Free agents with the most to gain by walking (part one of two)
Lost amid the speculation of where Cole Hamels, Josh Hamilton, and Zack Greinke will end up next season are a handful of “lesser” players. Let’s take a look at a few and match them with a team they would fit into seamlessly next spring. First up: The hitters.
Mike Napoli – A big part of the Texas Rangers offensive power, he is tied for first among all catchers with 11 dingers. However, this year’s signing of Yu Darvish and the Rangers foreseeable attempts to keep Hamilton, as well as Colby Lewis, might not leave enough to satisfy a catcher less than one season removed from a career year. A city where Napoli would be warmly welcomed is Chicago, where the Cubs are stuck with the declining Geovany Soto. In the offensive-powered National League Central, it requires more than a once-thought-of savior, to come away with the division title. And Theo Epstein is willing to pay the most extravagant of amounts to clinch that title.
Edwin Encarnacion – Chose a great year to have his breakout season. Unfortunately, the Toronto Blue Jays are still a couple of years from being in contention for the playoffs. And with the Jays focus on pitching, Encarnacion would command more on the open market. He is perfectly suited to man first base for the Washington Nationals. Adam LaRoche, who currently holds the position, will also be a free agent, and he does not have the power potential nor base running ability of Encarnacion.
Melky Cabrera – Is the man with the second highest batting average in all of baseball. The runs and RBIs he has provided this season are a big reason for the San Francisco Giants success. Cabrera can become an even better batsman if he joins a team which can provide decent protection for him in the lineup. As the Giants are nowhere close to providing such a service, the best possible move is to rejoin the New York Yankees. Nick Swisher will be a free agent, Brett Gardner is beset by injuries and the Yankees are lacking the clutch hits of the last few years. Cabrera has the opportunity to finally become one of the stars in the Big Apple.