Free agent countdown: position players #15-11

Jason Miller

A look at some of the top potential free agents for this offseason, including what they're likely to cost and whether the Indians have any use for them.


Other entries in the free agency series:

The Indians major need this offseason in terms of a position player is probably a right fielder, either to platoon with Drew Stubbs or play every day if Stubbs is non-tendered. Lonnie Chisenhall probably gets another year to show he can be an MLB third baseman, but if you could make an argument that the team should look for someone to take over there as well. If you're willing to play Nick Swisher in right, you could also look at 1B/DB types. The other positions are fairly well spoken for, unless someone is traded. That being the case, not all of the players listed here are going to be a fit for the Indians, but it's still worth knowing who's out there.

15) Marlon Byrd - OF, age 36

PA BA OBP SLG wRC+ fWAR
2013 Numbers 579 .291 .336 .511 136 4.1
2014 Projections* 332 .266 .314 .421 105 0.9

*Steamer projections, available at FanGraphs

Byrd is a strange case. From 2007 to 2010 he was an above-average hitter every year, but he dropped off a bit in 2011, then missed much of 2012 and was awful when he did play. He could only get a minor league deal with the Mets this February, but then went on to have the best season of his career, netting New York two solid prospects in a trade deadline deal to Pittsburgh, where he continued to hit. FanGraphs' crowdsourcing predicts a 2 year, $15 million deal for Byrd, who played right field in 2013 after being a center fielder earlier in his career. As you can see, Steamer does not believe he can sustain his production, though even that diminished wRC+ would make him an upgrade over Drew Stubbs in right. How comfortable are you with the Indian taking a chance on a 36-year-old coming off a career season?

14) Juan Uribe - 3B, age 34

PA BA OBP SLG wRC+ fWAR
2013 Numbers 426 .278 .331 .438 116 5.1
2014 Projections 603 .244 .304 .392 96 3.8

While we're on the topic of aging players coming off really good seasons... ladies and gentlemen, Juan Uribe! Uribe is not quite as old as Byrd, and the projected regression is not quite as steep. You may notice that despite a slightly below average wRC+, Uribe still projects to put up nearly 4 WAR. That's because he's a fine fielder (it may be hard to remember now, because he's become a bit portly, but he used to be a pretty solid shortstop). It probably takes something like 2 years, $16 million to land Uribe, which could turn out to be a bargain. Are the Indians in the market for a new third baseman? I suspect not, as Chisenhall, frustrating as he's been, only just turned 25, but for a team looking to free agency for a 3B, Uribe is the best one this year.

13) Kendrys Morales - 1B, age 30

PA BA OBP SLG wRC+ fWAR
2013 Numbers 657 .277 .336 .449 116 1.2
2014 Projections 651 .271 .331 .463 117 1.5

Morales was a very good power hitter in 2009 and 2010 until he fractured his leg while celebrating a walk-off grand slam. He missed more than a year and a half, and since his return he's been good, but not as good. I suspect there are many Tribe fans who view Morales as a 30-HR hitter and covet him, but I'm not sold. He pushes Swisher into right field, which I don't think is ideal, and he's a negative on defense on the base paths. Also, the Mariners have already said they're going to make him a qualifying offer, and his camp has already said he'll decline it. That means the Indians would forfeit their 1st round draft pick to get him, and I don't see him as anywhere near good enough to justify that.

12) Nelson Cruz - OF, age 33

PA BA OBP SLG wRC+ fWAR
2013 Numbers 456 .266 .327 .506 122 1.5
2014 Projections 371 .266 .327 .491 118 0.9

Cruz was on pace for 40 HR until being suspended for 50 games due to his connection with Biogenesis and PEDs. The Indians haven't had anyone hit more than 28 HR since 2008, and in the last two years, no one has hit more than 22, so someone with Cruz's power has a certain appeal, especially because he's a right fielder, which is probably the position the Tribe is most likely to upgrade. I'm not interested though. Here's what you get with Cruz's power: a mediocre walk rate, poor base running, some of the worst right field defense is baseball, and the likelihood that it's all going to get worse (even if you aren't concerned by the PED connections, his age is an issue). All that power and he hasn't been worth more than 2 WAR since 2010. Let someone else give up a draft pick for the right to pay Cruz $35-40 million over the next three years.

11) Jarrod Saltalamacchia - C, age 28

PA BA OBP SLG wRC+ fWAR
2013 Numbers 470 .273 .338 .466 117 3.6
2014 Projections 499 .238 .305 .425 96 2.5

Saltalamacchia is coming off the best year of his career, with a BA, OBP, and SLG all more than 30 points above his previous career average. It's possible he finally found his stroke, but considering his BABIP was .372 (5th highest in history for a catcher with 400+ PA), it seems far more likely he was exceedingly lucky. There will be regression. He may still be league average as a hitter, and is a solid defensive catcher, so there's definite production to be had, but even if the Indians weren't set at catcher, I wouldn't want them going after Saltalamacchia, since as young as he is, I think he'll land something like 4 years, $48 million, and I don't think he'll be worth that.

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