Six free agents who are better than you think

With all the attention focused on big-name free agents – both those who have signed like Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto and those who haven’t yet signed like Blake Snell and Cody Bellinger – it’s easy to miss a few mind. There are still talented players. But as the calendar turns towards 2024 and training is just over a month away (and seriously, training starts in just over a month), there is a suspicion that there will be a flurry of signings. And you’ll be surprised to know that some names are still available.

While we’re all keeping an eye on the news about Josh Hader, Jordan Montgomery and other big names on the market, let’s take a look at six free agents that no one is talking about right now but who are sure to be major assets for him. whatever team I end up signing. These players deserve more attention than they are getting. (They are listed alphabetically by last name, and the ages listed are the ages each player will be playing at by 2024.)

Brandon Belt, 1B (36 years old)

Dominican Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette. Matt Chapman. George Springer. Mexican Alejandro Kirk. Big names, All-Star experience, key elements of a Toronto offense built to carry the team into the tough American League East Division for years to come. But none of those players had the highest OPS among the Blue Jays in 2023. That distinction belongs to Belt, whose .859 mark (albeit in 103 games) was 45 points higher than the next highest Blue Jays (Bichette). This was due, as always with Belt, to his on-base percentage, which has always been his strength; He has perfect eyesight, which he is sure to retain until he is almost 80 years old. He’ll turn 36 in April, and while he’s never been flashy, he’ll get on base and play a respectable first base. This man had a higher on-base percentage than Corbin Carroll, Jose Ramirez, Paul Goldschmidt, Rafael Devers and Marcus Semien. What team couldn’t benefit from a bat like this?

Aroldis Chapman, LHP (36 years old)

For casual baseball fans who haven’t followed Cuban Chapman since his days as a dominant pitcher with the Yankees, it may have been a bit of a shock to see him with the Rangers in the playoffs. Physically, he looked different, couldn’t find the strike zone, could barely get out of tight spots, and a collapse always seemed imminent. But it’s worth noting this: The crash didn’t end up happening, Chapman came out of the postseason with a World Series ring, you know? Additionally, Chapman was fairly close to his former self during the regular season. His strikeout rate with the Rangers and Royals was as high as it has been in the last decade, he didn’t allow a home run in 29.1 innings with Kansas City, and his fastball velocity was in the top percentile. among all pitchers. It’s not the same as ten years ago. But it’s closer than you think. And it won’t cost as much as Khader.

JD Martinez, BD (36 years old)

Naturally, there will be limitations for those who are solely designated hitters, especially in the current market. (Well, unless you’re Ohtani from 2024. But we digress.) However, when it comes to “designated hitter only,” you really can’t do better than Martinez. The only year in the last decade that Martinez didn’t destroy the ball was 2020, and who among us was on top in 2020? Last year he only played 113 games, but he hit 33 home runs and, incidentally, led his teammate Freddie Freeman. There aren’t many teams that couldn’t benefit from more power on their roster. Martinez, as always, provides instant power.

Tommy Pham, OF (36 years old)

Pham will turn 36 in March. 36! Pham only debuted in September 2014 when he was 26, so he doesn’t look as old as he actually is. He played for seven teams in 10 seasons, which technically classifies him as a globetrotter, but it should be clear that this man doesn’t hit like a player who is unable to find a home. He was arguably 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 among defenders, hitting .421 and catching the Praise. refusal. opportunity to go 5-for-5 in a Fall Classic game so teammate Jace Pederson could have the bat. This is the guy you want on your team. Pham will be a modest acquisition that few will notice, and then you look in June and he will be your club’s best batsman for a whole fortnight.

Jorge Soler, BD/OF (32 years old)

Cuban Soler will always be remembered for that three-month period in 2021 when, as a loanee for the Braves, he helped lead the team to its first World Series victory in 26 years. But what he did in the regular season was more impressive, and likely because he was in Kansas City and Miami, he was overlooked. Soler simply hits homers at a rate that few in baseball can match. The man hit 48 home runs in 2019! He hit 36 ​​home runs last year for the Marlins, who made the postseason, and his power isn’t empty: His .341 on-base percentage is respectable. He is a middle-order hitter who is still in his prime. What doesn’t he like?

Marcus Stroman, RHP (age 33)

Has everyone forgotten that Stroman was a Cy Young Award candidate for most of last year? Sure, he faded in the end, but through the first half of 2023, he was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. (In fact, he was talked about as a possible All-Star Game starter!) And it didn’t come out of nowhere. He hasn’t had an ERA worse than 4.00 since his troubled 2018 campaign, and he can generally stay on the field, too: With the exception of 2020 (the season he opted out of), he made 25 or more starts for six. of the last seven campaigns.

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