As the clock ticks down to spring training — pitchers and catchers start reporting to workouts in five days — there are still a slew of free agents waiting for offers.
And we’re not talking all bottom-of-the-barrel, washed up former stars looking for work.
In fact, Cleveland first baseman Mike Napoli just signed a one-year, $8.5 million deal (with a 2018 option) to go back to the Texas Rangers. The slugging corner infielder blasted 34 homers and drove in 101 runs for the World Series finalists and now gives the Rangers the threat in the middle of the order they lacked in 2016.
He’s just the latest to ink a deal in a free agent season that has lacked the star-power oomph of other years.
Many playoff and non-playoff teams still have holes to fill before spring training games begin in earnest. Here are 20 remaining free agents we believe could add value to teams willing to gamble a little, starting with pitchers (a total of 10 pitchers and 10 position players).
20. Colby Lewis, SP
Lewis is at the top of the heap as far as free agent starting pitchers go, and it’s surprising the Texas Rangers haven’t re-signed him, considering he was their third best starter last year — when healthy. He missed a couple of months due to a lat strain and had 19 total starts for Texas. He went 6-5 with a 3.71 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 116.1 innings pitched. He still has a tendency to give up the long ball, with 19 going out on him in 2016, but his WHIP was a respectable 1.126. Toronto lit him up in his lone ALDS appearance last year (5 earned runs, 5 hits, 2 HR in 2 IP), but he is a valuable post-season hurler who carries a lifetime 3.11 ERA in 10 games (nine starts). Teams with a slot to fill in the fourth-fifth slot should be willing to take a shot at Lewis, who made $6 million on a one-year deal in 2016.
19. C.J. Wilson, SP
At 36, C.J. Wilson’s best days are behind him, however, he is still a decent left-handed arm who could easily slot in as a fourth/fifth starter. Only problem is, he is coming off shoulder surgery that kept him out of baseball for the 2016 season. He did begin throwing in December and may or may not be ready for the 2017 season. If the former is true, Wilson is not far removed from back-to-back all-star seasons in 2011-12. Between 2010 and 2013 he had three straight seasons of 200 or more innings. He doesn’t give up a lot of homers, but bases on balls can be a problem. In his last season, 2015, he was 8-8 with a 3.89 ERA and 110 Ks in 132 innings. His last contract paid him an average of $15.5 million per season, but we think he could be had for a third of that.
18. Doug Fister, SP
After a 12-13 season, the Houston Astros opted not to re-sign lanky 6’8″ righthander Doug Fister. He made $7 million on a one-year deal and while his ERA was a lofty 4.64 (his highest in eight seasons), he did make 32 starts and top 180 innings for the first time since 2013. For a big guy, he’s not a high strikeout hurler, with 115 in those 180 innings last year and he gave up an uncharacteristic 62 walks, leading to a WHIP of 1.425. Yet, he’s only two three years removed from a 16-6, 2.41 ERA campaign in 2014 with Washington and if he can regain his form, would be a nice signing for a team looking for rotation depth. A return to the NL might be the tonic, as he did his best work there.
17. Travis Wood, SP/RP
He isn’t the biggest of guys at 5’11” and 175 lbs., but Wood transitioned nicely to long relief in the Chicago Cubs bullpen and as a lefty, he should be a hotter commodity. Solid southpaws out of the bullpen aren’t a dime a dozen and after making just over $6 million on a one-year deal in 2016, his asking price wouldn’t be astronomical. Wood, who was an all-star with the Cubs in 2013, went 4-0 with a 2.95 ERA in 77 games last season. He tossed 47 strikeouts against 45 hits and 24 walks in 61 innings, for a WHIP of 1.131 (his second lowest total in a seven-year career). Teams with playoff aspirations might also want to note he has an overall ERA of 3.12 in 16 playoff appearances, including 22 Ks in 17.1 innings.
16. Luke Hochevar, RP
The Kansas City Royals, after failing to defend their World Series title last year, have moved on from career Royal Luke Hochevar. They declined the option on a contract that paid the big righty $5.5 million last season. A converted reliever, Hochevar made 40 appearances in 2016, logging a 2-3 record, 3.86 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 37.1 innings. His WHIP was a very respectable 1.071 (31 hits, nine walks) and he gave up six home runs. As a post-season pitcher, Hochevar was invaluable during the Royals march to a championship in 2015, allowing just six hits and no runs in 10.2 total innings pitched. The fly in the ointment is injury history involving past Tommy John repair and thoracic outlet syndrome, which has also affected Matt Harvey and Tyson Ross in recent years.
15. Joe Blanton, RP
Age has not affected Joe Blanton’s ability to be an effective option in long relief. The 36-year-old former starter was impressive out of the Dodgers bullpen in 2016, logging a career low 2.48 ERA in 75 appearances. His record was 7-2 and he had 80 strikeouts in 80 innings. With just 55 hits (seven HR) and 26 walks, his 1.013 WHIP also represented a career low in a full season. It’s curious then that the Dodgers, who paid him just $4 million last year, didn’t at least offer him another one-year deal. The only blight on an otherwise outstanding season was his performance in the NLCS against Chicago, where he got lit up for three homers and seven earned runs in just three innings work.
14. David Hernandez, RP
In 2016, David Hernandez quietly put together a pretty decent year for a pretty cruddy Philadelphia Phillies team. The journeyman righthanded long reliever (originally a starter with the Baltimore Orioles in 2009), made 70 appearances and registered a 3-4 record, 3.84 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 72.2 innings. After Tommy John surgery kept him out of the entire 2014 season, Hernandez seems to have recovered nicely, though his WHIP ballooned to an uncharacteristic 1.500 last season, his highest since being a starter in Baltimore. Even still, he could be an inexpensive option for a team looking for middle inning relief, as he made just $3.9 million on a one-year pact.
13. Yusmeiro Petit, RP
Petit fell out of favor with manager Dusty Baker in Washington last year, despite a not half-bad campaign. The long reliever/spot starter was 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA and one save in 36 appearances. He had a 1.323 WHIP and 49 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched. The long ball seemed to be his Kryptonite, as he surrendered 12 taters. To his credit though, he kept the bases on balls to a minimum, issuing just 15. The Nationals didn’t break the bank on his one-year deal, paying him a career high $2.5 million, so an interested teams could sign him for about same if they negotiate well. At age 32, the 2014 World Series champion (with San Francisco) would be worth a look, even if on a minor league pact.
12. Chris Capuano, RP
Chris Capuano would be among the oldest on this list, having turned 38 last August. The veteran lefthanded reliever/starter has never had a low ERA (he’s 4.38 lifetime), but his K/9 numbers are decent (10.1 last season) and slotted into short relief situations could be very valuable. Again, lefthanded bullpen help is in short supply, so guys like Capuano will garner interest. He did have some injury problems in 2016, which limited him to 16 appearances. He was 1-1, with a 4.13 ERA and 27 Ks in 24 innings in his second go around with the Milwaukee Brewers. Capuano was on a bargain one-year, $1.5 million contract in 2016, so not out of the question a team could sign him to an inexpensive minor league deal.
11. Jonathan Papelbon, RP
Anyone looking for a still solid closer arm, and willing to massage a massive ego, should look into signing Papelbon. After the Nationals signed premier closer Mark Melancon last year, the writing was on the wall for Papelbon, who had his share of trouble with the Nats and was released in August. He got into that infamous altercation with Bryce Harper and had one too many blown saves to be kept in the bullpen. Papelbon, though, is ninth on the career saves list with 368 and given a short leash and a bit of room to vent, he could still be a valuable spot closer, set-up man for a team in need. Not many pitchers have a career K/9 better than 9.0 (his is 10.0) and Papelbon hasn’t been victimized for that many homers either (career 0.7/9). Before his release, Papelbon was 2-4, with a 4.37 ERA, 31 Ks and 19 saves in 37 appearances.
10. Angel Pagan, OF
Teams looking for a corner outfielder would do well to sign 35-year-old veteran Pagan. The speedy San Francisco Giant did very well offensively last season in 129 games, hitting .277 with 24 doubles, five triples, 12 home runs (a career high) and 55 RBI. The switch hitter also stole 15 bases in 19 attempts. The 11-year veteran out of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico also played the majority of his games in left field for the first time in his career, logging a .975 fielding percentage and recording five assists. He was in the last year of a four-year, $40 million contract and could probably be signed to a shorter-term, less expensive contract.
9. Michael Bourn, OF
Offensively and defensively, veteran journeyman outfielder Michael Bourn would be a great pick-up, seeing as he’s not signed yet. The two-time all-star and two-time Gold Glove winner played to expectations in a season split between Baltimore and Arizona, finishing with a .264 average, six triples, five homers, 38 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 20 attempts. Primarily a centerfielder, Bourn can play all three outfield positions and in 2016 his fielding percentage was a collective .968, along with six assists. Bourn earned a very modest $507,500 in 2016 and would be a very good fit as a fourth outfielder.
8. Coco Crisp, OF
He may be long in tooth at 37, however, Coco Crisp has proven to be a player who rises to the occasion. The veteran outfielder was an astute pick-up by the Cleveland Indians last summer and while he hit only .208 with two homers and eight RBI in 20 regular season games with the Tribe, he was 7-for-32 in the playoffs, including two homers and four RBI. One of those dingers was a key two-run blast against Boston in the ALDS. However, he didn’t meet contractual incentives for an option year after signing a two-year, $22 million contract extension with Oakland in 2014. Between Oakland and Cleveland last year, Crisp hit .231 with 44 extra base hits and 55 RBI, along with 10 stolen bases. He doesn’t have a great arm due to a history of shoulder problems, but still has great range, either in center or left field.
7. Chase Utley, 2B
He may not be as intimidating a hitter as he was in his heyday with the Philadelphia Phillies in the latter half of the last decade, but Chase Utley still has some pop in his left-handed bat for a 38-year-old. Acquired by the Dodgers in 2015, he had a bounce back year in 2016, hitting .252 in 138 games, with 43 extra base hits (14 homers), and 52 RBI. The six-time all-star, whose dirty slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s leg led to the “Utley Rule”, had three hits and two RBI as the Dodgers disposed of Washington in the 2016 NLDS, but failed to record a hit against Chicago in the NLCS. Even still, the feisty second sacker is a better than average fielder who holds a career .982 fielding percentage. He earned $7 million on a one-year deal last year and has garnered some interest on the free agent market.
6. Alexei Ramirez, SS
A move to the National League didn’t do much for former all-star shortstop Alexei Ramirez in 2016. After hitting 33 doubles, 10 homers and 62 RBI with the White Sox in 2015, his numbers dipped to 22 doubles, two triples, six homers and 48 RBI in 145 games last year, 128 with San Diego. The two-time Silver Slugger award winner scuffled a bit at the plate with the Padres, was released and spent 17 games as a waiver pick-up in Tampa Bay. His speed statistics also took a dip, as he had eight thefts in 17 attempts (where he was good on 135 out of 189 career). He has the distinction of hitting the most grand slams in a season by a rookie, with four in 2008. Ramirez signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Padres last season and would be a good fit as a back-up shortstop.
5. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
Alvarez days as a full-time third baseman are all but over, yet, at 30 he is far from washed up and his potent bat would be a welcome addition at DH on a few teams. In just 109 games with Baltimore last year, the 2013 all-star (with Pittsburgh), hit .249, slugged a career high .504, smacked 20 doubles, 22 homers and drove in 49 runs. Those number were accumulated mostly as a DH (87 games), since he was less than stellar in 12 appearances at the hot corner, making four errors in just nine chances. The flaw in his swing is a proclivity to strike out, which he did 97 times in just 376 plate appearances. Alvarez made $5.75 million on a one-year contract with the O’s in 2016.
4. Aaron Hill, 3B
Now without a job for the first time in his 12-year career, Aaron Hill still has something to offer from both sides of the plate. But, he is not likely to warrant a three-year, $35 million contract that he signed with Arizona prior to the 2014 season. More likely he is a spot starter at the hot corner and second base and possibly a part-time DH if he stays in the American League. Hill hit .283 with 10 homers and 38 RBI in 78 games with Milwaukee to start the 2016 season, making him attractive trade bait for the Boston Red Sox. The Beantowners got him at the deadline and in 47 games (his first in the AL since 2011) he wasn’t nearly as good, logging a .218 average and nine RBI. Defensively, he made just five errors in 299 chances at second and third for a .983 overall fielding percentage.
3. Adam Lind, 1B/DH
There has to be one AL team who could use a designated hitter/first baseman with good pop in his bat. Adam Lind, now 33, is a strong left-handed hitter who had a .239 average, .431 slugging percentage, 20 homers and 58 RBI in 126 games with Seattle in 2016. Those numbers were down some from a very good year with Milwaukee in 2015, when he had the same number of homers, but hit 32 doubles and drove in 87. The 11-year veteran started 88 games at first base last season and made just five errors in 786 chances for a .994 fielding percentage. Overall as a first sacker, his fielding percentage is .994 in 510 career starts. He is coming off a one-year, $8 million deal with Seattle.
2. Justin Morneau, DH
His injury history aside, former AL MVP Justin Morneau is still a fearsome hitter, and arguably the best DH bat available right now. Limited to just 58 games last season with the Chicago White Sox, Morneau batted .261, with 21 extra base hits and 25 RBI. The 35-year-old Canadian is also just three years removed from being the National League batting champion, when he hit .319 for the Colorado Rockies. As of this writing, he is just three homers shy of 250 for his career and 15 RBI short of 1,000. Morneau, who won his MVP with the Minnesota Twins and for whom he starred for 11 seasons, is rumored to be making a return there.
1. Matt Wieters, C
It’s kind of odd that a guy who was an all-star in 2015 is still unemployed. But that is exactly what has befallen Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters, who was basically replaced when the O’s acquired Arizona receiver Wellington Castillo. Wieters, who accepted the Orioles qualifying offer, is still without a contract and it is highly unlikely he’ll be back. Thus, he should be an attractive target for a few teams who could use an upgrade behind the plate. The four-time all-star’s gifts at the plate are obvious, as he hit 17 doubles, 17 home runs and drove in 66 during his all-star turn in 2016. With a .988 fielding percentage (11 errors on 932 chances) he was ranked the seventh best catcher in the American League.