MLB's Best Penny-for-Penny Values Still Available

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2013

MLB's Best Penny-for-Penny Values Still Available

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    With the majority of impact free agents signed this offseason, now is the time for teams to do some bargain hunting as they look to fill out their rosters with some low-cost veterans.

    Whether they are coming off of injury, a down season or simply haven't been able to drum up much interest this offseason, some players come at a significant value each offseason.

    Who ranks among the best penny-for-penny values still available on the free-agent market as we turn the calendar over to February? Read on to find out.

LF Scott Podsednik

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    Last season, the Phillies signed Juan Pierre to a minor league deal and he wound up claiming the everyday left field job and hitting .307 over 394 at-bats.

    This season, Scott Podsednik could follow a similar path to significant playing time if he lands in the right situation.

    As a member of the Red Sox last year, he hit .302 in 199 at-bats and swiped eight bases as he still has plus speed and solid contract skills.

    Someone like the Twins, who have holes in the outfield and leadoff spot, could be the perfect situation for Podsednik to play his way into significant at-bats.

RP Jon Rauch

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    Since the start of 2006, no reliever has made more appearances than Rauch, as he has pitched in 507 games and posted a 3.71 ERA and 1.210 WHIP.

    Last season, he made 73 appearances and posted a 3.59 ERA as one of the few reliable arms in a bad Mets bullpen.

    After Matt Capps had to settle for a minor league deal with the Indians, Rauch may have to do the same this winter to find a landing spot. He'll be pitching somewhere in the majors this coming season though and should continue to be a workhorse.

2B Freddy Sanchez

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    After helping the Giants to a World Series title in 2010, Freddy Sanchez played in just 60 games the following season before a dislocated shoulder ended his season.

    Expected to be healthy to open the 2012 season, Sanchez instead never saw the field and his season ended with back surgery.

    There is always a shortage of quality second baseman, and while a number of teams have checked in on Sanchez this offseason he has yet to find a landing spot. 

    He could be the steal of the offseason or his solid career could very well be over, but either way he should come cheap to whoever signs him.

RP Rich Hill

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    Hill once had a promising future as a starter in the Cubs rotation, but after a rough season in the Baltimore rotation in 2009 he has moved to the bullpen.

    He appeared in just 15 games for the Red Sox between 2010 and 2011, but was impressive when he was on the field in throwing 12 scoreless innings and striking out 15.

    Last year, he made 25 appearances out of the Boston bullpen and posted a 1.83 ERA while striking out 21 hitters in 19.2 innings of work.

    His combination of strikeout stuff and injury troubles makes him a high-upside signing who should come at a relatively low price, and the fact that he's left-handed should be enough for him to find a big league job.

C Miguel Olivo

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    Update: Olivo signed a minor league contract with the Reds on Friday (h/t CBSSports).

    Olivo had his $3 million option declined to start the offseason, and he stands as the best catcher still available on the market after Kelly Shoppach signed with the Mariners.

    He's just a .241 career hitter, but he has solid power for the position and has tallied double-digit home runs in each of the past seven seasons.

    Aside from the offense, he is also a terrific defensive catcher and he'll be a solid backup catcher for whoever winds up signing him. The 34-year-old made $3.5 million last season in his final season with Seattle, but may be headed for a minor league deal this time around.

SP Chris Young

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    One of the top starters in the National League during his time with the Padres, Young went 33-25 with a 3.60 ERA over 97 starts.

    He made just eight total starts in 2010 and 2011 combined, and he had to settle on a minor league deal with Mets in May of last season that wound up being worth $1.1 million.

    Over 20 starts in the Mets rotation last season, Young went 4-9 but he had a 4.15 ERA and had 12 quality starts including each of his last four to close out the season.

    He may wind up settling for a minor league deal once again, and the 33-year-old has a great chance of securing a rotation spot on a discount once again this season. 

1B Carlos Lee

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    By no means is Carlos Lee the 30-HR, 100-RBI threat he once was during the prime of his career, but he was still a solid run producer last season with 77 RBI while hitting in some weak Astros and Marlins lineups.

    He would be best suited as a right-handed platoon player in the American League where he can DH and play first base to get the most possible at-bats.

    Lee hasn't received much interest to this point, but he should still be able to find a major league contract from someone looking to fill out their bench with a power bat.

RP Brandon Lyon

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    While Brian Wilson may be the most intriguing option on the market, his unwillingness to sign a minor league deal makes him far from a bargain as he returns from Tommy John surgery.

    Instead, the best bargain out there is right-hander Brandon Lyon, who appeared in 67 games last season with the Astros and Blue Jays and posted a 3.10 ERA and 9.3 K/9.

    He has experience closing with 79 career saves, and should come significantly cheaper than the three-year, $15 million deal he signed with the Astros last time he was a free agent.

CF Grady Sizemore

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    A superstar and one of the faces of the MLB following the 2008 season, Sizemore has played in just 210 games over the past three seasons as injuries have taken their toll.

    Last season, the Indians turned down a $9 million option on him and brought him back on a one-year, $5 million deal with $4 million in incentives.

    He'll likely have to settle for a bargain deal this time that is loaded with incentives, but if he could ever stay healthy he has a chance to make a legitimate impact.

    If a team can get him on a one-year, $1 million deal with games played incentives, he'll have a fantastic chance to be the bargain signing of the offseason.

SP Joe Saunders

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    While Kyle Lohse gets the title of best available starter still on the market, Saunders may be the best value and could sign very soon.

    According to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, an unidentified team has offered the left-hander a two-year, $15 million contract.

    That would equal the contract that Joe Blanton got from the Angels, and it is safe to say that Saunders is a better option at this point.

    He looked great down the stretch, going 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts with the Orioles and then pitched well in winning the team's Wild Card round playoff game.