By: Noah Wright
If you currently look at today’s free agent landscape, there’s tons of quality free agents that are going unsigned. Jose Iglesias, Dallas Keuchel, Clay Buchholz, Gio Gonzalez, Craig Kimbrel, and Marwin Gonzalez are some of the talent that has gone unsigned so far. Unless something major is done in rule changes (which I’m not fully on board with, and doubt will happen anyway), it’ll likely not change too much for next season. But next off season will see one of the deepest FA classes ever. Though while stars like Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner, Xander Bogaerts, and Didi Gregorius will get their payday, there’s going to be some players who are overlooked.
- Jose Abreu:
Jose Abreu has been a very consistent producer with his bat throughout his career. Through his first 4 big league seasons, the Cuban product gave the Sox an overall slashline of .301/.359/.524 in 2660 plate appearances. Each season in that 4 year span, Abreu mashed at least 25 home runs. He also put up wRC+ numbers in the above average range throughout that entire run. Though last season he faltered to a .265/.325/.473 line with 22 home runs in 553 PA’s, Abreu still produced a .208 ISO, so he was still showing off good power. Plus, Abreu has never been a great fielder throughout his career. He’s been worth -6.1 dWAR at first base. Regardless, Abreu won’t butcher every ball hit his way, and has never suffered a large injury, and yes while he did have a minor one this year, it wasn’t to the point where he couldn’t bounce back to a .300/.350/.500 hitter with 30 home runs again.
- Aaron Hicks:
Hicks has been one of the most underrated outfielders in all of baseball as he’s overshadowed by teammates Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. During 2018, Hicks smacked 27 home runs to go with a .248/.366/.467 slashline in 581 plate appearances. Though Hicks graded below average in DRS last season, Hicks usually is one of the best defensive players in CF to go along with a cannon arm. The switch hitting outfielder will only be 30 when he hits free agency, so we'll just have to see how his free agency plays out next off season.
- Justin Smoak:
2018 was Smoak’s second productive season at the plate. After a 2017 season that saw him post a .883 OPS with 38 home runs, and 133 wRC+, Smoak regressed some, but not a whole lot. During 2018, Justin held a .242/.350/.457 line in 594 PA’s. He also hit 25 home runs, and hit for a .242/.350/.457 line in 594 PA’s during all of last season. Though Smoak isn’t too much of a defensive 1B, he’ll be better than Abreu, as he had positive rankings in DRS in 2017, and only -3 DRS this year at first. Smoak will also benefit from a move as well since he had better away splits than home splits in 2018.
- Khris Davis:
Khris Davis has silently put up consistent numbers year after year since going to the A’s. This has been his 3rd year in a row with 40+ home runs, crushing a league leading and career high 48 last year. Overall, Davis posted a solid .247 (the 4th time in a row Davis has put up a .247 BA)/.326/.549 batting line. He also recorded a very good 135 wRC+. While Davis is a very good batter, he will struggle to find a job with an NL team. He was mainly a DH last season, and only saw 11 games in left field last season. Unless Davis is willing to play some first base, his market will likely be limited to mostly AL teams.
- Alex Wood:
While the pitching market will hold names like Madison Bumgarner and Chris Sale, some other starters will be overlooked. One of those is left hander Alex Wood. Since his rookie season in 2013, and making a full transition to SP in 2015, Wood has been nothing more than above average. Last season, Wood pitched to a 3.68 ERA, 3.53 FIP, and 1.207 WHIP in 151 and two thirds innings. Though it was only 2017 when Wood was an All-star with a sub-3 ERA. Wood will consistently rack up good K/BB numbers yearly. He’ll only be 29 for the 2020 season, so if he continues to pitch to his career numbers (3.29 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 1.215 WHIP, .8 HR/9, 2.6 BB/9, 8.3 K/9), Wood could be one of the most valuable and underrated pieces on the market next off season.
Players with options:
Though the players mentioned above are likely going to be overlooked next off season, there are some I left out because they have team options. I only picked out the ones that are potentially conceivable.
- Jedd Gyorko:
Jedd Gyorko has been one of the Cardinals sluggers since coming to St. Louis in the Jon Jay swap. Though he struggled in 2018, he had a .258/.324/.483 batting line with 50 home runs in 919 PA’s between 2016 and 2017, including a 30 HR campaign in 2016. Gyorko can play 2B, SS, and 1B, but his best position is 3B having 21 DRS and a 3.2 UZR throughout his career at the hot corner. The Cards have 2 options: they could either pick up his 2020 option for $13 million, or drop him for $1 million. If the Cards do workout a contract extension with Paul Goldschmidt, then they likely won’t pick his option up. They could also not pick his option up if they sign one of the other 1B options out there. However, they could keep him around if they are not confident in their ability to find an out-of-the-organization 1B.
- Eric Thames:
1B/LF Eric Thames has a club option as well for the 2020 season. Either the Brew Crew can pick up his $7 million option, or buy his contract out for $1 million. Regardless, if Thames hits the open market, he’s a solid LH bat any team could use. While Thames may not be able to hit LHP as well as RHP, the slugger could potentially be a solid under the radar acquisition if Thames can stay healthy, and bounce back to his 2017 self when he had a .877 OPS in 551 PA’s.