Where will these decorated veterans play in 2024?

December 21st, 2023

Who are the best players among this year's remaining free agents? You surely know their names by now. Yamamoto. Bellinger. Snell. Chapman. Hader.

No player on the list below is quite in that company now, but they would have fit perfectly back in their heyday. While they may no longer be the very best at their positions, a long career in the Majors has left these free agents with a different superlative: most accomplished.

Here are the 12 most accomplished free agents still available, ordered by their career bWAR.

, LHP (77.1 bWAR)
Kershaw will be five years away from being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as soon as he decides to retire. But it appears that clock won't start for at least another season. The three-time Cy Young Award winner plans to pitch in 2024, although an exact timetable isn't clear after he underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder in November. Kershaw said then that he was "hopeful" for a return in the summer and recently reiterated that belief.

As for the jersey Kershaw will wear, it's a binary choice: He will either rejoin the Dodgers, the only franchise he has known as a professional, or the Rangers, which would represent a homecoming for the Dallas native. Kershaw acknowledged last year that those are the only teams he would consider at this point in his career. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman made it clear in October that the club will bring Kershaw back for 2024 if that’s what the former National League MVP and his family want. Meanwhile, a source told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) that Texas is "very much" in play for Kershaw, who ranks sixth among left-handed pitchers in career bWAR.

, RHP (72.4)
Only 19 pitchers in MLB history have reached 3,000 strikeouts. Greinke, with 2,979 K's, should become the 20th member of that revered group early next season. Greinke has spent nearly half of his life in the Majors and is planning to come back for his 21st year -- his age-40 season -- in 2024. Nine of those years have come in a Royals uniform, but is there still room for Greinke in Kansas City? The club's rotation looks pretty full following the additions of Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha. However, any club that needs a pitcher who can eat innings and be a role model for a young staff should have some measure of interest in Greinke, one of the greatest hurlers of his generation.

, 1B (64.4)
The Reds declined Votto's club option on Nov. 4, making him a free agent for the first time in his career. Votto became the face of the franchise during his 17 seasons in Cincinnati and issued a heartfelt thank you to the Reds, their fans and the surrounding community soon after the team's decision. The 2010 NL MVP ranks among the Reds' all-time top five in many categories including home runs (356, second), walks (1,365, first), and games (2,056, fifth).

Votto, like Kershaw, could decide to end his playing career closer to home. The Toronto native is a potential fit for the Blue Jays, who are looking to add offense this winter. Early in the offseason, general manager Ross Atkins said the team does have some interest in the 40-year-old.

, 3B (58.6)
This past season was one of Longoria's worst from a statistical standpoint -- .295 on-base percentage, .717 OPS, 30.8% strikeout rate. But it also had to be one of his most rewarding as the 38-year-old helped guide the upstart D-backs to the World Series. When he signed with Arizona last offseason, Longoria said his choice was influenced by a desire to see his wife and young children more often; he owns homes in Arizona and Florida, so the Rays were also on his shortlist, as were the Giants due to his familiarity with the team after spending the previous five seasons with them. The Giants are the only team in that group with a clear need at third base this year, but they are reportedly eyeing Matt Chapman.

Longoria, a three-time Gold Glover, still offers serviceable defense at the hot corner and some pop at the plate. But it's unknown if he would continue his career if those aforementioned clubs are not interested in a reunion.

, 3B (46.8)
Donaldson wants a chance to go out on a high note. The slugging third baseman found his career at a crossroads in August, when he was released by the Yankees following an injury-marred two-year stint with New York. The 2015 American League MVP was picked up by the Brewers a couple of days later and slashed .169/.290/.390 over 69 plate appearances to end the regular season. Donaldson, 38, said last month that he is "definitely up" for playing one final season as long as he feels comfortable with the situation. Like Longoria, Donaldson can still handle third base and has continued to post some strong hitting metrics. For instance, his 16.2% barrel rate last year was the second-best of his 13-year career.

, RHP (38.5)
The elder statesman in the Marlins' youthful rotation, Cueto saw his 2023 season sabotaged by injury almost immediately. He departed his first start after facing seven hitters -- and allowing four runs -- due to biceps tightness. He was shelved until after the All-Star break. When on the mound, Cueto scuffled to a career-worst 6.02 ERA across 52 1/3 innings. Miami declined his $10.5 million option after the season, but there hasn't been any indication that the 37-year-old is ready to retire after 16 seasons. The two-time All-Star is only one year removed from turning in a 3.35 ERA over 158 1/3 innings with the White Sox, so Cueto might shimmy his way onto another team soon.

, DH (36.5)
Turner seems to be drawing interest from the most clubs among players on this list. He has been linked this offseason to the D-backs, Blue Jays, Mets and Red Sox, for whom Turner clubbed 23 homers and drove in 96 runs last season. He spent four seasons with the Mets early in his career, but Turner didn't blossom into the feared hitter he is today until he signed with the Dodgers prior to the 2014 campaign. Over the next eight years, he averaged a 133 OPS+, made two All-Star teams and always displayed strong plate discipline. As Turner enters his age-39 season, his bat remains a valuable commodity.

, CF (35.5)
After signing with the Blue Jays last December, Kiermaier enjoyed one of his better offensive seasons -- his 104 OPS+ was a six-year high -- and was still elite in center field. It was reported last month that the Twins were interested in the four-time Gold Glover, but he should have multiple suitors after showing that he hasn't lost a step at age 33. The free-agent market is rich with center fielders who play stellar defense, but no one in the outfield has accrued more outs above average than Kiermaier (84) since the inception of Statcast fielding metrics in 2016.

, 1B (35.5)
Santana's profile shares some similarities with Turner's: corner infielders in their late 30s who supply extra-base power, can draw a walk and don't strike out much. However, Santana has received much less buzz this offseason. Perhaps he starts 2024 where he ended '23; Brewers general manager Matt Arnold said earlier this month that the team is open to bringing Santana back at first base. Unlike Turner, Santana still receives positive marks in the field. Although his batted-ball metrics dipped significantly last season, Santana can still be a productive player in his 15th Major League season.

, DH (34.3)
Brantley came very close to sporting a Blue Jays uniform in 2021 -- there were reports of him signing with Toronto -- but he ultimately stayed with the Astros, the team with which he has spent the past five years. Brantley has played in only 79 games over the past two seasons due to a left shoulder injury that required surgery in August 2022. He doesn't provide much power or defense at age 36, but the five-time All-Star rarely strikes out and has a career .298 average. And there just so happens to be a team looking for a left-handed bat that has reportedly shown interest in Brantley: the Blue Jays.

, SS (34.0)
Through his first 14 seasons, Andrus played 1,914 games in the field, and they were all at shortstop. Last season, his 15th, saw him man second base for the majority of his games with the White Sox, and he was serviceable, according to OAA. His name hasn't been mentioned much in the rumor mill, but Andrus could be a worthwhile investment for a team that needs a middle infielder who can help on the basepaths. His 347 stolen bases are the most among active players. The 35-year-old owns 2,091 hits and a .269/.325/.370 career slash line.

, RHP (34.0)
Over a five-season span from 2014-18, there were hardly any starting pitchers better than Kluber. His 151 ERA+ trailed only Kershaw (180). He averaged 218 innings, a 2.85 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP and 246 K's per season. He picked up two Cy Young Awards, three All-Star selections and an ERA title. 

The last five years have been a very different story. Injuries have really taken their toll on the right-hander, who has thrown a total of 335 2/3 frames during that time. This recent period also includes a 4.80 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP and some well-below-average K rates. In 2023, he registered a 7.04 ERA in 55 innings with the Red Sox and missed the second half of the season due to shoulder inflammation. Kluber, 37, indicated last month that he is undecided about whether he will play in 2024.