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OTM Roundtable: Free agents beyond the top tier

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A look at the secondary free agents of interest.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been said recently that January is the new December in baseball in regards to when the offseason action takes place. That is certainly looking to be true so far this offseason, with relatively few moves having been made to this point and with really none of the top free agents even reportedly being close to a new deal. So with that, we are still in something of a preview mode despite being just a few weeks from the new year.

Keeping all of that in mind, we are once again looking at preferred targets for this week’s staff roundtable. This time around, we are going to look past the top names on the board. We’ve all had plenty of time to think about the George Springers and Trevor Bauers of the world, but what about the next tier? For this week’s question, I asked the staff to share their favorite name beyond the top tier, which I defined by being projected by FanGraphs readers to make at least $10 million in terms of average annual value. So anyone not in that group was eligible here.

Jake Kostik

My choice would be Jon Lester. While part of it is fueled by nostalgia, I actually believe he would be a good fit for a Red Sox team that may be a contender or a rebuilder. Lester will not command a high salary nor a long contract. At most, I expect him to pull in a two- or three-year pact.

This is the perfect timeline for the Red Sox, who need starting pitching, but also need to avoid spending too much for too long, lest we end up in a situation where we need to trade away another young star who should be a Red Sox for life in Rafael Devers.

Michael Walsh

My favorite mid-tier free agent is utility infielder Tommy La Stella. In an era when hitters are striking out at astronomical rates, La Stella doesn’t conform to the norms. He struck out just 5.3% of the time in 2020, a number that was the best in the majors by a long shot. Not only is La Stella great at putting the ball in play, he can hit for power, walks at a solid clip, and can play three different infield positions. La Stella would provide the Red Sox with a solid bat at second base as well as a potential platoon option at 1st base. Not to mention, he’s always a fun at-bat to watch.

Shelly Verougstraete

A lower free agent target that I would like to see the Red Sox sign this offseason would be Anthony Desclafani. He is only 31 years old and (outside of this past season) has been a pretty decent starter for the Reds. His slider is easily his best pitch and the changeup is also pretty decent. Honestly, what is different between him a Martín Pérez, other than more strikeouts? Give him a chance to starter and if it doesn’t work out, I think he would be great in the bullpen. Win Win!

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds - Game Two Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Mike Carlucci

I’d really, really like to select Eddie Rosario here but he didn’t have an AAV per the FanGraphs tracker. So instead I’ll put my money behind Sean Doolittle. Despite something of a down sea-wait he pitched 7.2 innings? Over 11 appearances and gave up a run in four outings? Let’s just forget 2020. Assuming he’s healthy, which, as a pitcher is always just a hope, Doolittle could help anchor the bullpen and provide a powerful 1-2 punch with Matt Barnes. And with an AAV of just $5 million you’d still have room for Matt Shoemaker to help fill out the rotation if he’s healthy. Two players for the price of one! And both greatly needed.

Phil Neuffer

My real answer is Keone Kela, but I wrote all about him earlier this week so I’ll choose someone else here. As much as I am more interested in the Red Sox building out the pitching staff this year, I am intrigued with the idea of bringing in Jurickson Profar. He might not be the superstar that was promised when he was a highly touted prospect, but he has turned into a pretty solid infielder over the last few years. He could easily fill the gap at second base and he also has the chops to play some outfield, which the Red Sox could use if they don’t bring back Jackie Bradley Jr. or sign another free agent outfielder.

Keaton DeRocher

The two that jump out the most that would just make my heart beam are Kolten Wong and Jurickson Profar, but since the ole bossy boss said pick one, I’ll go with Profar. Second base and outfield depth is an issue for this team and Bloom has himself the proverbial two birds one stone potential with this move. Profar can play every day at second and spell some outfielders, or if they really want to give Arroyo at-bats he can split duties. Still only a young 27, and coming off a string of solid seasons, he may not ever live up to the top prospect pedigree he had in the minors but he can certainly make some noise on this team.

Brady Childs

This by no means can be their only addition this offseason, but Jurickson Profar would fit well as a position-less player. First base, second base, and left field are big holes in the lineup and Profar can rotate between all of those spots in addition to third base. Even in a world where they sign DJ LeMahieu and George Springer, you can plug in Profar four times a week, rotate players in and out of DH, and guarantee players some rest.

You could find several other players with Profar’s flexibility, but he has put it together after an abysmal start to his Major League career. After scraping by with a 71 OPS+ over the parts of four seasons, Profar’s stabilized over the past three seasons with a 101 OPS+. He’s not the Punch and Judy hitter from 2016 anymore and is well worth a spot on this team as a super-utility player.

Bryan Joiner

I’m gonna copy Matt’s article here and say the Sox should sign Garrett Richards. He’s perpetually broken but talented as heck, which is the exact combination that a team looking for bargains should be targeting. Plus, at 31, he’s relatively old, and you know I like those old guys. So what if he’ll get hurt by May? It’s the offseason, baby! Can’t get hurt now. Okay, he could, but just go with it.

Matt Collins

I’ve already written about a bunch of players I like in this category, so I won’t rehash previous arguments. I’ll go with a new name here and highlight César Hernández, who has always been a favorite of mine. He is about as unflashy as it gets performance-wise, but he plays a good second base, gets on base and is a consistently average-to-above-average starter who stays healthy through long seasons. To put it lightly, Boston has been lacking consistency at second base since Dustin Pedroia’s knees started to fail, and even just for my own sanity the idea of consistency at that spot is mouthwatering to me.