Four Free Agent Hitters Worth A Look
The 2019 MLB season was the year of the long ball. The baseballs were flying out of the park at a crazy rate. Not only did we see the most home runs ever hit in a single season but it smashed the all-time record 6,776 – 6,105. Oh but the baseball was wound too tight experts say. If the baseball was wound too tight and the same ball will be used in 2020 then these four free-agent hitters are definitely worth a look.
Unlike pitchers who suffer arm troubles, hitters can bounce back quicker and easier from injuries. Now all these free agent hitters need is a team to take a chance on them. But the problem is these free-agent hitters if healthy should be able to mash minor league pitching. Playing in triple-A won’t accomplish much other than showing the organization they can stay healthy and be effective.
Players get hurt all the time and the major league injured list is now for a minimum of 10 days. So having proven major league quality hitters stashed in the minors is extremely beneficial to any organization. These free agent hitters definitely fill that need.
Bird in the Bronx
Greg Bird is 27 years old. He was a fifth-round selection in the 2011 Major League Draft by the New York Yankees. The left-handed power hitter had the Yankees brass anxious to see what he could do playing in Yankee Stadium with the short right-field porch. In August of 2015 Bird was called up to the big leagues. Bird smacked 11 HR in 157 at-bats. During the off-season, Bird re-injured his right shoulder that he had hurt earlier in 2015 while playing at Double-A. The injury was diagnosed as a torn labrum and after surgery Bird was to miss the entire 2016 season.
In 2017 Bird won the starting first base job after hitting eight spring training HR. But Bird got injured once again. This time it was his foot after fouling a ball off it. Bird tried to play through the injury. He played miserably batting .100 in 19 games. On May 2nd Bird was shut down. In July it was diagnosed as an injury to the os trigonum in his right foot and would require surgery. Bird returned to the Yankees in late August and played reasonably well. He hit .253 with eight HR in 48 games.
More Bird Injuries
In 2018 once again Bird was dealing with an injury. Late in spring training Bird had ankle surgery to remove a small bone spur. This was the same foot that gave Bird trouble in 2017. Bird rejoined the Yankees in late May but struggled and lost his job after the Yankees traded for Luke Voit.
In 2019 you guessed it. Bird was placed in the injured list in mid-April with a left plantar fascia tear. Bird missed the entire season and was designated for assignment and ultimately became a free agent.
When healthy Bird can hit. But Bird can’t stay healthy. With his injury history, it is extremely doubtful a major league team would take a chance on him being a major contributor. But that does not mean he can’t be used as organizational depth in the minor leagues. Bird might not have any choice but to sign a minor league contract and prove he can stay healthy.
Stephen Souza Jr.
Debut With the Nationals
Steven Souza Jr. was drafted in the third round of the 2007 Major League Draft by the Washington Nationals. But it would take him seven years to reach the majors. Souza had five straight seasons of double-digit HR as he climbed his way to the big leagues. Finally, in 2014 he made his major league debut. After the season he was involved in a massive three-team trade involving the Nationals, the San Diego Padres and his next team the Tampa Bay Rays.
Traded to the Desert
After the 2017 season, Souza once again was involved in a three-team trade. This time Souza was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his first season in Arizona Souza strained his right pectoral muscle and missed the first month and a half of the season. Three weeks after being activated Souza once again went on the injured list with the same injury which cost him another month. As a result, Souza could never get into a groove and had the worst season of his young career.
At the end of Spring Training in 2019, Souza tore his ACL, LCL, and posterior-lateral capsule and also tore his left PCL ending his 2019 season before it got started. At the end of the season, the Diamondbacks non tendered Souza making him a free agent. Souza now 30 years old is another player who was on the right track before two injury-plagued seasons. Souza most likely will be signed to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.
Should Mark Trumbo get signed he will be 34 years old by the time the 2020 season begins. The 10-year veteran has shown he can hit the long ball if healthy. Trumbo was selected in the 18th round of the 2004 MLB draft by the then Anaheim Angels. Trumbo was not a highly touted prospect with the Angels and he started slowly.
In his first three seasons in the minors, Trumbo hit just 37 HR. But the next three seasons Trumbo more than doubled that total to 83 with 303 RBI and against better competition. Late in the 2010 season, Trumbo made his major league debut. In 2011 Trumbo showed off his power in Spring Training and made the Angels major league roster. In three seasons with the Angels Trumbo hit 95 HR and drove in 282 runs.
After the 2013 season, Trumbo was traded to the Diamondbacks. Midway through the 2015 season Trumbo once again was on the move in a trade to the Seattle Mariners. Trumbo struggled those two seasons hitting only 36 HR with 125 RBI. The Mariners traded Trumbo to the Baltimore Orioles after the season.
Trumbo made the Orioles look like geniuses after his first season. In 2016 Trumbo mashed a major league-leading 47 HR and drove in 108 runs while winning the Comeback Player of the Year award. The Orioles re-signed Trumbo to a three-year contract worth 37.5 million dollars. In 2017 Trumbo’s offensive input was just about cut in half to 23 HR and 65 RBI.
The next season was even worse as Trumbo hit just 17 HR and drove in 44 runs. Trumbo began the season on the injured list missing a month of baseball. In August Trumbo suffered a knee injury that required surgery and ended his season. In 2019 Trumbo was still recovering from knee surgery and did not play until September getting only 29 at-bats but not hitting any long balls. Trumbo did hit four HR in 55 minor league at-bats as he fought his way back to the majors.
The Orioles who are rebuilding opted to let Trumbo become a free agent. Trumbo can play first base and right field but his future could be as a designated hitter. Just three seasons removed from hitting 47 HR, Trumbo now fully healthy could potentially be a steal if he returns to form at a low cost. Trumbo, if signed, will have to earn his way with a hot Spring Training otherwise he could be stashed in the minors. Could there be a second Comeback Player of the Year award in his future?
Travis Snider is a player who was once a highly regarded prospect. Baseball America ranked him as the sixth-best prospect in all of baseball in 2008 as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. In three minor league seasons, Snider batted .298 with 50 HR and 225 RBI. In 2010 with the Jays Snider batted .255 with 14 HR and 32 RBI. That would be the best success Snider had with Toronto in the majors.
He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates and in 2014 he batted .264 with 13 HR and 38 RBI. Snider then was traded to the Orioles and after getting released went back to Pittsburgh. From then he had three minor league stints with the Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers, and the New York Mets.
In 2018 Snider played with the Long Island Ducks and had his best season since 2014. Snider batted .290 with 13 HR and 71 RBI. Off of that successful season, Snider signed a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks. At triple-A Reno Snider hit .294 with 11 HR and 41 RBI in 310 at-bats. The Diamondbacks released the now 31-year-old outfielder.
Snider is no doubt an extreme long shot to make it back to the big leagues and he might only be organizational depth at best. But what a gamble and what a comeback story this would be. Snider would be a very low-cost player and his only path back to the majors would be if the team he signs with has multiple injuries to the big club.