Each week our writers go round the table to give their thoughts on the biggest stories or questions in baseball.
Which player is the “best value” free agent?
Adam Brown: Wei-Yin Chen
In free agency I’d argue it’s next to impossible to find good value, for ever low-risk flier that works out like Brett Anderson, there’s a Justin Masterson, Pablo Sandoval or Hanley Ramirez. I tend to think even if I means forking over a few more dollars, it’s not a bad idea to keep the years down, avoiding the almost inevitable decline that comes when players hit their mid 30’s.
This year, David Price will get a 7 year deal which will take him deep into his 30’s. As will Jordan Zimmermann, Zack Greinke and Johnny Cueto. For that reason I think the biggest bargain will end up being Wei-Yin Chen. Whilst he doesn’t have the eye- popping individual accolades of a Price, Cueto or Greinke, there’s an argument to be made he’s the most intriguing pitcher beyond those three.
Whilst Jordan Zimmermann is a fine pitcher, MLBTradeRumours anticipates a 6-year $126m deal for Zimmerann, an Average Annual Value of $21m. In comparison, Chen has a predicted contract of 5/$80m, a $16M AAV. A saving of five million dollars per year, less years on the deal, and all for the sacrifice of a 100 ERA+ (compared to Zimmermann’s 118). The two pitchers have fairly similar numbers, especially for last season, meaning this could be a potential bargain for General Manager this winter.
Edward Overend: Gerardo Parra
If I was a major league GM, Gerardo Parra is the type of guy I would want to go after. He is only 28 and just 2 years ago put up a defensive WAR of 4.0. He can cover all three outfield positions. Whilst his bat is not as good as Jason Heyward’s his defence has the capability of being so. Baseball has become much more wise to value accrued from defense but I still feel there is value to be found and Parra is someone I would like on my roster.
Casey Boguslaw: Doug Fister/Ian Kennedy/Mat Latos
Two of the players that I would have thought may have become the best value next year were Colby Rasmus and Matt Wieters. Their agents must have been thinking that as well since they both accepted the qualifying offer. Now, they can get more money in one year that they would have gotten for the first year of any contract. Next year, if they play well, they will be able to get a contract that they truly believe they will deserve.
Teams will enter any offseason saying they’re just one starter away from having a championship-caliber rotation. For the teams in search of a starter that can consistently deliver following their ace(s), Wei-Yin Chen might just be their guy.
Chen spent his first four seasons since coming from Japan as Baltimore’s most consistent starter, going 46-32 with a 3.18 strikeout-to-walk rate (which has been closer to four since 2014) and 4.14 FIP. His career WHIP of 1.252 might be a little high for some but remains respectable for any team’s third or fourth starter. Since coming to America in 2012, Chen has made 30 or more starts every season except for 2013. He’s a consistent performer whose numbers may not be as sexy as David Price or Jordan Zimmerman, but that’s what makes him so appealing; he’s not an ace, but you’re still getting quality innings.
MLB Trade Rumors projected Chen will sign for five years at the price tag of $80 million, which seems steep for something being considered a “bargain.” But Chen has consistently improved since he joined the Baltimore rotation, posting especially impressive seasons in 2014 and 2015. If a team is willing to write that check to Chen and use him as a third starter (perhaps a second in the event of an injury), there’s no reason to believe he won’t deliver. He’s a reliable pitcher that would make anybody’s rotation better.
Patrick Brewer: Doug Fister
After a mediocre 2015 season, Doug Fister is due for a bounce back season just as much as anyone else. Fister significantly hurt his free agent value last season, to the point where the Washington Nationals did not offer him a qualifying offer given the high likelihood that he would have accepted it and returned to the team on a one year $15.8 million contract. Going into this offseason, Fister’s value has tanked quite a bit and he should be signed for what amounts to a large discount. Fister is 31 years old and coming off a bad season, but he does have a track record of success prior to his struggles this season. Whatever team that signs him will get him on a discounted deal and could be pleasantly surprised by his performance next season.
Oliver Connolly: Mike Napoli
Give me ALL the Mike Napoli for two-years $15 million dollars. Since Napoli fled Boston and headed back to Texas he returned to his good ‘ol slugging self, hitting .295/.396/.513 in 91 plate appearances, while playing solid defense at first base and playing some in the outfield. Napoli is projected by FanGraphs to be an above average first baseman in 2016 and will be attainable for a relatively cheap price. He wont put a team over the top but at $7m+ per year he gives you an extra win and can be an upgrade for a number of teams at the first base spot.