As the 8pm ET deadline for offering contracts for players eligible for arbitration passed Friday night, it quickly became apparent that the unsigned players included some notable and intriguing names. So will the 2019 NL MVP, the 2020 MLB home run leader, and many others who, while being let go due to injuries and/or lack of production, could potentially help a team or two in the future.
Here’s a look at 10 intriguing free agents added to the pool on Friday:
1. Cody Bellinger, CF (not offered by the Dodgers)
Bellinger’s decline from 2019, when he was named National League MVP, has been dramatic—since posting a 1,035 OPS with 47 homers that year, he’s cut .203/.272/.376 in half with 41 homers in 295 matches.
The Dodgers kept giving their center fielder the last three seasons to get things right, but it just never happened. Now, while the Dodgers could re-sign him even after not being offered a contract, Bellinger can look for a fresh start in a new uniform.
2. Dominic Smith, 1B (Mets)
Smith had a breakout season for the Mets at age 24 in 2019 when he had a .881 OPS with 11 homers in 197 at bats for New York. He built on that with a stellar campaign during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, as he posted a .993 OPS with 10 homers in 199 at bats.
But as Pete Alonso continued to work his way to stardom, Smith declined, batting .233/.298/.345 over the past two seasons. He’s only 27 and could be a fascinating free agent to follow given what he was doing at the plate just two years ago.
3. Luke Voit, 1B/DH (Nationals)
Also in 2020, Voit led the Majors in home runs and hit 22 in 234 at bats for the Yankees during the shortened season. Since then, however, the colossal slugger has hit just 33 home runs in 809 at bats split between the Nationals and Padres. At 31, he might still have enough pop in that bat to hit something.
4. Franchy Cordero, VAN (Red Sox)
The sensational raw tools Cordero owns — the 6-foot-3, 226-pound outfielder hit a baseball at 117.9 mph and also ranked in the 84th percentile in Sprint Speed last season, according to Statcast — just hasn’t translated into production. so well into his MLB career. But while he owns a career OPS of just .676, he’s only 28 years old and could be a great pick if a club can unlock his potential.
5. Alex Reyes, RHP (Cardinals)
Reyes was one of the Cardinals’ top prospects when he made his MLB debut in 2016, and for good reason: The right-hander had a triple-digit fastball and a devastating curveball, leading to a 1.57 ERA and a 28 percent strikeout. rate over 46 innings in that rookie season. But since then a rash of injuries has derailed him, limiting him to 26 2/3 innings from 2018-20 (he missed the ’17 season to recover from Tommy John surgery).
In 2021, Reyes had a stellar first half and earned his first career All-Star selection. But his second half ERA was 5.52 and he missed the entire ’22 campaign due to shoulder surgery. Can a change of scenery lead to a resurgence of Reyes as the Cardinals move away from him?
6. Jeimer Candelario, 3B (Tigers)
Just a year away from leading the Majors in doubles (42) while posting a .795 OPS for the Tigers, Candelario is a free agent. He struggled in 2022 and saw his offensive production plummet — last season he had a .633 OPS in 124 games for Detroit. But he is still relatively young, turning 29 on November 24, and could be a promising addition to a team looking for a corner infielder.
7. Adam Engel, CF (White Sox)
From 2020-21, Engel added a solid bat to his already strong defense and speed on the base paths for the White Sox. After only hitting .215/.271/.330 during his first three seasons with Chicago, he managed an .823 OPS the next two years. The only problem was that he was injured for much of that period, with injuries limiting him to 75 games.
Then last season, Engel’s OPS was only .579 in 260 at bats. He turns 31 next month, so he’ll have to prove himself soon, but his raw tool set is hard not to dream about.
8. Aristides Aquino, OR (Red)
Remember when Aquino absolutely lit up the opposing pitching as a rookie in 2019? He earned the nickname of “the Punisher” by hitting seven home runs in his first 10 career games for the Reds, tying Trevor Story’s record set in 2016. He also tied a major league record by launching home runs in three consecutive innings against the Cubs on August 10. He later set a new record by hitting his 13th homer in his 100th career plate appearance.
Overall, Aquino finished that year with 19 home runs and an .891 OPS, but he hasn’t come close to that production since. From 2020-22, his OPS was only .647 with 22 homers. Still, Aquino will enter his 29-year-old season in 2023, and you can’t assume there’s no pop left in his bat.
9. Edwin Rios, INF (Dodgers)
Rios really introduced himself to the baseball world in his 15th career game, going 4-for-5 with a pair of home runs on August 14, 2019 against the Marlins in Miami. He would hit two more home runs in the next 13 games and finish with a 1,010 OPS in 56 at bats during his rookie campaign. That came after he fired up the Pacific Coast League pitching for 31 homers and a .915 OPS for Triple-A Oklahoma City through the first four months of the Minor League season.
Things continued to look good for Rios in 2020 as he hit eight more homers and posted a .946 OPS in 32 games during the pandemic-shortened campaign. But after that, he was hampered by injuries and offensive regression, leading the Dodgers to view him as expendable. The 28-year-old could certainly be seen as a player to take a chance on for a club looking for a corner infielder.
10. Brian Anderson, 3B (Marlins)
Anderson was worth 8 wins over replacement (baseball reference) in 341 games for Miami from 2018-20, a span in which he had a .785 OPS and played both right third base. But, as with most players on this list, injuries were a factor in 2021-22, when he posted a .681 OPS with 15 homers in 165 games. Given his defensive versatility and record of solid offensive numbers before he was hampered by injuries, Anderson could be an attractive option for several clubs.