The MLB teams under pressure to make things happen next year aren't going to get competitive overnight. They may not even be able to get competitive by relying on their own farm system, or by counting on superstars due to return from injuries.
They may just have to take a few risks and hope that some of them pay off. They may have to pay up for the assistance of one of the very few big-name hitters on the 2013 free-agent market.
Here's a look at some of the guys who are worth a gamble.
OF Jason Bay
Given what he's capable of and how little he'll probably cost, this is certainly a worthwhile risk.
It's true that Jason Bay hasn't been a bona fide threat at the plate since his tenure with the Boston Red Sox came to an end, and the circumstances surrounding his departure from the New York Mets is a little fishy. According to the Associated Press via USA Today, the Mets agreed to terminate the outfielder's contract with one year remaining on it. Apparently, he was so bad that the Mets were willing to eat $21 million just to be rid of him.
But horrendously disappointing as he may have been for the Mets (Hey! Theo Epstein was right about something!), Bay was still capable of hitting in the heart of the order—and succeeding there—when he was healthy. He came to Boston to be Manny Ramirez's replacement, and he did the job well.
And given the fact that he hit .165 in 70 games in 2012, it's hard to believe Bay is going to break any team's bank.
OF Josh Hamilton
Obviously, as the biggest name on the free-agent market, Hamilton is going to be able to command some serious cash this offseason, and most likely, the Rangers aren't going to be able to meet his demands. That opens the door for plenty of other contenders that are one slugger away from really making a push for a championship.
For someone who's billed as the best thing on the market, though, there certainly are a lot of concerns with Hamilton. For one thing, he's had his fair share of freak injuries over the last few years that have kept him off the field for rather large chunks of time. There's also his personal struggle with addiction to consider.
However, given the fact that Hamilton hit 43 homers and drove in 128 runs last season—and given the fact that there's nobody better currently on the market—some team is going to end up overpaying for him. He'll be worth it, though, at least for a year or two. And for organizations under pressure to make a statement move this offseason, he really is one of the only viable options.
OF Torii Hunter
The L.A. Angels may have failed epically in 2012, but Torii Hunter did not. He may be getting old (he'll be 37 next July), but his .313 average this year was his best ever. Granted, he accumulated his lowest home run total since 2005, but it's obvious he can still be effective at the plate, even in his old age. There's also the fact that he's long been heralded as one of the best outfielders in baseball and has the Gold Gloves to prove it.
What makes Hunter even more valuable is what he brings to the clubhouse. He was the heart and soul of the Twins for his first 11 years in the league, and he's been the heart and soul of the Angels for the five years since.
Of Hunter, MLB.com's Mike Bauman writes:
With Torii Hunter, though, the human side of the equation can be even more impressive than the tangible side. He will be a supportive, empathetic teammate. Hunter will be a reliable source of good cheer. And in good times and bad, he will take the pressure off his teammates by making himself not only readily available to the media, but by being consistently, unfailingly candid and honest with the media.
There are plenty of teams that could use Hunter's offense and his defense, but more than that, there are plenty of teams that could use his impact behind the scenes (I'm talking to you, Boston). His age may be scary, but of all the risks on the market in 2013, this one is worth taking.
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