MLB Free Agency: It’s Bargain Season

After a long weekend, the baseball world was treated to some news as Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous Hall of Fame inductee, as he entered alongside Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, and Roy Halladay. Joining Harold Baines and Lee Smith, who were voted into the Hall of Fame by the Today’s Game Committee, the foursome inducted on Tuesday will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York on Sunday, July 21.

There were also a series of excellent free agent signings from across the league.

The Texas Rangers were the most active on the day bringing in a pair of veterans on inexpensive one-year deals. The more notable of the pair was infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, who spent the season between the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies. He signed for an exceptionally surprising sum of $3.5 million for the 2019 season. Cabrera fell victim to a rather saturated middle infield market, as the majority of the teams with needs there already made additions. It seems as though the veteran infielder will replace Adrian Beltre at third base and could serve as a rather strong trade chip come July.

My projections have Cabrera slashing a solid .267/.327/.442 (.769 OPS) with 37 doubles and 21 homers over a 162-game sample. His glove is 3.49% below average at third base using rang factor per nine innings (RF/9), but it is offset by his above average offensive game. The biggest issue here is his lack of plate discipline which has limited his OPS.

The second addition to the 40-man roster was veteran reliever Zach McAllister, who surprisingly secured a major league deal worth $1 million. He seems likely to serve in a middle relief capacity for the Rangers. McAllister was absolutely horrible in 2018 posting a 6.20 ERA over 45 innings pitched with a 4.47 FIP and a 1.489 WHIP. Honestly, looking at his peripheral statistics, there was a negligible difference in his peripherals from 2017 to 2018 with exception of ERA and FIP.  His pitch distribution, velocity, hard hit rate and per nine stats were all very similar, which suggests that there may have been a fluke season. He had been a major piece of the Indians’ bullpen for a while.

It's bargain season in @MLB free agency. @OrsattiJoe is here with a rundown on the inexpensive deals recently made around the majors.Click To Tweet

There’s no reason to be mad or even dissatisfied about either of these moves. A rebuilding team brought in two players who have previously performed well in the major leagues on buy-low, one-year deals. While I may not have given McAllister guaranteed money, these moves could pay dividends this summer.

The Braves brought Nick Markakis back to the Atlanta Braves on a one-year deal worth a total of $6 million. He will earn $4 million as a 2019 base salary with a $2 million buyout on a $6 million club option for 2020. Expect the veteran lefty to slot back in the middle of the order for the up-and-coming Braves. It has been reported that the veteran outfielder took less money and fewer years to return to the Braves, which suggests that he had multi-year offers on the table. With this being the case, it makes more sense as to why he only got $6 million despite an amazing .297/.366/.440 season that saw him make his first All-Star appearance.

Coming off of a $44 million contract, money may not be the primary concern for the veteran outfielder, but seeing as how he is currently entering his age-35 season, I don’t think he will be able to secure multi-year offers beyond 2019. My projections have him coming back down to Earth to an extent slashing .269/.341/.392 with 12 home runs over a 162-game sample size.

That said, obviously Markakis and the Braves have a mutually beneficial relationship, which makes this signing a win-win. This move could also help them afford a top starting pitcher such as Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber.

Detroit brought in infielder Gordon Beckham on a minor-league deal worth $700k in the major leagues. Beckham will join the Tigers in Lakeland next month to compete for a bench job. His main competition will be Pete Kozma, Rony Rodriguez, Dawel Lugo and Brandon Dixon. I would imagine Dixon and Rodriguez currently have the inside track based on the fact that they are each on the 40-man rosters with both infield and outfield capability.

Now 32, Beckham hasn’t seen more than 100 plate appearances in the major leagues since 2016, which he spent with the Braves (and three games with the Giants). In that season he slashed just .212/.294/.347. He spent last season in the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, the Tacoma Rainiers. While his .302/.400/.458 line with ten home runs was certainly impressive, it should be expected of a major league veteran to rake in the Pacific Coast League. I would imagine he spends some time with the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate.

Finally, the carousel didn’t stop for righty Parker Bridwell as he was claimed off of waivers by the Oakland A’s from the Los Angeles Angels. It’s not particularly surprising to see Bridwell passed around like this based on his previous prospect status and excellent bottom line numbers from 2017, but it should be taken into account that even when he found success, his peripheral numbers suggested that he was the recipient of good fortune, making his 2018 struggles seem more like an indication of what to expect going forward. The 27-year-old righty will compete for a job in camp, assuming he makes it there with the A’s. As it stands, his main competition to join the rotation would be Aaron Brooks, Chris Bassitt, Paul Blackburn and Tanner Anderson, and for the bullpen, Liam Hendriks, Ryan Dull and J.B. Wendelken. My expectation is that he is put back into limbo by the time camp comes.

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