As we all know, past performance — especially, long-past performance — is no guarantee of more in the future. Teams are looking at more than Baseball-Reference career totals. That said, track record does generally reflect a high degree of skill. And there’s always value in a respected veteran.
Much of the offseason’s work is obviously complete at this point, but the leftover slate of free agents is somewhat more interesting than usual. Whatever one might think about their outlook for the future, there’s no denying the past accomplishments — and sheer name value — of quite a few players that are still available on the open market …
Seriously, the mass of talent would’ve made for an unbelievable roster just a few years back. Just for kicks, and to highlight the point, here’s a 26-man roster of remaining free agents, based upon career accomplishments and star power:
- Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: He hasn’t even been on the field in some time, but let’s not forget that Ells once turned in a 9.5 fWAR season.
- Melky Cabrera, LF: In his prime, the Melk Man was one of the game’s best pure average hitters. Heck, he still hit (a rather shallow) .280 in 2019.
- Hanley Ramirez, DH: We’ll keep guys in their current positions, so no cheating by plugging HanRam in at short. Dude could rake in his prime.
- Mark Reynolds, 1B: We’re going old school with a big ol’ first bagger slugger in the cleanup spot. The twist? It’s a 3-man platoon.
- Yasiel Puig, RF: The best present-day talent from this group, the enigmatic outfielder is still waiting for an appealing opportunity to open.
- Scooter Gennett, 2B: Though he has had more middling seasons than really good ones, Gennett had a heckuva two-year stretch with the Reds.
- Jung Ho Kang, 3B: Another player that had a pretty strong ceiling but couldn’t sustain it. There’s no word yet on Kang’s future plans.
- Russell Martin, C: Still a useful part-time catcher in recent years, Martin was long a somewhat underrated workhorse. Perhaps he could still add to a 55 fWAR career.
- Tim Beckham, SS: He’s not going to lead this lineup, but the former top overall pick has been good enough for long stretches to serve as a plausible semi-regular shortstop for a contender.
C – Jesus Sucre
- Matt Harvey: It remains hard to believe how far Harvey has fallen.
- Clay Buchholz: If only we could presume health.
- Andrew Cashner: Never reached his ceiling but has had some strong campaigns out of the rotation.
- Marco Estrada: For a stretch, Estrada was a quietly sturdy and useful mid-rotation pitcher.
- Jason Vargas: The soft-tossing southpaw is the ultimate #5 starter. He has only once topped 3 fWAR in a season … yet has accumulated more fWAR in his career than any of the guys listed above.
- Danny Salazar: I’ve got my eyes on an alternative universe where Salazar stays healthy and dominates for a decade as a Josh Hader-type high-leverage flex reliever.
- Aaron Sanchez: Ditto!
- Luke Gregerson: Long one of the most reliable late-inning arms in baseball.
- Pat Neshek: And another.
- Fernando Rodney: Are we getting a whole lot of misadventures or the absurd dominance of 2012? Couldn’t tell ya; finding out is all part of the Experience.
- Zach Duke: The re-made reliever version of Duke was a beast in 2014.
- Jonny Venters: Ah, what could have been. The Braves rode Venters hard in 2010-11, when he mowed down hitters with both strikeouts and groundballs.