3 free agents primed to bounce back in 2017

November 18th, 2016

Every player wants to put his best foot forward in his contract year, raising his stock prior to free agency, but things don't always work out that way.

Take right-handers and , for example. Morton tore his left hamstring in his fourth start of 2016 and spent the rest of the season on the Phillies' disabled list. Cashner made 27 starts but posted a 5.25 ERA, including a 5.98 mark after a non-waiver Trade Deadline move from the Padres to the Marlins.

Still, the Astros saw Morton's ability to induce ground balls and his high-spin curve and took a chance, signing him to a two-year deal. The Rangers saw Cashner's stuff and his solid 2013-14 results and took the plunge on a lucrative one-year deal.

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But Morton and Cashner were not the only free agents to enter this offseason looking to bounce back following a disappointing 2016.

Here are three other available players who each produced less than 0.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) last season, according to Baseball-Reference.com, yet offer some upside for 2017 and beyond.

, SP

2016 WAR: -0.8

The issue for Anderson is always health, as the left-hander has endured numerous stints on the disabled list. Before last season even began, he underwent surgery for a bulging disk in his back, returned to the Dodgers in mid-August, then made just four ineffective appearances surrounding another month on the DL for a blister problem on his pitching hand.

But when Anderson has been able to take the mound, the results have been good, with a career 109 ERA+ prior to this year. After making 32 starts from 2011-14, he made 31 in '15 and posted a league-average 100 ERA+ over 180 1/3 innings. Anderson's 66.3 percent ground-ball rate was tied for the third-best single-season rate by a qualified pitcher since '02, helping make up for a low strikeout rate. Given the thin group of free-agent starters, Anderson is certainly worth a gamble going into his age-29 season, even if it's inadvisable to count on him for 30 starts.


2016 WAR: -0.5

Coghlan's brief time in Oakland last season was disastrous, as he put up a line fit for a pitcher: .146/.215/.272 over 172 plate appearances, with -1.5 WAR. But when the A's traded him back to the Cubs on June 9, the Coghlan of 2014-15 re-emerged. Over 128 plate appearances, he hit only one homer but posted a solid .252/.391/.388 line, cutting down his strikeouts and producing a 17.2-percent walk rate that would have tied 's MLB-leading mark over a full season.

That stint in Oakland has to be taken into consideration, but in his 321 total games with Chicago, Coghlan generated a 118 Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) and 3.1 WAR. While he is probably best suited for the corner outfield, the 31-year-old also has spent time at first, second and third base in each of the past two seasons. That versatility, combined with prudent usage (i.e., against right-handed pitchers), could make Coghlan a valuable semi-regular once again.

, OF

2016 WAR: 0.1

Who is the real Gomez? There's the All-Star who broke out with Milwaukee from 2013-14, with a 130 wRC+, 47 homers, 74 steals and 13.3 WAR. There's the slumping player who posted a 68 wRC+, nine homers and -0.1 WAR in 126 games for the Astros between a July 2015 trade and his August '16 release. And finally there's the resurgent slugger who hit .284/.362/.543 (139 wRC+) with eight homers and 0.9 WAR in just 33 games after the Rangers picked him up late this past season.

While Gomez still struck out a bunch with Texas, Statcast™ measured his average exit velocity at 90.7 mph, compared with 87.5 mph during his Houston tenure. His average launch angle jumped all the way from 8 degrees to 18 degrees. It's a small sample, but those numbers look very similar to what players such as and did with their batted balls over the whole season. Gomez also cut down his swing rate and increased his contact rate after switching teams, and if he can maintain some of those gains, he could make his next team quite happy.