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February 12, 2014

Overthinking It

Where the Remaining Free Agents Would Matter the Most

by Ben Lindbergh


It was new and exciting in November, mundane in December, and comforting and familiar in January. But by mid-February, speculating about likely landing spots for attractive free agents is as tired as publicly celebrating the Beatles.*

Granted, the alternative would be talking about the sort of stuff that otherwise occupies us early in spring training: what players look like; what players look like from afar; what players might look like from afar, if we could see them; what players look like upside-down; meaningless quotes about team chemistry. There’s only so much we can do to combat the boring until real baseball begins.

Still, we’ve reached the part of the baseball calendar at which we’re not accustomed to seeing impact players unsigned. On the morning of February 12, 2013, we were down to two fairly high-profile free agents, Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse. News of Bourn’s signing broke later that day, leaving only Lohse, who lingered into late March. This year, six top-20 free agents from R.J. Anderson’s Top 50 remain on the market.

That increase probably has no larger significance; it’s a combination of the Pax Tanaka that preceded the Japanese starter’s signing, the volatile performance history of the other available arms, and the positional limitations of Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales. Nonetheless, the hot stove has outstayed its welcome, so it’s time for someone to step in, slap some wrists, and tell teams and free agents to make up their minds and stop fretting about inconsequential things like many millions of dollars, or where they’d “prefer” to play.

Today, I’m playing the part of that person, which means that I’m forgetting about budgets, draft picks, and whether teams have expressed interest in so-and-so or said they’re almsot certainly finished spending. If you want to know where the latest rumor says these players will sign, look elsewhere. This is about where they would sign if they had to go to the team where A) they’d be the biggest upgrade, and B) their presence might make the difference between a playoff team and a team that’s not playing. We'll take it from the top:

Ervin Santana (no. 5 on the top 50 FA list): Washington Nationals
Sure, the Nationals have a strong first four starters and could cobble together a perfectly passable fifth out of Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan, and Tanner Roark. But why not assemble a super-rotation? As Adam Kilgore observed late last month, the precedent is there:

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Failure... (02/12)
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Premium Article Overthinking It: Parsi... (02/04)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Overthinking It: Quant... (02/18)
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