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Six free agents who are better than you thought

With all the attention focused on big-name free agents — both those who have signed, like Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and those who haven’t, like Blake Snell and Cody Bellinger — —It’s easy to overlook some players. Talented players are still available. But as the calendar turns to 2024, with just over a month left until training – seriously, training is due to start in just over a month’s time – one suspects there will be a wave of signings. You’ll be surprised at some of the names that are still available.

While we’re all paying attention to the latest news on Josh Hader , Jordan Montgomery , and other big names on the market, let’s take a look at six free agents that no one is really talking about right now, but who are sure to be major assets for their teams Any team I end up signing with. These players deserve more attention than they receive. (They are listed alphabetically by last name, and the ages listed are how old each player will be by playing time in 2024.)

Brandon Belt, 1B (36)

Dominican Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette. Matt Chapman. George Springer. Mexican Alejandro Kirk. A big-name player with All-Star Game experience, he is a key part of Toronto’s offense and has led the team to strong performances in the tough American League East Division over the years. But in 2023, none of these players have the highest OPS on the Blue Jays. That honor belongs to Belt, whose .859 mark (albeit in 103 games) is 45 points better than the next-highest team, the Bichette. Like Belt, this is driven by his on-base percentage, which has always been his strength. He possessed impeccable eyesight, which he was sure to maintain until he was nearly 80 years old. He turns 36 in April, and while he’s never flashy, he gets on base and plays a thoroughly respectable first base. The man has a higher on-base percentage than Corbin Carroll, Jose Ramirez, Paul Goldschmidt, Rafael Devers and Marcus Semien. What team couldn’t benefit from a bat like this?

Aroldis Chapman, LHP (36)

For casual baseball fans who haven’t followed Cuba Chapman since his days as a starting pitcher with the Yankees, it might be a bit of a shock to see him make the playoffs with the Rangers. His body looked different, he couldn’t find the strike zone, barely got out of trouble, and breakdown always seemed imminent. But here’s the thing: The collapse didn’t end up happening, and Chapman walked out of the postseason with a World Series ring, and you know what? And, during the regular season, Chapman was very close to his old self. His strikeout rate with the Rangers and Royals was the highest of the past decade, he didn’t allow a single home run in 29.1 innings with Kansas City, and his fastball velocity was among the best of any pitcher. This is not the same as it was ten years ago. But it’s closer than you think. And it won’t cost as much as Hader.

J.D. Martinez, BD (36)

Of course, there are limits to who can be dedicated as a designated hitter, especially in the current market. (Well, unless you’re Ohtani in 2024. But we digress.) However, when it comes to “designated hitters only,” you really can’t do better than Martinez. The only year in the past decade that Martinez didn’t wreck the ball was 2020, so who among us was the best in 2020? He only played in 113 games last year but hit 33 home runs, which, by the way, beat teammate Freddie Freeman. There aren’t many teams that wouldn’t benefit from more strength in the lineup. Martinez provided instant momentum as always.

Tommy Pham, OF (36 years old)

Pham will turn 36 in March. 36! Pham didn’t debut until September 2014, when he was 26, so he doesn’t look as old as he actually is. He played for seven teams in 10 seasons and was technically classified as a Globetrotter, but it must be made clear that this guy didn’t play like a player with no ability to find a home. He was probably the Mets’ best hitter (not Pete Alonso) before New York traded him to Arizona at the deadline, and he was a monster for the D-backs in the World Series, batting average. is hitting .421 and was praised for declining a chance to go 5-for-5 in the Fall Classic so teammate Jace Pederson could hit. This is who you want on your team. Pham will be an under-the-radar signing that few people will notice, and then you see in June that he’s going to be your club’s best hitter for a full two weeks.

Jorge Soler, BD/OF (32 years old)

Cuban Soler will forever be remembered for those three months in 2021 when, as a loanee with the Braves, he helped the team win their first World Series in 26 years. But his performance in the regular season was more impressive, probably because he was overlooked in Kansas City and Miami. Soler hit home runs at a rate that few in baseball can match. This man hit 48 home runs in 2019! He hit 36 ​​homers for the Marlins last year heading into the postseason, and his prowess is nothing to sneeze at: a respectable .341 on-base percentage. He is a middle-order hitter who is still in his prime. What reason could he have not to like it?

Marcus Stroman, RHP (33)

Did everyone forget that Stroman was a Cy Young Award candidate for much of last year? Sure, he ultimately struggled, but through the first half of 2023, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. (In fact, he was considered a possible All-Star Game starter!) And it didn’t happen out of nowhere. His ERA hasn’t dipped below 4.00 since the troubled 2018 season, and he’s generally been able to stay on the field: With the exception of 2020, the one season he opted out, he has started 25 games or more. In six games over the past seven campaigns.

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