MLB Free Agency: 5 Low-Key Signings That Will Pay off

Steven ConklinCorrespondent IIFebruary 7, 2012

MLB Free Agency: 5 Low-Key Signings That Will Pay off

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    Spring training is just weeks away. 

    The fires of baseball's free agency period have all but died out, and a lot of players have found new homes for 2012. 

    But did you hear about them all?

    The winter was dominated by headlines of Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes getting mega- deals. They over-shadowed the likes of 242 other free agents this offseason. 

    Of course, it doesn't matter that these players flew under the radar. Most will produce in some way during 2012 and will never see the spotlight at all. 

    You could argue some of the best deals aren't the giant investments made in one player but small ones made to players who have value. 

    Here are five of those low-key signings that will pay off in 2012. 

Ryan Theriot, SS

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    2012 Team: San Francisco Giants

    Contract: One year, $1.25 million

    Ryan Theriot will be a one-year deal player for the rest of his career. But he's worth it. 

    At 32 years old, Theriot is a serviceable shortstop that can help any big league club in need of depth and a solid glove. 

    He will bring that to the Giants in 2012.

    Theriot has been a near .300 hitter in the past and in 2011 hit. 271 while scoring 46 runs and driving in 47 in 132 games with the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. 

    Maybe the LSU alum can help bring San Francisco to the playoffs once again. 

Joel Zumaya, RP

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    2012 Team: Minnesota Twins

    Contract: One year, $800,000

    The acquisition of Joel Zumaya by Minnesota is one of the best this winter. 

    For less than a million, the team is gambling on a pitcher who when healthy, is a hard-throwing force on the mound. Of course, staying healthy hasn't been easy to do for the 27-year-old.

    A good sign is that Zumaya saw more action in 2011 than any other year since his spectacular rookie campaign when he dazzled fans with a 100+ mph fastball. 

    In 31 games for Detroit, Zumaya struck out 34 in 38.2 innings and posted a respectable 2.58 ERA. 

    If he can stay healthy in 2012, Minnesota will look genius. 

Josh Willingham, OF

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    2012 Team: Minnesota Twins

    Contract: Three years, $21M

    Josh Willingham is one of the most underrated players in baseball. 

    Willingham brings a power bat and a great mentality to Minnesota. His mentality and power enabled him to hit 29 home runs in 2011 with the Oakland Athletics. 

    The concern with Willingham is his batting average (.246 in 2011, .262 career). If the slugger can get his average up from a career-low, the Twins will have an awesome addition to their team. '

    With Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer in the lineup as well, Willingham will have the chance to drive in runs and show he is worth the $21 million deal he received. 

Edwin Jackson, SP

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    2012 Team: Washington Nationals

    Contract: One year, $10M

    Edwin Jackson has another new home this year. Joining his eighth team in 10 seasons, Jackson has bounced around a lot. But no matter where he goes, he is productive. 

    Now he will bring his talents to the nation's capital and will join a staff with young guns Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. 

    He gives the Nats another great rotation option and is surely at a high-point in his career. 

    For $10 million, this is a great signing by an improving Washington club. 

Heath Bell, RP

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    2012 Team: Florida Marlins

    Contract: Three years, $27M

    Yes, Heath Bell can be considered a low-key signing. 

    Bell received little to no attention from the media this winter although he is one of baseball's dominant closers. 

    In 2011, Bell dazzled with the Padres posting a 2.44 ERA, saving 43 games, and gave fans a reason to cheer with his All-Star game slide to the mound. 

    The addition of Bell makes Florida instantly better. Although this acquisition was overshadowed by Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, Bell will probably make the most impact on the team in 2012. 

    Steven Conklin is a contributing writer for the Bleacher Report and a student at the University of Central Missouri. He joined B/R in October 2011 and is currently a B/R intern. Any comments, questions or suggestions are more than welcome.