By now, we've all had time to remember that the early stages of baseball's offseason are tedious. Nothing much happens until the winter meetings in early December, after which the floodgates open. As a means of passing time, we've decided to have some fun by identifying the one free agent who every team should sign this winter.
Before we get to the exercise, let's lay down some ground rules: 1) Shohei Otani isn't eligible for free agency yet, so we excluded him from the player pool; 2) We tried to keep things somewhat realistic (e.g. no J.D. Martinez for the Miami Marlins); 3) We used the players just once each. (Note: The combination of Nos. 2 and 3 means not every top free agent will be represented here)
Again, we're keeping it as realistic as possible. That means the D-Backs get Bryan Shaw rather than Martinez. Shaw (and most everyone else) obviously lacks Martinez's impact potential, but his presence would enable Archie Bradley to slot in at closer. Shaw has a rubber arm, and seems to take fewer days off than God, seeing as how he's averaged 76 appearances per pop over the past five seasons. He spent the first two seasons of his big-league career in Arizona, so this represents a homecoming of sorts, too.
Our first splash signing goes to the team with the newest general manager. Alex Anthopoulos knows a thing or two about getting fans hyped through transactions, meaning Mike Moustakas probably looks better to him than a woodchipper looks to a termite. Moustakas would give the Braves a needed boost at the hot corner, and is young enough to have multiple good seasons ahead of him -- ergo, he's a smart get for a team on the rise.
The Orioles always need starting pitching; the Orioles always seem to sign pitchers whose ERA is unsustainable. Those statements are probably more connected than not. Dan Duquette's hands are often tied by his lack of resources, so what does he do? He inks the pitchers who fall through the cracks for various reasons. Jason Vargas is a changeup artist whose brutal second half derailed his chance at a big payday. Vargas figures to be a No. 4 heading forward -- that would be an upgrade for the O's.
Boston Red Sox
Possibly the most predicted free-agent-to-team combination of the winter. There's valid reason to doubt Hosmer's ability to repeat last season's seeming breakout. That won't stop someone from giving him a big contract. For our money, that "someone" will be Boston president Dave Dombrowski.
Possibly the second-most predicted free-agent-to-team combination of the winter. Alex Cobb has experience with Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey, and would slot in nicely as the Cubs' designated bulldog of choice, replacing John Lackey. Cobb is tougher than concrete, but his durability woes should keep his price point in check.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are in full rebuild mode. Signing Andre Ethier to a one-year, incentive-laden deal doesn't change that. If Ethier could stay healthy and produce -- and it seems unlikely, given he has played in 38 games the past two seasons -- then he could make for an interesting trade piece. If not the White Sox can hand over the keys to Nicky Delmonico again and have him prove last season wasn't a fluke.
Why should a team that has lost 90 games in three consecutive seasons fork over money for a reliever who has had one good season? Because we needed someone for this exercise. Plus: 1. The Reds like their high-leverage relievers comfortable with multiple innings; and 2. Anthony Swarzak's market is uncertain -- is any team going to give him money or term based on one year?
Yeah, a retention. Carlos Santana fits the Indians well; he doesn't fit many other teams well. Also, while better players have (and will continue) to change teams, it would be weird to see Santana in any other uniform.
The Tigers are rebuilding and that means that maybe this doesn't matter, but their roster is right-handed heavy. Adding the lefty Jon Jay would give them an ideal most-days starter who can slot in across the outfield. Maybe the Tigers would prefer to give JaCoby Jones and/or Mikie Mahtook everyday reps instead. That's understandable. If not, that's understandable, too.
What do you get the team that has everything, including a World Series title? How about a left-handed reliever to slot into the late innings? Mike Minor might just get a richer contract from another team -- possibly to close. But the Astros have every reason to look for one more late-inning arm this winter, and he would be a nice fit alongside Chris Devenski and Ken Giles.
Kansas City Royals
We're giving the Royals Logan Morrison because they need an Eric Hosmer replacement and because Morrison has said it would be a dream come true to play for Kansas City (he grew up in MIssouri). We would like to see that dream come true, just as much as the Royals would like to see Morrison hit another 38 home runs in 2018. Everyone's a romantic.
Los Angeles Angels
With Mike Moustakas heading to Atlanta, it only makes sense for us to give the Angels the rights to Todd Frazier. Frazier is older and doesn't have the championship pedigree that Moustakas has. He is, however, a productive hitter -- one who would give the Angels yet another right-handed power threat to go along with Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Albert Pujols.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Of the Florida teams, the Rays seem more likely to sign Michael Pineda to a one-year deal with a club option for the second -- in part because they've done this style of deal with pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery, and in part because the Marlins have been talking about slashing payroll. If the Marlins want a potential bargain deal, however, then following suit and giving Pineda some money now in exchange for innings later would be a creative fix.
This is boring, and ideally the Brewers would get a little more risque this winter. But Walker would continue to fill a need at the keystone, and his consistency is admirable if not appreciated.
We're giving the Twins veteran right-hander Lance Lynn because they figure to sign one of the second- or third-tier starting pitchers and he's a solid enough choice for any and every team seeking another arm. That "Twin" and "Lynn" rhymes is just a bonus for whenever he's referenced next season.
New York Mets
Jarrod Dyson is far from an exciting name, but he serves a purpose on the Mets. He would give New York a true center-field option (likely bumping Juan Lagares back to the bench), as well as more speed on a roster that already features Amed Rosario. Dyson has his flaws, and ideally he wouldn't start most days. He should come cheap though, and that's always a plus for the Mets.
New York Yankees
Fancy this a trade deadline do-over. Lucas Duda could slot in at DH for the Yankees against right-handed pitching, and would give the Yanks a backup plan at first in case Greg Bird gets hurt. Duda's own durability woes should reduce his cost, too, making him a potential value get.
The Athletics reportedly want a right-handed hitting outfielder, and have their sights set on the Marlins in trade talks. Suppose the A's come up short in landing Marcell Ozuna. What then? How about Carlos Gomez, who saved his career with a solid stint in Texas. Gomez isn't the All-Star he was in Milwaukee, but he can still be an average or better everyday center fielder, and he'll probably come on a short and relatively light contract.
This pick is less about Wade Miley the pitcher and more about Wade Miley the idea. The Phillies have recently shown an eagerness to pounce on downtrodden vet starters with the hopes of turning their careers around. It sort of worked with Jeremy Hellickson; it didn't have the chance to work with Clay Buchholz or Charlie Morton. Miley might or might not be deemed worthy of the effort. The Phillies will probably find some free-agent starter who they think is worth it, however.
Think of this as the reliever version of the Miley comment above. The Pirates could decide to give Wily Peralta a look-see in their bullpen, hoping that pitching coach Ray Searage can tweak this or that and tap into previously unfulfilled upside. They could also decide that Peralta isn't the right one for the gamble, and that it's someone else entirely. The point is the outfit, not the mannequin.
San Diego Padres
The Padres need a shortstop and could stand to spend some money next season, given they're currently on the hook for about $24 million in guaranteed money. Zack Cozart is the best six-holer on the market. It's not likely, it's not probable, but it would make sense in a timeline where the Padres are trying to be respectable and Cozart is willing to put money ahead of all other concerns.
San Francisco Giants
Jerry Dipoto can't feel too confident about his rotation heading into next season. As such, even with five potential starters locked in, he'd be wise to shop for an insurance policy. Hence Jhoulys Chacin, who has quietly managed a 97 ERA+ over his last 351 innings. He should come cheap.
St. Louis Cardinals
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays supposedly want to continue to lean on their bullpen for more innings. Yusmeiro Petit is an obvious fit then because he has ample experience in a multi-inning relief role: just this year he threw 91 ⅓ innings in 60 appearances (just one start).
Toronto Blue Jays
Tyler Chatwood is an increasingly hot name in analytics circles due to his improved velocity and the spin rate of his curveball. The Blue Jays could decide to move a starter or two this winter. If so, Chatwood would slot right in as an upside play.
Okay, so George Saunders isn't going to write a novel about a Rene Rivera signing. But hear us out: the Nationals need another catcher, and Rivera is a quality backup with some pop in his bat. Beyond that, he knows new skipper Davey Martinez from their shared time in Chicago. It never hurts to give a rookie manager a familiar face behind the plate that he can count upon.