Free Agents you might want to look at…

When I started this blog early last season I was looking forward to winter baseball discussions.  Without the burdensome day to day critiques about Joe Girardi, I’d be available to evaluate free agent signings (Good signing, bad signing?  Will he help his new team or burden them?)  And with that, I’d be able to get into pre-season predictions like division winners, which admittedly looks pretty easy right now barring any drastic roster changes or injuries.

But there has been only mild activity so far this winter on the free agent signing front.  I thought Carlos Santana and Zack Cozart were interesting signings by the Phillies and Angels, respectively.  The White Sox signing Wellington Castillo caught my eye as well, as he was one of the more underrated players in baseball last season.  And of course, the Rockies will always be the Rockies by giving $52 million over 3 years to a guy who’ll pitch 55 or so innings and face a little over 200 batters per season, mostly in manageable situations.  Never change, Rockies…

But it does seem odd that Lorenzo Cain, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish are still unemployed in mid-January.

A question, if it’s relevant yet, is what’s the reason behind the slow signing period and apparent hesitancy of ownership to spend money on players?

Are owners trying to slow the rate of salaries by not spending?  Did owners become smart recently and realize that huge sums of money over long periods for players whose best seasons are behind them are generally not good investments?

(As a side note, I’m currently reading Lords of the Realm and The Game, and I can tell you that based on baseball history, the former is far more likely than the latter.  Baseball owners being greedy far outweighs the very remote possibility that they all got smart at once.)

It’s certainly a challenge for anyone except those behind closed doors, at this point to evaluate what players would be good free agent signings because we don’t know what money they’re asking for.  There are certainly players available who can help teams win, but as to their value compared to their salary we just don’t know yet, because where their salary lands is still greatly up in the air.

But I’m going to try anyway.  I’m going to give you a few players who can help teams win not just right now but maybe for a few more seasons, whose names you don’t hear too often.  I’ll reiterate the caveat that I have no idea what money these guys are looking for – I’m just speculating that they’re more likely to provide value than not, and therefore should get a close look from some teams.

If you were a General Manger of a Major League Team, you may want to give the agents of the following players a call – they’ll help you this season.

Neil Walker.  Since 2010, only Jose Altuve, Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia have a higher OPS+ than Neil Walker among 2nd basemen.  Yes, Neil Walker has been a better offensive player than Brian Dozier, Ian Kinsler, Jason Kipnis and Brandon Philips since entering the league.

Lucas Duda.  Since 2011, Duda is 10th among 1st basemen in OPS+, ranking ahead of Carlos Santana, Eric Hosmer and Yonder Alonso.  For some perspective, Santana just signed for $20 million per season, and Alonso $8 million per.  Hosmer has been linked to offers in the $20 million for 7 years range.

Colby Rasmus.  Yes, you need to confirm his health.  But he’s been above league average offensively and defensively for 5 years and he’s only 30 years old.

Thoughts?  Let me hear them…


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