Sunday, May 28, 2017

Offseason Preview: Free Agency, Part I

With just 24 games to go in Upper Deck’s 25th season, the end of the road is near.  For the 20 teams that don’t make the postseason, drawing up offseason plans will begin rather soon, or may already have begun.  In this post, we will discuss the top ten position players who will be free agents in this offseason’s class, not including player’s with contract options or potential non-tender candidates.

  1. Ivan Romero, SS: Romero has the glove to play almost anywhere on the field and a power bat that pairs well with his disciplined batting eye.  He carries a career .284/.356/.549 line to go with four All Star appearances, three Gold Gloves in right field, a Most Valuable Player award, and a World Series ring.  At 29, he is also among the youngest on this list.
  2. Will McRae, LF: McRae is one of the best pure hitters in the league, notching at least 190 hits in seven of his 11 seasons, and on pace to do so again this season.  He has six All Star appearances, three Silver Sluggers, and three Gold Gloves - one at first base and two in left field.  At just 33 and with 2,311 hits, McRae looks like a lock to eclipse the 3,000 hit milestone by the end of his next contract, depending on its duration.
  3. Zephyr Pavlov, CF: Pavlov has won three Silver Sluggers in center field, offering his teams one of the best bats at a premium position in the league.  Though not a Gold Glove caliber defender, he is not a liability in the field.  He has nearly 2,200 hits and 408 home runs and will be just 34 when next season begins.
  4. Mac Hunt, RF: Hunt is a slugger with a career .882 OPS and more than 300 bombs.  Though he may narrowly miss the mark this season, he has belted more than 30 home runs and driven in 95 or more runs in each of the past six seasons.  He also has arguably the most playoff experience of this bunch, having won three World Series rings with his current Albuquerque Arrows.
  5. Cecil Schlereth, 2B: Schlereth, currently 32, is a four-time All Star and has a robust career .878 OPS.  He’s a nice bat and an adequate defender at another premium position and has also spent substantial time at center in his career, although he carries just a .961 fielding percentage in the grass.  Like McRae, he is a pure hitter with a .307 career batting average, but a back injury in season 23 seems to have dampened his power production to some degree.
  6. Davey Torres, C: At just 29, Torres holds the career record for on-base percentage (.411) and holds the second spot in OPS (.975).  He’s a run producer at another premium position, and though he may be best suited for a DH role at some point, the perennial All Star can hold his own behind the dish.
  7. Willie Bennett, CF: Bennett offers one more look at a talented offensive player at a premium position.  He has a much stronger outfield arm than Pavlov, but is overall considerably weaker in the field and lacks Pavlov’s power.  He’s no slouch at the dish, though, with a .287/.348/.437 batting line and, at just 30, he is three years younger than Pavlov.
  8. Frank Bigley, 3B: Bigley is another versatile player, capable of being plugged in almost anywhere on the field and carrying a big stick while he does.  He doesn’t have the best bat in the class, but he’s got heart of the order pop.  He’s won four Gold Gloves - three at third base - and a Silver Slugger, but he will be 35 when he signs his next deal, meaning that his future contract will depend on the assessments of interested GMs with regard to how his skill set may change over the course of the deal.
  9. Al Tarraga, SS: Albuquerque’s second player on this list has never been a stellar defender at shortstop, but his fielding translates well almost everywhere on the field.  He is among the fastest, most talented baserunners in the league and has had an above average run at the dish.  He will be 33 when he signs his next deal.
  10. Fausto Siqueiros, RF: Siqueiros has the tools to be one of the better and more versatile players in the league, but he has sometimes struggled to put it all together, carrying a sub-.700 OPS over the past two seasons.  Nonetheless, he is a plus defender almost everywhere and has won two Gold Gloves in right field.

Honorable mentions:

What do you think some of these players will make on the open market? Feel free to comment with estimations of deal length and salary.