With less than one month remaining until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, several big-name free agents still are available on the open market. Here is a look at my predictions as to where the top remaining free agents will land.
Acquired last offseason in a trade with the Astros, Dexter Fowler enjoyed success in his first year with the Cubs. A valuable piece at the top of their lineup, Fowler posted a slash line of .250/.346/.411 to go along with a career-high 17 homers and 20 stolen bases. While many people may be skeptical of his center field defense, Fowler actually posted a 0.6 DEF rating last year according to Fangraphs, a significant improvement from his -20.6 mark in 2014. At only 30 years old, Fowler is enticing as a veteran, but still young outfield option.
Prediction: Chicago White Sox
After missing out on big name outfielders such as Alex Gordon, Justin Upton, and now Yoenis Cespedes, the White Sox may be almost forced to turn to Dexter Fowler. Additionally, as Fowler turned down a qualifying offer from the Cubs, he costs any team who signs him a first round pick, however, with a protected first round pick, the White Sox would have to forfeit only their sandwich round pick that they received when the Giants signed Jeff Samardzija.
In his first season in the American League, Yovani Gallardo posted his best-ever full-season ERA at 3.42 and was more than significant in helping the Rangers win the American League West in 2015. However, while his ERA at 3.42 stands out, his WHIP of 1.42 and his inability to go late in games down the stretch is a bit alarming and certainly represents the bit of luck that accompanied Gallardo last season.
Prediction: Colorado Rockies
The Rockies are stuck in the middle of what seems like an infinite rebuilding period, but must pounce on the opportunity to sign any pitcher willing to come to Colorado. Additionally, the Rockies pitching staff ranked dead last in baseball last year with a 5.04 ERA, as well as walks (579), batting average against (.283), and opponent OPS (.814). (They were actually last in a lot more categories, those were just the key ones.) The Rockies would benefit greatly from Gallardo’s experience, health, and ability, and would not be forced to give up their first-round pick (fourth overall) to sign him, unlike many other teams.
For some reason, Howie Kendrick still has not signed. For the 5th straight season, Kendrick posted a wRC+ over league average (109 in 2015) and continued to show his ability to get on base as he posted a .336 OBP. While his defense took a turn for the worse last season, it’s possible that 2015 was just an anomaly for Kendrick at second base. Each team knows exactly what they will get in Kendrick, and although it includes a lot of strikeouts, it includes an experienced bat at a position rapidly losing depth.
Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks
Already big spenders on Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller this offseason, the Diamondbacks certainly have room to improve in the infield. Current projected second baseman Chris Owings posted just a .227/.264/.322 slash line last season in 147 games. Kendrick’s bat would fit in well in the middle of the Diamondbacks order, which is currently filled with uncertainty in the form of Yasmani Tomas, Jake Lamb, and Welington Castillo. Additionally, as with many free agents, Kendrick is worth a draft pick, but the Diamondbacks would only be forced to surrender their 39th overall pick to the Dodgers, the team that already saw star pitcher Zack Greinke take off for Arizona.