Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Trade Talk

Free age-nts: Older players with market value

MLB.com @williamfleitch

Youth is always going to be the coin of the realm in Major League Baseball, or really, in life. There are just things you can do in your 20s that you can't in your 30s, 40s or 50s. (Don't remind me.) The issue with young players is corralling their talent, not locating it. They've got talent to burn.

But let's not forget the old dogs, either. This free-agent season has revolved around Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, two unusually young free agents, but there's value to be squeezed out of guys in their late 30s and 40s as well. And I'm not just talking about clubhouse presence and experienced leadership, either. These guys can help you on the field, too.

Youth is always going to be the coin of the realm in Major League Baseball, or really, in life. There are just things you can do in your 20s that you can't in your 30s, 40s or 50s. (Don't remind me.) The issue with young players is corralling their talent, not locating it. They've got talent to burn.

But let's not forget the old dogs, either. This free-agent season has revolved around Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, two unusually young free agents, but there's value to be squeezed out of guys in their late 30s and 40s as well. And I'm not just talking about clubhouse presence and experienced leadership, either. These guys can help you on the field, too.

Here's a look at seven free agents in their late 30s and 40s who have plenty left to give. They might not be the young turks anymore, but they're not riding off into the sunset, either.

(For now, we're omitting Adrian Beltre, who is reported to be mulling retirement. If he comes back, he will obviously be in high demand.)

Bartolo Colon (44)
OK, you knew he was going to be on here somewhere. Colon, to be fair, wasn't Peak Bartolo in 2018: He had an ugly 5.78 ERA and the lowest strikeout rate of his career. In fact, Colon hasn't been an above-average pitcher since '16 (and before that, '13). But that just means he's due, right? After all, Colon made All-Star teams in those aforementioned up years, which means that he's just on the every-three-years cycle, right? Well, maybe not, but he still threw 146 innings last year; he'll take the ball whenever you need him to. There has to be one team willing to let Bartolo celebrate his 45th birthday (on May 24) on an MLB diamond.

Nelson Cruz (38)
It is very possible that Cruz will still be hitting 30 homers when he's 55 years old. His numbers took a step back in 2018, but he still had 37 big flies, a 135 OPS+ and, amusingly, a triple. You obviously can't put Cruz in the field anymore -- he played five games in right in '17 and four last year -- but which American League team couldn't use 35 homers? The Twins and Astros are the most likely suitors; if Minnesota signs him, he'll be older than new manager Rocco Baldelli by nearly 15 months.

Video: Nelson Cruz slugs his way to free agency in 2019

Rajai Davis (38)
The great irony of Davis' career is that he was a speedster who will be remembered for a homer -- that shot off Aroldis Chapman in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series -- than anything he did on the basepaths. He had the worst offensive season of his career in '18, but he still stole 21 bases, and he led the AL in steals just two years ago. If Davis doesn't retire, he might have one last October run in him.

Video: Rajai Davis is part of the 2019 free agent class

Curtis Granderson (37)
A guy who played for two teams in his first 10 seasons has now played for four in the past two seasons -- and, it should be said, in the postseason each of the past four years. Granderson still has some of the power of his prime, but, more importantly, he has almost all of the on-base skills. Even when he isn't hitting for average, he can still draw walks. Granderson has his cold spells, but he also has hot streaks that can carry a team for a week or so. Plus, at this point, he's a lucky charm to make it to October. Someone has to get Granderson there for a fifth straight year.

Video: Granderson set to enter free agency in 2019

Matt Holliday (38)
Holliday sat out most of the 2018 season before returning to the Rockies, the team he broke in with back in '04, and he looked glorious in his old duds. He was no slouch as a hitter either, putting up an .849 OPS in 25 games and hitting a double in the National League Wild Card Game win over the Cubs. Holliday is 97 games away from 2,000 for his career, and there's enough life in his bat that you'd think someone would take a chance on him. Maybe he will repeat '18 and take most of the year off before becoming a late-season bat-for-hire. Remember when Holliday was briefly with the A's in '09? He might as well do a full-career reunion tour.

Video: Holliday's first postseason hit with Rox since 2007

Ryan Madson (38)
It may have been for lack of options, but note how often manager Dave Roberts went to Madson in the postseason for the Dodgers -- 11 times. 2018 was a rough year for Madson, who had a 5.47 ERA with Washington and Los Angeles, but that was on the heels of some truly fantastic seasons -- particularly '17, when he pitched for the A's and Nationals and may have been one of the most valuable relievers in the sport. One just hopes that he can ignore his most high-profile critic.

Video: Ryan Madson heading to free agency before 2019 season

Peter Moylan (39)
First of all, baseball can never have enough sidearming relievers; may they outlive us all. Moylan -- who tends to spend his winters as a pitching coach in the Australian Baseball League (and also owns a coffee shop) -- led the Majors in appearances in 2017, but he only threw 28 1/3 innings for the Braves last year. It was a somewhat middling season, though he had his highest strikeout rate in nearly a decade, and we certainly know he's durable. Plus, baseball should seriously always have a sidearming Australian who owns a bar.

Video: Peter Moylan set to enter free agency in 2019

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.