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Major League Baseball Early Free Agent Signings/Part 1

Dec. 28, 2019 - Michael Stewart

Major League Baseball Early Free Agent Signings/Part 1

Introduction: The Major League free agency is in full bloom and will continue throughout the winter. Over the next month or so, I will dive into the early winners and losers in the free agent market among teams and then finish up before spring training which top 5 teams did the best and worse in free agency. This four part series will begin with the American League teams first and then the National League teams. Let’s get started: 

American League

East:

  • New York Yankees: The Yankees needed to get a starting pitcher to solidify their rotation and they didn’t disappoint their fan base by signing the best one available Gerrit Cole (9 years/$324M). The Yankees also re-signed vereran outfielder Brett Gardner (1 year/$12M). All indications are the Yankees are not done and I expect way before spring training begins; I will be revising their free agent list in my next article. EARLY GRADE: A
  • Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox have been quiet with only a couple of small moves to their roster with the signing of starting pitcher Martin Perez (1 year/$6M), shortstop Jose Peraza (1 year/$3M), reliever Josh Osich (1 year/$650K) and infielder Marco Hernandez (1 year/$650K). The Red Sox lost pitchers Pick Porcello to the Mets and still have a few others like pitcher Andrew Cashner, infielders Mitch Moreland and Brock Holt they need to make decisions on. EARLY GRADE: C
  • Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays seem to be waiting out the free agent market to see which remaining free agents will lower their demands and sign for much less. They’ve already let catcher Travis d’Arnaud sign with the Braves and RF Avisail Garcia go to the Brewers (2 years/$20M). Although there’s still time to add a few needed pieces; clearly, it appears the Rays are going to go with what they got entering the 2020 season. EARLY GRADE: C-
  • Toronto Blue Jays: Toronto made some late free agent signings with the addition of pitchers Hyun-Jin Ryu (4 year/$80M) and Tanner Roark (2 year/$24M) to bolster their rotation.  They also signed 3B Travis Shaw (1 year/$4M) and let go 1st baseman Justin Smoak to the Brewers. The Blue Jays have some talented young positional players who provided a glimpse of the future in 2019 with Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette. EARLY GRADE: B-.
  • Baltimore Orioles: Baltimore should also be very quiet in the free agent market and not expected to make a run at any big name free agents. Unfortunately; they are stuck with Chris Davis and his contract, but will clear some space with the departure of Mark Trumbo and his $13.5M. EARLY GRADE: D

Central:

  • Minnesota Twins: The Twins had a solid season in 2019 and they wisely offered a qualifying offer to pitcher Jake Odorizzi ($17.8M); which he accepted. The Twins also signed starting pitcher Michael Pineda (2 years/$20M) to bolster their rotation and added relievers Sergio Romo (1 year/$5M) and Tyler Clippard (1 year/$2.75M) along with catcher Alex Avila (1 year/4.25M). The Twins also added a couple of minor league deals to pitchers Ryan Garton and Blaine Hardy to complement their potent offense. EARLY GRADE: C+
  • Cleveland Indians: The Indians as expected traded starting pitcher and two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers for outfielder Delino DeShields and pitching prospect Emmanuel Clase. The Indians also added 2B Cesar Hernandez (1 year/$6.25M) and have other pending free agents that they need to make decisions on before spring training begins. EARLY GRADE: C+
  • Chicago White Sox: The White Sox have signed catcher Yasmani Grandal (4 years/$73M), DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion (1 year/$12M-with a club option in 2021 at $12M) pitchers Dallas Keuchel (3 years/$55.5M) and Gio Gonzalez (1 year/$5M).  All indications are that the White Sox have made their big free agent signings and will more than likely look to fill the roster with lower level free agents. EARLY GRADE: B
  • Kansas City Royals: The Royals are firmly in a rebuilding stage and look for them to add young controllable players and keep strengthening up their farm system. The Royals did add a young 3B Maikel Franco (1 year/$2.95M) and pitcher Jesse Hahn (1 year/$600K). One of the players who could bring back a solid return for the Royals is DH/RF Jorge Soler who clubbed 47 homers, 117 runs batted in and hitting .265. Soler will be a free agent after the 2020 season while making a very moderate salary of $4.6M. EARLY GRADE: C-
  • Detroit Tigers: Detroit signed a trio of players in 2B Jonathan Schoop (1 year/$6.1M), 1B C.J Cron (1 year/$6.1M) and catcher Austin Romine (1 year/$4M). Current reports have the Tigers laying low and filling out the remaining roster with low end free agents. EARLY GRADE: C-

West:

  • Houston Astros: The loss of pitcher Gerrit Cole remains to be seen, but it’s expected that the Astros will have problems dominated teams in 2020. The Astros have signed pitcher Wade Miley (2 years/$15M) and re-signed reliever Joe Smith (2 years/$8M) and  catcher Martin Maldonado (2 years/$7M). On the trading front, the Astros  acquired two low level minor leaguers from the Mets for centerfielder Jake Marisnick. EARLY GRADE:C
  • Oakland Athletics:  The Athletics thus far have only signed pitcher Jake Diekman (2 years/$7.5M) and are projected to be quiet on the free agent front. GM Billy Beane is a master in budget cuts and that’s appears to be happening thus far with players like pitchers Tanner Roark, Blake Treinen and Brett Anderson all being let go. EARLY GRADE: C
  • Texas Rangers: The Rangers big off season move thus far has been the trading of pitcher Corey Kluber from the Indians. The Indians have also signed pitchers Kyle Gibson (3 years/$28M) and Jordan Lyles (2 years/$16M).  Hard to imagine the Rangers will be quiet until spring training, so expect them to add a few more names onto the roster. EARLY GRADE: B
  • Los Angeles Angels: New manager Joe Maddon wants to make a statement and the best way to do that is by signing the best positional player on the market in 3B Anthony Rendon (7 years/$245M). They’ve also signed pitcher Julio Teheran (1 year/$9M), but need to add more pitching depth as they ranked 29th in pitcher in 2019. However; with the remaining talent in free agency, we might see the Angels make a trade to add another starting pitcher. EARLY GRADE: B
  • Seattle Mariners: The Mariners seem to be keeping a poker face thus far in the free agent market and have not shown any signs of showing major interest in any top tier free agents. Money is certainly not the issue and I expect something to happen before the start of spring training. Minor signings of starting pitcher Kendall Graveman (1 year/$2M) and reliever C.J Edwards (1 year/$950K) is not enough. EARLY GRADE: D-

Final Thoughts: There still plenty of talent in free agency for teams looking to add depth and talent as long as they are willing to spend a little. The top 10 free agents still available are 3B Josh Donaldson, LF Marcell Ozuna, OF Yasiel Puig, OF Nicholas Castellanos, pitcher Rich Hill, relievers Will Harris and Dellin Betances, OF Corey Dickerson and infielder Ben Zobrist. Sprinkle in a handful of other serviceable free agents and it’s clear that we should see some activity right after the new-year.