MLB free agency is upon us yet again, and your favorite team should buck the trend and spend some money on at least one veteran, but which one is the best fit?
The most wonderful time of the year has arrived – MLB free agency! The Hot Stove season is off to an electric start, with Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos accused by the MLB Players Association of spilling the beans on collusion among the owners.
That was the big claim last winter, as marquee free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado received only a few fair offers and All-Stars Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel were forced to wait until June to sign.
Free agency isn’t what it used to be thanks to the sheer number of teams mired in a lengthy rebuild, the big-market teams attempting to get below the tax line or the analytics-driven approach to roster construction that values younger, cost-controlled players more than veterans. Many young players haven’t completely helped their causes by sacrificing their first few years of free agency for some up-front cash before arbitration.
This year’s class lacks the type of $300-million Harper/Machado star power, but Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon could come close, at least in terms of annual value. World Series hero Stephen Strasburg is also a free agent, but he may not truly pursue an open-market deal, opting instead to work out what amounts to a contract extension to stay in Washington for his entire career.
There is a substantial drop in quality of free agents after Cole, Rendon and Strasburg, but there is still value to be found. Expect the market to be slow to get moving, as has become the norm. When the action does heat up this winter, every MLB team will sign at least one free agent (even the Baltimore Orioles have to employ 25 players). Here’s the best option for each club.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Yasiel Puig
After losing Patrick Corbin and Paul Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks were expected to bring up the rear in the NL West in 2019. That they manged to reach the All-Star break above .500 and on the fringes of contention was met with mild interest by the rest of the league. Everyone was more focused on what the team would do with ace Zack Greinke. The right-hander was ultimately moved to the Astros at the deadline.
Instead of collapsing after losing Greinke, the Diamondbacks managed to make things very interesting in the race for the second Wild Card, ultimately finishing 85-77 thanks to a well-rounded attack led by Eduardo Escobar, Christian Walker and Ketel Marte. Arizona is showing that it is possible to rebuild a roster without resigning yourself to losing 100 games for three years.
Former All-Star Adam Jones handled right field for the Diamondbacks last year, but was on a one-year deal. Arizona needs a solid replacement if they want to continue to stay in the fight for a playoff spot next season. Yasiel Puig makes sense on a mid-range deal, despite old rivalries from his days with the Dodgers.
The 28-year-old has left behind most of his immaturity and bone-headed decisions and has established himself as a quality veteran bat. Puig is never going to live up to the massive hype that followed his first month in the big leagues, but he will give a team 20-25 home runs, 15-20 steals and decent defense in the outfield.