I've heard a lot about this Free Agent Class. That it doesn't offer much, especially on the pitching front. But having looked at it I feel like there are enough pieces there to significantly help this team on the positional front that could not just make the team better, add depth, but also free up additional players that could be used for potential trades in pitching. Let's look at 5 Free Agents that may cost some cash, but could definitely fill holes.
Jeff Keppinger is 32 years old and entering free agency for the first time in his career. He has played every infield position as well as corner outfield positions. His line in 2012 is .329/.370/.435 with a WRC+ of 127 and fWAR of 2.5. His career numbers are .288/.337/.395 with a WRC+ of 96. It is possible he is having the typical pre-free agency spike or that he is coming into his own and this is closer to what he is capable of when given every day playing time. Truth is it is probably somewhere in the middle. In 2012 Keppinger was paid $1.525 million so he is due a big pay raise. I would happily give him 3 years, $18 mil with a couple of option years.
Jays fans are very familiar with soon to be 37 year old Marco Scutaro from his pretty successful time here. His line in 2012 is .304/.346/.398 with a WRC+ of 95 and he has contributed 2.1 fWAR. This year Marco is making a healthy 6 million, the downside is that it will probably take another $6 or $7 million to acquire, the plus side is it's pretty low risk on a 1 or 2 year deal.
Signing these two players in Free Agency is imperative for AA and the Blue Jays for 3 key reasons:
- Provides two options for every day second base that are high average/high on base players with low strike out rates that will at least have productive outs and keep the lineup moving.
- They provide the depth needed to make Yunel Escobar expendable in a trade for pitching, give Adeiny the starting job and provide insurance against injury or softmore struggles
- Jeff Keppinger is a career .332/.375/.485 against left handers and has started 17 Games at first base this year making only one error. If no other improvements are made to the positional roster, we can at least be sure that Lind does not have to be in the line-up against lefthanders in favour of a Lawrie, Hech, Scutaro, Kepp infield with Encarnacion DH'ing.
This guy has been annoying Jays fans for years and it is time to spend what it takes to bring him to Toronto. In 2012 he is producing with a line of .262/.351/.464 with 23 HR, WRC+ of 119 and fWAR of 3. The soon to be 32 year old Swisher is unlikely to be re-signed by the Yankees with Granderson and Cano do for extensions and the Yankees desire to get under the luxury tax level. Swisher with his career 13.3% walk rate and ability to switch hit without splits he is exactly the kind of guy we need at the top of our order and that could teach some of these young hitters a proper approach at the plate and how to stay out of slumps. Additionally, his ability to play 1B, DH or corner outfield spots could make any combination of Lind, Davis, Sierra or even Rasmus (with a Gose move to centre and Rajai as the emergency CF'er) available as trade options for Pitching. The challenge is that Swisher has said he wants Jason Werth money, which seems highly unlikely, but it will probably take a Bautista like contract to bring Swisher here and we will no doubt be competing with the newly financially capable Red Sox. But, my opinion, he's versatile, fills needs, and provides the type of veteran leadership, high on-base, top of the order bat this lineup needs.
Adam Laroche has a $10 million dollar mutual option with the Nationals that he is likely to decline looking for long term security. The almost 33 year old, left handed slugging, first baseman has posted a 2012 line of .269/.340/.509 with 32 2B, 32 HR, WRC+ of 123 and 3.2 fWAR.
There has been discussion about Justin Morneau who would be an interesting option as well (although we'd have to give up something to Minnesota to get him), Adam Laroche is essentially what we hoped Adam Lind would be. Although he has limited splits this year, his career OPS against Righties is .841 but he still has delivered a very respectable .753 OPS against lefties without a significant drop off in the power production. Essentially he could be this year's Prince Fielder light. However, much like in the case of Swisher, this may be the kind of player Boston targets with all their new money. The additional bonus to the Jays is that Adam Lind, could potentially be used as part of a larger package for a pitcher. Let's not forget, a team could take a chance that Lind is next year's Aaron Hill, at a cost of only $5 million, with $7 million dollar options he could be worth a gamble for a small market team like Oakland with excess pitching. I would think it might take a little more then the deal Edwin just signed to land Laroche, but he would look really good hitting 4th or 5th in this lineup.
Want some speed that can actually get on base, how about Michael Bourn. He will be entering free agency in his age 30 season and although he may come at a steep price, the immediate benefits would be the ability to trade Rasmus in a deal for pitching, move Gose to CF, and give us a legitimate lead-off hitter, now. His 2012 line is .274/.346/.391 with 9 HR and 39 SB, and twice he has stolen 61 bases in a season. His 9.7% BB rate in 2012 will help the team's overall OBP, approach, and allow the heart of the order to see more pitches. One additional bonus is that although he is a left-handed hitter, he doesn't have any atrocious splits. He would be a quality LF'er, but allows you to move Rajai Davis as well as Rasmus because he provides the ability to play CF if needed.
Overall, imagine Roger's really flexes their muscle and goes out and gets 4 of these 5 guys. A line up of,
- Bourn LF
- Lawrie 3B
- Bautista RF
- Laroche/Swisher 1B
- Encarnacion DH
- Keppinger 2B
- Arencebia C
- Hechevaria SS
- Gose CF
With a bench of:
And available to trade for pitching:
So what do you all think, worth the cash? With the challenges associated with getting pitching, is it worth improving the offence to try and compensate?