TDG Roundtable: Free Agents that Could Use a Change of Scenery
Every week on Mondays/whenever we get to them, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. This week’s roundtable topic is free agents whose value could take a boost with a change of scenery.
Joc Pederson, OF
Joc Pederson has been a Dodger for his entire career since being picked in the 11th round (pick 352 overall) back in 2010. While he earned his World Series ring with a stellar postseason he was almost an Angel way back in March. The prospect of him playing in Anaheim made me optimistic but alas the deal fell through. Now Pederson is a 28-year-old free agent with experience at both corner outfield spots and first base, ready for a new team in 2021. While not a plus defender, Pederson also is not terrible and can adequately fill any of those aforementioned positions, giving him more available destinations in free agency.
By this point in his career, a platoon may be in order, as the Dodgers rarely let him face left-handed hitters over the past couple of seasons (as he has shown he does not hit them very well). That is great for fantasy, as he can be started on days when he is facing a right-hander and benched when he doesn’t (his future manager will do this for you, so all you need to do is bench him on the days you see the little red “x” next to his name).
Let us not read into 2020 stats too much (good or bad, for any player) but Pederson had a .200 BABIP in 2020, after posting .249 and .248 during his previous two seasons, while his OPS in those seasons were .876 and .743, respectively. If he gets to a better hitter’s park for lefties then I suggest targeting him a few rounds earlier; though in many leagues he will go undrafted or in the last few rounds. For Dynasty leagues Pederson should be easily acquirable and is most definitely worth a flier.
James McCann, C
James McCann’s two-year contract with the Chicago White Sox just ended and he was surprisingly very productive. While he was with the Detroit Tigers, he was defensively great but offensively very poor. When he moved to Chicago, the great defense remained but he became an above league average hitter. He started to hit the ball harder and more consistently harder as well. There are teams that will be looking for a new catcher (I’m looking at you Phillies, Mets, Cardinals, Brewers, or Nationals) and McCann will fit in very nicely for any of those clubs.
Chris Archer, SP
In 2015 when ‘Big Data Baseball’ was written, the Pirates were magicians at finding value and exploiting weaknesses. They got the most out of pitchers who others had given up on. AJ Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke, Ivan Nova, and J.A. Happ all had success, seemingly out of nowhere, and Ray Searage was thought of as a pitching czar. Since then many baseball teams have focused on other areas of the game and surpassed the Pirates in analytics, and most of the Pirates front office and coaching staff have been fired. Some glaring names from that 2015 era that the Pirates did NOT get the most production out of are Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, and of course more recently, Chris Archer.
In his time with the Pirates, which includes one and a half active seasons, Archer put up two of the three worst walk rates of his career (min 30 IP), his two worst home run per 9 rates, two of the three times he’s ever had a FIP over 4.00, and then he missed all of 2020 (well, all 60 games of the 2020 season) due to thoracic outlet surgery. Eyeing the good things Archer has done, he continued to put-up double-digit strike-out rates, topping 10K per 9 in 2019 and his time with the Pirates in 2018. His slider, which he throws in the high 80’s and was considered one of the best pitches in baseball in his prime, was still getting very good horizontal movement through 2019, and elite vertical movement as recently as 2018. Admittedly the command has taken a step back, but this is where I am interested to see how a new organization can help him. A new set of coaches and an analytics team could be exactly what he needs to reinvent himself.
Archer’s supposed to be ready for the 2021 season, but TOS is a serious surgery, and his progress will need to be monitored. Also, we still don’t know what team will sign him, or what role they’ll like him to be in. However, many fantasy owners won’t be looking at Archer, and he’s exactly the kind of guy I like to fit into my bench and see what he can do in new surroundings.
Masahiro Tanaka, SP
Masahiro Tanaka has proven to be an effective starting pitcher over the past six seasons since coming over from Japan with a career 3.74 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. He has been in the top ten percent of the league in walk rate all but one season, and he has a respectable overall strikeout rate of 22.6 percent. I do feel that the one thing that has held him back from being an upper-tier starting pitcher is his tendency to give up the long ball. Pitching half his games in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium obviously did not help. Finding a new home field with friendlier dimensions could help turn some medium-depth fly balls to right field into outs instead of home runs. And if by chance this larger ballpark also happens to house an NL team, once again without a DH in 2021, it could also help to improve Tanaka’s overall performance. I do think the Yankees will pursue to re-sign Tanaka, but his contributions in the fantasy realm would be boosted if he ended up with a new team.
Robbie Ray, SP
Robbie Ray has injured my fantasy teams more than any other pitcher on record, but I just can’t quit him. He holds a career K/9 of 11.13 and a career xFIP of 3.85. In 2017, when he was just 25, Ray was dominant. Sadly, it has pretty much all gone wrong since then. The strikeouts are always going to be there, but the deadly combination of walks and dingers has been haunting his stat line for several seasons. He tried tinkering with his delivery this year, and yet all it seemed to do was make things worse. Ray had spent all of his career in Arizona before a brief stop in Toronto after he was traded in 2020, and I just can’t help but think a completely fresh start with a team dedicated to using him for exactly who he is might just be the ticket. Leaving the Chase Field launching pad in Arizona for friendlier confines certainly couldn’t hurt either. It would be very interesting to see what Tampa could make out of him with their out-of-the-box thinking on how to get through nine innings each night. No matter where he ends up, the pairing of a disaster season in 2020 and a tepid free-agent market should sink the price tag on him considerably. The final amount needed to sign him could be low enough to attract small and mid-market teams such as Tampa, Milwaukee, and even Pittsburgh to take a shot on the Ray reclamation project. The potential outcomes for Robbie Ray’s future range from pitching in independent league ball in 2022 to fully unlocking his abilities next season and returning to 2017 form. Some team with a pitcher’s park and a world-class analytics department needs to take a flier on Robbie.
Yadier Molina, C
With the simple naming of Yadier Molina on this list, all Cardinals fans are now in tears. I mean he has been with the club for 16 years. But all good things eventually come to an end. Molina is 38 years old so he only has a few more years left. If he does move in the offseason, I see him moving to more of a contender. The Cardinals aren’t a bad team but let’s be honest, there are better teams out there. What if this time next season Yadi is a Ray? What if the Padres sign him? The Yankees? The Braves will be looking for a catcher to replace Flowers. Acquiring a 38-year-old catcher isn’t sexy, but for teams needing a game-managing catcher with bat consistency – look no further. I am excited to see where this oldie but goodie goes.
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