With pitchers and catchers due to report to spring training in less than a month, there are still a number of very viable pitchers and position players still looking for a place to call home.
Whether it be the market itself, the projected dollars involved, or the ever so annoying draft pick compensation attached, there are a lot of players still looking for work.
Ian Desmond: A couple of years ago, Desmond was at least on the fringe of the conversation pertaining to the best offensive shortstops in the game, but after a rough start to the 2015 season, he had many around the game wondering why he didn’t jump on the long-term offer the Nationals made to him prior to his walk year, when he was coming off three straight Silver Slugger Awards. After hitting to the worst slashline of his career (.233/.290..384), Desmond seems to be in a situation where teams aren’t looking to offer him a multi-year deal, and him probably not too thrilled with the shorter, less lucrative deals that are coming in way under what he already declined. So far this offseason Desmond has been linked to the Rays, Padres, Mets, and White Sox. The now 30-year-old Desmond might actually have to settle for a one-year deal as he tries to rebound and rebuild his value. Perhaps then he could strike a deal more to his liking next offseason. The tricky part is, Desmond is one of five remaining free agents who turned down qualifying offers from their previous clubs, which means any new team that signs one of these free agents will have to surrender their first round unprotected draft pick to the player’s previous team.
Dexter Fowler: The 29-year-old Fowler had a good year for the Cubs in 2015, as he stroked 17 HRs, stole 20 bases, and posted an admirable .757 OPS in 156 games. While he’s not quite as sexy a name as Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, or Alex Gordon, Fowler could help a lot of teams looking for a good center fielder. With Yoenis Cespedes finally coming off the board this week by returning to the Mets, Fowler now becomes the biggest name on the free agent outfield market. The problem? Like Desmond, Fowler too is attached to draft pick compensation. That wouldn’t be a big deal for Cubs, Fowler’s former team, who could then best utilize Heyward in RF and keep Fowler in CF. The only problem there is creating a logjam with Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler who are already major league ready. The cross-town White Sox could be another fit, as could the injury-riddled Cleveland Indians. Fowler might get a multi-year deal from a club, but it doesn’t look like he’ll garner the $15.3M on a one-year deal he would have gotten had he accepted the qualifying offer from the Cubbies.
Yovani Gallardo: Gallardo is a very reliable and durable starter having made 30-plus starts each of the past seven season, including 33 in 2015. He went 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA last season for the resurgent Texas Rangers, who shocked the AL by making a playoff run. Gallardo also has draft pick compensation attached to him, which is probably scaring some teams away. It’s hard to figure why teams would shy away from this proven of a starter with quality pitching so scarce, meanwhile a player like Ian Kennedy getting a $70M deal from the Royals. I know Kennedy has won 20 in the show, and is allowed to let fungus grow on his shower shoes, but come on. a 5-year deal? Yikes. Gallardo will land somewhere soon. Durable starting pitchers are too hard to find nowadays for him not to. A team will have to swallow their pride on the draft pick in order to pluck him, unless of course he returns to Arlington. Other suitors for Gallardo’s services could be the Astros, Orioles, Rockies, Blue Jays, and Mariners.
Other notable free agents who’ve yet to sign include Howie Kendrick, David Freese, Pedro Alvarez, Tyler Clippard, and Justin Morneau. All of these veteran players could help a number of clubs whether it be as a stop-gap bridge to an up and coming prospect, a platoon situation, or a bench role for a contending club.