Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, DJ LeMahieu, Michael Brantley, and George Springer headline this offseason’s Major League Baseball free agent class. Simultaneously, there are many players who can have a profound impact on an MLB club and could be had for a substantially lower price.
Here’s the bang-for-the-buck free agent option at every position.
Catcher: James McCann
Looking for an offensive boost and a respectable force behind the dish? McCann is your man. The 30-year-old is a proven commodity behind the plate and one of the best offensive catchers in the sport, posting an .896 OPS last season and a season removed from smacking 18 home runs. He can do damage in the middle of an order.
First Base: C.J. Cron
Cron appeared in just 13 games with the Detroit Tigers last season due to a knee injury. At full force, he’s a potent hitter. From 2018-19 he totaled a combined 55 home runs and 152 RBIs while posting a .799 OPS. Cron is a starting-caliber corner infielder who provides pop from the right side. If teams prefer he merely hold a bat, Cron can be a dangerous threat as a designated hitter.
Second Base: Cesar Hernandez
Hernandez was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Cleveland Indians last season, as he hit .283 and totaled 20 doubles. The second baseman is a contact-savvy switch hitter. He makes a lot of contact, drives in runs at a considerable rate (Hernandez totaled 131 RBIs from 2018-19 with the Philadelphia Phillies), and is in the thick of his prime. The best could be yet to come.
Third Base: Maikel Franco
Franco impressed on a one-year, prove-it deal with the Kansas City Royals, hitting .278 and totaling 38 RBIs. The right-handed hitter works the count, has a long power swing that generates slug, and is still just 28. Franco is a capable third baseman who can be a leading catalyst for an MLB offense and a potential steal on the open market.
Shortstop: Freddy Galvis
Galvis is fourth on the free agent shortstop totem pole (Marcus Semien, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons), making him an inevitable steal. The switch-hitting middle infielder hits for power which has contributed to him being one of the most productive shortstops in the sport in recent memory (Galvis totaled 265 RBIs from 2016-19). He’s as proven as his free agent shortstop comrades in the batter’s box.
Left Field: Cameron Maybin
Maybin has primarily played left field in recent years and is just a season removed from an impressive season with the New York Yankees where he posted an .858 OPS and a 126 OPS+. The 33-year-old still gets the barrel on the ball, can play all three outfield positions, and is capable of performing better than his brief 2020 showing (23 hits across 93 at-bats).
Center Field: Kevin Pillar
Pillar has consistently been one of the best defenders in the big leagues. Meanwhile, he’s adept at making soft contact and putting the ball in play with consistency. This season Pillar hit .288 across split time with the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies. He’s a buy-low, high-reward starting option for teams in search of defense and contact hitting.
Right Field: Hunter Renfroe
Renfroe hit a whopping .156 last season. The good news for the right-hander is that he has a proven track record (he totaled 85 home runs and 190 RBIs from 2017-19). Renfroe makes resounding contact with the bat and makes nifty catches in the field. On a team where he’s an everyday player, Renfroe is poised for a bounce-back season at the plate.
Designated Hitter: Shin-Soo Choo
Choo is one of the best players in MLB devoid of a World Series championship; he has the acumen to help get a team over the hump. Choo, 38, logs extra-base hits at a respectable rate, can be a source of power (Choo posted an OPS of .810 or better in both 2018 and 2019), and can field his position well. What you see is what you get: a veteran who still gets it done. The veteran outfielder is a savvy DH/outfield option.
Starting Pitcher: Corey Kluber
Kluber, the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner, has made just eight starts over the last two seasons due to injuries. His ability to get back to what he once was is a mystery, but taking a flier on Kluber is worthwhile. We’re talking about a starter who commands all his offerings, pitches deep into games, logs strikeouts at a high rate, and is ace material. That is worth a look.
Reliever: Trevor Rosenthal
Want backend relief but don’t want to back up the truck for Liam Hendriks and Shane Greene? Trevor Rosenthal could be just for you! The right-hander had a resurgent 2020 season split between the Royals and San Diego Padres, posting a combined 1.90 ERA and 38 strikeouts. Previously one of the premier relievers in the sport, Rosenthal could be as impactful as the field at a lower price.