Belisle among many intriguing FAs available

Lackey, Granderson, Dickey also among unheralded players who can help a team

December 28th, 2017

Matt Belisle may not be at the top of anyone's shopping list, but he would be a great add for the Cubs or any other contender.
Belisle has been a staple of Major League bullpens since he established himself with the Reds in 2005. The Twins might not have pulled away from the pack in the American League's bunched-up American League Wild Card race without him nailing down nine saves after was traded to the Nationals, and his work as a setup man played a part in the winning first half that created excitement in Minnesota.
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After 14 seasons, there's little Belisle hasn't seen. He has maintained his low-90s velocity and continued to improve on a curveball that induces a lot of ground balls. Plus, he has been a first-rate teammate everywhere he has been.
The Twins may re-sign Belisle to work in front of new closer . It also wouldn't be a surprise if the Rockies go back to the future -- he pitched for the Rockies from 2009-14 -- and add Belisle to a bullpen that got major additions in and Jake McGee.
Either way, Belisle will be a quiet difference-maker who is going to be a free-agent value for someone.
Here are some other intriguing options on the long list of free agents:
, RP: A rookie closer with the 2012 White Sox, Reed has been worked hard on his way to free agency. He has made 157 appearances over the past two seasons for the Mets and Red Sox and was still going strong in September. He's comfortable as either a closer or setup man. He may not sign until after and Greg Holland are off the board, but he might be more widely pursued than either of the two former Royals.

, 3B: He delivered a 3.4 bWAR while hitting .213 for the White Sox and Yankees last season, and his value in the clubhouse has somehow increased as his batting average has dropped the past three seasons. He's a solid third baseman who has shown a willingness to move across the infield to first base as he heads toward his age-32 season. The Yankees could re-sign him, but he would be a good option for a lot of teams, including the Cardinals.
, OF: While homegrown Albert Almora crushed the ball when he got a chance, Jay was the Cubs' center fielder and leadoff man in the postseason. He finished the season with a .374 on-base percentage, but doesn't add much power. His value comes from being able to play all over the outfield. It would be hard for the Giants to overlook his defensive metrics -- minus-4 defensive runs saved in 2017, and minus-5 in 2016 -- but he could play a role, especially if the Giants were able to sign slugger J.D. Martinez.

Tony Watson, RP: This workhorse has made 70-plus appearances in each of the past four years. He has had value as a setup man for the Dodgers and Pirates, and he held his own as the Pirates' closer after was dealt to the Nationals in July 2016. It says a lot about him that the Dodgers used him 11 times last October, including five times in the World Series. Even a bullpen as loaded as the Yankees' could use him.
, SP: He wants to continue a career that began so auspiciously with an Angels championship in 2002. While his ERA was 4.59 in 2017, when he was shuffled to the back of the Cubs' rotation, he was still very effective. Witness the Cubs' 19-11 record in his starts. He might be challenged by a move back to the AL, but could be a good fit in Anaheim or Texas. Or he could be a good depth option for an NL contender, such as the Nationals or Cardinals.
R.A. Dickey, SP: While he has spent most of his career in the AL, Dickey has a 3.26 ERA in four seasons in the National League, including 2017 with the Braves. Heading into his age-43 season, he's coming off a 190-inning season. That should have value with teams, especially as rotations look to get deeper.

Matt Albers, RP: Like Belisle, he's a rubber-armed right-hander who has found a groove in his mid-30s. He reportedly was on the verge of signing a two-year contract in mid-December, but it hasn't been announced.
Alex Avila, C: Few catchers offer as much juice with their bat from the left side as Avila. He generated an average exit velocity of 90.9 mph last year, which ranked third among Major League catchers. Avila can be valuable as a bat off the bench or DH option.
, OF: He hit .212 but still delivered a 1.4 WAR in 2017. The "Grandy Man" might not be a primary option any longer, but he could upgrade a team's bench in his age-37 season. Ignore the 2017 postseason; it just came along at the wrong time for him. Teams want this guy in their clubhouse.