Finding Homes for Players Still Looking for Work

Not too long ago, everybody was wondering where Yovani Gallardo, Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, Austin Jackson, and David Freese were finally going to end up.

While all of them have found homes, there are still some players on the free-agent market who are looking for work: Alex Rios, Justin Morneau, Tim Lincecum, and Justin Masterson, among  others.

So where will the last remnant of the pre-2016 free-agent group land? Let’s talk about five of the remaining free agents, starting with Rios.

Álex Ríos — Outfielder

Álex Ríos was the Kansas City Royals’ right fielder for the 2015 season, but didn’t fare as well as some thought he would, slashing .255/.287/.353 with a 72 wRC+, recording -6 DRS and +5.9 UZR/150 in the field.

Rios, a right-handed hitter, hit right-handed pitching better than he did against southpaws, recording an 80 wRC+ and 54 wRC+ in 2015, respectively. However, it was the opposite in 2014 with the Texas Rangers, when he recorded a .325/.353/.545 line with a 141 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers, and .266/.296/.350 with a 74 wRC+ against righties. If he can return to his 2014 ways of producing against left-handed pitchers, he can be a valuable platoon option in a corner outfield role.

It’s worth noting Rios fractured his left hand in mid-April of 2015, so it may have played a role in his drop off in production. Either that, or it could be the fact that he’s a 35-year-old outfielder. We don’t know yet.

If Rios finds a home, I think it’ll either be somewhere that could use a low-risk, right-handed platoon option in a corner outfield spot, or somewhere that has weak or questionable options in a corner outfield spot, where Rios could compete for the starting job.

Prediction: If Rios doesn’t choose retirement, he will sign with the Los Angeles Angels, fighting for at-bats with Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry.

Justin Morneau — First Baseman/Designated Hitter

Morneau, in just 49 games with the Colorado Rockies in an injury-filled season last year, slashed .310/.363/.458 with a 107 wRC+.

Buyer beware — he’s fragile with a long injury history, and his numbers last season were boosted by playing in Coors Field. In 2015, he slashed .397/.436/.589 with a 148 wRC+ at Coors Field and .242/.308/.358 with an 81 wRC+ away from Colorado.

On the other hand, when he’s healthy, there’s a chance he could get a nice hot streak going. He defeated the Coors Field effect reputation in 2014, slashing .327/.363/.515 with a 110 wRC+ at home, and .309/.364/.475 with a 133 wRC+ away from Coors. Also, he’s a low-cost free agent that could turn into a medium or high reward. Nothing really to lose here.

In light of recent news of Chicago White Sox designated hitter Adam LaRoche retiring — leaving $13 million on the table — I think Morneau is a perfect fit here.

Prediction: Morneau signs with the White Sox and gets cuts in a designated hitter role.

Tim Lincecum — Right-Handed Pitcher


Alright, Timmy. What’s taking so long?

The 31-year-old has seen his performance, velocity, and overall command drop dramatically over the past few seasons. From 2007-2011, Lincecum posted a 2.98 ERA (2.93 FIP), averaging about 6.2 innings pitched per start, featuring a mid-90s fastball. He was one of the game’s top pitchers during that five-year span, collecting two Cy Young Awards. From 2012-2015, he recorded a 4.68 ERA (4.08 FIP), averaging 5.2 innings per start, with a declining strikeout-rate, walk-rate, groundball-rate, and velocity. PITCHf/x shows that Lincecum’s averaged fastball velocity dropped to a career-low 87.5 mph.

In September of 2015, Lincecum had hip surgery and was supposed to have a showcase to teams in mid-January. Then the showcase got pushed back to early-February, then late-February, then early-March, and everybody’s still waiting. Nobody knows when we’re going to see Lincecum sign. He will need to show that he’s healthy and an effective pitcher  to have anybody offer him a major-league deal. If Lincecum’s surgery allows him to reverse his downward career arc, the 2016 season could serve as a resetting of sorts for the former ace.

In order to have any shot at all at making a comeback, he’s going to need a non-contending team that can open a spot for him, a big ball park, and… it doesn’t hurt to pitch in the National League as opposed to the American League as well.

Prediction: Lincecum finds a one-year home with the San Diego Padres, staying in the NL West.

Justin Masterson — Right-Handed Pitcher

If there’s one word to describe the career of Justin Masterson, it would be inconsistent.

The soon-to-be 31-year-old right-hander has pitched very poorly over the last two seasons, recording a 5.79 ERA (4.62 FIP) with 1.622 WHIP over 188 innings pitched total.

In the three seasons prior, he posted a combined 3.86 ERA (3.60 FIP) with a 1.313 WHIP, averaging 205 innings pitched per year.

Masterson was released by the Boston Red Sox in August of 2015, and he had shoulder surgery in late-September of the same year following release. According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, Masterson is planning to showcase for 10-to-15 teams in Arizona at the end of March.

His lack of control and health concerns are reasons for teams to back away from him. Masterson does have an attractive 56.3-percent groundball rate in his career, and will also come cheap for the team that signs him.

Prediction: Seems kind of bold, but I have Masterson signing with the Baltimore Orioles. Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette loves his low-risk, potentially high-reward players, and they need all the pitching they can get.

There are some other noteworthy free agents still looking for a job this season. So for another four free agents, I’ll say:

  •  Right-handed pitcher Alfredo Simon will sign with the Milwaukee Brewers
  •  Infielder Alberto Callaspo will sign with the Colorado Rockies
  •  Right-handed pitcher Joe Nathan will sign with the Tampa Bay Rays
  •  Outfielder Marlon Byrd will sign with the Chicago White Sox


All stats courtesy of and


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