MLB Free Agency: Best Bargains This Offseason
It is often the huge deals that cost MLB teams their entire wallet that get most of the spotlight in free agency. Front offices get praised for bringing in the superstar, and filling a need. However, there were some pretty good bargains this offseason as well, some that didn’t get the recognition they deserve.
There are some pretty smart front offices in the game of baseball, there is no doubt about it. Especially with the new wave of sabermetrics, things such as launch angle and spin rate, MLB front offices are becoming more picky over players. Long gone is the high demand for power sluggers and in is analyzing a player’s worth using Wins Above Replacement. This is why Dexter Fowler, a 13 home run hitter, received a greater annual salary than home run leader Mark Trumbo.
Ten years ago, teams would not have batted an eye in throwing Trumbo whatever sort of money he wanted, as power hitters are also run producers. That’s the thing, the game of baseball has become so in-depth that teams cannot just look at run production to sign players. However, because of this pickiness within MLB, some teams got some killer bargains on key free agents this offseason.
None of these deals will necessarily catapult a team into contention. Instead, they serve as great bang-for-your-buck type of deals. Managing the payroll is a huge part of a general manager’s job, and that job becomes easier when you bring in great budget players. So with that being said, let’s take a look at the best bargains of this free agency pool.
The Tampa Bay Rays recently signed Nathan Eovaldi to a one-year deal worth $2 million – also throwing in a club option for 2018. On the surface, one may doubt the Rays’ logic in bringing in a guy that has a very slim chance to pitch next year, but looking more in-depth, it is a genius move. The very low salary, combined with the fact that the Rays have a club option, makes this deal seem genuinely genius. If the Rays do not think Eovaldi can contribute in 2018, they can simply part ways, only taking a hit of $2 million.
However, if the Rays like how Eovaldi is looking heading into 2018 they can exercise their option and bring him back. This essentially leads to the Rays getting a season’s worth of pitching for only $4 million, which seems like a very sensible gamble. On an already young pitching staff, this move can add to the low-cost, high-output system. The Rays do not have a single pitcher receiving more than $5 million annually, and if they all progress like expected they could be dangerous very quick.
As for Eovaldi’s production, he has always seemed like that guy that is right on the cusp of breaking out. 2015 saw Eovaldi toss a 14-3 record with a 3.2 WAR. His strikeout and walk rates were decent, and his home run rate was fairly low. With a shrink in his earned run average, Eovaldi could be a dynamic addition behind Chris Archer. Heck, even if this deal doesn’t pan out for the Rays they are only losing $2 million of payroll.
Chase Utley also just signed with a team, re-signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers on a one-year deal. The Dodgers went from having no quality second baseman at all to having two solid options, both of whom are great locker room presences. While Utley won’t be starting and taking back his 2016 role, he will definitely serve as a great asset off the bench and in the clubhouse for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It was stated that several Dodgers players were lobbying for the Dodgers front office to re-sign the veteran second baseman. It had nothing to do with any distaste with Logan Forsythe, which was a praised move, instead being a request for Utley’s veteran leadership. Utley provides a great dynamic in the clubhouse for a team seeking its first World Series in 29 years; doing so with a pretty cheap contract. The deal was for one year and $2 million, a big drop from the $7 million deal last season.
For only $2 million the Dodgers struck gold in bringing back a key clubhouse piece. Utley can still perform too, as he batted .252 with 14 home runs and 52 runs batted in. Heck, if it wasn’t for a cold June and September, Utley could have easily batted .270, showing he still has something left in the tank. With a reduced workload Utley will definitely thrive and prove to be worth far more than his $2 million price tag.
Mitch Moreland bid farewell to the Texas Rangers in pursuit of a World Series ring, and that pursuit led him to Boston. Not saying that Texas cannot win the World Series, but we all know how dynamic the Red Sox are. Now, Mitch Moreland was the Gold Glove recipient at first base last season and he seems to fit the Red Sox’s mold perfectly. With David Ortiz retiring, the door is open at first base as Hanley Ramirez is moving into that DH slot. With it being such a perfect fit you cannot help but marvel at the bargain the Red Sox managed to achieve.
While Boston did only get a one-year deal out of Moreland, that deal is only worth $6.5 million. The Red Sox were able to fill a hole on their roster with a Gold Glove winner for only $6.5 million. In comparison, the Yankees paid $13 million for Matt Holliday to DH, the Rangers are paying the .231-batting Carlos Gomez $11.5 million and the Angels are paying $7.5 million annually for Luis Valbuena to play backup third base.
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Moreland’s talents aren’t reserved for the field, however, as he has also shown the ability to succeed at the plate. In two consecutive seasons Moreland has slugged over 20 home runs, batting .256 in that stretch. Moreland’s ceiling seems to be 30 home runs with a .270 average, but we can expect 20 home runs with a .250 average. For what they are paying him, Mitch Moreland should be a huge bargain for Boston.