10 Most Underrated Players on the MLB Free-Agent and Trade Markets
The MLB rumor mill always seems to be running on all cylinders, and with baseball's winter meetings less than two weeks away, we can really ramp up our speculation on what could happen in the free-agent and trade markets.
We saw some big names change organizations this summer and that trend is likely to continue as 2012 winds down. As the blockbuster trade between the Miami Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays showed, literally anything can happen.
The final dollar amounts will no doubt fluctuate for the most sought after players in the league, but equally important is what happens with the players that teams are underrating. These guys will likely have their value set by the rest of the market, but could provide extremely valuable returns depending on where they land.
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With an outfield market boasting top free-agent targets like Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn, it's easy to look past a player like Angel Pagan.
In all reality though, Pagan could be just as impactful as those players, and likely wouldn't command nearly the same salary.
His speed is a huge asset, as illustrated by his MLB-leading 15 triples and 29 stolen bases. His .288 batting average in 2012 showed a renewed consistency at the plate.
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Recently wrapping up the final year of his contract with the Chicago White Sox, you can't blame A.J. Pierzynski if he's upset about the team's hesitance to work on a new deal as he files for free agency.
He's been noted as one of the most disliked players in the league, but his durability can't be questioned and he's always been a relatively productive player.
Given his performance in 2012 and the team's close call down the stretch in the AL Central, he'll no doubt be a valuable asset this offseason as the open market for catchers is relatively thin.
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Having been an important part of championship teams in the past, Cody Ross established himself as a moderately viable option for the Boston Red Sox in 2012.
He struggled a bit throughout the season, though he did manage to go deep 22 times and post an on-base percentage up around .330.
With the outfield market looking like a feast-or-famine situation in the free-agent market, Ross' agent will be out for blood, but he might end up waiting for quite a while if he gets too greedy.
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Starting pitching was ultimately the downfall of the Minnesota Twins in 2012, as the staff was pieced together with less-than-stellar prospects who would hardly crack a major league roster anywhere else.
Denard Span was a bright spot, though his name came up in trade rumors this season, much like it did in 2011 when the Nationals discussed a potential deal (reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports).
He has a favorable contract for any team looking to take him on, and with a solid career on-base percentage and solid range in center field, he should be a good candidate to swap teams this offseason.
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After two straight seasons where early contention in the AL Central gave way to disappointing second-half performances, the Cleveland Indians may be back to the drawing board as the division continues to improve.
Free agents like Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore are likely on their way out, and it's possible that Shin Soo Choo might be traded as well. But the Indians might not be done there.
According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, there has been interest in pitcher Justin Masterson from the Boston Red Sox. While his numbers might not reflect the makings of a front-end starter, he's shown that he can be dominating when he's at his best.
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Speedy outfielder Michael Bourn has led the league in stolen bases a few times already during his young career, twice swiping more than 60 bags.
On top of that, he appears to be improving at the plate every year and will no doubt continue to have his chances to steal bases.
As one of the top outfielders on the market this offseason he may not be entirely underrated, but the many assets that he offers to any team he signs with should be a welcomed addition.
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After giving Michael Cuddyer a big payday last offseason, the Colorado Rockies expected that he might be the answer to the team's problems and lead them back to the postseason.
The team still struggled, however, and while the Rockies could make a run at things in 2013, they might also be able to pull in prospects in exchange for Cuddyer this offseason.
A number of teams showed interest last offseason when Cuddyer was a free agent, and as Troy Renck of the Denver Post points out, the Rockies will likely make him and other players available as they look to add depth in the pitching staff.
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Having spent the past four seasons in pinstripes, Nick Swisher has been one of the most animated players the Yankees have seen come through the clubhouse in recent years.
For every bit of animation he may bring to the table, he has also been very consistent, batting .268 over the past four seasons while posting an on-base percentage of nearly .370.
On a roster chock full of stars he may not get the credit he's owed, having made only one All-Star Game appearance during a span where he averaged nearly 90 RBI per season and hit at least 23 home runs in each of the four years.
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After watching the entire 2012 season from afar after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Ryan Madson should be on track to come back in 2013 and make a positive impact for any team he signs with.
There are a number of late-inning options available in the open market, namely Rafael Soriano, Jose Valverde and Joakim Soria, though Madson shouldn't be overlooked.
He last pitched for Philadelphia in 2011, posting 32 saves while pitching to a 2.37 ERA and striking out better than a batter per inning.
At just 32 and with the most major surgery he'll undergo behind him, Madson could very well end up being the comeback player of the year in MLB in 2013.
Shin Soo Choo
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The Cleveland Indians may have looked good early on in 2012, though they would ultimately fall back to the pack towards the end, and with plenty of decisions to make on their future, Shin-Soo Choo could end up being a casualty.
Choo was in the picture as a potential deadline pickup for the Pirates earlier this season (according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review), and if the Indians determine that they won't be able to re-sign Choo, they may look to cut their losses and take on valued prospects.
At 30, Choo's still got plenty of gas left in the tank, but he no doubt wants to win and win now, and moving to a market where his skills will get more attention than in Cleveland could do wonders to improve his confidence, and in turn his productivity.