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The Top Unsigned Designated Hitters

Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Spring Training in about three weeks but a slow offseason means there are still plenty of free agents out there. MLBTR already took a look at the catchersshortstopscenter fielders, first basemen and second basemen still available. We’ll take a look at the top DH options on the market next. Obviously, this is a subjective category. Any player can technically serve as a designated hitter, after all. There are a handful of older and/or defensively limited sluggers who aren’t likely to sign anywhere that doesn’t have substantial DH at-bats available. That’ll be the focus here.

  • Jorge Soler: After opting out of the final year and $13MM on his contract with the Marlins, Soler should be in position for a multi-year deal. The 32-year-old belted 36 home runs with the Fish in 2023 despite the pitcher-friendly nature of their home park, reducing his strikeout rate to 24.3% — the second-lowest of his career. His 11.4% walk rate was the second-best in his career. Soler remained one of the best in the game in terms of strong contact, delivering an excellent 91.3 mph average exit velocity and 48% hard-hit rate. Unlike the others on this list, Soler is both in his early 30s and has a demonstrated history of hitting for top-of-the-scale power in the big leagues. Everyone’s power production was up during the juiced-ball 2019 season, but Soler still paced the American League with 48 homers and finished third in all of baseball that season. The Blue Jays have been most heavily connected to Soler recently. Other suitors like the D-backs (Joc Pederson) and Mariners (Mitch Garver) have signed other DH candidates. Beyond Toronto, the Mets, Giants and Angels have all been more loosely linked to Soler.
  • J.D. Martinez: Martinez had a “down” season by his standards in 2022 when he “only” hit .274/.341/.448 with 16 homers in his final season with the Red Sox. He more than doubled that home run total with the Dodgers in 2023, smashing 33 homers despite tallying just 479 plate appearances. It’s possible that Martinez has begun selling out for power even more than he may already have been at times in the past. Last year’s 31.1% strikeout rate was easily the worst of his career, and his 7.1% walk rate was his lowest since 2014. Even if that’s the case, there’s no getting around the fact that JDM was a legitimate middle-of-the-order presence. He hit .271/.321/.572 overall and posted elite numbers in average exit velocity (93.4 mph) and hard-hit rate (53.4%). He’s entering his age-36 season, but Martinez can still mash.
  • Justin Turner: Turner turned 39 in December but you’d never know it looking at last year’s .276/.345/.455 batting line with the Red Sox. Turner connected on 23 home runs, walked at a respectable 8.1% clip and struck out in 17.6% of his plate appearances — about five percentage points below the league average. Turner embodies the “professional hitter” archetype and can still take the field at any of third base, first base or perhaps even second base in a pinch. Turner hasn’t had a below-average season at the plate since establishing himself as a regular with the Dodgers back in 2014, and there’s little reason to think that’s about to change.
  • Brandon Belt: He’ll turn 36 in April and has battled knee troubles in recent seasons, but Belt can still flat-out mash right-handed pitching. Like Turner, he can still play defense on a part-time basis — Belt logged 29 games at first base last season — but 70% of his games came as the Blue Jays’ designated hitter. Toronto only gave Belt 39 plate appearances against lefties, and he’ll be similarly limited wherever he signs next. But Belt hit .256/.375/.516 against righties as a member of the Jays, and he’s only gotten better in platoon situations as his career has progressed. Since making his MLB debut, he’s a .267/.364/.480 hitter against righties, but those numbers jump to .269/.376/.541 dating back to 2020 (150 wRC+).
  • Mike Ford: The 31-year-old Ford doesn’t have anywhere near the track record of Soler, Martinez or Turner, but he posted eye-popping numbers in a half season with the Mariners last season. The former Yankees farmhand hit 16 homers in just 251 plate appearances. His .228 average was something of an eyesore, but Ford walked at a 9.6% clip and managed to post a .323 OBP while slugging .475. Despite the power production, Ford was non-tendered by the Mariners, who were looking to reduce their strikeout rate and may have worried that Ford’s 32.3% mark in that regard made him a long shot to replicate his success. That he was non-tendered also suggests that the M’s couldn’t find a trade partner for him, even with a modest $1.5MM projected salary. Ford could wind up signing a minor league pact or a very low-cost big league deal. He’s an affordable three-true-outcomes slugger who can be controlled through the 2026 season via arbitration by any team that signs him.

Honorable Mentions: Austin Meadows, C.J. Cron, Daniel Vogelbach

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