As pitchers and catchers report this week, the baseball world, complete with super double-plus secret free-agent training camp, looks at Jacob Arrieta and J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer and Lance Lynn to sign, the same way they once waited for Giancarlo Stanton to get traded, and for Yu Darvish to sign, and for whoever else was supposed to loosen up the market.
Obviously, big names like Martinez and Arrieta and the crew remain, and should remain, everyone's focus. They're great players and will make whatever teams that sign them better. But baseball isn't just about great players. It's about those unusual players, those unique personalities who make baseball that much more fun and individual. The thing about baseball players is that once you're introduced to one, they never leave your mind; I will remember the names "Glenn Brummer" and "John Candelaria" longer than I will remember the names of almost every cousin I have. The fun of baseball is not just in its dominance; it's in its eccentricity. We need the curiosities as much as we need the superstars.
Thus, as we continue to refresh the Hot Stove Tracker in vain, I thought we'd take a look today at 10 MLB free agents who the game would be worse without, players who haven't signed and don't even have a lot of rumors popping up around them but are undeniably pleasurable to talk about and watch. Your team will be better with Eric Hosmer. But it might be more fun with these guys. These guys need to find a team not because they're wonderful players, though some of them could be. They need to find a team because Major League Baseball is more compelling with them in it. Sign these guys. Let's have some fun. (Note: They are listed alphabetically by last name.)
The other frequently tweeting former Dodger pitcher, Anderson has had plenty of time to expand his social media presence while rehabbing various injuries. He is funny, smart and even a little obsessive. He doesn't tweet like a professional athlete; he tweets like a normal person. (Thus, insanely.)
Anderson has had a rough couple of years, but he is only 30 years old and made 31 starts with a 3.69 ERA just three seasons ago. You know he's going to end up with some sort of Barstool show when he retires, so somebody sign him so we can hold that off for a couple of years.
One of my favorite free agent amusements was when Bautista was shopping his services last offseason but had to eliminate several teams because he was currently in a feud with them. Several teams! Remember when the Orioles openly said they weren't going after Bautista because "our fans don't like him?" Bautista is one of baseball's great villains, your favorite player if he's on your team and utterly loathsome if he's not. He was below replacement level last year, but he wants back in, and hey, Bautista lives in Florida, and the Marlins need outfielders, and come on, like it wouldn't be fun to see Bautista make one last go-around in teal.
It still seems pretty crazy that Dickey, at the age of 37, won the National League Cy Young Award out of nowhere in 2012. There aren't many knuckleballers left, and baseball always, always should have at least one knuckleballer. It's not like you don't know what you're getting: Dickey threw 190 innings again last season, with a perfectly respectable 4.26 ERA. You mean to tell me your team couldn't use 200 reliable innings with a 4.26 ERA?
In a league that's increasingly becoming a strikeout/walk/home run league, old school speed is rarer and more beloved than ever. If Dyson had played in 1982, he'd have been the most popular player in the sport. (Unless he later threw firecrackers into a group of fans, theoretically speaking.) I just want to see him do this again:
Gif: Jarrod Dyson celebration
Gomez received down-ballot MVP votes as recently as 2014, and he looked ready to cash in with a massive payday. He then fell off a cliff, though he revived his career a bit when the Astros released him and he went to Texas. More to the point: Gomez has a habit of driving opposing players insane. He remains the only guy I've ever seen who made an opponent so angry that he wouldn't let him cross home plate after hitting a homer.
Yes, John Jaso, who can still get on base and even hit a career high in homers last year, has quit baseball to float around on a boat for the rest of his life. This is awesome, we should all be John Jaso, but still: Baseball needs more glorious weirdos. Maybe he can just play for the Marlins and float on over for home games.
The pitching equivalent of Bautista, he's the pitcher you despise unless he is on your team. (Then you merely tolerate him.) Lackey had the worst non-2011 year of his career last season, but he still threw 170 innings for a team that won its division and reached the NL Championship Series. He says he wants to come back, and hey, maybe his fielders miss getting yelled at by him.
The guy never shuts up, on the field or on Twitter, and while the .300 hitter is gone, he might still have some utility as a middle infield fill-in. He remains beloved in Cincinnati, if less so by the beat writers, and fans do love cheering for him. I'm guessing St. Louis isn't a fit, though.
The Nationals signed Werth all those years ago to give them credibility as a winning franchise and … it totally worked. He hasn't been the player he once was since 2014, but the beard is in the best shape of its life. Surely there's some room for it somewhere in baseball, no? Though obviously not the Yankees.
C'mon, baseball: Sign these guys. We miss them.