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Shopping list: Free agents to watch at each position

October 30, 2017

The World Series just ended, but the Major League Baseball calendar doesn't leave much time for rest. That means it's time for the Hot Stove to ignite.Free agency officially begins at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, when players may sign with new teams, and that process will continue through the

The World Series just ended, but the Major League Baseball calendar doesn't leave much time for rest. That means it's time for the Hot Stove to ignite.
Free agency officially begins at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, when players may sign with new teams, and that process will continue through the Winter Meetings (Dec. 10-14 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.) and on toward Spring Training.
Hot Stove Tracker
And while many are already anticipating what should be a star-studded 2018-19 free-agent class, this offseason also has plenty to offer for clubs looking to improve their rosters.
Here is a position-by-position look at some of the most intriguing players available, listed with their "seasonal age" for next year, which means their age as of July 1, 2018:
CATCHER
Jonathan Lucroy, Rockies (32): His stock plummeted along with his power, as he hit .242/.297/.338 for the Rangers, but Lucroy ended on a high note after a July 30 trade to the Rockies (.310/.429/.437).
Alex Avila, Cubs (31): Although his numbers fell off after a trade to Chicago, 2017 was an offensive breakout for Avila, who had a 124 weighted runs created-plus (wRC+) and MLB's fourth-highest hard-hit rate, according to Statcast™.
Welington Castillo, Orioles (31): He could choose to exercise his $7 million player option for 2018, but testing the market may make sense after Castillo slugged .490 with 20 homers in 96 games.
Others of note: Chris Iannetta slugged .511 in a rebound year with Arizona, but he turns 35 in April. Nick Hundley, Miguel Montero and Rene Rivera are among those who could land backup roles.
FIRST BASE
Eric Hosmer, Royals (28): After a miserable first 20 games of the season, Hosmer batted .337/.403/.534 the rest of the way. He remains young enough for a team to believe he has yet to reach his peak as a hitter.

Carlos Santana, Indians (32): Since debuting in 2010, the switch-hitter owns MLB's third-highest walk rate (minimum 2,500 plate appearances) and he has posted an OBP above .350 every season.
Logan Morrison, Rays (30): Without receiving much attention playing for Tampa Bay, Morrison hit as many or more homers (38) than all but six players in 2017. According to Statcast™, 32.2 percent of his batted balls were hard-hit liners or fly balls, up from 24.1 percent in '16.
Others of note:Yonder Alonso and Mark Reynolds both enjoyed first-half breakouts in 2017, but they couldn't maintain the pace. Clubs looking for a platoon/bench bat also could consider Lucas Duda, Mitch Moreland, Mike Napoli, Danny Valencia or Adam Lind .

SECOND BASE
Neil Walker, Brewers (32): The switch-hitter finished strong after a trade from the Mets (.267/.409/.433), and he has posted at least a 106 wRC+ and 1.9 wins above replacement (WAR) in each of his eight seasons.
Jose Reyes, Mets (35): While Reyes spent the majority of his time at shortstop in 2017, his -15 Defensive Runs Saved there was the lowest in MLB. Still, his .288/.356/.472 second-half line may intrigue some teams with a need at second (where he played 28 games) and/or third (36 games).
Brandon Phillips, Braves (37): He has put up eerily similar lines the past two seasons -- from .291/.320/.416, to .285/.319/.416 -- with identical wRC+ of 93 (100 is league average).
Others of note:John Forsythe (Dodgers) has an affordable club option for 2018 that seems likely to be exercised, while teammate Chase Utley turns 39 in December and is a part-time player -- if he doesn't retire. Howie Kendrick has spent more time in the outfield over the past couple of years, while Cliff Pennington and Danny Espinosa could fit in utility roles.
THIRD BASE
Mike Moustakas, Royals (29): After missing most of 2016 with a knee injury, Moustakas returned to lead regular third basemen with 38 homers -- 16 more than his previous career high.
Todd Frazier, Yankees (32): He compensates for low batting averages with plenty of power and solid defense, and in 2017, he finished sixth among qualified hitters in walk rate (14.4 percent), blowing away his previous best of 9.6 percent.

Eduardo Nunez, Red Sox (31): He could fit best as a super-utilityman, also spending time at second, shortstop and the outfield. Nunez has been worth more than 2 WAR in back-to-back seasons, while batting .299/.332/.445 with 28 homers and 64 steals.
Others of note:Yunel Escobar didn't play after Aug. 6 due to an oblique injury, and his offensive numbers have declined for two straight seasons. Trevor Plouffe struggled at the plate with both the A's and Rays, and Jhonny Peralta was released by both the Cardinals and Red Sox.
SHORTSTOP
Zack Cozart, Reds (32): Teams will have to decide how much they buy into Cozart's breakout 2017, in which he finished fourth among MLB shortstops in WAR (5.0), tied for fourth in homers (24) and second behind Carlos Correa in OBP (.385), slugging (.548) and wRC+ (141).
Alcides Escobar, Royals (31): He's durable, having made 162 starts at short in three of the past four years. He also has a reputation as a strong defender and was an American League Gold Glove Award winner in 2015. But over the past three years, his 66 wRC+ is tied for the lowest in MLB (minimum 1,200 plate appearances).
J.J. Hardy, Orioles (35): Baltimore declined his $14 million option after an injury-marred season in which he batted .217/.255/.323.
Others of note:Erick Aybar, Stephen Drew and Adam Rosales are among the veterans available.
CORNER OUTFIELD
J.D. Martinez, D-backs (30): Despite not debuting until May 12 because of a right foot injury, he made himself the most attractive bat on the market by slashing .303/.376/.690 with 45 home runs in just 119 games between Detroit and Arizona.

Jay Bruce, Indians (31): He's been a durable power threat, with at least 145 games and 25 homers in seven of the past eight years. Bruce's numbers actually have climbed each season since a rough 2014 campaign.
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies (32): He's a big name, with three All-Star selections, three Gold Glove Awards and two Silver Slugger Awards, but that overstates the player Gonzalez has been lately. His 2017 production (84 wRC+, -0.2 WAR) was troubling, although he went out on a high note by batting .377/.484/.766 with 18 extra-base hits in September.
Others of note: Melky Cabrera, Seth Smith, Chris Young and Kendrick are among the available veterans. There are several other high-profile free agents who come with serious question marks at their age, including Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, Jayson Werth, Andre Ethier and Ichiro Suzuki. Carlos Beltran and Matthew Holliday also fit that description and are almost exclusively DHs at this point.
CENTER FIELD
Lorenzo Cain, Royals (32): He certainly didn't hurt his case in his contract year by playing a career-high 155 games while posting both his highest walk rate and lowest strikeout rate, along with a personal-best .363 OBP. Defensively, Cain's 15 outs above average tied for fourth among MLB outfielders, according to Statcast™.
Carlos Gomez, Rangers (32): After a 2016 that he split between ice cold (with the Astros) and red hot (with the Rangers), Gomez returned to Texas and fell somewhere in between, batting .255/.340/.462 with 17 homers in 105 games.
Austin Jackson, Indians (31): He had his best offensive season since 2012, posting a 131 wRC+ in 85 games, which he split between all three outfield positions.
Others of note:Jonathan Jay (.374 OBP) offers plenty of professional at-bats, while Jarrod Dyson would be an appealing option for a team in need of speed and defense. Cameron Maybin, Rajai Davis and Peter Bourjos also will be on the open market.
STARTING PITCHERS
Shohei Ohtani, Japan (23): If in fact Ohtani is posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters, he immediately would become the most intriguing story of the Hot Stove season. The 23-year-old is a potential two-way star, as both a right-hander with electric stuff and a DH who batted .332/.403/.540 in 65 games for the Fighters this year. Even better for MLB teams, Ohtani's initial contract would be severely limited by international signing rules for players under age 25.
Yu Darvish, Dodgers (31): His career strikeout rate of 29.7 percent ranks first all-time among starters with at least 750 innings. After missing 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery, his 123 ERA+ ranks 21st of 92 pitchers with at least 250 innings from 2016-17.

Jacob Arrieta, Cubs (30): The 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner hasn't been quite the same since, but Arrieta still made 30 starts with a 3.53 ERA in 2017, including 2.26 after the end of June.
Lance Lynn, Cardinals (31): In a successful return from Tommy John surgery, the fastball-focused right-hander posted a 3.43 ERA over 33 starts. However, his 4.82 FIP was by far the highest of his career, with Lynn's strikeout-to-walk ratio down and his homers allowed up.
Alex Cobb, Rays (30): Like Lynn, he returned successfully from Tommy John surgery, although in his case, he missed nearly two full seasons. The righty set career highs in starts (29) and innings (179 1/3), while posting a 3.66 ERA.
Others of note:Johnny Cueto did not opt out of the rest of his contract (four years, $84 million) after a tough 2017, and old-timers such as John Lackey and R.A. Dickey could retire. That still would leave a great number of experienced righties on the market, including Andrew CashnerJhoulys Chacin, Jeremy Hellickson, Trevor Cahill, Tyler Chatwood, Doug Fister, Chris Tillman, Bartolo Colon and many more. Available lefties will include Carsten Sabathia, Jason Vargas, Jaime Garcia, Hector Santiago, Francisco Liriano, Derek Holland and Wade Miley.
RELIEF PITCHERS
Wade Davis, Cubs (32): He was hit a bit harder this season than in the past, but Davis still converted 32 of 33 save opportunities, posted a 2.30 ERA and struck out nearly one-third of opposing batters.
Greg Holland, Rockies (32): After missing 2016 while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Holland saved 41 games, putting himself in position to decline a $15 million player option. The righty looked fatigued during a brutal August slump, but opponents went 4-for-35 (.114) against him in September.
Brandon Morrow, Dodgers (33): The injury-plagued former starter was one of MLB's most dominant relievers after coming up from Triple-A in late May. Over 43 2/3 regular-season innings, Morrow held opponents homerless, with a .454 OPS and 50 strikeouts. The Dodgers then worked him hard in the postseason, including an appearance in all seven World Series games.
Others of note:Pat Neshek, Brandon Kintzler, Addison Reed, Juan Nicasio, Luke Gregerson, Bryan ShawFernando Rodney and Matt Albers will be among the notable right-handed options for the back of someone's bullpen this offseason. Tony Watson and Jake McGee headline a shallow pool of lefties, with Mike Minor (2.55 ERA, 10.2 K/9) another intriguing option, fresh off a highly succcessful first season in the bullpen with the Royals.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.