Several big-name 2013 MLB free agents have yet to land anywhere, yet there are some wily veterans that teams won't have to spend a boatload of cash on to make a keen, short-term investment.
As opposed to taking the plunge on a talented but volatile star player such as Josh Hamilton or B.J. Upton, these players can serve as mentors and viable contributors immediately to any type of team—or even key a perceptibly lower-tier team to a surprise year.
Check out this trio of relatively safe, underrated choices on the market that will not only provide versatility with their unique skill sets, but also in the roles that they play.
2B Marco Scutaro
The World Series hero who knocked home the eventual game-winning run for the San Francisco Giants is 37 years old and is now a free agent.
Arriving in the city by the bay at the trade deadline and ultimately sparking the team to baseball's pinnacle makes for an awfully attractive pedigree.
Scutaro hit .328 during the postseason as a whole, winning the NLCS MVP in the process. It's easy to see how he could cash in on a lucrative, two or three-year deal.
After being traded, Scutaro hit .362 during the regular season, and while that may not happen again, his .270 career average certainly isn't awful. He knows how to get on base, and can still be an occasional threat on the basepaths.
Another thing that makes Scutaro so valuable is his ability to play multiple positions in the infield. There are even whispers that the Philadelphia Phillies may be interested in bringing him in, according to Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal:
#Phillies "wide open" in their search for a third baseman. Could look at multi-position types like Scutaro/Keppinger as well as Youk, etc.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 13, 2012
A team could definitely benefit with Scutaro in the fold as a "missing piece," whether they're in World Series contention or on the mend from recent struggles.
C A.J. Pierzynski
Sure, the 14-year veteran may have been named the most hated player in baseball (h/t The Chicago-Sun Times), but Pierzynski—as the cited article by Joe Cowley indicates—seems to win wherever he goes. Despite a boisterous personality, there's definitely a market for a catcher who hit 27 home runs in the AL last season.
Someone so intensely competitive would be welcomed to a contender or a budding young team, especially when he says things like this:
I’ll go to dinner with people and say hi to people I know when the game’s not on the line. But when the game is going, I want to win. For those three hours, guys on the other team are trying to take money out of my pocket, and I’m trying to take money out of theirs. That’s really all there is to it.
After eight seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Pierzynski is on the unrestricted free-agent market. And it's not like he's hit a state of perpetual decline, as he played 135 games in 2012 and drove in 77 runs.
Despite a decline in what he brings behind the plate (h/t MLB Reports), it'd be hard for a front office to talk themselves out of taking at least a short-term flier on Pierzynski.
INF Jeff Keppinger
It's pretty easy to fly under the radar as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, yet Keppinger has to be considered one of the top infielders available.
The 32-year-old hit a career-high nine homers and drove in 40 runs in 115 games of action this past year, and posted an exceptional .325 batting average.
What makes Keppinger stand out is his lack of strikeouts. In seasons where he's played over 100 games, Keppinger hasn't struck out more than 36 times. That keen eye at the plate lands him on base frequently, and could serve as a valuable asset to truly any team.
Having journeyed to six different teams in 10 MLB seasons, it's hard to believe such a solid, versatile defender and outstanding contact hitter hasn't played anywhere for more than two years. The Houston Astros harbored his longest stint starting in 2008, until Keppinger was traded at the 2010 deadline to the San Francisco Giants.
His recent play should land him a three-year deal at least, but if his history is any indication, chances are it won't. That makes Keppinger definitely worth a one or two-year commitment.