With 2018 fast approaching, everyone has an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start fresh, no matter what has transpired over the past year. That’s especially true for baseball players, who can benefit from having a short memory in such a humbling game.
But sometimes, just having a short memory isn’t enough to bounce back from a disappointing year — a complete change of scenery can do wonders. The following 10 players have each had their fair share of struggles (whether it was just in 2017 or over multiple years), and it wouldn’t be the worst idea to don a new uniform in a different city come Opening Day if the chance arises.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, New York Yankees
This is an interesting situation because the Yankees would love to send outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and at least a portion of the remaining $60-plus million of his contract to another team. He was already headed for more of a reserve role next season, but the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton certainly complicates Ellsbury’s situation further.
Despite all this, the veteran outfielder didn’t seem willing to waive his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a move. His feelings may be changing, though, according to a report from Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, specifically mentioning the San Francisco Giants as a potential fit.
He’s not the player he used to be, but Ellsbury has proven to still be a capable big leaguer, slashing .264/.348/.402 with 7 home runs, 39 RBI, 65 runs scored, and 22 stolen bases through 409 plate appearances last year. That performance was worth 1.6 fWAR, and while his -3 Defensive Runs Saved isn’t a slam dunk in the outfield, it’d be a huge improvement over Denard Span (financial implications aside).
Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Detroit Tigers
When the Tigers signed Jordan Zimmermann to a five-year, $110 million deal a few offseasons ago, the front office knew he had just posted his worst full big league season with the Washington Nationals. That 2015 performance still led to 3.0 fWAR, a 3.66 ERA, and a 3.83 SIERA in 201.2 innings of work.
Suffice to say, things have gone downhill since.
Through his first two years with Detroit — which spans just 265.1 frames — the veteran right-hander has struggled to a 5.60 ERA, with his 5.05 SIERA not painting any better of a picture. He’s also allowed a 40.8% fly-ball rate and 34.8% hard-hit rate, so the 1.46 homers he’s allowed per nine innings shouldn’t be all that surprising.
He could really use a fresh start, but general manager Al Avila will have to get creative if he wants to get value back by moving the remaining $74 million on his contract.
Jurickson Profar, INF, Texas Rangers
Remember when Jurickson Profar was the top prospect in baseball? That was all the way back in 2012, according to Baseball America, but a lot has happened since then. A lackluster MLB debut combined with a shoulder injury not only torpedoed his prospect status, but it also put many barriers up with regard to him actually getting a chance to play.
The middle infielder has been blocked at shortstop for years by Elvis Andrus, and while Rougned Odor just finished the worst 30-homer season this century, the Rangers are committed to the second baseman through at least 2022.
This all led Profar to get just 70 big league plate appearances in 2017, and it didn’t go well — he posted a 40 wRC+ and .242 wOBA off the “strength” of a .501 OPS. He did this while getting time in the field at first base, second base, third base, shortstop, and left field. With three years of team control left before free agency, it’d be huge for him to get consistent playing time at a natural position to see what he’s capable of.
It doesn’t look like he’ll get that in Texas, but they’re also not letting him get that chance anywhere else, either.
Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets
Having Matt Harvey and Profar next to each other is fitting since there was a rumor of a one-for-one swap between the Rangers and New York Mets at the Winter Meetings, but nothing else materialized outside of that.
The Dark Knight has certainly had a tale of two careers mashed into one. In his first 427 innings (2012-15), he posted a 2.53 ERA, 146 ERA+, and 1.00 WHIP with 9.5 strikeouts and 2.0 walks per nine innings. Since then (185.1 innings), those numbers have worsened to 5.78, 71, 1.58, 6.9, and 3.5, respectively.
However, new manager Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland advocated to keep Harvey in Flushing, as they apparently think they can help the former ace revive his career. Let’s hope they’re right, or else the right-hander’s story will stay sad as he approaches free agency.
Randal Grichuk, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis has a lot of capable outfielders within their organization, both on the big league roster and in the minors. They did just ship Stephen Piscotty out to the Oakland Athletics, but they also just acquired Marcell Ozuna, so the logjam still exists.
The allure of Randal Grichuk’s power is certainly there — he’s enjoyed two consecutive years of 20-plus homers, while his 42.7% fly-ball rate and 40.2% hard-hit rate from this past season help support that — but a lack of plate discipline has gotten him into trouble. He’s spent considerable time in Triple-A each of the past two seasons. Both of those campaigns had gotten off to very slow starts before picking things up in the second half.
It’s hard to be overly productive with a walk rate below 6.0% and a strikeout rate hovering around 30.0% since the start of 2016. The Cardinals have certainly tried to get him on track, but with such a glut of outfielders and not a lot of true impact bats, it’s probably better to send him packing for something they view as more valuable.
Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves
Julio Teheran’s big league career in Atlanta has been a bit of a roller coaster, don’t you think?
Durability hasn’t been a problem — he’s made 30-plus starts each year since 2013 — it’s just the results that have fluctuated. After two straight years of being worth at least 2.5 fWAR in 2013 and 2014, he regressed to 1.1 fWAR in 2015, which was accompanied by a declining strikeout rate (20.3%) and ballooning walk rate (8.7%).
But then he bounced back the following year — his 22.0% strikeout rate and 5.4% walk rate were much more in line with career norms, while his performance was worth 3.2 fWAR. Unfortunately, this trend of one good year and one bad year continued in 2017. His 18.6% strikeout rate and 8.9% walk rate were both career worsts while he accounted for just 1.1 fWAR.
What was even more startling was his performance at SunTrust Park. Teheran posted a 5.86 ERA at home, while hitters crushed him to the tune of a .351 wOBA. It was much different on the road, where he posted a 3.14 ERA and .308 wOBA allowed.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
It’s been all downhill for Maikel Franco’s offensive production since posting a 129 wRC+ and .360 wOBA in 335 plate appearances as a rookie during 2015. His wRC+ and wOBA have declined steadily in each of the past two seasons, settling in at 76 and .292, respectively, in 2017. And although he’s accumulated more than 1,200 plate appearances since 2016, his cumulative 0.9 fWAR hasn’t matched that rookie performance (1.5 fWAR).
Franco has seen his name thrown around the rumor mill this winter, and it makes sense given the circumstances. If he does stay in Philly for 2018, this could potentially be his last shot to prove he should be a part of the organization’s future before they have a shot to pursue Manny Machado in free agency.
Chris Tillman, SP, Free Agent
Hampered by lackluster starting pitching in recent years, the Baltimore Orioles could almost always count on Chris Tillman. He’d been about a two-win pitcher since becoming a full-time starter in 2013, but this past year was not good by any stretch.
Tillman started the year on the disabled list, but eventually limped to a 7.84 ERA and 5.76 SIERA through 93 innings. The righty also wasn’t helped by an unsightly 14.2% strikeout rate and 11.5% walk rate during this time. The good news is that since he’s a free agent, he has the chance to find that fresh start on what will almost definitely be a one-year deal to rebuild his value.
The problem is that Baltimore — who is looking for multiple rotation arms this winter — could potentially explore a reunion with the hurler. It’s probably better to just cut things off and move on, though.
Yasmani Grandal, C, Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s hard to find solid offensive value at catcher, which is part of the reason why Yasmani Grandal’s two consecutive years of 20-plus homers stand out. What else is noticeable, though, is that his wRC+ took a step back (121 in ’16 to 102 in ’17), as did his plate discipline (14.0% walk rate in ’16, 8.7% in ’17).
Grandal also had a tough time getting on the field late in the year, as it looked like Austin Barnes leapfrogged him on the depth chart just in time to monopolize postseason playing time. This potentially leaves the Dodgers with the option to send him packing, which is a distinct possibility since there are other teams out there — like the Washington Nationals — who could use an upgrade behind the plate.
Jake Odorizzi, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Since the Rays finally waved goodbye to Evan Longoria earlier this week, why should they stop there? Jake Odorizzi has seen his name in trade rumors for a number of years, and maybe a change of scenery can help him get his career back on track.
Odorizzi struggled to career-worst marks in ERA (4.14), SIERA (4.90), homers per nine innings (1.88), strikeout rate (21.0%), walk rate (10.1%), fWAR (0.1), and innings pitched (143.1) when looking at his career since 2014 (when he became a full-time starter). Meanwhile, we’ve seen his fly-ball rate and hard-hit rate steadily grow while his ground-ball rate gets increasingly worse.
Maybe all the trade rumors are finally catching up with him, but one thing we can sure about is that getting a fresh start on a team he knows that actually wants to hold onto him for a little while could do some good.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at FanDuel Insider, numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s a lover of all baseball, especially the Mets.