Don't forget about these 9 free agents
While most of the top free agents have come off the board, the cupboard isn’t bare just yet.
Nathan Eovaldi, Jean Segura and Elvis Andrus are among the biggest names who remain unsigned.
Going beyond those stars, teams can find a number of free agents who haven’t received much attention to this point but still offer some upside. Here are nine players who fit that description.
Elvis Andrus, SS
You might have missed it, but Andrus produced nine homers, 11 steals (in 11 attempts) and a 116 OPS+ over 43 games for the White Sox after being released by the rebuilding A’s in August. His .446 expected slugging percentage in September/October was the fourth highest he’s had in a calendar month since the beginning of 2018, and he finished the season with 3.0 bWAR, nearly matching his total (3.3) from 2018-21 combined. Is his power surge sustainable? Probably not. But the 34-year-old’s defensive skills, contact ability and basestealing acumen give him a solid floor, and we just saw the value he can provide when he isn’t a complete non-factor in the slugging department.
Brandon Belt, 1B
Belt is coming off a 2022 campaign in which he hit .213 with eight homers in 78 games before going down with a right knee injury that eventually required surgery, so he’s not exactly entering his age-35 season on a high note. But let’s not forget that the first baseman had a 165 OPS+ across 2020-21, ranking third in MLB (min. 500 PAs) behind only Bryce Harper and Juan Soto. Injuries have been a problem for Belt his entire career, but with his knee issue resolved, his bat could rebound in a big way in 2023.
Matt Carpenter, DH
Now 37 years old, Carpenter will likely never experience another stretch like the one he had with the Yankees in 2022. But we can’t flat-out dismiss a former All-Star who recorded 15 homers, nine doubles, 37 RBIs and a 1.138 OPS over 154 plate appearances before a fractured left foot spoiled his unbelievable comeback story in 2022.
Michael Conforto, RF
When we last saw Conforto, he recorded 14 homers and a 100 OPS+ over 125 games for the Mets in 2021, and that was before he missed all of last season while recovering from right shoulder surgery. By the time next season begins, it will have been nearly 18 months since he played in an MLB game. All of that makes him a big risk, especially if he requires a multiyear deal. That said, there’s no denying the upside he offers. Conforto was one of the most productive outfielders in the game from 2017-20, posting an OPS+ of 122 or better every year during that span with a collective 134 mark, and he’s still relatively young (he’ll turn 30 in March).
Nelson Cruz, DH
It’s possible Father Time has caught up to Cruz, who was underwhelming following a trade to the Rays in 2021 before producing just 10 homers and a .651 OPS over 507 plate appearances for the Nationals last season. But after we saw Albert Pujols recapture his vintage form at the age of 42 during an exhilarating stretch run with the Cardinals, we can’t rule out a resurgence from Cruz as he sits 41 homers shy of 500. Before his 2022 rebound, Pujols was much further removed from his most recent season as an above-average hitter (113 OPS+ in 2016) than Cruz is now. Cruz, 42, had a 147 OPS+ across 2014-21, hitting more homers (292) than any other MLB player in that span.
Brandon Drury, 1B/3B
After signing a Minor League deal with the Reds last March, Drury is in line for a much better contract this offseason, though he hasn’t found it yet. The 30-year-old set career highs in homers (28), RBIs (87), runs (87) and OPS (.813) over 138 games between the Reds and Padres in 2022, winning a Silver Slugger Award at the newly established utility spot.
Wade Miley, SP
Elbow and shoulder problems limited Miley to 37 innings in 2022, but he was effective when he took the mound, posting a 3.16 ERA. The veteran left-hander has recorded a 129 ERA+ for four teams since the beginning of 2018. While MLB’s new shift restrictions have the potential to hurt a pitcher who allows as many batted balls as Miley does, the southpaw’s ability to minimize loud contact might make that a moot issue.
Will Smith, RP
The Astros’ pitching staff was so good last season that Smith, who recorded a flawless ERA with six saves over 11 innings during the Braves’ run to a World Series title in 2021, didn’t throw a single pitch in the 2022 playoffs. His absence from Houston’s championship march makes it easy to overlook how effective the 33-year-old lefty was after being dealt from the Braves to the Astros at the Trade Deadline. Over 22 innings with Houston, Smith recorded a 3.27 ERA with a 6.0 K/BB ratio and a 2.66 FIP, and he finished the year with a 97th percentile chase rate, an 84th percentile whiff rate and a 75th percentile barrel rate.
Michael Wacha, SP
One of the best remaining free-agent starters along with Eovaldi, Miley, Corey Kluber, Rich Hill and Zack Greinke, Wacha revitalized his career in 2022, posting a 3.32 ERA (127 ERA+) over 127 1/3 innings with the Red Sox -- his fourth team in as many years. Wacha’s peripherals (4.14 FIP, 4.56 xERA, 4.07 SIERA) weren’t nearly as strong as his ERA, and teams won’t soon forget how much he struggled over 2019-21 (5.11 ERA), but he could be worth a one-year flier to see if he can sustain last season’s performance.