Happy belated Thanksgiving, Razzballers!
‘Tis the season for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, but there’s another deal-day you may or may not be aware of…Saturday Stove deals! It’s when we recount some offseason MLB free agent news on Saturday. See, free agent news is the hot stove and it’s Saturday. Clearly makes a lot of sense. Sorry if you’re here to buy a stove.
The free agent period is always exciting in any sport, but it’ll be especially interesting to see how an itty-bitty 60-game season will amplify contracts for little ol’ guys like Trevor Bauer and Marcell Ozuna, two dudes who went just absolutely bonkers. On the flip side, what about little ol’ Marcus Semien, who plummeted to an almost career-worst OPS after his sexy 2019 season?
So what I’m gonna do is go a little deeper on the important guys that have signed somewhere already. There aren’t a ton, but there are certainly guys worth talking about. Then for guys that are still freely drifting along, I’ll just give a gut-check take on what 2021 could look like for ’em. Odds are pretty decent I’ll gloss over a guy you really care about…I’m not gonna talk about every ding dang free agent out there. Sorry not sorry.
Charlie Morton: Braves’ rotation just got a lot better. It was already pretty good, given Mike Soroka, Max Fried, and an emerging Ian Anderson, but now it’s, well, better. Charlie Morton got himself a 1 year, $15 million deal with the Braves. I know he’s older. I know he’s a big injury risk. I know 2020 didn’t look good. But now he pitches for the freakin’ Braves. Even if they don’t bring Ozuna back, that lineup is scary good. It will win lots of games. The Rays are good, don’t get me wrong, but they can’t quite score like the Braves can.
Yeah, 2020 wasn’t very good, but the bright spot is he posted his best BB% ever. Also a .355 BABIP is bound to come back down – that’s the highest it’s ever been, and the last time it was even over .326 was back in 2010 (.353). The strikeouts were still there. O-Swing% and SwStr% looked as good or better than they have in recent years. I ain’t too worried. Gimme some Morton on the Braves, yo.
Drew Smyly: More like Drew Smyly-ng All The Way To The Bank, amirite? I guess 26.1 innings of great pitching is worth $11 milly these days. Even as a Razorback alum myself, just like dear Mr. Smyly, I always seem to forget about the dude when it comes to fantasy baseball. I mean, he didn’t play in 2017 nor 2018, so I can’t really blame anyone for forgetting about the guy. He came back in 2019 and was very bad in Texas and just kinda bad in Philly. But it makes perfect sense that in 2020 he would rebound in San Francisco and get a big paycheck from a World Series contender for it all.
To be as fair as one can in evaluating anything from the 2020 season, Smyly was quietly excellent for the Giants. His 3.42 ERA is what counted for fantasy, but it’s encouraging to note his FIP was very shiny at 2.01. He struck out an absurd 37.8% of batters and had an H/9 below 7. Best SwStr% of his career by far. There are a few red flags, namely how hard he was hit and how many barrels he allowed, but I’d be willing to bet you could get him on the cheap and get some healthy returns on that investment.
Kevin Gausman: This one kinda doesn’t count because he didn’t change teams. Kevin Gausman accepted his QO with the Giants, so he’ll be making a cool $18.9 million to try to repeat his impressive 2020 campaign. To be honest, I wasn’t aware he was a #4 overall pick back in 2012.
Four-seam velocity was up to 95.1 MPH after just 93.9 MPH in 2019. Gausman throw gas, man. Nice to see since he was dipping there for a few year (was 96.6 MPH his rookie year!). K-rate soared up to 32.2%, and his 15.2 SwStr% was also a career mark. And it was good for ninth among anyone who threw at least 30 IP. The good news is everything looks sustainable. The bad news is he pitches for San Fran. Good cheap source of Ks and ratios, most likely. I’ll take it.
Marcus Stroman: Also stayed on the same team, but hey he was technically a free agent. I’ll admit, Stroman doesn’t really excite me for fantasy. He just always seems over-hyped. That 2014 season of 1.67 ERA and 0.96 WHIP is obviously not the real Stroman, and I guess everyone thinks he can get back there (FIP, xFIP, and SIERA didn’t think so even then).
Dude is still just 29, so it’s not like age is really a factor yet. 2019 was his best K/9, too! But it was still just 7.76, sad trombone. I don’t want any of that in fantasy from an SP if I’m getting a WHIP in the neighborhood of 1.30-1.40. My fantasy advice is to steer well clear of Stroman, but I figured he was still worth talking about. I still want to believe in the Mets. Maybe Steve Cohen is the magic ingredient?
Robbie Ray: Walk Master Robbie Ray (WMRR) is the last of The Signed I’ll be talking about. It was peak Robbie Ray Owner Syndrome in 2020. So much hype on his new delivery that was supposed to eliminate his control issues. The same fix that apparently has made Shane Bieber and Lucas Giolito elite. But some things never change, and despite all the “This is finally his year!! What a bargain!!” truthers out there, Ray ultimately sucked even more. Worst ERA since his first year in the bigs, worst WHIP of his career, and a horribly awfully astoundingly disgustingly BB% of 17.9. Good lordingly. And the rebuilding Blue Jays felt the need to re-sign the man for $8 million. Just a one-year deal, but still. Yucky all around. I guess there could be a…Ray…of hope? Nah. Dude’s cooked.
Trevor Bauer: Wherever Trevor (that rhymes!) Bauer ends up, I’m gonna be confident in him. Career-high K% and career-low BB%. Sign me up, even with some likely regression thanks to a very low BABIP in 2020. Sure, you can scoff at a 73-IP Cy Young all you want, and rightfully so, but I believe in Bauer moving forward. Something tells me he ends up on the Dodgers, Yankees, or the Mets. I’d be more inclined to meet that #15 overall ADP he’s sporting on NFBC if it’s the former two.
J.T. Realmuto: I mean, why not the Mets? Why can’t they just go get Bauer and J.T. Realmuto at the same time? Cohen is rich enough, ain’t he? The Phillies can’t afford him, but the Mets sure can. Wherever he goes, he’s still the best fantasy catcher by lightyears.
George Springer: I’ve seen George Springer linked to, of course, the Mets, among other teams. I’m not sure he’s a good fit in New York, given they’ve already got Michael Conforto, Dominic Smith, and Brandon Nimmo in the outfield. Plus no NL DH in 2021 (at least from early reports, but who knows). Blue Jays are making a push for him. Springer is another I don’t really care where he ends up. He’ll get slotted right into a major role.
DJ LeMahieu: Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees end up doing what it takes to bring D.J. LeMahieu back. The dude is so consistent, and the power is becoming a welcome addition for fantasy owners. Now, if he leaves NY, I’m not sure that power sticks – 27 of his 36 HR in pinstripes have come at Yankee Stadium. Doesn’t matter; I want him on my fantasy teams.
Marcell Ozuna: Tough to predict where Marcell Ozuna will go. Bound to make some money after an MVP-worthy season, so he’ll probably play the market for a while. He did change agents, after all. Same guys that represent Realmuto. Hmmmmmm. My money says the Braves just bring him back, but I’ve seen rumblings of Mets and Astros interest. Lots of teams are probably interested, let’s be real. I don’t loooove Ozuna if he’s the main bat, but that’s just the jaded Cardinals fan in me. In Hotlanta, he’s surrounded by greatness, thusly he can thrive as well. If he goes to a good team, I like him more than if he doesn’t. How’s that for fantasy advice?
Marcus Semien: I’m just plain interested to see what kind of money Marcus Semien gets or doesn’t get based on his poopy 2020 season. It’s too bad he wasn’t able to build on that 2019 breakout. I didn’t draft him anywhere, so it wasn’t too bad for me, though. I’m very meh about Semien for fantasy. I didn’t believe in the breakout, but I don’t believe he’s as bad as last year, either.
Brad Hand: The Dodgers have shown interest, and this would of course tank Brad Hand’s fantasy value, because he’s not overtaking Kenley Jansen as the closer. At least not right away. Surely. Right? Hand did end up with a career year in 2020, leading the league in saves (16) and posting a career best ERA (2.05), WHIP (0.77), FIP (1.37), and H/9 (5.32). Blue Jays have also shown interest, and with Ken Giles on the market as a free agent, Hand would slot right into the closer role. In leagues that count holds, Hand is gonna be a stud on any team, but ultimately his value rides on whether or not he’s closing out games in 2021.
Liam Hendriks: The Phillies bullpen was hot garbage last year, so they’ve been linked pretty heavily to Liam Hendriks thus far. Makes total sense. But like any reliever in fantasy, pretty much you need to know the guy is gonna be closing games to be worth your time outside of holds leagues. Or if his name is Devin Williams and his ratios and Ks are so elite you should roster him regardless of role. Hendriks should be closing games, but Cust kayin’.
Tommy La Stella: I just wanted to bring up Tommy La Stella because I really dig him in fantasy. I like OBP guys. A lot. They’re very safe, and I like safe in fantasy. I’ve honestly no idea where he ends up, but if it’s somewhere he’ll be a regular, then I want in. The contact skills are superb, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean his batting average is Ted Williamsian. He’s not gaudy, he’s not sexy, but he’s a very cheap, very good player to have on your team.
Nelson Cruz: Nelson Cruz has to end up where there’s a DH and where there’s room for him to DH. And somewhere willing to give him the not-just-one-year deal he’s after. Or maybe no one wants to pay all that much for a 40-year-old and he just has to settle. Dude is OLD (for a pro athlete, don’t get your suspenders twisted), but he’s still an elite slugger. Until he shows signs of slowing down, draft with confidence.
James McCann: I’ll tack him on at the end because he put up a tantalizing .896 OPS from the C spot and should wind up being a starter somewhere. Seeing reports of Phillies interest given they’re likely to lose JTR. The 2019 All-Star got even better in 2020. It’s as thin a position in all of fantasy sports, so anyone who has the potential to post solid power numbers warrants attention.
Tons of other names out there, like Justin Turner, Trevor Rosenthal, Jake Odorizzi, Kolten Wong, Kirby Yates (remember him?), Corey Kluber, C.J. Cron, and sooo manyyy moreeee. They’re all pretty much the type where it depends where they end up and what kind of role they’ll have.
Take care out there, y’all.