MLB Free Agents 2014: Risky Players Who Could Pay Huge Dividends

Mike MoraitisAnalyst INovember 14, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 25: Outfielder Curtis Granderson #14 of the New York Yankees sets to bat against the Tampa Bay Rays August 25, 2013 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

There are several attractive players on the free-agent market in Major League Baseball, although there are some free agents who present a scenario that is high risk, high reward.

Injuries are one thing that can make a player appear suspect when teams decide which targets to sign. Jacoby Ellsbury fits into that category as the talented free agent has had his issues with injuries in recent years.

Curtis Granderson is another attractive free agent on the open market and while he puts up great power numbers, there are more than a few unattractive aspects of his game.

Hiroki Kuroda has been a stud for the New York Yankees and throughout his career in the MLB, but after flaming out in the last months of the 2013 campaign, he's become more of a risk than anything else.

Let's take a look at each of these players and why taking a chance on them could pay dividends for their suitors.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Outfielder

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 30:  Jacoby Ellsbury #2 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Six of the 2013 World Series at Fenway Park on October 30, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Ellsbury's risk comes from the fact that he's seen plenty of time in the trainer's throughout his career. In 2010 and 2012, Ellsbury played in a combined total of 92 games, but he played in 158 games in 2011 and 134 in 2013.

When he's healthy, Ellsbury is a great player as evidenced by his best season in which he hit 32 homers and knocked in 105 runs. It remains to be seen if he can reproduce those numbers, as the outfielder totaled just nine homers and 53 RBI last season.

However, the huge plus is that he's a solid center fielder who can cover a ton of ground with great speed. And speaking of that speed, Ellsbury swiped 52 bags last season and even totaled 70 back in 2009.

Historically, Ellsbury is a solid postseason performer with 17 RBI and a .301 average in 16 playoff games, which is something contenders will love to have on their roster.

If his newest team can get 150 games out of him at the top of the order, Ellsbury will undoubtedly be a terror in the leadoff spot. And he is a lock to score 100 runs and steal at least 40 bases in the process with the outside chance of putting up solid power numbers as well.

Curtis Granderson, Outfielder

Granderson has put up some impressive power numbers with the New York Yankees during his stint in the Bronx having notched 40 homers or more in two of his four seasons there.

The 32-year-old's 2013 campaign was marred by injury after he played in just 61 games and was never able to get his year off the ground. Thankfully, Granderson isn't much of an injury concern as he played in 136 games or more from 2006 to 2012.

Normally, numbers like Granderson's in 2011 and 2012 would garner an enormous contract full of plenty of years and money, but his propensity to strikeout is a negative that can't be overlooked and he has become an all or nothing hitter as a result.

The Grandy Man struck out 169 times in 2011 and 195 in 2012, both good enough to put him in the top 10 in baseball in each season. In limited action last season, Granderson whiffed 69 times in just 214 at-bats.

Not to mention, Granderson's defense is somewhat suspect, and his career average of .229 in the playoffs—including batting .100 in the 2012 playoffs—makes him a liability in October baseball. 

Regardless of all that, Granderson's power numbers could be a major upgrade for a team in need of offense, although it'll come sparingly and with a bad average if he continues to strike out at his pace. Also bear in mind that Granderson has enjoyed a short stint in right field at Yankee Stadium during these big seasons.

Hiroki Kuroda, Starting Pitcher

Kuroda was the undisputed ace of the Yankees' starting rotation last season after putting up great numbers to the tune of an 11-13 record and an ERA of 3.31 in the always stellar offensive division that is the American League East.

In his two seasons in the Bronx, Kuroda never had lower than a 3.32 ERA and finished with a career-high 16 wins in 2012 while pitching to a 2.81 ERA in two postseason starts for the Bombers. In fact, his numbers overall have improved after coming to the bright lights of the Big Apple.

Kuroda is indeed a short-term solution at best. The 38-year-old is right at the age where he is nearing the end of his career despite what his numbers might say. But a clue as to when Kuroda will hit the wall may have been shown last season.

During the latter parts of the year, Kuroda's effectiveness seemed to wear off and he didn't look as good. After throwing to a 0.55 ERA in July, Kuroda posted ERAs of 5.12 and 5.70 in August and September, respectively.

He simply didn't look the same as he did earlier in the season and while you may be able to chalk that up to a tired arm, Kuroda is the kind of pitcher who is a huge risk for what will likely be a high price, albeit for one season.