Here are the five best free agents left on the eve of Spring Training
by Mike Axisa
It is the eve of Spring Training, folks. Pitchers and catchers for the Mets, Rays, and Indians will all report Sunday, with most other clubs following suit Monday and Tuesday. Here are the reporting dates for all 30 teams.
Despite a rash of low-cost signings in recent days and weeks, there are still plenty of free agents still available as Spring Training inches closer and closer. Most unsigned players are role players. There are no stars available. In fact, each of our top 15 and 32 of our top 33 free agents have signed.
Chances are several of these unsigned players will land jobs in the coming days and weeks as teams look to solidify their rosters. So, with that in mind, here are the five best free agents still on the market according to our free agent tracker.
Matt Wieters C / Free Agent
It's really hard to believe Matt Wieters is still unsigned. Quality catchers are hard to It's really hard to believe Matt Wieters is still unsigned. Quality catchers are hard to find, and while Wieters is neither the hitter nor defender he was a few seasons ago, he remains a quality backstop. Some team is going to sign him to a low-cost, one-year contract soon and be happy they did it. As with pitchers, there is no such thing as too much catching depth.
Which team should sign him? Mets. Travis d'Arnaud has struggled to stay healthy over the years and neither Rene Rivera nor Kevin Plawecki should be counted on as backup plans by a contending team.
Doug Fister RHP / Free Agent
It wasn't long ago that Doug Fister was legitimately one of the best pitchers in baseball. From 2011-14, he threw 750 2/3 innings with a 3.11 ERA (129 ERA+). He ranked tenth among all pitchers with 17.1 WAR those years. Fister has lost some velocity and effectiveness in recent years, though you can still pencil him for 160-plus innings each year, and just about every team could use another innings eater.
Which team should sign him? Reds. Homer Bailey just had bone spurs removed from his elbow and will begin the regular season on the disabled list. There's a clear need for another innings guy in Cincinnati.
Pedro Alvarez DH / Free Agent
This was a tough offseason for one-dimensional sluggers. It wasn't until this past week that Mike Napoli and Chris Carter, who hit a combined 75 home runs in 2016, came off the board. Pedro Alvarez just turned 30 earlier this week and he authored a .251/.326/.522 (126 OPS+) batting line with 21 home runs against right-handed pitchers last year. As long as he has a platoon partner and never plays the field, Alvarez will help a team out.
Which team should sign him? White Sox. They are pretty much the only AL team without a DH at this point. Yes, the ChiSox are rebuilding, but there's nothing to be gained from playing someone like Cody Asche or Avisail Garcia at DH. Alvarez could sock some dingers and play his way into actual trade value at the deadline.
Travis Wood LHP / Free Agent
Last year, Travis Wood was the longest tenured player on the World Series champion Cubs. He filled a variety of roles for the team over the years, which last season meant full-time bullpen work, where he had a 2.95 ERA (137 ERA+) in 61 innings and held left-handed batters to a minuscule .128/.208/.239 batting line. As an added bonus, Wood is durable and versatile enough to start or relieve.
Which team should sign him? Yankees. They're poised to go with two young unproven starters in the back of their rotation. Wood would give them some extra rotation depth in case the kids don't work out, and, if they do work out, Wood could slide into the bullpen.
Jonathon Niese LHP / Free Agent
If healthy -- a big "if," considering knee surgery ended his season in August -- Jonathon Niese could prove to be a nice free-agent bargain this offseason. He pitched well before the knee injury last year and is still only 30 years old. Niese spent several years as a solid mid-rotation starter with the Mets and could offer similar production in 2017, as long as the knee holds up.
Which team should sign him? Padres. They've signed several low-cost veterans in recent weeks (Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Richard, Trevor Cahill) and yet they still have the worst projected rotation in baseball. Niese would come cheap and he'd benefit from pitching in a big ballpark.