Once upon a time, Black Friday meant standing in line at the local mall or department store at ungodly hours, ready to throw some elbows at strangers for a chance at 40% off a mid-tier flat screen TV. Now, all the discounts one might need are just a few clicks away. Maybe getting rid of the Walmart seal is a good thing, but there’s still a certain level of nostalgia about the way things used to be.
No baseball executives will need to demolish their competition (at least literally) this winter, but they’ll all be pursuing the same thing shoppers across America will be following this weekend: haggling. In order to pinpoint these deals (or the five more intriguing, under-the-radar ones still available), there are a few factors to consider.
First, none of these five appear in our top 30 List of the best free agents. In fact, two of the top 50 players are not ranked. Secondly, there is a reason each of these players are omitted: age, injury history, recent production, or all of the above. The five have a combination of those three things that keep them below top billing, at least for now. And thirdly, the goal here is to identify players who have at least a modicum of height, or who give us reason to believe they may eventually outpace whatever contract they get.
With that preamble out of the way, let’s move on to the deals (and happy shopping, everyone).
SP Andrew Heaney
The Dodgers are pitchers with a wonky history as Victor Melling was to Gracie Hart: arrangements teachers. Heaney was coming off a 2021 campaign in which he posted a 5.83 ERA over 129 brutal innings for the Angels and Yankees when the Dodgers paid him $8.5 million. Once they got their hands on him, they reworked his slider into a brand new ballpark and made him one of the best teams in the league in lost bats – seemingly overnight.
Of the 2,253 pitches Heaney threw in 2021, only 21 — or 0.9% — are rated by Statcast as sliders. That number rose to 398 in 2018 (32.4%), and the results are dramatic. Hitters sniffed 44.3% of the time when he swung a Heaney slider, for a projected batting average of 0.168. As a result, Heaney set a career high strikeout rate (35.5%) while also recording his lowest walk rate (6.1%) to date.
Tough contact continues to be an issue for the lefty, and he still allows 1.73 home runs per nine innings this season. There is also the issue of availability, as he only managed 72 rounds. Relying on the 32-year-old to make 25 starts may be a wish, but if the changes from his stint in Dodgers rehab are here to stay, it’s a safe bet to be effective when he’s healthy.
2B Jean Segura
The second base market is very weak this year, which means that Segura is likely to be in fairly high demand. Although it wouldn’t necessarily qualify as a big splash, the veteran player’s steady production creates a high ground for potential suitors.
From 2013-21, Segura missed a total of 171 out of 1,356 games, or just 12.6%. An odd finger injury while trying to bat cost him 64 games last year, but it didn’t affect his results on the field much. The second baseman remained a player with high contact characteristics good for double-digit home runs while playing solid defense. He’ll turn 33 next season and may not get a multi-year deal, but given that the Brewers picked up the $10 million club option for Kolten Wong (a player of similar caliber and seven months younger than Segura), expect a deal in about the same time. the range.
LF/DH Michael Brantley
Brantley will be 36 in May, and after missing nearly 100 games last season, he’s among the league’s slowest players. He’s not a candidate to play the 150 games, and he just had surgery to repair a torn cleft. So why is he on this list? Because it’s still hitting. He posted 127 wRC+ in 277 plate appearances last season, with more walks (31) than strikeouts (30). He’s put up a WRC+ of 120 or better in each of the past five years, with a 0.367 on a percentage basis over that time.
Minute Maid Park’s short porch in left field was probably the best place to hide his shoddy defense and lousy throwing arm. Although he offers little power, the ideal landing spot for Brantley will have ample opportunities to be the designated hitter, as well as scheduled days off to keep him fresh. But if he lands an eventual contender and is able to stay in the lineup, he’ll be one of the more reliable bats in the postseason environment.
RB Taylor Rogers
Relief pitchers are perhaps the most difficult group to predict accurately, and Rogers fits right in with his outlandish hits and pronounced traits in recent years. First, the positive: Rogers has posted a strike rate of 31.5% over the past three seasons, the 19th highest among relief pitchers over that span. Second, he’s given up less than one home run per nine innings over this stretch, and he’s not prone to walking many batters either.
Now, the downside: Rogers collapsed as soon as he arrived in Milwaukee after he was traded as part of the Josh Hader DealHe posted a 5.48 ERA in 24 games for the Brewers with six home runs in 23 innings pitched. Fastball’s average speed is down significantly compared to 2021, at 94.3 mph, but not far from where it was in previous seasons. Rogers has also fielded a .351 BABIP over the past three years, which could be related to driving issues, but also certainly stems from somewhat bad luck, considering his career mark prior to that run was .301. The left-hander is more likely to get attention as a rebounding candidate for teams that need to fill vacant roles late on.
SP Michael Lorenzen
as such Six-man rotations are getting more and more popularThe need to start promoting has never been greater. Here’s the catch, though: It’s hard to find one or two good starters, let alone six. For many teams trying to expand their rotation, the rear end is an ideal spot for an effective swingman—exactly the role Lorenzen can fill.
Lorenzen had essentially been a full-time relief player for six years when the Angels signed him in their last offseason and immediately announced his plans to be a starter. Results were mixed: He had a 3.45 ERA through his first 10 starts before a shoulder injury sapped his speed and put him on the injured list. By the time he returned to the mound in September, the team was beyond contention. But Lorenzen looked sharp down the stretch, striking out 30 batters over five starts and 26 innings with a 2.36 ERA, as well as throwing at least 95 pitches in each of his final three innings.
Throwing in the deep end as a freshman may have been too much to ask for someone who hasn’t started regularly in seven years, but Lorenzen has proven he can at least be effective in such a role. List of pitchers who have thrown at least 90 innings in the past year with a predicted ERA of less than 4.00 Not as much as you thinkso expect teams in need of rotation help to hone the services of the soon-to-be 31-year-old like a parent looking for another PS5 at Best Buy.