10 intriguing new free agents after non-tender deadline

November 19th, 2022

As the 8 p.m. ET deadline for tendering arbitration-eligible players contracts passed Friday night, it quickly became apparent that among those players who were not tendered a contract are some notable and intriguing names. That includes the 2019 NL MVP, the 2020 MLB home run leader and many others who, while being cut loose due to injuries and/or lack of production, could potentially help a team or two in the future.

Here's a look at 10 intriguing free agents who were added to the pool Friday:

1. Cody Bellinger, CF (non-tendered by the Dodgers)

Bellinger's decline from 2019, when he was named the National League MVP, has been dramatic -- since posting a 1.035 OPS with 47 homers that year, he's slashed .203/.272/.376 with 41 homers in 295 games.

The Dodgers continued to give their center fielder time to get things right over the past three seasons, but it just never happened. Now, while the Dodgers could re-sign him even after not tendering a contract, Bellinger may look for a fresh start in a new uniform.

2. Dominic Smith, 1B (Mets)

Smith had a breakout season for the Mets at age 24 in 2019, when he had an .881 OPS with 11 homers in 197 plate appearances for New York. He built upon that with a tremendous campaign during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when he posted a .993 OPS with 10 homers in 199 plate appearances.

But as Pete Alonso continued to slug his way to stardom, Smith regressed, hitting .233/.298/.345 over the past two seasons. Still just 27, he could be a fascinating free agent to follow given what he did at the plate as recently as two years ago.

3. Luke Voit, 1B/DH (Nationals)

As recently as 2020, Voit led the Majors in homers, slamming 22 in 234 plate appearances for the Yankees during the shortened season. Since then, though, the hulking slugger has only hit 33 home runs in 809 plate appearances split between the Nationals and Padres. At 31, he still might have enough pop in that bat to catch on somewhere.

4. Franchy Cordero, OF (Red Sox)

The sensational raw tools Cordero possesses -- the 6-foot-3, 226-pound outfielder hit a baseball 117.9 mph and also ranked in the 84th percentile in Sprint Speed last season, according to Statcast -- just haven't translated into production so far in his MLB career. But while he owns a career OPS of only .676, he's still only 28 years old and could be an amazing pickup if a club can unlock his potential.

5. Alex Reyes, RHP (Cardinals)

Reyes was one of the Cardinals' top prospects when he made his MLB debut in 2016, and for good reason -- the right-hander featured a triple-digit fastball and a devastating curve ball, leading to a 1.57 ERA and a 28 percent strikeout rate over 46 innings in that rookie season. But since then, a rash of injuries have derailed him, limiting him to 26 2/3 innings from 2018-20 (he missed the '17 season recovering from Tommy John surgery).

In 2021, Reyes had a great first half, earning his first career All-Star selection. But his ERA in the second half was 5.52, and he missed all of the '22 campaign due to shoulder surgery. As the Cardinals move on from him, could a change of scenery lead to a Reyes resurgence?

6. Jeimer Candelario, 3B (Tigers)

Just a year removed from leading the Majors in doubles (42) while posting a .795 OPS for the Tigers, Candelario is a free agent. He struggled in 2022, seeing his offensive production drop drastically -- he had a .633 OPS in 124 games for Detroit last season. But he's still relatively young, turning 29 on Nov. 24, and could be a high-upside acquisition for a team looking for a corner infielder.

7. Adam Engel, CF (White Sox)

From 2020-21, Engel added a solid bat to his already strong defense and speed on the base paths for the White Sox. After slashing just .215/.271/.330 over his first three seasons with Chicago, he put up an .823 OPS the next two years. The only problem was, he was hurt for much of that span, with injuries limiting him to 75 games.

Then, last season, Engel's OPS was only .579 in 260 plate appearances. He'll turn 31 next month, so he'll need to prove himself soon, but his raw tool set is tough not to dream on.

8. Aristides Aquino, OF (Reds)

Remember when Aquino absolutely lit up opposing pitching as a rookie in 2019? He earned the nickname of "the Punisher" by belting seven homers in his first 10 career games for the Reds, tying Trevor Story's 2016 record. He also tied a Major League record by launching home runs in three straight innings against the Cubs on August 10. He later set a new record by hitting his 13th homer in his 100th career plate appearance.

Overall, Aquino finished with 19 homers and an .891 OPS that year, but he hasn't come close to matching that production since. From 2020-22, his OPS was just .647 with 22 homers. Still, Aquino is entering his age-29 season in 2023, and you can't assume there's no remaining pop in his bat.

9. Edwin Rios, INF (Dodgers)

Rios truly introduced himself to the baseball world in his 15th career game, going 4-for-5 with a pair of homers on Aug. 14, 2019, against the Marlins in Miami. He would hit two more homers over the next 13 games and finish with a 1.010 OPS in 56 plate appearances during his rookie campaign. That came after he torched Pacific Coast League pitching for 31 homers and a .915 OPS for Triple-A Oklahoma City over the first four months of the Minor League season.

Things continued to look good for Rios in 2020, when he hit eight more homers and posted a .946 OPS in 32 games during the pandemic-shortened campaign. But after that, injuries and offensive regression hampered him, leading the Dodgers to consider him expendable. The 28 year-old could certainly be seen as a player to take a chance on for a club looking for a corner infielder.

10. Brian Anderson, 3B (Marlins)

Anderson was worth 8 wins above replacement (Baseball Reference) over 341 games for Miami from 2018-20, a span in which he had a .785 OPS and played both third base right field. But, as with most of the players on this list, injuries were a factor from 2021-22, when he posted a .681 OPS with 15 homers in 165 games. Given his defensive versatility and track record of solid offensive numbers before being hampered by injuries, Anderson could be an attractive option for several clubs.