Veteran Values to Target in Win-Now Mode

Martin Sekulski looks at five veteran players to target this offseason

With the dawning of each offseason, dynasty owners are tasked with reviewing their current roster and seeking opportunities to improve. The logical first step is to target young players with plenty of tread on the tires to acquire on the cheap for the duration of their careers. But often it’s the cagey veterans who are more accessible, via trade or the waiver wire, who prove to be the most impactful pickups. Let’s identify five players you should consider adding to a roster that’s ready to win it all right now!


J.P. Crawford, SS (SEA)


The year is 2023, and we are now ten years removed from JP Crawford being a first-round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. The Phillies selected Crawford, a prep shortstop from California, 16th overall in a draft class headlined by RHP Mark Appel and a young third baseman from the University of San Diego named Kris Bryant. If you evaluate that draft class, you can argue Crawford was the second-best player selected in the first round. The lone caveat is that Aaron Judge was taken in the compensatory round. According to Perfect Game, John Paul (JP) Crawford’s scouting report looked like this:

“Very projectable athlete who does everything on the field effortlessly will be scary good if he gains strength while maintaining athletic looseness.”

It took Crawford eight seasons, four in the minors and four in the majors, to reach that potential. In the 2021 season, Crawford played 160 games for the Mariners, scoring 89 runs and hitting .273. His performance gave the Mariners hope that they’d found their shortstop and gave Crawford the playing time he needed to shine. In 2023, Crawford broke out, posting career highs in HR (19), Runs (94), and RBI (65). Crawford also set career marks in WRC+ (134), OBP (.380), SLG (.438), and walk rate (14.7%). Now entering his age-29 season, Crawford is a legitimate fantasy option at SS and middle-infield. So what changed to make Crawford jump from a middle-of-the-road, unrosterable shortstop to a sneaky value in your dynasty leagues?

Let’s start with the obvious. Crawford got a full run at shortstop, and with playing time comes opportunity. Over the past three years, Crawford has averaged 150 games per season, a far cry from the 65 he averaged from 2018-2020. His walk rate has climbed by at least 3% per season since 2021, reaching the 14.7% we discussed previously. Crawford’s strikeout rate has steadily fallen from nearly 25% in his early career to around 19% on average (as low as 13.3% in 2022). His exit velocities, HardHit%, and Barrel rates are not impressive, but Crawford consistently posts elite in-zone contact rates and gives himself a chance to reach base. Speaking of getting on base, Crawford is third at his position since 2021 with a .352 OBP, trailing only Xander Bogaerts and Corey Seager.

Crawford is not a flashy, high-upside play in fantasy, but he provides stability for your roster. Crawford is a set-and-forget player who hits atop a good lineup with a batting average that won’t kill you. I love Crawford in all formats, with a bump in points leagues due to his high OBP skills.


Wilmer Flores, 1B/2B/3B (SFG)


It was July 30th, 2015. 24-year-old infielder Wilmer Flores, filling in for an injured David Wright, stood at third base at Shea Stadium with tears streaming down his face. During the Mets’ at-bat the previous half inning, Flores discovered he was being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for star outfielder Carlos Gomez. Flores, a longtime Mets farmhand, was devastated by the news, and his emotions flooded out. The Gomez deal fell apart, and Flores spent another three seasons with the Mets before they declined his option. Fast forward to 2023, and that same player, Wilmer Flores, should now be on your radar as an impact player in fantasy.

Flores was the Mets’ top prospect entering the 2012 season and played well in five seasons for the Mets. His best season was 2017, when he hit .271 with 18 homers and 52 RBI, playing in 128 games. Flores spent one season with Arizona in 2019 before being shipped out to the Giants, where he’s played the last five seasons. Since his move to the Bay Area, Flores has provided stability and versatility for the Giants, playing multiple positions, and averaging 139 games per year. Flores, like Crawford, is a jack of all trades and master of none.

Flores doesn’t excel in any fantasy category but is a prototypical accumulator. Last season, Flores hit a career-high 23 home runs while batting .284 and posting a .355 OBP. He consistently has strikeout rates well under 20%, ranking in the top 10 percentile across the league. Flores’ power output is consistent, posting double-digit homers in eight of the last nine seasons, while his Barrel% has increased annually over the past three seasons.

The top-carrying trait for Flores in fantasy is his positional flexibility. Depending on your league settings, Flores is eligible at first, second, and third base, with corner and middle infield eligibility in roto leagues. His positional flexibility allows you to take a risk at one of those positions while building your roster, knowing you have a safe floor at the replacement level. Flores is one of my favorite targets to supplement high-upside stars with injury concerns, like Royce Lewis, Trevor Story, or Brandon Lowe. Flores plays almost every day and is firmly in the middle of the Giants’ lineup, making him a great value in all formats.


Marcus Stroman, SP (FA)


I can already sense people jumping through their computer screens seeing Stro’s name on this list but hear me out. Entering his age-33 season, Stroman has been a model of consistency since 2019, when he started the season in Toronto before his trade to the Mets. Over four seasons, Stroman has logged 638 1/3 innings, 36 wins, and maintained an ERA under 3.50. Keep in mind that Stroman opted out of the 2020 COVID-shortened season.

We know what Stroman is, a pitcher who minimizes damage by limiting home runs by keeping the ball on the ground (56.7% GB rate). He doesn’t provide high strikeout totals but offers solid ratios by limiting his walks. The walk rate (9.0%) did climb in 2023 but historically hovers around 7%. Stroman battled rib and finger injuries last year, but you can pencil him in for 150+ innings each season.

If you’re banking on Stroman to be an ace, don’t. But if you need stability and consistency throughout a season, he is your guy. I like to pair Stroman with volatile performers like Dylan Cease or Cristian Javier. Those guys can get you the strikeouts you need to compete in the category, while Stroman will provide solid ERA, ratios, and possibly win potential in a new environment.

The most intriguing part of Stroman is that he’s a free agent, and his landing spot could help his value even further. As a groundball pitcher, he was aided by plus defenders like Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner in Chicago. Defensive support will be the key for Stroman, so use caution once he signs. Assuming he finds a favorable team with serviceable defenders, Stroman provides fantastic value in your leagues.


Seth Lugo, SP (FA)


Lugo is another starting pitcher available on the free agent market this winter. Fresh off his first season as a starter since 2017, Lugo has made a name for himself and is due for a payday. Lugo spent seven seasons with the Mets from 2016-2022 and spent last season with the Padres on a one-year, team-friendly deal. Once considered among the top long relievers in baseball, Lugo made 26 starts for San Diego in 2023, finishing 8-7 with a 3.57 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. In his previous seven seasons, Lugo made 38 starts, with most coming in 2017 when he made 18 for the Mets.

The most intriguing thing for Lugo is his ELITE curveball, which has finished in the top 2 percentile in spin rate since he debuted in 2016. Last season, his curve produced a 26.4% WhiffRate and a -5 Run Value, both among the leaders for starting pitchers. With a four-pitch mix, including his fastball, sinker, and slider, Lugo has steadily produced strikeout rates north of 25%. Another factor to consider is his walk rate, which was 6% last season, in the top 20 for starters with at least 130 IP. Given his success as a starter last season, Lugo will get a look to make an impact in a rotation in 2024.

For fantasy purposes, Lugo is like Stroman. He gives you solid strikeout numbers with minimal walks. He did allow 19 home runs last season but historically has been well below average in that category. Lugo also works deep into games. Of his 26 starts, 17 were quality starts (6IP, 3ER or less), more than Freddy Peralta, Kodai Senga, Aaron Nola, Justin Verlander, and Joe Ryan, among others. In fantasy baseball, boring is fine, and boring wins championships. Lugo is boring, but his stellar ratios and ability to provide volume could serve as a foundational piece for your championship roster.


Craig Kimbrel, RP (FA)


Originally, I wanted to focus on another veteran hitter, but how can you leave off Kimbrel? The future Hall-of-Famer has been stellar the past three seasons, providing 20+ saves with a respectable ERA and WHIP. Entering free agency and his age-36 season, Kimbrel is a lock to be a closer in 2024. More on that to come. Given the volatility of closers, an aging Kimbrel is a rock-solid option, given the alternative of mining for saves.

Craig Kimbrel as a closer in 2024 seems a bit bold, right? Consider this. In save situations, Kimbrel has converted 417 opportunities (4th all-time) with an ERA of 2.18 and WHIP of 0.90. In non-save situations, Kimbrel has an ERA of 2.79 and WHIP of 1.15, which is still impressive but still significantly higher. Even more proof is that hitters get a 30-point batting average boost and a 40-point jump in OPS+. Simply put, a team won’t pay Kimbrel the price he commands to put him into a setup role. Kimbrel is a closer, end of story.

What does Kimbrel offer at this point in his career? In 2023, Kimbrel threw 75 innings, including six in the postseason. That was his highest innings output since 2011 when he tossed 77 for the Braves. Perhaps the most impressive number was 18.5. That was how many seconds Kimbrel averaged to deliver a pitch. That was down from the low 20s over his career, obviously influenced by the pitch clock. As a notoriously slow worker, I was curious about how the changes would impact Kimbrel.

The answer was a resounding “not at all”. He posted a 33.8% K rate, up nearly 7% over the previous season, while holding his walk rate steady at 10.1%. His fastball still sits around 96 mph, with a slider at 86 mph. The velocity has slowly declined over the years, but he’s still sitting at 96, and that will play. Kimbrel bumped his chase rate by nearly 4%, and his zone contact rate dropped by over 5%. The guy can pitch and is not slowing down at all.

Craig Kimbrel is still a viable RP1, although more likely in the second tier of those closers. Depending on the team context, I feel confident in a 20+ save floor with a 30 save upside from Kimbrel in 2024.


Martin Sekulski

Martin is a Dynasty writer for PitcherList. He is a lifelong member of Red Sox Nation and attributes his love of baseball to his father, Marty. As a father and a husband, Martin now loves sharing his love of America's pastime with his family. You can find his work on Twitter and SubStack

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