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MLB Free Agency 2013: The Biggest Bargain at Every Position

Joel ReuterFeatured Columnist IVOctober 12, 2016

MLB Free Agency 2013: The Biggest Bargain at Every Position

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    Most of the talk surrounding the upcoming free-agent class is around the marquee names who will command multiyear, multimillion dollar contracts.

    However, it is the under-the-radar moves that often prove to be the difference-makers for contenders, as there is far less risk involved and the deals generally go to players with something to prove.

    Whether it's an aging player coming off a down season, a player who missed significant time due to injury the previous season, or something else altogether, players wind up in the bargain bin for a number of reasons.

    So here is a look at the biggest bargain at each position in the upcoming 2013 MLB free-agent class, and why they will wind up being a bargain.

Catcher: Chris Iannetta

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    2012 Stats

    .246/.335/.421, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 24 R in 183 AB

     

    Why He'll Be a Bargain

    The Angels addressed a weak catching position this offseason, trading 22-year-old starter Tyler Chatwood to the Rockies for Chris Iannetta.

    However, wrist surgery landed him on the DL in May and he was out until the end of July, as the team relied on an bevy of underperforming veterans to bridge the gap.

    With an already high payroll, and the team expected to attempt to re-sign Zack Greinke, they could very well decline Iannetta's $5 million option for next season.

    He's still only 30 years old, and averaged 14 HR and 50 RBI over the previous four seasons, so if the Angels do in fact cut him loose he could be a steal for whoever takes a shot on him returning to his Colorado form.

First Base: Adam LaRoche

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    2012 Stats

    .269/.340/.503, 30 HR, 94 RBI, 66 R in 517 AB

     

    Why He'll Be a Bargain

    After missing most of the 2011 season (43 games), Adam LaRoche has turned things around in a big way during his second season in Washington.

    The Nationals and LaRoche have a $10 million mutual option for 2013, and while the Nationals would no doubt love to have him back at that price, LaRoche would be wise to use his impressive season as leverage to land a multiyear deal.

    Despite his numbers, LaRoche is not going to get a massive contract, as he is simply not viewed as an elite player. Something in the ballpark of three to four years at $10-12 million per seems reasonable, and still just 32, he should have at least a couple top-tier production years left in him.

    If he can hit 30 HR with 100 RBI for $10 million per year, he'll be a steal given what teams are willing to pay for middle-of-the-order producers. It will just be a matter of him finding the right situation and staying healthy in order to gain the "bargain" tag.

Second Base: Freddy Sanchez

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    2012 Stats

    Injured, has not played

     

    Why He'll Be a Bargain

    Freddy Sanchez signed a two-year, $12 million extension following the Giants' run to the World Series in 2010, but he played just 60 games last year before his season ended with a dislocated shoulder.

    Expected back to start this season, he instead underwent back surgery to repair a nerve issue and has been sidelined all season as a result.

    He'll be 35 next season, but the .297 career hitter has been working hard to get back. While he will no doubt have to settle for a one-year deal, he could be one of the biggest steals of the offseason.

    There is little to no depth at second base on the market this offseason, so there will likely be a number of interested parties. But regardless, Sanchez's asking price likely won't be high.

Shortstop: Stephen Drew

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    2012 Stats

    .205/.292/.333, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 27 R in 219 AB

     

    Why He'll Be a Bargain

    It was not long ago that Stephen Drew was one of the top offensive shortstops in all of baseball, as he averaged a line of .268 BA, 15 HR and 63 RBI over his first four full seasons from 2007-2010.

    His 2011 season ended abruptly on July 20 when he broke his ankle sliding into home plate. That kept him sidelined until the end of June, and he hit just .193 over 40 games with the Diamondbacks before being dealt to the A's.

    He's been a little better since coming to Oakland, but nowhere near good enough for the team to even entertain picking up his $10 million option for next season.

    The A's could entertain bringing him back as a bridge to 2012 first-round pick Addison Russell, though there will likely be several teams interested, considering how weak the pool of shortstops is this year. Still, he'd be a steal if he can return to his prime form—and he's still just 30 years old.

Third Base: Eric Chavez

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    2012 Stats

    .283/.340/.484, 13 HR, 33 RBI, 31 R in 254 AB

     

    Why He'll Be a Bargain

    Eric Chavez saw just 160 at-bats in his first season with the Yankees in 2011, and he mulled over retirement before coming back on a one-year, $900K deal to fill out the Yankees bench.

    However, with Brett Gardner's injury forcing Raul Ibanez out of the DH role and then Alex Rodriguez landing on the shelf as well, Chavez has seen significantly more playing time this season and has put up his best numbers since 2007.

    He'll be 35 next season—and an old 35 at that as he's battled injuries through most of his career. But the fact that he has crushed right-handed pitching this season to the tune of .301 BA, 12 HR, 32 RBI with an .870 OPS this season certainly makes him an appealing bench option.

    He could very well retire, but if he does return it seems likely that it'll be on a one-year deal. A raise above $900K is in order, but he should still be a bargain if he can stay healthy and continue to rake against right-handers.

Left Field: Melky Cabrera

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    2012 Stats

    .346/.390/.516, 11 HR, 60 RBI, 84 R in 459 AB

     

    Why He'll Be a Bargain

    Melky Cabrera's breakout season was sullied by a positive PED test that ended in a season-ending suspension and his future with the Giants likely being over.

    He's still in line to win the NL batting title, and he was a legitimate NL MVP candidate in helping lead a significantly improved Giants offense.

    The question now is: Which Cabrera can we expect to see next season? The one who hit .255 BA, 4 HR, 42 RBI with the Braves in 2010, the one who hit .305 BA, 18 HR, 87 RBI with the Royals in 2011, or someone in between?

    His chances at a long-term deal seem slim now, and whoever decides to take a chance on him will not be making the best PR move of all time. Still, if he can even approach the numbers he's put up the past few seasons, he should be a steal at the contract he winds up signing.

Center Field: Grady Sizemore

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    2012 Stats

    Injured, has not played

     

    Why He'll Be a Bargain

    The Indians turned down their $9 million option on Grady Sizemore last offseason, after the former All-Star played in just 210 games from 2009-2011.

    However, they brought him back on a discounted $5 million deal, with $4 million in options that would have allowed him to earn his full option salary. Instead, a back injury before he even suited up for a spring training game ended his season before it started.

    He's still only 30 years old, and if he can stay on the field he still has the tools to be a difference-maker. However, this time around he'll likely have to settle on a one-year, $1 million deal or, perhaps, even a minor league deal.

    He'll be a no-risk, high-reward pickup, and if he can make his way onto the field and have a positive impact on his team, he'll be a bargain.

Right Field: Torii Hunter

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    2012 Stats

    .308/.359/.449, 15 HR, 79 RBI, 73 R in 481 AB

     

    Why He'll Be a Bargain

    Torii Hunter has quietly been one of the most productive offensive players over the past 12 seasons, averaging a line of .277 BA, 24 HR and 87 RBI while splitting his time between the Twins and Angels.

    In the final season of a five-year, $90 million deal, the 37-year-old is no doubt headed for a paycut from the $18 million he makes this season, but he should still earn a multiyear deal.

    He's hitting a career-high .308 this season and could likely get a deal similar to the two-year, $26 million contract Carlos Beltran got last offseason if he leaves Los Angeles.

    However, he's indicated that he'd be willing to take a big paycut to stay with the Angels (h/t Los Angeles Times), and they'd be foolish not to take advantage of that discount.

Starting Pitcher: Carlos Villanueva

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    2012 Stats

    36 G, 14 GS, 7-5, 3.42 ERA, 115 Ks in 118.1 IP

     

    Why He'll Be a Bargain

    Carlos Villanueva has bounced between the rotation and bullpen throughout his career, and he opened the season in the Blue Jays bullpen as the team's long reliever.

    However, when they were hit hard by injuries Villanueva moved into the rotation, and in 14 starts this season he's gone 5-5 with a 3.49 ERA.

    He has a better track record as a reliever in his career—4.53 ERA as a starter, versus 3.76 out of the bullpen—but he has showed enough this season that he could be a solid addition to the back end of any rotation.

    At 28 years old, he could be coming into his own, and it will likely only cost whoever signs him something in the ballpark of a two-year, $8 million contract.

Relief Pitcher: Ryan Madson

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    2012 Stats

    Injured, has not played

     

    Why He'll Be a Bargain

    After serving as a setup man the bulk of his career, Ryan Madson assumed closing duties in Philadelphia in 2011 and saved 32 games with a 2.37 ERA.

    That earned him a one-year, $8.5 million contract with the Reds, with an $11 million option for the 2013 season. However, he was lost before the season began to Tommy John surgery.

    With Aroldis Chapman thriving in the closer's role, the Reds will undoubtedly decline that option, and Madson will find himself in a position similar to where Jonathan Broxton was last offseason.

    Broxton settled for a one-year, $4 million contract after missing much of 2011 and has turned in a terrific bounceback season in Cincy. Expect a similar contract and the potential for similar results out of Madson.

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