MLB free agents remain unsigned, including Albert Pujols. An interesting thing about Pujols is that he’s 21 home runs away from 700. Last season, he had a 101 OPS+ in 85 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers. 60 percent of those plate appearances came against left-handed pitching. Pujols will be a platoon DH for whichever team decides to pursue the future Hall of Famer.
The universal DH in both leagues opens up a lot more opportunities. It’s good news for these players who remain on the free agent market. There’s a quality group of sluggers who could have an easier time finding a new home before Opening Day. These free agents could benefit from the universal DH.
Notable MLB Free Agents
2021 stats: 17 HR, 50 RBI, 2B, .236/.284/.473
Pujols doesn’t want to retire just yet. Any team that intends to compete for the playoffs should look into acquiring him. As mentioned before, Pujols can hit left-handed pitching. 13 of his 17 home runs came against left-handed pitchers last season. Even though his numbers aren’t what they used to be, his veteran presence and experience will be a commodity. The Dodgers found a role, playing first as a right-handed hitter. It’s more than likely he will be in that role again.
2021 stats: 32 HR, 71 RBI, .266/.374/.554
Kyle Schwarber has a reputation for being a reliable DH. But, he has versatility to his credit, as he has experience playing left field. Plus, this past season, he was put up with the task of learning first base on the go with the Boston Red Sox. However, the idea of using the former World Series champion mostly at DH with some starts in left field or first will be an attractive player to any team.
2021 stats: 34 HR, 100 RBI, .309/.362/.576
Nick Castellanos became one of the leaders in Cincinnati. He hit .309/.362/.576 (164-for-531) with 34 home runs, 85 runs, and 100 RBI. It was enough for Castellanos to earn his first All-Star appearance last season. Plus, Castellanos has a 122 OPS+ over the previous five seasons, proving that he is one of the better hitters in the game. However, he is a below-average defender with a -56 Outs Above Average. Despite his inconsistent defense, teams will want his bat anyways.
2021 stats: 31 HR, 83 RBI, .300/.393/.503
Freddie Freeman doesn’t need the universal DH. His resume speaks for itself. Now that the DH is in the NL, that might make his contract massive. Freeman is a well-achieved and defensive first baseman. He’s a slugger entering his age-32 season. Since 2017, the NL MVP has had a .940 OPS, including a .893 OPS in the regular season and a .916 OPS in the playoffs. Wherever he signs, there’s little doubt Freeman will be one of the elite players in 2022.
2021 stats: 32 HR, 86 RBI, .265/.334/.497
Nelson Cruz has been of the best hitters in baseball for the past decade. He’s hit 30 or more home runs in the seven of the past eight seasons. Furthermore, he’s posted at least a 106 wRC+ since 2009. However, his market has strictly been limited to the AL due to his limited defensive abilities. Now that the CBA has expanded the DH to the NL, it’s doubled its market. Cruz will be a hot commodity for plenty of teams, thanks to the rule change.
2021 stats: 27 HR, 70 RBI, .223/.316/.432
Jorge Soler may never approach his career season in 2019. He hit 48 home runs for the Kansas City Royals. Last season, he hit .192 when the Royals traded him to the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline. Soler hit 14 home runs in 55 games as a Brave and then won World Series MVP. Similar to Castellanos, he’s not the greatest defender. But, given his injury history, any team can slot him at DH to maintain his health and if he wants to be an everyday starter.
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