2014 MLB Free Agents: Veterans Who Will Get Paid After Bounce-Back Seasons
A key to longevity in sports is to always perform well in the final year of the contract. A number of veterans took this strategy to heart in 2013.
A great season out of nowhere could be suspicious and lead teams to avoid a big deal in free agency. However, a veteran player with a solid career resume is much more trustworthy. All it takes is one impressive game to remind people how good they are.
Each of these players not only had bad showings in 2012, but they came into the year after multiple poor seasons, leading many to believe their careers were on the decline. However, they all came back strong just in time to make some serious money in the offseason.
Scott Kazmir, LHP, Cleveland Indians
After a terrible 2010 season, Scott Kazmir had appeared to be on his way out of baseball with only 1.2 innings pitched in the next two years. That was until the Indians gave him a chance and he made it count.
The lefty put together a solid season, making 29 starts for a total of 158 innings. This is the most he has pitched in a year since before 2008, when he was an All-Star.
The most important thing was that he be effective on the mound. While his 4.04 ERA is far from elite, he put together some dominant performances throughout the year. In 14 of his starts, he allowed one or fewer earned runs.
He was also dominant against left-handed hitters, allowing a .226 batting average while putting together a 43-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Kazmir became a serviceable pitcher this season after being out of the majors for two seasons, and he will be rewarded with a new contract this year.
Stephen Drew, SS, Boston Red Sox
After a promising start to his career with the Diamondbacks, Stephen Drew has been more or less irrelevant. He only played in 165 games in the past two seasons, and he was not all that impressive on the field.
However, he got a chance with the Red Sox and took advantage of the opportunity. He finished fourth among American League shortstops with 13 home runs and posted a respectable .253 batting average, up from the .223 mark from last year.
Additionally, Drew showcased a great deal of consistency in the field. According to Baseball Reference, he finished second among AL shortstops in fielding percentage .984 and had the third-best range factor, tallying the amount of balls played per game.
Finding a middle infield player that is above average as both a hitter and fielder is hard to do. Drew fits this category, and it will lead to one team spending plenty of money to lock him up for a few seasons.
Ricky Nolasco, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
While Ricky Nolasco had not been as bad in previous years as the other players on this list, he has not been all that good either. In the past four seasons, his best ERA was 4.48 and had a hard time striking anyone out.
On the other hand, he consistently pitched close to 200 innings each season and had double-digit wins in every season he made at least 10 appearances.
This season, however, he proved to be better than just a generic replacement pitcher. After getting traded to the Dodgers, Nolasco went 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA and 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings, which is his highest mark since 2010.
He also only allowed opponents to hit .247 against him in Los Angeles, a mark only bested in 2008.
If he can have a good start or two in the postseason, Nolasco could find himself to make the money of a No. 2 or No. 3 starter this offseason.
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