One of the warmest sights in baseball in 2023 was seeing Andrew McCutchen back in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform. It just looked right, didn’t it?
Seeing Cutch back with the franchise where he got his start, where he won the 2013 NL MVP Award, made you feel like everything was coming full circle and all was right in the world. We got a similar experience the year before with Albert Pujols’ return to St. Louis. Sometimes, you just want to see an old friend back in his old uniform.
There are still many, many free agents on the market, and looking through the list, you can find some fun potential reunions between notable players and one of their old teams -- not least of which could be McCutchen heading back to Pittsburgh again.
Here are some players we’d love to see back in their old jerseys in 2024. Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Elvis Andrus, INF, Rangers
12 seasons with TEX (2009-20)
Andrus played his last game with the team he came up with in 2020, which is why you might not remember it. He has been with the A’s and the White Sox since then, with the Rangers replacing him with Corey Seager -- which was not a bad deal. But if you remember the infamous David Freese Fall Classic triple in 2011, the first player the camera captures who is not celebrating is Andrus, who holds his hands over his head in disbelief. The Rangers have now vanquished that history with their first World Series title. Maybe they let Elvis -- who's ranked second in most games played as a Ranger -- come back and exorcise those demons himself.
Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Reds
6 seasons with CIN (2010-15)
Kids, gather ‘round grandpa here and let him tell you the story of back when Chapman was being groomed to be a starter. He was! Chapman started 13 games for Triple-A Louisville back in 2010, and the Reds were seriously considering keeping the Cuba native in the rotation. They wised up in ‘12 and made him their closer, after which he made four consecutive All-Star teams. He has been with the Yankees, Cubs, Royals and Rangers since then, winning two World Series rings along the way. Perhaps a return could be in the offing for a Cincinnati club that could use some relief help? (They should definitely keep him in the bullpen this time.)
Josh Donaldson, 3B, A’s
4 seasons with OAK (2010, 2012-14)
The Bringer of Rain had the worst year of his career in 2023, as he struggled through injuries, which resulted in the Yankees eventually just flat-out releasing him. (He was picked up by the Brewers and wasn’t much better with them.) But maybe one last go-around with the team he broke in with could rejuvenate him at the tail end of his career. It’s not like bringing a Bash Brother back, but it’s not that far from it.
Rich Hill, LHP, Cubs
4 seasons with CHC (2005-08)
It’s not entirely clear whether Hill will pitch in 2024, and it’s not like the Cubs need yet another pitcher who doesn’t throw very hard, but c’mon: What could be more fitting than Hill returning to the franchise he broke in with way back in ‘05? Hill is an entirely different pitcher than he was back then, and the Cubs, well, they’ve gone through a lot since ‘05 themselves. He has always felt like a perfect fit at Wrigley anyway. If they won’t do a whole season, maybe just one more game?
Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Braves
5 seasons with ATL (2010-14)
While we’re having reliever reunions with original teams, how about Kimbrel in Atlanta? The Braves drafted Kimbrel way back in 2007, and he joined the big league team three years later, winning the Rookie of the Year Award in ‘11 and leading the NL in saves for four straight seasons. When you close your eyes and think of Kimbrel, don’t you think of him as a Brave first? If he makes it into the Hall of Fame, it’s likely the team that’ll be on his plaque. Letting him say goodbye to the fans who first cheered for him would be an excellent way to (potentially) send him off to Cooperstown.
Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
10 seasons with TB (2008-17)
All right, so this one has to happen, right? Longoria is the all-time Rays leader in essentially every counting stat: WAR, at-bats, games, total bases, runs, doubles, home runs and RBIs. (He’s actually nine hits behind Carl Crawford. Give him that one, too!) He’s the best player in franchise history, and the one who ushered in their new age of success after years in the expansion wilderness. He’s fresh off a World Series appearance. He’s Evan Longoria! They’re the Rays! This has to happen!
Hyun Jin Ryu, LHP, Dodgers
6 seasons with LAD (2013-14, 2016-19)
For years, the South Korea native was known as a guy who couldn’t stay on the mound but was downright dominant when he was out there. Then in 2019, he made 29 starts and put up a 2.32 ERA, finishing second in NL Cy Young Award voting along the way. That got him a nice four-year contract with Toronto. While that resulted in more injuries and considerably less dominance, Ryu still seems to have some real value when deployed carefully. And you may remember the Dodgers being in need of some starting pitching last October -- or really all throughout ‘23.
Carlos Santana, 1B, Guardians
10 seasons with CLE (2010-17, 2019-20)
Santana, a little like José Ramírez, was a consistently underappreciated star for his first eight years in Cleveland, playing a solid first base, hitting for power and always, always getting on base. Do not forget, this guy had a .379 OBP in that 2016 World Series against the Cubs. He has bounced around since then as an occasional Trade Deadline acquisition, but he’d help a Guardians team that could always use an offensive boost. He can still get into one, too. Santana smacked 23 homers last year, only one fewer than Ramírez, actually.
Justin Turner, 1B/DH, Mets
4 seasons with NYM (2010-13)
Oh, you thought I was going to say Dodgers, didn’t you? Well, sure, it would feel right to see Turner -- who was very good for the Red Sox in 2023 -- back in Dodger Blue. But I’m arguing we go back even further, all the way to ‘13. After that season, Turner was infamously non-tendered by the Mets before heading to Chavez Ravine and turning into a cult hero. He has gone through a lot since ‘13. Heck, we all have.
Michael Wacha, RHP, Cardinals
7 seasons with STL (2013-19)
St. Louis has already signed three starting pitchers, so it might seem like a tough squeeze here, but you can never have enough pitching. Wacha has reinvented himself in the past two seasons after some ugly struggles with the Mets and Rays, but he was never better than he was with the Cardinals, particularly during that incredible 2013 postseason run when he was nearly unhittable (and won the NLCS MVP Award). Lance Lynn, also a part of that ‘13 team, is back. How about Wacha?