Let’s have some fun and create a team based on MLB free agents. Every baseball fan has always dreamed of being able to make trades and sign players for their favorite teams. But are all the factors considered? Factors such as the player’s salaries, position versatility, injury history, and age need to be taken into consideration when constructing a team.
The criteria for making the all free agent team is that obviously all players were granted free agency status following the 2019 season. The salary cap I used is 180 million. The salary used is the player’s average annual salary. All salary figures were taken from Spotrac.com. My team will play in the National League so I did not use a designated hitter.
The Free Agent Class
This free-agent class was heavy on star third basemen and front line starting pitchers and as always the case relief pitchers. As for the rest of the class, the cupboard was pretty bare. At catcher, there was only one star, Yasmani Grandal who was able to score an 18 million dollar a year payday from the Chicago White Sox. At first and second base there were no star players available. The only big player at short was Didi Gregorius who signed a reasonable contract. In the outfield, there was a real lack of center fielders and the available players at that position despite being good players none can be considered stars.
This free-agent class was dominated by top third basemen such as Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson followed by Mike Moustakas. The top starting pitchers dominated the market with Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg both inking contracts paying them well over 30 million dollars a year. Five other starting pitchers will be making at least 18 million dollars in the 2020 season.
Perhaps the biggest dilemma I fought through was whether to use Grandal or go with less expensive options. Grandal was so far better than any other catcher on the market. His .380 OBP and 28 HR made him very tempting. Grandal’s OBP is 140 points higher than his batting average which is an astonishing feat. I ultimately decided against selecting Grandal out of fear that my catcher would be one of my most important offensive players and the most likely to break down.
The two catchers I selected have combined offensive numbers that are better than Grandal’s. I know I am using two players to match the productivity of one player but I am saving 9 million dollars in the process. Robinson Chirinos and Francisco Cervelli will be my catchers. Chirinos hit 17 HR and had an OBP of .347 in just 366 games. Despite getting older Chirinos’ last two seasons have been the best of his career. Chirinos is making 6.75 million dollars and he does have a small sample of postseason play with four HR and seven RBI in 52 at-bats.
I picked Cervelli as my second catcher but I don’t consider him to be my backup. Chirinos will be the primary catcher but Cervelli will get plenty of game action. Despite having an injury-plagued 2019 season when Cervelli got healthy he showed he can still play once he joined the Atlanta Braves. Cervelli batted .281 with two HR and seven RBI in just 32 at-bats as a Brave. But I am using his 2018 numbers when considering this team. I feel he can achieve close to those numbers and will be worth the two million dollars he will make this coming season.
First base was perhaps the weakest position to find quality players. Not one player who calls first base his primary position is making over 10 million dollars. So I am picking Eric Thames at four million dollars. Since coming back from Japan Thames has hit over 70 HR the last three seasons. Thames would have pushed that number to over 80 if he did not get hurt in 2018. One of the appealing factors about Thames is his OBP at .346 is one hundred points higher than his batting average. His RBI total of 61 in 2019 is low for a player who hit 25 HR.
Rendon is the best but Josh Donaldson is good too and at 12 million dollars less it allows me to spend more on my pitching. Donaldson’s .379 OBP is high and coupled with his 37 HR gives me my clean up hitter and starting third basemen. Donaldson at 34 has re-established himself as one of the top players at the hot corner in the game. His production of 94 RBI and 96 runs scored tells me he can drive them in and gets on for the back end of the lineup. Donaldson will be expected to be a huge part of my team.
Up the Middle
There was only one star player available up the middle and I snagged him at a pretty good price too at 14 million dollars. Didi Gregorius will be my shortstop and I am going to point to his 2018 numbers for his benchmark. Didi tore his rotator cuff in the 2018 playoffs with the New York Yankees so his 2019 numbers took a hit. But still anyone who can become the successor to an iconic player on the most storied team in all of sports in the media capital of the world has my respect. Didi had 27 HR and drove in 86 runs with a .335 OBP. His 69 strikeouts in 504 at-bats suggests he is a contact hitter. He was considered a very important player for the Yankees on and off the field.
At second base it will be Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera can play any position on the infield and only costs 2.5 million dollars. Cabrera has settled in nicely as a player who will hit 15-20 HR and drive in around 80 runs a year. Although he is slated as the starting second basemen Cabrera will be expected to play other infield positions when needed. Cabrera has been a player other teams have tried to acquire the last two seasons when making a run at the playoffs.
My infield backup players are really utility players who play multiple positions. Not only can they play defense they can also swing the bat. These kinds of players are so important to have when you need to rest your starters and keep everyone fresh. Having a team in the National League it is very important to have a lot of versatile players on the roster. With the age of my entire starting infield, both these players will see steady playing time.
If there was ever a player built to play in the National League Brock Holt is that player. As a member of the Boston Red Sox, Holt was the shadow for Dustin Pedroia as he was breaking down due to injuries. Holt can play much more than second base as his versatility shows he can play every infield position and also the outfield. Holt is not a player who will drive in runs but he knows how to get on base as his career OBP of .340 indicates. At 3.25 million dollars Holt is a bargain for any National League team.
Travis Shaw was on the fast track to becoming a star player when he was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017. Shaw hit 63 HR in 2017-18 with 187 RBI. Shaw does strikeout a lot but his OBP was over .340 in both seasons. He got injured in 2019 which produced the worst season of his career. But at four million dollars and with his versatility he is a player certainly capable of regaining his form in 2020.
At centerfield, the pickings were very slim. Only two true centerfielders were available and both are flawed. Kevin Pillar is the better of the two but I picked Jarrod Dyson basically because he can steal a base. At two million dollars you are paying for what you get. Even at 35 years old Dyson can still flat out play defense and his range will be what is needed the most.
Dyson would have been considered a great player if he could consistently get on base. As the saying goes “you can’t steal first base” this has been Dyson’s crutch his entire career. Dyson’s career batting average is .247, his OBP is .319 and he has stolen 250 bases getting caught 44 times. Those numbers just sum up my previous statement.
In rightfield, Nicholas Castellanos gets the nod. At 16 million dollars Castellanos is the second-highest-paid position player on the team. Once Castellanos was traded to a more hitter-friendly park he took off. Castellanos hit 27 HR and was a doubles machine hitting 58 two-baggers. Castellanos is entering the prime of his career and his 16 million dollar salary could be viewed as a bargain as he continues to get better.
In leftfield, I looked to a player who is still productive on the field and is also regarded as a great clubhouse presence. Alex Gordon at 35 is nearing the end of his career but he can still play. His greatest attribute is his consistency. He never has led the league in any major offensive category but he is a clutch player who has won the gold glove as a left fielder in the last three seasons. At four million dollars Gordon is an absolute steal.
My two backup outfielders both could really be starters. Both players are making 1.5 million dollars which makes them instant bargains. One is a young player who was a budding superstar a few seasons ago. The other player was once a top-rated prospect who at the age of 32 might have finally put it all together.
Domingo Santana was on the fast track to becoming a star. With the Brewers in 2017 as a 24-year-old, Santana hit 30 HR and drove in 85 runs with an OBP of .371. During the offseason, the Brewers traded for Christian Yelich and signed Lorenzo Cain leaving Santana without a position. He regressed the next season before getting traded to the Seattle Mariners where he had a better 2019.
The Mariners did not offer him a contract making this talented now 27 years old outfielder a free agent. Santana has flaws. He strikes out way too much and has subpar defensive skills. But for his age and his salary he will fit nicely as a player who can see a lot of playing time with an older Gordon as the starter.
My other backup outfielder is Cameron Maybin. I don’t really see him as a backup because he could split games with Dyson in center. He also could be inserted late in games for defensive purposes. At 32 Maybin is not really considered old. His work with the Yankees in 2019 showed he can be a very productive player. As the Yankees dealt with a lot of injuries it was the acquisition of Maybin that helped settle things down in the Bronx. In 82 games Maybin hit 11 HR and drove in 32 runs while scoring 48 runs with an OBP of .364. He still has great range in the outfield and he played sparingly in the playoffs but was productive.
Putting together a starting lineup this season brings on a whole new challenge. With the new rules about relief pitchers having to face three batters definitely changes things. Managers might want to really balance out their lineup making it even harder to pitch to. When I put this team together I wanted an even balance from both sides of the plate. As you will see I wanted to concentrate on alternating lefty and righty batters all through the lineup. Since I plan on splitting time between Dyson and Maybin I have constructed two lineups.
Starting lineup with Dyson.
- Gordon LF L
- Castellanos RF R
- Gregorius SS L
- Donaldson 3B R
- Thames 1B L
- Chirinos C R
- Cabrera 2B S
- Dyson CF L
Starting lineup with Maybin.
- Maybin CF R
- Gregorius SS L
- Castellanos RF R
- Donaldson 3B R
- Gordon LF L
- Chirinos C R
- Thames 1B L
- Cabrera 2B S
The second part of this team will be the 13-man pitching staff.
Embed from Getty Images