The Top Remaining MLB Free Agents and Why They Are Still Unsignedby Carter LaCorte March 21, 2021 2 comments
The 2021 Major League Baseball season is fast approaching. Opening Day is in under two weeks, and there are still some notable free agents looking for jobs. In past years, free agents signing late into the offseason was not uncommon, we once had a free agent camp, but with Spring Training wrapping up, the remaining free agents should want to make a decision fast. As seen with Craig Kimbrel in 2019, waiting into the season to sign is not the best idea. So, here are your top remaining free agents, and why they are still available.
1. Shane Greene, RHP
2020 stats: 2.60 ERA, 1.120 WHIP, 21 Ks, 3.53 xERA in 27.2 IP.
Greene still being left is definitely an interesting case, as he does not have the red flags like other candidates. The 32-year-old had a 1.18 ERA in 2019 as Detroit’s closer before a trade to Atlanta at the deadline. Greene couldn’t find his footing immediately with the Braves, as he had a 4.01 ERA, while his K/9 dropped. That dropped again in 2020, down to 6.8, his worst since 2015. Another big concern for Greene is his tanking sinker velocity. The pitch averaged 94.2 mph in 2018, but that fell all the way to 92 mph in 2020. Of course with these red flags, Greene’s market reasonably would not be active. But, he showed that he can still produce last year, and with a bundle of teams needing relief help, Greene should be scooped up soon. A return to the Braves would make sense after they lost both Greene and Mark Melancon. An incentives-heavy one-year deal should be enough to bring in Greene.
2. Yasiel Puig, OF
2020 stats: N/A.
A former rookie standout, Puig’s career has taken a downturn since he was NL ROY runner-up in 2013. But when we last saw him in 2019, he was still a productive player, as Puig hit 24 home runs, stole 19 bases, and had an OPS of .785. He was in a very similar situation last year, as Puig entering Spring Training without a contract. He reportedly agreed to a deal with the Braves at the beginning of the season, but he tested positive for COVID-19, the Braves backed out, and he never did get to sign a contract. Puig did change agencies over this offseason, to Luba Sports, who famously rep Trevor Bauer, who Puig was traded for in 2019. That has not been able to help him, as he is back in the same predicament. When things looked like they could not get worse for the outfielder, sexual assault accusations may have just ended any chance Puig had at getting a contract. If he can get around those, then he should take an incentives-loaded MiLB deal.
3. Ryan Braun, OF
2020 stats: .233 BA, 8 HRs, 1 SB, .769 OPS in 141 PAs.
A former Rookie of the Year, MVP, and five-time Silver Slugger winner, Braun’s career may be over. He has said that he is leaning towards retirement. But, the 37-year-old still had a 101 OPS+ last year, although a back injury forced him to miss time. The career Brewer has never been a below-average hitter, according to OPS+, and he still had a .271 xBA last year. Braun is not a great defender, but he could be a DH for a lowly American League team. However, I just don’t see him going anywhere but Milwaukee, where his 352 home runs are a franchise record. The Brewers seem to be the only team that can lure Braun out of his preferred retirement.
4. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH
2020 stats: .157 BA, 10 HRs, 0 SB, .627 OPS in 181 PAs.
The parrot really came crashing down. From 2012 to 2019, Encarnacion’s lowest home run total was 32, and he has an .846 OPS in 16 career seasons. After hitting 34 home runs with an .875 OPS in 2019, he took a one-year deal with the up-and-coming White Sox. Clearly, it did not work out, looking at his 2020 stats. His 8.8 BB% was his lowest in the Statcast era (2015 to present day), and he had an 85.4 mph average exit velocity, which was a major drop-off from 2019 (90.2 mph). Still, Encarnacion had a 13.2 barrel percentage, while striking out 29.8 percent of the time. He still has amazing power, and taking a flier on him is worth it.
5. Rick Porcello, RHP
2020 stats: 5.64 ERA, 1.508 WHIP, 54 Ks, 5.24 xERA in 59 IP.
Porcello won the 2016 AL Cy Young award while winning 22 games, but he has never had a season close to that since then. He left the Red Sox to join the Mets last year, and his descent continued. Batters had a .290 xBA against Porcello, who also allowed 74 hits. It wasn’t all bad, as the New Jersey native walked just 5.7 percent of batters, something that he has always been good at. Batters also had an 87.2 mph average exit velocity against him, which is good. Porcello is only 32 years old, and if the Rays brought in Michael Wacha, Porcello’s Mets teammate who he outplayed last year, then Porcello should be able to find a suitor.
6. Jedd Gyorko, IF
2020 stats: .248 BA, 9 HRs, 0 SB, .838 OPS in 135 PAs.
With some teams needing a backup infielder, Gyorko is someone who they should call. He had a 0.7 WAR last year, which actually led all Brewers position players. Move over, Christian Yelich. Gyorko had an amazing 16 percent barrel percentage while walking a career-best 11.1 percent of the time. If you want good defense, he gave it to the Brewers in 2020, with two outs above average; one at third base, and one at first. Gyorko can also play second base. The first five players have some reasons for teams not to be interested, but Gyorko is honestly a surprise.
Other remaining free agents: C Tyler Flowers, OF Josh Reddick, RHP Homer Bailey, LHP Cole Hamels, RHP Anibal Sanchez, RHP Mike Leake, RHP Jeff Samardzija, RHP Roberto Osuna (injury), RHP Brad Peacock.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images