This offseason has been centered around where Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will sign. Each player is projected to make at least $200 million. But remember, most teams cannot afford the price tag of such potential luxurious contracts. A majority of clubs are shopping in the bargain bins of free agency. With that in mind, here are three under the radar free agents to look out for.
Garcia is coming off an injury-plagued 2018 campaign. He was limited to just 93 games due to a strained right hamstring, but managed to hit a career-high 19 home runs. Garcia is just 27-years old and has the potential to be a great hitter—something he was just two seasons ago. Think back to 2017 when Garcia made the American League All-Star team. His breakout season surprised fans across the game.
However, the hamstring injury didn’t prevent Garcia from hitting the ball harder in 2018. His average exit velocity was 90.3 miles per hour, a slight uptick from 2017 (90.2). For reference, the average exit velocity for hitters across the majors was 87.7 MPH. Provided he plays a full season in 2019—his career-high is 148 games—Garcia could give you above average production.
Prediction: On paper, the Mets do not need another outfielder. They already have Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo and the recently acquired Keon Broxton.
However, you can’t count on Lagares for a full season. The former Gold Glove winner has played in just 203 games since the start of the 2016 season. Broxton struggled in limited playing time with the Brewers in 2018, slashing .179/.281/.410 in 89 plate appearances. With the reported signing of Jed Lowrie, the Mets have already proven they’ll add pieces to positions already filled with depth.
Of the 682 position players to appear in a game last season, only seven (roughly one percent) appeared in 162 games. Nick Markakis was one of them. In fact, since the start of the 2013 season, no one has appeared in more games than Markakis.
Most Games in MLB
Since the start of 2013
Nick Markakis 951
Kyle Seager 947
Carlos Santana 933
Alcides Escobar 932
Anthony Rizzo 925
Eric Hosmer 925
Markakis was a major factor in the Braves’ run to the National League East crown in 2018. He made his first All-Star team, slashing .297/.366/.440, with 14 home runs and 93 RBI. His 185 hits were third in the National League, trailing only teammate Freddie Freeman (191) and eventual NL MVP Christian Yelich (187).
Prediction: It would be prudent of the White Sox to find a stopgap player should the club be unable to sign Harper or Machado. Without one of those two All-Stars, it would foolish to think Chicago could make a legitimate run at the American League Central crown. Markakis could serve as a good one year option in the outfield before the club is truly ready to compete in 2020.
Three of the White Sox top seven prospects are outfielders, according to MLBPipeline.com. Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Blake Rutherford are also among the top 100 prospects in the majors, according to the website.
Top Chicago White Sox Outfield Prospects
With MLB Prospect Rating, according MLBPipeline.com
Eloy Jimenez #3
Luis Robert #44
Blake Rutherford #77
Jimenez is the closest to making the big league club, having hit .355 with 53 games at Triple-A Charlotte this season. I'd imagine he'll make the White Sox major league roster at some this year, but Robert and Rutherford are each at least two years away. The highest level either player has reached thus far is Single-A Advanced.
Should Jimenez be ready this season—and the White Sox are out of playoff contention—they could always deal Markakis to a contending club for a prospect or two. It's a low risk signing that could prove beneficial for Chicago.
The 33-year old infielder from Venezuela is coming off a solid season split between the Mets and Phillies. Cabrera hit 23 home runs, drove in 75 and posted a 112 OPS+ in 147 games. He's also been nothing if not consistent over the last four seasons.
Season Averages since the start of 2015
The free agent market for second basemen is starting to dwindle down, with the reported signings of Brian Dozier (Nationals), Jed Lowrie (Mets) and D.J. LeMahieu (Yankees). Cabrera and Josh Harrison are arguably the best offensive second basemen remaining on the market.
Prediction: The Dodgers are in desperate need of a second baseman. The retirement of Chase Utley and the loss of Dozier to the Nationals has depleted Los Angeles's resources at the position. Even with Utley and Dozier, Dodgers' second basemen were among the worst in the majors last season.
Los Angeles Dodgers Second Basemen
2018 Offensive Numbers with MLB Ranks***
AVG .209 Last
HR 13 T-22nd
RBI 55 26th
OPS .638 28th
***Out of 30 teams
The two-time defending National League champions can ill afford to enter Spring Training without a starting second baseman next month. Cabrera may be the answer.