What Are the Best Matches for Craig Kimbrel, Dallas Keuchel and Other Remaining Free Agents?

With a host of strong, veteran free agents like Craig Kimbrel still available, what are the best fits for the top remaining players?
Publish date:

For every team except the A's and Mariners, Opening Day is just nine days away. Shockingly, two marquee free agents and a host of proven veteran players remain without teams as spring training winds down. It's a sad state of affairs for the veteran big leaguer, but SI MLB writers Jon Tayler and Gabriel Baumgaertner identify their ideal landing spots for the top remaining free agents.

Craig Kimbrel: Braves

Lots of teams could use Kimbrel, including his old one in Boston, whose bullpen is full of questionable options. But a reunion with his other former squad makes the most sense, given that Atlanta has plenty of payroll space—at $109 million, it ranks just 20th in the majors and is years away from the luxury tax threshold—and needs relief help. Arodys Vizcaino is untrustworthy in the ninth, and with A.J. Minter hurt, depth would help, too. — Jon Tayler

Dallas Keuchel: Braves

A prediction: if the Braves don’t sign Keuchel, they won’t make the playoffs in 2019. The defending NL East champions enter the season with ace Mike Foltynewicz battling elbow trouble and four inconsistent starters behind him. Sean Newcomb finished 2019 with a 5.77 ERA and .281 (!) batting average against over his last nine starts; Kevin Gausman pitched reasonably well after arriving from Baltimore, but has surrendered at least 26 homers in three straight seasons; Julio Teheran set a career-high in walk rate (4.3 BB/9) and career-low in strikeout-to-walk rate (1.93); Touki Toussaint, while a tantalizing prospect, enters 2019 with four career MLB starts. Keuchel’s dependable ground-ball rate and reliable arm (145 starts over his last five seasons) is exactly what Atlanta needs to stabilize its rotation. In an era of high strikeouts and launch-angle swings, Keuchel’s methodical approach and soft-contact rates will play well as more players try selling out for home runs. If the Braves don’t sign him, they shouldn’t be taken seriously as 2019 title contenders. — Gabriel Baumgaertner

Evan Gattis: Indians

Gattis isn’t much more than a power bat: He doesn’t take walks, has no speed and is a brutal defender wherever you put him. Still, his ursine strength is a good fit for any AL team needing help at the designated hitter spot, and Cleveland fits that bill. Right now, DH belongs to the resurrected Hanley Ramirez, who was terrible in 2018 before being cut early in the year, while bottom half of the lineup is a mess of weak hitters. Gattis may not do much for the Indians, but he’d be a worthy gamble. — Jon Tayler

Bartolo Colón: Marlins

At 45 years old and coming off a second straight dismal season, this is probably the end of the line for Big Sexy. But that won’t stop me from extending his career to a 22nd year. To that end, Miami’s rotation is short on experience and talent and could use someone of Colón’s stature to eat some innings and teach the kids a thing or two. And it would make the company softball game that much more fun with Colón taking on Derek Jeter (who hit .429/.462/.612 against him) one last time. — Jon Tayler

James Shields: Braves

The homer-prone Shields needs a spacious park if he wants to pitch a 14th season in the bigs, and he’d make the most sense as an innings-eater on a contender or a young squad. Oakland would be a good fit, but the A’s seem determined to get by on relievers alone. Let’s put Big Game James in Atlanta and homer-unfriendly SunTrust Park. He’ll fill out a thin Braves rotation and be a placeholder until that franchise’s crop of talented young starters matures—and then a veteran teacher for all those fresh arms. — Jon Tayler

Edwin Jackson: Angels

If the Angels are trusting Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill to hold down rotation spots, then they may as well glance at Jackson, who started the Wild Card Game for Oakland last year after posting a 3.33 ERA over 17 starts. The A’s were 14-3 when he started, and he allowed more than three earned runs just three times. He’s not a guy that should anchor any rotation, but he will provide dependable depth. — Gabriel Baumgaertner

Denard Span: Nationals

Span was surprisingly solid last season, hitting .261/.341/.419 for the Rays and Mariners at age 34. He doesn’t have the legs to be a regular centerfielder any more, but as a fill-in option and bench bat/pinch-hitter, he can still make an impact. Washington just lost reserve outfielder Michael A. Taylor for a while, and penciled-in starter Adam Eaton is hardly the picture of good health. A reunion with Span would help paper over a hole there. — Jon Tayler

Logan Morrison: Yankees  

Morrison may have had the worst 2018 of any former MLB regular. After logging a 133 OPS+ with 38 homers for the Rays in 2017, Morrison lost 60 (!) points off of his OPS+ after joining the Twins in 2018 and finished with a .186/.276/.368 slash line in 95 games with the Twins. New York could give him a minor league contract as a hybrid OF/1B bench piece if Aaron Hicks’s injury is worse than originally anticipated and neither Greg Bird nor Clint Frazier do enough in the spring to merit full-time roster spots. At only 31, Morrison will latch on somewhere on a non-guaranteed deal. — Gabriel Baumgaertner

Austin Jackson: Orioles

Sometimes, a trusty veteran is what a losing team needs. The Orioles have a young centerfielder in Cedric Mullins who will likely battle some major slumps and lapses in confidence in his first MLB season. A veteran like Jackson can guide youngsters the way that Curtis Granderson will for the Marlins’ young outfielders and Adam Jones will in Arizona. Jackson is still just 32 years old and a capable defender even if he’s all but finished at the plate. Baltimore won’t be winning much in 2019, so it’d be foolish to ruin the confidence of unprepared young players instead of relying on veterans like Jackson to help spell the youngsters. — Gabriel Baumgaertner