Major League Baseball’s free agency period won’t officially start until Nov. 3. Yet it’s understandable if some fans are already tired of hearing about Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. As such, let’s take a different approach to the winter. Rather than wondering who Harper and Machado will sign with, let’s identify a non-Harper/Machado target that each team could realistically land this winter. Note that we tried to shy away from the top of the market, with precious few exceptions. We also used players just once apiece throughout this exercise.
Arizona Diamondbacks: LHP Drew Pomeranz
Whether or not the Diamondbacks rebuild, they could use another veteran starter. Pomeranz ought to come cheap after a horrible season that saw him post a 6.08 ERA in 26 appearances. He has past success as a starter and has a shared history with general manager Mike Hazen, dating back to their time together in Boston. Think of Pomeranz, then, as Arizona’s next Clay Buchholz.
Atlanta Braves: OF Lonnie Chisenhall
Admittedly not the flashy outfield signing Braves fans are hoping for this winter. Chisenhall is a buy-low candidate after he missed significant time due to injury. When right, he’s a solid-to-good platoon bat who can go get it in a corner.
Baltimore Orioles: RHP Jordan Lyles
We don’t know who the Orioles will have as their GM. We do know they’re in the early stages of what could be a long-term rebuild. Lyles is one of the youngest free agents available. The bulk of his track record is uninspiring, but he leaned into his whiff-heavy curveball late in the season and it might behoove the Orioles to see what a full season of that approach would look like.
Boston Red Sox: 2B/UTL Logan Forsythe
The Red Sox can’t know what they’ll get from Dustin Pedroia next season, yet probably won’t sign one of the upper-tier second basemen and block his path. Forsythe has experience sitting on the bench, and he can’t be too picky after a horrible season. If he can get back to hitting lefties the way he has in the past (he posted an .870 OPS versus them in 2017), he could even slot in around the diamond for Mitch Moreland or Rafael Devers versus southpaws.
Chicago Cubs: RHP David Phelps
Last winter, the Cubs signed Drew Smyly, an erstwhile Mariner recovering from Tommy John surgery, with an eye on him contributing down the road. Phelps is in the same boat — except he’s likely to be back around or before the All-Star Game. Keep in mind he had a 2.72 ERA (146 ERA+) and strikeout rate over 11 in roughly two full seasons as a reliever. Factor in his ability to go multiple innings, and he’d be a nice get for the Cubs bullpen.
Chicago White Sox: LHP Jake Diekman
One way rebuilding teams spend their winters is stocking up on relievers who could become attractive to contenders at the deadline. Diekman has a big arm and has shown flashes of being a quality late-inning reliever. If Don Cooper can help him find the strike zone more often — and that’s a big if — he could return something shiny at the deadline.
Cincinnati Reds: LHP Dallas Keuchel
The Reds are halfway to being a competitive team — they just need to improve their pitching. Let’s swing for the fences with Keuchel, who could slip through the cracks due to his low-heat, low-spin approach. Keuchel would bring some legitimacy to the front of Cincinnati’s rotation and could prove to be a relative bargain, depending on how other teams view him. The Reds, for their part, have hinted that they’re going to be aggressive in their pursuit of pitching this winter. Here you go.
Cleveland Indians: OF/DH Denard Span
Cleveland could use bullpen help. They could also use another outfield bat, with Lonnie Chisenhall heading toward free agency and Leonys Martin’s status up in the air. Span has quietly continued to be an above-average hitter and would be an upgrade over Tyler Naquin and some of Cleveland’s other options.
Colorado Rockies: 2B/UTL Daniel Descalso
The Rockies stand to lose DJ LeMahieu to free agency. Even if they’re willing to roll with Garrett Hampson and/or Ryan McMahon at second, bringing back Descalso as an insurance policy that would make sense. He upped his launch angle and his exit velocity last season and had the best offensive effort of his career.
Detroit Tigers: RHP Marco Estrada
Think of him as the new Mike Fiers: a finesse right-hander looking for a fresh start. Estrada still struck out twice as many as he walked with his north-south approach, but ran into too many barrels last season in the American League East. Against weaker Central foes, he could position himself as a decent deadline trade candidate.
Houston Astros: C Wilson Ramos
It makes sense, right? The Astros are potentially losing Martin Maldonado and Brian McCann to free agency and need a new primary backstop. Ramos would be that and might come cheaper than Yasmani Grandal due to his injury history.
Kansas City Royals: RHP A.J. Ramos
The Royals are yet another rebuilding team unlikely to have a busy winter. The only real approach then is to pick a random reliever’s name out of a hat with an eye on giving them save opportunities on a one-year deal. Our hat spit out Ramos.
Los Angeles Angels: UTL Marwin Gonzalez
Gonzalez would makes sense for a lot of teams in a versatile role. With the Angels, his protean nature means he could take on a more steady role as the most-days second or third baseman, depending on where Brad Ausmus wants Zack Cozart stationed.
Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Garrett Richards
The Dodgers have as much tolerance for injury risks as anyone. Richards’s upside in 2020 and beyond makes paying him to rehab for a year worth it.
Miami Marlins: RHP Randall Delgado
The Marlins are a good bet to not spend money. Delgado nonetheless makes sense as a bounce-back candidate. He’s on the right side of 30 and is coming off a miserable season that was cratered by injuries. Delgado is likely looking for a chance to regain some of his old shine — in some circles, that’s called Miami.
Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Charlie Morton
Morton is a thoughtful, well-traveled righty who would give the Brewers rotation a boost. Maybe they continue to shy away from using resources on starters, but his age will likely drive down his cost.
Minnesota Twins: UTL Josh Harrison
New Twins manager Rocco Baldelli must be familiar with the value of defensive versatility from his time in St. Pete. As such, how about giving him Josh Harrison, a gritty spark-plug type who can play all over? Maybe Harrison’s bat rebounds and he passes once more as a legitimate starting option.
New York Mets: LHP Andrew Miller
There’s no telling how much the Mets are willing to spend this winter. They could use some bullpen help, however, and pairing Miller with Mickey Callaway once more is a move with an explanation that writes itself. And if the deal fails? Hey, that writes itself too.
New York Yankees: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
Should the Dodgers let Ryu escape, he’d make plenty of sense for the Yankees as an above-average lefty who is younger than you think — next season will mark his age-32 campaign.
Oakland Athletics: LHP Gio Gonzalez
The A’s seldom spend money. Still, Gonzalez is a familiar face who always posts decent season-long numbers despite his start-to-start inconsistency. Plus the A’s brought back Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson last year, so let’s keep the reunions going.
Philadelphia Phillies: OF Adam Jones
Jones isn’t as good as he used to be, but that’s OK. He could spare Odubel Herrera and/or Nick Williams against lefties, while providing a good stabilizing presence in the clubhouse. The Phillies braintrust knows him well from their shared time in Baltimore.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 2B Brian Dozier
The Pirates aren’t likely to spend a ton. Even so, Dozier would represent an intriguing buy-low candidate. If he regains his old form, he’d give the Pirates a much-needed boost. If not … well, at least they tried, right?
San Diego Padres: RHP Nathan Eovaldi
The Padres under A.J. Preller are good for a surprise or two every now and then. Inking Eovaldi in an attempt to jump start their return to the competitive ranks would qualify. He’s still young enough that — if he can stay healthy — he could be part of the next competitive Padres team, too.
San Francisco Giants: 1B/OF Steve Pearce
The Giants haven’t yet named a GM, so who knows exactly what they’ll be looking for this winter. We’re playing it safe by assuming whomever it is will want to add some offense. Pearce, the unlikely World Series MVP, can spare Brandon Belt against lefties and see action in the corner outfield spots as well.
Seattle Mariners: DH/C Evan Gattis
The Mariners will be in the market for a new DH if Nelson Cruz signs with a different team. Gattis would make sense as a league-average batter who can, in theory, see some action behind the dish. No one is going to fully replace Cruz, but Gattis figures to come cheaper.
St. Louis Cardinals: C Devin Mesoraco
Mesoraco has had a problem staying healthy throughout his career. In St. Louis, he could help reduce Yadier Molina’s workload while permitting Carson Kelly more time in the minors. There’s no telling if Mesoraco or Molina would go for such an arrangement — especially since Mesoraco might land an outright starting job elsewhere.
Tampa Bay Rays: C Yasmani Grandal
The Rays have an exciting crop of young players and almost no money on the books. This is the perfect chance to throw a loaded one- or two-year deal at someone. Grandal is that someone. He’d almost instantly become the best catcher in franchise history.
Texas Rangers: RHP Edwin Jackson
The Rangers figure to add rotation help somehow, no matter if they’re rebuilding or not. Truth is, we put Jackson here because we want to see him suit up for yet another club.
Toronto Blue Jays: RHP James Shields
The Blue Jays are likely to go young in 2019. Adding a veteran innings eater like Shields would take the pressure off their bullpen. He’s known as a good mentor, too.
Washington Nationals: 2B DJ LeMahieu
The Nationals need a new second baseman. LeMahieu’s brand of singles-and-defense isn’t exciting, but he’d fill the hole just fine.
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