10 Hidden Gems in the 2014 MLB Free Agent Market
10 Hidden Gems in the 2014 MLB Free Agent Market
By the time the Major League Baseball offseason is half over, we start to get a good picture of how the league is going to look. That is the case every season. We know which teams have already improved, which ones still hope to and which teams are doing nothing at all. Most of the activities around the league during the offseason, as far as moves that shake things up go, involve free agents.
Everyone knows the big name free agents. They are the ones with the big name agent that more times than not demand a record tying salary if not record breaking salary just to play baseball. Some love to hate them, others love to cheer for them but they are the big names that fill rosters around the league. This isn’t about those guys. Enough gets written about them.
This is about the so-called little guys. In addition to the big name, all-star guaranteed players, there are players who cost way less but have the ability to give a team maximum value for their play. There are way more than 10 hidden gems in the MLB free agent market but this is going to focus on 10 that really jumped off the list of 2014 free agents.
Some of these guys are career-long utility players while others are former all-star players who are now older and without a team to call home. More than one are coming off of an injury serious enough to call into doubt their entire career. Regardless of the down side to each of these guys, they all share the magical fact that they could be looked over by 29 teams and shine like an all-star for the 30th. Feel free to leave a comment as you click through.
Michael Young – 3B/SS/2B
I think Young gets a bit of a bad rep pushed onto him by the media and fans. He is someone that has been all-star caliber in his career and hit over .300 in his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013. He might not crack the all-star game starting line-up but he is most definitely a valuable free agent find for someone needing a third baseman who can also play many other positions.
Kelly Shoppach – C
Good catchers are always in demand but some of the good defensive guys begin to fall through the cracks once they reach a certain age and experience level. Shoppach has plenty of good left in him, is a decent hitter and good behind the plate. By all accounts he is one of those guys that makes a team better even from the dugout when he isn’t playing. There is little reason for a team needing catching help not to throw a one or two year pact his direction.
Johan Santana – SP
Santana is obviously the guy on this list that has been all-star quality most recently. Injuries have decimated his last two seasons completely and now everyone questions whether or not he can hold up for any length of time in the majors. The fears are real and well founded but if he comes back even close to where he was before, he’ll be a huge payoff for someone’s starting rotation.
Elliot Johnson – 2B/SS
When someone asked Atlanta Braves’ B.J. Upton what kind of player Johnson was Upton recalled their days in Tampa Bay and basically said Johnson was hilarious. The fact that he is a laugh a minute doesn’t really enter in here except to the point that he is a great teammate that can help keep the clubhouse loose. He also won the starting 2B job going into the offseason because he make up for any shortcomings with consistency. Defensively he is solid every game and offensively he can be counted on to at least put the ball in play and get a good AB.
Freddy Garcia – P
Once upon a time Garcia was considered one of the best starting pitchers in the game. Some of his 2013 was rocky but he showed the world what he could do when he out-dueled Clayton Kershaw (on short rest) in game four of the NLDS. The Braves lost that game but it wasn’t because Garcia didn’t do something right. He worked his way through the Dodgers order and kept the Braves in the game for the entire time he was out there. Someone is going to take a chance on Garcia and find out the same thing the Braves found out.
Bruce Chen – P
Chen is the very definition of a journeyman pitcher but that doesn’t mean he won’t battle and give a team a chance to win. He isn’t an ace and never would claim to be but I can just about guarantee you that a few guys getting more than $10M per year won’t give a team more in return than Chen will. He can start or come out of the bullpen and had three double digit win seasons in a row in the starting role for the Royals. He’s still got juice left in the arm and someone will get a gem when they take a chance on him.
Wilson Betemit – 3B/SS/1B
Betemit is one of those guys that can be counted on to go out every day and do what is asked of him. He puts good wood on the ball when he gets the chance and is pretty good in clutch situations as well. Defensively he is versatile and reliable. As long as he stays healthy he will be a huge plus for whichever team lands him this year.
Jeff Baker – UT
Baker can absolutely play anywhere on the diamond. I wouldn’t put it past him to be able to get a K or two from the mound or throw someone out from behind the plate. Honestly he can do most anything well. Last season with the bat he hit .279 with 11 home runs and 21 RBI in only 175 at-bats. He isn’t talked about a great deal but he can do everything and do it fairly well. Someone will give him a deal and be very glad they did.
Scott Atchison – RP
Atchison is good for a solid number of innings out of the bullpen. His elevated ERA from 2013 might scare a few people away but by the same token his WHIP is fairly low for a relief pitcher and should draw some teams in. He isn’t closing games but Atchison is just the kind of mid-relief guy that can rise to the occasion when he needs to.
Luis Ayala – RP
Ayala is in the same boat as Atchison. He is a solid relief guy that can come in at any time during the game and give solid innings. He can go short or long and do so pretty well. Set-up guy has a right night; give Ayala the call and see what happens. He is extremely reliable and just the perfect guy to help fill the meat of a bullpen with reliable and steady arms.