7 grizzled free agents we’d like to see get one more shot
Now that Carlos Correa is finally signed, all the major free agents are off the market. The big names are gone, the budgets are set, the holes are mostly filled. But there are still guys out there, guys you know, whom we have been watching for years and who remain unsigned. They’re at that potentially perilous spot of being a veteran, late in the process, but they haven’t found a chair to sit in yet. And they’re running out of time.
The baseball world would be worse without these guys as active players -- we’ve followed them their whole careers, and we’re not ready to say goodbye yet. And I’d argue they’ve still got some game, too, with something to offer a team. Here’s a look at unsigned veterans we’re hoping get another shot.
Jesús Aguilar, 1B
For a while there, Aguilar was one of the best stories in baseball, a guy claimed off waivers by the Brewers who caught fire for a terrific team that was short only in the power department, something Aguilar provided. He made the All-Star team in 2018, participated in the Home Run Derby and even received MVP votes -- he won the Luis Aparicio Award for best Venezuelan player and homered in that great NL Championship Series against the Dodgers that year, too.
Aguilar took a step back in 2019, but was an above-average hitter (117 OPS+ in the shortened '20 season, 111 in '21) before it fell apart for him in Miami and Baltimore last year. But this was a major power bat from 2017-21, and he’s still only 32. Aguilar sure seems worth a flier for someone in need of some pop.
Didi Gregorius, SS
In retrospect, Gregorius was an ideal test run for the Anthony Rizzo and Matt Carpenter experience at Yankee Stadium: Find a left-handed hitter who isn’t necessarily known for power, but who can poke it over that close wall with consistency. It hasn’t really worked for Didi either before or after his time in The Bronx -- other than a good run during the truncated season in 2020 -- though he was riddled with bad luck in Philadelphia, from injuries to visa issues to pseudo-gout.
Gregorius will have the opportunity to show off what he has left in the 2023 World Baseball Classic: He’ll be playing for the Dutch team, alongside another player on this list, actually.
Andrelton Simmons, SS
Every year Simmons has been an even passable hitter -- and, to be fair, it has been a few years -- he has been an MVP candidate (fun fact: on the 2017 Angels, a team that featured prime Mike Trout, Simmons led the team in WAR, per Baseball Reference).
His defensive skills haven’t really slipped much, even as the bat has devolved to the point that you might want to pinch-hit for him regularly. But defense is still hugely important, and may be even more so with the new limitations on defensive shifts. Every team feels more comfortable with Simmons hoovering up balls at short. Someone will find a place for him -- just don’t let him bat in a big spot.
Mike Moustakas, INF
It feels like Moustakas has been around our entire lives, doesn’t it? Famously selected second overall in the 2007 (!) Draft, he was one of the linchpins of those Royals prospects who would ultimately come together to lead that team to back-to-back World Series appearances, and that '15 win.
Because Moustakas was so young when he was drafted, you might not realize he’s still only 34 years old. He was an All-Star as recently as 2019 -- that’s what inspired the Reds to sign him to that ill-fated contract in the first place -- but injuries have wiped him out the last two years. There’s still pop in that bat, though, there has to be. And c’mon: “Moose” is such a great word to yell at ballparks.
Tommy Pham, OF
Pham is one of those big personalities, one of those rusty nails who always speaks his mind, that baseball would be poorer without. He came up in the Cardinals organization, but he didn’t get a call up until he was 26. Pham was truly fantastic in 2017, with a .931 OPS in 128 games, but the Cardinals traded him to Tampa Bay at the Deadline in '18. He was solid for the Rays, but, as has tended to be the case in his career, Pham kept traveling from city to city: To San Diego, then Cincinnati, then Boston.
Last season was the worst year of his career, and he’ll somehow be 35 on Opening Day, but the guy still gets on base and can hit the ball with authority. Someone’s going to sign Pham and be very pleasantly surprised … before he moves on to another team shortly thereafter, as usual.
Stephen Piscotty, OF
The Cardinals traded Pham’s former outfield mate Piscotty to Oakland before the 2018 season in part so the Northern California native could be closer to his mother, who was dying from ALS. Piscotty was an incredible story on the field that year as well, putting together a 124 OPS+ for a 97-win team.
Injuries have wrecked him since then, but this guy was getting Rookie of the Year votes just seven years ago and looked like someone the A's were going to build around fairly recently. He’s the sort of guy you root for, and he’s still only 32.
Justin Upton, OF
How different would the last few years of Angels history have been if Upton were healthy and the player they thought they were getting when they signed him to that big contract? Upton was one of the most consistent hitters in baseball from 2008-17, and he was only 29 when he came to Anaheim. But injuries stopped him from ever being the 1-2 punch with Trout he was supposed to be, and Upton looked mostly cooked during a short spell with Seattle last year.
This was a titanic talent, though, both coming up in the Minors and during a decade in the Majors, and you’d hope there’s maybe one last run for him in there, for someone. Upton was the No. 1 overall pick in 2005. We’ve been talking about him for nearly two decades. I’m not ready for him to go away. Are you?