With just about every major free agent already off the board, it’s officially buy-low season across baseball. Plenty of teams are surely searching for diamonds in the rough at this point, and as we’ll explore below, there may be some left on the offensive side. Here are the still-unsigned hitters who had the most productive years at the plate in 2019…
Hunter Pence, OF/DH – .297/.358/.552 (128 wRC+) in 316 plate appearances
The former star’s career looked to have flamed out a year ago at this time, but Pence took a minor league contract with the Rangers and enjoyed a resurgence at the plate. The right-handed Pence provided quality production against righty and lefty pitchers alike, clubbed 18 home runs and earned solid marks from Statcast (including for his speed, which is unexpected for a 36-year-old). Pence’s age, the injuries he dealt with last season and the fact that he didn’t play the field much in 2019 are all causes for concern, though, and have likely played a role in the fact that he hasn’t found a new deal so far this offseason. A reunion with the Giants – with whom he wouldn’t be able to DH – could be in the offing, however.
Cameron Maybin, OF – .285/.364/.494 (127 wRC+) in 269 plate appearances
Another ex-Giant (among other teams), Maybin surprisingly emerged as one of the unsung heroes for the injury-ravaged Yankees, who acquired him from Cleveland in late April in what looked like a minor trade at the time. Maybin proceeded to turn in one of his finest seasons at the plate, swatting 11 home runs and swiping nine bases along the way. He also proved to still be a viable outfield option at the age of 32, combining for scratch defense (zero DRS, minus-0.2 UZR) in the grass, though the longtime center fielder didn’t see much action there. Maybin said back in October he wanted to re-sign with the Yankees, but there hasn’t been any indication that they’re going to bring him back. Pittsburgh’s a possibility, though.
Brad Miller, INF/ OF – .260/.329/.565 (126 wRC+) in 170 plate appearances
Miller hasn’t turned into the standout many expected when he was a prospect, but he has typically been able to offer passable offense while playing several positions (albeit not that well, per the defensive metrics). Last season was pretty much the same story for the well-traveled 30-year-old, but he gave the Phillies much more than they could’ve realistically hoped for upon acquiring him from the Indians in the middle of June. That said, it’s worth noting the left-handed Miller wasn’t an option for the Phils against southpaws, nor has he performed well against them overall.
Wilmer Flores, INF – .317/.361/.467 (120 wRC+) in 285 plate appearances
This has been a quiet winter for Flores since the Diamondbacks bought out his $6M option after the season, but his market has reportedly begun to pick up. Still just 28, Flores has regularly mixed decent or better offense with defensive versatility, so could be a rather useful pickup for someone heading into 2020.
Domingo Santana, OF/DH – .253/.329/.441 (107 wRC+) in 507 plate appearances
The youngest player on this list (27), Santana has flashed tantalizing potential at times – especially during a 3.3-fWAR season with the Brewers in 2017 – but hasn’t been able to put it together on a regular basis. He got off to a hot start as a Mariner last year before tanking in the second half, in part because of a nagging elbow injury. And Santana earned good defensive grades as recently as 2018, but he was among the game’s very worst fielders last season (minus-17 DRS, minus-16.1 UZR). Whether he’ll be limited to mostly DH duties in 2020 remains to be seen, and that’s if he even gets a major league opportunity. No one has been connected to Santana in the rumor mill since the Mariners non-tendered him almost two full months ago.
Brock Holt, INF/OF – .297/.369/.402 (103 wRC+) in 295 plate appearances
The 31-year-old Holt has had an up-and-down career, but the longtime member of the Red Sox is like Flores in that he has usually given his team presentable offense and defensive flexibility. Last season was no different, although it was an injury-limited campaign. He’s now one of two MLBTR top 50 free agents still without a job, but the Blue Jays have shown recent interest in him.
Yasiel Puig, OF – .267/.327/.458 (101 wRC+) in 611 plate appearances
The other remaining member of MLBTR’s top 50, Puig hasn’t had any luck this offseason in the wake of a disappointing year between both Ohio teams. Puig entered 2019 as someone with a rather productive track record, though, and still has another full season left in his 20s. The colorful Puig seems to be an acquired taste behind the scenes, but there’s a case for several teams to buy low on him and hope he returns to the form he regularly showed as a Dodger.
Brian Dozier, 2B – .238/.340/.430 (99 wRC+) in 482 plate appearances
Dozier’s not the hugely powerful, bag-stealing second baseman he was during his halcyon days with the Twins. Still, he provided league-average offense last year as a National and, for the sixth straight season, amassed at least 20 HRs. In other words, a team could definitely do worse at the keystone than the soon-to-be 33-year-old. The Diamondbacks had interest in him as of last weekend, but they’ve since acquired center fielder Starling Marte, which means Ketel Marte will shift to second. Consequently, Dozier to the desert doesn’t appear as if it will happen.
Tim Beckham, INF – .237/.293/.461 (99 wRC+) in 328 plate appearances
There are some obvious red flags regarding Beckham. For one, he’ll miss a sizable portion of the season after MLB hit him with an 80-game PED suspension last August. And while Beckham did manage a useful slash line before his year came to an abrupt end, the ex-Mariner struck out 31 percent of the time and didn’t get on base much. Defensively, he had a rough go at short (minus-8 DRS, minus-5.8 UZR) – a key reason the former No. 1 overall pick put up replacement-level production for the second consecutive year.
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The 1986 Derby had two champions, while the 1988 event was cancelled due to rain.