Veteran MLB Free Agents Who Are Huge Short-Term Values
Even with most of the top free-agent targets off the board, teams are still looking to fill important roster voids.
And while remaining free agents like Shin-Soo Choo, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez would have big impacts on their new prospective teams, general managers will still need to fill roster spots with lesser, veteran options too.
Take Mark Ellis, for instance. Ellis posted a 3.0 bWAR in 2013, but as a defense-first 36-year-old, he likely wouldn’t command a big contract.
Read on to see all the veteran MLB free agents who are huge short-term values.
In the early-to-mid-2000s, Eric Chavez was a premier third baseman. But perhaps due to a myriad of injuries, Chavez lost his zeal. From 2008 to 2011, the California native posted a combined .238 batting average, 6.8 percent walk rate and park-adjusted 70 OPS+ over just 424 plate appearances.
But over the past two seasons, Chavez found his stroke as a part-time player. The 36-year-old hit to the tune of a .281 batting average, 8.6 percent walk rate, 123 OPS+ and 25 home runs over 567 plate appearances.
And while Chavez isn’t as nifty in the field as he once was, gloving a minus-two and minus-10 DRS according to The Fielding Bible in 2012 and 2013, respectively, his prowess at the plate still makes him a valuable bench asset.
Since 2007, Freddy Garcia has traversed six different organizations. And while the 37-year-old has been up and down over that span, Garcia did enjoy success in a small stint with the Atlanta Braves in 2013.
The right-hander posted a 1.65 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 237 ERA+), 1.02 WHIP and 4.00 strikeouts per walks ratio over 27.1 innings this past season. Garcia even made a start for the Atlanta Braves during the postseason, tossing six innings while surrendering eight hits, two runs, two walks and striking out six batters.
It’s unlikely a team would immediately hand Garcia a rotation spot in 2014, but the 15-year veteran could sneak his way into 15-plus starts next season.
On the surface, Mark Ellis' value seems slight. The 36-year-old only posted a 5.4 percent walk rate, park-adjusted 92 OPS+ and six home runs over 480 plate appearances in 2013.
But Ellis' true value was in the field. The second baseman gloved an elite 12 DRS, according to The Fielding Bible, as well as 7.8 UZR/150.
Ellis’ top-shelf defense even combined with his pedestrian offense resulted in an impressive 3.0 bWAR. Even though Steamer only projects a 1.4 fWAR for Ellis in 2014, the 11-year veteran would still make a nice option for a team looking for a short-term solve up the middle.
Kevin Youkilis is coming off a mostly lost season due to back surgery. The “Greek God of Walks” only accumulated 118 plate appearances in 2013, posting a .219 batting average, 6.7 percent walk rate, park-adjusted 78 OPS+ and two home runs.
Youkilis will be 35 by the time the 2014 season begins, so combined with his injury-plagued 2013 season, a starting gig is likely not in the cards. But with lowered expectations, Youk could be a nice buy-low option for a prospective suitor.
Steamer projects an optimistic 1.4 fWAR for Youkilis next season, so perhaps all is not lost for the veteran corner infielder.