Greg Holland’s reported agreement with the Cardinals took the remaining top-tier free agent off the market, somewhat fittingly prolonging the most drawn-out free agent market in recent history to a wire-to-wire affair. With the season now underway, and all of our top fifty free agents under contract, we thought it’d be interesting to look at the most notable names still remaining. It’s not certain that all of the below-listed players are still intent on continuing their playing careers, but surely many of them hope to do so — or, at least, did when the offseason got underway.
Rupp is probably the most notable name on the list, as he’s just 29 years of age and is coming off of a three-year run over which he compiled a .236/.301/.417 batting line with 39 home runs in 1,049 plate appearances. Herrmann opened eyes in 2016 but came back to earth last year; he and the others mostly look to be depth options at this point.
There are some notable players here, many of whom have enjoyed lengthy runs as regulars. Both Escobar and Phillips have maintained solid offensive output over the past several years, though neither is capable of playing shortstop. J.J. Hardy certainly still is capable of handling the glove at short, but his bat has collapsed.
Both of these veterans are capable of playing center, so they could find themselves in some demand if a need for a versatile bench outfielder arises. Of course, neither has distinguished himself offensively in recent seasons.
It’s rather remarkable to see such a long list of recognizable sluggers out of work, though that certainly dovetails with the widely observed recent market developments. There’s good reason to believe that many of these players can still handle the bat at the game’s highest level, but at this point it seems some of them may end up moving on to other pursuits.
Many teams are also betting on young starters rather than handing off rotation spots to innings eaters. In some seasons in the past, we’d have expected to see a few make-good, low-guarantee MLB deals — or minors pacts with real shots at making the majors — given out to some of these hurlers. Instead, there’s a lot of experience waiting by the telephone. (It’s worth noting that Dickey rather clearly would have commanded a solid guarantee after his productive 2017 season, but has a strict geographic interest area and may not have been interested in pursuing contracts at all.)
This list is short on lefties (*), proving yet again that it pays to be a southpaw. Hudson, a hard-throwing 31-year-old released at the tail end of camp, is sure to draw plenty of interest. The outlook is decidedly less optimistic for the others, though in most cases minor-league deals ought to be available.