Last Men Standing: 5 Under the Radar MLB Free Agents

While the Aaron Judges, Trea Turners, and Jacob deGroms of the world are long off the market, value is still available outside the top of the class. Yes, most of the elite are gone, but we’ve come up with a handful of veterans that can still help contending teams without breaking the bank. 

Zack Greinke, SP – Last Team: Kansas City Royals – Age: 39 

What does everybody waaaant? Starting pitching! What does everybody neeeed? Starting pitching. Obscure 90s wrestler Al Snow shout-out aside, year after year, we see starters viewed with hungry eyes. Top dollar goes to pitching, while veteran arms routinely throw into their late 30s and early 40s at a discount because of the need for mound-takers. Zack Greinke falls into the latter category and should be a very affordable back-of-the-rotation addition. 

The potential future Hall of Famer has 223 career wins under his belt, is a former Cy Young award winner, and six-time All-Star, with his last appearance coming just three years ago. While Greinke is no longer a 200+ inning horse, he has shown as early as last year that he can still slide in as the fourth or fifth starter for many a team. The two-time league leader in ERA had a very respectable 3.68 earned run average last year to go along with 137 innings pitched.

Greinke will likely sign a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $10 million for next season. There’s a good case to be made for the veteran righty to land in the AL East, as the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, and Baltimore Orioles could use a backend starter.

Andrew McCutchen, OF – Last Team: Milwaukee Brewers – Age: 36

Andrew McCutchen has shown with bounce-back campaigns over the past two years that he still has plenty left in the tank. The former NL MVP launched 27 home runs and 80 RBI for the Philadelphia Phillies two years ago before hitting 17 and driving in nearly 70 in just 134 games last season with the Milwaukee Brewers.

McCutchen is a pretty good base runner capable of playing all three outfield spots without being a defensive liability. There’s also the option of splitting the four-time silver slugger at DH, something he did last year with the Brew Crew.

The 36-year-old vet also brings those deeply desired intangibles of leadership and being a great locker room guy, which the Brewers raved about last season.

Cutch should command somewhere in the range of last year’s $8.5 million per on a short-term deal. He still wants to play every day and avoid a platoon or situational gig, so that would have to be the case for a good fit. 

It could be the AL West that welcomes the five-time All-Star, who played almost his entire career in the National League. The Texas Rangers are in dire need of outfielders, and judging by how they’ve spent over the past few seasons, they want to compete now. While the Seattle Mariners partially addressed their need for offense in the outfield by trading for Teoscar Hernandez, they could still use another middle-of-the-order bat.

Jurickson Profar, OF – Last Team: San Diego Padres – Age: 29

Another National League outfielder that has put together a few bounce-back campaigns is Jurickson Profar. The Curaçao native has quietly resurrected his career in Southern California over the past few years after struggling to find his place in the majors for years.

Profar set personal bests last season in hits (140), walks (73), and runs (82) as a mainstay in the upper part of San Diego’s lineup. Perhaps most importantly, the switch hitter played a career-high 152 games and smashed his previous best with 575 at-bats. 2022 marked the second straight season Profar went above 135 games played, a welcome sign after so many missed games early in his career.

Don’t forget the 29-year-old was a top prospect for years and could very well be one of those late bloomers that are just getting better. Profar does a good job getting on base and can play multiple outfield and infield spots, so he can really mesh in many situations.

One of those situations could be with the Miami Marlins, who could use a left fielder, which has been Profar’s primary position for the past few years. The Atlanta Braves would also be a nice fit, while the aforementioned Rangers, where Profar started his career, really need help in the outfield.

Wherever the former Oakland A lands, he should get somewhere in the $15 million per year range and, as the youngest player on the list, could see a longer contract than a year or two.

Trey Mancini, OF/1B – Last Team: Houston Astros – Age: 30

As we head down the scroll, we get into the buy-low candidates. Not necessarily because they will be ultra cheap but because they did not do themselves any favors last season. For Trey Mancini, most of that damage was done in the second half after being moved from the Baltimore Orioles to the Houston Astros ahead of the MLB trade deadline.

Fans and fantasy owners sure thought a move to an elite lineup and great hitters’ park would benefit Mancini, but that simply wasn’t the case. The former Oriole hit just .176 in 51 games for the ‘Stros and found himself on the bench after testing Houston’s patience past the breaking point. 

Trey has shown he can be contributing slugger in the bigs after hitting a career-high 35 home runs and 97 RBI in 2019. He’s also had two seasons where he hit just under .300.

Mancini should get an annual salary of between $15-18 million and seems like a perfect fit for either the Marlins or Chicago Cubs. As mentioned, Miami is in need of upgrading its offense and outfield. While the Notre Dame alum has mostly been at first or DH, he can play both corner spots of the outfield. The Cubs are also looking for more offense and have a big hole at the not-so-hot corner.

Aroldis Chapman, RP – Last Team: New York Yankees – Age: 34

While Mancini certainly didn’t win any friends in Houston and made it harder on himself to find suitors after such a disastrous second half, Aroldis Chapman is on a whole other level. The former elite closer is coming off a horrendous season with baseball’s most-watched team, the New York Yankees.

Chapman could not hide his struggles from the baseball world in the Big Apple, as they became more magnified as the season went on. The former Cincinnati Red actually had a fantastic start, logging five saves and allowing zero earned runs in the month of April. It was all downhill from there, as Chapman had an ERA near 10 in May before missing six weeks because of an Achilles issue. The nail in the coffin came with the Yankees leaving the former lights-out stopper off their postseason roster.

That said, much like his opening stretch, Chapman finished strong last year. While not in the highest-leverage situations, the big lefty strung together five straight September appearances without allowing a run while giving up just a single hit.

Lefthanded pitching is always in demand (see Jamie Moyer or Jesse Orosco pitching into their late 40s), and many teams still need help in the pen. While Chapman’s days as a closer are likely over, nothing is saying he can’t be effective in another late-inning role.

The Toronto Blue Jays need at least one more arm in the pen, while the Oakland A’s could also be a fit. Despite much improvement down the stretch and into the playoffs, the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen had an ERA of 4.27 last season, so cheesesteaks could be on the menu for Aroldis next season.

It remains to be seen who is willing to gamble with $7-9 million to ink the aging reliever, who will likely only get a one-year deal.