With all the attention focused on big-name free agents — both those who have signed, like Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and those who have not, like Blake Snell and Cody Bellinger — it may be easy to overlook some. Pretty talented players still available. But with the calendar turning to 2024 and training only a month away – seriously, training only starts in a month – it’s doubtful there will be a flurry of signings. And you’d be surprised at some of the names that are still available.
While we all stay updated on the news of Josh Hader, Jordan Montgomery, and other big names on the market, let’s take a look at six free agents that no one is really talking about right now, but who could definitely be prime assets. Whichever team I signed with. These players deserve a lot more attention than they are getting. (They are listed alphabetically by last name, and the age listed is the age each player will play through 2024.)
Brandon Belt, 1B (36 years old)
Dominican Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette. Matt Chapman. George Springer. Mexican Alejandro Kirk. Big names, with All-Star Game experience, were key parts of the Toronto attack built to carry the team through the tough American League East division for years. But in 2023, none of those players had the highest OPS on the Blue Jays. The difference belonged to Belt, whose .859 mark (albeit in 103 games) was 45 points more than the next highest, the Blue Jays (Bichette). This, as usual with Belt, was driven by his on-base percentage, which has always been his strength; His vision is impeccable, which he will certainly retain until he is about 80 years of age. He’ll turn 36 in April and although he’s never been flashy, he’ll get on base and play perfectly respectable first base. The guy had a higher on-base percentage than Corbin Carroll, Jose Ramirez, Paul Goldschmidt, Rafael Devers and Marcus Semien. Which team will not benefit from such batting?
Aroldis Chapman, LHP (36 years old)
For general baseball fans who haven’t followed Cuba Chapman since he was the lead pitcher with the Yankees, it may have been a bit of a shock to see him with the Rangers in the playoffs. He looked physically isolated, couldn’t find the strike zone, could barely get out of tight spots, and collapse always seemed imminent. But it’s worth noting: The slump didn’t end, Chapman came out of that postseason with a World Series ring, you know? And also, during the regular season, Chapman was very close to his old form. His strikeout rate with the Rangers and Royals was as high as it had been in the previous decade, he did not give up a single home run in 29.1 innings with Kansas City, and his fastball velocity was in the top percentile of all pitchers. It’s not like it was a decade ago. But it’s closer than you think. And it won’t cost as much as Haider.
JD Martinez, BD (36 years old)
Naturally, there will be a ceiling for someone who is a designated hitter, especially in the current market. (Well, unless you’re Ohtani in 2024. But we digress.) However, when it comes to being the “only designated hitter,” you really can’t do any better than Martinez. The only year in the last decade in which Martinez didn’t destroy the ball was 2020, and well, who among us was at his best in 2020? He only played 113 games last year, but he hit 33 home runs and, by the way, outran his teammate Freddy Freeman. There aren’t many teams that couldn’t benefit from more power in their lineup. Martínez, as always, provides instant electricity.
Tommy Pham, OF (36 years old)
Pham will turn 36 in March. 36! Pham did not debut until September 2014, when he was 26 years old, so he does not look as old as he actually is. He has played for seven teams in 10 seasons, which technically classifies him as a Globetrotter, but it should be clear that this guy doesn’t hit like a player who isn’t able to find a home. He might have been the Mets’ best hitter (not Pete Alonso) before New York traded him to Arizona at the deadline, and he was a monster in the World Series for the D-backs, hitting .421 and holding the record to deflect praise. An opportunity to go 5-for-5 in a Fall Classic game to give teammate Jess Pederson a chance to bat. This is the guy you want on your team. Pham will be a low-key signing who will get very little attention, and then you look over in June and he’s your club’s best batsman for a whole fortnight.
George Soler, BD/OF (32 years)
Cuban Soler will always be best remembered for that three-month period in 2021 when, as a rental player for the Braves, he helped lead the team to its first World Series win in 26 years. But what he has done in the regular season has been more impressive and perhaps because he was in Kansas City and Miami, he was overlooked. Soler simply hits homers at a pace that few in baseball can match. This guy hit 48 home runs in 2019! He hit 36 home runs last year for the Marlins, making the postseason, and he has no idle power: His .341 on-base percentage is perfectly respectable. He is a middle-order hitter who is still at what could be considered his best. What’s not to like about that?
Marcus Stroman, RHP (33 years old)
Did everyone forget that Stroman was a Cy Young Award candidate for most of last year? Sure, he faded toward the end, but for the first half of 2023, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. (In fact, he was talked about as a potential All-Star Game starter!) And it’s not like it came out of nowhere. His ERA hasn’t been worse than 4.00 since his troubled 2018 campaign, and he can generally stay on the field, too: except for 2020 (a season in which he opted out), he has made 25 or more starts. Is of. In six of the last seven campaigns.
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