RosterResource Free Agency Roundup: AL West

In the third of a six-part series — you can see the AL East here and the AL Central here — I’ll be highlighting each team’s most notable free agents and how it could fill the resulting void on the roster. A player’s rank on our recently released Top 50 Free Agents list, along with Kiley McDaniel’s contract estimates from that exercise, are listed where relevant. In some cases, the team already has a capable replacement ready to step in. In others, it’s clear the team will either attempt to re-sign their player or look to the trade or free agent markets for help. The remaining cases are somewhere in between, with in-house candidates who might be the answer, but aren’t such obvious everyday players to keep the team from shopping around for better options.

Here’s a look at the American League West.

Houston Astros | Depth Chart | Payroll

Gerrit Cole, SP
FanGraphs Top 50 Free Agent Ranking: 1
Kiley McDaniel’s contract projection: 7 years, $242M

Wade Miley, SP
FanGraphs Top 50 Free Agent Ranking: 32
Kiley McDaniel’s contract projection: 1 year, $9M

It would be impossible to replace Cole, who might just be the best pitcher on the planet right now. With a projected payroll that is currently above $200 million for next season, the Astros do not appear to be in a strong position to re-sign the 29-year-old. But that doesn’t put them in desperation mode, by any means.

The return of Lance McCullers Jr., who missed all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery, will help to offset the potential loss of Cole and give the Astros a formidable trio to lead their rotation along with Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. Pitching depth is also strong with Jose Urquidy in line for a rotation spot and several others capable of helping out in 2020. But considering that Verlander and Greinke will be 37 and 36, respectively, on Opening Day, and McCullers hasn’t pitched in a game since last October, they aren’t expected to stand pat this offseason.

Robinson Chirinos, C
FanGraphs Top 50 Free Agent Ranking: 43
Kiley McDaniel’s contract projection: 1 year, $9M

Even if rookie Garrett Stubbs is in the catching mix in 2020, he would probably not be expected to carry the lion’s share of the catching workload for the Astros. A reunion with Jason Castro, who played with the team from 2010-2016, could be plausible, although the 32-year-old will likely require a multi-year contract.

If they feel that Stubbs is close enough to becoming their starting catcher, meaning sometime prior to mid-2021, it could make more sense to just bring back Chirinos or Martin Maldonado and ease Stubbs into the job.

Will Harris, RP
FanGraphs Top 50 Free Agent Ranking: 23
Kiley McDaniel’s contract projection: 2 years, $20M

Of the four Astros relief pitchers on the free agent market — Collin McHugh, Hector Rondon, and Joe Smith are the others — it’s the 35-year-old Harris who enters the offseason with his stock on the rise. With setup man Ryan Pressly due $8.75 million in 2020 and closer Roberto Osuna expected to exceed $10 million in arbitration, the Astros could choose to rely on their young pitchers to fill the void left by Harris’ departure. Josh James and Bryan Abreu are the two leading candidates to fill integral late-inning roles in 2020. Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock, both under team control for 2020, are also options for setup roles, given that neither is far removed from stellar seasons out of the bullpen.

Total WAR: 12.8

Los Angeles Angels | Depth Chart | Payroll

Kole Calhoun, OF

Bringing back Calhoun for $14 million — the Angels declined his club option and paid him a $1 million buyout — would’ve been perfectly reasonable after he posted a 108 wRC+ with a career-best 63 extra-base hits in 2019. But the Angels could be clearing the way to add a bigger name to their roster.

That player wouldn’t necessarily replace Calhoun in right field. Brian Goodwin is deserving of regular at-bats after he posted a 109 wRC+ with 17 homers in 2019 and top prospect Jo Adell could force his way to the majors in 2020. The money saved by allowing Calhoun to become a free agent could be reinvested in a staff ace or a star third baseman.

Total WAR: 2.5

Oakland Athletics | Depth Chart | Payroll

Tanner Roark, SP
FanGraphs Top 50 Free Agent Ranking: 28
Kiley McDaniel’s contract projection: 1 year, $10M

Homer Bailey, SP
FanGraphs Top 50 Free Agent Ranking: 50
Kiley McDaniel’s contract projection: 1 year, $7M

Brett Anderson, SP

As long as Sean Manaea is back to full health, Jesus Luzardo is ready to step into the rotation, and Frankie Montas can pick up where he left off before an 80-game suspension derailed what was looking like a breakout season — he was really good in his one post-suspension start — the A’s starting rotation enters the offseason in better shape than they’ve been in a while. In fact, Oakland might no longer be a preferred landing spot for a veteran like Anderson looking to resurrect his career as has been the case for the past two seasons.

Jake Diekman, RP

Acquired in late July from the Royals, Diekman gave the A’s an experienced lefty to complement Liam Hendriks and a bevy of right-handed setup men in the late-innings. The obvious replacement for that role is A.J. Puk, a top starting pitching prospect who was eased back into action as a reliever after recovery from Tommy John surgery and finished the season in the A’s bullpen.

If the plan is for Puk to return to a starting role in 2020, the A’s could prioritize re-signing Diekman or another lefty reliever like Drew Pomeranz, who had two solid seasons with the A’s in 2014 and 2015. The 30-year-old is one of the top relievers on the free agent market after a dominant two-month stint with the Brewers to close out the season.

Total WAR: 4.0

Seattle Mariners | Depth Chart | Payroll

Felix Hernandez/Wade LeBlanc/Tommy Milone, SP

Only Marco Gonzales and Yusei Kikuchi are penciled into the 2020 rotation, with Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield the leading candidates to fill what is expected to be at least one open spot. How many open spots there will be depends on how much general manager Jerry Dipoto believes in that duo, in addition to a few others who could help out in 2020. In all likelihood, he’ll add two starting pitchers and let the youngsters battle it out for the No. 5 spot.

Total WAR: -0.3

Texas Rangers | Depth Chart | Payroll

Hunter Pence, OF/DH

Signed to a minor league deal shortly before the start of Spring Training, Pence celebrated his return to Texas — he was born in Fort Worth, attended Arlington High School, and was drafted by the Houston Astros out of the University of Texas at Arlington — by posting a 128 wRC+ with 18 homers in 316 plate appearances. As long as he’s capable of playing a corner outfield spot occasionally during his age-37 season, Pence could still be a very good fit in a left-handed-heavy Rangers’ lineup.

Shawn Kelley, RP

Prior to an arm injury that temporarily knocked him out of action in late July, the 35-year-old Kelley was having a strong season for the Rangers with a 3.09 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 9.0 K/9, and 11 saves in 32 appearances. He struggled badly, however, after returning in early August.

The veteran right-hander has already said that he’ll retire if he doesn’t return to the Rangers in 2020. The performance of relievers Emmanuel Clase, Brett Martin, and Rafael Montero, who each did a fine job bridging the gap to closer Jose Leclerc late in the season, probably made the team’s recent decision to decline Kelley’s $2.75 club option for 2020 much easier.

Total WAR: 1.6

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