MLB Free Agents 2013: The 16 Sleeper Names You Need to Know

John AltamuraContributor IIOctober 17, 2012

MLB Free Agents 2013: The 16 Sleeper Names You Need to Know

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    The 2012 MLB postseason is in full swing as the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals vie for a spot in the World Series. Once a champion is determined, a cavalcade of free-agent craziness will commence as players will look to land the best possible deal.

    There are a lot of players who will slip in under the radar and will eventually prove to be sleeper pickups for their new clubs. Could the New York Yankees' Raul Ibanez continue his torrid hitting into the 2013 season? Will a player like Carlos Pena rediscover his hitting stroke and become a valuable contributor once again?

    Here are 16 players who could emerge from this year's free-agent crop and make lasting contributions to their new clubs in 2013.  

Russell Martin: C

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    2012 Stats: .211 BA, 21 HR, 53 RBI

    Career Postseason Stats: .209 BA, 2 HR, 10 RBI

    New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin has had a penchant for heroics in 2012.

    Martin was the big star for the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS as he hit the go-ahead homer that led to victory over the Baltimore Orioles. His uncanny ability to deliver in clutch situations was not only limited to the postseason. He hit three game-winning home runs during the regular season.

    Will that lead to a big payday in 2013?

    Potential suitors will need to figure out whether or not Martin is worth a multi-year contract of upwards of $8 million per.   

James Loney: 1B

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    2012 Stats: .249 BA, 6 HR, 41 RBI

    The 2012 MLB season was quite an odyssey for James Loney. He split his season playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox.

    His cross-continental trek culminated in August as he was shipped to Boston in the post trade-deadline mega-deal involving Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett.

    Loney spent part of seven seasons with the Dodgers, where he had a .284 BA with a .764 OPS. He eclipsed the 90-RBI plateau two times with Los Angeles and provided a steady glove at first base.

    If there are any knocks on Loney’s game, it would be the fact that he has never hit more than 15 home runs in a season. He also regressed at the plate in 2012, posting lows in homers (6) and OPS (.630).

    There should be a market for Loney this offseason. The real question is whether or not a team is willing to come close to the $7 million per year price tag for a player who has never quite lived up to expectations.       

Carlos Pena: 1B

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    2012 Stats: .197 BA, 19 HR, 61 RBI

    One player who should draw some interest this offseason, despite his so-so numbers, is the oft-traveled, power-hitting first baseman Carlos Pena.

    Statistically speaking, 2012 was not a good year for Pena as he finished the season with a sub-.200 BA (.197) and a career-worst 182 strikeouts. Those numbers may scare away some suitors, but his lefty power numbers (32 home run average a year for career) will provide a market.

    Pena has the potential to hit for average (.282) as he did in 2007 with the Tampa Bay Rays.

    The real question is whether he is willing to make the adjustments needed to be successful again. 

Maicer Izturis: 2B

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    2012 Stats: .256 BA, 2 HR, 20 RBI, 289 AB’s

    There always seems to be a market for players who can play a variety of positions. Maicer Izturis hopes this selling point will benefit him as he enters the free agent fold.

    The long-time LA Angel infielder saw his playing time decline this past season as he split time with Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar. With the emergence of Andrew Romine, there is a good chance Izturis has played his last game in an Angel uniform.

    Izturis brings speed (17 stolen bases in 2012) and a good OPS (.634) to the table. These attributes should prove attractive to potential suitors. 

Jose Lopez: 2B

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    2012 Stats: .246 BA, 4 HR, 28 RBI

    One player looking for an opportunity to rejuvenate his career is the well-travelled Jose Lopez.

    The Venezuelan-born middle infielder had early successes with the Seattle Mariners. He notched one All-Star appearance (2006) in Seattle and had his best statistical season two years later when he posted career bests in home runs (25) and RBI (96).

    His career has taken a detour as he has spent time with four different clubs. He finished up 2012 with the Chicago White Sox, where he played in 15 games and posted a .217 BA.

    When given the opportunity to play consistently, Lopez has put up good numbers. A team willing to give Lopez a semi-regular role might be able to find a diamond in the rough.

Jhonny Peralta: SS

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    2012 Stats: .239 BA, 13 HR, 63 RBI

    Jhonny Peralta won’t be much of a free-agent sleeper if he continues his strong 2012 postseason. He has been one of the stars for the Detroit Tigers, batting .556 in the ALCS through two games against the New York Yankees.

    His postseason success shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. He has a career .303 BA in six postseason series with the Tigers and the Cleveland Indians.

    The real question for potential suitors is whether Peralta can replicate his strong 2011 numbers when he batted .299, hit 21 home runs and made the All-Star team. His 2012 campaign saw both a decline in average (.239) and power (13 home runs).

Eric Chavez: 3B

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    2012 Stats: .281 BA, 16 HR, 37 RBI

    One player who could command some free-agent interest is the oft-injured Eric Chavez.

    He was one of the key players who led the “Moneyball” A’s to four straight (2000-03) postseason appearances.

    Chavez' A’s could never quite overcome the New York Yankees in the postseason, and his career took a downturn subsequently due to a myriad of injuries. He left the A’s in 2010 and joined the Yankees where he has played DH and filled in on occasion for Alex Rodriguez.

    The 2012 season was the best season health-wise for Chavez since 2007—playing in 113 games. He has proven to be an effective player, a career .267 BA when healthy. A team looking for a left-handed third baseman who could fill in at DH may take a shot at Chavez for the right price.

    Chavez made $900,000 with the Yankees in 2012.

Placido Polanco: 3B

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    2012 Stats: .257 BA, 2 HR, 19 RBI, .629 OPS

    The second Placido Polanco era in Philadelphia may be soon coming to an end. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro will have to decide whether or not to bring Polanco back for 2013. He has a $5.5 million mutual option with a $1 million buyout.

    The Philadelphia Inquirer recently polled fans on whether or not players, including Polanco, should be back for the 2013 campaign. Fans overwhelmingly voted 94 percent for the Phillies not to bring Polanco back for next season.  

    Polanco may be best suited with a change of scenery. The 37-year-old was an All-Star and gold glove winner at third base in 2011. He battled back and knee injuries, which limited him to 90 games in 2012.

Andruw Jones: LF

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    2012 Stats: .197 BA, 14 HR, 34 RBI

    Andruw Jones burst onto the MLB scene in 1996 with a stellar World Series performance for the Atlanta Braves. The then-19-year-old Jones batted .400 and belted two long home runs in Game 1 of the Series against the New York Yankees. The Braves would eventually lose the Series to the Yankees, but Jones would become a fixture in the outfield for years to come.   

    Jones’ career has come full-circle as he spent the past two seasons with the Yankees in a part-time outfield platoon role. It seems his time with the Yankees may be coming to an end as he was left off the postseason roster and had a very uninspiring 2012 season.

    There could be a market for Jones, who did hit 14 home runs in his limited role. An AL team looking for a right-handed DH, and occasional outfield fill-in may be willing to take a chance on Jones for the right price.  

Delmon Young: LF

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    2012 Stats: .267 BA, 18 HR, 74 RBI

    2012 Postseason Stats: .267 BA, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 7 games

    One player who could command a big free-agent payday if his strong October continues is Delmon Young. The Detroit Tigers outfielder is batting .300 with one home run and four RBI through two games of the ALCS. His postseason numbers are good as well as he is batting .267 with a .890 OPS in seven games this October.

    At 26, there will be several teams looking to take a crack at landing the “Young” outfielder if the Tigers can’t offer a favorable deal.

    Young just completed a one-year, $6.75 million deal.

Grady Sizemore: CF

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    2012 Stats: Did Not Play

    Career 162 Game Averages: .269 BA, 25 HR, 83 RBI

    One of the most puzzling signings of the 2011 offseason was the re-upping of Grady Sizemore by the Cleveland Indians for $5 million. He was coming off two injury-plagued seasons, where he averaged 52 game appearances.

    Sizemore wound up not playing a game for the Indians in 2012.

    The real question now is whether or not anyone will be willing to take a risk on this oft-injured star. Prior to his injury troubles, Sizemore was one of the most durable and electrifying young players in the game. In 2006, Sizemore played in all 162 games, batting .290 with a .907 OPS. He followed up with two healthy seasons in 2007-08, where he averaged 160 games played.    

Angel Pagan: CF

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    2012 Stats: .288 BA, 8 HR, 56 RBI, .778 OPS

    What do Angel Pagan, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Jimmy Rollins and Brady Anderson all have in common? Besides all being eligible for free agency at one time in their careers, these players have all hit multiple postseason leadoff home runs during their careers.

    Pagan hit his second career leadoff postseason home run in Game 2 of the NLCS Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals. If he can continue to make an impact for the Giants this postseason, there is a good chance that he will receive some free-agent interest.

    Pagan played in 154 games in 2012 and contributed to the Giants' ascent to the top of the NL West. He was an extra-base machine as he hit 38 doubles and led the NL with 15 triples.

Ryan Ludwick: LF

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    2012 Stats: .275 BA, 26 HR, 80 RBI

    The Ryan Ludwick baseball tour may be coming to a ballpark near you for the 2013 season.

    The 33-year-old journeyman outfielder put up strong numbers with the Cincinnati Reds in 2012. Ludwick hit 20 home runs and 28 doubles in 125 games in 2012. His power and extra-base hit production could prove to be a valuable commodity for a team looking for outfield or DH help.  

    Ludwick had a strong NLDS for the Reds as he hit .333, with three home runs and a whopping 1.288 OPS. He just completed a one-year, $2.5 million contract and could command slightly more on the open free-agent market. 

Raul Ibanez: OF/DH

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    2012 Stats: .240 BA, 19 HR, 62 RBI

    The New York Yankees probably would have not made it past the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS without the late-inning heroics of Raul Ibanez. His ninth-inning game-tying, one-out homer off Orioles closer Jim Johnson tied the game at 2-2. He would come up again later in the game and finish off the Orioles with a walk-off 12th-inning winner.

    The Yankees and Ibanez wound up defeating the Orioles in five games.

    Ibanez struck again in Game 1 of the ALCS by hitting a game-tying, ninth inning, two-run homer off Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde. In six postseason appearances, Ibanez is batting .437 with three home runs, all coincidentally after the ninth inning.

    His stellar postseason should help raise interest as he enters free agency. Ibanez will be 40 at the start of next season, so it’s likely most teams will look to plug him in a part-time outfield/DH role. 

Hiroki Kuroda: P

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    2012 Stats: 16-11 record, 3.32 ERA

    Another Yankee who could potentially become a free agent this offseason is Hiroki Kuroda. The Osaka, Japan native pitched real well for the Yankees in 2012, posting a 16-11 record with a 3.32 ERA.

    He has also pitched well in the 2012 postseason with a 2.84 ERA. His best effort came in Game 2 of the ALCS when he pitched 7.2 innings, giving up three runs and striking out 11. His strikeout performance was the best by a Yankee pitcher since Orlando "El Duque" Hernadez struck out 11 Mets in Game 3 of the 2000 World Series.   

    Kuroda has proven to be an effective pitcher in both leagues and could be a solid No. 3 or 4 starter on a pennant contending team.

Anibal Sanchez: P

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    2012 Stats: 9-13 record, 3.16 ERA

    If Anibal Sanchez keeps putting up postseason zeroes, there is a good chance that he could be rewarded with a big payday this upcoming off season.

    The Venezuelan-born right-hander was acquired by the Detroit Tigers shortly before the trade deadline. He finished the season with a 3-6 record with a 3.74 ERA. He has been a real asset for the Tigers so far this postseason as he has pitched to a 1-1 record with a miniscule 1.35 ERA.

    Sanchez's most impressive postseason outing came on Sunday when he pitched the Tigers to a Game 2 ALCS 3-0 victory over the New York Yankees. At 28, Sanchez is just entering his prime and could get a lot of attention once the free-agent bidding period begins.