Here we go again.
As the labor tensions heat up between Major League Baseball and its players, a number of talents remain unsigned just days before pitchers and catchers are set to report to their respective camps.
This has not been uncommon in recent seasons. In 2019, pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel—who had helped the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox to World Series titles in 2017 and 2018—remained on the market through spring training and the start of the regular season.
In 2018, there were so many unsigned free agents as spring training began that they formed their own training site in South Florida. The group could have fielded an All-Star team with how much talent was there.
This year, the situation is not quite as dire as it was then, when more than 100 free agents were available in February. The biggest names are off the board. National League Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer joined his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers, and center fielder George Springer headed north of the border to the Toronto Blue Jays. This class of free agents consists mostly of veteran pitchers and outfielders, with a few notable names still available.
Here are eight of them, and the best destination for each.
RF Yasiel Puig
There is always a chance for excitement when Yasiel Puig is on the field. There is also the chance for controversy.
The right fielder was unsigned a week before the 2020 season opened and came to an agreement on a contract with the Atlanta Braves, but the deal fell through after his positive coronavirus test.
You can't discount character issues when it comes to Puig. On the field, he's feuded with players and been involved in a brawl. Off it, he's been charged with reckless driving and investigated by MLB over allegations of domestic violence.
But if a team is willing to take a chance on him, he will likely give it 20-plus home runs with regular playing time. The 30-year-old has also expressed a willingness to take coaching when it comes to his outfield positioning.
Puig switched agents this offseason and is now represented by Rachel Luba, who recently negotiated Trevor Bauer's record-breaking contract. If she can do the same with Puig, then he'll land with a team at some point.
Best fit: St. Louis Cardinals
Puig could serve as insurance for Dylan Carlson if the 22-year-old needs to further develop.
LF Yoenis Cespedes
The contentious relationship between Yoenis Cespedes and the New York Mets ended last season after he hit just .161 with two home runs in eight games before opting out of the rest of the campaign.
It's tough to know what you'll get with Cespedes, who was one of the most dynamic power hitters in baseball before leg muscle injuries and double heel surgeries limited him to just 119 games in 2017 and 2018. While sitting out in 2019 to rehab from the heel procedures, he suffered a fractured ankle in an accident at his ranch in Port St. Lucie, Florida, that set him back even further.
Cespedes is an enigma. He might be hitting free agency at the wrong time, considering many teams have taken a conservative approach to offseason acquisitions after the coronavirus pandemic reduced revenues.
Best fit: Oakland Athletics
Given his history of injuries, the 35-year-old Cespedes would probably be more useful as a designated hitter than as an outfielder. His first major league team is missing some pop in its lineup after it traded Khris Davis to the Texas Rangers.
RHP Jake Odorizzi
Jake Odorizzi couldn't follow his first All-Star season with a repeat performance last year, as injuries limited him to four games.
But before the 2020 season, Odorizzi had been a model of consistency. He had made at least 28 starts for six straight years and averaged 165 innings per campaign in that span (with a low of 143.1 in 2017).
The good news about those injuries is that they weren't major. He had a blister, a chest contusion after being hit by a comebacker and an intercostal strain. Considering there was no structural damage, it's likely he'll regain his old form.
Best fit: New York Mets
Odorizzi is a solid middle-of-the-rotation option. The New York Mets could use someone such as him to eat innings to supplement their rotation of fireballers.