There are many quality free agents remaining as we near the reporting date for pitchers and catchers and the start of the baseball season. The remaining players could probably form their own team and be fairly competitive, however, expect many of these players to land a job within the next couple of weeks. The majority of these free agents are coming off down years, off season surgery, or are the victim of the ill-fated qualifying offer, but they will all find their way to contracts for big money. Here is where they should land:
Ian Desmond has been one of the best offensive short stops in the majors the last four years. He has three 20-20 seasons under his belt and at one point was able to hit for a high average. Last season he still produced decent power numbers with 19 home runs and 62 RBI and managed to swipe 13 bases, however, he only amassed a .233 batting average and a lowly .290 on base percentage. Desmond also struck out a career-high 187 times last season and made 27 errors. On top of his down year, he rejected the qualifying offer from the Nationals and is now tied to draft pick compensation. Desmond has said all the right things this off season and he is willing to move positions to accommodate teams who already have a shortstop. One team who I believe will end up taking the chance on Desmond is the boom or bust Astros. They have Luis Valbuena and Jon Singleton on the corners right now and Ian Desmond is better than both of them. Adding Desmond to the roster will fortify their lineup and his willingness to move around the diamond will allow the Astros to mix and match their lineup combinations. Astros sign Desmond: 4-years, $54 million.
Fowler would plug a big hole on the Angels, however, they have already said they are unwilling to go over the luxury tax, so the next logical destination would be back to the Cubs to play alongside Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber. However, Theo appears to value the return draft pick to anything Fowler can offer to the team this year, so the final stop for Fowler would be the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox have already made some additions this season by trading for Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie and would benefit from adding Fowler to their team. The White Sox have a protected first round pick and have gained a compensation pick for the addition-by-subtraction that was Jeff Samardzija. It would be in the White Sox best interests to try and win while Chris Sale is still one of the most dominating pitchers in the game and not waste time hoping Avisail Garcia will blossom into a major league regular. Fowler signs with the White Sox: 3-years, $45 million.
Austin is coming off a strange year that saw him bounce back slightly from his .229 2014 campaign and hit .267 with 9 home runs, 17 steals, and 48 RBI. However, he has been lost in the shuffle of outfielders because his defense is not as good as it was and his career seems to be on the downswing. However, Jackson can expect to land on his feet and sign with the Angels to play left field. The Angels take Jackson off the market: 1-year, $8 million.
Freese plays a pretty decent third base and regularly puts up a decent average and power. Freese will be looking for a place where he can play a lot and maybe get traded to a contender mid-season. Although this is not the traditional view of free agents, Freese could parlay strong play on a bad team into a postseason run with a contender looking for a trade deadline boost. With that said, the Milwaukee Brewers have a huge hole at third base (sorry Will Middlebrooks) and could benefit from having a veteran over there for half a season to help some of the younger guys they are trying to bring in acclimated to life in the major leagues. Freese lands with the Brewers: 1-year $4.5 million.
Pedro Alvarez is being billed as something he is not, a good defender, by his agent Scott Boras, but what he is should land him a job rather quickly with the team that just lost their depth at the first base position. The New York Yankees should scoop up Alvarez as a lefty bat off the bench and a fill in if/when Mark Teixeira goes down this season with a nagging injury. Alvarez is built for the little league left field that is Yankee Stadium and having already topped 30 home runs twice in his career with steady playing time, he could easily put that number on the board again in the Bronx. Yankees find Greg Bird's replacement: 1-year, $8 million.
By Dan Cantone