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Keith Law's top 50 free agents: Some pitching, some pop at the top

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Last year's free-agent class was the worst I'd ever seen, so we could only go up from there -- and we have, as the top tier this winter is substantially better than last year's, and the rankings aren't quite so reliant on relievers and bench guys. The class is still overpopulated with the first-base/DH/oh-God-I-hope-we-don't-have-to-play-him-in-left-field types, many of whom have long-standing platoon splits. But that seems to be a regular feature of free agency at this point, especially as teams turn away from long-term deals for average corner bats and try to develop younger, cheaper ones internally.

As usual, there's a ton of money out there in search of players. With these rankings, I try to provide a rough idea of the offer I'd be comfortable making to each player if I were the general manager of a contending team (or would-be contending team) and operating at or above the median payroll level. Estimating the actual dollar value of a player to any specific team is nearly impossible, because we don't know what the marginal revenue product of a win is for each club, and that number can change for a team from season to season, or even within a season, if it's much better or worse than expected.

My numbers are not predictions, and they often will fall short of actual market values. That is due to the "winner's curse" phenomenon, in which the winner of an auction for a good player of uncertain value is the bidder whose internal estimates are the highest (and thus perhaps too optimistic). Teams with large payrolls can and often do pay more for a win in the free-agent market.

This document will be updated as the offseason wears on. When a player signs, we'll add a note in the profile as to which team he signed with and for how much. We'll also add a note if he received a $17.4-million qualifying offer. If a player receives one and signs elsewhere, the signing team will lose a draft pick, and having a qualifying offer "attached" can really hurt the value of non-elite free agents.

I have excluded Nippon Professional Baseball superstar Shohei Otani for now, as there's no evidence yet to say he's going to be posted this winter. He doesn't have an agent, and he had surgery last month to repair a posterior impingement in an ankle that bothered him all season.

If he is posted this winter, he'll be subject to MLB's (ridiculous, myopic) caps on international free agents that normally apply to 16-year-old amateurs. If he were to wait two more seasons and join the majors after 2019, however, he would be a completely unrestricted free agent. The difference in compensation would likely be more than $100 million, so he has strong incentive to get healthy, pitch well for two years, and then come over for a huge windfall.

If, however, he is posted this winter, I will add him to this list at No. 1 (strictly as a pitcher).

Now, on to the rankings ...


1. Yu Darvish, RHP
Age: 31 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-5 | WT: 216
Career WAR: 19.3

Darvish has averaged 4.5 WAR per 31 starts over his career, which was interrupted by Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2015 and much of 2016, but he has altered his pitching style since his return and, until his trade to the Dodgers, had settled at a lower level of performance than his previous ace-like self.

He amped up the use of his cutter and trimmed the use of his slider, giving him a better weapon to get left-handed batters out, and while I'd still like to see the return of his changeup (or even his splitter), he's at least approaching a pitch mix that should limit his platoon splits and keep hitters from squaring up his four-seamer.

Darvish's awful showing in two World Series games -- possibly the result of tipping his pitches -- won't help his free-agent case any, but I'd be surprised if it did more than shave a tiny bit off the top. When you sign a free agent, you're signing him for his projected regular-season output, with the hope that your team first reaches the postseason and then he can contribute there too. You sign Darvish because you're hoping for 30-32 starts of above-average pitching from April to September. Teams that back off because of two bad (OK, atrocious) outings in the World Series are letting recency bias overrule their rational judgment.

Signed with Cubs: Six years for $126 million.


2. Lorenzo Cain, CF
Age: 31 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-2 | WT: 205
Career WAR: 27.8

Much of Cain's value has been wrapped up in his defense, which has slipped over the past two years and is unlikely to improve again now that he's entering his age-32 season. The team signing him should expect an average defensive center fielder who hits for average with modest power and OBP, probably a solid-average every-day player who might deliver 12 WAR over a four-year deal.

Signed with Brewers: Five years for $80 million.


3. Zack Cozart, SS
Age: 32 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-0 | WT: 204
Career WAR: 16.5

Talk about having a big walk year -- Cozart hit 24 homers, 50 percent higher than his previous best, en route to setting career highs across the board offensively, the function of making harder contact than he had before (and maybe some help from the baseball), and did it all despite playing in just 122 games.

He's also 32, and probably only declines from here on offense and defense (which is still plus), especially in the power department. Shortstops who can hit at all are so scarce that he's probably worth an overpayment relative to pure statistical projections, on the chance that you get one or more All-Star years from him before he regresses. It's hard to believe, and he may not get there, but he's probably worth $24 million a year on a three- or even four-year deal.

Signed with Angels: Three years for $38 million.


4. Jake Arrieta, RHP
Age: 31 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-4 | WT: 225
Career WAR: 20.3

Arrieta finally reaches free agency this year entering his age-32 season, late for a starter and especially so for one drafted out of college, but years of mishandling in the Baltimore system set him back to the point where he never developed as a starter until he went to the Cubs in a mid-2013 trade.

He peaked in his Cy Young-winning 2015 season, both in performance and workload, but has seen his velocity slip since and then missed a few starts this year with a hamstring injury. He could return to his peak form, but I wouldn't bet on it, not given his age, loss of velocity and diminishing control. You sign Arrieta hoping for a mid-rotation starter who can take the ball 31 times, which itself is worth $20 million a year, but if anyone pays him as if he's still an ace, they're taking on an unacceptable risk.

Rejected $17.4-million qualifying offer from Cubs


5. Carlos Santana, 1B
Age: 31 | B-T: B/R
HT: 5-11 | WT: 210
Career WAR: 24.5

I think the biggest surprise with Santana is that he has turned into a competent first baseman. A catcher for the first three years of his MLB career, Santana hasn't logged an inning behind the plate since 2014, but he has turned out to be more than just playable at first. That matters in a market saturated with designated hitters and guys who should move to DH.

Santana has been very consistent at the plate over his career, walking often and striking out at about the same rate (even as league strikeout rates have risen, his has dropped), and hitting for modest power. He's had an OBP between .357 and .377 for six straight seasons. He played in 143 games in 2012, and has played in 152 or more in every year since, hitting at least 19 homers in each of the past five seasons. The knock on Santana is that he doesn't make a ton of hard contact, so it's not as if you can project a power surge or sudden spike in his average. I do think he'll hold the value he has for a while, so a four-year, $60 million deal would be reasonable, maybe a little low in light of his consistency and durability.

Signed with Phillies: Three years for $60 million.


6. J.D. Martinez, OF/DH
Age: 30 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-3 | WT: 221
Career WAR: 13.7

If all Martinez ever had to do was hit -- never field, never run, never go anywhere but to and from the batter's box -- he might be a six-win player and the best free agent on the market. Martinez, who remade his swing after the Astros released him in March 2014, has become a fairly patient hitter who makes consistently high-quality contact.

He's more than just a home run hitter, although I'm sure that's how he'll be sold this offseason. He's entering his age-30 season and has negative defensive value, to the point where I'd look at him as a primary DH who can play left field on an occasional basis, and hope for some 5-WAR seasons at the start of any long-term deal. He is the type of player who, over MLB history, has declined faster than players who play defense well or are better athletes, so while the market will probably give him five years, the end of the deal will probably see a big drop-off in production.

Signed with Red Sox: Five years for $110 million.


7. Eric Hosmer, 1B
Age: 28 | B-T: L/L
HT: 6-4 | WT: 225
Career WAR: 14.1

Which Hosmer are you buying if you sign him as a free agent this winter -- the guy who produced about 30 batting runs in the past five months of 2017, or the guy who produced about 30 batting runs in total over the first 900 games of his career?

Hosmer is young enough that this could just be a delayed breakout from a former top prospect (No. 3 overall pick in 2008, my No. 5 overall prospect going into 2011), but I'm always skeptical of walk-year spikes in performance. Just ask the Angels how that Gary Matthews Jr. deal worked out.

I could see giving Hosmer four years and $60 million to $70 million given his youth and the possibility that he's really a four-win player going forward, but paying even that much to a player who was replacement level as recently as 2016 should make any GM nervous.

Agreed to terms with Padres: Eight years for $144 million.


8. Alex Cobb, RHP
Age: 30 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-3 | WT: 205
Career WAR: 10.9

Cobb came back from Tommy John surgery a different pitcher, as his changeup hasn't had the same action post-injury, leading him to rely more on his curveball than his change. That didn't lead to a visible platoon split in 2017, but there are warning signs in his splits, including a lower K rate and higher walk rate against lefties, that could indicate trouble going forward.

He also has never reached 180 innings in any pro season, as this year's 179⅓ was a career high, as were the 29 starts he made in 2017. Previously a potential No. 3 with his command and the out-pitch potential of the changeup, he's more of a back-end starter now with some durability questions, but you could still dream a little of some greater upside if a new environment or coach can help him regain some of what he lost on the third pitch.

Rejected $17.4-million qualifying offer from Rays


9. Todd Frazier, 3B
Age: 31 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-3 | WT: 220
Career WAR: 22.0

Frazier hasn't been quite as productive since he left Cincinnati after the 2015 season, as he hit for more power in the Reds' cozy home park and for a higher average/OBP there as well. While Frazier suddenly became more patient in 2017, especially after his trade to the Yankees in July, he's not making much hard contact anymore, which was behind his career-worst .227 BABIP this year (the fourth time in five years he was under .280) and his drop-off to 27 homers after hitting 40 and 35 the previous two seasons.

His defensive metrics have wavered in the past few seasons, but he has been slightly above average for most of his career, and I don't see any physical reason he would lose that anytime soon. In today's game, there's a place for a regular who can play a skill position and post a low-.300s OBP with 25 to 30 homers. He was worth about 3.0 wins in 2017, but given the anomalous walk rate and his age (32 in 2018), I'd want to pay him more in the range of 2 to 2.5 wins per year instead.

Signed with Mets: Two years for $17 million.


10. Carlos Gomez, OF
Age: 31 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-3 | WT: 220
Career WAR: 25.6

He didn't hit left-handed pitching at all in 2017, an outlier in his career and a trait extremely unlikely to endure for a right-handed hitter. (Reverse platoon splits for right-handed batters almost never last.) The part that's hard to believe if you watch Gomez now is that he's just an average runner; he used to be at least a 70 runner, and averaged 37 steals a year from 2012 to 2014, but that guy is long gone. Even MLB's Sprint Speed metric, which shows the fastest one-second interval recorded by Statcast for each player, has him just around the middle of the pack.

That has made him an average defender in center, rather than the plus-plus defender he once was, and he's not as durable as he was in Milwaukee, either. That said, he's one of the only solid-average every-day center fielders available in free agency, so even if you assume there's no return to any of the skills he showed before he was traded to Houston, he's probably a $15 million per year player, even after his fall from All-Star heights.


11. Logan Morrison, 1B
Age: 30 | B-T: L/L
HT: 6-2 | WT: 240
Career WAR: 5.2

Morrison's 2016 season was marred by a tear in his wrist that eventually required surgery, but he came back strong on a bargain deal with the Rays, hitting 38 homers and producing 3.6 bWAR for just $2.5 million. He also set career highs in walks and OBP, demonstrating the patience he'd shown as a prospect in the Marlins' system seven-plus years ago.

Morrison had the highest hard-contact rate of his career this season and worked to put the ball in the air a lot more frequently, both to hit for power and to defeat the shift against him. He has played some left field but should be playing only first base at this point, which limits his market dramatically given how few teams have openings there. On his production alone, he'd be a $15-20 million a year player, but I doubt he gets that much given the lack of demand at the position.


12. Jay Bruce, OF
Age: 30 | B-T: L/L
HT: 6-3 | WT: 227
Career WAR: 18.9

Knee problems dating back to at least 2014 had robbed Bruce not just of any ability to play defense, but even much of his power -- it's hard to drive the ball if you can't generate power from your legs -- and it wasn't until this past season that he seemed to get back to 100 percent.

Bruce still can't hit lefties; his .222/.285/.433 line against southpaws in 2017 was better than his past few seasons, but in line with his career numbers and not really a sign of any sustainable improvement. He's also a poor defender even when healthy, probably better suited to DH and occasional outfield duty than to a regular role in the field. But now that he is healthy, Bruce looks a lot like he did at his peak, and would be excellent as the left-handed side of a platoon for someone on a two-year deal.

Signed with Mets: Three years for $39 million.


13. Mike Moustakas, 3B
Age: 29 | B-T: L/R
HT: 6-0 | WT: 211
Career WAR: 11.4

Moustakas posted a 4-WAR season in 2015, when the Royals won the World Series, but it has been downhill since then; he missed almost all of 2016 with a knee injury and came back this year to post a .314 OBP, cutting his value in half. Both major advanced defensive metrics available to us, DRS and UZR, had his defensive production several runs below average this season as well.

Moustakas did hit 38 homers, topping his career high by 16, but that it came in the juiced-ball year makes the number a little suspect. He's still just 29, one of the youngest regulars available in free agency this winter, and perhaps another year removed from the season-ending right ACL tear will help him.

Rejected $17.4-million qualifying offer from Royals


14. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
Age: 29 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-3 | WT: 215
Career WAR: 17.1

Chacin has pitched in the majors for parts of nine seasons, roughly five of them full ones, and has just over 1,000 career innings pitched with above-average results. Because of some ill-timed injuries, however, Chacin has earned over $2 million in just one season of his career, and made only $1.75 million from San Diego for his 2.4-win performance in 2017.

His sinker/slider approach isn't always pretty -- he walks more guys than you'd like and generally tries to pitch away from contact -- but it works, as he tends to keep the ball down and generates enough weak contact to be effective. There's some downside risk here, as he doesn't have a real plus pitch to generate swings-and-misses, but he has enough of a track record to treat him and pay him like a No. 3 starter.

Signed with Brewers: Two years for $15.5 million.


15. Yonder Alonso, 1B
Age: 30 | B-T: L/R
HT: 6-1 | WT: 220
Career WAR: 7.9

Alonso went nuts in May, hitting .303/.425/.803 with 10 homers in 20 games … and then went back to something like his old self, with a .256/.353/.435 line from June 1 to the end of the season. This was much closer to his career line but with a little more power -- like everyone else in baseball. Alonso is still a cipher against left-handed pitching (.181/.263/.417 in 2017, .234/.303/.349 career) and a fringy defender at first base. As a platoon 1B/DH candidate, I'd give him $5-6 million on a one-year deal, but I can't buy into a one-month power spike as predictive of his long-term future.

Signed with Indians: Two years for $16 million.


16. Lance Lynn, RHP
Age: 30 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-5 | WT: 269
Career WAR: 14.9

Lynn missed 2016 because of Tommy John surgery in November 2015, and 17 months later he was in the Cardinals' Opening Day rotation, eventually tying for the NL lead in games started with 33. He wasn't all the way back, however, posting a career-high walk rate and career-low strikeout rate, although he switched up his pitch mix a little to throw more of his cutter/slider and rely less on his fastball.

The hope for any team signing Lynn is that another year removed from the surgery returns him to his 2012-15 form, when he was both consistent and valuable, worth about 3 wins above replacement per year. That's a $20 million-a-year starter in the open market if you believe he's durable enough now post-TJ to make 30-plus starts a season.

Rejected $17.4-million qualifying offer from Cardinals


17. Jake McGee, LHP
Age: 31 | B-T: L/L
HT: 6-3 | WT: 230
Career WAR: 7.6

Rob Arthur speculated in a September piece for FiveThirtyEight that the lower seams on the baseball since mid-2015 might have particularly hurt McGee, who had a miserable 2016 but returned to something more like his normal self in 2017.

He also returned to his previous style of pitching, throwing almost exclusively fastballs, almost completely junking his curveball and throwing his slider less often, which makes sense given that he pitched for Colorado, where pitches don't break as much as they might at sea level. His fastball is still plus and misses bats, and he's slightly better in his career against right-handed batters, so he's a full-inning guy rather than a lefty specialist. I think McGee is the best pure reliever on the market this winter, not likely to get closer money but more than worthy of it based on performance and stuff.

Re-signed with Colorado: Three years for $27 million.


18. Jonathan Lucroy, C
Age: 31 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-0 | WT: 200
Career WAR: 20.2

Two years ago, Lucroy was one of the poster children -- or adults, I guess -- for catcher framing. A strong offensive catcher with a good defensive reputation, Lucroy was one of the best framing catchers in the game, further adding to his actual and perceived value and making the long-term deal he'd signed with Milwaukee as a young player even more of a bargain.

In 2017, Lucroy may have been the worst framing catcher in all of baseball. So did he forget how to do it? Is framing a skill you can lose overnight as you age? Or is framing less of a skill than we thought it was? I find it hard to believe Lucroy could be so good at something for years and then, at age 31, become the worst in the game at the same thing.

He similarly collapsed at the plate, other than his walk and strikeout rates, losing all his power and making very little hard contact. He may not be the .292/.355/.500 hitter he was in his peak year of 2016, but I'd bet on a bounce-back year from him in 2018 on offense and defense, given what an extreme outlier this past season was in every aspect of his game. The lack of every-day catching options on the market makes a gamble on Lucroy a little more attractive as well.


19. Lucas Duda, 1B/DH
Age: 31| B-T: L/R
HT: 6-4 | WT: 256
Career WAR: 6.9

Duda has always been a walks and power sort of guy, with enough hard contact mixed in to keep his average respectable, but he was a bit unlucky in the batting average department in 2017, hitting for a lower average than you'd expect given the quality of contact he made. Duda had a pair of 3-win seasons in 2014-15 before a back injury wrecked his 2016, and I think he can get close to that again as long as that medical problem is behind him, a good value for even two years and $10 million or so a season.


20. Anthony Swarzak, RHP
Age: 32 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-4 | WT: 215
Career WAR: 4.8

I think I speak for most fans when I ask: When did Anthony Swarzak get good? The 2004 second-rounder came into 2017 with a career 4.52 ERA, and was last seen giving up 10 homers in 31 innings for the Yankees in 2016. The White Sox signed him in the offseason to a minor league deal with a non-roster invitation to major league camp, and working with pitching coach Don Cooper and the team's training staff helped bump up his velocity on both his fastball and slider to career highs.

Swarzak's two-pitch approach to right-handers is pretty simple -- sliders down and away, fastballs around the edges of the zone -- but he shows no platoon split even without a third pitch. Now 32, Swarzak will finally get the first seven-figure salary of his 14-year pro career, perhaps even seeing three-year offers in a weak reliever class, although I'd stop somewhere around two years and $12 million.

Signed with New York Mets: Two years for $14 million.


21. Jaime Garcia, LHP
Age: 31 | B-T: L/L
HT: 6-2 | WT: 200
Career WAR: 10.8

Garcia started the year pitching well for Atlanta, was traded to the Twins, made one start, and then was traded to the Yankees, for whom he walked a man every other inning. Garcia is a high ground ball guy who gets hurt when he leaves the ball up, with chronically high home run rates when batters do get the ball in the air against him.

He has never had a single pitch you could call plus that generated swings-and-misses, but he'll show four weapons and has little platoon split, which is how he has worked as a starter even with modest strikeout rates. Garcia has had three major arm-related injuries in the past 10 years, including Tommy John surgery, shoulder surgery, and surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome. He went four straight years (2012-15) without coming close to a full season of pitching, although he has stayed healthy since his May 2016 return. There's some volatility here both in performance and expected workload, with some mid-rotation upside if you get a full, healthy season. But he's more likely a fourth or good fifth starter at this point, likely to give you about 2 wins above replacement -- maybe a two-year, $20-24 million guy.

Signed with Blue Jays: One year for $10 million.


22. Mike Minor, LHP
Age: 29| B-T: R/L
HT: 6-4 | WT: 210
Career WAR: 6.7

Minor was an average-fastball guy in college who saw a velocity spike when he reached the majors, but he started to break down after two full years in the rotation. He missed 2015 and most of 2016 with injuries, then returned to the majors in 2017 as a reliever who dominated lefties and was very effective against righties, too.

Minor might be this year's Ryan Madson, another reliever who missed multiple seasons with injuries but returned to a new, more dominant level and parlayed it into a three-year deal.

Signed with Rangers: Three years for $28 million.


23. CC Sabathia, LHP
Age: 37 | B-T: L/L
HT: 6-6 | WT: 300
Career WAR: 60.7

His postseason performance notwithstanding, Sabathia has settled in as a solid back-end starter over the past three seasons, a bit homer-prone, missing fewer bats, sinking the ball more effectively and, the past two years, relying more on his defense to help him out.

He's 37 now and has missed a handful of starts since 2014, so a realistic projection would give him 150-160 innings rather than 180-plus, but I'm sanguine about his ability to repeat his overall results now that he's throwing more cutters in addition to his standard fastball/slider combination. He'll have to take a big salary cut to keep pitching, but I'd give him a one-year, $8-10 million deal in the hopes that he can give me 25 starts.

Re-signed with Yankees: One year for $10 million.


24. Neil Walker, 2B/1B
Age: 32 | B-T: B/R
HT: 6-3 | WT: 210
Career WAR: 20.4

Walker faces a tough road in free agency, coming off two injury-plagued years and facing an unfriendly market. He has never been a good defender -- not at third when he was a prospect with Pittsburgh, not at second -- and that's only likely to get worse from here given his injury problems.

I think Walker can play first base, but there's not much demand at that spot and a fair amount of competition this winter. He's a switch-hitter but hasn't produced enough against lefties in his career to call him a regular at this point. He can hit right-handed pitching, getting on base and showing some pop, and can fill in as a backup at second or third (but not more). Otherwise he's a platoon first baseman during a winter where there are suitable regulars available in free agency, too.


25. Welington Castillo, C,
Age: 30 | B-T: R/R
HT: 5-10 | WT: 220
Career WAR: 13.2

Castillo is a very good hitter for a catcher, an above-average thrower, and a poor pitch framer. In today's environment that last bit is going to weigh very heavily on how teams value him in the offseason market.

He's clearly good enough overall to catch every day, but probably not for a contender -- or, at least, he's the guy a contender would employ until they find someone better. Castillo is worth $10 million a year if you value all of his production together and figure he'll catch 120 games -- which, I might add, he has never actually done in pro ball -- but his limited track record and below-average framing capabilities will probably keep his salary below that.

Signed with White Sox: Two years for $15 million.


26. Pat Neshek, RHP
Age: 37 | B-T: B/R
HT: 6-3 | WT: 221
Career WAR: 10.1

By fWAR, Neshek was the most valuable reliever in this free-agent class a year ago, and it was a remarkable season for the 37-year-old; he posted career bests in walk rate and FIP, his best strikeout rate since his rookie half-season in 2006, and, most impressive of all, allowed just three homers in 62 innings, a third of which came as a member of the Rockies.

Neshek even had a strong year against left-handed batters, although his career performance against them says it's not likely to continue -- it's not as if he added a third pitch this season -- and going forward he's going to be a right-handed specialist. Given his age, Neshek should be looking at one-year deals, but something slightly above the $6.5 million he made each of the past two seasons would make sense.

Signed with Phillies: Two years for $16.25 million.


27. Austin Jackson, OF
Age: 30 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-1 | WT: 205
Career WAR: 24.1

Jackson wrecked southpaws in 2017 for a .352/.440/.574 line, and was more than adequate against right-handers in limited duty. He's below average in center now, but adequate in a corner, and might be a good, cheap starter option for a team that doesn't want (or need) to spend on a left- or right-field solution, with maybe two-win upside if he gets 500 or more plate appearances.

Signed with Giants: Two years for $6 million.


28. David Hernandez, RHP
Age: 32 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-2 | WT: 215
Career WAR: 4.8

Yet another capable right-handed middle reliever in a market full of them. Hernandez did post his lowest-ever walk rate last year, and second-best strike percentage (strikes out of total pitches thrown), while also adding a new hard slider in the upper 80s that was also very effective, so I'm a bit more optimistic on Hernandez holding on to his improvements than I am for other pitchers in the group.

Signed with Reds Two years for $5 million.


29. Juan Nicasio, RHP
Age: 31 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-4 | WT: 255
Career WAR: 4.1

Nicasio never had the right pitch mix to start, but really thrived in relief over the past two seasons after a short, ill-fated stint in the Pirates' rotation, logging 128 innings out of the bullpen with 147 strikeouts, 36 walks, and a 3.16 ERA.

He still has just fastball/slider, but facing lefties once a game is a lot easier than facing them three times when you don't have a viable third pitch, although he's still likely to have some platoon split and probably should be replaced against elite left-handed batters. He's not a great high-leverage relief option but fits into the next tier of guys, worth a year and $4-5 million.

Signed with Mariners: Two years for $17 million.


30. Jon Jay, OF
Age: 32 | B-T: L/L
HT: 5-11 | WT: 195
Career WAR: 13.1

Jay is a high BABIP, high-contact hitter who doesn't walk much or hit for any power, still capable of playing center on a part-time basis or a corner regularly, with just a modest platoon split for a left-handed hitter (90 percent of his career homers have come off RHP, but just 76 percent of his PA). At this point he's more tweener than every-day player, but a sound bench option for a contender with uncertainty at any outfield spot.


31. Wade Davis, RHP
Age: 32 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-5 | WT: 225
Career WAR: 11.5

Davis stayed more or less healthy in 2017, but wasn't the same guy he'd been for the pennant-winning Royals in 2014-15, with a little less velocity across the board and by far the highest walk rate of his major league career. His cutter is still plus and misses bats, but the reduced control is a serious impediment to using him as a high-leverage guy going forward. I could see someone giving him two years, hoping he'll return to form in 2018, but I don't have a concrete reason to argue that he'll do so.

Signed by the Rockies: Three years for $52 million.


32. Greg Holland, RHP
Age: 31 | B-T: R/R
HT: 5-10 | WT: 205
Career WAR: 11.3

Holland was worked way too hard in 2015 by Royals manager Ned Yost and eventually succumbed to a blown elbow, missing 2016 after Tommy John surgery, but came back as a solid, league-average reliever who led the NL in some useless category for the Rockies.

His stuff was fine, and it wasn't Coors Field that caused him trouble, but a combination of walks and hard contact. I might gamble a little that a second year removed from surgery could see him regain a half-grade of command, but the most likely outcome is that this is what he is, a good late-game option who's not ideal for the closer (or highest leverage) spot.

Rejected $17.4-million qualifying offer from Rockies


33. Eduardo Nunez, Utility
Age: 30 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-0 | WT: 195
Career WAR: 3.8

Nunez hits like an infielder but can't play even average defense at second or third, and let's not even talk about his defense at short. He has one skill -- he puts the ball in play a lot -- and that has to carry him. So when he hits .300-plus, like he did in 2017, he's a useful player, a good bench guy who won't kill you if he ends up with 500 plate appearances filling in around the diamond. He walks once per solstice, he has no power, and his instincts are generally poor, so when he doesn't hit .300, you're not getting much value. The fact that he has been traded to contenders twice at the July deadline befuddles me.

Re-signed by Red Sox: One year for $4 million (with a player option for 2019).


34. Andrew Cashner, RHP
Age: 31 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-5 | WT: 225
Career WAR: 7.5

Cashner's 2017 season was one of the most surprising of any major league starter, as he stayed healthy for long enough to qualify for the ERA title -- something he'd done only twice in his career, and not since 2013 -- but also posted the second-worst strikeout rate of any qualifying starter, ahead only of San Francisco's Ty Blach.

Cashner's strikeout rate was also the lowest of his career by a huge margin, and his velocity has dropped by 4 mph from his peak in 2012. He also has never reached 150 innings in consecutive years. In a year when strikeout rates were at all-time highs, it's alarming to see a power pitcher suddenly stop missing bats. Given that and his health history, I'd be very wary of giving him anything more than a one-year deal -- and would look to moderate his workload to try to keep him healthy for a second straight season.

Signed by Orioles: Two years for $16 million.


35. Jason Vargas, LHP
Age: 34 | B-T: L/L
HT: 6-0 | WT: 215
Career WAR: 15.2

Vargas led the American League in wins this year, which means nothing, so forget I even mentioned it. His ERA was a half-run below his FIP this year, thanks to some help from his defense and a high strand rate, and the underlying scouting report isn't very positive -- his velocity is well below average, he's walking more guys, and he's relying more than ever on pitching away from his fastball.

He's a fifth starter, most likely, worth a one-year deal for whatever you think a win above replacement should earn.

Signed with Mets: Two years for $16 million.


36. Bryan Shaw, RHP
Age: 29 | B-T: B/R
HT: 6-1 | WT: 220
Career WAR: 6.2

Shaw threw his cutter about 88 percent of the time in 2017, and it was incredibly effective, even against left-handed hitters, enough that you could consider him as a setup option rather than a right-on-right guy, except perhaps against the best left-handed batters.

He has been durable, with 70 or more appearances in five straight seasons -- six, if you count the eight minor league appearances he made in 2012 -- and had a career-best ground ball rate this year. He's a one-win reliever, useful in high-leverage spots, the kind of guy who might get multiple years in a market without many elite relief options.

Signed with Rockies: Three years for $27 million.


37. Joe Smith, RHP
Age: 33 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-2 | WT: 210
Career WAR: 12.0

Smith had one of his best seasons, with a career-high strikeout rate and career-low walk rate, in 2017, without a repeat of his troubles with the long ball from the previous season. As a low-slot right-hander, he has always had some trouble with lefties, but not quite enough to peg him strictly as a specialist.

This past year, he used his four-seamer up in the zone more often to generate swings and misses, which seems like a sustainable approach that could help him keep pace with traditional relievers who are posting huge whiff totals with pure stuff.

Signed with Astros: Two years for $15 million.


38. Jarrod Dyson, OF
Age: 33 | B-T: L/R
HT: 5-10 | WT: 160
Career WAR: 15.4

A below-average hitter without power who can still really run and play anywhere in the outfield. It's a little surprising his career BABIP isn't higher, given his speed, but at this point the former 50th-round pick -- that's not a typo -- is what he is: a very useful bench piece in the era of the 12-man pitching staff.


39. Yusmeiro Petit, RHP
Age: 28 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-1 | WT: 255
Career WAR: 3.6

A perfect 12th man on a modern staff, Petit can go multiple innings and even make spot starts, but isn't really good enough for anyone's rotation. He throws a ton of strikes with fringy stuff, and is better served going through an order once given his reliance on deception and predilection for allowing home runs, but I'd be thrilled to get him on a one-year deal to fill out a bullpen.

Signed with Athletics: Two years for $10 million.


40. Addison Reed, RHP
Age: 28 | B-T: L/R
HT: 6-4 | WT: 230
Career WAR: 6.6

Serviceable, durable middle reliever with ninth-inning experience and an occasional home run problem. He sits in the low 90s now, not the mid- to upper 90s he showed as a prospect, and may have to continue to mix in more sliders if his velocity slips any further.

Signed with Twins: Two years for $16.75 million.


41. Tyler Chatwood, RHP
Age: 27 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-0 | WT: 195
Career WAR: 9.2

I'll save you the trouble: Chatwood had much better results on the road (3.69 ERA), but it was all results on balls in play, as his walk, strikeout and home run rates were close to even, and he doesn't get left-handed hitters out anywhere.

Chatwood had a tremendous curveball as a prospect, and I wouldn't mind seeing some team at sea level sign him and see if the hammer is still in the toolbox … or the utility drawer in the kitchen with the paper clips and the stapler and the batteries and the stamps.

Signed with Cubs: Three years for $38 million.


42. Alcides Escobar, SS
Age: 30 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-1 | WT: 185
Career WAR: 10.7

From 2013-17, Escobar has the third-worst walk rate of any regular in baseball (minimum 1,500 PA), behind A.J. Pierzynski, now retired, and teammate Salvador Perez.

He doesn't hit for power and really doesn't steal as much as he could, so all his value is wrapped up in his glove, making him above replacement level but not by much. If there's any reason for hope, it's that he's still a high-contact guy, so perhaps a new coaching staff can work with him to put the ball in play with fewer fly balls. Otherwise, he's a starting shortstop for a bad team, or a defensive replacement off the bench for a good one.

Re-signed with Royals: One year for $2.5 million.


43. Brett Anderson, LHP
Age: 29 | B-T: L/L
HT: 6-3 | WT: 230
Career WAR: 6.8

Anderson has generally been effective when healthy, including a stellar 2015 season for the Dodgers, but threw just 11 innings in 2016 around injuries, and made a handful of starts for the Cubs in early 2017 while he wasn't physically 100 percent.

After the Cubs let him go and he went to Toronto, his stuff ticked back up, and his tenure for the Blue Jays was better than his stat line implies because of one disastrous start. Signing Anderson means there's a chance you get nothing, but a fair chance of 10-15 league-average starts if he's well enough to pitch.


44. John Lackey, RHP
Age: 39 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-6 | WT: 235
Career WAR: 38.0

Lackey is a durable fifth starter if you have a good defensive unit -- and probably not someone you want to sign if you don't. His slider was softer in 2017 and much less effective, and he has giving up more hard contact the past two years than he had before, including an NL-high 36 homers this past year.

The former second-round pick already has 38 career WAR by Baseball-Reference, fourth best in the 1999 draft class behind Jake Peavy, Carl Crawford, and some 13th-round pick named Pujols.


45. Brandon Phillips, 2B/3B
Age: 36 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-0 | WT: 211
Career WAR: 30.9

He's not going to walk, but he continues to put the ball in play often enough to be a fringy regular at second base. Whether you think he's that or just a bench piece largely depends on what you think of his defense. Ultimate zone rating has him just a tick below average at second base (and above average at third), while defensive runs saved has him well below it. He'll play at a seasonal age of 37 in 2018, and could go off the offensive cliff at any point, but if you need a one-year stopgap at second base who can handle third in a pinch, he's worth a $4-5 million deal.


46. Matt Albers, RHP
Age: 34 | B-T: L/R
HT: 6-1 | WT: 225
Career WAR: 4.7

Albers' 1.62 ERA last season was the result of a comically high strand rate -- 92.4 percent of his baserunners were left on base, the second-highest rate in the majors in 2017 and worlds apart from his 60 percent rate the year before -- but he was still a solid-average reliever even if you work that aspect of his performance out of his line. His velocity did tick up slightly this year, and his fastball was in turn more effective. Given his history as a starter, he seems like a good candidate for the multi-inning relief role we all discuss every October and forget about by spring.

Signed with Brewers: Two years for $5 million.


47. Curtis Granderson, OF
Age: 36 | B-T: L/R
HT: 6-1 | WT: 200
Career WAR: 45.8

Granderson shouldn't play the outfield regularly -- or irregularly -- at this point, but he can still hit right-handed pitching well enough to merit a roster spot as a platoon DH, regular pinch hitter, close-your-eyes-and-put-him-in-left sort of guy. He hit .214/.337/.470 off righties in 2017 and .241/.347/.479 off them in 2016, getting killed on BABIP by the shift and his extreme pull orientation, but he's still walking and hitting for power, enough to make him a solid reserve but no longer a regular at any spot.

Signed with Blue Jays: One year for $5 million.


48. Howie Kendrick, OF
Age: 34 | B-T: R/R
HT: 5-11 | WT: 220
Career WAR: 30.5

How ye mighty have fallen, am I right? Kendrick was very highly rated as a prospect in the early 2000s, hitting .360-plus in four straight minor-league seasons before his debut in 2006, and then never hit .300 in any season where he amassed at least 400 PA in the big leagues. He did have a very solid season in part-time play in 2017 for the Phillies and Nats, at least at the plate, although he's now merely a competent left fielder who still hits like a traditional second baseman. He's a second-division regular, too good to just be a platoon player but not productive enough to start in left for a contender.

Re-signed with Nationals: Two years for $7 million.


49. Fernando Rodney, RP
Age: 40 | B-T: R/R
HT: 5-11 | WT: 230
Career WAR: 7.3

Rodney will turn 41 in March, and he's maddening to watch much of the time, but he's maintained his effectiveness and stuff even as he's entered his fifth decade, still sitting mid-90s with good life and a plus changeup, walking way too many guys but generating enough groundballs and strikeouts to get away with it. I suppose there will just come a year when it all stops, but I couldn't tell you when that'll be. As a one-year cheap closer/setup option, you could probably do worse, but you'll have to stomach the risk that comes with signing any pitcher in his 40s.

Signed with Twins: One year for $4.5 million.


50. Jeremy Hellickson , RHP
Age: 30 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-1 | WT: 203
Career WAR: 10

Hellickson was a 3-win pitcher in 2016, but totally lost his changeup -- his best pitch in most years -- in 2017 and became barely above replacement level for the Phillies and then the Orioles before he was shut down with a sore back in September. He's a flyball pitcher with fringy velocity for a right-hander, so you can expect a high home run rate. But when he's throwing strikes and missing enough bats like he did two seasons ago, there's value here. I would value him as a fifth starter, above replacement-level, who gives my team some chance (say 10-20 percent) that he'll be much closer to league average if he rediscovers his changeup.