We have used this idea for the last couple of years. The idea is to go through some of the top free agents, use the contract FanGraphs suggests they will get and have a poll asking if we would like to sign him for that amount.
Keith Law at the Athletic has Jeimer Candelario in the 14th spot on his list. Ben Clemens at FanGraphs has him 13th. I’ve skipped him because there are rumours that the Jays are after him, and many of the other top free agents are starting pitchers.
Candelario turns 30 next month. He’s a switch-hitting third-baseman (who can also play first). He played 140 games this year, split between the Nationals and Cubs. He hit .251/.336/.471 with 22 home runs, good for a 119 OPS+. Baseball Reference has him at a 2.9 WAR.
2022 wasn’t as good. He had a 0.6 WAR and an 81 OPS+. But the two seasons before that were more like 2023.
Defensively, he isn’t Matt Chapman. Outs Above Average has him at a +2. Chapman is less than a year older.
Keith Law said:
The Tigers non-tendered Candelario last November after he slumped to a .217/.272/.361 line, allowing the Nationals to sign him to a one-year, $5 million deal for the bounceback, as Candelario set a career high with 22 homers and a 117 wRC+, enough for the Cubs to trade a pair of prospects for him at the deadline. That said, his stat line was a lot better than his underlying batted ball data would imply, as he didn’t do anything like create more hard contact or barrel the ball more often to make you think the power spike was sustainable, and his improved defense with the Nats turned around completely after the trade by Outs Above Average, which makes me think he’s probably the same average-ish defender at third he’s always been. There’s value in a guy who’s good for about 40 doubles and 15-20 homers with a league-average OBP and the aforementioned defense at third, probably 2.5-3 WAR a year, and since he’s been that guy in the past two seasons when fully healthy he should get three or four years and $18-22 million per.
Here’s another tier gap in the free agent rankings. You can shuffle around the top 12 a bit, but I don’t think there’s much argument for putting Candelario ahead of any of them. Just as he was a big fish in a small pond at this year’s trade deadline, he’s going to benefit from the fact that there aren’t many good hitters on the market, but he’s pretty far behind Chapman in the third base hierarchy, and thus more of a consolation prize.
Personally, I’d be very interested in winning that prize. Candelario’s bat plays in pretty much any lineup, at least for the moment. Sure, there are concerns. He played so badly that the Tigers non-tendered him last winter, and his raw power is lacking. But the fact is, the hitters in this free agent class all have significant risk. I’d like to have a little upside potential from my free agents, and I think that Candelario accomplishes that. If he repeats his 2023 season, that’s an easy win. If he hits like he did in the first half, that’s a huge win. And if he reverts to his 2022 form, well, look, those are the breaks. As we move down the list, the players are only going to get riskier.
Clemens figures him to get 3 years and $45 million, averaging $15 million a season. He has Chapman getting 5 years and $120 million.
If it is a choice between the two, you’d have to decide if Matt is worth 2 more seasons and $9 million more per (of course, the players have a say in it all too). Personally, I’m still in the ‘let Orelvis and Barger battle it out for third base this spring camp. But I’m not running the team. It is easy for me to take a chance on prospects. And I am always in the overrated prospects camp.
Maybe we could break this into three polls.
Should the Blue Jays sign Jeimer Candelario if the price is $15 million annually for 3 years?
This poll is closed
Probably, but I’m not enthusiastic about if
Probably not, but I wouldn’t hate it
No, Absolutely not
If the choice is Chapman at 5 years and $120 million or Candelario at 3 years and $45 million I’d prefer the Jays to sign
This poll is closed
Or would you rather the Jays use one of the Jays prospects at third?
This poll is closed