Are These Last Free Agents Ever Going to Sign?

These four free agents are still sitting on the market despite productive seasons in 2023. Are they ever going to find new homes?

Brandon Belt of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on from the dugout before Game 1 of the Wild Card Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 03: Brandon Belt #13 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on from the dugout before Game 1 of the Wild Card Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on Tuesday, October 3, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

As the offseason dragged on, the so-called “Boras Four” began to dominate headlines. When would free agents Cody Bellinger, Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, and Matt Chapman finally sign?

Bellinger was the first domino to fall. After Bellinger inked his three-year, $80 million guarantee with the Cubs, J.D. Martinez took his place in the Boras Four. Then Chapman signed a three-year, $54 million pact with the Giants, and it became the Boras Three.

Eventually, the famed super-agent landed deals for all his biggest clients; by Opening Day, Snell, Montgomery, and Martinez knew where they’d be playing in 2024. For many, the saga of the slow offseason had finally come to a close. Baseball was back.

Yet, nearly two weeks into the regular season, a handful of proven and capable players remain unsigned. I certainly didn’t expect any of these guys to set the market at their respective positions, but if you told me last November these four free agents would still be waiting by the phone in mid-April, I’d have been pretty surprised.

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Brandon Belt, 1B/DH

2023 Stats: 103 G, 404 PA, 19 HR, .254/.369/.490, 138 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR

Brandon Belt sat by and watched as several first base/DH free agents he outproduced in 2023 signed new contracts. Justin Turner got one year and $13 million from the Blue Jays, Belt’s former team. Joc Pederson got one year and $12.5 million from the reigning NL champs in Arizona.

Carlos Santana got one year and $5.25 million from the Brewers. Even Rowdy Tellez got $3.2 million from the Pirates, while Daniel Vogelbach ended up earning $2 million from the Blue Jays when he made the team out of spring training. Early in the offseason, Belt might have rejected all those offers. At this point, he’d be lucky if he still commands a few million.

Notably, Belt never even had the chance to reject lowball offers. He claims that he barely heard from any suitors all winter. Andrew Baggerly of The Athletic reports that the Mets were the only team to offer him a guaranteed contract, and even then, most of the money was tied up in incentives.

Belt might not be an All-Star or even an everyday player anymore. Still, he proved last season that he is an impact bat against right-handed pitching. He belongs in a big league lineup.

Tommy Pham, OF/DH

2023 Stats: 129 G, 481 PA, 16 HR, .256/.328/.446, 110 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR

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Tommy Pham wasn’t nearly as good for the Diamondbacks post-trade deadline as he was for the Mets over the first four months of the 2023 season. Yet, even at his worst, Pham always looked like a capable big league hitter. His 110 wRC+ was his best since 2019, and his 84th-percentile .361 xwOBA was his best since 2018.

Unlike Belt, Pham claimed that he received plenty of interest this offseason. In November, he told Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman of the New York Post that he expected offers from at least five or six teams.

However, Pham also made it clear that he didn’t want to be a platoon player or bench bat. He was looking for a team that could give him a regular role. Perhaps he waited too long for a full-time job offer that never came.

By now, you’d have to think that Pham is willing to lower his playing time expectations to escape free agency. He played in all five games of the World Series last year, and he should be playing in the majors right now.

Donovan Solano, IF

2023 Stats: 134 G, 450 PA, 5 HR, .282/.369/.391, 116 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR

Donovan Solano has never been a middle-of-the-order bat like Belt or Pham. Still, he has been a quietly productive player for the past five seasons.

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Dating back to 2019, Solano has a .296 batting average and 112 wRC+ in 450 games. He has played all four infield positions, too. His defense might not stand out at any one spot, but there is value in versatility.

Unfortunately, proven veteran bench players tend to get the short end of the stick in free agency. Plenty of teams would be better off with Solano on the bench, but they would rather use that roster spot on a young player with more potential. Solano has a high floor but a low ceiling, and most teams are choosing to bet on youngsters with upside at the back end of their rosters.

Zack Greinke, RHP

2023 Stats: 30 G (27 GS), 142.1 IP, 6.13 K/9, 1.45 BB/9, 5.06 ERA, 5.10 xERA, 1.1 fWAR

Zack Greinke is 40 years old. He’s coming off a season with a 5.06 ERA, his worst since 2005. I get why a team would have reservations about offering him a contract.

At the same time, plenty of teams could have used a No. 5 starter like Greinke last season. Despite his struggles, he still made 27 starts. Only 70 pitchers threw more innings, an average of 2.3 per team. Greinke’s rubber arm should be a valuable commodity in an age when durability is at such a premium.

Besides, what’s the downside? If Greinke really wants to extend his career, he surely isn’t holding out for an eight-figure deal. In a worst-case scenario, the team that signs him loses a few million dollars. In a best-case scenario, that team has a future Hall of Famer tossing five serviceable innings every five days.

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Baseball is better when Zack Greinke is pitching. Won’t someone give the man a job?