Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke are among the big names who are likely to highlight the winter's MLB free-agent class. While they will both attract a lot of attention, some teams won't be able to afford them or other prized options and will need to look for cheaper alternatives.
In the volatile game of hunting for free agents, cheaper doesn't always mean less productive. There should be plenty of value available of the market beyond the big names, giving teams working on a tight budget a chance to add some talent before next season.
With that in mind, let's take a look at a trio of players sure to provide a boost to teams in 2013 at a fraction of the cost.
In a free-agent outfield class that may also include Hamilton, Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton, Pagan is likely to get lost in the shuffle. He hit .288 with 95 runs scored and 29 stolen bases for the San Francisco Giants after some productive years with the New York Mets.
The best thing about Pagan is that he helps in every area. He's not going to win a batting title or break any stolen bases records, but his ability to chip in everywhere—from setting the table on offense to making key plays in the field—makes him valuable.
Pagan is a player teams can feel confident plugging into the top spot in the lineup and know he'll provide around 150 games of solid numbers. He's not going to make the highlight reel every night, but he gets the job done, and that's all that matters.
Saunders is doing a nice job of boosting his stock in the playoffs with back-to-back good starts against the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees. The Baltimore Orioles lefty will still be overshadowed once the free agency period begins, though.
After a rocky start to the season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Saunders was traded to Baltimore and quickly turned things around. He went 3-3 in seven starts with a 3.63 ERA. It's success he's carried over to the postseason.
He's not an ace by any stretch of the imagination, but he's a reliable back-end-of-the-rotation starter. He's made at least 28 starts in each of the five seasons, and being left-handed certainly doesn't hurt. He will solidify whatever rotation he joins.
Teams around the league are struggling to find reliable pitchers to call on in the late innings. It's a portion of the game that's more important than ever, and Broxton has proven throughout 2012 that he's capable of handling multiple roles.
He started the season with the Kansas City Royals, where he converted 23-of-27 save chances and posted a 2.27. He was then sent to the Cincinnati to set up for Aroldis Chapman, earning 10 holds with a 2.82 ERA. An all-around terrific season.
You can count on one hand the number of teams that should be completely satisfied with their current bullpen. That leaves a lot of potential suitors for Broxton, who should continue to shine no matter where he lands.
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