10 Sleeper MLB Free Agents Who Will Shine in 2014
10 MLB Free Agents That Will Surprise
The Major League Baseball season is over and now the fun begins. The rumor mill is the second most active during this time of the year behind only the trading deadline. There are many teams with many needs, and this is actually the time where every team has a chance to "win" the offseason.
Lately, it seems the smaller moves are making the biggest impacts. Anibal Sanchez, Bartolo Colon and Koji Uehara were all small moves made this past season, yet they were all in the top ten in Cy Young voting. Shane Victorino and Uehara were both postseason heroes for the champion Boston Red Sox. Scott Kazmir was as under the radar as you could get as he tried to resurrect his career with the Cleveland Indians. He ended up helping them grab a playoff spot at the end of the season. Freddy Garcia brought himself over to the Atlanta Braves and actually pitched pretty well (outside of June). He even started a playoff game for them and only allowed two runs over six innings.
The list could go on and on about how many big impact players were afterthoughts when you have the Josh Hamilton and Zach Greinke players of the world on the market. The same goes for this season. People are talking about the Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler trades. They discuss the Brian McCann deal that could be worth $100 million. They go back and forth about how Robinson Cano is still trying to be baseball's first $300 million man (God, I hope not). They don't talk about the players who will eventually help you win a championship. These ten players will have huge seasons that come under the radar.
10. Joel Hanrahan
Joel Hanrahan was supposed to be the closer to finally replace Jonathan Papelbon after a bad season of closer by committee. He only lasted nine games until he was injured and replaced by Andrew Bailey, who was then replaced by Koji Uehara. He was an All-Star closer with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011 and 2012. He is going to be fully healthy once Opening Day comes around, and the team that gives him a shot is going to be a happy one.
9. Ryan Vogelsong
Ryan Vogelsong is the key component to everyone's argument as to why the World Baseball Classic needs to find a different time to occur. After pitching well in the Classic he just wasn't the same throughout the season. After two straight excellent seasons with the San Francisco Giants, one bearing a World Series title, he was terrible in 2013. His 5.73 ERA was what you saw from him in his first go around in the major leagues. He is better than that and will be in 2014. It looks like the Giants feel the same way.
8. Kevin Youkilis
Kevin Youkilis was supposed to be a very expensive stopgap for the New York Yankees while Alex Rodriguez rehabbed his ailing hip. Although it was weird to see him in pinstripes, it worked out well to start. He was hitting well above .300 before a nagging back injury derailed his season. He isn't going to command much money, but he will be a good pick up for a team in a weak third base market.
7. A.J. Pierzynski
With McCann now off the market, A.J. Pierzynski may be the best player available at his position. He is a contact hitter by every stretch of the word. He is great with his pitching staff, and he can usually hit for good power while keeping his average high for his position. There are plenty of teams that could use a catcher, maybe more than any other position. He isn't the big name that every fan wants, but he is worth every penny to whatever team signs him.
6. Justin Morneau
Justin Morneau is coming off his first big contract with a lot of question marks surrounding him. He played his first healthy season in four years in 2013, and he played well. The 2006 AL MVP was traded mid-season to the Pirates and was a vital cog to their first playoff berth since 1992. He even played well in the postseason. So why isn't he a "big name" free agent? He seems like he is poised to make a general manager look very good.
5. Phil Hughes
Let's call a spade a spade; Phil Hughes was terrible with the Yankees this season. He was so prone to the long ball that every pitch was cringe worthy. He has heard from the beginning of his career that he was the future of the most decorated franchise in all of sports. When that didn't work out the pressure seemed to get to him. He is the typical change-of-scenery player. Put him in a place like Petco Park and he will be exponentially better. Just to give you something to think about, Hughes posted a 3.88 ERA away from home. His stuff is too good to be as bad as he was at Yankee Stadium.
4. Eric Chavez
Eric Chavez was at one time in the conversation for best third baseman in the league. Those conversations are over, but he is still a very productive player. He split time last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks and hit .280 while playing great defense. He even hit 16 home runs two seasons ago in limited time. He is an injury risk, but he can still contribute to the right team.
3. Hiroki Kuroda
This selection has much to do about whether Hiroki Kuroda will return to American baseball. He is going to be 39 years old when the season starts. He has shown he can be dominant in the AL East, which is the hardest hitting division. He slowed down during the stretch run, losing his last six decisions. That brings up question marks, but before that he might have been the best pitcher in baseball. If he decides to come back for one more season he will make one team very happy.
2. Bartolo Colon
Colon was sixth in Cy Young voting this year after another great season with the Oakland Athletics. His Biogenesis involvement aside, he is still pitching extremely well for an overweight 40-year-old. He is going to give himself another year, and he should. He has one more year in him if he can keep from getting suspended.
1. Nelson Cruz
Jhonny Peralta just got a contract from the St Louis Cardinals that totaled over $50 million. Is Nelson Cruz going to get the same sized deal? Will he make more? He was in line for possibly a $100 million contract prior to the Biogenesis scandal that he dealt with this season. Now he is looking at his options this offseason. He can straight rip the ball. Whether or not he has been juicing his whole career, he is still likely to provide pop for many teams.