SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — There’s been lots of talk about Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Mike Moustakas and some of the bigger-name free agents still without a job for 2018.
But overall, there are still 60 players who are looking for big-league employment this year who are still out there.
Working off this list at MLB Trade Rumors, here’s my take on each one and where they could wind up this year. For some of these men, the Great Free Agent Standoff might mean the end of their careers.
Arismendy Alcantara: The former Cubs prospect never lived up to his potential. He’s still just 26, but he’ll probably have to take a minor-league deal to stick around.
Brett Anderson: Another former Cub, he was horrific in Chicago and not much better with the Blue Jays. At 30, and with his injury history, he could be done.
Jake Arrieta: I swear, this list is not all ex-Cubs, just the top of the alphabet. We all know of Jake’s potential landing spots and my opinion is his best spot is probably the Phillies, but he’d better hurry or he will not make Opening Day.
Mike Aviles: He didn’t hit well last year and turns 37 next week. Probably done.
Jose Bautista: Another 37-year-old coming off a bad year. There are teams he could still help, but I wonder if this is the end of the line.
Joe Blanton: Sound familiar? “Another 37-year-old coming off a bad year.” Most teams have someone in their farm system who can do better. Likely done.
Clay Buchholz: Poster boy for “lost potential.” He was always going to be “the guy” in Boston, but never made 30 starts in a season. Was bad and injured for the Phillies last year. Probably done at 33.
Melky Cabrera: Like Jon Jay, who signed with the Royals Tuesday, Melky is someone who could help a team as a fourth or fifth outfielder, even a contender. The Giants or Yankees could possibly use him, but they haven’t shown any interest. At one point the Marlins spoke to Melky, but he apparently wanted a two-year deal and that wasn’t happening.
Trevor Cahill: He turned 30 last week. He made 11 decent starts for the Padres last year, then was bad after being traded to the Royals. At 30, he likely has decent years left, but teams likely have guys in their system that can do the same thing for less money. If he wants to continue, it’s going to have to be on a minor-league deal. The Orioles inquired last month, but nothing came of it.
Tyler Clippard: Had a good year for the White Sox last year; that got him traded to the Astros, for whom he was awful. They left him off their postseason roster, and at 33, he might be done. There aren’t any rumors connecting him with anyone this offseason.
Alex Cobb: We’ve gone over the Cobb rumors quite a bit here. He seems to have overvalued himself. There are teams that could use him, mostly the same ones connected with Arrieta. Just a day ago this article appeared noting that the Yankees could be a landing spot.
Chris Coghlan: The ex-Cub was responsible for this awesome play last year while with the Blue Jays:
He barely played for Toronto, though (88 PA in 36 games) and was released in August. He hasn’t been connected with anyone this spring and could be done at 32 (he’ll be 33 in June).
Josh Collmenter: He turned 32 last month. Your archetypical last guy in the bullpen, he wasn’t good in brief outings for the Braves last year. Again, most teams have guys in their system who are this good. Probably done.
R.A. Dickey: This Ken Rosenthal article ($) from last month claimed Dickey had offers, though Rosenthal didn’t say where they were from. Dickey, who is 43, said after the 2017 season that it would be a “family decision” whether to retire. Prediction: He’s retired.
Stephen Drew: He’ll turn 35 next week; didn’t play much for the Nationals in 2017. Most likely done.
Yunel Escobar: Also 35, he’s coming off a 0.4 bWAR season in 2017. As with many players already noted above, teams can probably find someone as good in their farm system.
Andre Ethier: Has played in only 38 games the last two years due to various injuries, though he did play for the Dodgers in the postseason in 2017 (and homered off Kyle Hendricks in Game 2 of the NLCS). He’ll be 36 next month — I can’t see any team wanting or needing him.
Scott Feldman: Here’s a guy the Reds should have traded at the deadline, as he likely could have helped a contender. This is the only rumor I’ve seen about him this offseason:
Hearing there's a possibility former #rangers (among others) starter Scott Feldman, of Burlingame High and College of San Mateo, could hook up with #sfgiants on a minor-league deal. Feldman is 34, had a 4.77 ERA in 21 starts for the #reds last year.— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) December 21, 2017
That was more than two months ago, and it didn’t happen. Feldman might be done at this point; he turned 35 last month.
Matt Garza: No, just no. He was bad all four years in Milwaukee; he produced -5.1 bWAR for the $52 million the Brewers paid him, meaning any random minor leaguer from their system could probably have done better. He’s 34, there have been zero rumors connecting him with anyone this offseason, and he’s probably done.
Conor Gillaspie: He’s 30, and apart from one good year with the White Sox (2014), his career highlight will always be the three-run homer that won the 2016 wild-card game for the Giants. He’s probably done, but his brother Casey is now a pretty good White Sox prospect.
Jason Grilli: 41 years old, and his last good year was 2015 with the Braves. Likely retired.
Franklin Gutierrez: Didn’t play much for the Dodgers last year and turned 35 last month. As with many players on this list, teams have probably turned to younger players in their farm systems.
J.J. Hardy: The oft-injured shortstop played in only 73 games for the Orioles in 2017. He’s 35, and I repeat: “teams have probably turned to younger players in their farm systems.”
Jeremy Hellickson: Hellickson was bad last year after a pretty good 2016. The only offseason article I could find even mentioning him was this one from last month saying that the Orioles weren’t interested in re-signing him.
Aaron Hill: He had good years in Toronto (2009) and Arizona (2012) but has barely played the last two years. He’ll turn 36 in two weeks. I’m guessing this is it for the infielder who produced 23.8 bWAR in a decent career.
Greg Holland: In a normal free-agent year, he and the Cardinals would have been a perfect match. Obviously, this isn’t a normal free-agent year. Perhaps St. Louis still comes calling; Holland is 32 and led the N.L. in saves in 2017, though from August 6 to season’s end (19 appearances) he posted an 8.47 ERA and allowed five home runs in 17 innings.
Matt Holliday: There isn’t much of a market for a 38-year-old DH coming off a 0 bWAR season.
Ubaldo Jimenez: Ubaldo is 34 and coming off an awful (6.81 ERA, -1.3 bWAR) season. You might remember the game from last July where the Cubs absolutely pounded him; that was common for Ubaldo last year. See the above link under Jeremy Hellickson for the lack of interest.
John Lackey: He’s 39 and there hasn’t been a single rumor about him this offseason. Enjoy your retirement, John; you got the jewelry you came to Chicago for.
Jeff Locke: I always thought he had better talent than the results. But he’s 30 now, and his sole good season was in 2013. Could be done.
Jonathan Lucroy: This is a real puzzler. He’s only 31 and just one year removed from a 24 HR, 100 RBI All-Star season. The most recent rumor about him I can find, from January, is that the Mets were interested, but they seem to have moved on. There are teams he could help; the Athletics, for example, could use a veteran presence behind the plate.
Lance Lynn: Here’s a recent report that Lynn was given a two-year, $20 million offer from the Twins. He could help the Twins, but he’s worth more than that... though probably not in the same ballpark as Arrieta or Cobb. The same teams (Brewers, Cardinals, Yankees, Phillies) could also be on Lynn’s list.
Tyler Moore: You probably don’t even recall this guy. He was a backup first baseman for the Nationals for a few years, was traded to the Braves in 2016 and didn’t play in the majors at all that year, then hit .230/.267/.401 in 104 games for the Marlins last year. He’s 31. As you can imagine, the market for guys with that skillset is pretty small. Probably done. A guy like this might do well in Japan.
Bryan Morris: Six years of anonymity in the Pirates, Marlins and Giants bullpens; he was with S.F. last year and was bad (-0.3 bWAR in 20 appearances). He’s 30, and again, most teams have guys like this in their system already.
Brandon Moss: Just released by the A’s, I’d think he will be signed by someone. He’s 34 and can still hit, but might be better off in the A.L. where he can be a designated hitter part of the time. The problem for him is, as it is for many of these guys, is that a lot of teams don’t have a lot of room to look at free agents like this at this time. Maybe the Royals?
Mike Moustakas: Speaking of the Royals, the man who set their franchise record for home runs last year is still out there. They could still use him, and here are some recent comments about that from Royals GM Dayton Moore:
Dayton Moore on @MLBNetwork "We're not going to close our door ever to good players, and Mike Moustakas is a good player."— Josh Vernier (@JoshVernier610) March 4, 2018
He went on to say that they probably need another left-handed bat, but won't bring in anyone that would hinder Soler/Boni/Cuthbert/Whit getting every day at-bats. Need to learn if they can factor into 2019 plans & beyond. #Royals— Josh Vernier (@JoshVernier610) March 4, 2018
Dayton Moore on @MLBNetwork "I suspect we won't do any multi-year deals at this point in time with where we are. Maybe even next year as well, unless the perfect player comes along that fits us long term." #Royals— Josh Vernier (@JoshVernier610) March 4, 2018
In short: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
He’s been connected with the Yankees, but they seem to have lost interest.
Ricky Nolasco: See Matt Garza entry and add one year of age.
Eric O’Flaherty: Lefthanded relievers are generally in demand, except not guys who are 33 and whose last good year was four years ago. That was also the last year he had positive WAR, so again, teams can get guys like that out of their own systems. Probably done.
Jake Peavy: After not pitching at all last year due to injury and some off-the-field troubles (seriously, read this article, it’s an excellent read about Peavy’s life), he’s trying a comeback at age 36. The article says he’s aiming for a showcase around May 1.
Jhonny Peralta: He’ll be 36 in May and missed much of the last two years with injuries. You can see why teams would stay away.
Brandon Phillips: Another player whose 2017 was ruined by injuries. He’s 37 in June and probably retired.
Tyler Pill: After seven years in the Mets farm system, he got a cuppa coffee in the big leagues (seven appearances, three starts) last year. The Mets granted him free agency last November; he’ll probably get a minor-league shot from someone after spring training is over.
Zach Putnam: Injuries ruined his 2017 season, but he was a reasonably effective middle reliever for the White Sox in 2016. I’m surprised no one even offered him a minor-league deal, but at this point he’s probably in the same situation as Tyler Pill.
Chad Qualls: Qualls has been around so long that one of his rookie year (2004) teammates was inducted into the Hall of Fame three years ago (Craig Biggio). Qualls has been a pretty good middle relief/setup guy for a long time, including one year (2010) pitching for Joe Maddon. At 39, he’s probably done, though.
Mark Reynolds: Reynolds hit 30 homers for the Rockies last year, but has had little interest. Here’s a recent article connecting him to the Orioles (he played there in 2012), but they already have a first baseman and a DH, so who knows? This is another player who could do well in Japan.
Trevor Rosenthal: Rosenthal will miss this year recovering from Tommy John surgery. He’s only 27 and just two years ago was a lockdown closer throwing 100 miles per hour, so some team will take a chance on him, probably a minor-league deal after spring training is over. The White Sox might be a good landing spot for him, as they’ll probably be looking for a closer for 2019.
Justin Ruggiano: The former Cub is now 35 and has played for five teams (Mariners, Dodgers, Rangers, Mets, Giants) since leaving the Cubs, where he played in 2014. He’ll be 36 in April, and likely his career is over.
Carlos Ruiz: “Chooch” wound up with the Dodgers and Mariners last year after a long career in Philadelphia. He turned 39 in January and at this point is probably done.
Chris Smith: He’s 37 and has had parts of five seasons in the big leagues (2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017), not the kind of guy who’s going to hang on at that age.
Seth Smith: Always a good spare-part outfielder, he’s now 35, and as is the case with so many of these players, probably is more expensive than someone who can provide the same production for a lot less money.
Josh Smith: Mediocre pitching (career 5.30 ERA in 67 appearances, total -0.1 bWAR) and his age probably mitigate against him getting another contract. The bWAR figure tells you that teams can find guys like this in their systems.
Geovany Soto: I thought the Cubs might take a flyer on bringing him back, but he’s now 35 and hasn’t played 100 games in a season since 2011. Injuries have ruined what might have been a really good career.
Drew Storen: A former No. 1 pick who never really filled his potential. He had one 43-save season for the Nats, but by last year was a back end of the pen guy for the Reds. He’s 30 and could probably still help a team, but not a contender. He could get a minor-league deal once spring training is over.
Huston Street: Another closer who seems always injured. He’s 34 and pitched in only four big-league games in 2017, and the injury history probably keeps teams away.
Koji Uehara: Here’s all you need to know about the former Cub:
Sounds like Koji Uehara has made the decision to return to Japan for 2018. Reunion with his old team, Yomiuri Giants, seems like a strong possibility. https://t.co/5uAv1tcSGk— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) March 6, 2018
Cesar Valdez: He’ll be 33 next week and has had brief MLB appearances with the Diamondbacks, Athletics and Blue Jays, and not been good in any of them. Again, most teams can find younger guys in their systems.
Neil Walker: This is a puzzle. Walker was good for the Brewers after being traded there last year, but they decided not to keep him. He’s 32, which is getting up there, but he could still help a contending team. Here’s a good summary of the possible market for Walker, including the Tigers and Rays.
Rickie Weeks: He’s 35 and the last time he played a full season’s worth of games was 2012. Injuries account for most of that; I’d say Rickie is probably done.
Jayson Werth: Werth is almost 39 and missed much of 2017 with injuries, and then vanished in the division series against the Cubs (3-for-18). He gave the Nats 8.9 bWAR in seven seasons there.
In summary, this free-agent season is probably an anomaly. Apart from the biggest names (Arrieta, Cobb, Lynn, Moustakas, Walker) there are a lot of older guys who wouldn’t get attention in any offseason. It is, of course, odd that players like the ones I just noted are still without jobs on March 7. But I don’t think we can draw any permanent conclusions from that lack of activity. Let’s see how things shake out before March 29.