Earlier Saturday, we ran down pending free-agent hitters who have enjoyed good to great years with trips to the open market around the corner. We’ll do the opposite with this list, which admittedly could consist of several more players, as evidenced by the cavalcade of underwhelming hitters set to hit the open market. However, in the interest of keeping this piece at a reasonable length, we’ll stick with prominent soon-to-be free agents who have hurt themselves with disappointing performances in 2018. As was the case before, we’ll focus on players who have accrued at least 150 plate appearances this season.
Jonathan Lucroy, Athletics: Long one of the majors’ elite all-around catchers, Lucroy is now in the throes of his second consecutive subpar season. The 32-year-old Lucroy, who sat on the open market for all of last winter until finally signing in mid-March, has limped to a career-worst .240/.296/.326 line (72 wRC+) with two home runs and a meek .086 ISO in 335 plate appearances in Oakland. Defensively, Lucroy’s slide from a tremendous pitch framer to a below-average one has continued.
Brian McCann, Astros: As is the case with Lucroy, McCann looks like a respected backstop whose best days are long gone. Before undergoing knee surgery in early July, McCann slashed an unappealing .206/.283/.323 (71 wRC+) with five homers and a career-low .116 ISO over 173 PAs. At the same time, the 34-year-old struggled in the pitch-framing department. Expectations are that McCann will return in 2018, but it’s doubtful the seven-time All-Star will be able to rebuild his stock to a meaningful extent leading up to free agency.
Matt Wieters, Nationals: Yet another catcher who garnered plenty of hype earlier in his career, Wieters may not even be in line for a major league contract in the offseason. The 32-year-old has been a downright terrible hitter since last season, as his 63 wRC+ across 618 PAs indicates, and Baseball Prospectus doesn’t regard Wieters as a particularly valuable pitch-framing backstop.
Joe Mauer, Twins: Mauer can still get on base, evidenced by his .346 OBP, but the ex-superstar’s power looks to be completely gone. The 35-year-old (36 next April) has only recorded an .087 ISO and three homers in 365 PAs this season. That’s not going to cut it for a first baseman, nor is Mauer’s overall line of .267/.346/.354 (93 wRC+). Mauer’s only a year removed from serving as a decent regular for the Twins, though, so perhaps there’s hope that the former catcher will be able to bounce back if he continues his career in 2019.
Logan Morrison, Twins: Morrison isn’t a true free agent-to-be yet, as he has an $8MM club option for 2019. But the Twins are likely inclined to buy that out for $1MM, considering Morrison has been a massive disappointment this year. On the heels of what seemed like a breakout season with the Rays in 2017, I implored someone to sign Morrison as a free agent when he remained on the market in February. In hindsight, that wasn’t the best call (excuse the colorful language here), as the 30-year-old Morrison has batted a horrid .186/.276/.368 (74 wRC+) with merely OK power numbers (15 homers, .182 ISO) during his 359 PAs with the Twins. Statcast has liked Morrison better than his actual results, per the enormous distance between his wOBA (.284) and his expected wOBA (.355), but that’s probably not of much consolation to the Twins.
Lucas Duda, Royals: Duda was a good hitter for the majority of his Mets tenure, which ran from 2010-17, but the Royals haven’t benefited from his presence in 2018. Since signing a one-year, $3.5MM contract with the Royals last winter, the 32-year-old Duda has scuffled to a .239/.309/.400 line (91 wRC+) and a replacement-level fWAR over 285 PAs. Along the way, the powerful Duda has posted a career-worst ISO (.161) and only 10 HRs. If it was hard for Duda to land a deal to his liking last winter, it should be all the more difficult for him during the upcoming offseason.
Brian Dozier, Dodgers: At times, including his 42-home run season in 2016, Dozier has been one of the greatest power-hitting second basemen ever. Now, the 31-year-old’s a roughly league-average hitter (.228/.313/.421 with a 98 wRC+ in 498 PAs), albeit one who has still shown some pop in 2018 (19 HRs, .194 ISO). I took an in-depth look at Dozier’s middling season in June, and it hasn’t really gotten much better since then. Although, since the Twins traded Dozier to the Dodgers last month, he has raked in a limited sample of work.
DJ LeMahieu, Rockies: LeMahieu has been on the disabled list three times this season and hasn’t performed that well when healthy. A .300-plus hitter in each of the previous three seasons, LeMahieu has batted a toothless .271/.319/.419 (82 wRC+) in 371 PAs this year. However, the 30-year-old LeMahieu has deserved better in the eyes of Statcast, which credits him with a .349 xwOBA that far outpaces his .318 wOBA.
Logan Forsythe, Twins: Forsythe, who joined the Twins as part of the package they received from the Dodgers for Dozier, has mimicked Dozier in performing much better for his new team. The sample size is tiny, though, and overall, the 31-year-old has hit an ugly .234/.296/.315 (73 wRC+) in 243 PAs. Forsythe, who was one of the game’s steadiest second basemen with the Rays from 2015-16, has chipped in a meager two homers and an unimposing .081 ISO in 2018.
Neil Walker, Yankees: Even though he was a solid offensive second baseman with the Pirates, Mets and Brewers from 2010-17, the 32-year-old Walker had an awful time trying to find a contract last winter. He finally signed with the Yankees on a one-year, $4MM pact in March, but it hasn’t worked out as hoped for either party. The switch-hitting Walker has batted a weak .227/.300/.340 (74 wRC+) with six HRs and a .113 ISO in 277 PAs in pinstripes.
Alcides Escobar, Royals: Escobar has never been much of a threat at the plate, but he’s now borderline unplayable. Among qualified hitters, the 31-year-old Escobar ranks last in wRC+ (41), having hit .202/.253/.273 in 413 PAs.
Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays: One of the biggest names on this list and its most recent MVP winner (2015), Donaldson hasn’t played since May 28 on account of an injured calf. When he has taken the field this year, Donaldson has produced more like a mediocre hitter than the elite player he was from 2013-17, as he has slashed .234/.333/.423 (104 wRC+) with five homers and a .190 ISO in 159 PAs. If Donaldson makes it back this season, the soon-to-be 33-year-old will attempt to rebuild his stock in advance of free agency, but neither his age nor the injury issues he has endured will help his cause.
Adrian Beltre, Rangers: Indications are that Beltre will only play for the Rangers if he returns at all in 2019, which would be his age-40 season. Based on Beltre’s apparent unwillingness to explore the market and his meager production this season, he’s seemingly not in line to receive a large payday over the winter. The future Hall of Famer has finally looked mortal at the plate this season, having compiled a .278/.333/.398 line (94 wRC+) with seven long balls and a .120 ISO in 345 PAs.
Marwin Gonzalez, Astros: Gonzalez’s performance in 2017 was among many tremendous showings for the World Series-winning Astros in 2017, though the utilityman has taken sizable steps backward this season. While the 29-year-old (30 next March) has been more average than bad, as his 99 wRC+ (.242/.326/.389) in 406 PAs proves, he’s not the 4.0-fWAR star he was a year ago. Bad timing for Gonzalez with free agency around the corner.
Carlos Gomez, Rays: When the Rays added Gomez on a one-year, $4MM guarantee last March, it looked like a steal for the club. Eight months later, it’s fair to say the minimal gamble hasn’t worked out for Tampa, for which Gomez has offered a .218/.309/.354 slash (88 wRC+) with a .136 ISO (down 73 points from 2017) in 350 PAs. It wasn’t easy for Gomez to find a deal last winter, and given that he’ll turn 33 in March and will probably be coming off an unimpressive season, the upcoming winter could be even colder for the former standout.
Hunter Pence, Giants: A three-time All-Star and a two-time world champion, Pence has had an outstanding career, but we’ve perhaps reached the point where the 35-year-old should walk away. He’s .215/.252/.289 hitter (46 wRC+) with a single homer and a .074 ISO in 159 PAs so far this season.
Matt Joyce, Athletics: Joyce was a 25-HR hitter and 2.6-fWAR player for the Athletics in 2017, the first season of a two-year, $11MM contract. This season, even though the A’s are serious contenders, he hasn’t been part of the solution. Joyce, 34, has posted a .203/.311/.359 line (87 wRC+) with only seven homers across 226 PAs, though the seismic gap between his wOBA (.297) and xwOBA (.346) suggests that he hasn’t been close to as bad as his results say.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
As far as Neil Walker goes, he has come on lately with the increased playing time he is getting. Maybe too little, too late, but worth noting.
100% agreed. Although I don’t agree that necessarily warrants more PT. Neil Walker classy though. Walker went 2 for 4 with two home runs – multi-homer game! To boot, hit one homer from each side. Helped victory. Next day benched. Not one word from Mr. Walker. Respect that, despite him not performing, classy.
He did a decent job in right today with an RBI. Like him better than Robinson out there.
Maybe that extra day of rest paid off? Lol just kidding! I think Walker is realizing his time is running out, credit to him he’s picked it up. That multi-HR game literally the last game he played, before today.
Agreed with all of the above. Walker’s versatility even if it’s not + defensively will be looked at favorably if he continues to hit. GM’s favor 2nd half surges when in doubt.
Actually he had a stiff neck, wasn’t benched
Feel like that is just a nice little stretch that’s not going to last long. He had trouble finding a major league contract last year. He will have trouble again because who really needs a second baseman? Especially one coming off the poor season he is having
Hard to say. It’s coming at a good time while Judge is out though.
Isn’t this like the fifth time Carlos Gomez has fallen off the cliff?
Joe Mauer won the AL MVP too…
It just says that Donaldson is the most recent MVP winner, not the only MVP winner
….I gotta learn to read
Seems like a good offseason to be a bargain bin hunter.
The Rays should be all over the market this offseason. Could be a chance for them to add some decent rebound candidates on the cheap. Completely feasible for them to put a well rounded team together with even their budget.
That’s been their MO for a bit too. And I think they only have $40 million on the books next year.
I’m sure the Mets will be duking it out with the Rays, Royals, and Pirates in the Scratch and Dent section….just like every other year.
The orioles have been all over that section for quite some time too. Maybe not this year though.
One of those teams don’t look like the others.
You forgot the Dodgers. They love the bargain bin.
I don’t get why the writer would point out that Morrison is not strictly a free agent but does not bother pointing out the same about McCann.
To anger you.
And it looks like it worked
Not a peep about Harper? This article just lost all merit.
[Harper fans] You must have missed Connor’s previous article. It would lose all merit, if Harper was in both list
That’s the point, Harper should be on this list. Not the other.
Pitches Love Velocity
Dudes at a 130 wrc+
While his average is down, power, on base abilities are still high.
Idk why hed be on this list.
In the near past, there was talk about him getting $400+ million, some even said $500 million. He’s clearly not worth anything close to that, and he’s showing it. So yeah, I’d say he belongs here..
Pitches Love Velocity
400 500 mill was never gonna happen anyways. Not a chance.
No team would commit 40 mill 50 mill a season plus a full no trade clause to just 1 player for a decade. Itd would seriously mess with everything financial the team would do- signing other FA, extending young assets who will use up their 6 years in that 10 year span. Itd be suicide for a GM to do such.
A contract like that would mess with the league, not just the team. Imagine what kind of contracts we’d see going forward…
Part of that pay is not just the numbers they put up, but whether or not theymake the game excitomg and bring fans to the ballpark. Personally do not like the guy, but he is marketable.
He had a chance for at least 300+ but with a war of 1.0 this season I do believe he should be on this list
He had Harper high in the “helped” himself list
“Escobar has never been much of a threat at the plate, but he’s now borderline unplayable.” Really wish these guys would stop being so PC. Nothing borderline about it, he IS unplayable, period.
Alcides was signed to be a utility player for a whopping $2.5MM. He has helped mentor Mondesi @ SS, Merrifield @ 2B, Dozier @ 3B as well as Herrera @ 3B, a position he had never played before. Herrera is being developed as Ben Zobrist-type utility player. Escobar is doing a great job at what the Royals brought him in to do.
Bryce Harper had to go on a hot streak to raise his average to .238. Carlos Santana is mashing at .215. Both are making $20MM, play sub-par defense, and are high-maintenance players so they’ve never developed any mentoring skills.
I don’t know that LeMahieu really deserves to be on this list. Well actually let me backtrack that a little bit — he certainly meets the criteria as he most definitely has only hurt his FA value this season — however having said that, his struggles aren’t anywhere near as severe as most of the guys on this list. What I mean is, if he gets hot for the next couple of weeks he could even finish with a .285 or so BA with 10+ HRs. Not quite the league leading .340-something he hit a few years ago but also not the total fall of some of the other guys on this list like Morrison, Forsythe or Gomez. I think he could still land a lucrative contract given his age (29) whereas most of the guys on this list will be lucky to get a ML offer at all this off-season.
overall good piece and technically I’ll admit LeMahieu does fit the bill – I just feel like his underperformance isn’t as drastic as most of the others on the list.
Forsythe, Gomez and Morrison were never going to get a big contract. It was a possibility for DjL
So Jeff the bottom line is you agree. The rest is just making excuses for him
Marvin Gonzalez has played very well since the All star break, looks like his old self from last year
Forsythe has a strange line in his paragraph where he is referred to as Dozier….
Not quite. Twins acquired Forsythe for Dozier. Read it again.
I dont think Donaldson will see any negative impact from his performance
No… It’s incorrect.
“the 31-year-old Dozier has hit an ugly .234/.296/.315 (73 wRC+) in 243 PAs. Forsythe, who was one of the game’s steadiest second basemen with the Rays from 2015-16, has chipped in a meager two homers and an unimposing .081 ISO in 2018.”
It should say Forsythe not Dozier. That (was) Forsythe’s line… Not Dozier’s.
Someone will give Donaldson a contract. Hopefully they don’t regret it.
How is Bryce Harper not on this list?
Because he’s on the other list! He can’t be on both lists. implore readers to read Connor’s response when asked why Harper was included in hitters’ “helped stock” list.
Just in; Johnny Giavotella has retired
Yankees have an option, that is if they decide to exercise it.
I get the sense they want him to be a Yankee for life too
No way. Gardner has put up numbers very close to his career averages this year in almost every category.
His BA is down a bit, but that’s a poor stat to judge by anyways. He’s still getting on base, and he’s still playing excellent defense. He is clearly a worthy starting outfielder on almost every team in the major leagues still.
Replacing him with Frazier saves them 10.5M next year. Gardner been a great asset to the team but its clear he is starting to lose a step. They have to make space for Frazier, he is getting nothing out of being in the minors. The money saved will allow them to stay under the cap for another year while also going out and getting another pitcher.
2.7 WAR ain’t too shabby.
Jackie Bradley Jr has the same WAR as Andujar in same amount of games played.
Bruh just shows you what a flaky stat WAR is. Now go in peace muh-man
Why consistently refer to fWAR but then the direct link to players is all Baseball Reference?
I think all “linked” players on this site use bWAR.
If Donaldson is offered the QO do you think he turns it down? If so does anyone sign him and give up a pick?
I always forget about the QO. I think he’d take it.
No chance he would turn that down. He won’t get that kind of money on a two year deal.
I would love for the braves to get marwin Gonzalez, but I think he remains in Houston.
Hell yah.. he could be real cheap. And he can play everywhere except pitcher and catcher. He has playoff experience too. Would be great to use him the same way Houston does. Let him play everywhere!
I doubt if the Pirates will pick up Josh Harrison’s option for 2019 at $11 mil so shouldn’t he be on this list (if you’re including Morrison?). His hitting and fielding have all gone backwards this year.
LeMahieu would be a significant upgrade over jhay. Significant.
None of these guys are great and some might be close to being done. Two things hurt them, they stink and the NLs lack of a DH, not that they are difference makers.
I wouldn’t mind Dozier or Marwin Gonzalez for depth. Even McCann. McCann could be a great #2 catcher that plays 30-40% of the time, if his knee is all good next year.
As a Rays fan, I take some satisfaction in seeing several names that we parted ways with at the right time before their performance fell off a cliff.
Say hello to the other 11 of you
Gotta come up with a better retort than just the same old attendance one. Check out the TV market ratings which are in the top third. Once the new stadium opens your tired comments won’t apply anymore.
Signing a player off of the Rays is like buying a rental car.
Connor, I use that Tobias clip all the damn time. You had me rolling
LeMaheiu will be a steal this offseason. Down year.
Steal for who? His numbers are inflated as it is by playing in Denver
Marwin is heating up
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Joey Votto and Matt Harvey to astros for ace of tomorrow Forrest Whitley! Votto needs to contend not just play. Regular Season numbers are great but I want to see him in a post season for a change!!! Totally different game plus Votto needs to be introduced to the nation! To great of a player and person to be regionally confined like he is currently! Houston gets a legit 1st basemen. Harvey takes a giant step forward under Astros Pitching coach Brent Strom just like Verlander, Coles and Morton.
What do yall think?
He doesnt wanna come home to Toronto. Wants to stay a red for life.
I dont see him going anywhere ever
Bet he leaves if Houston comes knocking!
Add Bryce Harper to this list and hold off on Dozier a bit. Dozier has historically prosecuted better after the all star break
So a team is going to pay big bucks to Dozier for a potential hot stretch of 65 to 70 games post all-star break? The one year he had a good first half, he stunk in the second. His bad first halves will bury most teams. The money is better spent elsewhere.
Valid statement but I think dozier is a solid option at second and it all depends on what team actually goes after him if he can continue his powers numbers st that position he’s still valuable despite inconsistent hitting. Still time for Harper to prove he’s worth even 300 mil but not sure he’s gonna best that number at this point even with boras as his agent
Like joe mauer and Donaldson both have good on base percentage, and joe mauer is better hitter if he can’t hit for power no more. He makes good contact.
Mauer is not going to get a major league contract after this year. Injury prone first basemen who don’t have power aren’t in very high demand.
Mauer could make sense in a very hitters friendly park like coors. Maybe split time with someone at first there. Maybe the power numbers improve enough in a hitters park to make him viable. He may have to platoon or take a bench spot but I think he’s got a chance to sign with a team
Maybe he doesn’t get a major league contract but a minor league contract with an invite to spring isn’t unreasonable
31 more homers and beltre has 500. does he stay?
pence doesn’t belong on this list as much as McCutchen does. Don’t get me wrong, pence hasn’t been good, but he also wasn’t good in 2017, 2016 or 2015. McCutchen on the other hand has been pretty middle of the road whereas he had a strong finish last year/
It’s a good point about McCutchen. I can imagine his FA market maxing out around 3Y / 50M, but I wouldn’t be the one to offer it. Ironically, despite his diminished production, he leads the Giants in runs and RBIs and is one off the team lead in HR. Should the SFG give him a QO?
I think it depends on what they do in the FA and trade market. A veteran presence would be good to but cutch may not necessarily be that person as much as I have liked him over his career.. there are a lot of question marks as far as young guys go in the system, a few of which are on the team now- so it can kind of go either way.
I love Cutch. Love him. And even I wouldn’t give him 3/50. Maybe 2/15. That’s about it.
Pence shouldn’t be on this list because nobody who was paying attention the past few years would have expected him to be in MLB beyond this year.