MLB's 'All-Intangibles Team' of the 2013 Free-Agent/Trade Class
MLB free-agency season will be upon us soon, and like fans are each winter, we will be obsessed with where players like All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton end up.
Yet while guys like Hamilton and Zack Greinke will surely get a lot of press regarding their next contracts, some of the best players on the market are sure to fly under the radar. Keep in mind these men aren't exactly what most would call superstars, but rather, players who bring their own special something to the table and have qualities unseen in most run-of-the-mill baseball men.
These unique skills come in a variety of forms, from being a great leader to a pest at the plate to just being a great locker room guy or even a clutch playoff performer.
Sure, they may not be worthy of $20 million a year, but they are still players who are undeniably valuable when push comes to shove. In fact, one of them may make the difference between missing the playoffs and/or winning the World Series.
It's time to create another special team here at B/R, ladies and gentlemen. This time, it's the intangibles squad.
Catcher: Russell Martin
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At the start of his career, Russell Martin appeared to be the type of catcher who would be a defensive stalwart as well as have a reliable bat, both in hitting for average and power.
Yet while his defense is still there, his hitting consistency seemed to desert him—and in the blink of an eye, his once-destined superstardom was gone.
In two years with the New York Yankees, Martin has established himself as someone who can not only play great defense behind the plate, but also be a patient hitter. He's only hitting .225 since 2011, but his OBP is a respectable .319.
On top of that, Martin's power appears to have returned this season. Though he has been in something an offensive funk all season long, hitting just .212 going into today, he has also hit a career-best 20 home runs and has a .313 OBP.
Thus, when it comes time for him to look for a new contract this winter, he'll easily land a one- or two-year deal just because of his focus and attitude.
Sure, his batting average hasn't been great this year, but it has never stopped him from going out and playing his hardest game after game. GMs looking for catching help would be foolish not to take note of that.
1st Base: Adam LaRoche
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Adam LaRoche is in the second year of a two-year deal worth $15 million, and he and the Washington Nationals also have a mutual option worth $10 million in 2013 with a $1 million buyout.
He has been great this season, and the team will most likely pick that option up, but let's assume that the Nationals choose not to do so. If they don't, it will be interesting to see how the market pans out for the 32-year-old first baseman.
You see, LaRoche is essentially a pure power hitter who hits for a decent average. He hits home runs, gets on base, strikes out and not much else. This season, he is hitting .268 and has matched his career high with 32 home runs along with 99 RBI.
Assuming the Nats let him hit free agency, could he land a multi-year deal? Well, it's hard to say. Sure, the pop in his bat is still there, but he's no spring chicken anymore either.
No matter how you look at it, it's going to be interesting how his situation pans out.
2nd Base: Maicer Izturis
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Given how badly Chone Figgins tanked once he left the Los Angeles Angels and manager Mike Scioscia's aggressive small-ball style, it's understandable why other teams would be wary of someone like Maicer Izturis.
He isn't exactly what one would call an ideal everyday player, and while his defense is fine, his work at the plate can be hit-or-miss.
However, Izturis is good for one thing when up at bat: making the pitchers work. Never before have I seen a player foul off so many pitches in one at-bat, only to draw a walk or maybe even ground out. The fact that he makes pitchers work that hard is admirable.
Once free agency hits, look for him to ink at least a one-year deal either with the Angels or another West Coast team.
Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta
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Now, compared to what we're used to seeing from him, Jhonny Peralta's 2012 campaign has been disappointing. He has hit just .240 with 12 homers and 61 RBI with a less-than-average OBP of .306. Overall, those numbers aren't the best to post in one's contract season.
The fact remains that Peralta is one of the most blue-collar players in the game. He goes out ready to play hard night after night, and in the postseason, he's no slouch either. Over 22 games in October, the man has hit .277 with four home runs and 13 RBI.
There are surely going to be at least one or two teams this winter who need some depth at shortstop. Peralta is just 30 years old and can certainly provide that, not to mention a bat with its fair share of pop.
3rd Base: David Wright
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David Wright is one of the A-list free agents of this year's class, so some may find it odd that he's on this list.
However, he is a special breed of player in that he can hit for average and power and also has good speed. Thus far in 2012, he is batting .306 with 21 homers and 91 RBI to go with 14 steals.
More importantly, Wright is one of the best leaders in baseball. Even though the Mets are a complete and utter mess right now, he has maintained a positive attitude and continued to play hard, as have his teammates.
Just how good a leader is he? Well, Mets teammate and NL Cy Young award candidate R.A. Dickey has implied that his future in Flushing depends on Wright's.
Sure, Wright's a perennial All-Star, but how many other players have that kind of effect on their teammates?
Left Field: Cody Ross
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Cody Ross isn't the type of outfielder who's going to win a ton of Gold Gloves or mash the living hell out of the ball, but like the aforementioned Maicer Izturis, he is one of the peskiest hitters in the game.
On top of that, he can hit for his fair share of power. This season, his first with the Boston Red Sox, he has hit .269 with 21 home runs and 77 RBI with a .331 OBP.
However, all stats aside, Ross has maintained a positive attitude in spite of Boston's disappointing season. This month, he told NESN about how he and his teammates were determined to play spoiler for the contenders in the AL East.
Simply put, that's unbelievable. In a situation where most players would just try to get through the season, Ross is determined to go out with a bang and on his own terms, without his tail between his legs.
Long story short, Ross defines determination—and to GMs looking for outfield depth this winter, it could very well net him a long-term deal.
Center Field: Angel Pagan
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As far as leadoff men go, Pagan is one who flies under the radar way too often. His hitting can be streaky, but his .281 lifetime mark and .333 career OBP are still respectable for someone at his position.
The fact that he can hold his own at the plate and get on base will be reason enough for some GMs to present contracts to him this winter.
On top of that, being a switch-hitter only adds to Pagan's intangibles. If you can bat from both sides of the plate and succeed, that only ups your value. Of course, his 98 steals over the past three seasons don't hurt his value either.
Right Field: Nick Swisher
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Compared to other power-hitting outfielders, Nick Swisher is nowhere near the A-list. At the plate, his skills are as follows: He hits home runs and gets on base. In the outfield, he has great footwork and a respectable arm.
More importantly, Swisher is probably one of the best locker-room guys in the game. His laidback attitude and fun-loving personality are ideal for a team that may be in the midst of a losing streak or that needs an extra jolt.
However, Swisher's idea of his price tag is borderline hilarious.
Despite his limited skill set, he apparently thinks he can land a contract comparable to what Jayson Werth received from the Washington Nationals (per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com).
Though his intangibles are off the charts, a positive attitude and locker-room presence are not worth that much money.
Still, he'll definitely get paid this winter because he is one of the better power-hitting switch-hitters in the game.
Starting Pitcher: James Shields
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James Shields has an option for next season on his current contract, and he could hit full free agency next winter.
However, given how the Rays almost definitely won't be able to sign him to a long-term deal, the possibility definitely exists that the team could look to trade him for a package of prospects. In fact, over the summer, rumors swirled that Rays management was indeed listening to offers for the right-hander (per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com).
Assuming he is traded this offseason, however, whichever team lands Shields will be getting a big-game pitcher who is more than capable of pitching deep into games. Last season, the 30-year-old went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and an MLB-leading 11 complete games.
Long story short, Shields is a top Cy Young contender just waiting to happen. He just needs to be on a team that will provide him plenty of run support. Given the financial state of the Rays, he could find himself on that type of team very soon.