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One free agent every club could re-sign

@feinsand
November 3, 2019

A majority of players on this year’s free-agent market will find themselves in new uniforms in the coming months, but for some, the best fit could very well be to return to their current clubs. Which players might teams be interested in bringing back for another run? Here’s a look

A majority of players on this year’s free-agent market will find themselves in new uniforms in the coming months, but for some, the best fit could very well be to return to their current clubs.

Which players might teams be interested in bringing back for another run? Here’s a look at all 30 teams and which incumbent could make the most sense to return for 2020:

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Baltimore Orioles: Mark Trumbo

OK, so there’s virtually no chance the Orioles bring Trumbo back now that he has completed his three-year, $37.5 million contract, but the first baseman/outfielder/DH is the only free agent on the roster, so he gets the mention here by default.

Boston Red Sox: Brock Holt

Holt has been a fixture in the Boston community, not to mention a glue guy in the Red Sox's clubhouse. More important, he is a versatile player who has played every position on the field other than pitcher and catcher, something Chaim Bloom (Boston’s new head of baseball operations) valued with Tampa Bay.

New York Yankees: Brett Gardner

The longest-tenured Yankees player just finished a one-year, $7.5 million contract that many assumed would be his last in New York. But the outfielder had a career year at the plate, setting personal highs with 28 home runs, 74 RBIs and an .829 OPS. With Aaron Hicks expected to miss at least the first half of the 2020 season, a return on another one-year deal seems likely.

Yanks decline to pick up Encarnación's option

Tampa Bay Rays: Travis d'Arnaud

After being designated for assignment by the Mets in April and picked up by the Dodgers, the catcher landed with the Rays and performed well in 92 games (16 HR, 67 RBIs, .782 OPS). Tampa Bay doesn’t have a catching prospect ready to step up in 2020, so d’Arnaud could return for a second year with the Rays.

Toronto Blue Jays: Clay Buchholz

Buchholz and Justin Smoak are Toronto's only free agents, and Smoak is coming off his worst season since 2016. Injuries limited Buchholz to 12 mostly ineffective starts (6.56 ERA), but the right-hander was seen as a good veteran presence for the club’s young pitching and could return to battle for a rotation spot.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox: José Abreu

Both Abreu and the White Sox have expressed interest in continuing the relationship, with general manager Rick Hahn saying there’s a “strong desire” to keep the first baseman on the South Side. This reunion appears to be a matter of when, not if.

Cleveland Indians: Yasiel Puig

The Indians traded for Puig with the idea of him being a rental, but the outfielder helped keep Cleveland in the postseason race with a solid two-month stint (.800 OPS in 49 games). The Tribe will be in the market for an outfield bat this winter, so why not bring back Puig?

2019-20 free agents, position by position

Detroit Tigers: Jordy Mercer

With both Mercer and Gordon Beckham heading to free agency, the Tigers could bring back the versatile Mercer -- he played all four infield positions in 2019 -- to provide some veteran infield help.

Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon

The lone potential free agent on the Royals, Gordon has a $23 million mutual option with a $4 million buyout that figures to be paid out. If the 35-year-old left fielder decides he wants to continue playing, he’ll likely have to take a lower salary on a one-year deal.

Minnesota Twins: Jake Odorizzi

José Berríos is the Twins' only starter locked in for 2020, though the club likely will exercise its $7 million club option for Martin Pérez. Odorizzi, Michael Pineda and Kyle Gibson are all free agents, and if Minnesota wants to repeat as AL Central champs, bringing the right-handed Odorizzi back is a good place to start.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Houston Astros: Will Harris

Nearly one-third of the Astros’ roster is headed for free agency, so it’s feasible that more than one could return in 2020. Front-line starting pitcher Gerrit Cole seems like a long shot to be back, but Harris -- a right-hander who had an outstanding regular season that carried into October -- is an important piece of the bullpen Houston likely will try to retain.

Los Angeles Angels: Trevor Cahill

This is another “by default” selection, as right-handed pitcher Cahill and outfielder Kole Calhoun are the only candidates -- assuming the Angels decide not to exercise the $14 million club option on Calhoun’s contract. If that happens, it’s difficult to see Calhoun returning to Anaheim, leaving Cahill -- who pitched poorly in 2019 -- as the only other alternative. The guess here is that neither is with the Halos in 2020.

Oakland Athletics: Brett Anderson

Three of Oakland’s starting pitchers -- Anderson, Homer Bailey and Tanner Roark -- are free agents. With Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, Jesus Luzardo and potentially A.J. Puk lined up for rotation spots, it seems likely that only one of the free-agent trio returns. Anderson had the best season of the three and has deeper ties, having come up through the Athletics’ organization.

Seattle Mariners: Tommy Milone

Félix Hernández's reign in Seattle appears to be over, as the King must decide whether to retire or find a new baseball home after 15 years with the Mariners. Wade LeBlanc had an ineffective season in 2019, and Seattle declined a club option on his contract, leaving the left-handed Milone (4.76 ERA in 111 2/3 innings) as the most likely candidate to be back in 2020.

Texas Rangers: Hunter Pence

Elvis Andrus has an opt-out, and the Rangers hold club options on Nate Jones and Shawn Kelley, so let’s rule them out of this conversation. Logan Forsythe and Edinson Vólquez underperformed, but Pence posted a nice comeback season (18 HR, 59 RBIs, .910 OPS in 83 games) and was one of the feel-good stories of Texas' 2019 season.

Latest offseason rumors, trades and signings

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Atlanta Braves: Josh Donaldson

Donaldson will be extended a qualifying offer, which could impact the third baseman’s value with other teams. But after posting a big season in Atlanta and helping the Braves to the NL East title, it appears to be a perfect fit for both parties. It would not be remotely surprising to see them come to terms on a multiyear deal.

Miami Marlins: Neil Walker

The Marlins -- who didn’t have a free agent on their roster a year ago -- have finally reached the end of the contracts of Starlin Castro ($16 million club option, which was declined) and Martín Prado. Walker proved to be a useful bench player, getting time at both first and third base. He could return in a similar role next season.

New York Mets: Brad Brach

Zack Wheeler will garner most of the talk in New York, but the chances of him returning appear slim even if the Mets make him a qualifying offer. Brach, a right-hander who grew up in New Jersey as a Mets fan and was signed by them in early August after being released by the Cubs, pitched well in New York and could return as the Mets try to bolster their much-maligned bullpen.

Philadelphia Phillies: Jared Hughes

The Phillies have several relievers headed for free agency (Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Juan Nicasio), and with a reasonable $3 million club option on the right-handed Hughes, he seems like a logical choice to be back in 2020. The Phils liked what they saw from outfielder Corey Dickerson after acquiring him at the Trade Deadline, but with Andrew McCutchen coming back from his knee injury and several teams likely to pursue Dickerson, he likely will wind up elsewhere.

Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg opted out of the final four years and $100 million on his contract, hitting the free-agent market following a stellar season (18-6, 3.32 ERA, 209 innings). The right-hander appears to have no desire to leave Washington, so the likely scenario is for him to work out a new deal with the Nationals. The team will also have to deal with third baseman Anthony Rendon’s free agency in the weeks and months ahead and won’t want to risk losing two of its stars.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs: Nicholas Castellanos

When a player comes to a new team and performs the way Castellanos did (16 HR, 36 RBIs, 1.002 OPS in 51 games), it’s only natural for both sides to want the relationship to continue. The Cubs will have to find a replacement for Castellanos if he departs, so why not just bring the outfielder back on a new deal? One factor working against the Cubs is that because Castellanos was traded during the season, he cannot receive a qualifying offer, which could make him a more attractive free agent compared with similar players hitting the market, such as Marcell Ozuna, who certainly will get a qualifying offer from St. Louis.

Cincinnati Reds: José Iglesias

The 29-year-old shortstop had his best all-around season in 2019, slashing .288/.318/.407 with 11 home runs and 59 RBIs. Iglesias is far more likely to be back in Cincinnati than left-hander Alex Wood or right-hander Justin Grimm. Infielder Freddy Galvis ($5.5 million club option) could be a fallback if Iglesias signs elsewhere.

Milwaukee Brewers: Drew Pomeranz

There’s certainly a case to be made for catcher Yasmani Grandal and/or third baseman Mike Moustakas, given that the Brewers don’t have in-house candidates ready to replace them. But both players will be seeking multiyear paydays, which might mean leaving Milwaukee. The left-handed Pomeranz pitched well out of the bullpen for the Brewers after being acquired at the Trade Deadline, posting a 2.39 ERA in 25 appearances.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Francisco Liriano

Neither outfielder Melky Cabrera nor outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall are likely to be back in Pittsburgh, but the 36-year-old lefty Liriano – who pitched to a 3.47 ERA in 69 relief appearances – could return to the Pirates to provide a veteran presence in the bullpen.

St. Louis Cardinals: Marcell Ozuna

Ozuna has expressed an interest in staying with St. Louis, and the Cardinals appear to be open to the idea after the left fielder hit 29 home runs with an .800 OPS in 130 games last season. Right-hander Michael Wacha could also fall into that category, but if the Cards pursue a front-line starter, as expected, Wacha could wind up signing elsewhere. This is a situation where a qualifying offer could hinder Ozuna’s appeal on the open market, as teams might not want to sacrifice a Draft pick for a good, but one-dimensional player.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks: Alex Avila

Avila just finished a two-year, $8.25 million contract with Arizona, and both sides reportedly have mutual interest in working out a new deal. The D-backs like Avila’s impact as a mentor to Carson Kelly, and the veteran catcher’s production as a backup (nine HR, 24 RBIs, .774 OPS in 63 games) remains solid.

Colorado Rockies: Yonder Alonso

Catcher Drew Butera was a non-factor for the Rockies in 2019, logging just 49 plate appearances during three stints with the big league club. That leaves the first baseman Alonso as the only other free agent, so between them, he’d be more likely to come back after posting an .837 OPS in 54 games after signing with Colorado in July.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Hyun-Jin Ryu

Ryu will surely receive interest from other clubs after posting a league-leading 2.32 ERA in 182 2/3 innings last season, but the consensus around the league is that the left-hander wants to stay in Los Angeles and the Dodgers would like to bring him back. Ryu accepted the qualifying offer last year, so they can’t extend another one to him this offseason.

San Diego Padres: Craig Stammen

The Padres aren’t expected to pick up club options on relievers Adam Warren ($2.5 million) and Aaron Loup ($2 million), but Stammen -- San Diego’s only other free agent -- has had a very solid three-year run with the team (3.06 ERA in 209 appearances) and could be brought back to help get the ball to closer Kirby Yates.

San Francisco Giants: Madison Bumgarner

It’s difficult to imagine Bumgarner in any other uniform, though the left-hander will have plenty of suitors this offseason. Both he and closer Will Smith should be extended a qualifying offer. Neither is expected to accept, but the Giants could try to sign Bumgarner to a new deal and keep him in San Francisco.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.