The free agent cupboard is mostly bare, with James Shields, Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano representing the only three available names that made MLBTR’s Top 50 list heading into the offseason. However, there are still some remaining names that provide a certain level of intrigue, and each of the names in question in this post was ineligible for the list at the time it was released.
Each year, teams non-tender players (or, in some cases, tender the player but ultimately release him) in order to avoid paying a significant raise in arbitration. These players hit the open market like any other name, but so long as they have less than five years of service time, they come with an added bonus: they’re controllable beyond the coming season, even upon signing a one-year deal. Examples of players to have already done this are Alexi Ogando (Red Sox), Josh Outman (Braves) and Justin Smoak (Blue Jays). Each player received a one-year big league deal but will be controllable through at least the 2016 season via arbitration. Here’s a quick look at four others who come with that same perk…
- Brandon Beachy: The 28-year-old Beachy has four years, 104 days of Major League service time and would be controllable through the 2016 season upon signing a Major League deal. He missed the 2014 season after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery but comes with plenty of upside, even if he’ll likely sit out the first few months of the season while he rehabs. Beachy possesses a 3.23 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 267 2/3 career innings at the Major League level. He’s not likely to provide a significant boost for a team in 2015 — he could contribute some usable second-half innings — but he could be a very strong rotation arm in 2016 when he is two years removed from surgery. Beachy’s agent has said his client will not sign until Spring Training is nearer.
- Everth Cabrera: Cabrera, also 28, performed quite well as the Padres’ everyday shortstop from 2012-13, hitting .264/.339/.352 with 84 steals in 100 tries. The switch-hitter possesses some of the best speed in the game and is capable of handling either middle infield position. However, he also was suspended 50 games in 2013 after being tied to the Biogenesis scandal, and he’s currently in legal trouble as he faces potential jail time after being charged with resisting arrest. He also hit just .232/.272/.300 in 391 PAs last season. Still, given the dearth of talent at shortstop, Cabrera could be a boost to several clubs if he’s able to take the field for the bulk of the 2015 season. He, too, is controllable through 2016.
- Dayan Viciedo: Released by the White Sox earlier this week, Viciedo has the most team control remaining of anyone on this list. With just three years, 123 days of service under his belt, the 25-year-old could be controlled through the 2017 season, in theory. He’d likely need to tap into some of the to-date dormant potential that made him such a high-profile signing in the first place, but the powerful Cuban isn’t without his value. He’s a lifetime .291/.331/.507 hitter against lefties and could, at the very least, be a serviceable source of power off a team’s bench.
- Eric Young, Jr.: The 29-year-old Young hasn’t hit much in recent seasons, but he offers blistering speed on the basepaths and is a solid, if not somewhat above-average defender in left field. Young can handle center field in a pinch and also has some experience at second base, giving him some defensive versatility that could appeal to clubs. Over the past two seasons, he’s batted just .242/.306/.327, but he’s also swiped 76 bags in 93 tries — a success rate of nearly 82 percent. He’s controllable through the 2016 season.
Of course, not all of these players will sign Major League deals. Young, in particular, seems like a candidate for a minor league pact, in my estimation. However, upon making the club, the same service time caveats would apply. On a free agent market that is rapidly thinning out, these four players offer a bit of upside that could secure them a job beyond the 2015 campaign, as was the case with Justin Turner, Michael McKenry and Garrett Jones last offseason.