When the 8 p.m. ET deadline for tendering contracts for eligible players Friday night passed, it quickly became apparent that this was among those Players not offered a contract are some notable and intriguing names. That includes the 2019 NL MVP, the 2020 MLB home run leader, and many others who, while being fired 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 who were added to the pool on Friday:
1. Cody Bellinger, CF (not drafted by the Dodgers)
Bellinger’s decline since 2019, when he was named National League MVP, has been dramatic — since posting 1,035 OPS with 47 homers that year, he’s cut .203/.272/.376 with 41 homers in 295 games.
The Dodgers have continued to give their midfielder time to get things right over the past three seasons, but it just never happened. Now, while the Dodgers might re-sign him even after that do not write a contractBellinger may be looking for a fresh start in a new jersey.
2. Dominic Smith, 1B (Mets)
Smith had a breakout season for the Mets in 2019 at age 24 when he had an .881 OPS with 11 home runs in 197 plate appearances for New York. He built on that with a tremendous campaign during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season as he hit a .993 OPS with 10 homers in 199 plate appearances.
But as Pete Alonso continued his rise to fame, Smith went back, reaching .233/.298/.345 in the last two seasons. He’s only 27 years old and could be an intriguing free agent considering what he was doing on the plate two years ago.
3. Luke Voit, 1B/DH (Nationals)
As recently as 2020, Voit led the majors in home runs and slammed 22 of 234 plate appearances for the Yankees in the shortened season. Since then, however, the mighty slugger has hit just 33 home runs in 809 plate appearances split between the Nationals and the Padres. At 31, he might still have enough pop in his racquet to go anywhere.
4. Franchy Cordero, OF (Red Sox)
The sensational raw tools Cordero possesses — 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 to production so far in his MLB career. But despite owning a career OPS of just .676, he’s still only 28 and could be an amazing pickup if a club can unleash his potential.
5. Alex Reyes, RHP (Cardinals)
Reyes was one of the Cardinals’ top picks when he made his MLB debut in 2016, and for good reason — the right-hander hit a three-digit fastball and a devastating curve ball, resulting in a 1.57 ERA and 28 percent strikeout Guess 46 innings this rookie season. But he’s since been derailed by a series of injuries that limited him to 26 2/3 innings from 2018-2020 (he missed season ’17 while recovering from Tommy John surgery).
In 2021, Reyes had a great first half and earned his first career All-Star selection. But his ERA in the second half was 5.52, and he missed the entirety of Season 22 due to shoulder surgery. As cardinals further from himCould a change of scenery lead to a Reyes resurgence?
6. Jeimer Candelario, 3B (Tigers)
Just a year away from leading the majors in doubles (42) while Candelario posted a .795 OPS for the Tigers is a free agent. He struggled in 2022 when his offensive production dropped drastically — he had a .633 OPS in 124 games for Detroit last season. But he’s still relatively young, turning 29 on November 24, and could be a good acquisition for a team looking for an infield cornerman.
7. Adam Engel, CF (White Sox)
From 2020-21, Engel added a solid hitter to his already strong defense and speed down the base paths for the White Sox. After only .215/.271/.330 in his first three seasons with Chicago, he posted an .823 OPS over the next two years. The only problem was that he was injured for much of that span, with injuries limiting him to 75 games.
Then, last season, Engel’s OPS was just a .579 in 260 plate appearances. He’ll be 31 next month, so he has to prove himself soon, but his raw tool set is hard not to dream of.
8. Aristides Aquino, OV (Reds)
Remember when Aquino absolutely lit up opposing pitching as a rookie in 2019? He earned the nickname “The Punisher” by hitting seven home runs in his first 10 career games for the Reds, tying Trevor Story’s record from 2016. He also set a major league record by starting home runs in three straight innings against the Cubs on August 10. He later set a new record by hitting his 13th homer in his 100th appearance on the record of his career.
Overall, Aquino finished the year with 19 home runs and an .891 OPS, but he hasn’t come close to matching that feat since. From 2020-2022, his OPS was just .647 with 22 home runs. Still, Aquino enters his 2023 season at the age of 29 and you can’t assume there’s no pop left in his racquet.
9. Edwin Rios, INF (Dodgers)
Rios really introduced himself to the baseball world in his 15th career game when he hit two home runs 4-on-5 against the Marlins in Miami on Aug. 14, 2019. He would hit two more homers in the next 13 games and finish with 1,010 OPS in 56 plate appearances during his rookie campaign. That comes after he set fire to Pacific Coast League pitching for 31 home runs and .915 OPS for triple-A Oklahoma City in the first four months of the minor league season.
2020 continued to look good for Rios as he hit eight more homers during the pandemic-shortened campaign and hit a .946 OPS in 32 games. But after that, injuries and offensive regression handicapped him, leading the Dodgers to consider him expendable. The 28-year-old could certainly be seen as a player who can take a chance for a club looking for a corner player.
10. Brian Anderson, 3B (Marlin)
Anderson was worth 8 wins over substitutes (baseball reference) in 341 games for Miami from 2018-20, a period in which he had a .785 OPS and played both in right field at third base. But like most players on this list, injuries played a role in 2021-2022 as he hit a .681 OPS with 15 homers in 165 games. Given his defensive versatility and track record of solid offensive numbers before being hampered by injuries, Anderson could be an attractive option for several clubs.