With the 2016 World Series getting underway Tuesday, the offseason is well underway for the remaining 28 teams.

If you’re not members of the Cleveland Indians or Chicago Cubs organizations, the focus has shifted to the future in a big way. The Cubs and Indians will both have their own free-agent issues to work out this winter, but they’re focused on more important things for the next week-plus.

The 2016 free-agent crop is led by a pack of hitters and is almost historically devoid of elite pitching talent. It’s very unlikely we see any nine-figure deals handed out to a starter, though there are a few bullpen guys who might approach big league records. They will be joined by a handful of solid power hitters who are unfortunately reaching the market at a time of a power surge.

As for the non-elites, here’s a look at a few underrated options in free agency.


Rich Hill, P, Los Angeles Dodgers

Hill’s short dalliance with the Dodgers did not go entirely as expected. He spent most of his post-Oakland tenure dealing with a lingering blister that limited the number and length of his starts. When Hill was in games, he was effective—just not enough to warrant Cy Young contention as he had earlier in the campaign.

Hill started three postseason games with progressively better results. He was hit up for four runs in 4.1 innings in his first start against the Washington Nationals but gave up only one earned over his final 8.2 innings of postseason work.

The free-agent-to-be resuscitated his career in 2015 with the Boston Red Sox and seemed open to a potential reunion.

“They gave me a great opportunity to prove myself again in the big leagues and I took that opportunity and made the most of it,” Hill said, per Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald. “There’s a lot of things that, and people there, in Boston, that are responsible for helping me develop into a better pitcher. And that is something that you know, I’ll never forget.

“Whether it was with (director of pitching analysis and development) Brian Bannister or (pitching coach) Carl Willis. Just the combination of those two guys. And also, just the overall opportunity that I did get there, I’ll never forget. Definitely translated over and started something for me that gave me a blueprint on moving forward.”

The Red Sox seem like a natural location for Hill, whose free agency will be interesting to watch. Heading into his age-37 season, no smart team is going to give him a long-term deal. The last two years have been his only real run of sustained MLB success.

But Boston’s staff is comfortable with him, and he could be a relative steal on a two-year contract.

Prediction: 3-year deal with Boston


Michael Saunders, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

Saunders looked to be earning himself a massive payday over the first half of the season, breaking out as a power-hitting outfielder in the Jays lineup.

Then things…fell completely apart. Like, not partially apart. Utterly and completely. Like the foundation of an old house crumbling in an earthquake.

After posting a .298/.372/.551 slash line with 16 home runs and 42 runs batted in before the break, Saunders saw almost every one of his offensive numbers cut in half the rest of the way. Literally. He hit .178/.282/.357 with eight homers and 16 runs batted in during the second half. It was perhaps the biggest downturn of any everyday player in baseball.

A Blue Jays executive categorized Saunders’ second half as “horrible” when talking to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball. It’s to the point the team is reportedly considering not even tendering him a qualifying offer in free agency.

While that would be an understandable move given the $17 million price tag, it opens the possibility that Saunders will find himself in the bargain bin. He averaged about two wins above replacement from 2012-14 with the Seattle Mariners, per FanGraphs, before injuries cut his first season in Toronto short.

Had he been able to put up even a below-average second half, Saunders would have passed the two-win number with room to spare in 2016. He’s a solid bat who doesn’t hurt you defensively and can plug in at the No. 6 hole without much of a problem.

For some reason, I think Saunders has Oakland written all over him.

Prediction: 2-year deal with Athletics


Mark Melancon, P, Washington Nationals

Most of the focus on relief pitching will rest on the shoulders of Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. They’re the big-ticket items here, the anchors of the bullpens that comprised the National League finalists. If it weren’t for Chapman’s character concerns, he would have had a real chance at setting some records with his contract.

Ranked somewhere deep behind both of those men on most free-agent lists is Mark Melancon, who has quietly been one of the most consistent relievers in baseball the last four seasons. Melancon doesn’t do his work with sent-from-the-gods physical prowess but with a good repertoire of pitches and intelligence on the mound.

Splitting his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals, Melancon converted 47 of 51 save opportunities with a 1.64 ERA. He has an MLB-high 96 saves over the last two seasons.

Yet the Boston Globe‘s Nick Cafardo reported that some teams still view Melancon as a non-closer—someone who they could use to fill the seventh/eighth-inning roles. Melancon would be overqualified for that job and would likely command closer salary for any such arrangement. But there’s no one suggesting such nonsense for Chapman or Jansen.

That’s good news for the Nationals, who should and will make Melancon a free-agent priority. They spent most of their first half holding their breath in the ninth inning with Jonathan Papelbon on the mound. Melancon’s acquisition was critical in springing them to a division championship.

Nats management aren’t known as penny pinchers, so this should get done.

Prediction: 4-year deal with Nationals

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