The Definitive MLB Free Agency Preview

Aroldis Chapman is a World Series Champion and is about to get a whole hell of a lot richer. (Getty Images)

Aroldis Chapman is a World Series Champion and is about to get a whole hell of a lot richer. (Getty Images)

– Bill Annechino

With the Hot Stove season of MLB about to start, I figured this would be as good a time as any to offer a free agent primer.  I wanted my primer to be a little different than the typical Listicles that you will find in that I will not be ranking my free agents by traditional “slash line” stats or the Triple Crown stats.  Instead, I am focusing on advanced stats.  For hitters, this means I will be looking at weighted on base average (wOBA), park-adjusted weighted runs created (wrc+), batting average on balls in play (BABIP), and wins above replacement (fWAR).  For pitchers, those statistics are going to be park-adjusted expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP-), batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and wins above replacement (fWAR), of which the “f” signifies that it is the Fangraphs stat, as every statistics outlet calculates WAR somewhat differently.  Since I’m a great guy and I want you, the reader, to have a more nuanced understanding of baseball for having read my article, I’ll take a second to explain these statistics.  For the purposes of this column, all statistics and terminologies are via Fangraphs.com, which is a website that you should be reading and using, if you aren’t already.

xFIP-

Rating Value
Excellent 70
Great 80
Above Average 90
Average 100
Below Average 110
Poor 115
Awful 125

fWAR

Rating Value
Scrub 0-1
Role Player 1-2
Solid Starter 2-3
Good Player 3-4
All-Star 4-5
Superstar 5-6
MVP 6+

WRC+ and wOBA

Rating WRC+ wOBA
Excellent 160 .400
Great 140 .370
Above Average 115 .340
Average 100 .320
Below Average 80 .310
Poor 75 .300
Awful 60 .290

BABIP

Batting average on balls in play is a statistic that attempts to measure luck in terms of hitting and pitching.  In a perfect world, you would expect to see a number of .300, with anything significantly lower for a batter meaning that they were unlucky and anything higher meaning that their numbers were at least somewhat aided by luck (vice versa for pitchers).  It is not a totally perfect statistic, in that some hitters and pitchers will show an ability to buck the trend over a career, but it is a reasonable estimation of how “real” the numbers a player posted were.  In the context of this article, this statistic will be used to attempt to figure out if a player is a regression candidate.  

Hopefully after all those stats, your head isn’t spinning too hard.  Without further ado, here is your official Hard Foul Sports MLB 2017 Free Agent Primer.  I have put the players into tiers, but I will not attempt to rank them beyond that.


Pitchers

Kenley Jansen is one of the best pitchers available in a deep free agency class. (Getty Images)

Kenley Jansen is one of the best pitchers available in a deep free agency class. (Getty Images)

Top Tier

RP Aroldis Chapman:  46 xFIP-, .268 BABIP, 2.7 fWAR

RP Kenley Jansen:  59 xFIP-, .238 BABIP, 3.2 fWAR

SP Rich Hill:  80 xFIP-, .275 BABIP, 3.8 fWAR

SP Jeremy Hellickson:  97 xFIP-, .274 BABIP, 3.2 fWAR

SP Bartolo Colon:  101 xFIP-, .291 BABIP, 2.9 fWAR

SP Ivan Nova:  88 xFIP-, .306 BABIP, 2.2 fWAR

RP Mark Melancon:  73 xFIP-, .259 BABIP, 1.8 fWAR

It is important to note that many people expect Chris Sale to be traded this offseason, and his movement may hold up the market for starting pitching, since he would easily be the best starter available.  If he does end up getting traded, I believe the dominoes will start to fall after he moves.  This year is a strong market for relievers, as Chapman, Jansen and Melancon all figure to get big contracts.  I do not believe that Melancon is the same caliber of reliever as Chapman and Jansen, and the numbers reflect that, but he is a former closer who has gaudy save stats, and someone is going to give him a lot of money this offseason, so I felt obligated to list him in this tier.  Rich Hill is the great enigma in the pitching market this offseason:  a talented pitcher with both injury and age concerns.  Hill did not become a full-time starter until the age of 27, but pitched only 182 innings in the 8 seasons between his debut and last season.  The results last year were encouraging and Hill was last seen shutting out the Cubs in the NLCS.  He has injury issues with a recurring blister on his finger, probably due to the way he spins his curveball.  Last season, he threw 110 innings of some of the best pitching in baseball, and his ideal fit could come from a team that is built to be able to only expect half of the normal workload for one of its best pitchers.  It will be interesting to see where he lands.  Ivan Nova was always an effective inning-eating, middle of the rotation starter with the Yankees, but experienced more success after a midseason trade to the Pirates, who have had noted success with pitching reclamation projects, attributed to their pitching coaches.  I might be wary of a guy who made the AL to NL jump and the corresponding numbers boost that may be attributed to superior coaching.  Colon and Hellickson are two more inning-eaters who would be a welcome addition for almost any pitching staff in the league, in my opinion.  Colon has a rubber arm and will seemingly pitch forever, and Hellickson gave the Phillies 189 innings of essentially league average baseball (according to his xFIP-), grading out as a good player according to his WAR.  We don’t have to look very far back in time to see what the importance of a deep rotation of effective starters can be worth; imagine if the Indians didn’t have to start Josh Tomlin in the World Series, or could have used Corey Kluber twice instead of three times, or even if the Dodgers hadn’t been ravaged by injuries to their starting rotation.  A guy like Colon or Hellickson would have proven invaluable to either of those teams, along with countless others.

Middle Tier

RP Brad Ziegler:  86 xFIP-, .325 BABIP, 1.3 fWAR

SP Jhoulys Chacin:  100 xFIP-, .317 BABIP, 1.6 fWAR

SP C.J. Wilson (2015):  105 xFIP-, .281 BABIP, 1.5 fWAR

SP Brett Anderson (2015):  91 xFIP-, .310 BABIP, 1.7 fWAR

SP R.A. Dickey:  112 xFIP-, .279 BABIP, 1.0 fWAR

SP Doug Fister:  115 xFIP-, .246 BABIP, 1.1 fWAR

RP Koji Uehara:  80 xFIP-, .288 BABIP, 0.6 fWAR

The addition of Doug Fister into the middle tier of the free agent pitching ranking should tell you a lot about the quality of the market.  These 13 pitchers I have mentioned between this tier and the top tier represent all of the pitchers on the market that posted a WAR above 1.0, and two didn’t even play last season.  C.J. Wilson and Brett Anderson both missed all of last year with injuries, so I have listed their 2015 numbers.  Both of these pitchers represent intriguing buy-low opportunities for teams.  If you signed either one to a team-friendly contract and were able to get a league-average season out of them without an injury, you would consider that a win.  Doug Fister was bad in most senses of the word last year, but someone is going to give him a contract and you could honestly do worse for a 4 or 5 starter.  He’s only 2 years removed from an eight place finish in the NL Cy Young voting, so he represents an intriguing reclamation project for a National League team, and the price should be right.  Chacin is another guy who probably grades out as a 4 or 5 starter, but should be good to eat innings and is on the right side of 30.  R. A. Dickey is who he is at this point; the former-Cy Young winner is a knuckleballer who you can plug in for 170-220 innings and feel reasonably comfortable about him pitching league-average baseball.  The appeal of the knuckleball pitcher is that he will probably have as many great starts as he will terrible ones, and there’s a case to be made that that could be more valuable than someone who is average in every start.  Dickey may start 30 games and give you an above-average chance to win in 10, a below-average shot in 10 and a toss-up in the final 10.  I might take those odds, especially since the price will not be very high.  Whichever team signs him will also need to invest in a catcher who can handle the knuckleball.  Brad Ziegler, to me, is the great bargain of this free agent class.  He was a closer in Arizona, before coming over to the Red Sox via a trade last season.  His 86 xFIP- grades out as somewhere between great and above-average, and it’s possible that he will fall through the cracks due to his lack of saves last season.  Ziegler is a top-flight relief arm that has closing experience, which means he is a bullpen arm that 30 teams could use, and if he lands somewhere on a team-friendly deal, that team is getting a fantastic bargain.  The same can be said about Koji Uehara, whose numbers don’t look great because he was injured for a large portion of last season.  That 80 xFIP- tells us that Uehara was still a great pitcher when healthy, and he is another buy-low target that could pay tremendous dividends for a team.  

Intriguing/Useful Options

RP Junichi Tazawa:  89 xFIP-, .292 BABIP, 0.2 fWAR

RP Boone Logan:  82 xFIP-, .221 BABIP, 0.8 fWAR

RP J.P. Howell:  87 xFIP-, .338 BABIP, 0.3 fWAR

RP Jerry Blevins:  82 xFIP-, .302 BABIP, 0.7 fWAR

RP Joe Blanton:  101 xFIP-, .240 BABIP, 0.9 fWAR

RP Neftali Feliz:  90 xFIP-, .240 BABIP, -0.1 fWAR

RP Fernando Rodney:  91 xFIP-, .302 BABIP, 0.4 fWAR

RP Santiago Casilla:  89 xFIP-, .292 BABIP, 0.3 fWAR

RP Sergio Romo:  88 xFIP-, .292 BABIP, 0.2 fWAR

RP Brett Cecil:  67 xFIP-, .344 BABIP, 0.4 fWAR

Brett Cecil actually had the third-lowest xFIP- of any pitcher on the market this year, and it looks as if batters were fairly lucky against him this season.  I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out where to rate Cecil, finally sticking him in this section.  If that xFIP- holds up and he continues to pitch like that, he would be a useful addition to any bullpen; I just can’t figure out if it will.  Cecil absolutely dominated left-handed batters last year, to the tune of them posting a .297 wOBA against him.  That skill alone is enough for a team to justify a contract for one of the premiere left-handed specialists in baseball.  Joe Blanton threw 80 innings as a reliever for the Dodgers last season, which is a useful-enough skill in and of itself.  Junichi Tazawa is a useful bullpen arm who could bolster a lot of relief staffs around the league.  He had somewhat of a down year last season, so he is an intriguing buy-low candidate.  Feliz, Romo, Casilla, and Rodney are all former closers with recent-enough success that most teams should feel comfortable adding them to their bullpens.  Blevins, Howell and Logan are also effective relievers who will find a home this offseason, and probably make the teams who sign them better.  If recent baseball history can tell us anything, it’s that you can never have enough pitching for the stretch run.  A quality reliever, especially one without big-name recognition, is an invaluable asset for a team, and can make all the difference.  

The Rest

RP Daniel Hudson:  100 xFIP-, .331 BABIP, 0.6 fWAR

RP Eric O’Flaherty:  111 xFIP-, .367 BABIP, -0.1 fWAR

RP Brian Duensing:  108 xFIP-, .275 BABIP, 0.1 fWAR

RP Trevor Cahill:  95 xFIP-, .246 BABIP, 0 fWAR

RP Joe Smith:  102 xFIP-, .269 BABIP, -0.4

RP Travis Wood:  117 xFIP-, .215 BABIP, 0.1 fWAR

RP Ross Ohlendorf:  118 xFIP-, .265 BABIP, -0.6 fWAR

SP Alfredo Simon:  138 xFIP-, .361 BABIP, -1.0 fWAR

SP Jorge de la Rosa:  116 xFIP-, .325 BABIP, 0.5 fWAR

RP Peter Moylan:  92 xFIP-, .281 BABIP, 0.2 fWAR

RP Andrew Bailey:  109 xFIP-, .276 BABIP, 0 fWAR

SP Tim Lincecum:  130 xFIP-, .432 BABIP, -0.8 fWAR

SP Jered Weaver:  133 xFIP-, .301 BABIP, -0.2 fWAR

RP Jesse Chavez:  98 xFIP-, .316 BABIP, 0 fWAR

SP Andrew Cashner:  112 xFIP-, .315 BABIP, 0.4 fWAR

RP Mike Dunn:  106 xFIP-, .319 BABIP, 0.3 fWAR

RP Dustin McGowan:  99 xFIP-, .241 BABIP, 0 fWAR

RP Blaine Boyer:  118 xFIP-, .325 BABIP, 0.4 fWAR

RP Chris Capuano:  115 xFIP-, .286 BABIP, -0.5 fWAR

RP Fernando Salas:  100 xFIP-, .258 BABIP, 0.1 fWAR

SP Ross Detwiler:  127 xFIP-, .320 BABIP, 0.3 fWAR

RP David Hernandez:  100 xFIP-, .335 BABIP, 0.2 fWAR

SP Ryan Vogelsong:  126 xFIP-, .280 BABIP, 0.1 fWAR

RP Jerome Williams:  143 xFIP-, .295 BABIP, -0.2 fWAR

SP Edwin Jackson:  126 xFIP-, .305 BABIP, -0.2 fWAR

RP Brandon Morrow:  106 xFIP-, .309 BABIP, 0 fWAR

SP Clayton Richard:  107 xFIP-, .338 BABIP, 0.5 fWAR

RP Carlos Villanueva:  97 xFIP-, .319 BABIP, -0.6 fWAR

RP Javier Lopez:  124 xFIP-, .253 BABIP, -0.6 fWAR

SP Jake Peavy:  114 xFIP-, .320 BABIP, 0.9 fWAR

RP Drew Storen:  96 xFIP-, .300 BABIP, 0.1 fWAR

RP Kevin Jepsen:  127 xFIP-, .321 BABIP, -0.9 fWAR

SP Colby Lewis:  121 xFIP-, .241 BABIP, 0.8 fWAR

RP Joaquin Benoit:  100 xFIP-, .262 BABIP, 0.8 fWAR

RP Scott Feldman:  98 xFIP-, .308 BABIP, 0.4 fWAR

RP Gavin Floyd:  100 xFIP-, .241 BABIP, 0.3 fWAR

RP Matt Belisle:  94 xFIP-, .285 BABIP, 0.7 fWAR

RP Sean Burnett:  92 xFIP-, .235 BABIP, 0 fWAR

SP Mat Latos:  126 xFIP-, .280 BABIP, 0.1 fWAR

RP Marc Rzepczynski:  100 xFIP-, .333 BABIP, 0.4 fWAR

These are all league-average, or worse, options.  Some of them will be signed, and some may end up in the minors or retiring.  It is depressing to see Tim Lincecum’s name on this list, but time marches on.  A few of the guys on this list may end up being useful contributors to a team in 2017, but if you are shopping around in this area of the free agent market, you are looking for a low-risk flyer.  


Hitters

Mark Trumbo is poised to cash in after a massive 2016. (Getty Images)

Mark Trumbo is poised to cash in after a massive 2016. (Getty Images)

Top Tier

RF Mark Trumbo:  .337 wOBA, 109 wRC+, .278 BABIP, 2.2 fWAR

1B Steve Pearce:  .371 wOBA, 136 wRC+, .318 BABIP, 2.0 fWAR

C Matt Wieters:  .307 wOBA, 88 wRC+, .265 BABIP, 1.7 fWAR

CF Rajai Davis:  .302 wOBA, 85 wRC+, .299 BABIP, 2.0 fWAR

3B Luis Valbuena:  .351 wOBA, 123 wRC+, .315 BABIP, 2.0 fWAR

3B Justin Turner:  .353 wOBA, 124 wRC+, .293 BABIP, 5.6 fWAR

RF Josh Reddick:  .324 wOBA, 106 wRC+, .306 BABIP, 1.2 fWAR

2B Neil Walker:  .351 wOBA, 122 wRC+, .302 BABIP, 3.7 fWAR

2B Chase Utley:  .312 wOBA, 97 wRC+, .299 BABIP, 2.0 fWAR

3B Adam Rosales:  .340 wOBA, 114 wRC+, .308 BABIP, 2.0 fWAR

LF Angel Pagan:  .324 wOBA, 105 wRC+, .298 BABIP, 2.1 fWAR

DH Carlos Beltran:  .358 wOBA, 124 wRC+, .315 BABIP, 2.3 fWAR

CF Ian Desmond:  .336 wOBA, 106 wRC+, .350 BABIP, 3.3 fWAR

RF Jose Bautista:  .355 wOBA, 122 wRC+, .255 BABIP, 1.4 fWAR

DH Edwin Encarnacion:  .373 wOBA, 134 wRC+, .270 BABIP, 3.9 fWAR

C Wilson Ramos:  .361 wOBA, 124 wRC+, .327 BABIP, 3.5 fWAR

LF Yoenis Cespedes:  .369 wOBA, 134 wRC+, .298 BABIP, 3.2 fWAR

As you can see, there is certainly help to be found in the hitting market.  A whopping 6 players with an fWAR of 3 or better, and two more (Reddick and Bautista) who profile as that kind of hitter if given a full season to play.  I have included Matt Wieters in this group because catcher is a premium position, and Wieters is one of the better catchers in baseball.  Realistically, all of the players in this group are going to get paid this offseason.  Wilson Ramos was on track for a huge payday until he tore his ACL at the end of the season.  If he had never been injured, I do not think teams would hesitate to make him one of the highest-paid catchers in baseball.  As it stands, he may be forced to take a “prove-it” deal that could end up turning into the best value of this free agency market.  Steve Pearce had the highest wRC+ of any player in this group, and his ability to play multiple positions make him an intriguing prospect, sort of like a poor man’s Ben Zobrist.  Bautista and Encarnacion have been two of the most productive hitters in baseball over the last few seasons, but both are aging.  I would assume that they both take short contracts with high annual money (something like 3yrs/$75 million makes a lot of sense to me).  Mark Trumbo really only has one skill, and that’s hitting home runs.  Fortunately for him, he performs that skill better than anyone else in baseball, and power gets paid.  Yoenis Cespedes bet on himself in New York last season, and looks poised to cash in this winter.  When he is healthy, he is among the best players in baseball.  Justin Turner could be the steal of the offseason, as he has developed into the kind of player who does everything well.  Consider that he had the fifth highest fWAR of any player in the National League last season, with the 18th highest ISO (isolated power).  He was also top-20 in wRC+.  He has also shown an ability to play multiple positions, and was the sixth-best defender in the NL, according to Fangraphs.  He was the 25th-hardest player to strike out in the NL last season, and even ranked top-40 in Fangraphs’ BsR stat, which measures baserunning success.  My point here is that you may not think of Justin Turner as a superstar, but he played like one last year and will be compensated accordingly.  Ian Desmond plays a premium defensive position, center field, and was one of the better defensive centerfielders in baseball before last season.  Any team who signs him is betting that they are getting the player who averaged 4.5 fWAR from 2012-2014, instead of the guy who posted only 1.7 fWAR in 2015.  In 2016, he was good for 3.3 fWAR, which probably signifies that 2015 was just an off year for him.  Since 2012, he has been good for 20+ home runs per season (he hit 19 in 2015, so humor me), and if he can go back to playing above-average defense in center field, he will represent a very valuable player.  Neil Walker is clearly the best second baseman on the market, but Chase Utley is just as clearly the second-best option.  Utley actually had a bit of a renaissance year in 2016 after his terrible 2015.  He was a 2 win player last season, which is about as good as it is going to get for a team who is looking for help at second and does not want to pay the money that Walker is going to get.  As for the rest of the players on this list, they represent above-average starters who are in line to make a lot of money this season.  Some of them, like Neil Walker, may not be household names, but you shouldn’t be surprised when they make a lot of money this offseason.  

Middle Tier

DH Pedro Alvarez:  .349 wOBA, 117 wRC+, .282 BABIP, 1.1 fWAR

C Jason Castro:  .301 wOBA, 88 wRC+, .297 BABIP, 1.1 fWAR

C Alex Avila:  .329 wOBA, 104 wRC+, .341 BABIP, 1.1 fWAR

C Drew Butera:  .345 wOBA, 114 wRC+, .373 BABIP, 0.7 fWAR

C Geovany Soto:  .345 wOBA, 121 wRC+, .321 BABIP, 0.4 fWAR

RF Matt Joyce:  .375 wOBA, 137 wRC+, .285 BABIP, 1.3 fWAR

1B Mike Napoli:  .343 wOBA, 113 wRC+, .296 BABIP, 1.0 fWAR

1B Sean Rodriguez:  .363 wOBA, 129 wRC+, .344 BABIP, 1.9 fWAR

1B Brandon Moss:  .329 wOBA, 105 wRC+, .261 BABIP, 1.4 fWAR

CF Jon Jay:  .319 wOBA, 100 wRC+, .371 BABIP, 1.1 fWAR

LF Michael Saunders:  .348 wOBA, 117 wRC+, .321 BABIP, 1.4 fWAR

LF Carlos Gomez:  .296 wOBA, 83 wRC+, .313 BABIP, 0.9 fWAR

2B Stephen Drew:  .362 wOBA, 124 wRC+, .278 BABIP, 0.7 fWAR

Matt Joyce actually had the second-highest wRC+ and wOBA of any player on the list (behind Munenori Kawasaki, who we will get to).  As such, I think that he could return a lot of value on his next contract, since there are way flashier names on the free agent market.  These players are all exactly what I have labeled them:  middle-tier guys.  Everyone on this list can help a baseball team, and they should all come at a reasonable price.  Of the players listed, I think that Joyce, Sean Rodriguez and Michael Saunders will probably return the most value on their next contracts.  

The Rest

LF Rickie Weeks:  .335 wOBA, 102 wRC+, .288 BABIP, 0.1 fWAR

LF Emilio Bonifacio:  .308 wOBA, 32 wRC+, .308 BABIP, -0.6 fWAR

C A.J. Pierzynski:  .236 wOBA, 41 wRC+, .237 BABIP, -1.0 fWAR

CF Michael Bourn:  .298 wOBA, 79 wRC+, .336 BABIP, 0.4 fWAR

LF Nolan Reimold:  .292 wOBA, 78 wRC+, .287 BABIP, -0.4 fWAR

CF Drew Stubbs:  .300 wOBA, 84 wRC+, .375 BABIP, -0.2 fWAR

3B Aaron Hill:  .313 wOBA, 89 wRC+, .284 BABIP, 1.1 fWAR

LF Chris Coghlan:  .269 wOBA, 66 wRC+, .235 BABIP, -0.5 fWAR

CF Austin Jackson:  .292 wOBA, 79 wRC+, .319 BABIP, -0.1 fWAR

DH Justin Morneau:  .311 wOBA, 92 wRC+, .320 BABIP, 0 fWAR

RF Marlon Byrd:  .328 wOBA, 104 wRC+, .347 BABIP, 0.7 fWAR

C Nick Hundley:  .323 wOBA, 82 wRC+, .302 BABIP, 0.3 fWAR

LF Ryan Raburn:  .309 wOBA, 73 wRC+, .292 BABIP, -0.2 fWAR

1B Mark Reynolds:  .349 wOBA, 99 wRC+, .361 BABIP, 0.1 fWAR

3B Erick Aybar:  .271 wOBA, 65 wRC+, .283 BABIP, -1.2 fWAR

3B Casey McGehee:  .225 wOBA, 33 wRC+, .269 BABIP, -0.5 fWAR

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia:  .271 wOBA, 69 wRC+, .222 BABIP, 0.1 fWAR

LF Colby Rasmus:  .282 wOBA, 75 wRC+, .257 BABIP, 1.4 fWAR

LF Jeff Francoeur:  .290 wOBA, 77 wRC+, .333 BABIP, 0.2 fWAR

1B Chris Johnson:  .267 wOBA, 63 wRC+, .306 BABIP, -0.8 fWAR

C Jeff Mathis:  .261 wOBA, 59 wRC+, .318 BABIP, 0.1 fWAR

C Kurt Suzuki:  .303 wOBA, 86 wRC+, .276 BABIP, 0.6 fWAR

CF Alejandro De Aza:  .276 wOBA, 72 wRC+, .259 BABIP, -0.2 fWAR

2B Kelly Johnson:  .301 wOBA, 87 wRC+, .281 BABIP, 0.7 fWAR

1B James Loney:  .302 wOBA, 89 wRC+, .275 BABIP, -0.2 fWAR

DH Billy Butler:  .324 wOBA, 105 wRC+, .320 BABIP, -0.4 fWAR

3B Andres Blanco:  .313 wOBA, 94 wRC+, .301 BABIP, 0.1 fWAR

RF Peter Bourjos:  .291 wOBA, 79 wRC+, .323 BABIP, 0.4 fWAR

C A.J. Ellis:  .266 wOBA, 65 wRC+, .252 BABIP, -0.1 fWAR

2B Gordon Beckham:  .281 wOBA, 71 wRC+, .245 BABIP, -0.6 fWAR

RF Gregor Blanco:  .272 wOBA, 70 wRC+, .279 BABIP, -0.7 fWAR

RF Franklin Gutierrez:  .336 wOBA, 114 wRC+, .309 BABIP, 0.6 fWAR

1B Dae-Ho Lee:  .318 wOBA, 102 wRC+, .294 BABIP, 0.3 fWAR

1B Adam Lind:  .304 wOBA, 92 wRC+, .259 BABIP, -0.6 fWAR

1B Logan Morrison:  .318 wOBA, 101 wRC+, .278 BABIP, 0.5 fWAR

SS Alexei Ramirez:  .264 wOBA, 63 wRC+, .265 BABIP, -2.4 fWAR

1B Mitch Moreland:  .307 wOBA, 87 wRC+, .266 BABIP, 0.4 fWAR

C Dioner Navarro:  .258 wOBA, 56 wRC+, .248 BABIP, -0.4 fWAR

LF Chris Heisey:  .315 wOBA, 93 wRC+, .241 BABIP, 0.3 fWAR

You may be wondering why Colby Rasmus is on this part of the list instead of the group above.  Well, Rasmus was one of the hottest hitters in baseball for the first month of the season, and then went on a slump that lasted the rest of the year.  Rasmus is a guy who has posted separate seasons of 4.0, 5.1 and 2.9 fWAR, so if a team signs him and gets that player, or even the guy he was during the first month of the season, he will be a tremendous value.  Beyond Rasmus, there’s not a ton of value to be found in this portion of the list; these are mostly going to be bench guys or platoon catchers.  We are almost done ranking this free agent class, but there’s one last thing I want to talk about.  

Munenori Kawasaki

IF Munenori Kawasaki:  .398 wOBA, 150 wRC+, .438 BABIP, 0.2 fWAR

So this isn’t really meant to be a serious outlier, but I thought it would be somewhat interesting to call attention to.  This is a guy who is 35 years old, and has never really had a full season of plate appearances in the MLB.  In fact, he spent almost all of 2016 in the minors, before being called up by the Cubs in September.  When he got called up, though, he was absolutely smoking baseballs.  If you take his numbers from his small sample size of 14 games and project them over a full season, you get a player who was worth 2.3 fWAR, which is highly valuable.  Really, he is probably a bench guy or a platoon hitter, especially since he hit .438 on balls in play, which is not even close to being sustainable.  Still, I wanted to give him special attention because he is an interesting case study in how much a month of hot hitting late in the season can influence a guy’s free agency prospects.  If Kawasaki gets a contract of any financial significance, it will be entirely based on about ten games at the end of the season.  

Bill Annechino– Bill Annechino (Twitter)

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