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MLB Free Agency: Designated Hitter Market


October 16, 2016

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Welcome to the seventh installment of INSC’s MLB Free Agency Positional Breakdown! To start things off we will be taking a closer look at this year’s crop of free agent designated hitters. We will be taking a look at the list of names, what they bring to the table, where they could end up and which teams could be looking for DH help.

So in order for us to get into any sort of analysis, we are going to need a list of upcoming free agents. It just so happens that mlbtraderumors.com formulates such a list every season. If you would like to access their full list of upcoming free agents, you can take a look right here. From that full list, here are the designated hitters who are poised to be free agents at the conclusion of this season’s World Series!

Pedro Alvarez (30)
Carlos Beltran (39)
Edwin Encarnacion (34)
Ryan Howard (37) — $23MM club option with a $10MM buyout
Adam Lind (33)
Kendrys Morales (34) — $11MM mutual option with a $1.5MM buyout
Brandon Moss (33)
Carlos Santana (31) — $12MM club option with a $1.2MM buyout
Mark Trumbo (31)

Certainly an interesting list of names  here. I do want to start by saying a few of the bigger names have been covered in previous installments. So if you wish to read about Edwin Encarnacion, Brandon Moss or Adam Lind, you can check out the first base market article here. And if Mark Trumbo is the man that has caught your attention, head on over to the outfield market piece here!

Now that still leaves us with some interesting names. One of those names recently announced he will be making his return for his age 40 season. You can check out a tweet below before we get into further detail.

So Carlos Beltran will be back. Technically he can still play the outfield, but at his age, it is wise for him to stick to the DH role. Not having to play defense and run all over the outfield will help his knees as the season wears on. This past season he did play 69 games in the outfield, but 73 as the designated hitter. And despite being 39, he had a very nice season between the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers. He hit 29 home runs, batted .295 and drove in 93. Given his age I would venture to guess he gets a one year deal with some sort of option, likely mutual or player. And given he will need some DH time, an AL team is obviously going to be where he should end up. A reunion with the Rangers is certainly in the cards. If not I would expect him to go to a contender, with the Red Sox, Royals,Astros, Orioles and Blue Jays as potential fits.

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The next name I want to cover is a man who likely does not get to the open market because of his option. As interesting it would be to see Carlos Santana as a free agent this winter, the Cleveland Indians are pretty much a lock to pick up his 12 million dollar option. A guy who sometimes serves as the teams lead-off hitter should find himself back in Cleveland in 2017.

Kendrys Morales also has an option. His is a mutual option, and he likely could top 11 million on the open market. If he does opt out, then the Royals have the option of extending the 17 million dollar qualifying offer. If they do, he could except and he would have already gained a six million dollar raise. If the team does not offer the qualifying offer, Morales’ market would likely grow, as teams would not have to give up any form of draft pick compensation. He hit 30 homers in 2016, and teams are always looking for a guy with that type of power. The Royals are looking to shake things up this offseason following a disappointing 2016, so his return to Kansas City is far from a given. All the teams in on Beltran would likely be in on Morales as well, and you can likely add the White Sox and Angels into the mix as potential options as well.

The remaining two names on the list are two guys who likely will not draw too much buzz this winter. Ryan Howard is a lock to have his option declined, and he will not be returning to Philadelphia. As he enters his age 37 season, Howard is coming off a season with 25 home runs and a poor .196 average. He only managed to drive home 59 runs, and slugged .453. His power is really the only reason a team would have interest. Then there is Pedro Alvarez, who will be 30 next year. He managed to hit .249 to go along with 22 home runs and a .504 slugging percentage. Given his age and former top prospect status, any team looking to gamble on a power bat should certainly choose Alvarez over Howard. Teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners and the Chicago White Sox could become potential suitors for both men.

Almost any team in the American League could always use an extra power bat. That likely means any of the 15 AL teams could find themselves involved on any number of these players. Teams like the Yankees, who are likely to have their DH slot filled because of an overflow at one position (Brian McCann and Gary Sanchez as catchers) may be exceptions. But even in those cases, it only takes one trade to clear up a spot. Plus the Yankees could still find themselves in on someone like Beltran or Trumbo, as they can play them somewhere other than the designated hitter slot.

Be sure to check back tomorrow when we get away from offense and move to the mound to go over the starting pitchers market! If you have not already, check out the Positional Breakdown Series Preview page to see what date we will look at each position, with links available upon the release of those articles. You can check that page out right here.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com