Plenty of power left on free agent market

January 5th, 2024

We tend to spend so much time during the winter talking about the top free agents on the market, but there are dozens of players still looking for jobs as we approach the end of the first week in January.

That includes some potentially impactful bats, so let’s take a look at where a few of those sluggers stand.

There has been much talk about where Cody Bellinger might land, but what about the other notable hitters out there?
The three biggest names available are , and , all of whom have drawn interest around the league.

“I think they’re all a little different, so it probably depends what you’re looking for in that spot,” a National League executive said. “If a club needs to add power, Soler is pretty scary. If you want the veteran, experienced guy, J.D. probably fits best. If you want a more well-rounded guy who can play some defense while also giving you his at-bats, Teoscar might be the best fit.”

Hernández is the only pure outfielder of the group. Soler is best-suited to split time between the corner outfield and designated hitter, and Martinez is essentially a full-time DH, having played only three games in the outfield last season.

Soler has had some injury issues during his career, but is he the best power option left on the market? 
Soler had trouble staying on the field early in his career, playing more than 100 games only once from 2015-18. Since 2019, he has played at least 137 games in three of the four full seasons. (He played 43 of 60 in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign.) Soler has averaged more than 30 home runs a season during that time, excluding ’20.

Soler, who hit 36 homers for the Marlins last year and led the American League in home runs with 48 in 2019, is the best pure power bat on the market. He also has a knack for drawing walks, boasting a double-digit walk rate in each of the past eight seasons.

Soler will turn 32 in February, likely making him a more appealing option for clubs looking to sign a slugger to a multiyear deal.

Martinez has earned more than $140 million during his career. Is his biggest priority trying to win another World Series? 
That would be a logical conclusion, though the 36-year-old won’t have a chance to finish the job with the Dodgers following Los Angeles’ signing of Shohei Ohtani.

Martinez had an excellent season for the Dodgers in 2023, hitting 33 home runs with an .893 OPS. At 36, Martinez isn’t looking at a long-term contract, so his market figures to include contenders with a need at DH.

One thing contenders surely will take notice of is Martinez’s postseason track record. Martinez owns a .294/.386/.588 slash line (.974 OPS) with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs in 33 games (140 plate appearances). He excelled during Boston’s 2018 World Series run, slashing .300/.403/.520 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 14 games en route to the lone championship of his career.

Hernández was considered one of the best up-and-coming players in the game in 2021, starting in left field for the AL All-Star team. How much of a concern for potential suitors was his 2023 season? 
Hernández had a disappointing season in his first year with Seattle, hitting 26 home runs with a .740 OPS in 160 games, though the spacious dimensions of T-Mobile Park might have played a role in those numbers.

“A lot of players take a step back in Seattle because the ballpark is so big,” an NL executive said.

Ballpark dimensions didn’t impact Hernández’s career-high 211 strikeouts, a total that trailed only teammate Eugenio Suárez in the American League last season. According to Statcast, Hernández ranked near the bottom of the league in chase percentage (13th percentile), walk rate (13th percentile), strikeout rate (9th percentile) and whiff percentage (3rd percentile) -- swing-and-miss figures that could cause some clubs to hesitate.

But Hernández offers a defensive component that neither Soler nor Martinez do, playing a solid right field while leading the AL in assists at the position for a second straight year.

Which teams are in on those three hitters? 
The Mariners, who are set to lose Hernández from their lineup barring an unexpected reunion, are among the teams that have interest in Soler, who would bring some much-needed power to Seattle’s lineup. The 2021 World Series MVP has also drawn interest from the D-backs, Blue Jays and Red Sox, per sources, giving Soler a healthy market.

Martinez would seem to be a logical fit for the Angels, who are looking to replace Ohtani at DH. But given Martinez’s age and desire to win, it remains to be seen whether a move down Interstate 5 to Anaheim is in the cards. The Mets, Tigers and Blue Jays are also believed to have some interest in Martinez. A reunion with the D-backs, for whom Martinez had a huge 62-game stint in 2017, would also make sense.

As for Hernández, the Angels, Dodgers and Red Sox appear to be the frontrunners for the two-time Silver Slugger winner. Some have speculated that Hernández will wait for Bellinger to sign before inking his own deal, but the three aforementioned teams don’t appear to be in the Bellinger mix, which could open the door for one of them to make an aggressive move for Hernández.