his season between Pittsburgh (the only team he had hurled for) and Los Angeles. He went 7-4 in 71 games with a 3.38 ERA (2.70 with LA) and 53 strikeouts in 66.2 innings. He also had 10 saves, 14 holds and eight blown saves (seven with Pittsburgh). After a shaky inning of work in the NLDS this post-season, Watson got into groove in the NLCS and World Series, not giving up an earned run and just two hits in 5.3 innings of work. He’ll be in demand, for sure.
1. RP Addison Reed – Boston Red Sox
Reed, 28, is in good position to sign a long-term contract, coming off two fairly superb big league seasons. In 2016 with the New York Mets, he went 4-2 in 80 appearances out the bullpen, with a 1.97 ERA, a save and 91 strikeouts in 77.2 innings. This past season, split between the Mets and Red Sox, Reed was equally as effective. His ERA was 2.84 in 77 games, but he logged 19 saves (all with New York) and struck out 76 batters in 76 innings. His WHIP increased only slightly from 0.940 in 2016 to 1.053 this year. Reed wasn’t as effective with the Bosox, however, a move back to the NL with a contender just might be the tonic to keep his good run going.