Mr. Niche Guy: The best free-agent fits for very specific needs

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

We're past Thanksgiving now, or at least the main event, though lots of you surely have fridges full of leftovers to dispatch. Football takes center stage during this particular holiday, which pains me to admit, but what can you do? It's not like baseball is riding a tidal wave of happy PR at the moment.

In our sport, there has been some movement on the free-agent market. The White Sox made a splash last week by signing the best available catcher in Yasmani Grandal. The Braves jumped into the leftover backstop market to nab Travis d'Arnaud to assume co-catching duties with Tyler Flowers, a spot opened up by Brian McCann's retirement. The Braves also grabbed the top available reliever in all-purpose lefty Will Smith.

Not bad, considering the glacial pace of recent hot stove seasons. Those three players are the best free agents to change teams. Other solid veterans have re-upped with their old teams, a group that includes Flowers, Nick Markakis, Chris Martin and Darren O'Day -- all with the proactive Braves -- along with Jose Abreu (White Sox) and Adam Wainwright (Cardinals). Jake Odorizzi accepted the qualifying offer proffered by the Twins, and J.D. Martinez declined to option out of his Red Sox contract.

That's pretty much your free-agent update. Of Keith Law's Top 50 free agents, 43 remain unaccounted for, including the top seven. Opportunity abounds!

We tend to look at free agency through the prism of rankings, such as Keith's list. If our team needs a pitcher, we go to the rankings, skim down to the best available guy and decide that's who our hardworking local GM must sign. It's a reasonable attitude.

However, it's not the only way to look at things. While top-line evaluations of available talent are the best guides to free agency, there is also the question of fit. What are the categories in which a team's prospective roster is deficient? And which players are most apt to shore up those specific categories? Players often fit better on some teams than others in a way not reflected in ordinal rankings.

Looking at the free-agent pool through the fit lens adds nuance to tracking the offseason. It becomes more than a matter of crossing names off the ranking list and shines a light on some names that aren't dominating the rumor mill. The best part from the team perspective is that signing most of these players won't break your bank.

Let's wade into the remaining free-agent pool with this in mind by asking, and answering, a few strategic game-situation and roster-building questions.