For some players, free agency never ended.
Some big names are still looking for employment with the 2021 season underway. These players remain unsigned for any number of reasons, whether it's age, health or a recent decline in production.
While it's early in the new MLB season for teams to start thinking blockbuster deal, some of these players might be able to plug holes for needy MLB clubs. Any number of teams could use a bat or pitching of some kind, especially because COVID-19 is still having an impact on personnel and roster management.
General managers looking for new blood to breathe life into their teams might be considering some of the following names.
Note: Yasiel Puig was not considered for this article because he is facing an ongoing sexual assault lawsuit that has cast an enormous cloud over his future, with a front-office source telling ESPN's John Barr "Nobody wants the headache" as far as Puig is concerned. He already had some trouble garnering interest as a free agent last season as it is.
It's almost scary to think how much better the Chicago White Sox's offense could have been in 2020 had Edwin Encarnacion produced numbers more in line with his career averages.
Encarnacion slashed .157/.250/.377 to go with a strikeout rate close to 30 percent in his lone season on the South Side. Still, it's a bit surprising he remains unsigned.
The three-time All-Star was one of the foremost power hitters in the game for close to a decade. Encarnacion hit at least 32 homers in every season from 2012 to 2019, averaging over 37 homers per season during that span.
There are reasons to be wary of Encarnacion following his poor 2020, however. He ranked in the seventh percentile in average exit velocity and 22nd percentile in hard-hit rate. The whiff rate was pretty rough (15th percentile), while the walk rate also declined. But it might have been an anomaly of a campaign.
Encarnacion ranked in the 68th percentile or higher in average exit velocity and the 70th percentile in hard-hit rate in each of the five seasons before 2020. He ranked in the 82nd percentile or higher in barrel percentage, including an 86 percent barrel rate last summer.
If nothing else, Encarnacion has a strong pedigree as a guy who can hit the ball out of the yard and drive in runs. Will he stick with an American League club? Maybe he could be a right-handed complement to Mitch Moreland for the Oakland Athletics with Moreland off to a bit of a slow start.
Yoenis Cespedes might be a DH-only at this stage, but he could be a run producer for a team needing offense.
Cespedes hasn't been signed for any number of reasons, notably injury concerns. He played just 129 games combined between 2017 and 2018 before missing the entirety of the 2019 campaign. Cespedes began the 2020 campaign with the New York Mets but opted out in a saga that seemed to confuse even the Mets.
Not to mention, Cespedes struggled to be productive in that brief return to the diamond. He hit a pair of homers last summer but also struck out 15 times in 34 plate appearances.
The 35-year-old held a showcase for teams at the beginning of March during which he reportedly flashed glimpses of the power that made him a two-time All-Star. Cespedes surpassed the 30-homer plateau in 2015 and 2016. He clubbed 17 homers and had a .540 slugging percentage in 81 games in 2017 and mashed nine more dingers with a 126 OPS+ in 38 games in 2018.
Making Cespedes a DH could mitigate injury concerns. Last year's swing-and-miss issues are a concern, but he has a reputation as a guy who can handle breaking pitches and hits the ball incredibly hard.