I just spent 38.7 seconds scrolling through the remaining available free agents, and guess what: There are still some players out there who could help a team! I’m not joking. I’m also not thinking of that still-lengthy list of first base/DH types -- Mark Trumbo, Mike Napoli, Jose Bautista, Chris Carter, et al -- you've heard all about, but of some useful players who won’t break the bank to sign.
Here are seven guys I like ... at the right price, of course:
The good: Hammel has three straight seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA, one of just 11 starters to qualify for the ERA title each of the past three years to do so.
Why teams are wary: He ended 2016 with elbow tightness and had an 8.35 ERA over his final seven starts. He averaged just 5 1/2 innings per start and allowed 25 home runs in 166.2 innings. Hammel's low BABIP allowed means he likely benefited from good Cubs defense.
Take: The issues at the end of the season are obviously a red flag. He’s probably not a good fit for an American League team because he allows home runs, but he’s a solid back-of-the-rotation option in the National League.
Best fit: The Marlins need another starter, and his fly balls would be less problematic in pitcher-friendly Marlins Park.
The good: Wood has a 3.51 ERA over the past two seasons, working primarily out of the Cubs' bullpen. He has started with some success in the past. Tough on lefties with a career .206/.276/.316 line allowed. Can play left field in a pinch!
Why teams are wary: Cubs manager Joe Maddon basically turned him into a LOOGY (Lefty One-Out GuY) last season (77 appearances, 61 innings), so his starting days may be behind him. Strikeout rate declined in 2016.
Take: Wood’s versatility should make him a more sought-after asset, the perfect 10th or 11th guy on a staff who can pitch in any role. With nine career home runs, he’s also a bit of a threat at the plate.
The good: His 3.57 ERA with the Giants was his first ERA over 3.00 since 2009. His strikeout rate of 27.0 percent was a career high. His average fastball velocity of 93.6 mph was right in line with career norms.
The bad: Casilla served up eight home runs in just 58 innings. He has been a little more hittable the past two seasons (.235 average allowed after .204 mark from 2010 to 2014). Lefties slugged .510 off him.
Take: Casilla ended up in Bruce Bochy’s doghouse after blowing three saves in September, and the sudden lack of confidence in Casilla cost the Giants dearly in that playoff loss to the Cubs. His closing days may be numbered, but the stuff is still there.
The good: Rasmus had a solid 2015 season for the Astros, slugging 25 home runs, and got off to a great start in 2016 (.263/.400/.579 in April). He is a plus defender in the corners and adequate in center.
The bad: He underwent surgery in August to remove a cyst from his right ear that had bothered him since before the All-Star break (he went through a horrendous 3-for-66 slump and had symptoms of vertigo and dizziness).
Take: It’s not clear exactly when the cyst started bothering him. He hit .194 with 33 strikeouts in May, for example. Was that the ear or just a streaky hitter struggling? He can’t hit lefties so he needs to be platooned, but there’s some upside here.
Best fit: The Orioles had terrible defense in the corners, and Rasmus’ power would play up at Camden Yards. Rasmus could play left with Hyun Soo Kim moving to a designated hitter role. A perfect late Orioles signing for a below-market rate that could pay off.
The bad: He’s basically a platoon bat (although he was OK against lefties in 2016 in a limited number of plate appearances) and many teams hate to platoon at third or first. He came up a middle infielder but is really just a corner guy now, meaning he’s not a great fit as a utility guy.
Take: Valbuena is a solid hitter, but there aren’t any teams desperate for a third baseman, especially among contenders (which is why the White Sox have been unable to trade Todd Frazier). He may have to settle for a bench role.
Best fit: He’d be an upgrade over Adonis Garcia at third for the Braves, who appear to fancy themselves as sleeper playoff contenders.
The good: 2016 All-Star! Pride of Victoria, B.C.
The bad: He slumped from .923 OPS in the first half to .638 in the second half, struck out 157 times in 558 PAs. Defensively, Saunders is limited to an outfield corner and he’s probably below-average there.
Take: Saunders was one of the feel-good stories of the first half, recovering from knee surgery that wiped out his 2015 season to make the All-Star team. He’s produced above-average OPS figures his past four healthy seasons and is just 30, so there’s no reason to think his second-half fade was a sign that he's at the end of his road.
Best fit: Actually, the best fit is probably a return to the Blue Jays. The Giants seem willing to give Jarrett Parker or Mac Williamson a chance. If the Orioles don’t re-sign Trumbo, maybe there’s room in the budget for both Rasmus and Saunders. Saunders is probably the one guy here who deserves more than a one-year deal, but the market for corner outfielders, first basemen and designated hitters is so limited that he may get only one year.
The good: After coming off an injury in 2015, he made 32 starts for the Astros and posted a 4.64 ERA.
The bad: A 4.64 ERA isn’t that good.
Take: OK, that was good for an ERA+ of 85 and it’s not like he underperformed his FIP or anything. Considering that there were 49 pitchers who made at least 10 starts with a worse ERA+, there’s room for an innings-eater with the upside of something better on somebody’s roster.