The MLB has been a hot stove in the recent weeks, as the holiday season brought a halt to the flurry of activity. With the new year approaching and plenty of quality free agent options still available on the market, there are sure to be bargains to be found. These under the radar players face less competitive interest and could provide significant value compared to the terms of their deals.
1. 1B/DH Pedro Alvarez
The homegrown Pirate has had an up and down career in Pittsburgh, but shown plenty of potential to be a solid, middle of the order bat. This, coupled with being in his prime at age 28, should make him an interesting target. Although he hasn’t been consistent with the bat, and struggles with a low batting average and on-base percentage, Alvarez is still only two years removed from a 2013 season where he hit 36 home runs and drove in 100. Non-tendered by the Pirates, Alvarez may be looking to sign on the cheap to redeem himself and build up his value again, and provide solid power to many lineups.
2. 2B Howie Kendrick
It feels like Kendrick has been around forever, as he enters his 11th season in the league, but he is still only 32. He has been a very dependable hitter throughout his career, and can provide stability at the second base position, while also getting on base often and hitting near his career .293 batting average. Howie has flown under the radar this offseason, as Ben Zobrist was the big target, but teams looking for consistent production from second base should not hesitate to pull the trigger on him.
3. OF Domonic Brown
Just a few years removed from being lauded as a potential perennial all-star prospect, Brown has come crashing down to Earth. Just in 2013, he hit .272 with 27 home runs and 83 RBIs, and looked to be turning a corner. The past two seasons have seen him regress significantly, and the Phillies have seemingly moved on from him. However, he still possesses tremendous tools, and a team should be willing to take a low-risk gamble on him, hoping they can salvage the 28 year old’s career and potential.
4. OF Austin Jackson
Another player with tremendous tools (and 28 years old as well) is Jackson, who has now played for his third team, being traded to the Cubs midseason. In his 6 years in the league, he has hit for an average of .273 and provided stellar defense in the outfield. With bigger name FA outfielders on the market, Jackson has not been discussed as much, and been overlooked in terms of potential impact. For a fraction of the price others are going for, he can provide that defense and also round out the bottom of the batting order, or provide speed at the top. Jackson has the potential to blossom in the right environment.
5. 1B/DH Chris Carter
A true boom-or-bust player by nature, Carter giveth and he taketh away. No one can doubt his tremendous power potential, but his strikeouts leave much to be desired. Even still, a team should be willing to take a chance on him, maybe not as an everyday player, but even as a big threat to come off the bench and provide some instant offense in a pinch. In 2014, he blasted 37 home runs, and followed it up last season with 24 more. The .199 average aside, there can be upside in a move, and a saturation of 1B/DH types in the market could be a team’s prime opportunity. This comparison is different and I don’t suggest this is the likely scenario, but there is a chance Carter could blossom into a feared everyday hitter a la David Ortiz with a move to a different organization that can fix his approach.
6. OF Alex Gordon
It may be surprising to find Gordon’s name on the list, but he has been undervalued in this unpredictable and slow developing market. The production has been there, and he offers above average to even all-star potential. This, coupled with the ridiculously high prices for Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Yoenis Cespedes, makes for a perfect storm for an interested team. They will be able to snag Gordon and his gold glove winning defense, along with his increasingly consistent offensive production for lower than market value. For a fraction of the cost, a team can significantly boost its outfield without perhaps overpaying for another slugger.
Spark Sports Analyst