Free Agent Matrix: Zack Cozart is really good and needs a team
While the Hot Stove is a beautiful respite from the dreary world, it can be complicated sometimes. To help, we've created the Cespedes Family BBQ Free Agency Matrix to determine where this offseason's top free agents could end up.
In a contract year, Zack Cozart had by far the best season of his career, knocking 24 homers on the way to an All-Star Game starting spot and a .933 OPS. Unfortunately for him, the shortstop market this offseason isn't expected to materialize as most contending teams have the 6 spot all figured out. Still, Cozart is the only shortstop on the market to get interviewed by A-Rod on the field during the All-Star Game and that should account for something.
Let's see which teams might be interested:
The Dark Horses
Orioles: Baltimore cult hero J.J. Hardy dingering in what might be his final game as an Oriole was one of the more underrated moments of 2017. But now that the dust has settled and the tears have dried, the Orioles appear to be content with using Deadline acquisition Tim Beckham as the everyday shortstop. If the O's wanna get funky they could sign Cozart and try Beckham out in the outfield, but the rotation looks like a more pressing need in Birdland this offseason.
D-backs: Sure, Ketel Marte inexplicably turned into Barry Larkin in his four postseason games, but that doesn't change the fact that the D-backs had a revolving door of inconsistency at short in 2017. Expected to contend again next year, the D-backs could use Cozart to replace the offense J.D. Martinez gave them in the second half. Who needs J.D. "Just Dingers" Martinez when you can have MTJD "More Than Just Dingers" Cozart?
Royals: Former uber-prospect Raul Mondesi Jr. is waiting in the wings, but he has been pretty inconsistent in his brief time in the bigs. Cozart would give the Royals some stability up the middle and would form a pretty sweet double=play combo alongside fun baseball man Whit Merrifield. Though, it probably makes more sense for the Royals to re-sign one of their three big free agents -- Hosmer, Cain, and Moustakas -- instead.
Reds: It was slightly surprising Cincy didn't extend Cozart a qualifying offer, but there's still a decent chance the Reds could bring him back. Here's the thing about the Reds offense if they decide to bring Cozart back, it's actually pretty good. The pitching is still far away, but go look at their depth chart. Sorry for blowing your mind.
Marlins: Marlins shortstops were last in ISO in 2017, posting an pretty rough .091. With that in mind, Cozart's power bat seems like a pretty legitimate option for a team that needs help at short and was sorta-kinda-not-really-but-maybe in the mix in 2017. Also, Cozart has worn No. 2 throughout his career and Derek Jeter is the new CEO of the Miami Marlins, so that might work in his favor.
Pirates: Jordy Mercer has been the Opening Day shortstop for the Buccos every year since 2014, but with the Pirates finishing second to last in over-the-fence-balls last season, Cozart could give Pittsburgh's lineup a real boost of power. With Pirate look-a-like John Jaso announcing his retirement, Pittsburgh is yearning for someone to fill that role. Cozart had the whole thing with the donkey this past season, maybe now's the time for him to adopt a parrot, too.