The six best low-profile MLB free agents
As the MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee come to a close so to will the recent flurry of trades. With many of the big names gone from the free agency board, attentions now turn to the lesser talked about names.
In search of low-cost high-value additions, both the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants can fill key spots in their 2016 25-man rosters, with those value free agents put in the sights.
The following are the six best remaining free agents who could be coming to the Bay Area for less than $40 million:
Left-handed starting pitching always carries high value and thus comes in high demand. Both the Giants and A’s could be a possible fir for the former Baltimore Oriole.
Though Chen is not the number-two type starter San Francisco is looking for, he comes with a friendly price tag that intrigues them as well as Oakland, and could fit in the middle of most major league rotations.
A career 46-32 won-loss record with a 3.72 ERA and 1.252 WHIP in four seasons hold a bit more value given that he pitches in the highly offensive AL East. Coming off an 11-8 season with a 3.34 ERA, in which he made less than $5 million the 30 year-old will see a raise. And after a 2014 campaign in which he led Baltimore (going 16-6, 3.54 ERA) to 96 wins and the AL East title, that raise will be a handsome one.
If not the Giants or A’s, the Taiwan transplant has been rumored to be garnering interest from the St. Louis Cardinals, who lost John Lackey. He may also be targeted by the Washington Nationals, who lost Jordan Zimmermann, all at a price in the range of $35-$40 million over four years.
While the A’s are pretty much set in the outfield the Giants are in need of a starting left fielder as well as added depth at the position. Parra, whose skill set is similar to that of Gregor Blanco, would be an excellent backup plan should they fall short of signing Alex Gordon (who they are rumored to be tied to currently) or another all-star outfield bat.
Despite having a better career batting average (.277) than Blanco (.262), Parra’s on-base percentage (.326) is considerably lower than his fellow Venezuelan (.347). What the former Arizona D’Back lacks in patience, however, he makes up with in power, averaging nine homeruns per every 162 games to Blanco’s four.
In the field, Parra brags a significantly better throwing arm, as well as a pair of Gold Gloves (2001, 2013), making him an upgrade from the fan-favorite Blanco.
Coming off a season in which he made just over $6 million, Parra has reportedly turned down three-year offers in search of a minimum of four. Whether it is with the Giants, New York Mets or Kansas City Royals, the 28 year-old will get the offer he desires at a value between $32 and $38 million.
The 32 year-old has played both first base (which the Giants are in need of) and third base (which the A’s are in need of). After a strong start to his career in St. Louis, a trade to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim has sent his career into a descent, posting career lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage over the past two seasons.
Perhaps a change of scenery is all Freese needs to return to his all-star form of 2012, when he bragged a .293/.372/.467 slash. A track record of postseason success also raises his value – a .282/.357/.517 October slash comes with his 2012 NLCS and World Series MVPs.
Though Freese makes sense for both the Giants and A’s, the Angeles are currently the favorites for signing the veteran middle infielder for an annual salary in the area of $8 million over three or four years.
Both the A’s – who lost Drew Pomeranz in a trade – and the Giants – who lost Jeremy Affeldt to retirement – have a southpaw vacancy their bullpens that need to be filled. Bastardo, who posted a 2.98 ERA in 66 appearances for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015, represents a great option for either team.
With a career 3.58 ERA and 1.198 WHIP in seven seasons (all in the NL) and entering his 30-year-old season, the former Philadelphia Phillies setup man could be available at a manageable $18-20 million over three years.
The A’s may be happy with their acquisition of Marc Rzepczynski – who came to Oakland in the trade of Pomeranz – in the role as the left-handed late inning reliever, while the Giants may have seen enough from Josh Osich to give the him that spot.
If that is the case, Bastardo could end up with either the Detroit Tigers or Minnesota Twins who are both looking to bolster the left side of their respective bullpens.
The Giants were one of the three teams with which De Aza spent parts of the 2015 season. At none of those stops was the 31-year-old outfielder able to slow the slide from his career year in 2011. Because he is capable of stealing a base (20 per every 162 game) and hit with the long ball (11 per 162), the well-traveled veteran does boast serviceable value.
A career .267/.331/.405 slash will guarantee that he is on a major league roster come April.
If he is not retained by the Giants, De Aza could land in the north side of Chicago with the Cubs or the Mets with a pact of $10-$12 million over two years.
Since his move from the rotation to the bullpen, Hunter has taken to overpowering hitters with a high-90s fastball, limiting his use of a nasty curveball. A move to the Bay, could be what he needs in uniting with A’s manager Bob Melvin and Giants manager Bruce Bochy – a pair of longtime major league catchers – as well as pitching coaches Curt Young (A’s) and Dave Righetti (Giants).
Both staffs have shown success in developing bullpen talent. Hunter, 29, is coming off a 4-2, 4.18 ERA 2015 season between the Cubs and Orioles, his worst season since moving to the ‘pen in 2013.
His electric stuff is such that he has the potential to become a top-tier setup man or even an all-star caliber closer. Being able to sign that type of talent for as little as $5 million per year over 3-4 seasons will draw attention from all teams, including Tigers and Indians as well as both of the Bay’s teams.