By Dan Schlossberg
Now that the 2022 baseball season is several weeks old, nearly a dozen decent players remain on the outside looking in.
They’re free agents crushed by the 99-day lockout, their own salary expectations, or both.
Two prominent players who have spent their whole careers in New York top the list.
Michael Conforto, a left-handed hitter with good power and a strong throwing arm, missed the boat when Steve Cohen was doling out top-dollar deals to lesser players.
Brett Gardner, an aging 5’11” veteran no longer capable of playing every day, likewise ended his Yankee career by holding out.
Teams looking for outfield depth, DH help, or experienced bench players could do worse than signing either. But both seem to be seeking far more salary than teams are willing to pay at this point in time.
Then there’s Adam Eaton, still just 33. He’s a little guy at 5’9” but brings speed and strong outfield defense to the table. He’d still make someone an inexpensive leadoff guy.
Best of the still-available infielders is switch-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera, who can play multiple infield positions and provide good pop in the pinch. Plus he has pennant race experience.
Want a first baseman with power? Mitch Moreland, formerly with the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers, might be the guy. He’s a 6’3” left-handed hitter who has also been through the baseball wars.
Another first baseman, Matt Adams, signed with the independent Kansas City Monarchs of the American Association yesterday.
Starlin Castro, a middle infielder, is hoping he finds takers in the majors. But he won’t win any good-conduct medals after an incident got him suspended late last summer.
There aren’t any quality catchers left but there are plenty of pitchers.
Towering lefties Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ have plenty of age and innings on their resumes but could help clubs if they stay healthy. Happ may be 39 but he’s still younger than Justin Verlander, to name another free agent who landed a hefty contract in the latest free agent market.
Jeff Samardzjia, 37, had good runs with the San Francisco Giants as a starting pitcher while Trevor Rosenthal, another righthander, can provide strong relief if he stays off the injured list. Several teams have looked at the latter recently.
Some players, anxious to keep eyes on themselves, even signed minor-league contracts. Julio Teheran, erstwhile ace of the Atlanta Braves, took one a few days ago, for example. So did Kevin Pillar, most recently a jack-of-all-trades with the Mets.
Other free agents, frustrated that clubs across the board were cutting costs, simply retired. Jake Arrieta, a one-time Cy Young Award winner, just joined their ranks.
Had the lockout not happened, the free agent market would have had a logical conclusion rather than a gaping hole. With the negotiating window extended instead of extinguished, Freddie Freeman probably would not have left Atlanta. He said he was surprised when the Braves traded for Matt Olson, ostensibly ending his 12-year run as Face of the Franchise.
Some free agents sign late (see Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel in 2019) but others over-estimate their own value — not to mention club’s willingness to pay.
The betting here is that Conforto will sign somewhere (Philadelphia?) but that most of the others in this article will retire sooner rather than later.
For them, free agency will prove to big a gamble to overcome. Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is a writer, broadcaster, and speaker who has been covering baseball since 1969. He prefers The Good Old Days of two eight-team leagues, no playoffs, no interleague play, no DH, no pitch clock, and no instant replay. E.mail him at email@example.com.