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Best fits for top unsigned MLB free agents: Trevor Bauer to L.A.; Phillies get more big names after Realmuto

Best fits for top unsigned MLB free agents: Trevor Bauer to L.A.; Phillies get more big names after Realmuto

1 Signed: Blue Jays (six years, $150 million) 2

Best fit: Phillies

An obvious fit. Surprisingly few big-market contenders need a catcher and the Phillies have both the money to sign Realmuto and the need on the field. Realmuto would get a huge payday and, in theory, a chance to contend. Phillies players are openly campaigning for Realmuto to return, even the new guys…

…and I don’t think Philadelphia wants to risk clubhouse mutiny on top of the on-field impact of losing the game’s best all-around catcher. The Phillies need Realmuto more than any other team and they’re able to pay him more than any other team that is realistically in the market for a catcher. A reunion is a win-win. I’m honestly surprised this is taking so long.

UPDATE: Signed with Phillies (five years, $115.5 million)

3

Best fit: Angels

No contender has a greater need for a bona fide No. 1 starter than the Angels, a team that has played three (3) postseason games during the Mike Trout era and is desperately trying to get back to October. Bauer grew up in Southern California, so signing with the Angels would be a homecoming of sorts, and that’s always neat. Bauer would bump Dylan Bundy and Andrew Heaney down into No. 2 and No. 3 starter spots, which is probably where they belong. Either on a high dollar short-term deal or a long-term arrangement, the Angels and Bauer are a match made in free-agent heaven.

4 Signed: Yankees (six years, $90 million) 5 Signed: Mets (accepted the one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer) 6

Best fit: Mariners

MLB is dragging its feet with the universal DH and that is doing Ozuna no favors in free agency, though the best fit for him is the Mariners, an American League team. Their current left field/DH situation is some combination of Jose Marmolejos and Ty France, so yeah, they can squeeze Ozuna’s bat in the lineup. Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis is entrenched in the outfield and soon top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez will flank him. Ozuna can be the veteran DH who supports the kids in the middle of the lineup as Seattle makes the transition from rebuilder to contender.

7

Best fit: Dodgers

This is another one of those “it makes so much and I don’t understand why it hasn’t happened already” reunions. The Dodgers have a need at third base and could use a right-handed hitter to balance their lefty-heavy lineup, so Turner fits on the field. He’s also a very highly regarded veteran and clubhouse leader, so his value transcends whatever he does in the batter’s box and at the hot corner. With the Dodgers, he’s a core player and leader. With any other team, Turner is just a player on the wrong side of 35 trying to hang on.

8 Signed: Astros (two years, $32 million) 9
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Andrelton Simmons


Los Angeles Angels SS

Best fit: Reds

Rookie Jose Garcia was thoroughly overmatched in his MLB debut last season and the Reds seem disinterested in giving Nick Senzel an extended look at shortstop. Cincinnati’s offense was sneaky bad last year — they averaged only 4.05 runs per game in 2020, third fewest in baseball — and no one player is going to fix that. They need their incumbents (Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas, Eugenio Suarez, etc.) to play better to fix the offense. Simmons is still dynamic in the field and would improve the team’s infield defense considerably. Also, his high-contact approach fits nicely with a team that struck out a little too much last year, and it’s unlikely he’ll require a significant contract. That works for a Reds team that has been cutting costs all winter.

10

Best fit: Phillies

My hunch is Tanaka is uninterested in bouncing around MLB at this point in his career, but with the Yankees bumping up against the $210 million luxury-tax threshold, a reunion won’t happen unless Tanaka takes a significant pay cut (or the team moves out money — like the Yankees did Monday). A return to the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan can’t be ruled out (and has been rumored). I’ll go with the Phillies. They could use a veteran starter to bump Vince Velasquez to the bullpen (or Spencer Howard to Triple-A), and Tanaka and manager Joe Girardi know each other from their days with the Yankees. 

11

Best fit: Phillies

We have three of our top seven unsigned free agents as fits for the Phillies. What does that say, exactly? I’m not sure, but it’s probably not a good thing Philadelphia has so many roster needs to address. Semien would solidify the shortstop position and push Jean Segura back to second base, and Scott Kingery into a super utility role, and he’d lengthen the lineup as well. A club with a win-now roster looking to get back to the postseason could do a heck of a lot worse than Semien’s professional all-around game at shortstop.

12

Best fit: Astros

I like Myles Straw. He’s a talented, speedy player who can help a contending team. I don’t think I’d want him playing center field for me on everyday basis though. The Astros did well to retain Brantley, and Kyle Tucker has (finally) claimed a full-time outfield spot. Now Houston just needs a center fielder to plop between them and who better than Bradley, an elite defender? He’s a downgrade from Springer, there’s no doubt about that, but Springer is gone and there’s no putting that toothpaste back in the tube. Bradley can hit eighth or ninth in Houston’s deep lineup while running down everything in center field.

13

Best fit: Athletics

It’s hard to see how the money can work with the A’s reportedly cutting payroll, but Pederson shouldn’t be too expensive, and his lefty power bat would be a wonderful complement to Oakland’s all-righty outfield (Mark Canha, Ramon Laureano, Stephen Piscotty, and even Khris Davis). The fact he’s postseason battle-tested doesn’t hurt either. Only the Dodgers have been to the postseason more times than the Athletics since 2012, and all Oakland has to show for those postseason trips is one stinkin’ series win (2020 Wild Card Series).

14

Best fit: Twins

Yet another oh-so-obvious reunion that hasn’t happened yet for some reason. The Twins need another middle-of-the-order bat and Cruz has shown no signs of slowing down at age 40. Heck, he’s getting better with age. He posted the two highest full season OPS+’s of his career with Minnesota the last two years. Minnesota needs a power bat and is one of the few contenders with an opening at DH. They may not be the best landing spot for a veteran searching for an elusive World Series ring (I say that only because the Twins have lost a record 18 straight postseason games), but it fits for Cruz. It fits for Cruz and it fits for the Twins.

15 Signed: Mets (four years, $40.6 million) 16 Signed: Giants (accepted the one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer) 17

Best fit: Athletics

Ideally, the A’s would add two middle infielders this offseason, but let’s start with just one for now. Gregorius would fill the vacant shortstop position and add a lefty bat to a lineup that currently has just one threat from the left side (Matt Olson). He’s not going to command a significant contract, which fits into Oakland’s reported plans to cut payroll, and he’d give them a solid stopgap option until shortstop prospects Nick Allen, Logan Davidson, and Jeremy Eierman force their way to the show (or until one of them does, at least). 

18

Best fit: Pirates

The Pirates are rebuilding and looking to find value on the cheap, and Paxton is looking to rebuild his stock after injuries sabotaged his 2020 season. Pittsburgh just traded Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon, so they can easily fit another starter in the rotation. Bringing Paxton in on a low-cost one-year deal and hoping you can either flip him for a prospect at the deadline or (gasp!) keep him long-term is sensible. Paxton would get to pitch in a ballpark that is slightly pitcher-friendly and in a division lacking powerhouse offenses. That’s where you want to be if you’re trying to prove you can still be an effective big leaguer. 

19

Best fit: Blue Jays

Yes, the Blue Jays already have a very good second baseman in Cavan Biggio. So why then were they pursuing DJ LeMahieu? Because he’d make the team better, that’s why, and Wong would do the same. Wong is a defensive wizard at second base and Biggio has experience at third. Wong at second, Biggio at third, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first base is Toronto’s best defensive alignment by far. Also, Wong is a pesky lefty hitter who has a knack for getting on base. He’d be an ideal No. 8 or No. 9 hitter for this offense. I love the fit.

20 Signed: White Sox (three years, $54 million) 21 Signed: Nationals (one year, $10.5 million) 22

Best fit: Cardinals

It’s really hard for me to see Wainwright in a different uniform at this point in his career. He’s a franchise icon, and it’s not like the Cardinals couldn’t use the rotation depth given Dakota Hudson‘s Tommy John surgery and the ongoing injury concerns with Carlos Martinez and Miles Mikolas. Another one-year contract is an obvious fit for both the Cardinals and Wainwright.

23 Signed: Braves (one year, $15 million) 24

Best fit: Cardinals

Despite the rumors, I will believe Molina will leave the Cardinals when I see him in a different uniform. Parting ways just doesn’t make sense at all. Molina is a franchise legend who has value to the Cardinals beyond what he does on the field. Also, St. Louis needs a catcher. It’s not like they’d have to push someone aside to make room for him (sorry, Andrew Knizner). Anywhere else, Molina is just some other team’s legend nearing the end of the line. In St. Louis, he’s beloved and still a core player. His value transcends his play for the Cardinals, and Molina has to know staying with them is the best thing for his personal #brand.

25 Signed: White Sox (one year, $8 million) 26

Best fit: Yankees

Yet another reunion that makes a world of sense despite not yet happening. Gardner, a career Yankee, still has value as a fourth outfielder who hits righties and plays strong defense in left and center fields. He would certainly come on a cheaper contract than someone like Joc Pederson, which would help given New York’s luxury tax payroll situation. Gardner is a clubhouse leader who fills the fourth outfielder’s role, and often plays his way into regular duty.

27

Best fit: Blue Jays

Bringing an extreme fly ball pitcher into the AL East could work out disastrously, but Odorizzi is not a normal fly ball pitcher, as he excels at getting weak contact and infield pop-ups. Toronto’s rotation behind Hyun-Jin Ryu is a little unsettled, with reclamation project Robbie Ray and veterans inning-muncher Tanner Roark the safest bets. Adding Odorizzi, bumping Ray and Roark down a peg on the depth chart, and Ross Stripling back into the bullpen, makes a world of sense for a Blue Jays team that just gave Springer the largest contract in franchise history. They’re in it to win it, so why count on Ray and Roark as your No. 2 and No. 3 starters when there’s a perfectly good Odorizzi waiting to be signed?

28

Best fit: Athletics

The A’s have a history of signing free-agent starters who are one year removed from major injury (Bartolo Colon, Rich Hill, Scott Kazmir, etc.) and Walker fits the bill. A.J. Puk’s ongoing health issues create a need in the rotation behind Chris Bassitt, Jesus Luzardo, Sean Manaea, and Frankie Montas, a need Walker could address better than in-house options like Grant Holmes, Daulton Jefferies, or James Kaprielian. As a big-time fly ball pitcher with a league average-ish strikeout rate, pitching in spacious RingCentral Coliseum would benefit Walker as well.

29 Signed: Royals (two years, $18 million) 30
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Corey Kluber


Texas Rangers SP

Signed: Yankees (one year, $11 million) 31

Best fit: Brewers

Few teams were as offensively inept as the Brewers last season. They averaged only 4.12 runs per game, fourth fewest in baseball, and they have questions all around the infield. Can Daniel Vogelbach really be an everyday first baseman? Can second baseman Keston Hiura improve after posting the worst in-zone contact rate in baseball last year (worse than Chris Davis!)? Will either Luis Urias or Orlando Arcia ever hit enough to warrant a full-time lineup spot? If nothing else, La Stella will get on base and put together quality at-bats, and he’d provide the Brewers with protection at every infield position except shortstop.

32

Best fit: Athletics

Doesn’t Hernandez just feel like an Athletic? Some players just have that feel. We’ve already given the A’s Gregorius to solve their shortstop problem. Now we’re going to give them Hernandez to play second base. The pesky switch-hitter is a Gold Glove- caliber defender, so right off the bat he’s a defensive upgrade, and he’s a sneaky-good hitter as well. Not great, but consistently above average, and better than what Oakland could reasonably expect from Tony Kemp or Chad Pinder

UPDATE: Signed with Cleveland (one year, $5 million)

33 Signed: Tigers (two years, $10 million) 34 Signed: Astros (two years, $12.5 million) 35

Best fit: Marlins

Colome is a bit unconventional in that he doesn’t rack up strikeouts and instead excels at limiting ground balls and getting weak contact. I’m not sure how many (if any) contenders would be comfortable trusting him in the ninth inning. Teams tend to prioritize bat-missers who can get outs without allowing a ball in play late in the game. Colome is a good reliever though, and the Marlins are a young team on the upswing with an opening in the bullpen. A veteran closer to lock down those ninth inning leads without eating up a ton of payroll would be a fine addition for Miami.

36 Signed: Dodgers (two years, $17.5 million) 37 Signed: Mets (two years, $15.5 million) 38

Best fit: Phillies

Philadelphia has brought in Jose Alvarado and Archie Bradley (and Sam Coonrod) this offseason in an effort to fix what was the worst bullpen in baseball a year ago. Alvarado, Bradley, and incumbent Hector Neris have been in and out of the closer’s role the last few years, and while chances are one of them will grab the job and run with it in 2021, the resurgent Rosenthal is a better bet to be a lockdown ninth-inning guy. He misses a ton of bats and he has postseason pedigree, something the Phillies could use as they, you know, try to get back to the postseason. 

39

Best fit: Pirates

Adam Frazier is a solid player with a chance to be more than that, and the Pirates should keep him in the lineup every day (assuming they don’t trade him before Opening Day, of course). They can do that while still signing Schoop because Frazier has played every position except pitcher, catcher, and first base in his MLB career. I say put Frazier in left, Bryan Reynolds in center, and sign Schoop to play second base and add a little respectability to a team that is going to be in the running for the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft. Schoop wouldn’t block a prospect or tie up significant dollars.

40

Best fit: Marlins

How has Puig not been a Marlin yet? I mean seriously. He fits their needs on the field — Garrett Cooper is a nice player but I would not let him stand in the way of Puig — and his style is so perfectly Miami with his flair and verve. Some players seem destined to play for certain franchises and Puig feels destined for the Marlins, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. Do it, Marlins. Do it.

41 Signed: Padres (three years, $21 million) 42

Best fit: Cleveland

Jake Bauers is likely to have a spot on the 2021 roster because he is out of minor-league options and must pass through waivers to go to Triple-A, and I don’t see Cleveland cutting loose, but I wouldn’t let him stand in the way of adding a first baseman. Besides, Bauers can play the outfield, so there are ways to get him and Moreland into the lineup. Moreland still mashes righties and he’s a very good defensive first baseman. I don’t think Cleveland is completely throwing in the towel on 2021 despite the Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor trade. Moreland represents a cheap option to upgrade the offense. 

43

Best fit: Pirates

Cron and Schoop teamed up in Detroit last year, so why not Pittsburgh this year? The Josh Bell trade opened up first base full-time for Colin Moran, but Moran can’t hit lefties, making Cron an obvious platoon partner candidate. And, if the National League adopts the universal DH, the Pirates will be able to put Cron and Moran in the lineup simultaneously. Similar to Schoop, signing Cron would be another “make an effort to be respectable without blocking prospects or spending big money” move. 

44

Best fit: White Sox

The White Sox still have an opening in left field even after these headline-grabbing last few weeks. More accurately, they have still an opening in left field or at DH, because they could put Eloy Jimenez at either position. Miller has punished right-handed pitching the last two years (.258/.351/.535), and slotting him at DH with Jimenez in the outfield would make an already great lineup even more dangerous. So you have to pull Eloy for defense in the late innings. Big deal. As an added bonus, Miller has experience all over the field, so while he’s not a good defender at all, he can at least fill in anywhere in a pinch.

45 Signed: Royals (two years, $17.5 million) 46

Best fit: Athletics

Oakland has already lost one reliever to free agency (Liam Hendriks) and could lose three more (T.J. McFarland, Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria), so there is a great big need in the late innings. Jake Diekman can’t do it all himself. Greene is an experienced late-inning reliever who won’t break the bank and has some untapped potential given his slider spin rates. The A’s need bullpen help and they’re the kind of analytics savvy organization that can turn Greene from a low-cost flier into a highly valued reliever.

47

Best fit: Diamondbacks

According to FanGraphs projections, the Diamondbacks have the worst bullpen in baseball right now, and they’re said to be in the market for a veteran reliever or two. Melancon has ties to the area (he played his college ball at the University of Arizona) and he is exactly the kind of brand name lower-cost teams on the fence about rebuilding or going for it tend to target. If he pitches well, great, he can help them get to the postseason or be traded for a prospect. If not, no big deal. Not like he’ll require a long-term contract and eat up payroll years into the future.

48 Signed: Blue Jays (one year, $5.5 million) 49
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Ken Giles


Toronto Blue Jays RP

Best fit: Angels

Giles had Tommy John surgery in October and will miss 2021. Pitchers in his situation usually sign a two-year contract with a very low salary in Year 1 (during rehab) and a more representative salary in Year 2 (when he’s expected to contribute). That’s exactly what the Dodgers gave Tommy Kahnle earlier this offseason. Giles was out-of-this-world good in 2019 and he’ll turn only 31 in September, so it’s reasonable to expect a return to form with a healthy elbow in 2022. The Angels have a lot — A LOT — of money coming off the books next offseason, allowing them to easily fit a “normal” salary for Giles come 2022. He’s worth signing now with an eye on later.

50

Best fit: Nationals

Did you know Nationals third basemen hit .204/.325/.250 with two home runs in 2020? Year 1 post-Anthony Rendon was capital-U Ugly. Gonzalez probably shouldn’t be an everyday player at this point in his career, but he can hold down third base in the interim, and he’s versatile enough to move elsewhere should top prospect Carter Kieboom grab the hot corner job and run with it. Washington won the World Series in part because so many veterans had that one last productive season (Asdrubal Cabrera, Howie Kendrick, Anibal Sanchez, etc.), and maybe the Nationals can work the same magic with Gonzalez in 2021.

51 Signed: Red Sox (two years, $14 million) 52 Signed: Angels (one year, $8 million) 53

Best fit: Athletics

Cahill reinvented himself as a changeup/curveball pitcher last season and the result was a career high strikeout rate and a career low ground ball rate. There is plenty of familiarity here (Cahill spent 2009-11 and 2018 with the A’s) and Oakland is poised to lose a small army of relievers to free agency. RingCentral Coliseum would fit his new fly ball style well and there’s a chance Cahill may have to settle for a minor-league contract this winter. There’s upside and he should be affordable for a team on a budget.

54 Signed: Braves (one year, $11 million) 55

Best fit: Rangers

Choo may be forced into retirement if MLB doesn’t adopt the universal DH, which doesn’t look likely. He was a productive hitter as recently as 2019 and he is a beloved teammate and clubhouse leader, but 38-year-olds who can no longer play defense and are slipping offensively are not exactly hot commodities. The Rangers are the call here almost by default. Choo has a history with the organization (duh) and they could move pieces around to get him into the lineup at DH. Texas is emphasizing youth and there are few players you want mentoring your youngsters more than Choo.

56 Signed: Blue Jays (one year, $8 million) 57

Best fit: Braves

Petit just keeps plugging along, getting important outs in the late innings despite underwhelming peripheral numbers and stuff that doesn’t jump out at you. Even at age 36, you can pencil him in for 70 above-average innings (during a 162-game season) like clockwork. The Braves are not hurting for bullpen arms, but they did lose Mark Melancon and Shane Greene to free agency, and Petit can help fill that void as a multi-inning weapon in the middle innings.

58

Best fit: Angels

The Angels could use another reliever or two. Clippard is a reliever, ergo Clippard to the Angels. That’s overly simplistic, of course, but it fits. Clippard has extensive late-inning experience and his dead fish changeup has made him very effective against left-handed batters throughout his career. He could come in handy in a division that features lefty bats like Yordan Alvarez, Michael Brantley, Joey Gallo, Matt Olson, Kyle Seager, and others.

59

Best fit: Rays

Assuming Shane McClanahan goes back to developing as a starter, Cody Reed and Ryan Sherriff are the Rays’ only lefty bullpen options. Watson is better than a lefty specialist — he has held his own against righties and pitched in late-inning situations throughout his career — and his heavy sinker and ground ball ability give him a standout tool. Tampa leverages individual tools better than any team and they could turn Watson into a matchup lefty double play specialist.

60 Signed: Marlins (two years, $5 million)

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