As free agency opens in baseball we are reminded that there are only a few premium free agents, and fewer teams that have the money to acquire them. We expect Cliff Lee to make the biggest payday and we expect that the Yankees will be willing to break the bank to get him. We know that teams will be opening up the coffers to get Carl Crawford but there are really only one or two teams that will have the resources to sign the hot left fielders.
So what about the rest of baseball? What about the rest of baseball that is looking for an upgrade and doesn’t have the kind of money it would take to sign Lee or Crawford? Who are the value buys in MLB? What are the second level free agents? Let’s take a look at them and see who they are and why your team might be interested in them.
1. Mariano Rivera
It’s almost laughable to put Rivera on this list, but his being a free agent is intriguing more for the Yankees than it is for Rivera. It would be a no brainer to keep the closer if he were 35 or even 39, but 41? 41 is getting long in the tooth and the Yankees could be looking to Yaba to make that step up. Considering how well he threw last year the Yankees will take him but if they decide they go a different direction there will be a ton of teams willing to take a flyer on Rivera.
2. Paul Konerko
Here’s why your team wants him. He plays good defense. It’s overlooked, but if you have watched him the way I have(living in Chicago) you can see that he doesn’t drop a lot and takes care of his position. He’s a big leader in the clubhouse. He’s vocal but not a jerk. He is loved by the fans. He’s coming off the biggest season of his 14 years. He doesn’t have too many years left and he can be streaky but he’s a good buy for a team that has a young kid that is a season or two away from being ready. The smart thinking is you could get a three year deal for him for less than 50 million. He could be a good alternative to the teams that lose out on Adam Dunn.
3. Brandon Webb
Here’s the gamble that could pay off. There is no doubt that when Webb is healthy he’s deadly on the mound. That slider is nasty and he’s an easy bet for 18 wins, maybe more. He’s the problem: he didn’t pitch at all last season so if he’s looking for premium money you might have to pass on him. However, Webb might be smart enough to take a deal that is back loaded and based on making starts. If he can do it then he is a tremendous bet for your team. If he works out he can take a team on the fence into the playoffs.
4. Jon Garland
No, this is not a Chicago biased article, but Garland has real value. He’s a lock to pitch around 200 innings. He is good for 12 to 18 wins a season. He won’t get blown out and he’ll keep you in ballgames. He also has post-season and world season experience which is a plus if you have a team that is playoff bound. He’s a good 4 or 3 starter on a team and he’s only 31. There is no reason a team that is thin in pitching shouldn’t consider bringing him on board.
5. Adam LaRoche
Sure, a .261 batting average isn’t anything that will take the world by storm but 25 home runs and 100 RBI’s is a really good stat for a player that is still in his low 30’s. The thinking is he could give a mid level team that boost they need. He could be a good fit in Chicago or a place that needs stability. He’s not going to be a big contract. You could sign him for roughly 5 years and 60 million.
You don’t have to break the bank for a free agent this winter, once you look past the biggest names there is some real value there.