Bryce Harper to Phillies is last huge free-agent deal, but teams still have plenty of solid options left on the market
What's out there now that Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are off the board?
Normally, the free agency by the end of February is an arid wasteland, but things are different these days. That means even though the calendar will soon flip to March we've still got some notable names for hire. That, of course, is good news if your team's still in need of some roster improvements.
So what specifically is out there post-Harper/Machado? Let's have a look:
The best name on the board
Dallas Keuchel is going into his age-31 season, and he's coming off a 2018 campaign in which he pitched to a 108 in more than 200 innings. He's got strong ground-ball tendencies, and he fields his position exceptionally well (a notable attribute when you induce ground balls with some regularity). Keuchel has also authored three seasons of at least 200 innings in the last five years. He's almost certainly not going to repeat his Cy Young peak of 2015, but he does profile as a very useful mid-rotation, sub-4.00 ERA sort for the near- to mid-term.
If you need a closer
Craig Kimbrel is still an elite misser of bats, and his peak remains legendary. Going forward, however, he projects as a "darn good" closer as opposed to a "generational" one. A team that's targeting Kimbrel because they think he's capable of returning to his Braves days, when across parts of five seasons he registered 1.43 ERA (!) and struck out more than 40 percent of opposing batters (!), is probably going to be disappointed. Kimbrel's on the wrong side of age 30, he's leaked some velocity, and he doesn't command his breaking ball like he once did. He still can, however, be in the upper tier of major-league closers for the next season or three. View him as a very good mortal as opposed to what he was in Atlanta, and you won't be disappointed.
If you need rotation depth
The lefty Gio Gonzalez is now 33, and he goes into the 2019 with a career ERA+ of 111. He was a bit shy of that mark overall last season, but as recently as 2017 he finished sixth in the NL Cy Young balloting. Only once since 2010 has he failed to make at least 31 starts in a season (27 in 2014), so he's a known quantity in terms of durability and workload. At this stage of his career, Gonzalez is at best a No. 4 guy, but a number of teams could use back-end help in the rotation.
If you need an outfielder
If you had eyes for Harper, then that strongly suggests you need some reinforcements in the outfield. The veteran Adam Jones is here to help. He's going into his age-33 season, and in 2018 he put up an of 108 with, as you can see above, 15 home runs and seven thefts in 145 games. Jones can man all three outfield positions, and his reputation as a clubhouse leader is sterling and then some. At this stage of his career, he's not a lineup fulcrum, but if you're in need of some right-handed pop in tandem with flexibility in the outfield then he's your guy. Ideally, he'd be the lesser half of an outfield platoon going forward.
If you need power
If you had eyes for Harper, then that strongly suggests you'd like some additional home run power on your roster. That brings us to Evan Gattis. For his career, he's averaged 32 bombs per 162 games played, and the power has remained intact into his thirties. He'll never be an OBP guy, and that's a notable liability, but it's also worth noting that Gattis spent more than 400 innings at catcher as recently as 2017. As well, his platoon splits aren't as severe as you might think. His pop plus his ability to at least get by at catcher on occasion make him a worthy consideration for a number of teams.
If you want to take a flyer
No, the 34-year-old Clay Buchholz isn't going to run a 2.01 ERA as he did last season, but maybe there's hope to be found in his 98 1/3-inning renaissance on Arizona's watch. He still has a deep repertoire, and last year he swapped out some fastballs for sinkers to good effect. He posted the best K/BB ratio of his career in 2018, and Buchholz's of 3.47 raises hopes that he can be a quality hurler in 2019. A new approach -- one based on scouting hitters' weaknesses as opposed to relying on his own strengths -- might also bode well. The Blue Jays are apparently willing to take a chance, on Thursday.
As always,has all you need to know about a class that's still got some names on the board, even at this late hour.
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