We’re now a week into the regular season and most of the attention amongst clubs and fans is on the games themselves. It’s a quiet time of year from a hot stove perspective. The offseason is finished and it’s far too early for teams to kick the tires on meaningful trades. Some extension talks might trickle into the season but otherwise, transactions this time of year typically take the form of waiver claims and internal prospect promotions.
Even at a relatively quiet portion of the season, there remain a handful of notable players on the free agent market. Gary Sánchez just came off the board on a minor league deal last week, for instance. Which other players — many of whom are late-career former stars — could still find interest as depth options, particularly if they’re amenable to a minor league contract?
Sanó had a disastrous 2022 season. Right knee troubles kept him to 20 games and 71 plate appearances, in which he hit .083/.211/.133 with only one home run. That ended his time with the Twins, who made the obvious call to buy him out of a club option, but he’s only a year removed from hitting 30 homers. Sanó has topped 25 longballs on four occasions in his career. He won’t turn 30 until next month, making him one of the younger players who didn’t sign over the offseason. Sanó reportedly held a showcase for scouts in early February but there was no publicly reported interest from any teams thereafter.
Like Sanó, Archer spent the 2022 season in Minnesota but was bought out at year’s end. He tossed 102 2/3 innings across 25 outings, posting a 4.56 ERA with a modest 19.2% strikeout rate and an elevated 11% walk percentage. It was the most hittable Archer has been in his career, but he still averaged 93 MPH on his four-seam and 88.7 MPH on his slider. He’s clearly not the upper mid-rotation arm he was when he made two All-Star games during his time with the Rays, but he’s probably the top unsigned starting pitcher. Archer hasn’t been substantively linked to any team since being cut loose by Minnesota in November. Last month, Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote that Archer had conducted a showcase for teams, though it isn’t clear when that workout occurred.
Released by the Mets earlier this week, Ruf is a right-handed hitter who has typically been an effective platoon first base/corner outfield option of late. He mashed at a .271/.385/.519 clip two years ago. At last summer’s deadline, he was carrying a .216/.328/.373 line over 90 games for the Giants. New York acquired him for a four-player package including J.D. Davis and Thomas Szapucki. Ruf’s production cratered in Queens but he’s not far removed from being a well-regarded offensive player.
Piscotty has tallied over 2800 MLB plate appearances split between the Cardinals and A’s. An above-average hitter through his first four seasons, he’s struggled significantly in the last four years. Piscotty was released by Oakland last summer and didn’t return to the majors after signing a minor league deal with the Reds. He caught on with the Giants and collected eight hits in 25 at-bats (.320/.370/.440) but didn’t land a job out of camp. San Francisco granted him his release on Opening Day.
Britton was arguably the sport’s most dominant reliever during his halcyon days in Baltimore. He remained an elite ground-ball artist for much of his time with the Yankees, excelling in high-leverage innings through 2020. Poor health has intervened in the last two years. Britton spent time on the injured list with elbow concerns in 2021, struggling when able to take the mound. He eventually required Tommy John surgery, which wiped out virtually all of the ’22 season. Britton returned at the tail end of the season but couldn’t find the strike zone and was shut back down. He’s thrown multiple showcases in recent months.
Much of what applies to Britton is also true of Giles. They’re different pitchers stylistically — Giles is a right-hander whose best days were fueled by huge strikeout tallies instead of grounders — but he’s also a formerly elite reliever who has fallen on hard times from a health perspective. Giles also required Tommy John surgery. His procedure came late in 2020 and cost him all of the ’21 campaign. He returned to the majors with the Mariners last summer and was let go after five appearances. Giles also worked out for clubs late in the offseason but has yet to put pen to paper.
Continuing with the run on relievers, Knebel is a former All-Star closer in his own right. He wasn’t as dominant as either Britton or Giles at his peak, and his career has frequently been interrupted by injury. Knebel was very productive as recently as 2021, when he posted a 2.45 ERA in 25 2/3 innings for the Dodgers. That earned him a $10MM deal with the Phillies, which was sidetracked by shoulder problems. He finished the year on the injured list after tearing his shoulder capsule.
García spent a decade with the White Sox in a utility capacity. Never much of an offensive threat, he nevertheless endeared himself to multiple coaching staffs based on his defensive flexibility. García signed a surprising three-year deal with Chicago over the 2021-22 offseason. He had a dreadful ’22 campaign and was off to a rough start in Spring Training. The White Sox cut bait in spite of the two remaining years on his contract. García’s an affordable utility option elsewhere.
Minor made 19 starts for the Reds last season, allowing a 6.06 ERA. He was hampered by shoulder issues at times and struggled significantly with the home run ball. Minor has allowed more than five earned runs per nine innings for three consecutive seasons, though his strikeout and walk rates were solid up until 2022. He held a showcase in February and drew some reported attention from the Cubs last month.
A former Cy Young winner who was effective for the White Sox during the shortened 2020 season, Keuchel has been hit hard over the past couple years. He played for each of Chicago, Arizona and Texas last season and was tagged for a 9.20 ERA across 14 starts. Keuchel was excellent over four Triple-A outings in the Ranger organization. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported a couple weeks ago that the Phillies had expressed loose interest in the two-time All-Star, though Philadelphia apparently didn’t put a formal minor league offer on the table.