Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed 37-year-old pitcher Cole Hamels to a contract for the remainder of the season. Despite the veteran left-hander's lack of action in 2020 and 2021, teams are digging deep to add the final pieces to their arsenals during the period between the trade deadline (last week) and the postseason roster due date (September).
With Hamels now off the market, where else will teams look for available free agents to sign? There's no better stage to gauge worldwide talent than the 2020 Olympic Games. This year's baseball competition featured players from 23 of Major League Baseball's 30 organizations, as well as players signed to teams in the Korean, Chinese, Mexican and Japanese pro leagues.
As for players not signed to any team, did any of them shine enough to earn themselves a new contract? Here are a few notable names who took the field in Tokyo:
Melky Cabrera, the 2009 World Series Champion, played in five of the Dominican Republic's six games at the 2020 Olympic Games. "The Melkman" had eight his in 21 at bats, including one double as the designated hitter for his home country. While he hasn't taken the field in a major league game since 2019, Cabrera posted a .381 average in Olympic action in Tokyo.
Two-time MLB All-Star Todd Frazier took the field for all six of Team USA's Olympic contests, in both pool play and the elimination tournament in Tokyo. The New Jersey native swung for three hits (two doubles) and one RBI. On defense, Frazier charted a fielding percentage of .944, with seven put outs and only one error.
Though Israel failed to make it to a medal match this year, Valencia was a bright spot in the nation's first Olympic baseball appearance. The infielder is one of only two players to hit three home runs in the Tokyo baseball competition, netting seven RBI and a slugging percentage of .778. Valencia last appeared on an MLB roster in 2018 when he played for the Baltimore Orioles. He is currently four home runs shy of 100, and three RBI shy of 400 in his major league career.
The former closer for the New York Yankees now has a silver medal to go with his 2009 World Series ring. David Robertson served as the last act for Team USA in both of the team's save situations; one in group play and one in the elimination round. Against South Korea, Robertson faced five batters in the ninth inning, giving up a walk, a double and a sacrifice fly before shutting things down with a strikeout and groundout to end the game. Against the Dominican Republic, D-Rob also faced five batters (including former teammate Melky Cabrera). In that inning, Robertson gave up a walk and a home run, but also notched a fly out, groundout, and strikeout to successfully convert both save opportunities for Team USA.
Playing for the Dominican Republic, Emilio Bonifacio racked up four hits in his 17 at bats during his five games played in Tokyo. He stole a base and was also caught stealing once, and scored three runs while on offense. On defense, he posted a perfect fielding percentage with nine putouts.
In 2019, Edwin Jackson set an MLB record when he played for his 14th difference franchise. His 2020 Tokyo experience for Team USA was slightly less memorable, with his only decision being an extra inning loss to host nation Japan. In a tie game in the bottom of the 10th inning, Jackson gave up a sacrifice bunt that moved runners to second a third, then a single into right field that allowed Japan to seal a 7-6 victory.
The Dominican first baseman has not appeared in a major league game since 2014, but Juan Francisco made is presence felt on the Olympic stage. One of only a few players to belt multiple home runs in Tokyo, Francisco netted five RBI -- though he did strike out nine times. His most notable moment came in the bronze medal game, when a clutch double broke a tie with South Korea to get the Dominican Republic on track for an eventual 10-6 victory.
The former member of both the Mets and Phillies came out of retirement in 2021 to play in the minor leagues, and for Team Israel. At the Olympics, Ty Kelly played in all five games for his team, recording just one hit that went for a double. On defense, the shortstop turned two double plays and had a perfect fielding percentage.
The six-time MLB all-star played in all six of the Dominican Republic's games in Tokyo, and though he only had a couple of hits, he made them count. In DR's first game at the 2020 Games, Bautista hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning, starting the team's bronze medal campaign off in style (bat flip included). On defense, the 40-year-old had a perfect fielding percentage, including 13 putouts.
Other unsigned players who took the field in the 2020 Olympic Games include Roberto Ramos (Mexico), Zach Penprase, Blake Gailen (Israel), Roman Mendez, and Gustavo Nunez (Dominican Republic).