1. Rickie Weeks
Rickie Weeks hit better in the second half last year than Mike Trout. Or Miguel Cabrera, or Michael Brantley, or Andrew McCutchen. Worse than Michael McKenry, but shut up. Weeks was just phenomenal after the break, which is only a half-season, but I'm happier to accept that there's some truth there than I would be if it was, say, Michael McKenry.
There's this graph showing the size of the U.S. economy over the past century that I have referred to before. Up, up, up, dooooooown for the Depresssion, down for a while, and then up, up, up again. What was interesting isn't that it started going up, but that when it did, it almost immediately picked up in the spot that the line would have been had there been no Depression at all. It found its place. That graph blew my mind. It doesn't really apply to Rickie Weeks, but as a simplistic way of viewing the world: Rickie Weeks used to be a .300-TAv hitter. Then for two years he got much, much worse. But when he recovered last year, he didn't just improve somewhat; he got all the way back to being a .300-TAv hitter. I don't think he will keep that up; he got a larger-than-usual helping of platoon-advantaged plate appearances, for instance, and a crazy BABIP, and such things as those. But in the second half, he went back to facing righties more than lefties and survived, and, hey, most importantly, I'm not selling him as Chase Utley. He's just a guy who could always hit until he couldn't, and now he's been on a pretty swell three-month hot streak that has the taste of madeleines soaked in a decoction of lime-blossom. —Sam Miller
2. Burke Badenhop
Dear general managers,
Do you value reliability in relievers? How about control? Ground-ball rates? Of course you do! That's why I'm here to inform you that Burke Badenhop is your man. Here's why. He's one of just four pure relievers to throw more than 60 innings in each of the past six seasons, joining an elite class that includes Jonathan Papelbon and Tyler Clippard. If that's not enough for you, then try this: He's posted a ground-ball rate exceeding 55 percent over that time, and has walked just two batters per nine over the last three years. Add in his stinginess with the long ball—he allowed one homer in 70 innings in 2014—and he's basically the perfect middle reliever. But don't wait, supplies are limited. Get your Badenhop today! —R.J. Anderson
3. Wily Mo Pena
I don’t think I need to tell you, Mr. General Manager, that home runs are at a 22-year low. Remember when teams averaged well over a homer a game? That was in the early 2000s. In 2004, my client Mr. Pena hit 26 home runs for the Reds. Last year in Japan, my client was among the league leaders with 32 dingers and 90 RBI. It’s fair to say that this league needs offense more than ever and you could certainly use this right-handed bat off the bench.
I’m sorry, what? Fielding? You don’t need a fielder, you need a hitter. I’ve already taken the liberty of drafting out a one-year major-league contract. Just sign here before a mystery team faxes me their signed copy. —Matt Sussman
4. Joba Chamberlain
We have officially reached the point in the offseason when most pitches for free agents start with "Well, I guess he's not that bad." It's last call, if you will. Oh there's still Max Scherzer and James Shields out on the market, if you want them. And while they are good, they are also expensive. But there's one more guy who's actually good and won't break the bank left out there on the market: Joba Chamberlain. Chamberlain's been around so long that it's a little surprising to know that he won't hit 30 until September of next year. He won't command "proven closer" money like Francisco Rodriguez will, and given his injury history, he won't get offended if you offer him two years (although he might try to bargain you up to three). Last year in Detroit, Chamberlain re-established himself as a legitimate eighth-inning guy after finally re-discovering his ground-ball groove and keeping so many fly balls from flying out of the yard. Yeah, it's not a great idea to pay money for relievers because a good one might suddenly appear due to small sample size weirdness, but it's not like you can ever have too many good ones around. Just ask the Royals. So, if you have a spot in your heart for a former over-hyped Yankees prospect and a spot in your bullpen that you shudder at giving to some replacement level schlub, consider Joba. —Russell A. Carleton
5. Gordon Beckham
Hi, yes, how are you doing today? Good, great! Listen, my name is Mauricio Rubio and I’m in your neighborhood discussing Gordon Beckham with you and your neighbors. Now, before you close your door, have you considered that Gordon Beckham once won The Sporting News Rookie Of The Year Award? It’s true, it happened back in 2009, and you can totally look it up on the internet. Yeah, that was a while ago, back when NCIS was kind of good. What’s he done since? Oh, well it hasn’t been that great, but he’s had a few good stretches that lasted a few weeks! The hot streak even ran a month long sometimes! Full season? Well, let’s not worry about that; instead, I want you to take a look at this pamphlet here. Yes, that’s his hair—it’s spectacular isn’t it? His face? It always looks like that. Now, listen, I think what other teams are missing here are boundless marketing opportunities. We’ve all seen that C.J. Wilson Head and Shoulders commercial. It’s overplayed. Can you imagine for just a moment Big ‘N’ Sexy hair care products endorsed by GORDON BECKHAM?!?!? Yeah, there’s an illustration on page 2 of the pamphlet if you’ll just… yeah ,that’s the one. Great look, isn’t it? Yeah, there’s tons of info here. Look, I can tell you’re busy, so I’ll just leave you with this info and a website you can check out. Yeah, it’s totally all yours. Have a blessed day! —Mauricio Rubio
6. Roberto Hernandez
Back in 2007 a young Cleveland Indians pitcher posted a sparkling 3.06 ERA while generating nearly three groundballs for every flyball he gave up. His 64 percent ground-ball rate was unheard of for a starting pitcher. That pitcher threw more than 215 innings of high quality ball for an Indians team that would make a long postseason run. That pitcher was Fausto Carmona, and his 2007 season was something to marvel at.
Now here's the part where I need you to stick with me, because this gets a little confusing. My client Roberto Hernandez; he is Fausto Carmona.
There was some confusion back in 2012 where Carmo Hernandez had falsified his birth certificates and it turns out that he was using a fake name and is actually three years older than everyone though when he was Fausto. Those details aren't important though.
Hernandez is a real bargain for the lucky team who can sign him. He's a competitor. He's confident. He won't back down from a fight (literally or figuratively). I'm not going to tell you that my client is an ace in waiting. What he is though, is a lottery ticket. He's willing to step into the rotation at a moment's notice, providing reliable production.
I know, it's enticing. Consider yourselves lucky that he hasn't been snapped up already! All that Hernandez has to offer can be yours for the low, low price of just $3.5 million*. That's a bargain people.
PS: If all that doesn't convince you, Billy Beane totally called us last week. Theo & Andrew Friedman too. Just imagine how smart you'll look when we leak that you beat them to the punch!
*does not include performance raises, playing time threshold bonuses, or shipping and handling. —Jeff Long
7. Felipe Paulino
Ladies and gentlemen, there are a number of reasons you should believe in my client. Number one is that Felipe Paulino has thrown a baseball more than 100 mph before. Not in the last year or two, mind you: Hey, we’re not asking for a multi-year deal here. But Felipe is one of the hardest throwers of all time, and he can mix in a pretty good slider too. Each and every single team is five months away from spending millions of dollars on amateurs who don’t throw as hard as Paulino and who are less likely to ever pitch in a big league game than Paulino. And those guys take up bonus pool room!
Anyway, my client is now fully healthy and has been working out all winter. He’s in great shape and he says his arm has never felt better, not even in 2012. You remember 2012, right? When Paulino struck out more than a batter per inning while posting an ERA under two? Sure it was 2012, and maybe it was only for seven starts. So what? Those were seven great starts! It’s not like we’re looking for a guaranteed contract here. Hello? Wait… Hello? Is this thing on? —Brendan Gawlowski
Thank you for reading
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