With the start of Spring Training, this offseason has officially come to a close. Despite this landmark, there are still plenty of intriguing free agents left on the market, without a home, yet capable of providing lots of value. Given the lack of leverage these players now have, teams can often find a solid player for a cheaper-than-usual cost. While these names are usually depth options or fliers, it’s certainly possible to find someone who eventually steps in as a key starter down the road. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some stragglers who the Yankees should have their eyes on.
RP Luke Hochevar
New York’s bullpen is in flux right now, with an odd combination of an elite closer in Aroldis Chapman, horrible, worthless set-up man Dellin Betances, a couple other good relievers in Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard, and then…reach into that hat and pull out a few names, maybe you’ll find some solid players? Interestingly enough, the Yankees tried that last season and it went poorly for the most part, so making a last-minute change in strategy and signing a cheap, proven relief pitcher or two wouldn’t the worst idea.
One of those guys is Hochevar, who has a 3.78 ERA over the past two seasons since returning from Tommy John surgery. That may be an unspectacular mark, but Hochevar’s paired it with excellent strikeout and walk rates. If he can keep his home run rate under control (a big if his new home is Yankees Stadium), there’s tantalizing upside here. Even if his ERA remains in the high threes, that’s a somewhat dependable middle reliever, an asset the Yankees dearly needed for much of last season.
OF Angel Pagan
Here’s something you probably didn’t know: a player who hit 12 home runs and stole 15 bases, while hitting .277/.331/.418 with average outfield defense, is still a free agent. Pagan, who played 129 games last season, racked up some impressive numbers in a pitcher-friendly ballpark, yet remains unsigned.
The 35-year-old primarily spent time in left field last year, but was serviceable in center field in 2015, so, at the very least, he’d be an excellent fourth outfielder for the Yankees if they want to hedge their bet on Aaron Hicks after an atrocious 2016. Plus, considering the constant injury concerns surrounding Jacoby Ellsbury and others, Pagan would be a solid insurance option should one of their starters fall victim to injury.
SP Colby Lewis
Most of the following players best serve as insurance signings on minor league contracts, but Lewis is one player who will only sign an MLB deal. But maybe that isn’t the worst thing in the world. Lewis managed to get his ERA under 4.5 for the first time since 2012 last season, throwing well enough over 116.1 innings to even merit a start in the ALDS for the Rangers.
While an anemic 5.65 K/9 and sky-high home run rate means his 3.71 ERA probably isn’t completely legit, Lewis could be a cheap option to solidify the back of the Yankees’ rotation and provide dependable innings, even if his upside is fourth starter and his floor is May DFA candidate.
SP Doug Fister
Owner of a, hang on, dear god, that’s an 83 mile per hour fastball. Well…Jared Weaver was signed by a team this season, so, uh, why not Fister? The 6’8” starter doesn’t strike anyone out and hasn’t had an ERA under 4 since 2014, when his sinker was a full four mph faster than it is right now, but the former Astro provided 180.1 innings of 4.64 ERA ball last season for Houston.
While that may not be much better than what a young, unproven starter such as Luis Cessa could provide in the back of the Yankees’ rotation, Fister, at the very least, would be a nice Triple-A piece should New York’s other options falter.
C Dioner Navarro
That’s former Yankees great Dioner Navarro to you. Yup, the journeyman catcher was signed as an amateur free way back in 2000 by the Yankees, but played just five big league games with the team.
Navarro hasn’t really hit enough to be a starting catcher since 2014 or 2015, but considering the unspectacular options the Yankees have behind Gary Sanchez, namely Austin Romine, grabbing Navarro as a Triple-A depth option isn’t a terrible idea.
SP Jake Peavy
Pretend 2016 didn’t exist. Peavy is coming off of a solid 2015, with a 3.58 ERA over 110.2 innings with the Giants, and, despite some injury issues, has established himself as a dependable middle-of-the-rotation arm. He could be the Yankees’ best pitcher behind Masahiro Tanaka, given the volatility of CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda, and it would be a no-brainer to sign him now, at a reduced price.
Okay, now let’s take a look at 2016: a 5.54 ERA over 118.2 innings, a horrific performance with some bad luck sprinkled in to give hope for an improvement. He’s a post-post-post-hype sleeper at this point, but given the track record and success as soon as two seasons ago, Peavy isn’t the worst speculative add in the world.
SP Matt Harrison
Matt Harrison sounded like a good idea until I realized he’s thrown 44 innings since 2012 and had a 6.14 ERA over that time. I’m sorry for wasting your time.
SP Henderson Alvarez
Shoulder injuries are brutal. Alvarez was a promising young starter for the Marlins in 2014, turning in a 2.65 ERA over 30 starts after a solid 2013. Unfortunately, he required shoulder surgery early in 2015 and didn’t throw a big league inning in 2016.
Alvarez might still have some life in his arm, and if that’s the case, he’s worth a minor league deal, but considering the righty didn’t really strike guys out to begin with and didn’t look completely legit, even in his best seasons, it’s hard to get too optimistic about the 26-year-old. Did I mention shoulder injuries are brutal?
RP Jordan Walden
Walden is awesome while on the mound, and has a career 3.00 ERA and 10.78 K.9. Unfortunately, he’s rarely on the mound, and last threw more than eleven innings in a season in 2014. To make matters worse, Walden’s latest rehab from shoulder issues has gone poorly enough that his minor league contract with the Braves was voided last month. Still, given the upside he might still have, there’s no reason for the Yankees not to give him a minor league deal.
C A.J. Pierzynski
Okay, I think I’ve gotten deep enough into the batch of remaining free agents that it’s time to end this article. Here are some honorable mentions, though (not including A.J., who is both bad at baseball and at being a good human):
· Kelly Johnson
· Alfredo Simon
· Charlie Furbish
· Brandon Beachy
· Alexei Ramirez