While all the focus in MLB free agency remains on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, there are still plenty of bargains to be had.
While we all continue to wait for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado to decide where they want to play, there are still tons of options in MLB free agency looking for a home. A critical part of team building continues to be quality depth that can serve as an adequate replacement in the event of injury or under performance, and to keep players fresh over the grind of the season.
This exercise seeks to identify players who are available on the cheap but could still deliver value in a part-time or reserve roll over a course of the year. Using MLB Trade Rumor’s free agent tracker and MLB’s Statcast, I have picked out some remaining free agents that have interesting Exit Velocity (EV) and expected weighted on base average (xwOBA).
Derek Dietrich – INF/OF – EV: 87.4 MPH – xwOBA: .367
Dietrich clubbed a career high 16 home runs last year and offers the ability to play 5 positions, though admittedly he isn’t great at any of them. Nevertheless, he arguably offers the most flexibility of the remaining free agents, he could serve as the larger half of a platoon and be a versatile bench bat for an NL team.
Digging deeper into the numbers, his EV is slightly below average but he finds himself in the same neighborhood as Starling Marte, Jurickson Profar, and fellow free agent Marwin Gonzalez. Furthermore, his xwOBA, which strips out the effects of defense on batted balls to asses offensive contributions, continues to paint a favorable picture. His xwOBA is comfortably above average where he finds himself in the same class as Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve. While the latter individuals cost more in terms of money or prospects, Dietrich can offer real depth for only a few million at this point of the off-season.
Brad Miller – INF – EV: 91.0 MPH – xwOBA: .428
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While Miller has struggled mightily the last two seasons, he was a useful player as recently as 2016 with the Rays, offering power across the infield. Among remaining free agents his xwOBA sits second in between Harper and Machado. His EV ranks third, behind only Machado and Hanley Ramirez.
While it would be foolish to expect him to fully return to form, Miller has retained his above average EV and xwOBA. That mixed with modern defensive positioning in the infield could make Miller a good depth piece and rebound candidate for teams. Miller represents a no risk signing and could be had for a minor league deal with invite to spring training to prove it.
Danny Valencia – 1B/OF – EV: 90.9 MPH – xwOBA: .411
Much of the same things written about Miller apply to Valencia, except that Valencia can serve as a warm body in the outfield as well. Valencia hasn’t been a productive player recently, but his 2018 batted ball profile, per Fangraphs, looks very similar to his 2015 and 2016 where he produced 2.8 and 1.4 WAR respectively. His exit velocity and xwOBA rank in the top 5 among remaining free agents.
Interestingly, his EV is the same as Paul Goldschmidt and Yoenis Cespedes. Sometimes, guys like this do the Matt Adams and provide some thump while faking it at several lower spectrum positions. Like Miller, he could be had with an invite to spring training
None of these guys are the marquee free agent you were hoping your team would sign this off-season. What these guys do offer, is potential depth in the event of an emergency. We all know that one twist of an ankle can dramatically change a team’s outlook.
Teams value depth more than ever and these guys have an interesting batted ball data along with enough positional flexibility to at worst serve as adequate depth or maybe be a small cog of a playoff bound team.