Five (Potential) Free Agent Bargains
A look at five free agents who won’t break the bank but could help the Royals
Kansas City fans know Yoenis Cespedes, Edwin Encarnacion nor Ian Desmond is likely to sign with the Royals this season.
(The largest contract the team has ever dished out is the four-year, $72-million deal Alex Gordon signed last year. )
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t free agents out there who could help the cash-conscious club.
Let’s take a look:
Eric Thames, OF/DH
Who? You’re not familiar with the pride of the NC Dinos?
Thames, 30, hit .348 with 124 home runs over the past three seasons with the Dinos in Korea after a largely unsuccessful career with Seattle and Toronto between 2011-2013.
Last season he batted .317 with a .425 slugging percentage and 40 home runs in 525 plate appearances. Oakland, San Diego and Tampa Bay are all reportedly interested in the right-handed hitting slugger.
Could Thames be a bargain-bin steal to replace Kendrys Morales?
Matt Holliday, OF/DH
Yes, Holliday turns 37 in January, but the 13-year big league veteran managed to hit 20 home runs and post a respectable .246 batting average/.322 OBP/ .782 OPS line over 110 games for St. Louis in 2016.
Even more impressive, Holliday’s average exit velocity of balls hit was 95.3 miles per hour, the third-best mark in baseball among qualified hitters, trailing only Nelson Cruz and Giancarlo Stanton. The guy can still square up on the ball.
Ideally the Royals could sign Holliday for a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2018.
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Derek Holland, LHP
Another candidate for a one-year deal, Holland went 7-9 with the Rangers in 2016 with a 4.95 ERA. The 29-year-old starter recorded 67 strikeouts in 107.1 innings.
A 16-game winner in 2011, Holland battled shoulder injuries each of the past two seasons and was left of the Rangers’ postseason roster this fall.
Holland lost his last three starts of 2016 but threw into the fifth inning in 12 of the final 13 games he started.
Hyeon-jong Yang, LHP
A 28-year-old starter from Korea, Yang has been trying to get to the states since at least 2014.
Unfortunately for him, he had a bit of down year in 2016, going 9-11 with a 3.58 ERA. In 2015, though, Yang went 15-6 with a 2.44 ERA.
Yang allegedly has four pitches, including a fastball that tops out at 95 mph. Scouts have projected him as a No. 3 guy in the rotation, possibly No. 2.
Jae-gyun Hwang, 3B/SS
Another player from Korea, Hwang had a career year last season, posting a .330 BA/.391 OBP/.949 OPS line in 2016.
The 28-year-old infielder slugged 26 home runs in 118 games with the Lotte Giants of the KBO.
Hwang showed some speed in 2016, stealing 24 bases and walked 64 times against 47 strikeouts.
With the Royals, Hwang could provide depth in the infield and ideally be part of the DH rotation if no one is signed specifically for that role.
The picks aren’t sexy, but if they were the Royals probably wouldn’t have a chance at them. We’d love to see Kansas City gamble on any of these free agents who have shown some upside in their careers.