• Given the contentious nature of MLB free agency now, these players aren't putting themselves in the best position to cash in this winter.
By Michael Shapiro
August 21, 2019

The free-agent freeze of last season caused a slew of contract extensions in the spring, but there are still a sizable share of players set to enter free agency in 2020. Some will cash in following a strong 2019, with Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon and Astros starter Gerritt Cole potentially approaching $200 million deals. The market won’t be so friendly for all, though, and the days of nine-figure contracts flying around are likely over.

So who could end up on the wrong side of the free agency ledger this winter? Let’s look at four players in danger of a disappointing foray into free agency.

Rick Porcello, SP, Red Sox

Porcello has regressed since winning the Cy Young in 2016. The 30-year-old starter allowed an American League-worst 236 hits and 38 home runs in 2017, and he’s allowed a league-worst 85 earned runs through 25 starts in 2019. Porcello’s 5.49 ERA is the second-worst mark in baseball among pitchers with over 120 innings. His 4.87 FIP is the worst mark of his career. Porcello’s Cy Young season feels like a decade ago, and he is unlikely to be a priority for the Red Sox in the offseason.

The former Tigers starter already cashed in with a four-year, $82 million extension in 2015. His next contract will be markedly smaller after three straight so-so seasons.

Dallas Keuchel, SP, Braves

Perhaps Keuchel is turning the tide after 12 shutout innings in his last two starts. But a pair of strong home outings won’t necessarily reset the market on the former Cy Young winner entering 2020. Keuchel entered Tuesday’s start against the Marlins sporting a 4.97 FIP and a career-worst mark in HR/9 and BB/9. Keuchel allowed the most hits in the American League in 2018, and he’ll enter his age-32 season in 2019. It’s hard to imagine he’ll be a hot commodity on the open market barring an electric postseason. Keuchel likely regrets turning down Houston’s extension offer in 2016.

Todd Frazier, 3B, Mets

Frazier earned a pair of solid contracts over the last three seasons despite middling performance at the plate after back-to-back All-Star years in Cincinnati in 2014 and 2015. Frazier reeled in $12 million with the Yankees in 2017 and $17 million combined in the past two seasons with the Mets. What have the two New York teams received for their contracts with Frazier? Far from spectacular production. Frazier’s .219 batting average since 2017 is the third-worst mark among 163 players with at least 1,200 plate appearances. His .732 OPS ranks 129th of the 163 qualified hitters.

Frazier will still find his way onto an MLB roster in 2020. He plays a solid third base and wields the sought after “veteran presence.” But his days of eight-figure contracts are over. The Mets should look for a more effective option at third. As for Frazier, he’s likely headed toward platoon purgatory or a glorified bench role in 2020.

Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Twins

Schoop sprinted to his first All-Star appearance with the Orioles in 2017, back when Baltimore only lost 87 games en route to its last-place finish in the American League East. The 27-year-old posted a team-best .841 OPS in 2017, and his .503 slugging was better than Mookie Betts, Alex Bregman and teammate Manny Machado. Baltimore appeared to have an offensive cornerstone of the future.

The past two seasons haven’t been as kind to Schoop. He posted a paltry .682 OPS in 2018, and his .266 OBP ranked 275th of 278 qualified hitters. A midseason trade to Milwaukee couldn’t jolt Schoop last season. He’s been only marginally better in the Twins’ powerful lineup this year. Schoop is striking out at a career-worst rate. His slugging remains respectable, albeit not particularly impressive. Schoop once looked like a potential franchise cornerstone, but he’s now a utility infielder without a slate of suitors on the open market. His free agency is destined to be a disappointment.

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