Free April Calendar 2024

6 free agents who are better than you think

With all the attention on the biggest-name free agents — both the ones who have signed like Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto and the ones who haven’t like Blake Snell and Cody Bellinger — it can be easy to overlook some pretty terrific players who are still out there. But with the calendar turning to 2024, and Spring Training just more than a month away — seriously, Spring Training is just more than a month away — one suspects there are about to be a flurry of signings. And you’ll be surprised by some of the names that are still out there.

April  Printable Calendar - Free-printable-calendar
April Printable Calendar – Free-printable-calendar

As we all refresh for news on Josh Hader, Jordan Montgomery and the other big names on the market, here’s a look at six free agents no one’s really talking about right now, but sure feel like they’re going to be major assets for whatever team ends up signing them. These guys deserve more attention than they’ve been getting. (Players are listed in alphabetical order by last name, and the ages listed are each player’s seasonal age for 2024.)

Brandon Belt, 1B (age 36)Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette. Matt Chapman. George Springer. Alejandro Kirk. Big names, All-Stars, linchpins of a Toronto offense that was constructed to carry the team through the AL East gauntlet for years to come. But in 2023, none of those players had the highest OPS on the Blue Jays. That designation belongs to Belt, whose .859 (albeit in 103 games) was 45 points higher than the next Jay (Bichette). That was buoyed, as it always is with Belt, by his OBP, which has always been his strength; the guy has an impeccable batting eye, something he’ll surely have well into his 70s. He’ll turn 36 in April, and while he has never been flashy, he will get on base and play a perfectly respectable first base. The guy had a higher OBP than Corbin Carroll, José Ramírez, Paul Goldschmidt, Rafael Devers and Marcus Semien. What team couldn’t use a guy like that?

April  Calendars -  FREE Printables  Printabulls
April Calendars – FREE Printables Printabulls

Aroldis Chapman, LHP (age 36)For casual baseball fans who hadn’t checked in on Chapman since he was the dominant pitcher he was with the Yankees, it might have been a little jarring to see him with the Rangers in the playoffs. He looked physically different, he was missing the plate, he was barely escaping jams, and it looked like a blowup was imminent. But it’s worth noting: The blowups did not end up happening — Chapman walked out of that postseason with a World Series ring, don’t you know — and also, during the regular season, Chapman was actually pretty close to his old self. His strikeout rate with the Rangers and Royals was as high as it has been in a decade, he didn’t give up a single homer in 29 1/3 innings with the Royals, and his fastball velocity was in the top percentile of all pitchers. He’s not who he was a decade ago. But he’s closer than you think. And he won’t cost you Hader prices either.

J.D. Martinez, DH (age 36)There is inherently going to be a ceiling on someone who is exclusively a designated hitter, particularly in the current market. (Well, unless you’re Ohtani in 2024. But we digress.) But as far as “exclusively a designated hitter” goes, you really can’t do much better than Martinez. The only year in the last decade that Martinez hasn’t absolutely crushed the ball was 2020, and hey, who among us was at our best in 2020? He only played 113 games last year, but he launched 33 homers in those 113 games and, for that matter, outslugged teammate Freddie Freeman. There aren’t many teams who couldn’t use more power in their lineup. Martinez, as always, provides instant power.

Tommy Pham, OF (age 36)Pham is going to turn 36 in March. 36! Pham didn’t debut until September 2014, when he was 26, so he doesn’t seem nearly as old as he is. He has played for seven teams in 10 seasons, which technically classifies him as a journeyman, but it should be known that he absolutely does not hit like a journeyman. He might have been the best hitter on the Mets (not named Pete Alonso) before they traded him to Arizona at the Deadline, and he was a monster in the World Series for the D-backs, hitting .421 and earning plaudits for turning down a chance to go 5-for-5 in a World Series game so teammate Jace Pederson could get an at-bat. That’s a guy you want on your team. Pham will be an under-the-radar signing that few will notice, and then you’ll look up in June and he’ll be your team’s best hitter for a full fortnight.

Jorge Soler, DH/OF (age 32)In many ways, Soler will be remembered best for that three-month period in 2021 when he, a rental for the Braves, helped carry that team to its first World Series victory in 26 years. But what he has done in the regular season has been more impressive and — likely because he was in Kansas City and Miami — overlooked. Soler just launches homers at a rate that few others in baseball can. The guy had 48 homers in 2019! (He’s even tied for the Royals’ club record.) He had 36 dingers last year, for a Marlins playoff team no less, and it’s not empty power either: His .341 OBP is perfectly respectable. He’s an instant middle-of-the-order bat who is still in what could be considered his prime. What’s not to like?

Marcus Stroman, RHP (age 33)Has everyone forgotten that Stroman was a Cy Young candidate for most of last year? Sure, he fell off late, but for the first half of 2023, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. (He was actually discussed as a possible All-Star starter!) It’s not like it came out of nowhere either. He hasn’t had an ERA over 4.00 since his rocky 2018 season, and he is usually able to stay on the field, too: Other than the 2020 season (which he opted out of), he has made 25 or more starts in six of the past seven seasons.