January 12, 2013
Bargain Bin Free Agents
At this point in the offseason, few impact free agents remain on the market, save for Scott Boras clients who’ve been hurt by the new CBA’s draft pick compensation system. Assuming Mike Napoli and Francisco Liriano eventually ink with the Red Sox and Pirates, respectively, only seven of the top 50 free agents have yet to find a home.
However, there are still some decent values waiting to be dug up by teams that are willing to look in the bargain bin. Last year, injury reclamation projects like Bartolo Colon, Oliver Perez, and Pat Neshek, bench bats like Jonny Gomes, Jeff Keppinger, Wilson Betemit, and Gregor Blanco, and unremarkable relievers like Fernando Rodney all went on to have strong seasons after signing in January, most of them with contending teams. (Rodney, who entered the year with a 4.42 ERA in his previous five seasons, became one of 2012’s best stories, posting a 0.60 ERA and finishing fifth in AL Cy Young voting.)
None of those players made many headlines by signing, but several of them proved pivotal in their teams’ playoff runs. Here’s a look at 10 low-profile free agents who are still unsigned and could have a similar impact this season.
Last season, Hafner roughly matched his career walk rate and Isolated Power and bettered his career strikeout rate, but his overall line was dragged down by a BABIP 80 points below his career average, which may have been the result of bad luck. If that luck turns in 2013, Hafner could be a potent weapon against righties and a league-average hitter against lefties, at least until his next injury. But he’ll have to find an AL team with an opening at DH, since it’s been almost six years since he last wore a glove in a game.