Dare to dream.
Baseball’s free-agency period is upon us. It’s one of the many opportunities we get for players to change teams, potentially influencing their fantasy values for the better. It’s a time we dream of the perfect player destinations. It’s our hope that every deal will turn out as nicely as Josh Reddick‘s with the Houston Astros last November, propelling him into the final top 100 on our Player Rater.
Conversely, we hope to not see players land in worse situations for their fantasy value, such as when Tyson Ross signed with the Texas Rangers last January.
And sometimes, even the dreamiest deal doesn’t always work out the way we planned, such as when Ian Desmond signed with the Colorado Rockies last December. He couldn’t even finish among the top 30 first basemen. Hey, we can’t win ’em all.
As we progress through the hot-stove season, ESPN Fantasy will keep you updated on the latest free-agent happenings with our new Free Agent Tracker. Check back often for the latest news on free-agent signings along with fantasy analysis of the moves.
Today, however, let’s let our wildest dreams get the best of us. Imagine, if you will, that we get the opportunity to assign prominent free agents to the perfect teams for their particular skill sets. Yes, we always want the hitters in Coors Field and the pitchers in Petco Park — though San Francisco’s AT&T Park is now clearly the better destination for a pitcher — so we’ll take the obvious picks out of the equation. These moves need to be realistic, but they also need to be ideal picks for the player.
Here are the five moves that, as a fantasy owner, I’d most like to see happen.
Arizona Diamondbacks re-sign OF J.D. Martinez
It’s an obvious call, because one would expect a team to re-sign a player who hit 29 home runs, two shy of the major league lead, following his midseason trade. The reason to hammer home the importance of Martinez staying put, however, is that regression to the mean is inevitable wherever he winds up, but in Arizona its effects would be the least noticeable (outside, again, of a move to Colorado’s Coors Field). Chase Field is one of the most hitter-friendly environments in all of baseball, thanks in large part to its elevated altitude and higher temperatures, as well as its low left- and right-field fences with roughly league-average distances from home plate. It’s one of the few venues, in fact, that is equally power-friendly both to left and right fields, which benefits a player like Martinez, the major league leader with 40 opposite-field home runs the past three seasons combined. He’d get 81 games at Chase, another 10 at Coors, and he’d play the majority of his games within the National League West, which saw by far the most pitches thrown by left-handed pitchers last season.
Boston Red Sox sign 1B Eric Hosmer
A much-rumored destination, but one that would require a Mitch Moreland trade (not that that’s much of an obstacle), Hosmer-to-Boston makes quite a lot of sense upon closer inspection. He was one of baseball’s best opposite-field hitters last season, with the fifth-most balls in play (173), the highest batting average (.526) and the eighth-best well-hit average (.318) to the opposite field. Fenway Park, thanks to the Green Monster’s close proximity to home plate, would be a doubles-and-triples dream for Hosmer, a left-handed hitter, even if it came at the expense of a handful of home runs. Hosmer’s prospects of repeating his .318 average would be about as high as possible in Fenway, and as a probable cleanup hitter behind Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts, he’d have an excellent chance at returning to the 100-RBI plateau.
New York Yankees sign OF/1B Jay Bruce
After falling short in their quest to land him at the July trade deadline, the Yankees could pursue Bruce this winter. He’d provide them more righty/lefty power balance, in addition to being their designated hitter and a fallback at first base and perhaps the corner outfield spots; he’s also seven years younger than Matt Holliday, who served in that capacity this season. Yankee Stadium would be a dream home for Bruce, who is one of the more fly ball-oriented (41 percent the past three seasons combined) and pull-conscious hitters (45 percent) in baseball, giving him an excellent chance at his third consecutive 30-homer season and sixth in the past eight years.
Chicago Cubs sign SP Alex Cobb
It’d mean a reunion not only with Joe Maddon, his manager during the two best seasons of his big league career in 2013-14, but also with Jim Hickey, the Cubs’ new pitching coach who served in that capacity in those same years in Tampa Bay. It’s possible that Hickey could solve the puzzle of what happened to Cobb’s changeup, which went from nearly 32 runs above average during that two-year span to minus-5.2 last season, per FanGraphs. Even without improvement there, though, the shift to the National League would help pad Cobb’s strikeout total, and he’d be playing in one of the game’s best — if not the best — defensive infields. Few destinations would grant him as good a chance at a sub-three ERA.
Seattle Mariners sign OF Lorenzo Cain
Though the division-rival Los Angeles Angels, under manager Mike Scioscia, were a more aggressive team on the base paths last season than the Mariners, there isn’t a logical space for Cain in L.A. The Mariners have room in center field, the position free agent Jarrod Dyson manned in 2017, and general manager Jerry Dipoto has hinted at a desire for speed on his roster with the acquisitions of Dyson and Jean Segura a year ago. Cain’s speed metrics remain excellent, hinting at the potential for a boost to the 30-steal plateau, and he brings to the Mariners’ offense something that has been sorely lacking: on-base ability at the top of the lineup. His .342 career on-base percentage and ability to offer .360-plus would make him an excellent source of runs batting ahead of Segura, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. Safeco Field, while not one of the better power environments in baseball, would still represent a significant enough boost compared with Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium to perhaps increase Cain’s output.