Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
Today let’s look at the free agent class in terms of fortifying the bench. Gone (hopefully)) are the days of fringy AAAA players and has-beens who are not going to help much in a pinch, let alone if pressed into playing for an extended period of time due to injury. While nearly everyone is on board with the idea of signing Kelly Johnson directly instead of trading for him for a third straight season, who else is out there that might contribute when needed? I see three that jump to mind immediately:
Buttressing the Bench
Steve Pearce – the erstwhile Oriole combined between Baltimore and Tampa Bay to produce 13 HRs and 35 RBIs while batting .288 in 264 ABs. He had performed well as a semi-regular his last time around in Baltimore with a 2014 season yielding 21 HRs, 49 RBIs and a .293 average over 338 ABs. The right handed hitting Pearce can play OF, 1B and 2B. He last earned $4.75 million and is a free agent for the first time.
Dae-Ho Lee – the Mariners took a flyer on a 34 year old player from Korea and were rewarded with 292 ABs showing good power. He hit just .253, but slugged 14 HRs and drove in 49. The big right handed veteran plays 1B and earned just $1 million in his first year in the majors.
Rajai Davis – the mighty base-stealer is probably looking to start, though his role of late has been that of 4th outfielder. The Mets haven’t had a stellar baserunning threat since Eric Young departed. With Jose Reyes likely starting that means having someone like Davis available off the bench could help. Of course, with his timely and unexpected HR to tie the 7th game of the World Series, he’s got a higher profile than any other moment in his career. Although he slugged a career high 12 HRs this year, it’s his league leading 43 SBs that catches everyone’s eye (doubly impressive at the age of 35). Cleveland paid him $5.2 million last year.
Jose Miguel Fernandez – a 23 year old Cuban defector who is not subject to any compensation picks, he hit .326 with an outstanding OBP with very few strikeouts. Predictions are he’s going to get a 3 year deal worth about $6 million per year. Whether or not the Mets should be interested again hinges on David Wright’s health. He’s played 2B and 3B, positions also covered by Jose Reyes, TJ Rivera, Wilmer Flores and Neil Walker (if he’s in the picture). It would be better if he could handle CF. Interesting, but not a great fit.
Lourdes Gourriel – brother of highly touted now Astro Yulieski Gourriel, Lourdes hit .344 in Cuba playing the outfield. Just 23 years old, the talk is he will likely first approach the Astros about joining big brother in Houston, but most feel he will have enough power to command a corner outfield position on nearly any team. Estimates peg him to be worth 6 years/$72 million. When you look at the stats, remember the Cuban season is about half as many ABs as the American baseball season.
Although not a free agent, a good buy-low candidate is the Washington Nationals’ center fielder, Ben Revere. Ben lost his starting job when he was slow to recover from injury and now he appears superfluous to the NL East champs. Ben is a speedy baserunner and until last year a solid hitter with a career mark of .285 who has stolen as many as 48 bags in a single season. He’ll play 2017 as a 29 year old and I could see him in CF flanked by some combination of Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and (dare I say it) Yoenis Cespedes. He’s arbitration eligible this year after playing for $6.25 million last year. I can’t see him getting a raise given his .217 season and having lost his starting job. Given they only have one more year of control, he might be readily available in trade even to a division rival.