Best MLB Free Agents Still Left Unsigned Before Opening Day

We are exactly three weeks away from Opening Day for most teams, and yet there are still plenty of quality MLB players available in free agency.

ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 04: Jordan Montgomery #52 of the Texas Rangers celebrates a strikeout during Game One of the Wild Card Series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on October 03, 2023 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Bailey Orr/Texas Rangers/Getty Images)

While the Major League Baseball season technically begins in South Korea, where the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres open up 2024 with the MLB Seoul Series, the other 28 teams will open their season three weeks from today, on Thursday, March 28th.

With the season fast-approaching, there is still plenty of quality big league players who are unemployed, waiting on teams to give them an MLB offer to sign for the upcoming season.

Players who are tired of waiting are being forced to take well-below market deals, such as Eddie Rosario signing a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals after hitting 21 home runs in 142 games played with the Atlanta Braves last season.

Rosario’s deal will pay him $2 million at least, with a chance to make and additional $2 million in incentives, but the fact that he couldn’t even find an MLB deal is pretty alarming when he has at least proven to be a solid big league player and is just 32 years old.

Ad – content continues below

Obviously we know the big names like Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery and J.D. Martinez, who are still waiting on their big paydays, but there are countless other players who are just looking for a chance to continue their MLB careers.

Here’s a look at where free agency stands with spring training already halfway complete.

Free Agent Starting Pitchers

At the beginning of the offseason, Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery were the top two left-handed starting pitchers available, and yet here they still sit in free agency.

Beyond Snell and Montgomery, Michael Lorenzen and Mike Clevinger remain available as viable big league starters who are waiting for an opportunity. Zack Greinke, Rich Hill and Johnny Cueto are all on the market as veterans who have had great careers, but may be entering a forced retirement, while Noah Syndergaard is struggling to find a team after a pair of down seasons.

Blake Snell

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 8: Blake Snell #4 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park on August 8, 2021 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA – AUGUST 8: Blake Snell #4 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park on August 8, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

He is the reigning NL Cy Young, coming off a season where he pitched to a 2.25 ERA in 180 innings pitched. Any team could use Snell atop their rotation. The issue comes with his price tag.

Snell is asking for ace-level money, and rightfully so coming off his standout 2023 campaign. Teams are wary of giving him that type of deal however based on his 2021 and 2022 seasons, where Snell couldn’t eclipse the 130-inning mark either year.

Ad – content continues below

After Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman both signed similar three-year deals, which include opt-outs after each of the first two seasons, there has been some speculation that Snell would be open to taking deal with a similar structure.

The question is how much money will Snell require to sign a short-term deal. Is Scott Boras going to be asking for something in line with what Zack Wheeler just signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, where he is getting $42 million per season?

It is is very unlikely that a deal with that high of an AAV is out there for Snell. And there is even doubt as to if there is a team willing to commit as much as $35 million per season on Snell. Time will tell on where he ultimately lands, but expect the total guarantee to be far less than what Boras and Snell came into the offseason asking for.

Jordan Montgomery

Another Boras client waiting for a big pay day. Jordan Montgomery pitched himself into a new tier during October, when he was integral to leading the Texas Rangers to becoming World Series champions.

In some respects, Montgomery’s standout performance has hindered his market in the sense that his asking price has reached a point where teams are clearly not comfortable. Despite being a co-ace in the playoffs, many still view Montgomery as a No. 3 long-term and are not interested in paying him like a frontline starter.

With that said, over the last two years, Montgomery has pitched to a sub 3.50 ERA each season and has averaged over 180 innings pitched while making all 32 starts. He is a consistent innings-eater, who has achieved success in both small and big markets, and has stepped up on the biggest stage.

Ad – content continues below

There is a world where Montgomery is forced to take a short-term deal like Bellinger and Chapman, but that might not be the best course of action. The left-hander would be hard-pressed to have a better platform year than the one he just put forth, so I don’t know how attractive those opt-outs truly are, other than hoping the market is better with teams spending more next year.

The best course might be to take the most years he can get right now and settle in with his new club, but the market is very murky right now for Montgomery.

Michael Lorenzen

Michael Lorenzen is coming off an All-Star season, although that designation was probably reserved for him more for playing on the Detroit Tigers than anything else. Lorenzen was very effective in Detroit, pitching to a 3.58 ERA in 18 starts and 105 2/3 innings pitched.

He then got traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he threw a no-hitter, but ultimately struggled beyond that. Lorenzen’s 5.51 ERA with the Phillies might be scaring off teams, but he still pitched 153 innings and made 25 starts last year.

There are countless teams who will be deploying back-end starters this year that are worse than Lorenzen. They are just pitchers who are already under team control that come cheaper.

There is no reason why Lorenzen is still on the market, but because he is, the right-hander may be forced to take a below market one-year deal, before trying his luck in free agency again next year.

Ad – content continues below

Mike Clevinger

A similar story to Lorenzen before him, Mike Clevinger is a good enough starting pitcher that he warrants a job in a big league rotation. With that said, there are some off-field concerns with Clevinger that could being scaring teams away.

Last year, Clevinger was placed under investigation by Major League Baseball for alleged domestic violence and child abuse. This came after he had signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Chicago White Sox, which included a $12 million mutual option with a $4 million buyout for 2024.

Upon conclusion of the investigation, MLB decided that it would not be imposing any discipline on Clevinger in connection to the allegations and he was able to resume his career. This is however is the first time that Clevinger has been on the market since all of this took place.

When it comes to his performance on the field, Clevinger made 24 starts for the White Sox and pitched to a 3.77 ERA in 131 1/3 innings pitched.

Zack Greinke

With a resume already good enough to merit induction into Cooperstown, Zack Greinke does not want to hang them up just yet, as Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reported earlier this offseason.

Instead Greinke is eyeing one last milestone, which is the elusive 3,000 strikeout club.

Ad – content continues below

The 40-year-old is merely 21 strikeouts away from becoming the 20th member of the 3,000 strikeout club. Last year, Greinke pitched to a 5.06 ERA for the Kanas City Royals, across 142 1/3 innings pitched with 97 strikeouts.

Hopefully there is a team who signs Greinke to be a veteran innings-eater and mentor, which would allow him to reach that 3,000 strikeout milestone.

Other Free Agent Starters Available

As eluded to before, Johnny Cueto and Rich Hill are both still free agents who have not officially retired, but they might not get another call after the seasons they had in 2023. Each pitcher finished the year with an ERA well over 5.00.

Noah Syndergaard held a showcase for scouts last month to try to garner some interest, but no teams seem to be in on him so far. Jake Odorizzi is a free agent coming off a year where he didn’t pitch in 2023, and Vince Velasquez is coming off Tommy John surgery and likely won’t be available until midseason at best.

Free Agent Relief Pitchers

Most of the notable free agent relief pitchers have already been signed, with battles taking place right now in camps between plenty of guys who took minor league deals to try to prolong their big league careers.

There are however two veteran relievers who are still on the market and deserve a mention.

Ad – content continues below

Ryne Stanek

We are only one year removed from Ryne Stanek pitching to a 1.15 ERA across 54 2/3 innings with the Houston Astros. Across three seasons with the club, Stanek made 186 appearances and pitched to a 2.90 ERA in 173 2/3 innings pitched.

Last year was his worst season in Houston, but he still managed to post a 4.09 ERA in just over 50 innings pitched. At just 32 years old, Stanek should have a few more good years left in his hard-throwing right arm (averaged 98.2 MPH in 2023).

Brad Hand

While his best days are likely behind him, it is hard to believe there is not a team out there who could use Brad Hand in their bullpen. Hand pitched to a 2.80 ERA back in 2022, and fared relatively well pitching in Colorado last season, with a 4.54 ERA.

The soon-to-be 34-year-old finished the season with the Atlanta Braves and struggled in 20 appearances (7.50 ERA). Still, Hand held lefties to a .584 OPS last season, bringing some value as a lefty-specialist who can still rack up strikeouts.

Free Agent Designated Hitters

The following group of free agents has reached the point in their careers where expecting them to go out and field a position is probably not wise, but there is still enough ability in their bats to keep them on a big league roster.

J.D. Martinez

Probably the most prominent free agent left not named Snell or Montgomery, J.D. Martinez is coming off a fantastic season with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he drove in 103 runs in just 113 games played.

Ad – content continues below

Martinez hit .271/.321/.572, with 33 home runs, 27 doubles and a 135 wRC+. One look at his Baseball Savant page and you will see nothing but blood red, as he still hits the ball hard with more consistency than most hitters in the game.

If not for Shohei Ohtani, the Dodgers likely would have welcomed Martinez back with open arms to continue being their DH. Instead, the 36-year-old is out on the market looking to sign a lucrative deal coming off a great season.

This might have been the last chance for Martinez to sign a multi-year deal, but the longer he lingers on the market, the less likely it is that he signs anything other than a one-year pact.

Brandon Belt

For the first time in his career, Brandon Belt played for a franchise other than the San Francisco Giants last year, and did so with great success. Playing with the Toronto Blue Jays, Belt posted a very solid 138 wRC+, hitting .254/.369/.490, with 19 home runs in 103 games.

The 35-year-old did strike out in nearly 35% of his plate appearances, but counteracted that with a walk rate over 15%. Belt can still carry the strong-side of a platoon at the DH spot, and can even play a little first base in a pinch as well.

Joey Votto

After spending his entire career with the Cincinnati Reds, Joey Votto has hit free agency for the first time at 40 years old. No team has given Votto an MLB offer yet this offseason, which has resorted to him making desperate pleas on social media to be signed by a team.

Ad – content continues below

Shoulder injuries have kept Votto off the field over the last two years, as he played in just 156 games across his final few years in Cincinnati. Still, Votto hit 14 home runs in 65 games last season, while walking at an 11.2% clip.

Votto might not be the best option for teams who are looking for a DH that can take them over the top, but any rebuilding team that has at-bats to give should be looking at Votto. He clearly still wants to play and could fill an integral role as a mentor for young club.

Free Agent Outfielders

As mentioned earlier, we just watched Eddie Rosario sign a minor league deal to get back into a big league camp despite coming off a season that should have warranted an MLB deal. We can say the same thing for a handful of other outfielders, who still somehow sit on the market.

Michael A. Taylor

So far we have seen both Harrison Bader and Kevin Kiemaier sign one-year deals this offseason that were worth $10.5 million. If that is the going rate for a top-flight defensive center fielder, what is Michael A. Taylor still doing on the market?

Taylor has been a model of consistency over the past three seasons, posting an fWAR of at least 1.5 each year, while playing at least 120 games per season. Taylor has been worth 65 DRS and 53 OAA in his career in center field.

Last year, he was worth 5 DRS and 8 OAA, with the latter putting him in the 94th percentile among all fielders in 2023. Along with the defense, Taylor popped a career-high 21 home runs for the Twins last season.

Ad – content continues below

A high-end fourth outfielder who would be a fine starting center fielder on most teams, Taylor should not be stuck without a job coming off a career-year at 32 years old.

Tommy Pham

Coming off his best season since 2019, Tommy Pham is again struggling to find a deal in free agency. Last year, the soon-to-be 36-year-old hit .256/.328/.446, with 16 home runs and a 110 wRC+ split between the New York Mets and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Pham started for the Diamondbacks throughout the playoffs and hit .279, with three home runs across 16 games played. Pham even showed improvements defensively last year, posting 1 DRS and 0 OAA in left field, after being worth -4 DRS and -13 OAA in the prior two years.

If that wasn’t enough, Pham took advantage of the new rules last year to swipe 22 bases, his most since stealing 25 with the Rays back in 2019. Pham is certainly a better outfielder than a lot of guys who are currently in line to start come Opening Day.

Adam Duvall

There are real injury concerns with Adam Duvall, who has not played 100 games in either of the last two seasons, but we cannot ignore his production when on the field.

Duvall hit .247/.303/.531, with 21 home runs and a 116 wRC+ for the Red Sox last season. He did all of that in just 92 games played, showing that he could still be a 30-home run guy if healthy for a full season.

Ad – content continues below

The 35-year-old has been asked to a play a lot of center field over the last few years, which could be part of what has kept him off the field. If a team lets Duvall settle into a corner, he could stay healthy and deliver some big power production, as well as strong defense.

Robbie Grossman

A switch-hitter, who is more of a platoon bat, Robbie Grossman has a definable skill that should have him on a big league roster right now. He crushes left-handed pitching.

Last season, Grossman hit .309/.416/.536, with a 158 wRC+ against southpaws. The 34-year-old is not the best defensive outfielder, but he won’t kill you in a corner and hits enough to be considered for the short-side of a DH platoon.

Free Agent Infielders

Last but not least, we have a pair of free agent infielders who are still looking for a home to continue their long big league careers.

Donovan Solano

At 36 years old now, Donovan Solano seems to get better with age. Last year, he hit .282/.369/.391, with a 116 wRC+ in 134 games played.

The utility-man has not posted a wRC+ below 100 since 2019, as he has been a steady bat in every lineup he has been part of over the last five years. Solano doesn’t pack much power or speed, but he will keep the line moving and won’t hurt you in the starting lineup.

Ad – content continues below

On top of his consistent play offensively, Solano can play solid defense at every spot in the infield outside of shortstop. Not a guy who typically has the starting job on Opening Day, Solano is a great option to plug in off the bench as soon as an injury pops up.

Evan Longoria

We end with another big name who could be on his way out of the big leagues after a fantastic career.

Evan Longoria is a three-time All-Star, who has three Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger to his name. Longo spent the first 10 years of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, before spending five with the San Francisco Giants and last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Now 38 years old, Longoria did not have the best season in 2023, as he hit .223/.295/.422, with 11 home runs and a 92 wRC+. Similar to Votto, if Longoria wants to prolong his career, he still could provide value to a franchise with his ability to mentor young hitters.