As we head into this MLB offseason, we've all heard all about the big-name free agents that are going to be available. Well before the World Series ended much of the baseball world was already opining about where the likes of Kris Bryant, Max Scherzer, or Marcus Stroman could end up. Or the plethora of impact shortstops hitting the market like Carlos Correa, Javier Baez, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, or Trevor Story. But let's dive into 25 less discussed players who find themselves on the opening market.
Villar inked a one-year deal with the Mets last winter in what was supposed to be a utility infield bench role. As it turned out, the veteran ended up playing significantly more than he was expected to and even stole the club's everyday third base job down the stretch. In 454 at-bats he slashed .249/.322/.416 with 18 homers and 42 RBI while leading New York with 14 stolen bases. He's already expressed interest in returning to Queens, but there will be other opportunities with a clearer path to an everyday role.
Torreyes is a scrappy little infielder who was a favorite of manager Joe Girardi when he had him in the Bronx. Girardi brought him into Philadelphia prior to the pandemic shortened 2020 campaign, but last year is when the veteran really made a name for himself in the City of Brotherly Love. Appearing in a career-high 111 contests, Torreyes hit .242 with seven homers and 10 doubles, while playing five different positions for the Phillies--including pitcher. Philly would assuredly love to bring him back, but there will be other interested teams.
Speaking of veterans familiar with playing their home contests in Philadelphia. Franco spent the first six years of his career with the Phillies, before playing for the Royals and Orioles the last two seasons. Franco strikes out a lot and as his .210 mark last season would indicate, he's not necessarily a strong average hitter. But he does have serious right-handed extra-base power and should be able to be a difference-maker off the bench for someone in 2022.
Switch-hitting Andrew Knapp has been a serviceable back-up catcher for the Phillies for the past five years, and while his career .214 batting average leaves a lot to be desired, he has a little bit of pop and is dependable defensively. Pitchers enjoy throwing to the University of California product, and he should have little trouble landing a new opportunity this winter.
We're having quite a run on former Phillies here, huh? Galvis was once Philadelphia's everyday shortstop before moving on to San Diego, Toronto, and Cincinnati and becoming more of a utility infielder. Just two years ago the veteran enjoyed the best season of his career, and while he's far from an all-star, an experienced switch-hitter with a good glove and a clutch knack at the plate is always going to be useful.
Outfielder Tommy Pham hit 20+ homers for three straight seasons from '17-'19, but the last two years have been less kind to the veteran. In San Diego last season Pham hit just .229 with 15 homers and 49 RBI and while he did add 24 doubles, as a whole the year was not what both he or the Friars would have liked. After a disappointing second half that left them on the outside looking in during October, the Padres are likely headed towards a retool, and as a result, Pham will more than likely be wearing a different uniform in 2022.
Left-handed swinging Kole Calhoun was a highly productive offensive player for the Angels for several seasons, and just two years ago he blasted a career-high 33 home runs. Unfortunately after landing in Phoenix ahead of the '20 campaign, covid and injuries have prevented him from duplicating that production. Appearing in just 105 games as a Diamondback, Calhoun hit just 21 homers with a .230 average. Provided he can stay on the field the veteran right fielder has an excellent chance to rebound offensively, though it is unclear what colors he'll be wearing in '22 and beyond.
After a disastrous three years in Baltimore, veteran starter Alex Cobb got his career back on track in a big way in Anaheim a season ago. In 18 starts for the Angels, the right-hander pitched to a 3.76 ERA with a 1.26 WHIP in 93.1 innings, and that showing should earn him another one-year deal with a starting pitching needy club in 2022.
Lefty Brooks Raley became quite a story for the Astros in 2021. The Texas A&M product was drafted by the Cubs in the 6th round of the '09 draft, but after appearing in just 14 big league games for Chicago he found himself pitching in the KBO for five seasons. Raley came back stateside in 2020, but it wasn't until the just concluded '21 campaign that he really began to make a name for himself at this level. In 58 appearances he held left-handed hitters to just a .195 batting average, and that number will assuredly earn him another extended opportunity either in Houston or elsewhere next season.
Southpaw Tyler Anderson is not going to be a high-profile arm on the starting pitching market, but he could represent a value buy for someone in the back of their rotation. Splitting 2021 between Pittsburgh and Seattle, the veteran tallied a 4.53 ERA across 31 starts, but a lot of his peripherals were promising.
Brad Hand's 2021 campaign did certainly not go the way he imagined it would after he signed a one-year deal to be the Nationals closer last winter. In 41 appearances for Washington, he did pitch well, converting on 21 of his 26 save chances while holding the opposition to a .203 batting average. When he found himself traded to Toronto as part of D.C.'s summer sell-off, that was not unexpected. What was, however, was when the Blue Jays DFA'd him after just 11 ineffective performances. Hand did land on his feet and throw okay down the stretch for the Mets, but he's certainly in search of a more stable season in '22.
Veteran outfielder Jake Marisnick has already played for five different organizations in his nine-year big league career, and it's likely he'll suit up for a 6th one in 2022. Marisnick is not really an everyday Major League player, but he's carved out a strong career for himself as an excellent defensive outfielder with some right-handed pop off the bench. Being a member of the Astros during the cheating scandal is a black mark against him, but despite that, he'll easily land an opportunity with someone in 2022.
For the most part right-hander, Hector Neris was a successful late-inning reliever for the Phillies for eight seasons, but several high-profile failures make it likely both sides are comfortable parting ways this winter. A year ago Neris converted only 12 of his 19 save chances, but his 3.63 ERA and .202 batting average against were solid. So were his 98 punchouts in 74.1 innings. He may not get a free-agent offer to be someone's closer, but several teams should show interest in adding him to their bullpen.
Lefty Danny Duffy has only pitched for the Royals during his decade-long career, but that could very well change in '22. Multiple trips to the injured list, unfortunately, derailed what could have been one of the best seasons of his career last season. In 13 outings for Kansas City, he pitched to a 2.51 ERA in 61 innings, and while his ability to stay on the field has been inconsistent at times, someone will assuredly look to add him to their starting five this winter.
Juan Lagares was not supposed to play as much as he did a year ago, but Mike Trout's injury opened the door for him to make regular starts for the Angels. In 309 at-bats the veteran slashed .236/.266/.372 with a career-high six home runs. He added 20 doubles, two triples, and scored 39 runs for an Angels team that was able to flirt with contention well into the summer. At this point in his career, Lagares is probably best served as a role player with an emphasis on the defense he can play in center field, but his skill set does bring value to a big-league roster.
Archie Bradley's first season in the City of Brotherly Love was up and down, to say the least, but his track record as a reliable late-inning reliever should translate into him landing a nice gig in somebody's bullpen in 2022. Last season the veteran pitched to a 3.71 ERA in 51 innings for the Phillies, but 22 walks contributed to a high 1.43 WHIP.
Righty Michael Wacha is certainly not the impact starting pitcher he was in St. Louis early in his career, but some teams could certainly do worse for a 5th starter. As a Ray last season, the veteran hurled to a 5.05 ERA across 29 outings, but his 121 strikeouts in 124.2 frames prove he still has swing and miss stuff.
Kevin Pillar's 2021 season will be most remembered for the scary incident in Atlanta where he was hit in the face by a pitch from the Braves' Jacob Webb. The veteran outfielder missed several weeks recovering from the injury, but the way he handled the whole situation just proved what a professional he really is. On the field for the Mets Pillar was productive, crushing 15 homers and driving in 47 runs. He should have little trouble landing a role with a big-league team in '22.
Sticking with guys who were part of the Mets' notorious 'bench mob' a year ago, veteran infielder Jose Peraza didn't play a ton for New York, but he came through with a bunch of clutch hits. The 27-year-old was pressed into action when a plethora of Mets landed on the IL in May, and contributed, driving in 20 runs in only 64 games.
One of the more interesting names on the free-agent market this winter is versatile Ian Desmond. The right-handed swinging veteran opted out of the past two seasons due to covid-19 concerns, and after missing two full years it's fair to wonder how much rust he'll have to shake off. But prior to the pandemic Desmond had logged six different seasons with 20+ bombs. You'd have to assume a club will be willing to take a gamble on his offensive potential, but it will be interesting to follow his market.
Veteran left-handed swinging first baseman Mitch Moreland landed on the IL three separate times last season, but when he was on the field he was a valuable contributor for Oakland. In 229 at-bats Moreland slashed .227/.286/.415 with 22 extra-base hits in 229 at-bats. It's not all that likely he's going to reunite with the Athletics in free agency, but his leadership and offensive track record make him a desirable bench piece.
Talk about a buy-low opportunity for someone. Righty Dylan Bundy suffered through a miserable season for the Angels in 2021, gimping to a 6.06 ERA in 90.2 innings while allowing the other teams to hit .253 against him. In the pandemic shortened '20 campaign though, Bundy was excellent, posting a 3.29 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP in 11 starts. The Angels are probably going to look to go in a different direction this winter, but somebody will take a low-risk flyer on Bundy rebounding next year and he very well might.
Brandon Drury came out of nowhere to become a dangerous bench bat for the Mets last summer, and his performance had to have opened some eyes around the league. In 84 at-bats the veteran hit .274 with four homers-three of which were pinch-hit bombs. When the Mets started getting healthier last summer playing time dried up for Drury, but he'll find another team willing to take a flyer on his bench power in 2022.
The Kung Fu Panda got off to a rollicking start last season, crushing some key pinch-hit homers for the Braves in the season's first couple of weeks. Unfortunately, that was the highlight of his campaign as it was all downhill from there. Prior to being traded to the Indians and subsequently releases, Sandoval ended up hitting just .178. But while he wasn't all that productive on the field, in the dugout he was a phenomenal teammate who kept everybody loose and brought leadership to a clubhouse that needed it. Even in the age of analytics, that stuff is still valuable, and it would not be a surprise to see him latch on with a new team in 2022.
Righty Matt Harvey's return from the depths back to a big-league starting pitcher was a fun storyline to follow a year ago. Despite the righty not being overly productive on the mound, Harvey managed to make 28 starts for the Orioles and consistently take the ball every 5th day. Obviously, his 6.27 ERA and 1.54 WHIP were unsightly, but perhaps he can apply some of what he figured out with the stuff he now has moved forward. It would be cool to see another team take a shot on him in '22.
Justin Mears is a freelance sports writer from Long Beach Island, NJ. Enjoys being frustrated by the Mets and Cowboys, reading Linwood Barclay novels, and being yelled at by his toddler son. Follow him on twitter @justinwmears.