It is the baseball offseason. A time for checking the heat on the hot stove every few hours, counting down the days until pitchers and catchers and devouring any baseball related content to get us through the winter.
Well, we thought we would take advantage of that by subjecting you to the kind of hypothetical pondering piece that only the offseason wait for spring training can provide.
Picture the scene. You are the general manager for the newly formed MLB franchise who have been set up in say, London, for the 2019 season.
However, commissioner of baseball Rob Manfred has one stipulation for your team: it can only be put together using men who are hitting the free agency market this winter.
That got us wondering. How would a team like that look? And how would they fare in the big leagues? Let’s take a look.
This one is a no-brainer. After Clayton Kershaw opted against opting out of his contract, it makes the former Arizona Diamondbacks hurler the biggest and best starting pitching commodity on the market and he is the first man to join our ranks.
His best work and his stellar yet outlier Cy Young season appear to be behind him but in a tepid market when it comes to free agent starters, it would be foolish to pass up on the talented Tulsa native.
He is now 36 but there are no signs of decline from the veteran starter and is sure to land a multi-year deal somewhere for a team seeking to add some consistency to their rotation.
You may have noticed that the first three men in the rotation all have something in common, meaning it is time to get a right-hander into this mix and who better than the most heroic loser in sport since Rocky Balboa for his epic World Series display in relief. Injuries and two Tommy John surgeries are a concern but his stuff was electric in Boston and if he can stay healthy, will be a massive weapon.
Time to add another righty to the mix, then. As tempting as it would be to introduce Bartolo Colon to the mix, if you are set on wins over that special something that only the 45-year-old provides, the wiser choice (particularly considering Eovaldi’s injury history) would be the relative reliability of Lance Lynn.
Closing duties for this side will fall to the former Boston behemoth with that curious set-to motion, one which you would love to hope he adopts around the house before performing even the most mundane tasks, such as picking up his phone to see what offers his agent has for him in November.
A bullpen arm that has long been admired by this particular writer, you would probably get a good deal with him too considering that he has parted ways with his agent and is representing himself this off season.
He was one of the surprises of the season but was one of the few reliable and healthy options in the Chicago Cubs bullpen last year that pushed them through a difficult and gruelling September, those displays should earn him some decent offers.
Familia posted a 1.5 WAR season in 2018, good for 83 Ks over 72 innings and a 1.22 WHIP and would be welcomed into this side with open arms with those numbers.
Injuries have been the issue for the former Cleveland Indian and he is turning 34 making him much more of a risk than he was just a few short years ago but when he is on, his stuff is dominant and it is a bullpen that was in need of a left-handed arm.
He has his shaky moments and command issues at times, particularly in the 2017 campaign, but in 2018, he was back to his best, with his slider helping claim many victims in a season that saw him rack up an impressive 112 strikeouts.
Although he picked things up and looked better towards the end of his tenure at Wrigley Field, Wilson was a far cry from the man who was so impressive in Detroit but if he can recover that form and cut down on the walks in a new environment, he is a big help to any bullpen.
Another southpaw was needed out of the pen and if you can avoid the kind of mix ups that Terry Francona suffered when calling for him in relief against the Reds and getting Dan Otero due to being misheard over the bullpen phone, then he will do just fine.
Yasmani Grandal (Catcher)
Crouching behind the plate on a regular basis for that ragtag group will be the man who accrued quite a bit of criticism for his defensive displays during the postseason but don’t let that deter you because in a limited catcher’s market, the switch-hitting backstop is the best there is with an excellent 3.6 WAR.
Kurt Suzuki (Catcher)
The back-up catcher for this side is a role that the 35-year-old would fit perfectly, being a reliable and savvy veteran defensively, while the last two years have been the best offensive ones of his career, making him a gamble worth taking.
Steve Pearce (First base)
Options for this position are, well, limited at best and when you look at how stacked this corner is in MLB, it is surprising to see such a dearth in free agency. All of that said, among few options, you can’t go wrong with a World Series MVP. Right?
DJ LeMahieu (Second baseman)
There are better options here than at first such as experienced hands like Jed Lowrie and Ian Kinsler but I’m opting for this skilled gloveman to keep up his reasonable offensive production and excellent defence even outside of Coors Field, plus at 30 he still has much more time on his side.
Manny Machado (Shortstop)
Another Dodger whose postseason antics will have one him few admirers and may even impact the offers that come his way. However, with the SS/3B, the quality isn’t in question and the numbers he has posted through the age of 26 are too good for this fledgling ball club to turn down – he is one of the best out there.
Adrian Beltre (Third base)
Despite being 40 next season, he still remains one of the better defenders at the hot corner in his league and his 2018 slash line of .273/.328/.434 is still a respectable one. The fact that he has yet to retire and is linked with a comeback and his on field antics make him a popular figure and one that you would feel better about investing in over the injury-plagued Josh Donaldson or Mike Moustakas (let’s face it the recent Bat Flips and Nerds podcast which predicted seeing out his career with one year deals in Kansas followed by trade deadline moves is much more amusing).
Bryce Harper (Right field)
Whether he gets the biggest ever MLB contract this winter as some have speculated remains a point of big contention but what isn’t up for debate is that he is the biggest attraction on the free agent market and will be bashing balls and flicking that magnificent mane of hair in this team for seasons to come.
A.J. Pollock (Centre field)
It is a shame that injury curtailed his season somewhat just as he had been settling into fantastic form heading into free agency but he has shown enough for this team to take the splurge on him in centre field.
Michael Brantley (Left field)
This is a risk, admittedly given his injury concerns (which seems to be a feature among this group). Yet again though, he falls under the guise of if, and it is a big if, you can keep him healthy and on the field, you have a star on your hands.
Marwin Gonzalez (Utility)
It was quite a surprise not to see the versatile Venezuelan tendered a qualifying offer by the Astros but their loss will certainly be a lucky team’s gain this off-season as his defensive skills coupled with plate production make him an intriguing free agent.
Adam Jones (Outfield)
He picked a bad time to register one of the poorest seasons of his career heading into free agency but you can overlook some of that given the shambles he was part of at Camden Yards and would be a useful piece to have.
Nelson Cruz (Designated hitter)
Those who have been awaiting the veteran’s drop in form with his advancing years just keep on waiting. He probably has another one or two years of good production left in him too, a scary yet mouthwatering thought.
So how would that team fare against the rest in Major League Baseball?
My guess would be a team who register in the region of 84 wins, playing just above .500, not being good enough to truly compete with the best teams in the game but a long way off being dragged to the depths along with the likes of the Orioles.
Injuries are a big concern with the likes of Eovaldi, Brantley and Miller, while it also seems to be a side lacking quite enough pop to compete, particularly in this period of players going yard.
What would your free agent pool team look like? And how would they fare?