As we head into the new calendar year, the free-agent market has been severely depleted. According to MLB Trade Rumors, 47 of their top 50 free agents (and many of their honorable mentions) have signed, leaving just a handful of quality players left on the market.
Let’s take a look and see if any of those remaining free agents could make the Dodgers a better team for 2023.
33. Jurickson Profar
Profar isn’t a superstar but he succeeds in enough different ways to be useful. FanGraphs pegged him as being worth 2.5 wins above replacement in 2022. It’s also possible that the upcoming shift limitations benefit his contact-based approach.
While Profar has played many positions in his career, he’s essentially just a left-fielder at this point. As MLBTR points out, the defensive metrics are split on him, and it’s unclear whether he’ll hit enough to justify an everyday job in left field. And without defensive flexibility, his value as a bench player goes way down.
39. Andrew Chafin
Over the past six years, Chafin has been one of the best relievers in the sport, with his left-handedness only making him more appealing. He has a 3.05 ERA in that time, striking out 26.9% of batters faced, walking 8.8% of them and getting grounders on 48.7% of balls in play.
Chafin could definitely help the Dodgers, but MLBTR is prediction a two-year, $18 million contract for the lefty. That’s more than L.A. is likely to pay for a 33-year-old reliever, and probably more than they should. It’s unclear whether his remaining availability is a sign that he might not make that much, but if his asking price comes down, Los Angeles could get involved (especially if the Trevor Bauer situation makes getting under the luxury tax an impossibility anyway).
41. Michael Wacha
Wacha, 31, posted ERAs of 4.76, 6.62 and 5.05 in the previous three seasons but got that mark down to 3.32 in 2022. That was encouraging but might not be entirely sustainable. His .260 BABIP and 80.3% strand rate surely helped him offset a pedestrian 20.2% strikeout rate and 41% ground ball rate. He did avoid the free passes, however, limiting them to a 6% rate, and was in the 70th percentile in terms of hard hit rate.
The only way the Dodgers would be interested in Wacha is if they think they’ve identified something they think they can fix (or at least maintain his 2022 performance). MLBTR is predicting a two-year, $16 million deal, and that sounds more like a team paying for his 2022 performance than a low-risk project.
Honorable Mention: Elvis Andrus
Andrus, 34, was miserable at the plate from 2018 to 2021 but is coming off a nice bounceback. He hit 17 home runs in 2022 and finished with a batting line of .249/.303/.404 for a wRC+ of 105. He also stole 18 bases and was considered an above-average defensive shortstop by Ultimate Zone Rating and Outs Above Average.
Andrus isn’t the answer at starting shortstop. He could be a decent option as a backup utility infielder if they think he can play other positions, but he’s probably just not a fit.
Honorable Mention: Johnny Cueto
Cueto, 37 in February, is coming off his strongest season in years. He tossed 158 1/3 innings for the White Sox in 2022, his highest such tally since 2016. His 3.35 ERA was also his lowest since that time, outside of a 3.23 mark over a nine-start showing in 2018. His 15.7% strikeout rate this year was well below average but he kept his walks to a 5.1% rate and was good at limiting hard contact.
Cueto is an interesting option if the Dodgers decide to go with a six-man rotation. The price would have to be right, and he’d likely just be holding down a spot until Bobby Miller and/or Gavin Stone are ready at some point, but they could do worse than Cueto at the right price.
Honorable Mention: Zack Greinke
Greinke is now 39 and isn’t the ace he once was, but he’s still got a knack for keeping runs off the board. He posted a 3.68 ERA across 137 innings and 26 starts in 2022. His 12.5% strikeout rate was barely half the league average but he kept walks down to a 4.6% rate and had a 60th percentile barrel rate.
All the words I typed about Cueto above? They mostly apply to Greinke, too, with the added benefit that Zack is likable.
Among the semi-big-name free agents, that’s about the only options left for the Dodgers. None of them seem extremely likely, but there are some interesting possibilities.
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