Everyone is aware of the big-name MLB free agents available this winter, but who are the underrated MLB free agents in 2022 and 2023?
After all, not every team is going to be able to afford Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa, or Jacob deGrom. Instead, they’ll be looking at offseason trade candidates or the best value players available in MLB free agency. That’s why we wanted to take a closer look at the underrated MLB free agents in 2022 and 2023.
Underrated MLB free agents 2022
When we think about the undervalued MLB free agents for 2023, these are the players who aren’t going to cost a fortune but will still move the needle with regard to helping a team’s championship aspirations.
Perhaps they’ve been overlooked for some reason or aren’t among the elite players at their position. Either way, they may not be the top targets available, but the team that signs them will be happy they did. With such a deep class of free agents this winter, let’s look at the 10 most underrated and undervalued MLB free agents for 2023.
10. Trey Mancini
It’s been a wild ride for Trey Mancini since he hit 35 home runs in 2019. Those ups and downs have included missing the 2020 season while battling cancer. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to return to the form he had in 2019 since he’s been in remission.
Mancini also failed to make much of an impact with the Astros, hitting .176 after being traded to Houston at the deadline. However, in just 51 games after the trade, Mancini hit eight homers, giving up 18 on the season. Mancini is still a power hitter who’s capable of mashing 20-plus homers if he gets regular at-bats. There must be worth something on the open market, even if he’s not in line to get a monster contract.
9. Michael Brantley
Michael Brantley’s age and the fact that he missed the stretch run of Houston’s championship season after shoulder surgery are good reasons for him being overlooked. But he shouldn’t be forgotten completely.
Between 2018 and 2021, he hit .300 or better in four consecutive seasons, finishing the 2022 campaign at .288. The power numbers aren’t there anymore, but the guy can still hit. Brantley would be a nice pickup for any team looking to platoon players in left field.
He’s also a veteran player and a great leader who played in the postseason for five consecutive years before missing out on the 2022 playoffs because of his injury.
8. Ross Stripling
Nobody is looking at Ross Stripling as a top-flight starter who can lead a rotation. But he was a savior for the Blue Jays this past season, winning 10 games in 24 starts and eight relief appearances while posting a 3.01 ERA.
People forget that he was equally useful for the Dodgers during the early part of his career. Stripling is the classic swingman, which is why he’s easy to overlook. But any team that needs help in the back end of the rotation while also wanting the flexibility to push someone to the bullpen should give Stripling a close look.
7. Justin Turner
Among the obvious Dodgers’ offseason predictions is finally cutting ties with Justin Turner after declining his option for next season. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful option at third base or a part-time DH role for another team.
The home run power in his bat has surely started to fade after hitting just 13 homers in 2022 and posting the lowest OPS he’s had since joining the Dodgers.
However, Turner still registered 36 doubles and 81 RBIs this past season. He won’t require a long-term deal and can still be a productive hitter, especially for a team that has enough depth to put him in the bottom half of the order. Turner will be worthwhile on a short-term deal for any team looking for a veteran player with postseason experience.
6. Martin Perez
Martin Perez was one of the biggest surprises of the 2022 season. The lefty signed a one-year, $4 million deal with Texas last winter and then became the team’s ace.
He went 12-8 with a 2.89 ERA.
Between May and July, the Rangers were 14-2 in his starts. That tells you everything you need to know about how important Perez was to the Rangers in 2022. He’ll only be 32 in 2023, so it’s not like a drastic decline in his talents will be expected. That could make Perez a huge addition to the middle of the rotation of a genuine contender.
5. Christian Vazquez
This year’s free-agent catcher class is rather weak outside of Willson Contreras, so it’s puzzling why there isn’t more focus on Christian Vazquez. While he’s 32, Vazquez still looks to be in his prime and is coming off one of his best offensive seasons.
Plus, his defensive reputation speaks for itself. Don’t forget that because he was traded to the Astros at the deadline, he’s now been a part of two teams that have won the World Series. That should be enough for contending teams to take a closer look at Vazquez.
4. Andrew Benintendi
There was a lot of talk about Andrew Benintendi at the trade deadline but less so now that he’s a free agent. Obviously, his lack of power hurts his value on the free-agent market.
However, Benintendi hit .304 last season and is one of the elite defensive left fielders in baseball. That has to be worth something, even if his season ended early because of an injury. He may not be a star who warrants a massive contract, but Benintendi is the type of player that winning teams should covet.
3. Brandon Drury
It had been a few rough years for Brandon Drury, who struggled to sort out some health issues. However, he returned to the majors in a big way with the Reds in 2022, ultimately being traded to the Padres.
On the season, Drury his .263 with 38 homers and 31 doubles. For a player who’s only 30 and is capable of playing multiple positions, that should make Drury a hot commodity on the open market. Teams might be a little wary to commit to him after one good season. However, Drury’s upside is still incredibly high and despite being a little overlooked, he deserves a long-term deal.
2. Mitch Haniger
If Mitch Haniger had hit the open market a year ago, he’d be a huge catch. During the 2021 season, Haniger mashed 39 home runs and amassed 100 RBIs. Injuries got the better of him this past season, limiting him to just 57 games, so he wasn’t a huge part of Seattle’s postseason run.
However, more teams should be looking at him as someone who can quickly bounce back and replicate his numbers from 2021 if he’s able to stay healthy. After the Mariners traded for Teoscar Hernandez, they’re probably not re-signing Haniger, so he could end up anywhere. Given his power, Haniger should be a much hotter commodity than early interest in him has indicated.
1. Taijuan Walker
It’s a little surprising that Taijuan Walker isn’t being talked about as one of the more valuable starters available. He was an all-star in 2021 and went 12-5 over 29 starts with the Mets this past season.
Walker was once the 43rd overall pick in the draft and is barely 30 years old. Injuries limited him to just 15 total starts between 2018 and 2020. But he’s been healthy with the Mets over the past two seasons, making 29 starts each year. He’s a durable starter who will be able to eat up innings in the middle of the rotation, although Walker still has a lot of upside and can look like a frontline starter on a good day.