With most of the top Major League Baseball free agents finding homes already, the market is flush with players who are going to have to settle for smaller deals than they were planning on getting two months ago.
Even the biggest players remaining on the market, like Michael Bourn, could end up becoming a bargain for a team that decides to sign them. Bourn might be a bad example since he represented by Scott Boras, who always seems to find the team willing to pay top dollar for a player in January.
The point is, the longer a player remains on the market, the more value a team is going to get for him. Desperation starts to set in with the player, forcing them to take a contract that is for much less market value than they would normally get.
Here are the best potential bargains still left on the free-agent market.
Starting Pitcher Kyle Lohse
2012 stats w/St. Louis: 16-3, 2.86 ERA, 211 IP, 192 Hits, 19 HR, 38 BB, 143 K, 1.09 WHIP
If you would have asked me before the offseason which starting pitcher I thought would get overpaid, Kyle Lohse would have been the first name out of my mouth.
He had a great 2012 season, with numbers that look like something you would get from a top-of-the-rotation starter, but on raw stuff and results throughout his career, he is more of an innings eater than anything else.
Now, with two months going by and no substantial offers coming his way, Lohse's price would seem to be coming down just so he can guarantee himself a job by the time spring training rolls around.
Like Bourn, Lohse is a Scott Boras client and will cost the team that signs him a draft pick. That is a rather steep price, which might explain why he is still out there. But if you can get him on a two-year deal for around the $13 million that Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson will average with their deals, that isn't a bad deal, especially based on what starting pitchers go for in today's market.
First Baseman Adam LaRoche
2012 stats w/Washington: .271/.343/.510, 155 Hits, 33 HR, 100 RBI, 67 BB, 138 K
LaRoche's insistence on a three-year contract is the only reason that he is still on the market right now. According to Bill Ladson of MLB.com, the Nationals are steadfast in not moving beyond the two years they have had on the table basically since the offseason began.
Given the particular set of skills LaRoche has, the Nationals are smart to keep their offer at two years. It doesn't help his bargaining power that the team has options to play with should LaRoche decide to take his talents somewhere else.
The things that LaRoche does well, hits for power with some patience, are not likely to last as he ages and his bat speed starts to decrease. He just turned 33 years old, so that decline could hit at any particular moment.
But on a two-year deal, the risk is fairly minimal. He should be able to hold his value for at least the first year of the contract and perform at least close to his peak in the second year. Another added bonus is that LaRoche is one of the best defensive first baseman in the game.
Starting Pitcher Shaun Marcum
2012 stats w/Milwaukee: 7-4, 124 IP, 116 Hits, 16 HR, 41 BB, 109 K
Marcum is like a poor man's version of Lohse. He doesn't have a good fastball, but his changeup gives him an effective weapon to get hitters out on a consistent basis.
At this stage of the offseason teams are probably just looking for someone to plug into the back of their rotation to soak up innings and giving the team a chance to win.
According to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, Marcum has had conversations with the Indians, though that was before the team signed Brett Myers.
Even though Marcum's best years are behind him, he can still be an effective No. 4 starter in the right rotation. His command is not what it used to be, meaning he is going to give up a lot of home runs because his fastball will rarely break 87 to 88 mph.
After an injury-plagued 2012 that limited him to just 21 games, Marcum likely isn't going to command more than a one-year deal. He still has the great offspeed pitch to keep hitters off balance.