The 10 best 'old guy' free agents

November 28th, 2022

Have you noticed that there are a lot of … older free agents out there? Not only that, some of these guys are among the most exciting names on the market. Now, “old” is a relative term here. I hardly consider myself an elderly person, but I’m older than all these guys by a good distance: We’re talking baseball old, not actually old. But there certainly is a preponderance of veterans on the market this year -- some superstars, some role players, but all of them useful.

So let’s take a look at the older players -- specifically, the 10 most desirable on this open market. As a cutoff age, we’ll go with players who are entering their age-35 season and above. (Ages listed below are each player’s seasonal age, which means his age as of July 1, 2023.)

1. , RHP (age 40)
Verlander signed a two-year deal last offseason (with an opt-out after year one if he reached 130 innings pitched) that was a bit of a bet on himself, securing $25 million even though he had pitched exactly six innings over the previous two seasons. Fair to say that was a good bet: He won his Astros team a World Series and himself an American League Cy Young Award. And not surprisingly, he opted out to hit the market again. When you’re where Verlander is, you can pick your spot and, essentially, pick your number. You wouldn’t be that surprised to see him pull a Tom Brady and pitch until he’s 45, would you?

2. , RHP (age 35)
Obviously, he’s a little bit of a risk: Not only has he not pitched a full season since 2019, he actually faded somewhat down the stretch last year. But still: He’s Jacob deGrom, the most dominant pitcher in baseball when he’s fully healthy. And he feels relatively young compared to Verlander, not to mention Max Scherzer, who signed a mega-deal last offseason at the age of 37.

3. José Abreu, 1B (age 36)
Abreu feels like such a White Sox staple that you almost forget he’s a free agent: He’s not really going to leave Chicago, is he? Of course, we said something similar about Freddie Freeman and Atlanta last year, and he plays in Los Angeles now. Abreu has been remarkably consistent his entire career -- remember, he started playing in the Majors when he was 27 -- and while his power was down last year, he had his second-highest OBP (.378) ever. He can probably keep doing this for another three or four seasons, and there isn’t a team in baseball that couldn’t use someone who does what he does, especially with the DH now in both leagues.

4. , RHP (age 37)
It sure seemed like Cueto was out of baseball, didn’t it? He was a below-average pitcher from 2018 to '20, and he seemed to just be hanging on in '21 with the Giants. But when the White Sox brought him over -- mostly out of desperation -- in mid-May, he instantly became their rotation stabilizer: If Chicago had made the playoffs, he might have been its No. 2 starter. He has clearly figured something out, six years after his last All-Star Game appearance.

5. , DH/OF (age 35)
The guy who was once a slap hitter for the Astros turned himself into a monster with the Tigers and ended up being an impact player on Boston's World Series-winning team in 2018. His power has fallen a little since his heyday, but not much, and he’s still a doubles machine: 85 in the past two years. Plus, unlike when he signed his last contract, both leagues have the designated hitter now.

6. , RHP (age 35)
It obviously wasn’t just something in the water at Chavez Ravine. While Jansen’s year in Atlanta wasn’t as dominant as some of his prime Dodgers years, he still led the National League in saves, doing the job for one of the best teams in baseball. Whoever signs him is going to get a milestone: He’s nine saves away from 400 for his career, which would make him the seventh closer to reach that number (as long as Craig Kimbrel, who's three ahead of him, doesn’t get there first).

7. , 3B (age 38)
The Dodgers didn’t pick up their team option on Turner, but the newly minted Roberto Clemente Award winner might still return to the team that turned his career around when he left Queens. It would feel strange, honestly, to see him play somewhere else, but it’s possible. A new team would get a guy who got off to a slow start in 2022 but rebounded to put up numbers similar to his career marks.

8. , RHP (age 39)
At the beginning of 2022, you had to wonder if Greinke was going to last the year. He was getting people out, sure, but he was doing so with a shockingly low number of strikeouts. Surely this was unsustainable: Doesn’t he know how baseball works in '22? Well, by the end of the year, he was his team’s best starter and had actually lowered his ERA from the year before by nearly half a run. Rumors are he’s coming back for one more year. Why not?

9. , RHP (age 38)
Robertson was the closer for Team USA at the last World Baseball Classic in 2017, and he has gone through quite a journey since then, including pitching in only 19 games from 2019-21. But he was great for the Cubs in '22 before being sent to Philadelphia, where he helped that team reach the World Series. Remember, this is the guy who took over for Mariano Rivera in the Bronx. Nothing fazes him.

10. , DH (age 42)
Cruz is always the guy who makes you do a double-take when it comes to seasonal age, as his birthday is July 1. He’s also the second-oldest active player in baseball (behind Rich Hill, who very well could have held this spot on this list, too), and he had his worst offensive season since 2007 last year. People have written him off before because of his age, and he has managed to prove them wrong, so I wouldn’t doubt him. He’s 41 homers away from 500. C’mon, someone’s gotta give him a shot.

(Other possibilities: Rich Hill, Yuli Gurriel, Matt Carpenter, Andrew McCutchen, Corey Kluber, Evan Longoria.)