Until Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Dallas Keuchel find homes, any Major League Baseball free agency signing will be a secondary headline. But there are plenty of under the radar free agents who are capable of having a profound impact wherever they land. Here are homes for those select individuals.
Nick Markakis – Cleveland Indians
Nick Markakis is one of, if not the most underrated free agent, in terms of attention, on the open market, and it’s difficult to grasp why. He’s coming off an All-Star Game appearance in a year where he hit .297 while totaling 14 home runs and 93 RBIs, is a reliable outfielder, and durable (Markakis has appeared in 155-plus games in each of the last six seasons).
The Indians have lost both Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall to free agency and have an uncertain outfield for 2019. Perhaps manager Terry Francona could move second baseman Jason Kipnis to center field — which he has done before — but that alone isn’t going to shore up an underwhelming outfield corp. Markakis could give them a much-needed lift.
The Indians have traded away and/or lost many prominent players such as Brantley, Chisenhall, Edwin Encarnacion, Yan Gomes, Yonder Alonso, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen. A roster overhaul appears to be in place, but the Indians are still the best team in the American League Central. Adding one of the most proven outfielders in the sport (Markakis) would boost the Indians outfield while adding a steady hitter to their lineup.Deep into free agency, some proven commodities are still without a team to call theirs. @RPStratakos gives them a home in this piece.Click To Tweet
Adam Jones – New York Mets
The Mets outfield rotation currently features Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Juan Lagares, and Keon Broxton. Conforto can hit for power, but also hit just .243 in 2018; Nimmo is a suitable fielder, but an inconsistent hitter; Lagares and Broxton are each advanced defenders, but underwhelming hitters. With an unknown return date on Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets would greatly benefit from the presence of a veteran outfielder.
Jones is one of the most proven outfielders in the sport. While not as flashy as he once was, the 33-year-old is still capable of being an outfield commander and posing a threat at the plate. He’s hit .281 and .285 in each of the last two seasons, is a contact hitter, and can play both center and right field. That reliability and plate approach is everything the Mets need.
New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has embarked on one of the busiest offseasons in Mets history. He’s acquired Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Seattle Mariners while also agreeing to deals with Wilson Ramos, Jeurys Familia, and Jed Lowrie. Signing Jones would continue what has been a productive offseason for the Mets.
Gio Gonzalez – Houston Astros
The Astros once formidable starting rotation projects to take an enormous step backwards in 2019. While Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole remain in place for at least one more season, the Astros lost Charlie Morton to the Tampa Bay Rays on a two-year deal, appear unlikely to re-sign Keuchel, and expect Lance McCullers to miss 2019 with an elbow injury; they need to add a starting pitcher.
Gonzalez is coming off a split season with the Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers where he recorded a 4.21 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. With that said, he’s made 31-plus starts in each of the last four seasons, is a proven groundball pitcher, and has pitched on winning teams in the past; a change of scenery should do the left-hander well.
The Astros are still the best team in the AL West. At the same time, even though they signed Brantley, the Astros can’t take their division for granted, especially considering the starting pitchers they’re now devoid of. Top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley may be nearing an MLB debut, but the Astros need proven commodities to keep pace in the AL. Signing Gonzalez to a short-term deal would deepen their pitching staff and allow the southpaw to revitalize himself after a disappointing 2018 campaign.
Freddy Galvis – Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates aren’t far away from posing a playoff threat, and with an uncertain free agency continuing for Josh Harrison, the Pirates have a pressing need for a middle infielder. Adding a proven shortstop such as Galvis would fit the bill and kick-start their efforts in making a postseason push.
While a career .246 hitter Galvis has totaled 61-plus RBIs in each of the last three years, can get on base, and has played 162 games in each of the last two years. In the field, he’s capable of keeping groundballs in front of him, has a reliable glove, and Galvis’ durability is an appealing aspect to any team that wishes to pursue him.
A lineup that features the likes of Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Josh Bell, and Adam Frazier has the potential to be a reliable and productive offense. Adding the likes of the contact-hitting Galvis would add more depth to that order and manager Clint Hurdle‘s roster, in general.
Asdrubal Cabrera – Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have one of the best lineups in the sport, but adding an infielder, especially a versatile one, would do wonders for manager Craig Counsell. Yes, Cory Spangenberg or Hernan Perez could be their opening day second baseman, but Cabrera would give the Brewers more options when it comes to constructing their everyday lineup.
Cabrera is one of the most forgotten individuals on the open market. He’s blasted 23 home runs and hit .280 in two of the last three seasons, is a contact hitter, and capable of playing both second and third base, as well as shortstop. With the free agent loses of Jonathan Schoop and potentially Mike Moustakas, the Brewers need infield depth. Even if they decided not to play him every day, Cabrera’s versatility would come into play when injuries present themselves, or someone is struggling.
The Brewers were one game away from winning the National League Pennant, but the argument could be made that they’ve been too passive this offseason. Given their competition within the NL Central from the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Pirates, and potentially the Cincinnati Reds, reclaiming the division crown is anything but a given for the Brewers; adding Cabrera would enhance their chances of repeating as division champions.
Editor’s note: news broke of Asdrubal Cabrera’s contract signing with the Texas Rangers on Tuesday afternoon, minutes before this post was set to publish. Please don’t yell at us in the comments. I mean, Robbie makes some good points.